We are heading into the final stages of the Premier League. Unlike the top of the table, where Liverpool are running riot, tension is high at the bottom of the league. The gap between 10th and 19th place is only eight points. This situation can only be compared to the 2017/18 season when the gap after 25 match weeks was just five points between 10th placed Bournemouth and 18th placed Southampton. This season, it’s happened again, and every point counts…
Premier League – The Safe Zone
For the moment, tenth-placed Arsenal are the divide between two echelons of teams. From tenth down to fourteenth place, there is a ‘safe zone’ of sorts, with teams positioned in this space not directly subject to relegation. Let’s start with Arsenal, they have consistently struggled following the departure of Arsene Wenger, but this season has started off even worse, with just six wins this season (one of the worst in the league). A defensive injury crisis has led Arsenal to acquire Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares and Arsenal are too good under Arteta to continue the struggle, but they will certainly have to look for new players in the summer.
Sean Dyche has managed Burnley since October 2012. He gained promotion to the Premier League twice with Burnley and is the second-longest serving manager. From Josh Brownhill (Bristol Rovers) to Henri Ogunby from Manchester City. The shrewd signings from Dyche once again prove Burnley’s willingness to improve and, considering their experienced squad and manager, as well as their upcoming fixtures, there aren’t any threats to their place in the Premier League.
Like Burnley, Newcastle United and Southampton also have 31 points each. The Magpies acquired loanees Nabil Bentaleb from Schalke 04, Valentino Lazaro from Inter and Danny Rose from Spurs. These acquisitions are thought to be a stop-gap for the meantime, as United work on longer-term solutions for the future. Lazaro, in particular, seems to have been brought in to improve the dire goalscoring situations; the Magpies have only managed 24 Premier League goals this season.
On the other hand, Southampton are in trouble. They struggle to score but also struggle to keep goals out. A bad combination. Furthermore, they weren’t even active in this transfer window, bringing in only Kyle Walker-Peters from Spurs, who is considered as a replacement for Cedric Soares anyway. Southampton could be in serious danger, despite their initial average position.
Crystal Palace are the final team in the ‘safe zone’. With only 22 goals scored, they have accumulated 30 points. That’s the reason for Cenk Tosun in their squad, but it has done very little. After the defeat against Sheffield United earlier this month, Crystal Palace extended their winless run to 6 games. However, they strangely picked up points against Arsenal and Manchester City at Etihad, perhaps showing that they do have the guile to stay up. If they manage to end this run soon, they can easily avoid relegation.
The first team just out of the safe zone is Brighton & Hove Albion. Much like Palace, they have struggled in the Premier League of late, winning only one match out of their last ten. There wasn’t much activity from the Seagulls during the January transfer window. They signed Australian international Aaron Mooy for a permanent deal and that was about it.
Brighton HAVE to end this winless run or they will easily become a main candidate for the drop. They’re just two points ahead of in-the-zone West Ham United and, personally, I could see them go down.
16th placed Bournemouth have finally turned the tide, winning the last two crucial six-pointers against Brighton and Aston Villa. However, the Cherries’ upcoming fixtures are tough, including tightly packed matches against Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as Sheffield United away. If they can come out of this period unscathed, they will be just fine. The general consensus was that Bournemouth were in trouble, but I think they’ll safely avoid the drop. Transfer-wise, Bournemouth will finish the season with the same squad, managing to keep Josh King from the clutches of Manchester United.
EFL cup finalists Aston villa are close to facing relegation from the top-flight after last seasons’ promotion from the Championship. But if we consider their transfer activity, things should work out in the Villa’s favour. They loaned in Danny Drinkwater from Chelsea and Pepe Reina from Milan. Also, Villa bought young Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta from Genk. They’re our transfer window winners.
As is the case with Bournemouth, Villa’s remaining games are also tricky. However, managing to keep Jack Grealish was a huge win for the Midlands side and they should just about escape.
The Drop Zone
The first team currently in the relegation zone is West Ham United, with just 24 points. The Hammers signed Jarrod Bowen from Hull City and loaned in Tomas Soucek from Slavia Prague. Their transfer activity has proven their desire to keep their place in the Premier League. Moreover, West Ham have the fixture list in their hands, playing their main competitors in the last game weeks of the season. A bunch of six-pointers that, if they manage to win, will allow them to extend their ongoing spell in the Premier League up to a 9th year.
Watford had won important games in 2020 before two consecutive losses in the previous fixtures. The signing of Ignacio Pussetto will improve the situation in the league, but it won’t be easy. A -16 goal difference, they have to resolve their issues before the final games of the season. Their last two fixtures see them in action against Manchester City and Arsenal.
The bottom-placed club is Norwich. Helpless. Norwich are seven points behind Villa and they’re not in a great state. They acquired Melvin Sitti and Lukas Rupp, the former a French youth international, whilst Rupp came from Hoffenheim. For this time, Norwich are powerless to change their game drastically and are my main candidate for the drop. Liverpool, Wolves, Leicester and Sheffield United in their next four games. Norwich City in trouble.
Hopefully we’ll see a tight finish. If I had to say who was to depart England’s premier division, it would be: Norwich, Brighton and Southampton. It’s all up in the air and anything could happen, and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds…
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