WITH just 13 games remaining in the Premier League and with the title race effectively over, football supporters’ attention will be drawn to the relegation battle and seeing which teams can avoid the drop.
Liverpool dominance has made it a very dull end to the season at the top of the table but with only seven points separating West Ham United in 18th and Arsenal in 10th, supporters are in for exciting end to the season.
There may be a host of teams dangerously close to the relegation zone but the relegation battle is between six teams.
Norwich have been a good addition to the League since been promoted. Daniel Farke has stuck to his belief and instructed his players to persist with playing attractive football. However, this has left them vulnerable in defence, with the Canaries shipping 47 goals — the joint-worst with Aston Villa.
Teams at the bottom normally struggle because of their lack of a goalscorer but in Teemu Pukki, Norwich have a natural finisher, unfortunately for the Canaries, Pukki’s goals will still not be enough to keep Farke’s men in the division.
The appointment of Nigel Pearson as Watford manager seemed as though the Hornets were preparing for life in the Championship next season but the former Leicester manager has given Watford a fighting chance and I predict they will stay up.
Pearson will be disappointed with how his side have stumbled over the last few weeks but he would have taken the position they are in now had he been asked when he took over the Hornets in December.
Pearson knows what it takes to keep a team in the division again, as he looks to repeat his heroics of preventing Leicester from relegation in 2014-15. Keeping Troy Deeney fit will be crucial to Watford’s survival hopes because he is a real leader in the team and they struggle without their captain.
West Ham are the biggest club in this battle and it would be a shame to see the Hammers go down. I do fear for David Moyes’ men because they seem to lack confidence and supporters are more determined to vent their anger towards the owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, than using their energy to support the team.
In any battle, you need everyone pulling in the same direction but at West Ham everyone are at each other’s throats and there is a real divide in the club. Sullivan and Gold have invested in the team but some of their decision must be questioned. The appointment of Manuel Pelligrini was an ambitious move by the owners but didn’t work out.
However, they say never go back and I still don’t understand their decision to re-appoint Moyes as manager.
The Scot has already one relegation on his CV with Sunderland and I believe he is about to add another. Why not appoint Sam Allardyce if they wanted and old manager to keep them in the division?
Moyes is not the answer to the Hammers’ problems.
After returning to the Premier League, Dean Smith felt that the team that got Villa promoted were not good enough to keep them in the division. The Villa manager has spent over €160 million on recruiting 16 new players to the club. That was a risky move by Smith and one that hasn’t paid off so far.
They have relied heavily on Jack Grealish and credit to the player, he has proved many doubters who didn’t think he would be able to make the step up wrong. John McGinn’s injury has hindered Villa’s survival hopes and any sort of similar injury to Grealish, would end Villa’s hope of avoiding the drop.
I don’t believe Villa have enough to stay in the division and their gamble of bringing in so many new faces won’t pay-off.
Bournemouth are a team that wouldn’t be missed if they were to be relegated but the Cherries should have enough to stay in the division. Eddie Howe’s men were in freefall until back-to-back wins against Brighton and Villa dragged them out of the relegation zone.
Defeat against Sheffield United is no embarrassment and Howe will be encouraged to see Callum Wilson back on the scoresheet. The Cherries are a team that supporters of football will be happy to switch off when they are on the television.
The novelty of a small club like the Cherries, in the biggest league in the world, has worn off. Unfortunately, we probably will have to put up with Bournemouth in the division for a least another season.
When Chris Houghton was dismissed and replaced by Graham Potter last summer, I was hoping the Seagulls would be relegation this season because of their harsh treatment of their former manager. Houghton won promotion with the club and kept Brighton in the Premier League for two seasons.
He did a remarkable job with the club but Houghton had taken Brighton as far as he could.
Potter’s appointment was a risk but the former Swansea manager has certainly got Brighton playing a more entertaining brand of football than Hughton had.
If Brighton were to go down, then the owner, Tony Bloom, will look very foolish but credit to him, he was trying to improve Brighton with the appointment of Potter and I believe it will be a risk that will pay a dividend.
The Seagulls will be playing in the top-flight again next season.