The dead dozen? F365 assess the relegation contenders

Date published: Wednesday 24th January 2018 7:56

There are six points between the relegation zone and Everton in ninth place, meaning it’s three from 12 teams for the drop…

 

Everton
Why they’ll go down: Because they are in a wretched run of form and cracks are already starting to appear in the relationship between the Everton fans and Sam Allardyce. After an unbeaten run of five games under his watch which gave them “a false sense of security”, they are now without a win in six games, during which they have managed two goals. Big Sam has yet to find a balance that enables Everton to remain solid while also posing an attacking threat. They were crying out for a striker this month but Allardyce admits the signing of Cenk Tosun is a gamble that might not work.

Why they’ll stay up: Big Sam has never been relegated and Everton have enough in their squad – even if it is bloated and lacks pace – to see the season out. It won’t be pretty, and Everton fans need to accept that in the short term, but this is what Allardyce does. It takes time for him to get his message across – he lost six of his first eight at Palace and eight of his opening 11 games at Sunderland and kept both up – but the presumption is that they will become harder to beat and rely heavily on Theo Walcott’s pace.

 

Watford
Why they’ll go down: The Hornets are currently bottom of the form table, having won just once in 11 matches. They have conceded the second-highest number of goals in the Premier League and they have the worst home defensive record in the division, having shipped five more than anyone else on their own patch. The Hornets pinned much of the blame on Marco Silva and Everton, but the form of the players that were so impressive at the start of the season has dropped off a cliff, and it’s not a simple task to turn that around.

Why they’ll stay up: Watford axed Silva before it was too late and though they have had some criticism for their ruthlessness, it will likely serve its intended purpose. Javi Gracia is a coach not renowned for playing open, free-flowing football, but in their position, that is not what Watford require. The Hornets need a coach who can stiffen up a ropey defence, which is among his list of attributes, judging by the fact that he has a win over Barcelona on his CV from his time at Malaga, when Gracia’s side were described as ‘pure chloroform’. In his final season in La Liga, Malaga conceded only five goals in six games against Barca, Real Madrid and Atletico. With Nathaniel Chalobah, Younes Kaboul, Kiko Femenia and Tom Cleverley all yet to return, Gracia’s arrival should spur the Hornets on to better things.

 

West Ham
Why they’ll go down: David Moyes has steadied the ship but calamity never feels far away from the London Stadium. Injury problems could destabilise their recent form, with Manuel Lanzini out for six weeks and Marco Arnautovic said to be facing a spell on the sidelines. That leaves Javier Hernandez as their primary goal threat and he wants to leave the club.

Why they’ll stay up: After being in the bottom three under Slaven Bilic until he was sacked 11 games into the season, Moyes has provoked an upturn in form that would have seen them in ninth place if the campaign began upon his arrival. Moyes has shored up the Hammers defence while also provoking a vast improvement in Arnautovic by changing his role. Having lost only one in nine under Moyes, they have enough momentum to stay safely away from the drop zone.

 

Bournemouth
Why they’ll go down: The Cherries don’t keep clean sheets, having not recorded a shut-out since a goalless stalemate with Swansea in November. Eddie Howe’s side have struggled to kill off opponents, with only one win coming by more than the odd goal. Will their luck hold? Well, yeah, probably. But…

Why they’ll stay up: Howe’s side are gathering some momentum, having not suffered a defeat in their least five matches. The Cherries have also developed a habit of avoiding defeat in the matches that matter most. They haven’t been beaten by any of the other teams in this list in 10 matches stretching over the last four months. Since then, their six defeats have come against teams in the top eight.

 

Crystal Palace
Why they’ll go down: Everyone has seen how wretched Palace can be. Until their first win of the season that didn’t arrive until mid-October, they were shipping goals for fun and were utterly incapable of scoring them. Old habits die hard and Roy Hodgson’s squad is starting to get stretched, especially in central midfield. Bakary Sako has stepped up into an attacking role, with Wilf Zaha shifted back out to the flanks and Palace have looked less of a threat as a result. And they have Wayne Hennessey in the sticks.

Why they’ll stay up: If the season had begun when Palace got that first win, Hodgson’s Palace would be in the top eight. Aside from defeats to Arsenal, Palace haven’t been beaten by anyone else in two months. Hodgson’s methods are old school, but he has got the Eagles working as a cohesive defensive unit, while they retain the potential to thrill in attack.

 

Huddersfield
Why they’ll go down: Their run-in is absolutely shocking. The Terriers’ last four matches see them face Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal. More of a pressing concern is their current form. David Wagner’s side have conceded nine goals in three consecutive defeats to Leicester, West Ham and Stoke, while scoring only once in reply. The early-season optimism has evaporated and their January business has not injected the boost they needed, especially given they face Liverpool, Man Utd and Spurs in their next five matches.

Why they’ll stay up: The five games prior to their woeful run-in offers Wagner the chance to put a streak together that would go a long way to securing safety before the final four matches. Swansea, Brighton, Palace, Brighton and Watford is a run of six-pointers. And maybe Man City will be on the ale all week prior to receiving the Premier League trophy when Huddersfield visit in the penultimate fixture?

 

Newcastle
Why they’ll go down: Because they have a squad fit for the Championship. The takeover, or lack thereof, has overshadowed anything on the pitch this season, while Rafa Benitez’s entirely justified moans in the media about his lack of funds must start to grate on his current group, who might be limited but they have given everything so far this term. If funds are not forthcoming then the mood around St James’ Park will turn very dark indeed.

Why they’ll stay up: Because even Mike Ashley must recognise that it is in his interests to avoid a third Newcastle relegation on his watch, some money must be forthcoming. Kenedy is arriving from Chelsea on loan, while there are whispers that a £20million deal for a striker is in the offing. Two or three astute signings would supplement a well-organised, keen-spirited group and give them just enough to stay up. Then  it all starts again in the summer…

 

Brighton
Why they’ll go down: With one win in 13 games, the Seagulls are on what may be an irreversible slide. They have failed to score in nine of those matches and new £14million striker, Jurgen Locadia from PSV, simply has to hit the ground running. The next month is huge for Albion and anything but a swift upturn in form could leave them doomed before a stinking run-in that sees them face Tottenham, Burnley, Man Utd and Liverpool in the final four games.

Why they’ll stay up: The upcoming month is Brighton’s opportunity to turn things around and get themselves on a firmer footing. Chris Hughton’s side are unbeaten in their matches against Southampton, Stoke, West Ham and Swansea and a similar haul of eight points, combined with the effect of denying their rivals the points, is an absolute must. By the end of that four-match sequence, the Seagulls will have 10 matches remaining, eight of which are against the top eight. If they are to survive, their push must start immediately.

 

Stoke
Why they’ll go down: Because they have been absolutely wretched at the back. The Potters have conceded more than anyone else in the Premier League, with 50 goals shipped before Paul Lambert got to work a week ago. Only one team to concede a half-century of goals by this point have survived. Stoke have been cruising under Mark Hughes, with the club wrongly presuming that they could get safely to the end of the season before making a managerial change.  They need to hope that the rot has not set in too deeply.

Why they’ll stay up: Lambert was an anti-climatic appointment initially but his first week has got the Stoke fans firmly onside. The former Villa boss has identified the Potters’ problems and, fortunately, they are not complex issues to fix: work harder, close down quicker and make the Bet365 Stadium resemble the fortress it used to be. No one from 12th down has scored more than Stoke so Lambert need only focus on solidifying his defence, which will become easier as the club’s injury problems subside. The new manager bounce did for Huddersfield last weekend, and if Lambert can carry that into their next five matches against Watford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Leicester and Southampton, then safety beckons.

 

Southampton
Why they’ll go down: The Virgil van Dijk saga hung over St Mary’s for the first half of the season and Mauricio Pellegrino’s brand of football wasn’t coming close to lifting the mood. A run of 11 games without a win has seen Saints slip into the bottom three for the first time this season, with Pellegrino the manager under most pressure.  The supporters had written off Pellegrino after the Boxing Day surrender at Tottenham and their inconsistency since means we’re no closer to knowing whether the Argentine boss has what it takes to keep Saints in the Premier League. All this after finishing ninth last season. Is the Southampton model about to come crashing down?

Why they’ll stay up: Despite falling into the drop zone prior to another meeting with Spurs, a deserved 1-1 draw could be the catalyst for an upturn in form and results. Pellegrino said he is hoping for “a good week” in the transfer market, with Quincy Promes and Guido Carrillo heavily linked in a £50million outlay. Shane Long and James Ward-Prowse have recently ended goal droughts and the performance against former boss Mauricio Pochettino suggests Pellegrino might be starting to get his message across.

 

West Brom
Why they’ll go down: Sacking Tony Pulis was supposed to arrest a run of form that saw Albion drop to one place above the drop zone. The change of manager simply has not had the desired effect. Under Alan Pardew, they have dropped a further two places and with no January business to speak of, it is difficult to see how and why their fortunes should improve. The Baggies have scored the second lowest number of goals in the Premier League and could be about to sell their best defender. They followed their first win under Pardew with a creditable draw at Everton, but Man City could ruin whatever confidence those two games produced when they meet at the Etihad next week.

Why they’ll stay up: Albion remain hard to beat and as spirited as ever. Under Pardew they have only lost by more than one goal once, while earning creditable draws against Liverpool and Arsenal. They retain the best defensive record of any team in the relegation scrap. If Pardew can inject some creativity then they have a base to build upon.

 

Swansea
Why they’ll go down: Swansea’s recruitment in the summer was poor and their lack of potency in attack is a result of failing to adequately replace Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdsson.  Paul Clement reached the end of his tether with this squad and Leon Britton took only two games to compare the players and their mistakes to those of academy youngsters. New manager Carlos Carvalhal has lifted spirits but the recruitment he desperately needs this month appears no closer to happening.

Why they’ll stay up: There is no doubt that Carvalhal has inspired an improvement in the Swans. Under his watch, the bottom-placed side have won two and drawn one of their four matches. The former Sheffield Wednesday boss has shown he is willing to be versatile, with an emphasis on playing out from the back when possible clearly evident in his first three games, but the win against Liverpool was achieved with a far more direct, straightforward approach. The confidence of the players, which appeared to be completely shot under Paul Clement, seems to be coming back.

Actual prediction: Huddersfield, Brighton and West Brom to drop.

Ian Watson

 


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