Summers of choas, abject defending or struggling to buy a goal? The Premier League Relegation Battle

As we approach the halfway point in this Premier League season, it is starting to become apparent who will be involved in the relegation dogfight. As usual, things are looking ominous for Sunderland, while Swansea, West Ham, Crystal Palace, along well as all the newly promoted teams all look like they may well be playing their football in the Championship next season. Even Leicester, with just two wins in ten, have to be put into the mix.

Lets first start with the newly promoted teams: Burnley, Hull and Middlesbrough. Out of the three of them, Hull look the most likely to go down, having had a summer of chaos. Steve Bruce resigned in late July in frustration at a lack of signings. While there was late investment in the form of David Marshall and Ryan Mason, there was a general feeling that it was too little, too late.

Their results have backed this up; since winning their first two games they have managed just one win, and possess the worst goal difference in the league. To add to this, they are also the league’s lowest scorers, far too heavily reliant on Robert Snodgrass as a source of goals. Hull look almost certain to return to the Championship at the first time of asking.

Things are looking much rosier for both Burnley and Middlesbrough, who both find themselves in mid-table. For Burnley, it is clear where their problems lie; awful away from home with just one point on the road all season, and not enough goals either. However, impressive home victories against Everton and high-flying Liverpool provide cause for optimism, as does their strong home form in general.

Middlesbrough have also suffered from a lack of goals, but have been tight defensively, with only Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea conceding less. They have also proven difficult to beat at times, with impressive performances to secure draws at both Arsenal and Man City. With just two wins, however, they will know that they will need to start picking up victories if they want to stay in the Premier League.

Unsurprisingly, Sunderland find themselves in the bottom three, as season after season they are fighting relegation, yet always seem to pull off the great escape. This season things looked like they were going to be different, with just two points from their first ten games. But since then things have been looking much more positive, with Anichebe and Defoe forging an incredibly effective partnership and the defence looking much more solid.

Sunderland’s key man is undoubtedly Defoe, who’s 15 goals almost single-handedly kept the club up last season; if he is scoring they will have every chance of survival this season.

Swansea seal a dramatic late win in an early relegation six-pointer

Much more of a surprise has been the plight of Swansea, who find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table, as many would have predicted a comfortable mid-table finish at worst. Francesco Guidolin was sacked in early October, and results haven’t picked up since Bob Bradley took over.

Defensively, they have been a shambles, letting in the most goals in the division. The loss of captain Ashley Williams at centre back has had a huge impact. As well as this, they have missed the goals of Andre Ayew, who was sold to West Ham, but despite this there is still quality in the Swansea side.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is always a goal threat and would get in to most Premier League sides, Leroy Fer has chipped in with goals and the records in Spain of strikers Fernando Llorente and record signing Borja Baston suggest that they will eventually come good.

The other three sides in contention for the drop, West Ham, Leicester and Crystal Palace should, on paper, all have enough to survive. While West Ham may currently find themselves in 17th, a shadow of the side that impressed last season, it would be very surprising if they got relegated.

It was always going to take time to adapt to playing at their new stadium and they have been incredibly unlucky with injuries. The quality of players like Dimitri Payet (assuming he doesn’t leave in January), Manuel Lanzini, Michail Antonio and Andy Carroll should be enough to avoid relegation.

Leicester should likewise have enough quality, although the Foxes have been clearly affected by the loss of N’Golo Kante and the pressures of European football. Their away form will be a particular cause for concern, with just one point collected all season. However, they still possess a lot of quality, and much the same players which won the title last season.

Jamie Vardy put an emphatic stop to a horrendous run of form with a hattrick against Manchester City on Saturday, and if he can get anywhere close to his consistent form of last season then Leicester will be absolutely fine. And let’s not forget PFA Player of the year Riyad Mahrez who has yet to find his best form; Leicester will have enough to stay up.

Crystal Palace have had a strange season thus far. A solid start to the season was followed by a horrendous run of six defeats in a row. During that run, the defence in particular, was a cause for concern, exemplified by the 5-4 defeat at Swansea. However, they stopped the rot with a good win at home to Southampton last week and took a well-earned point at the KCom Stadium on Saturday.

They certainly have more than enough firepower to stay in the division. Only four teams have scored more goals and the likes of Christian Benteke, Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha will cause most teams problems.

At this stage of the season though, it is tough to call who will go down but if I had to make a prediction I would say the current bottom three of Swansea, Hull and Sunderland look to be in big trouble.

Tyler Gerrard

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