Relegation: the most feared word in football.
As important to the Premier League, and indeed any English footballing league, as the coveted Top 4. Every season without fail, the three least worthy teams are plucked from the haven that is the Premier League and are released into the gritty, unstable, unforgiving wilderness that is Championship football.
Always being one of the worst footballing fates to befall a club, it can be argued that now, more than ever relegation can be potentially deadly. To fall from the the top flight in this day and age will cost football clubs millions of pounds as they lose huge money from television deals with the likes of Sky TV and BT Sport. The better players will leave more often than not in order to maintain their wages. Fans stop renewing season tickets.
Suddenly and without warning, relegation can transform from a short drop to slippery slide as clubs can take an unwanted tour through the English Football tier. Since the turn of the century Sunderland, Southampton, Leeds, Charlton, Wigan, Blackpool, Portsmouth and former Premier League Champions Blackburn have all been relegated from the Premier League – and at some stage have slid even further down into League 1.
In terms of predictions, the following teams that I discuss are all sides that I believe could potentially be relegated. Due to the fact that the season is not too far over the half way point, there are still a large number of teams that technically speaking are not mathematically safe. Any team omitted from this discussion is one which I believe will comfortably retain their Premier League status.
14th: Crystal Palace
The Eagles currently sit four points ahead of 18th placed Cardiff. A tidy cushion between themselves and the drop-zone. Under the care of former England manager Roy Hodgson, the South London club have dramatically improved since he took charge after 4 games in the 2017/18 season when they were both pointless and without a premier league goal. After a midtable finish in May, Palace have have done okay so far this season.
They claimed a fantastic scalp from the current Premier League Champions Manchester City just before Christmas as Andros Townsend scored an incredible volley.
However, at times The Eagles do appear to be a little toothless going forward with only four teams scoring less goals than Palace so far this campaign. Beneteke is an absolute shadow of his former self, though Hodgson’s defensive style of football may not be the best to bring the goals out of the Belgian international.
With that being said, Palace do have more than enough quality through the likes of Townsend and talisman, Wilfried Zaha. Add that to the deadline day loan signing of Batshuayi and the attacking trio could prove to be very dangerous on the counter attack. Overall, I feel Crystal Palace will survive somewhat comfortably.
What has happened to Burnley this season? Last season The Clarets were ever so impressive as they soared all the way to 7th and qualified for the Europa League. It’s no secret that the Europa League normally has a negative effect on a teams Premier League form as the extra European fixtures cause further fatigue and divided attention. However, Burnley’s Europa League campaign was over before it even began after being knocked out in the qualifiers for the group stages. Having only played 6 qualifying games, all of which were undertaken back in August, UEFA’s secondary club competition cannot be the sole reason the Lancashire club’s dismal showing since September.
Despite The Clarets drab performances in the league, they do have a good manager in Sean Dyche who knows how to get the best out of a group players that will run through walls for him and battle until the end, even if they are somewhat limited in quality.
The signing of 38 year old Peter Crouch could prove to be a great addition at the club even if he only makes his appearances from the bench as his experience and presence could prove to be a huge help to the Burnley dressing room. The big man’s talents were already utilised on Saturday as the Robot Dancer emerged from the bench to help force a penalty from fellow relegation candidates Southampton in the dying seconds of the game, which Ashley Barnes converted, rescuing a point for the home side.
With James Tarkowski and fellow England international teammate, goalkeeper Tom Heaton at the heart of Burnley’s defence, I believe The Clarets will be solid enough to withstand the siege of relegation and should remain a Premier League team for a fourth consecutive season.
16th: Newcastle United
Another season, yet another relegation scrap for Newcastle United. If I were basing these predictions purely on the basis of each teams players then I’d have Newcastle down to finish 18th in the relegation zone. Rafa Benitez is a class manager and is easily good enough to be managing a Champions League side. They earned a huge 2-1 victory against Pep Guardiola’s Premier League title holders were only beaten away at Wembley due to a goalkeeping error on Saturday. Benitez’s men showed spirit and were solid in both those games. I believe the Spaniard is tactically aware enough and gets his side to perform at high enough level to keep the Tyneside club safe this season.
The Magpies issues this season, and indeed nearly every season since 2007, stem from the tyrant of an owner that is Mike Ashley. Having bought the club in 2007, only in the January window just past, after 12 years of ownership did the current regime finally break the clubs transfer record that had lived since 2005 when they shelled out on former Ballon d’Or winner Michael Owen.
The Sports Direct owner has spent so little on the club during his tenure, despite turning huge profits each year, whether that be through transfer fees received for departing players or from Sky TV deals, with 55,000 supporters turning up every week, there’s no excuse not to be investing money back into the squad.
The ironic part is, if the man had just invested in the team properly over the years it would be more cost effective and cheaper in the long run as a club size of Newcastle United easily has the potential to establish itself as mainstay in the Premier League and compete for European places, as it did before Ashley bought the club, thus making that money back.
Instead, he’s allowed his club to be relegated three times and as a result, on each occasion, has lost out on huge TV deals and has had to shell out on new players to get them back to the promise land.
I believe Benitez gives enough to keep them up The Magpies up this year, however if a club continues to flirt with relegation year after year, eventually it will pull them. Their Tyne-Wear rivals and Netflix stars, Sunderland, can testify to that.
They’re now playing in League 1.
The Saints have been on somewhat of a rollercoaster since returning to the Premier League.
Despite being forced to sell their best players to bigger clubs, largely Liverpool, year after year losing vital and talented players such as Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Virgil Van Dyke, the South Coast club continued to exceed all expectations season after season under a wave of managers consisting of Mauricio Pochettinho, Ronald Koeman and Claude Puel by consistently challenging for European places.
I still think Southampton have not recovered from bizarrely sacking Puel after guiding The Saints to an 8th placed finish and a League Cup final in 2017. However, after relieving the miserable Mark Hughes from his role in December, whilst only a point above 18th, performances have improved somewhat improved under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, former RB Leipzig boss.
As of publishing, The Saints currently sit 2 points off the relegation places. They’ve got to put a lot of work in from now until then end of the season, but I still think they have enough to just about stay up.
18th: Cardiff City
We are now at the final, fatal three and unfortunately I think Cardiff will be back playing Championship football come August. Unlike the other teams I’ve made predictions about, I actually think Cardiff have done well this season. Back in August I’d have said that on paper, they probably have the worst team in the league and didn’t give them any chance of survival.
Fast forward to February and the Bluebirds are only two points from safety, giving themselves a real chance of staying up. However I do think that of the teams remaining in this dog fight, they have the least amount of talent in their team and fear that come May, the only Welsh team in the Premier League wont have quite enough to stay afloat this season.
Over the last two weeks I have found a new respect for Cardiff and Neil Warnock in light of the tragic event concerning Emiliano Sala. Both the club and fans shown pure class in the toughest of times and deserve to be greatly commended for that. Following a fantastic 2-0 victory over Bournemouth at the weekend, the emotion of it all made itself easy to see on the face of Neil Warnock who deserves a huge amount of credit for keeping the club together during an awful period whilst clearly suffering personally from the event. I’m certain I speak for everyone when I offer my sincerest condolences to the family Emiiano Sala.
Following the West London clubs £100 million pound splurge this summer, adding the likes of World Cup winner and former Chelsea man Andre Schurrle to their ranks, I expected Fulham to be sitting somewhere around mid-table come this point of the season. Add that to the quality they already possessed in the likes of Steven Sessegnon and it’s quite surprising to see them one place off the foot of the table.
Having sacked manager Slavisa Jokanovic in November, with a tally of 5 points after 12 games, his replacement, the Tinkerman, former Premier League winner with Leicester City, Claudio Ranieri, has not fared much better.
The residents of Craven Cottage have shipped 55 goals in the league so far, at least 9 more than any other club in the Premier League, proving their defence to be even more afraid than the name of their stadium suggests.
When you add that to the West London’s side lack of potency at the other end of the pitch, only three teams have scored less, as main striker Mitrovic seems like that calibre of player who is too good for the Championship but not quite good enough for the Premier League, I struggle to see how Fulham are going to turn this around.
Seven points adrift from safety, they look set to be stuck on course for a return to the Championship.
20th: Huddersfield Town
Out of all my predictions so far, I would say this one is definitely the most likely to come true as The Terriers prop up the rest of the league with only 11 points, 13 away from the safety mark of 17th place.
Following David Wagner’s departure from the club mid-January, performances have not improved as the club remained rooted to the bottom of the table. Huddersfield were fantastic last year, retaining their Premier League status and deservedly so, despite having probably the poorest squad on paper.
This season Huddersfield seem to have fallen victim to the plague that is second season syndrome which has claimed many victims over the years that had enjoyed their first season in the Premier League.
Having score the least amount of goals in the league, only 13, their first home goal this season came courtesy of an own goal. The Terriers definitely seem to be more bark than bite.
Defensively, only 19th placed Fulham have conceded more goals than than The Yorkshire club. As a result I can only see Huddersfield finishing bottom and returning to the Championship.
Who do you think survives the relegation battle this season? Let us know below!