Relegation Run-In: Who’s destined to drop?
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on March 6, 2016
As the Premier League draws to its inevitable end this season, it’s fair to say it’s been a wildly unpredictable campaign. With the previous champions sitting 10th in the table and Leicester now perching on top spot after a 14th place finish last year; the season is likely to have ample surprises left in store. With a competitive top half of the table, focus seems to have lapsed regarding the lower half.
With Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich coming up from the Championship last season, the three clubs had a lot to adapt to, none more so than Bournemouth. So with 9 games to go, who is likely to be going down?
Villa look guaranteed for relegation but right now, nothing should be ruled out. The Villans start to the season was bright after a 1-0 win at Bournemouth’s Vitality stadium. However, from there they didn’t pick up more than 5 points in the following 20 games. With currently only 16 points in 29 games, there isn’t much hope for Aston Villa.
Tim Sherwood started the campaign with The Villans after succeeding Paul Lambert, who only just kept the Claret and Blue boys up last season. The start of the season was abysmal, and because of this, he lost the job on the 25th of October and Remi Garde (previous manager of Lyon) took over on November 2nd – the same day he watched Villa lose 3-1 to Spurs. Similarly to Sherwood, Remi got a fantastic result with his first game in charge. With a goalless draw at home to Manchester City, it was the club’s first league point in seven games. Moreover, the team failed to pick up many points or any wins until the Sunderland fixture on the turn of 2016.
Aston Villas chances look slim with their season concluding with trips to both sides of Manchester as well as Arsenal, a tough run-in for any club, let alone Villa.
Newcastle are currently sat second bottom of the table with 24 points – matching with Norwich. However, with a game in hand to the large majority of the league, they may fair better than people think. With a loss to Bournemouth yesterday they missed out on any of the possible points critical to survival. With The Cherries relegation rivals too, it would have been a huge win for The Magpies, but after the loss, Steve McClaren is doubtful to still be in the job for much longer. Bournemouth fans echoed the “sacked in the morning” chant after and during the match, they look to be right. Newcastle fans aren’t defending him, he’s not wanted. Recent rumours suggest that David Moyes will take over.
Newcastle has a tough next game against Leicester but the following game against Sunderland could end up determining both their fates. A win, either way, would be huge for the club, so if Newcastle are to appoint a new manager it would most likely be before then. I feel as though Newcastle are destined for the drop this year – even more so if they lose to Sunderland, who seem to be on some point scoring form with three draws and a win in their last five games. The Tyne-Wear derby would have more meaning than ever.
The Norfolk club are equal to the Magpies on points and are in the relegation zone. The Canaries beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in the play-off final to secure promotion to the top flight. With a dominant performance and two early goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond, Norwich bounced straight back into the Premier League thanks to the appointment of Alex Neil in January.
Norwich have been lacking a goal scorer this season, with Patrick Bamford and Dieumerci Mbokani arriving on loan both have failed to produce the goods. With Jerome not to Premier League standard (with an 86% chances missed rate) Naismith was bought for a high sum of £8m and Norwich had high hopes. His debut included a goal in the nine-goal loss to Liverpool 5-4 but since then his other five appearances have been goalless.
Three of the remaining nine fixtures for Norwich are very winnable and will – I feel – determine their fate. Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Sunderland are in successive weeks for The Canaries and they are big games for all teams involved. All of these teams should be wary of the drop. Norwich, for me, is the last of the three going down.
This side, unlike the others at the bottom of the table, certainly are not lacking a main front man. Without Defoe, I am sure that Sunderland would not be in the position they are in now. So what is keeping Sunderland down and in the battle?
Before ‘Big Sam’ took over The Black Cats, Sunderland turned over just a 21% win ratio in the initial nineteen games under Dick Advocaat – winning just four and drawing six. Now with Sam Allardyce in charge Sunderland have won three games in nearly half the amount played (33% win ratio in last 9 games). So part of the blame can be put on management but on the field areas need to improve. Attacking-wise Defoe is the main threat who has scored 14 goals already this campaign but defensively Sam’s men have been poor. Wing-backs are full of pace and ability in Van Aanholt and Yedlin but a dominant centre-back and leader would benefit them massively.
Their run-in is slightly tougher than the teams around them. Leicester, Arsenal, Stoke, Watford and Chelsea all amongst their remaining fixtures. I think Sunderland will entertain the 2016/17 campaign in the top flight, but business will need to be done in summer to ensure there is not a bottom of the table struggle again. The team needs improving in the centre of midfield, I feel as though they lack creativity.
Swansea, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth are the three other teams near the bottom of the table. Bournemouth were tipped for relegation from the start because of where the squad had come from. With a lower league core to the team, The Cherries were not favourites to stay up in the division. Eddie and his men have ground out some excellent results for Premier League first-timers including a win away to Chelsea and a fantastic 2-1 result at home to giants, Manchester United. I feel as though they are almost across the line and they are just one win away from safety. A win versus Swansea will secure the Sea-siders a place in the next campaign. The end of their season is particularly tough with Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United still to play. The eleven-point cushion from the drop should and will be enough.
The welsh side – Swansea – are nine points from the relegation zone and have picked up good form with a four-game unbeaten run including wins against Arsenal and a huge three points against Norwich. If they continue this form they have no issues with the drop, but it is still a possibility because of their tough remaining fixtures.
Crystal Palace were never expected to be in this part of the table, but in a rollercoaster season, Palace managed to drop from 5th (nineteen games in) to 15th in the space of just ten games. An injury-ridden season has meant that the Eagles have started to worry about going down a league rather than competing nearer the top. Despite this, I think Palace are more than safe, they have no real worry. Their run-in includes a vital game against Norwich but difficult fixtures against Manchester United, Leicester, West Ham and Arsenal.
To conclude, Villa do not have any hope of survival and neither Newcastle nor Norwich seems up for the fight. Sunderland are more likely to be safe out of the Magpies, Canaries and Black Cats. However looking at their remaining fixtures, it won’t be easy and will be a very tough battle to end the season.
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