The scrap for survival in the Premier League is always a thrilling spectacle from the neutral’s perspective, but one with potentially devastating consequences for those involved. Last season, Burnley, Watford and Norwich City were relegated. While Burnley have already been promoted from the Championship to ensure an instant return to the top-flight, both Watford and Norwich are struggling to even make it into the play-off positions.
This season, the battle looks to be more thrillingly tense than ever, with just 10 points separating Wolves in 13th position (34 points) from Southampton at the foot of the league (24 points).
The two teams at the bottom of the league, Nottingham Forest and Southampton, have both hit a poor run of form at the wrong time of the season. Southampton, however, did produce a wonderful 3-3 result away to league leaders Arsenal at the weekend, demonstrating significant attacking verve. Their game management can perhaps still be questioned, but such a performance must provide great encouragement. They have 6 games remaining to try and recover the 6-point deficit that separates them from the drop, but this includes daunting away days to Newcastle and more – I don’t see them picking up enough points to make up the ground.
Nottingham Forest may stand more of a chance at surviving, as despite only picking up a single point in their last 6 league games, they showed great threat in the 3-2 loss away at Liverpool at the weekend and were perhaps unlucky to leave Anfield without a point, with Brennan Johnson striking the crossbar late in the game. Their fixtures are relatively tough on paper, with 3 of their remaining 6 games against teams in the top half, as well a tricky away game against a resurgent Crystal Palace under Roy Hodgson.
The three teams I see battling it out to avoid the final relegation spot, therefore, are Everton, Leicester City, and Leeds United. All three teams have just 6 games left to play, with both Everton and Leicester on 28 and Leeds just a point ahead on 29. All the teams are in similarly unspectacular form of late, and even though Leeds have the most points of the three in their last six games (6), they have suffered devastating losses in the last 4 of the last 5 games, a concerning trend. Leeds crucially face Leicester in their next game which could prove decisive come the end of the season. Aside from that their run-in is highly varied, with games against Manchester City but also West Ham.
Leicester’s run is perhaps slightly more favourable, facing Newcastle, too, as well as Liverpool, but also with home games against Everton and West Ham on the final day. The fact that Leicester is set to face both Everton and Leeds in the run in could be enough to determine the fate of the three teams.
When Everton appointed Sean Dyche on the 4th February, many believed he was the perfect man to steer the club steadily away from the threat of relegation. This has not exactly been the case, however, with the club averaging 1.08 points a game since his appointment compared to 0.83 before. There has, therefore, been an improvement in results, but not a highly significant one. Again, their remaining fixtures are relatively mixed; but will the Toffees be able to able to pick up enough points to ensure their status as one of just 6 clubs that has never been relegated from the Premier League?
My verdict is yes, just. Both Everton and Leicester should just about scrape over the line at Leeds’ expense. Fortunately for Leeds, Nottingham Forest and Southampton fans is the sheer unpredictability of the Premier League. Each matchday is accompanied by various surprise results and no doubt they will continue to occur until the end of the season.
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