Changed Sam Allardyce staring down final frontier

Thursday 16th February 2017
Crystal Palace are flirting with relegation. New manager Sam Allardyce has seemingly lost his touch and could be relegated for the first time in his managerial career.
The rat race to avoid relegation has begun. Teams have panic bought, panic hired and now they're just downright panicking. A quick glance at the Premier League table and you will see a rather worrying gap open up partway through the bottom half - worrying at least for those who have the misfortune of floundering below it.

Watford currently sit 13th on 40 points. Just below them is Bournemouth on 26 and then Swansea on 24. It is difficult to see how Watford or any team above them is dragged into the almighty relegation scrap that will occur over the coming months.

As such, that leaves seven clubs fighting to avoid three places. Of the seven, three have changed their manager midway through the season, another is under intense pressure and the seventh was hired in the summer just before the season commenced. Only one of these teams has conceded less than 30 and only three have scored more than 30. Of the seven games played just this weekend, the stragglers amassed a record of one win, one draw and five losses. All are struggling. None are safe. But there is one who, rather surprisingly, perhaps stands above all others as relegation favourites.

While the bookies may say otherwise, Crystal Palace is the team in biggest jeopardy. After sacking Alan Pardew all the way back in December, the Eagles turned to the hero of many a relegation-bound club; Sam Allardyce. Big Sam, the man whose made his name as a hard-nosed manager with a no-nonsense style and defence-first mindset, is the man to save you. Or at least that what's history says. I'm not so sure the future agrees.

Here are the upcoming fixtures for the seven clubs at the bottom of the Premier League where ones highlighted green is against each other, highlighted red is a fixture against the top six and highlighted yellow is against the mid-table (any other) teams:

As you can see, Palace have by far the toughest run-in. They play one of the other six relegation candidates just three times - only Leicester can match that - and play all of the top six, four of those games away with trips to Chelsea, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs. Add to this, in the eight games since Allardyce was hired, Palace have won one, drawn one and lost six including a 4-0 hammering at the hands of bottom-of-the-table Sunderland and it is clear to see the difficult challenge that the London club is facing in hauling their way to safety.

Moreover, Allardyce has not bought well in the transfer market. Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Schlupp, the two headline January additions, are not club savers by any stretch of the imagination, and the squad on the whole, on paper at least, is far better than the position they find themselves languishing in. Players of the calibre of Cristian Benteke, Andros Townsend and Yohan Cabaye are better than their form suggests.

Allardyce has not worked his relegation saving magic just yet but the fixtures don't suggest he will at all. Never write old Big Sam off, but with changing motives now that the England job has come and gone, something that was a career goal of his from the off, he now faces the final frontier.
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