It seems five minutes ago that we were eagerly awaiting the start of the season. Suddenly, 24 games later, we are entering the run in. Liverpool seem to have wrapped up the title which means most of the excitement at the tail end of the season will come from the Premier League relegation battle.
With just eight points seperating eighth place and 18th in an unfathomomably tight table, you could argue that even the likes of Tottenham (eighth) and Arsenal (tenth) aren’t completely out of the woods, especially considering their wretched form.
However, to avoid making this article ridiculously long, we’re just looking at the bottom seven. So what are the pros and cons to each of the Premier League relegation contenders?
Premier League relegation contenders
14th – Burnley (27 Points)
Why they’ll stay up: Because that’s what they do, isn’t it? In three seasons back in the Premier League, Sean Dyche has led The Clarets to 15th, 7th and 16th. If you lump that seventh placed finish in the unexplainable phenomenons category alongside the pyramids and Stonehenge, lower mid table is clearly Burnley’s natural habitat.
What they lack away from home, they make up for at Turf Moor where six wins and six defeats has given them the eighth best home record in the competition. For as long as the 6’3′ Chris Wood and the 6’1′ Ashley Barnes are able to lace up their massive boots and bully opposition defences, that mid-table mediocrity will continue.
Why they’ll go down: Burnley’s surprise win over Leicester on Sunday came at just the right time, putting an end to a run of four consecutive defeats. It is that run which will have the supporters terrified as The Clarets enter a particularly difficult period that sees them face Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City and the in-form Southampton in their next seven fixtures.
Burnley’s away form should also give them the jitters. With just two victories from 11 away trips so far, Burnley have the 16th worst away record in the division. With eight away trips remaining, they’ll need to start picking up more points on the road if their four point cushion is going to remain. Otherwise, Premier League relegation could be on the cards.
15th – Brighton (25 points)
Why they’ll stay up: Graham Potter would probably argue that Brighton’s league position doesn’t reflect the improvements that they have made under the leadership. He’d have a point.
Brighton have played some delightfully attractive possession-based football this season, as represented by the fact that they have enjoyed the seventh highest average possession in the league.
Defensively they are relatively strong as well. The 31 goals they have conceded is the best record in the bottom 11, including Arsenal and Everton, and is only one more than Chelsea and Wolves who sit 4th and 6th respectively.
Why they’ll go down: Pitiful on their travels, Brighton have secured just 8 points from 12 away games so far. With that in mind, they won’t be counting on their remaining fixtures away from the Amex to keep them safe from Premier League relegation, instead relying on home form to do the job.
Which would be fine, if their remaining home fixtures didn’t feature visits from Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Man City. Sure, the first two on that list don’t hold quite the same fear as they used to, but both will still expect to leave the south coast with three points.
The Seagulls form is nosediving at just the wrong time. After a positive start to the season that saw them reach as high as eighth at the start of November, Graham Potter’s men have won just two of their last 13 league games now and are on a winless run of four.
Their next four fixtures comes against West Ham, Watford, Sheff Utd and Palace. It gets an awful lot harder thereafter so, fail to win at least two of them, and Brighton will be right in the mix for Premier League relegation.
16th – Aston Villa (25 points)
Why they’ll stay up: Because the Villans are the kings of the six pointer. A last gasp victory over Watford on Tuesday night was their seventh win of the season. All have come against sides currently in the bottom half. In fact, from 13 fixtures against sides in the bottom half, Villa have taken 24 of their 25 points. Ruthless.
In Jack Grealish, Villa have a player who will surely be playing European football next season. The hugely talented midfielder has contributed seven goals and five assists from 21 appearances so far.
Capable of singlehandedly turning games on their head, he is a weapon that not many sides in the Premier League relegation battle possess and he ought to be feared. As long as Grealish is fit and firing, they’ve got a great chance of staying up.
Why they’ll go down: A record of 24 points from 13 games against bottom half sides is great, however it also means that they only have another five of those fixtures remaining.
Nine of Villa’s remaining 14 ties will come against the top ten, with only Man City, who drubbed them 6-1, crossed off that list. Indeed, with just a solitary point to show from 11 games against the top half so far, Dean Smith will be sweating at the prospect of this nightmare run in.
Villa are incredibly reliant on Jack Grealish. They lost the only two games that he wasn’t available, so should anything happen to him it’s difficult to see where creativity will come from. It is creativity that is badly needed when trying to compensate for the joint worst defence in the league.
17th – West Ham (23 points)
Why they’ll stay up: With players like Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Andriy Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson, Manual Lanzini, Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller in their ranks, there really is no excuse for West Ham to be doing as poorly as they have been.
Fornals and Haller cost over £70 million between them in the summer and the Hammers faithful will be disappointed with a return of just seven Premier League goals from the pair.
West Ham simply have too much class in their ranks to go down though. They were hoping to challenge for the European places at the start of the season but became rudderless under the stewardship of Manuel Pellegrini.
However, four points from David Moyes’ first three games in charge suggests that the Hammers are now turning a corner. A very palatable run in that sees them play Newcastle, Burnley, Norwich, Watford and Aston Villa in their last six games should see them home safely.
Why they’ll go down: Because they are nuts. How can a side featuring such an array of talented players be anywhere near the Premier League relegation battle? Mismanagement from the boardroom downwards is the answer.
West Ham may have a cosy end to the season but their upcoming run is horrific. Thanks to the earlier fixture against Liverpool being rearranged owing to the Club World Championship, their next five league games are Leicester (A), Liverpool (H), Brighton (H), Man City (A), Liverpool (A). Realistically if they were offered four points from that run they’d bite your hand off for it.
Any less than four points and they’re in big trouble. Currently only out of the relegation zone on goal difference, each of the sides below them (Bournemouth, Watford & Norwich) are showing signs of life and have picked up points in recent games, so it is not the right time for West Ham to go on a terrible run. In David Moyes they have appointed a manager who relegated Sunderland in 2017.
18th – Bournemouth (23 points)
Why they’ll stay up: Despite a wretched run of form, Eddie Howe clearly isn’t a manager who has lost the dressing room. Bournemouth are a close knit club who have no options but to band together if they are to survive Premier League relegation for another year.
The players will be hurting as much as the manager and fans. All are desperate to pull together and get out of this. Winning against south coast rivals Brighton on Tuesday was the perfect start. Howe’s side hadn’t scored in their previous four games, so to net three in that one will give them a real confidence boost.
Thanks to positive early season form, The Cherries remain within touching distance of safety and, owing to the bizarre nature of the Premier League this season, are only seven points from the top half. With potentially winnable fixtures against Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Burnley coming up, if Villa can land another win or two they could harness some momentum in the nick of time.
Why they’ll go down: With four points from seven games, Bournemouth have comfortably the worst form in the division.
Combining the third worst attack (23 scored) and the the fifth worst defence (37 conceded) isn’t a good look. If you want to survive in the Premier League you can afford one to be bad at one of those disciplines but not both of them.
Howe appears to have run out of ideas and inspiration. He’s performed miracles in helping Bournemouth to punch above their weight for this long but, inevitably, they are finally running out of steam. The motivational techniques that once worked are now falling on deaf ears.
If they haven’t secured another 12 points of so by April, alarm bells will start ringing with ominous encounters against Manchester United, Tottenham, Leicester and Man City looming in their last six games.
To make matters worse, their penultimate game comes against local rivals Southampton, who would love nothing more than to be the side to relegate Bournemouth.
19th – Watford (23 points)
Why they’ll stay up: Because Nigel Pearson is performing an end-of-season miracle to rival that which is often forgotten he managed at Leicester, the season before they won the league.
Since Pearson came in, Watford have accumulated 15 points from nine matches. They managed nine points in the previous 17 matches under Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores.
If they continue to accrue points at a rate of 1.67 per game, they will finish the season 46 points, which will comfortably keep them up. Indeed, had they performed at that level from the start, they would already have 40 points which would put them fourth.
Pearson has made them more solid defensively whilst also freeing up their attack. They will be fine.
Why they’ll go down: Because the new manager bounce is already wearing off. Despite taking the lead against Villa on Tuesday, they eventually succumbed 2-1 thanks to a heartbreaking 95th minute winner from Tyrone Mings that will surely lower morale significantly. It was a Villa side who they saw off 3-0 just a month ago and who have injury problems.
They failed to see off a wretched Tottenham in their last game as well. Tough ties against Everton, Manchester United and Liverpool await in February and they will need results or will be left behind. Unfortunately the problem with such a dreadful start is that, even when you do find some form to give yourself a chance, you’re only ever a couple of bad results away from slipping back into the mire.
20th – Norwich (17 points)
Why they’ll stay up: Norwich have been incredibly unlucky with injuries this season. Manager Daniel Farke has consistently been unable to name a settled side, with fitness worries cursing The Canaries.
That injury crisis is easing off now and it has begun to show in their form. Norwich have lost just once in their last four games and beat relegation rivals Bournemouth at the weekend. Keep that up and they’ll ease away from the Premier League relegation zone.
Farke will have been delighted to see talismanic striker Teemu Pukki back on the scoresheet in that win. After a blistering start to the season, the Finland international’s form tailed off but he seems to be returning to his best which could be ominous news for the opposition.
With ten goals to his name in this debut Premier League season, just one less than Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, an in-form Pukki will be key to firing Norwich to safety.
Why they’ll go down: Because one win in ten is relegation form. Two wins in 18 is bottom of the table form, and that’s where they currently find themselves.
Norwich have got the worst defensive record in the league, having conceded just under two a game, and have the third worst attacking record to boot.
They’ve only won four games this season and Teemu Pukki has scored in three of them. It’s no coincidence that once his form went down the pan, so did theirs. Relying on a single player to that extent is a dangerous precedent because, if he can’t get back to his best, they’re down. Indeed, Daniel Farke must be praying that reinforcements arrive before the transfer window closes. If they don’t, Premier League relegation beckons.
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