With two thirds of the Premier League season already underway, the table is shaping out to be something more interesting than a two-horse title race, as there are currently eight teams still mired in the relegation battle at the other end of the table. With 13 games left to play, only three points separate the 13th place and 18th place teams, and here, we take a look at what these teams need to do to avoid the dreaded drop to the EFL Championship.
Goal scoring has been the main problem this season for Huddersfield Town, who have only managed an appalling 11 goals this season. It really speaks volumes when the club’s top scorer is centre-back Mathias Jorgensen with three goals to his name. With the only reinforcement to the forward department being striker Karlan Grant from League One side Charlton Athletic, nothing has been one to resolve their attacking woes. The fixture list does not look too kind for them either, having yet to play three of the top six teams. At this rate, the Terriers will need a miracle to stay up.
Fulham’s defensive performances have been nothing short of appalling this season as they have conceded an average of more than two goals a game, the worst defensive record in the league. Most of their summer additions and January signings have been attacking reinforcements, especially with the recent additions of former Liverpool wingers Ryan Babel and Lazar Markovic. The blatant neglect of their defense is proving to be their downfall, as Tim Ream and Denis Odoi are simply not good enough for the league. Claudio Ranieri has not managed to organise the Fulham defense, and it seems highly unlikely they will avoid the drop with their defensive crisis still intact.
Southampton have been in impressive form since Ralph Hasenhuttl became their manager, with crucial wins against Arsenal and Everton. However, their recent inability to win against their fellow relegation battlers Crystal Palace, Cardiff and Burnley have pinned them back into the relegation mix again. They need consistency, and their hopes of survival may very well depend on the fitness of Danny Ings in their final matches, who still remain their top scorer despite being frequently side-lined by injury.
Similar to Huddersfield, goal scoring has been a perennial problem for Cardiff this season as Neil Warnock’s old school approach and insistence on going route one means that most of their goals are results of scrappy plays or set pieces. With their only attacking addition being the loan of Oumar Niasse from Everton, they will have to hope he makes all the difference in the final third. The tragic death of Emiliano Sala seems to have invigorated Cardiff in recent weeks, and they will have to ride on this momentum going into the home stretch, as the fixture list is not doing them any favors with games against all of the top four still yet to come.
Goal scoring and chance creation is the only inhibitor to Newcastle’s hopes of survival, further worsened by the chairman’s limited investment in Rafael Benitez’s squad. They only have Benitez’s ability to organise a defense to thank for keeping their hopes of survival alive. With the addition of attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron in January, they have an added threat going forward. They will have to maintain their tight defensive organisation and depend on the clinical finishing of Salomon Rondon to keep them up. However, they do have the fixture list on their side with only two matches left against the top six sides.
Defensive frailty has proven to be costly for Burnley this season, especially in the first few months with their European commitments. This season’s Burnley is far from the defensively resolute Burnley we are accustomed to watching. With no additions to boost their back line in January, they will need the current defense to stay injury free and on form. However, they seemed to have turned the corner in recent weeks, with crucial wins against fellow relegation contenders Fulham and Brighton, and they will have to maintain this form going forward if they are to survive.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Brighton started the season brightly but have only plummeted down the standings since the start of December, managing only one win out of 11 matches since then. It is no surprise that the barren run their leading striker Glenn Murray is going through during the same period has coincided with their dramatic dip in form, as he has only scored twice in the 11 matches, with the goals being in a single game. With no January additions to bolster their frontline, they are in dire relegation trouble if they do not cut out their defensive mistakes and if Glenn Murray does not return to form.
The return to form of Wilfried Zaha and the addition of Michy Batshuayi in January has greatly boosted the attacking prowess of the Eagles, which has been highly inconsistent throughout the season. Luckily, they have a solid backline, with outstanding performances from their fullbacks Wan-Bissanka and Van Aanholt proving the difference this season. They will have to maintain their fine defensive record and pray that their talisman Wilfried Zaha continues his rich vein of form if they are to beat the drop.Leave a comment