The relegation battle this year looks set to be a very open affair already, Newcastle United looked like they would not be able to win a game but have gone and lifted themselves out of the relegation zone. Leicester City looked to be flying high but have dipped in form already and are being dragged towards the bottom three, sitting only a point clear of Sunderland; whilst Aston Villa started the season with a bang and fizzled out quite quickly with five defeats on the bounce leaving them close to the bottom three as well.
Only four points separate Sunderland in 18th from Everton in 9th and it looks like any of the teams between those two positions could be dragged into a relegation scrap of some sort in the coming few months. There are of course the naturally weaker underdogs that will inevitably find themselves looking over their shoulders for the majority of the campaign and be fighting for Premier League survival over anything else. Burnley are the only clear cut favourites to drop straight down without much of a fight currently, as they prop up the rest of the league table with only four points and still in a frantic search for their first league victory of the season.
It is hard to judge who else out of the bottom half of the table might end up in trouble, such is the variety of performances and results at the moment, had I looked at this a couple of weeks ago, I would be writing a completely different article based around Newcastle and QPR looking like the two teams that are certain to join Burnley in the relegation abyss at the end of the season.
Alan Pardew’s men have bounced back well after a shocking start which saw them without a victory for their first seven games and the fans calling for the manager to be sacked as a matter of urgency to ebb the flow of points that were slipping through their fingers. Even though it was very early on in the campaign to suggest trouble, the mentality is hard to deal with when you’re losing so many games so quickly and are rock bottom so early on. It is hard for the players to have the right mentality when playing a game, at times feeling defeated before a single ball has been kicked in a game, so even though it was early days, there was a danger that they could have ended up going on a lot worse a run than they actually did.
A home victory against Leicester was followed by a crucial – and very impressive victory – away to Tottenham Hotspur, which saw the Magpies come back from a goal down to claim victory, that would have worked wonders to uplift the belief in the camp and instil a different mentality in the group.
Another thing that makes the relegation race this season is just how awful most of the teams that are in the mix have actually been. QPR for example had not shown any sort of desire to win a game until their home game against Liverpool. They were not giving 100% and it was clear to see that most of their players were not putting in the required effort. Luckily they have since turned that around after stern words from their manager no doubt and look to be finally playing in the right way. Whether or not they still have enough quality about them is a different matter altogether. Burnley look terrible and I cannot see where they will get a victory from any time soon.
Sunderland are also very poor so far with only the one victory to shout about – the amount of games they have drawn instead of lost will have helped their points tally and avoided them the ill-fate of sitting rock bottom so far but they need to improve vastly to see any chance of avoiding the drop.
There are too many ‘poor’ teams in the bottom half this season that just do not look like they are good enough to stay up and it will continue to be a very open affair throughout the whole season without a doubt. There is no safe bet for the final bottom three this year and it will be exciting to witness, for us neutrals, what the final outcome will be come May.