Brighton, Crystal Palace, Swansea, Huddersfield: The Premier League relegation battle – Part 2
The wrong end of the Premier League table is the tightest it has ever been at this stage of the season. With 11 games to go, which teams are still in danger of the drop?
On only two occasions since the 2007/08 campaign has there been fewer than 10 points separating 10th to 20th in the Premier League at this stage of the season.
Take slackers West Brom out of the equation and you have the closest-packed bottom half in top-flight history–never has there been only six points between 10th and 19th.
As we round the final bend of the season, more managers than ever before are looking nervously over their shoulders.
Being relegated this season has almost been touted as ‘criminal’ given the on-paper strength of sides in the division. However, it’s proving tougher than ever to predict who’ll come up short.
You can catch up on part one or three here as we continue our journey down the table…
Brighton and Hove Albion
Placing a bet on Brighton to be relegated back in August probably wouldn’t have yielded you much of a return. With 11 games to go however, bookies will be licking their lips as The Seagulls are very much in the running to stay up.
Despite not being in the current drop zone, Brighton are only two points clear, and as the third-lowest scorers in the league, it will be a very nervy finish at the Amex Stadium.
They started the season relatively steadily for a team that is making its first appearance in the Premier League. Recent form however is dragging them into the relegation scrap.
Glenn Murray’s eight goals are carrying the fight, but only six different players have scored for Brighton so far this season – the lowest spread in the division.
Key man: Pascal Gross
The aforementioned Murray would feel aggrieved, but the creativity and spark that Gross can provide going forward will be integral in their bid to stay up.
Arriving from Germany for only 3m in the summer, Gross is making a claim for ‘bargain of the season’. He has registered five goals and six assists so far.
Brighton’s efforts this season have been admirable. Only twice have they lost a game by over two goals, but current form is alarming – only two wins in 16.
Their home form is typically steady, but on the road, they have only picked up 10 points. With Arsenal, Tottenham and Man United still to visit The Amex, they must rectify their away form.
A trip to Anfield won’t be an ideal way to end a season, so the work will need doing before then… it’ll be a struggle.
Relegation probability: 5/10
Palace’s season got off to a disastrous start, setting a league record of losing their first six games without even scoring (a run that eventually ended at seven matches).
After only five games, Frank de Boer was relieved of his duties, being replaced by Roy Hodgson. The change didn’t bear instant fruit; Hodgson won only one of his first seven. Since then, however, Palace have only lost three times.
Much like the surrounding sides, Palace’s efforts in front of goal have been lacklustre. Luka Milivojevic leads the scoring charts with seven, but five have come from the penalty spot, to put it into perspective.
Palace face four of the current top five in their next five games, so fans may have to hold their breath for some weeks longer yet.
Key man: Christian Benteke
A man most definitely out of form so far this season. With only two goals to his name, Palace will become increasingly dependant on the Belgian raising his output.
Injuries to other go-to influencers such as Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon have increased the weight on his shoulders more so.
Despite their woeful start to the season, Hodgson has steadied the ship. He’ll be mindful of getting out of their next five games unscathed, with more favourable fixtures in their run-in.
Palace’s performances haven’t been too bad on the whole this season. With more clinical, less wasteful finishing they may not have even been in this predicament in the first place.
There’s enough experience and talent in that side to see them safe… just.
Relegation probability: 4/10
What a difference four games can make. Only a few weeks back, Swansea cut a very gloomy and doomed figure at the foot of the table.
Fast-forward to the current day and the Swans have, for now at least, miraculously pulled themselves out of trouble.
Their turn around in form can largely be attributed to new boss Carlos Carvalhal, who arrived at the Liberty Stadium shortly after Christmas following the sacking of Paul Clement after a dismal run.
Since joining the club, Swansea have lost only once in seven games and have won three of their last five – including surprise wins over Liverpool and Arsenal. Carvalhal’s men still face trips to both Manchester clubs but will be optimistic about picking up enough points against the sides around them.
Key man: Jordan Ayew
If anyone’s form and performances have been boosted by Carvalhal’s arrival, it’s Jordan Ayew. Having only scored twice all season prior to the Portuguese’s appointment, Ayew has three strikes in seven games.
His recent streak has come at a good time. With a season-ending injury to Wilfried Bony and an out-of-form Tammy Abraham – who hasn’t scored since mid-October – Ayew has been single-handedly carrying the fight up front.
Ayew will also now have the pleasure of linking up with his brother, Andre after his January move from West Ham United.
No one gave Swansea a chance having been in the bottom three for much of the season. Their turnaround in form has been remarkable, and it’s amazing how quickly things can change.
Goals are still scarce for Swansea, in fact, on only four occasions this season have they scored more than once in a game – which is quite remarkable.
Their defence has become a lot tighter since the arrival of Carvalhal, so if they can continue to keep concessions down, then they’re in with a chance.
Relegation probability: 4/10
Much like fellow newly promoted side Brighton, few would have rated Huddersfield’s chances of staying up this season.
Town though started their season brightly, finding themselves in the top eight after only one defeat in their first six matches. Since then, however, form has been rather questionable. Huddersfield have won only one of their last nine, shipping 20 goals.
The Terriers face three of the current top six in their run-in, so points will need picking up in their next few matches against fellow strugglers.
Key man: Aaron Mooy
Mooy played a huge part in Huddersfield’s promotion-winning campaign from the Championship last year and has since made his move to the John Smith’s Stadium permanent from Manchester City.
The Aussie has continued to be the engine in David Wagner’s midfield so far this campaign and is often tasked with being their creator and provider.
Mooy’s four goals and three assists have helped Huddersfield in their quest to survive, and his presence will be missed as he faces time out with an injury.
Like Brighton, many may have predicted Huddersfield to be further adrift than their current position, but current form is a concern.
Only one win in nine and five defeats in six is relegation form. With some tough fixtures still to come, it will be tense end to the season.
The club and much of it’s matchday squad aren’t too familiar with the Premier League and experience in these situations is lacking – which isn’t great when facing a relegation scrap. It will be tough, and they’ll do well to keep their heads above water.
Relegation probability: 5/10