The Premier League relegation scrap is heating up
The attention of most Premier League football fans is understandably centred on the title race. After all, the English top flight’s championship crown is one of the most coveted in all of football. However, if you shift your glance a little lower, you’ll find the closest and most important battle in European football right now.
Between Crystal Palace in 12th and Southampton in 20th, there’s just 13 points. With seven games remaining for most sides, none of the bottom half of the Premier League are safe yet. With three relegation spots needing to be filled, who will be occupying them?
Three from nine
The Premier League has been nicknamed “The Money League” by both critics of the English top flight and most observers. The finances of Premier League clubs is unrivalled by any other league in football, thanks to television rights being so lucrative.
That means that dropping to the EFL Championship is a huge step down in terms of both prestige and finances. So, the clubs that are in and around the drop zone will try anything to avoid that fate.
All you need to do is look at the ludicrous levels of spending of the Premier League in the January Transfer Window and the sheer amount of managerial sackings in recent weeks. Relegation may not be terminal for Premier League clubs, but it can be the beginning of the end.
From a board perspective, relegation would mean that the value of their asset (the club itself) will be cut in half, or even into a third overnight. Chairmen will do anything to avoid that fate, but it will happen to three of the twenty clubs we’re looking at today.
Predicting the Premier League isn’t easy, but we gave it a go at the start of the 2022-23 season. We said that Brentford and Leeds United would be relegated, but The Bees are buzzing this season and are much more likely to be competing in the Europa League than the Championship next campaign.
That prediction doesn’t look too good right now, but choosing three to go down isn’t easy. Southampton are making a strong case for relegation, currently sitting at the foot of the table and four points from safety. Despite the brilliance of James Ward-Prowse, we think they’ll fall just short.
We predicted that Leicester City would struggle with their lack of good recruitment in the transfer windows, but we didn’t think they’d be relegated. However, after Brendan Rodgers was sacked and replaced with Dean Smith, the Foxes seemed doomed.
The East Midlands side have been steadily falling in recent seasons and have lost some of their most important players. Jamie Vardy is no longer at the peak of his powers and Leicester’s form has been abysmal, losing four of the last five.
The last trapdoor spot
What about that final spot, though? Well, Nottingham Forest aren’t pulling up many trees, currently enduring the longest winless run of any side in the division. However, Everton too are in poor form and are only outside the bottom three on goal difference.
Despite the appointment of Sean Dyche, the Toffees still look like a group of individuals rather than a team. It would be the most Everton thing possible for them to be playing second-tier football in their shiny new stadium in a few seasons’ time.
Leeds United are in 16th and two points above the dotted line. The Whites have shown signs of being a good footballing side, but back-to-back 5-1 and 6-1 home defeats at the hands of Crystal Palace and Liverpool won’t settle the Yorkshire club’s nerves.
West Ham aren’t safe either, despite an encouraging draw against Arsenal at the weekend. The Hammers have the added pressure of competing in the UEFA Europa Conference League as well, but they’ve got the strength and depth to stave off the drop.
Bournemouth looked dead and buried not long ago but have excelled in recent weeks. Back-to-back away wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester have sweetened the Cherries’ chances of survival this campaign.
Wolves are almost safe and have enough to be safe now, while Crystal Palace are a transformed side under Roy Hodgeson. Chelsea, despite the recent appointment of Frank Lampard, should just about survive the drop.
So, we think that Southampton, Leicester and Leeds will be relegated, but it’ll no doubt be a very close battle for the remainder of the season!
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