Who's Staying Up And Who's Going Down

Given a rather meagre points total in the region of 33/34 points will be enough for survival this season, staying up might seem easy. Nick Miller picks the doomed teams...

Last Updated: 08/03/12 at 09:46 Post Comment

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Why they'll stay up
In theory, an attacking five of Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adel Taarabt, Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse should have goals in it. Indeed, that front two have nearly 400 career goals between them. There is plenty of quality in the side, and if/when Mark Hughes's methods take hold, it could all click. Hughes has started pretty slowly before - he won one of his first nine league games at Blackburn, only six before Christmas at Manchester City after spending oodles, just two in the same period at Fulham - but when players do start paying attention it tends to get better.

Why they'll go down
Their run-in is horrendous. They play Bolton, Liverpool, Sunderland, Arsenal, Manchester United, Swansea, West Brom, Spurs, Chelsea, Stoke and Manchester City. Of those fixtures, anything could happen at Bolton, Swansea's away record is so poor they might expect a win there, and both Stoke and West Brom will have little to play for, but beyond that, points could be very hard to come by indeed. The counterpoint to the 'Why they'll stay up' argument is that, while in theory there are goals in the side, they have actually only troubled the scorers 28 times - only three teams in the division have fewer.

Bolton (a), Liverpool (h), Sunderland (a), Arsenal (h), Manchester United (a), Swansea (h), West Brom (a), Spurs (h), Chelsea (a), Stoke (h), Manchester City (a).

Odds: 4/5.

Verdict: Going down.


Why they'll stay up
They are the team that logic forgot. After selling their first-choice centre-backs (admittedly after having done without Chris Samba and Ryan Nelsen for good parts of the season anyway) without replacing either of them, the previously hapless Steve Kean has led Blackburn to a couple of impressive wins, not least at Old Trafford and over QPR a couple of weeks ago. Indeed, they have as many points from the last eight games as Liverpool do. 33/34 points should be enough to stay up this season and Rovers, while unpredictable, have three games against the four strugglers. Also, while QPR have goalscorers in theory, Rovers have them (well, one) in reality - chunky funster Yakubu has 14 to his name.

Why they'll go down
Unpredictability works both ways. For every win at Manchester United there's a 7-1 shellacking by Arsenal, and Kean still has the look of a terrified man who has now come too far to get out of this elaborate practical joke. Also, there's the problem of the defence - they have shipped a woeful 60 goals (comfortably the Premier League's worst) and are yet to keep a clean sheet this season. They also have Chelsea away on the final day, so will probably have to be safe before then.

Wolves (a), Sunderland (h), Bolton (a), Manchester United (h), West Brom (a), Liverpool (h), Swansea (a), Norwich (h), Spurs (a), Wigan (h), Chelsea (a).

Odds: 4/5.

Verdict: Staying up. Just.


Why they'll stay up
When I wrote this same feature last season, Wolves were bottom with just 25 points, and I had Mick McCarthy's men as Championship certainties. That they're here to scrap again this season tells you they at least have some sort of fight to them, as do the 14 points gained from losing positions - the second best in the division. They also have a striker who probably belongs a little higher up the table in Steven Fletcher, and their toughest games in the run in are at home.

Why they'll go down
Abject recent form has seen them concede 12 goals in their last three games, the first of which was the defeat that saw McCarthy dropped through the Molineux trapdoor and into the fiery pits of unemployment hell. Of course, part of the theory behind sacking a manager after the end of the transfer window is that a new face will freshen things up - by simply being 'not the other chap' they have a chance of inspiring the team to better things. Of course Wolves don't have that, having dithered for a couple of weeks before appointing the man who has been there for years anyway. In announcing the appointment, Steve Morgan credited Terry Connor with being part of Wolves's last promotion campaign, but oddly didn't blame him for the run of form that saw McCarthy sacked. "This is not a job for a novice," Jez Moxey infamously said after McCarthy was shown the door. Quite so, but there really wasn't any need to prove it so tangibly though.

Blackburn (h), Manchester United (h), Norwich (a), Bolton (h), Stoke (a), Arsenal (h), Sunderland (a), Manchester City (h), Swansea (a), Everton (h), Wigan (a).

Odds: 4/7.

Verdict: Going down.


Why they'll stay up
To point to a side having the most defeats in the Premier League as a positive might sound a little odd (actually, it sounds David Gest, Howard Hawks, Charlie Sheen odd), but although they lose a load of games, this also means they don't draw many. Bolton either win or lose, so when one has to weigh up who will win a big game involving Bolton (like the one against QPR this weekend), you're naturally inclined to go for them. Their run-in isn't too bad either, aside from trips Newcastle and Spurs, with home games against fellow waving/drowning candidates QPR and Blackburn, as well as Swansea and Fulham, plus a trip to Wolves.

Why they'll go down
Having said all that...19 defeats, two draws. Part of grinding out survival is grabbing draws when you possibly don't deserve them, eking out a point to inch yourself closer to safety in tiny, tiny increments, like Joe Simpson in 'Touching The Void', a climber who shattered his knee near the summit of a mountain in Peru, and had to drag himself back to base camp on one leg. They're also in rotten form, having lost their last four, and have an FA Cup quarter-final to worry about as well.

QPR (h), Villa (a), Blackburn (h), Wolves (a), Fulham (h), Newcastle (a), Spurs (h), Swansea (h), Sunderland (a), West Brom (h), Stoke (a),

Odds: 8/11.

Verdict: Staying up (but it was pretty close to a toss of a coin between them and Wolves).


Why they'll stay up
Despite appearing hapless and doomed from August onwards and being currently bottom of the table, they're still in touch, two points away from safety. They have also appeared hapless and doomed basically for the past seven seasons and they're still in the Premier League, meaning either they've got this survival lark licked, or they're the footballing equivalent of cockroaches. Also, should they manage to hang on until then, their last two games are against Blackburn and Wolves, meaning that, unlike many previous seasons, the side at the bottom of the table could have their destiny in their own hands on the final day.

Why they'll go down
I wish I had something more insightful to say than 'They're not very good'...but they're really, really not very good. Only two teams have conceded more and nobody has scored less than Wigan. Their top scorers are Franco di Santo and Jordi Gomez with an anaemic four and they have only won four games all season. Also, in response to the 'own destiny if they stay in touch' point above, that's an 'if' the size of Yakubu's bottom - they have to play Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Newcastle before then.

Norwich (a), West Brom (h), Liverpool (a), Stoke (h), Chelesa (a), Manchester United (h), Arsenal (a), Fulham (a), Newcastle (h), Blackburn (a), Wolves (h).

Odds: 1/4.

Verdict: Going down.

Odds provided by SkyBet, words provided by Nick Miller, further insight and tosh provided via Twitter

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