Who's Staying Up, Who's Going Down?

The scrap for relegation looks like it's going to be the closest in years, with just six points separating 10th and bottom place. Nick Miller assesses the chances of those in trouble...

Last Updated: 23/01/14 at 16:53 Post Comment

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ASTON VILLA - 10th, 24 points

Why they'll stay up
It seems like a bit of a cop-out to say there are at least three worse teams than them in the division, but there are at least three worse teams than them in the division. Christian Benteke has regained some sort of form, and now Ron Vlaar seems to be fit again, he will be able to hold the defence together at least enough to stay out of trouble.

Why they'll go down
They have a young squad who have little experience of...well, anything really, particularly a relegation tussle. They still have some gaping holes in their squad that might not be filled. Paul Lambert seems to think Grant Holt is the answer to any question other than "Who's that sweaty mess in the corner?"

Odds to go down: 10/1.

HULL CITY TIGERS - 11th, 23 points

Why they'll stay up
Steve Bruce is rather quietly going about business with unspectacular efficiency. They have a good home record that has seen only Crystal Palace (in a weird outlier of a game), Manchester United and Chelsea beat them at the KC Sunshine Band stadium, meaning they can get away with only one victory on the road. They have the best defensive record in the bottom half - indeed, they have conceded the same number of goals as Liverpool, at 28.

Why they'll go down
Bruce's idea of strengthening their forward line is to spend the thick end of £15million on two players who have scored three league goals between them this season - the theory that anyone is better than Danny Graham might have some merit, but relying on Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long for goals isn't exactly a foolproof scheme. Their home record really does need to be retained, if they continue to be so bad on the road, where they have only gained five points.

Odds to go down: 5/1.

NORWICH - 12th, 23 points

Why they'll stay up
They have a handy habit of picking up points from those around them. 19 of their 23 points have been collected from teams in the bottom half of the table, which will be handy for obvious reasons if they can continue such a record for the remainder of the season.

Why they'll go down
Goals are something of an issue. They have only scored more than once in a game three times this season, partly due to their big summer signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel only finding the net once in the league. Their only signing of the transfer window so far, Jonas Gutierrez, could firmly be filed in the 'underwhelming' category. Also, they will have to be more or less safe by the middle of April - their last four games are Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Odds to go down: 7/2.

WEST BROM - 13th, 22 points

Why they'll stay up
In Pepe Mel, they have a manager who has excelled at getting the best from limited resources, and their resources are limited. While some have been rather sniffy about his appointment, rather laughably pondering whether a man who took Real Betis from the Segunda into the Europa League would have been given a position as lofty as the West Brom gig had he been English. They don't lose too many either - the fewest losses in the bottom half - and while draws won't get you too far up the table, they should at least ensure they stay out of trouble.

Why they'll go down
While Shane Long wasn't exactly banging in the goals, they will have lost two strikers in the next week or so, assuming Nicolas Anelka has quenelled his way into a fairly lengthy ban. The prospect of facing a relegation battle with Victor Anichebe as your main centre-forward is...chilling. The down side of drawing a bunch of games is that they don't win many either - just four all season.

Odds to go down: 6/1.

STOKE - 14th, 22 points

Why they'll stay up
The fans might not be as loud at the Britannia these days, but Stoke's home form is still pretty strong. They have lost just twice there this season, have held Manchester City to a draw and beaten Chelsea. A record of 17 points from 11 games should be enough for survival as long as they pick up the occasional point on the road. The signing of John Guidetti could be a boost too, although he will be unpredictable - prolific for Feyenoord a couple of seasons ago, he has spent the last 18 months struggling with illness, so it's hard to say how good he will be.

Why they'll go down
Like Hull, if that home form suffers at all, they are in some trouble, particularly as they still have to visit Manchester City and Chelsea. That Charlie Adam is their top scorer should be troubling in the extreme, and suggests Guidetti should not be their only forward addition in the transfer window.

Odds to go down: 6/1.

SWANSEA - 15th, 21 points

Why they'll stay up
If one wished to be charitable, one could argue that Swansea's recent poor run of form is down to injuries to the likes of Michu, Pablo Hernandez, Jonathan De Guzman, Nathan Dyer and Michel Vorm, so when a few of those players return, they will be right as rain again. Plus, their form and bad run of injuries came as they had to face Everton, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs. Their upcoming fixtures against Fulham, Cardiff, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Norwich, Stoke and West Ham are much friendlier.

Why they'll go down
While there were reasons, Laudrup had a reputation as something of a one-season wonder in his previous jobs, often moving on after initial success. While there isn't any real suggestion that he will do one just yet, it's clear that his second term is heading down, down, down. Swansea haven't won in the last eight, and injuries are taking their toll on Laudrup's squad. Unless he beefs his playing staff up a little in the next week, they might be floundering.

Odds to go down: 7/1.

CRYSTAL PALACE - 16th, 20 points

Why they'll stay up
They have actually been playing pretty well recently. Tony Pulis has tightened them up pretty well, and if their midfield pair of Mile Jedinak and Joel Ward stays together, they will at least have a solid base from which to bag some points. Plus Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon are always likely to create something from the flanks. They have taken 16 from an available 33 points since Pulis arrived, a ratio that would get them 55 points over a full season. They won't reach that total, but they should get the 40-odd required for relatively comfortable survival.

Why they'll go down
While their performances have been good, some of their results haven't matched them. Against Spurs recently, for example, they should have been out of sight, but couldn't convert their dominance into goals and a win. That's a nasty habit that might bite them at some point in the season.

Odds to go down: 8/11.

FULHAM - 17th, 19 points

Why they'll stay up
If they're powered by Rene Meulensteen's ego, they're nailed on to survive. Fulham are gradually improving under Meulensteen, managing to pick up wins over Villa, Norwich and West Ham of late, and although they don't draw too many games, that might not matter too much if they win, say, one in three for the rest of the campaign. That might just be enough to stay up.

Why they'll go down
Even the Fulham players you think are young aren't really. Sascha Riether? 30. Ashkan Dejagah? 27. It shows in their play, too - Fulham are an often ponderous, sluggish team, devoid of the inspiration you would think they'd have in abundance, perhaps largely because Dimitar Berbatov has been, for all his languid beauty, mostly 'toilet' this season. They also lose loads of games, 15 in all, the most in the Premier League, which analytics experts have concluded is not a good thing for survival prospects. I know. Me too.

Odds to go down: 10/11.

WEST HAM - 18th, 18 points

Why they'll stay up
Sam Allardyce generally does stay up. His teams are ugly as sin but effective and sturdy, and although they haven't been like that for much of this season, there aren't too many other managers around who could get the best out of their current squad. Plus, they have many of their injured players returning soon, most notably Andy Carroll but most importantly Winston Reid, without whom they have often been a defensive shambles.

Why they'll go down
They're often a defensive shambles. If Roger Johnson plays more than half a dozen games for the rest of the season, they are in some trouble. Indeed, even his presence might be a harbinger of doom, given his predilection for a relegation. While this squad might be such an 'Allardyce' collection of players, and thus the conclusion that he should be kept on is an easy one to reach, his time-honoured methods aren't working this season, meaning that someone else should really be given a chance. Alas, the time for a change may have come and gone.

Odds to go down: 11/8.

SUNDERLAND - 19th, 18 points

Why they'll stay up
The run to the Capital One Cup final will prove to be an inspiration, evidence that they can compete with and indeed beat teams operating at a higher standard than them. Success breeds success. Also, Sung-Yong Ki.

Why they'll go down
The run to the Capital One Cup final will prove to be a huge distraction, taking their eyes and minds off the more financially lucrative prize of Premier League survival. Gus Poyet may understandably prioritise preparing for Wembley over preparing for a relegation scrap. Also, Jozy Altidore.

Odds to go down: 11/8.

CARDIFF - 20th, 18 points

Why they'll stay up
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, of course. The Norwegian comes to England with a fine reputation, from winning two titles with Molde, so in theory he should be able to squeeze a little more from them in the latter half of the season. Their run-in is relatively friendly too, as they face West Brom, Crystal Palace, Stoke and Sunderland in the closing weeks of the season.

Why they'll go down
Without wishing to be reductive about this, their players really aren't very good, a few notable exceptions aside. Steven Caulker has proved to be money very well spent, Kévin Théophile-Catherine has been a surprising success while Jordon Mutch has knocked in a few goals, but other than that, there isn't much there to get excited about. Unless something extraordinary happens in the last few days of the transfer window, they could be in trouble, especially if they don't find a way to score more goals - they have an anaemic 17 in the league thus far.

Odds to go down: 10/11.

Verdict to go down: Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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