bettingexpert's Club By Club Premier League Preview - Relegation Candidates
Who will be relegated this season? Which clubs in relegation contention will survive? Today Michael Cox concludes our Premier League club by club preview.
Paolo Di Canio was appointed as a short-term fix once Martin O’Neill’s methods proved increasingly ineffective last season – and in terms of both his character and playing style, he proved the perfect appointment.
However, there are reasons to worry for 2013/14. Di Canio is, quite obviously, a fiery character that might become draining and tiresome over the course of an eight-month season – but equally concerning is his strategic approach. His insistence on high-energy pressing from the front, and frantic closing down in midfield, had an immediate effect in a do-or-die situation with a couple of months remaining in a relegation scrap, especially considering the Sunderland squad had become bored by Martin O’Neill’s favoured strategy – sitting very deep. But it remains to be seen whether Di Canio’s tactics can be sustained over the course of eight months, and whether the players remain committed to his methods.
Sunderland’s summer recruitment, too, has been concerning. Emanuele Giaccherini has always seemed like a versatile, jack-of-all-trades squad man perfect for a major club where he can play important tactical roles without being asked to lead the side. He was excellent at the Confederations Cup, but that seemed unrepresentative of his true form, both in terms of style and level of performance.
Jozy Altidore, meanwhile, fared well in Holland with AZ – but was distinctly unimpressive in his (admittedly much younger) days with Hull, and is no guarantee of goals. At the other end, Vito Mannone is a downgrade on Simon Mignolet and Mobido Diakite has never been particularly impressive for Lazio, although Cabral is a good midfielder and should provide physicality in the centre.
Sixth favourites for relegation at odds of 6.00, Sunderland are the value bet at that end of the table.
Sunderland Odds For 2013/2014
|To Win Premier League||2501.00||2001.00||3001.00||3001.00||3001.00|
|Top 4 Finish||151.00||251.00||151.00||101.00||126.00|
|Top 10 Finish||3.50||4.00||3.50||4.00||3.50|
|To Be Relegated||5.50||6.00||5.00||5.50||6.00|
|To Stay Up||1.14||1.11||1.17||1.11||1.11|
|To Win FA Cup||51.00||51.00||41.00||51.00||51.00|
|To Win League Cup||41.00||34.00||34.00||34.00||51.00|
Odds as at 9th August 2013.
Tony Pulis’ football wasn’t pretty, but it was – broadly – effective throughout Stoke’s five years in the Premier League. The focus upon tough tackling, width and long balls made the Potters the most distinctive side in the Premier League, but Pulis’ achievements looked less impressive when you considered how much money he’d spent in recent years, often on average players who conformed to the established system. Had a more forward-thinking manager been able to spend that much money, Stoke might now be established as a fine footballing side, and be moving gradually up the table.
Mark Hughes represents evolution rather than revolution – his sides (particularly Blackburn) were regarded as tough tacklers, and the Welshman isn’t a coach who insists upon ‘good football’. He’s obliged to improve the quality of football on show, however, and it’s interesting that his first two signings were technically gifted defenders. In truth, there wasn’t a great deal wrong with some of Stoke’s attacking play over the past couple of years – crossing can be an effective approach – but the constant long balls meant they spent too long without possession, and too long trying to win the ball.
The arrival of Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa theoretically means Stoke’s passing will start from the back, and should flow into the central midfielders – who have always possessed decent pass completion statistics because Pulis asked them to spread play calmly from side to side. If the passing deep in the side improves significantly, Stoke’s traditional gameplan higher up the pitch might look more impressive. Hughes needs another couple of signings – a flair player would be nice, although Brek Shea should get opportunities to impress.
Stoke shouldn’t be relegated, although the move away from the Premier League’s most unique strategy could cause early problems.
Stoke City Odds For 2013/2014
|To Win Premier League||3001.00||2001.00||4001.00||3001.00||3001.00|
|Top 4 Finish||151.00||251.00||251.00||151.00||151.00|
|Top 10 Finish||5.00||5.00||3.75||4.50||4.50|
|To Be Relegated||4.00||4.00||4.33||4.00||3.75|
|To Stay Up||1.22||1.22||1.20||1.22||1.25|
|To Win FA Cup||51.00||67.00||51.00||67.00||67.00|
|To Win League Cup||51.00||51.00||41.00||41.00||67.00|
Odds as at 9th August 2013.
Norwich’s 2012/13 campaign made little sense. Excuse the awkward way of expressing the various stages of their season – but the Canaries started with no wins in seven, then went unbeaten in 10, then failed to win in their subsequent nine, before a half-decent recovery in the final weeks. For a steady, unspectacular side based around organisation and positional discipline, the variation in performance was tough to explain.
However, Norwich’s squad has significantly improved. Many departing players (Simeon Jackson, Marc Tierney, Elliot Ward, Andrew Surman, Chris Martin and Grant Holt) did an excellent job under Paul Lambert when Norwich were about adventurous, tactically-flexible football, but were less effective under Hughton’s stricter regime.
The early signing of Ricky van Wolfswinkel is the most eye-catching move – the Dutchman clearly has great potential and could one day be sold for in excess of his £8.5m fee, but he’s also the type of forward who could impress with his runs and link-up play, without scoring a significant number of goals. He’s failed to break the 15-goal mark in Holland or Portugal, and while still developing at 24, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he failed to reach double figures.
Gary Hooper offers a very different option – he’s small, but his experience of playing in the lower leagues is obvious in his strong, combative approach to centre-forward play. Leroy Fer makes Norwich a significantly more impressive outfit in the centre of midfield, while Nathan Redmond is theoretically perfect for counter-attacking at speed down the right.
This season could go either way – on paper, Hughton’s emphasis upon defensive drilling should create a solid side, with the new recruits providing the individual brilliance often lacking last season. There’s always a fear that the new signings won’t settle, however, and the defensiveness could be complimented with flimsiness and a lack of cutting edge higher up. In this respect, Norwich are arguably the most unpredictable side in the league.
Norwich City Odds For 2013/2014
|To Win Premier League||4001.00||3001.00||3501.00||5001.00||4001.00|
|Top 4 Finish||201.00||201.00||251.00||201.00||201.00|
|Top 10 Finish||5.50||5.00||4.50||4.50||4.33|
|To Be Relegated||4.00||3.75||4.00||3.50||4.00|
|To Stay Up||1.29||1.25||1.22||1.29||1.22|
|To Win FA Cup||81.00||67.00||41.00||67.00||67.00|
|To Win League Cup||51.00||51.00||41.00||67.00||67.00|
Odds as at 9th August 2013.
For the first time, the Premier League will have a Welsh derby – on November 2nd, Swansea will travel to Cardiff City Stadium for a historic fixture. However, Cardiff have more ambition than simply to frustrate Swansea in the derby – of the three newly promoted sides, they have the best chance of survival.
Malky Mackay’s summer recruitment has underlined that ambition. The signing of England international centre-back Steven Caulker surprised many, and strengthens an already solid back four. At the other end, Andreas Cornelius is the classic type of striker that could flop, or could become the signing of the season – he’s only 20, but hit 18 goals in the Danish league last season, and is already a full international. A tall but technical centre-forward, he should form a classic ‘little and large’ relationship with Craig Bellamy, who still has plenty of pace despite now being 34.
Surprisingly, no individual scored more than eight goals in Cardiff’s promotion season, with the likes of Craig Noone, Aron Gunnarson and Peter Whittingham all chipping in from midfield. Whittingham is arguably Cardiff’s most crucial player – a hugely talented passer who has great composure on the ball and impressive vision, and therefore has the ability to control the tempo of matches despite originally being a winger. Also an excellent set-piece taker, if Whittingham adjusts quickly to the Premier League, he could become what Charlie Adam or Leon Britton have been to newly-promoted clubs over the past couple of seasons.
Last season, Cardiff were knocked out at the first opportunity by Northampton in the League Cup, and by Macclesfield in the FA Cup – MacKay was happy to play a weakened side and turn his attention fully to the league – something similar should be expected this season.
Cardiff should establish themselves in the Premier League in the long run, although they’ll need some of last season’s Premier League sides to regress in order to survive this year.
Cardiff City Odds For 2013/2014
|To Win Premier League||5001.00||5001.00||5001.00||5001.00||5001.00|
|Top 4 Finish||251.00||301.00||301.00||201.00||251.00|
|Top 10 Finish||6.50||10.00||8.00||9.00||9.00|
|To Be Relegated||2.75||2.75||2.30||2.38||2.50|
|To Stay Up||1.40||1.40||1.60||1.53||1.50|
|To Win FA Cup||67.00||81.00||51.00||67.00||81.00|
|To Win League Cup||67.00||81.00||51.00||67.00||67.00|
Odds as at 9th August 2013.
The craziness of last season’s Championship was summed up by Hull’s promotion ‘charge’ – in their final 13 games, they won five, drew two and lost six – hardly the record of a side ready to challenge in the Premier League.
Interestingly, Steve Bruce regularly fielded a 3-5-2 in the second half of 2012/13 – which, following Wigan’s relegation (and notwithstanding Roberto Martinez’s potential experimentation at Everton) could make them most tactically distinct side in the division. In truth, Hull’s record was better when they played a traditional back four, but underdogs can often punch above their weight simply by providing opposition with an unusual challenge. Bruce’s side was packed with players who feel distinctly second tier – the likes of Abdoulaye Faye, Paul McShane and Stephen Quinn feel like nothing more than squad players for a side hoping to survive in the Premier League. The recruitment of Allan McGregor and Steve Harper solves the goalkeeping problem, though, while Danny Graham and Maynor Figueroa have done well in the top division.
Unlike the other two promoted sides, Bruce has experience of surviving in the Premier League with Birmingham, Wigan and Sunderland. Therefore, it’s unlikely that his side will play with the early naivety shown, for example, by Nigel Adkins’ Southampton in the early stages of last season, and Hull should be organised, disciplined and motivated.
But few other clubs are so desperately in need of new arrivals before the end of the transfer window – it needn’t be about splashing the cash on internationals on big contracts, but the quality of the squad must improve for Hull to survive. A couple of deadline day moves should be expected, and loan moves could work nicely.
Unless there are significant further signings, it will be tricky for Hull to survive.
Hull City Odds For 2013/2014
|To Win Premier League||7501.00||7501.00||7501.00||7501.00||7501.00|
|Top 4 Finish||301.00||301.00||351.00||251.00||251.00|
|Top 10 Finish||13.00||15.00||8.50||15.00||13.00|
|To Be Relegated||1.62||1.67||1.67||1.67||1.57|
|To Stay Up||2.10||2.10||2.10||2.10||2.25|
|To Win FA Cup||126.00||101.00||67.00||101.00||101.00|
|To Win League Cup||101.00||81.00||81.00||81.00||81.00|
Odds as at 9th August 2013.
Realistically, it’s difficult to make a case for Crystal Palace avoiding relegation. Ian Holloway performed impressive in 2010/11 with Blackpool – and surely would have survived had his star player Charlie Adam not had his head turned midway through the campaign. Holloway has always emphasised positive possession football, but his sides frequently concede too many goals.
The major signing has been striker Dwight Gayle (for a fee of up to £8m) from Peterborough, and while promoted clubs have often successfully signed second-tier forwards for big money in the past (Charlton’s punt on Darren Bent comes to mind), that’s a staggering fee to pay for a footballer who cost £500,000 in January. 13 Championship goals in 29 games shows his quality, but it’s hardly a record that should increase his value by a factor of 16, and smacks of a club overly keen to reinvest the Wilfried Zaha money.
Jose Campana, meanwhile, is a highly rated Spanish youth international who has joined from Sevilla, but might it will be tough for a 20-year-old to lead Palace towards survival, although his midfield partners Kagisho Dikgacoi and Mile Jedinak have the potential to compete against more technically gifted opponents.
Along with Zaha’s departure, Glenn Murray’s long-term injury is a huge blow. He scored 30 goals last season, and Grant Holt, Adam Le Fondre and Rickie Lambert had demonstrated a peculiar tendency for ex-Rochdale strikers to adapt immediately to the Premier League.
It’s easy to understand why Palace are favourites to go down. Holloway’s style of football might produce a couple of surprise victories over big boys unaccustomed to minnows being so adventurous, but they’ll probably concede too many to make survival realistic. Still, if Palace are sensible in reaping the financial rewards of the Premier League, there’s no need to be too negative if, for the fourth consecutive time, they’re relegated from the Premier League immediately.
Crystal Palace Odds For 2013/2014
|To Win Premier League||1001.00||1001.00||1001.00||1001.00||1001.00|
|Top 4 Finish||501.00||501.00||501.00||251.00||501.00|
|Top 10 Finish||17.00||17.00||15.00||15.00||15.00|
|To Be Relegated||1.44||1.53||1.53||1.53||1.44|
|To Stay Up||2.63||2.38||2.38||2.38||2.62|
|To Win FA Cup||101.00||101.00||126.00||151.00||151.00|
|To Win League Cup||151.00||81.00||126.00||81.00||81.00|
Odds as at 9th August 2013.
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And read more of his work at ZonalMarking.net