Why Huddersfield, Newcastle and Brighton will all avoid relegation
With only ten fixtures left to play, the final countdown has begun and the league’s three newest additions look like beating the odds.
Only once in the last sixteen years have all three newly-promoted clubs managed to survive their first season of Premier League football.
A strong start to the season is far from unheard of, while all three teams have only ever been relegated once – at the end of the 1997–98 season. However, a recent upturn of fortune has seen each of this season’s newcomers begin to climb the table once more.
This season has seen a reassertion of dominance by the “big clubs” at the top of the league but the lower reaches of the table have rarely been as compact at this stage of the campaign.
With 44% of the promoted club’s returning to the Championship after a single season during the Premier League’s 25-year history, could we be about to see a new development in what has become a regular trend?
Two to go
The relegation race may well be one of the closest-run scrambles in recent history. However, the foot of the table is already looking like a one-club race. While Manchester City have one hand already on the Premier League title, West Bromwich Albion have seemingly matched them in an inverted way.
While the number of points needed to reach safety draws differing opinions, the Baggies are looking at a task which suggests they need to average between 1.5 and 2 points per game for the remainder of the season.
Seven points from safety and with little sign of improving, West Brom look certain to suffer their fourth relegation from the top-flight in sixteen years.
Their last seven points came over a period of thirteen games and they currently find themselves on a run of five successive defeats, including the FA Cup loss to Huddersfield, which is their worst run of results this season and form which is unlikely to see them rise above the competition.
Shooting their way out
Potentially the biggest deciding factor regarding who stays and who goes rests on the fire-power of each respective club. The old saying is that goals win games and it’s wins which everyone now needs to pull themselves clear.
Brighton not only have one of the Premier League’s most in-form strikers in Glenn Murray, they’ve also just made a club record signing to bring Jürgen Locadia to the South coast with Leonardo Ulloa also re-joining on loan last month to provide further attacking options.
Huddersfield too, appear to have strengthened wisely in this area with Alex Pritchard claiming a goal and two assists in their last two league games. While he’s not a striker as such, he does fill the number 10 role which has been without a specialist player for most of this season.
Add to this the return to form of Steve Mounie and a proven backup option in Laurent Depoitre, a player who had a small purple patch midway through the season, and the Terriers also look comfortable in this department.
While Newcastle have been the club most in-need of a striker this season, they have also yet to find out whether Islam Slimani can provide the answer they sorely crave.
Kenedy has helped the Magpies carry more intent and it is instructive that they’ve scored in each of their previous seven league fixtures. However, only their recent match at Bournemouth had them score more than once and much of their hopes now rest squarely on Slimani’s shoulders.
Form goes out the window
While Everton and Watford have 33 and 34 points respectively, they shouldn’t yet be completely ruled out of relegation contention.
At this point, the bottom half of the table contains the main contenders, led by 11th-placed Bournemouth who are five points above safety and have just proved why recent form can’t be trusted as a reliable indicator.
None of the sides below the halfway point can easily be discounted from facing the drop as each have shown enough frailties and inconsistencies for them to be deservedly in their current predicaments.
The teams nearer the bottom have perhaps the greatest concerns, with Crystal Palace’s injury crisis proving particularly debilitating to their ambitions.
Along with Stoke, Swansea and Watford, the Eagles have failed to build on last season’s disappointments or fully repair the problems which left them in the bottom half of the table last May.
Southampton, like Palace, are suffering from an extended lack of investment in their squad, something which can’t be aimed at the promoted sides.
Brighton have made the 4th-largest net spend in the league this year while Huddersfield (7th) and Newcastle (12th) have also made sizeable expenditures to improve their team.
Plotting a stable course
For some of the clubs currently facing the prospect of a nerve-shredding end, they’ve had to revise their season’s targets during the season. Everton’s ambitions to break the top-6 are well documented but less extreme and equally disturbing has been the plight of West Ham, Southampton, Stoke and, to some degree, Watford.
For every established club currently placed 8th or below with the exception of Southampton, this has meant looking for a boost from the new-manager bounce.
Each of Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle have come into the Premier League with a very clear and focused plan for survival. This has included a strong manager helming the team which in the latter’s case is of Champions League-winning quality.
While none of these teams are assured of retaining their status, they’ve all got an incredibly realistic chance of doing so.
There would also be something a little poetic if all three of the promoted teams attained their Premier League status while sticking with their respective managers in an era of cut-throat managerial sackings.
Do you agree that all three promoted sides will avoid relegation this season? Let us know by commenting below.