Of all the teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table, there are a few that, for all intents and purposes, seem to be safe for this season.
Let us say for now that any team on 30 or more points is safe. I’d also think that, based purely on form and talent, that Swansea on 29 points are safe.
That leaves us with the bottom six of Norwich, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Sunderland,
Cardiff and Fulham. We will start from the top and work our way down.
Norwich City - On 28 points from 28 matches, the Canaries are currently four points above the drop zone.
I have the feeling that is right about where Chris Hughton’s side will finish things up. The Norwich City spine of John Ruddy, Sebastian Bassong and Bradley Johnson, should have what it takes to just about keep them afloat another season.
However, the impact of the loan signings from Galatasaray has really covered up the massive blunder of the signing of Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel. The €10million no. 9 from Utrecht has a whopping one EPL goal to his name, and unless he can improve upon that; expect the club to be in a similar position next season. Verdict: Survival
Crystal Palace - In 16th place, on 27 points from 27 games, lies Crystal Palace. If not for the reemergence of one Marouane Chamakh, I imagine the London club would already be sitting bottom of the table.
One thing the club have going for them is that the remaining big matches on their schedule,
namely Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man City, are all being played at Selhurst Park,
though I don’t see them getting any points from those matches anyway.
Tony Pulis was an absolute master at survival at Stoke, but I just don’t see this squad having
the legs, hearts or minds, to get the job done. Verdict: Relegation
West Brom - Albion are currently 17th with 25 points from 27 games played. While I struggle to see where the goals will come from for the Baggies, they have got something going for them in the survival hunt; they have been here before, and they know what they are doing.
I see no reason to think that this club will not eek out a 17th place finish on the last day of the season, probably with the last kick of the ball knowing the clubs penchant
for keeping the cardiologists of the fan base busy.
I don’t know much about Pepe Mel, but I don’t think I need to. The players have had the tools for survival instilled into them by former manager Steve Clark. Verdict: Survival
Sunderland - Sunderland have had a stop-start season if I’ve ever seen one. The Black Cats are on 24 points but with two games in hand.
Their league form has been extremely dire, despite their amazing performances in the League Cup. I just can’t quite understand this team, and maybe that has something to do with the constant tinkering from Gus Poyet.
I originally thought the appointment of the former Chelsea and Tottenham star was a masterstroke by Chairman Ellis Short, but now I’m having second thoughts.
Poyet’s charges seem to will themselves points despite his leadership, not because of it. Fabio Borini has been a revelation for the club, and should continue to see minutes down the stretch, but I have to question his use of record signing Steven Fletcher and American Jozy Altidore.
Altidore has managed just one goal for the club despite banging in 23 for AZ in 2013. Fletcher, a Premier League veteran, scored 11 times for the club in 28 2013 matches, but
has just three from 17 under the Uruguayan. Despite this, I still expect Sunderland
to score some goals this season and put higher placed teams to the test. Verdict: Survival
Cardiff City - Cardiff are the club, for me, that was always going to go down before the season started. Though Frazier Campbell has had a few good games, and the club did a fairly good job of reinforcing in the January transfer window, I just don’t see how the Bluebirds (or shall we call them the Cardinals now?) manage to stay up this season.
On paper and on the pitch, they look likely candidates for the drop. Maybe Solskjaer will give Wilfried Zaha a run of games and everything will click, but I doubt it. Verdict: Relegation
Fulham - What can I say about Fulham Football Club that hasn’t been said a hundred times this season? Based purely on the amount of top flight experience playing for the club, you would imagine they would have been safely in 15th place by now, which is right about where I would have pegged the Cottagers at pre-season.
I’m still not quite sure why things haven’t worked out for them. I guess one could make the argument that they’ve got too much experience. John Arne Riise, John Heitinga, Brede Hangeland, Steve Sidwell, Giorgos Karagounis, Damien Duff, Sascha Riether, Scott Parker and Darren Bent are all the wrong side of 30, not to mention the on-loan former Fulham star Clint Dempsey. Perhaps it’s tired legs or tired minds, but something about this squad is tired. Verdict: Relegation
In summary, the three teams I see heading to battle it out in the Championship are Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Fulham. If you asked me which of the three is most likely to make the immediate turn around back to the Premier League, I’d be hard pressed to give you a straight answer.
I don’t see any of the three making a quick return, though the age of the Fulham roster makes them, sadly, the mostly likely to stay down.
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