After a 12-point deduction at the beginning of the season, many Sheffield Wednesday fans would probably have taken being four points from safety after 17 games.
Yet, here we are and there certainly isn’t a sense of optimism at Hillsborough at the moment.
Of course, the Owls’ 12-point deduction has been reduced to six, but even when you discount that penalty, Wednesday’s record is still amongst the worst of any team’s in the division, with only Derby County and Wycombe winning fewer games than the Yorkshire outfit.
Unfortunately, the reality is that Wednesday are in a relegation dog fight, and while a four-point gap looks like one they may be able to overcome, their task could actually be a lot harder than it initially looks.
That’s because of the quality of teams that are actually down there at the moment, and Wednesday’s underlying performance stats.
A look at the xG table tells you all you need to know. Wednesday are still the worst team in the division when it comes to the underlying stats, while Nottingham Forest, who hover just above the relegation zone, should be in a much stronger position according to the stats.
Forest’s form should pick up in the near future, after all, they still have a squad packed full of players who guided them to a seventh-place finish last term, while Chris Hughton is a tried and tested manager at this level who is bound to start getting results at some point.
Derby County are another side that are in the relegation battle in the early parts of this season, but it isn’t unreasonable to expect them to pull away in the near future, after all, they’re on the verge of a takeover by a billionaire and there are plans to loan in some quality players from Manchester City in January, which should buoy the Rams.
Meanwhile, the teams that you may have expected to be in and around the bottom three at the start of the seasons are surpassing expectations.
Indeed, Coventry are nine points clear of Wednesday, while the point gap to Luton and Barnsley are in double figures.
Factor in Wednesday’s poor underlying stats, Forest’s poor luck and Derby’s impending takeover, you start to realise that this four-point gap to safety is something of a false beacon of hope, and while the league table doesn’t lie, it isn’t quite telling the full story of the narrative.
The unfortunate reality is that Wednesday’s job is actually even harder than first feared.