Premier League Relegation Battle: Where Do You Think You're Going?
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Which Premier League clubs will be relegated this season? What are the odds that QPR will survive? Will Wigan fight their way to safety again? Will Newcastle continue to tumble? Today on the blog David takes a look at this season's Premier League relegation candidates and delivers his verdict.
Sixteen games left on the Premier League calendar and here are the prime suspects for relegation. We analyse the chances of each and whether their fortunes might turn around in the next weeks.
Adkins’ lads had been written off by many after having adjusted horrendously to the change in climate on their return to the Premier League. 4 points from the first 30 available seemed like a death sentence. Yet the board of directors proved patient and allowed the manager to remedy some evident flaws he had in his strategy.
Today Adkins has understood clearly how much a solid and focused defence is important in the top flight division of English football. Unless you are Manchester United, that is, and you have so much fire power, discipline and build up that you can get an extra goal almost always.
The Saints have made themselves harder to beat on the road ever since those 10 maligned opening matches, taking a point from difficult venues like Craven Cottage and the Britannia. They have also built themselves far stronger at home. It will not be easy for anyone to go to the St. Mary’s and claim three points.
In addition they have money to spend and are spending it right. After acquiring one of the hottest youngsters of Serie A from last season, Gaston Ramirez from Bologna, they seem intent on chasing a bargain in defence in Italy in the January transfer window.
That is not to say there may not be any doubts that can still linger but if they have managed to keep their run going without a key player like Lallana in their squad, missing due to injury, then I may claim with a fair degree of certainty that they have found their feet in the league now.
Having abandoned the obstinate search for amusing the crowds with strictly offensive football, the Southampton fans have finally earned themselves some real entertainment by seeing their team making it difficult for anyone to beat them.
The Odds: Southampton are currently best priced at odds of 2.80 with Ladbrokes to be relegated.
As the Magpies get sucked further deeper into relegation distress, the last they wanted to hear of would have been their captain and defence leader, Coloccini, asking to be sold back to his childhood club San Lorenzo.
The pathway Newcastle have travelled so far in this campaign is a mirror image of that of Southampton. After a marvellous season that had seen them finish fifth they started somewhat where they had left. 3-5-2 in the first 10 matches. From then onwards it had been just 2 wins from 12, both at home and against other relegation-threatened sides Wigan and Queens Park Rangers. 9 have been the defeats throughout this worrisome stretch.
Last season’s success has obviously paid its toll with Ba continuously looking to seal a move to a bigger club. A move that had been long coming and is now over with. Pardew will need to revive Cisse to his best of form and most of all hope he can get his full midfield back once again after most missed out for a good number of games, and all at once. The Europa League, needless to say, is a load they will be needing to drop soon in order to concentrate fully on this more pressing relegation matter.
The players are there for them to orchestrate a solid comeback but they will need to stay calm and allow for the least damage possible to happen to them as they await for better times when Tiote is back from Africa, and Cabaye, Gutierrez and Ben Arfa can be back together in midfield, with Cisse taking advantage of the vacuum left by Ba.
From fifth to relegated is not going to happen. They are too big to fail but will need to wait for those players that make them big to return from injury and back to form.
The Odds: Newcastle are best priced at odds of 7.00 with Betfred to be relegated this season.
This does pain me to say but it looks very difficult to back Wigan this year. I have been a keen admirer of Martinez’s football, having taught the Latics to play very entertaining football. Technical and an absolute joy to watch. There are some quite talented players in this team with Wigan always having been one of the best sides when it comes to making the most with very little resources.
Last season club boss David Whelan had at one point resigned himself to seeing the club back in the Championship, having described their permanence in the top flight as an excellent run. All this before Martinez conjured up some magic, winning 7 of the last 9 games to survive Death’s scythe swing.
This time around, a repeat of that is looking increasingly difficult. Not because Wigan have suddenly started playing badly. If anything they are even playing better than last year with Kone having been another good acquisition and Maloney grown more important and confident.
However, their defence is just so weak and poorly organised. To top it all they have had to do without their one true backline leader, Antolin Alcaraz, for most of this season.
Quite rarely do you see the Latics play horribly. They even manage to put the top clubs in dire straits with their neat passing in midfield and movement of the front three. However, once they concede [which is almost every time – just 3 clean sheets in 22 games] their morale gives in and they get steam-rolled.
Unlike Adkins, Martinez keeps insisting on being the entertaining side in the league. Unfortunately this is more for opponents than the Latics’ fans with their defence failing them even when they play a good game, which is quite often.
The Odds: Wigan are best priced at odds of 2.75 with William Hill to be relegated this season.
The records don’t speak of improvement for Lambert as by comparison he has fared worse than McLeish last season up to this point. Of course one should keep in mind that the direction the club has been trying to engage, is one that involves much less expenditure. Gone will be the days when they forked out a cub record €29 million for a player as they did with Bent – potentially the turning point for the worst of times for the club and the origin of their current troubles. A gamble that did not pay off.
23 years and 119 days was the average age of the team Lambert fielded against Swansea on the first day of 2013. A clear sign of changing times and policies. It is a very young side and as such experience can cost them.
The manager has also seemingly turned t o playing the most manifest counter-attacking football in the top flight. They react to opponents rather than attacking them and seem to get stuck when the game requires that they build up their own threats from down the pitch. This has aided their claim for points against both Liverpool and Swansea but an in-form team allowed to make siege on their fort will crush them along with their fragile young sprits. See Chelsea, Tottenham and a Wigan side given the freedom to play its offensive game.
The need for financial restructuring has handed down a young squad for Lambert to rebuild. Surely not what he would have expected after jumping the Norwich ship for Villa. The recovery of key men, especially in defence, or the addition of new ones, is essential to add some experience to a side that simply cannot cope alone in a big boys’ world.
The Odds: Aston Villa are best priced at odds of 2.00 with Bet365 to be relegated this season.
McDermott and his Reading side have also met with difficulties back on their return to the Premier League. He has shuffled his pack a number of times in search for the right configuration that would allow the team to best deal with their opponents.
He has had 2 wins in the last 3 played – 3 wins in total this season. For each of those Reading have had to perform miracles, either in defending their lead, like the match against West Ham, or in working their way out of yet another comeback bordering on the miraculous. They scored three goals in the final eight minutes to recapture the match against West Bromwich.
The problem with McDermott’s tactics has been that too often he has tried to adapt to the opponent. There are still many doubts that linger in his mind and these reflect on the hesitant approach the Royals show on the field.
Despite the fact that Zingarevich’s money is on the table to strengthen the squad, they have encountered difficulties in finding players eager to sign for a club that has been doing too little to ensure their return to the top flight is not short lived.
Every win is a small miracle. They need to sweat blood to get hold of those three points and even when that is the case, the numbers will not add up quick enough to make it past the threshold.
The Odds: Reading are best priced at odds of 1.22 with William Hill to be relegated this season.
Queens Park Rangers
Bottom of the table and 6 points from the cutoff line, with a start that no other club before has proven able to survive in the long run, Rangers cling on to hopes deriving from the reputation of their new manager Redknapp. Can he work his magic again this time?
The formation he has been putting on the field lately has been very encouraging. Finally a manager who knows his stuff, and I must admit that I was surprised to see Redknapp come up with the answers.
However, Taarabt remains the only source of play for QPR. Hoilett will need to pitch in and Granero given more time to prove his value. At the same time, a non-team player like Wright-Phillips will need to make way. If Redknapp is allowed to add a serious striker that can deal damage given he has no one he can turn to at this point, it would help their cause immensely. They have been the team which saw the least shots at goal from the opponents’ box. Quite telling.
If they fail to grab a solid striker which can solve this, then there may be hope for them. If January goes by without that solution having been found then I’m afraid the millions squandered over the summer would have been such a huge waste.
Redknapp. He has done it before. He can do it again. Yet with Taarabt the only beacon of light on the pitch it seems light to just call it an uphill struggle. They desperately need a striker to get on the other end of Taarabt’s illuminated and beautiful assists.
The Odds: QPR are best priced at odds of 1.57 with Bet Victor to be relegated this season.
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QPR got the striker they need. Hopefully Remy has shoulders broad enough to take responsibility for goals for the London team.
Adkins getting replaced by Pochettino at Southampton was an unexpected factor not considered here since it happened today.