Get out your pen and paper. There will be a test on this information. Back up your FIFA 12 save files. Soccerreviews is on our way to the bottom, but we’re going to retain our ‘top-flight’ status.
In this article, we’re heading away from the Champions League spots in order to find out who is going to keep their Premier League status next season. With fourteen teams still below the supposed ‘40’ that ensures relegation safety, and 5 teams at the bottom of the table within 4 points of each other, the bottom of the table may prove to be even more intriguing than the top.
Wigan Athletic, Wolves, and QPR currently sit in the relegation spots, with Bolton and Blackburn only a few points away. Fifteenth place Aston Villa are currently 11 points out of the drop zone, and it would take a massive failure for them to find themselves on the edge, so we will try and focus on the teams below them, and how they have found themselves in their current position.
Wigan has several large problems that have placed them in last place this season. They can’t score (worst record in the Prem), they can’t win at home (least home wins in the Prem), and they can’t seem to find a striker to lead their front line and put chances away (only 1 striker in their top 5 scorers this season), making their scoring woes seem to be their biggest flaw. They have more draws this year than any other team in the bottom five (9) proving that their defense has at least kept them in most matches, but without anyone scoring ANY goals, they can’t really find the WINNING goal.
Their home record is dismal, recording only one win at home all season long, and actually winning three times as many games away from home this season. They actually have walked away with draws from large fixtures, drawing with Chelsea and Liverpool in back to back fixtures, but they can’t seem to find points against teams that are in a similar league position. Their upcoming fixtures doesn’t seem to provide them with any hope, between the end of March and the end of April they will face Liverpool at the beginning and Newcastle at the end. In between those fixtures they will play Chelsea, Man U, and Arsenal in back-to-back-to-back matches. The future looks bleak for Wigan, but the relegation zone makes crazy results happen, so don’t rule them out.
Wolves sit one point above Wigan and one point away from safety. Their ‘relegation zone demise’ has come from their inability to score and their inability to prevent others from scoring. They have the second worst defensive record in the bottom five, and have only scored thirty goals this season (Man U has scored 68). They have one of the better home records of the bottom five (not saying much) and their away form is impressive for the opposition they’ve played. They actually have as many points from home fixtures as away fixtures this season, but the loss of manager Mick McCarthy will hurt and a player already in the relegation battle doesn’t want to have to deal with a manager change at the same time.
Steven Fletcher is having one of his best seasons in the Premier League, but when one player accounts for over 1/3 of the goal total and your goal total is so low; any match where Fletcher doesn’t score is a match where Wolves will struggle. We’ve also seen the normally dependable Wayne Hennessey look anything but reliable between the sticks, and his defensive support haven’t really provided him with any protection from the shooting onslaught that Wolves tend to face on matchday. Wolves are only one point from safety and only a win away from 15th place Blackburn, but matches against Man U, Arsenal, and Man City (along with a trip to tricky Swansea) will force Wolves to try and take away every point that they can. Although safety is within reach, Wolves need those around them to falter to help their Premier League dream stay alive.
QPR, although coming up from the Championship last season, are truly a surprise squad within the bottom three. The owners have spent a fair bit of money trying to create, what seems on paper, to at least be a mid-table worthy squad. The fact that they can have the best defensive record of the bottom five is of little consolation to them, and their goalscoring record is the second worst of the bottom five, placing them in the last place they wanted to be. With their team in such a precarious position, the massive January overhaul that they performed on their strike-force makes little sense.
With Bobby Zamora trading in his Fulham kit for the QPR strip, he will be wondering what kind of decision he’s made if QPR fall back into the Championship. We also saw the curious signing of Djibril Cisse, a player with plenty of experience, but a player that has proven that his best scoring days are behind him. Although he has lucked his way into 2 goals in 3 games for QPR, Cisse had started the season with Lazio and had only scored one goal in Serie A this season. It will give manager Mark Hughes a major headache when he tries to pick his best eleven for matchday. Although his midfield rarely changes, benching top scorers Jamie Mackie, Jay Bothroyd, and Helguson is a risk for a team that needs stability at a time like this.
One point above the drop zone sits Bolton Wanderers. A team has taken more points from away fixtures than home fixtures, Bolton are a team that is taking big risks in order to try and garner as many points as possible from their season. Owen Coyle’s team has apparently decided that a loss is better than a draw, and, if a game is close, they will risk giving up goals in order to snag a winning goal. With only two total draws this season (lowest in the Prem), Bolton have lost more games than any other team and they now find themselves on the edge of the Championship.
With the loss of their only decent defender to Chelsea (Cahill), it will be interesting to see if Bolton can keep scores low enough to be competitive. The only saving grace for Bolton could be the amount of experience they have mixed with the young talent that they have. Nigel Reo-Coker, Martin Petrov, Kevin Davies, and Ivan Klasnic are all on the backside of thirty, and have all spent a significant amount of time in the top flight. The loan signing of Ryo Miyaichi and the signing of Chris Eagles have added depth to the squad and they could prove huge in the home stretch. With the inability to walk away from a fixture with a draw, Bolton seem likely to fade into the bottom three. The best asset for Bolton is that they only play 2 of the current top 6 (Newcastle/Tottenham) in their remaining fixtures. If they can steal a few points from their remaining fixtures, they just might stave off relegation.
Sitting above the previously mentioned teams, we find Blackburn 3 points above the relegation zone; however, they have allowed the most goals in the entirety of the Premiership. They also have scored more than any team outside of the top 6, meaning that if they can just keep some goals out of the net, and keep Yakubu in the vein of form he has been on this season, they seem likely to avoid the drop. Factor in the experience of Paul Robinson, and the desire of Steve Kean to prove dissenters wrong, they seem to be the early favorite to remain safe.
Who do you think is going down to the Championship? Who do you think will remain in the Premiership? How awesome have most of the promoted teams been doing this season?