If I thought predicting the top 7 of this season’s Premier League was tough, the relegation spots are even trickier. The collective quality of the Premier League has rocketed up in recent seasons. There are no longer any easy games, and shock results are commonplace.
Last season saw the unusual situation of all 3 promoted clubs managing to stay in the division, and in the case of Swansea and Norwich, doing it in style too.
So here we go.
18th – Norwich.
Despite last season’s impressive showing, I think the Canaries will struggle this time around. They have lost their manager, Paul Lambert, who had masterminded their meteoric rise from League 1. They have not made any inspiring signings, Robert Snodgrass from Leeds being the most high profile. I think they may well be afflicted by the dreaded 2nd season syndrome. Their new managerial appointment, Chris Hughton, enjoys a growing reputation in football, but he does not have the experience of a relegation dogfight. For example, the presence of big Sam Allardyce at West Ham should be enough to steer them clear of the drop. If Norwich are to avoid relegation, they will need Grant Holt to replicate his blistering form from last year, which, at 32, is far from guaranteed. I think a long season may await.
19th – Southampton.
This was a toughie. Southampton, by all accounts, were very impressive in winning promotion from the Championship last season. Mind you, so were Reading. In the end, Reading’s transfer activity has been slightly more impressive, as they have signed the likes of Pavel Pobreynak, who proved to be a sensation at Fulham in the second half of last season. Southampton have signed Jay Rodriguez from Burnley, but at £6m, it is certainly a risk. One feels they might have been better off going with someone with proven Premier League pedigree. If the risk doesn’t come off, much will be expected of veteran striker Rickie Lambert. It is perhaps surprising that neither Reading or Southampton have looked into the possibility of signing Michael Owen. His goalscoring ability is undoubted, and it might just be worth the risk if he can stay clear of injuries. If it came off, it would be hailed as the masterstroke of all masterstrokes. Still, there is time yet.
20th – Wigan.
Wigan have been amongst the favourites for the drop pretty much every year they’ve been in the Premier League. Pretty much every year, they have looked like fulfilling those predictions. Every year, they have come through the clutch to defy the odds, and somehow stay amongst the English football elite. But, as hard as it is to say, I think this might be it for their Premier League journey. They have lost Diame and Rodallega on frees, and look likely to lose the brilliant Victor Moses to Chelsea. To cope with these losses, Wigan need to bring in some serious reinforcements, but as of now, they have signed one, yes one, £4m defender. Not exactly the kind of thing to inspire the 21 Wigan fans hoping for some exciting replacements. Wigan have defied logic, and certainly the odds, for some time now but it is almost certainly coming to an end this season.
QPR and Swansea, last season’s promotion survivors, should have enough to avoid 2nd season syndrome. QPR have spent heavily whilst Swansea have made a few shrewd acquisitions, and if they do cash in on their prized assets, should have some cash to throw around.
As I mentioned, the presence of Allardyce at West Ham should be enough to seem them stay up. Southampton and Reading will both have to fight hard to stay in the division, and it will certainly be an enthralling battle at the bottom come the end of the season.