The 12 Days of Football: Seven sides-a-sinking
On the seventh day of football, UEFA gave to me seven sides-a-sinking/Six games amazing
Welcome to the seventh installment in It's Round and It's White's 12 Days of Football, a series in which we take stock of what is going on at the moment, and has gone on in football over the past calendar year.
This time, we look at seven clubs all too familiar with the relegation zone: Sunderland, Hull City, Middlesborough, Newcastle United, Swansea City, Benevento, and FC Koln. Three have gone down this calendar year. Four look very much like they will in 2018. They say Krazy Glue can fix anything. Not so.
Here are the sad tales of seven clubs that surely only received lumps of coal in their stockings this holiday season.
Relegated Premier League sides 2016/17
Where to start? What about David Moyes’ admission of a relegation dogfight after Match Day Two? Or even further back with Hull. The Tigers had just 13 senior team members to begin the campaign, and no permanent coach for two months. Meanwhile, Aitor Karanka was blissfully unaware he would soon be singing the Traveling Riverside Blues with Middlesbrough.
Things weren't expected to be so dire Teesside. Victor Valdes, Gaston Ramirez and Alvaro Negredo had all arrived.
On the other hand, Karanka brought in four more Premier League players who had been at relegated sides the previous season. Three from Aston Villa. That couldn't have established a healthy culture.
Boro actually got off to a pretty good start, but the goals dried up faster than Krazy Glue between your fingers. It was too late when the Smoggies ended their 15-game winless streak. They were all but doomed.
Even after Steve Agnew replaced the Basque manager, the club couldn't score. The club averaged just 0.7 goals per game over the season. Conceding twice as many was a recipe for disaster.
Middlesbrough's fate was sealed in a 3-0 defeat to eventual champions Chelsea. With just five wins all season, only one in their last 20, they were candidates to go down from the start. It was just that no one saw it coming.
That wasn't the case at the KCom Stadium. Hull City were toe-tagged for the Championship before the season began. Steve Bruce had walked out after receiving no support in the transfer market from ownership despite the club having just a baker's dozen first-team players on the books. It was non-league mayhem being conducted in the top flight.
Inexplicably, the rag-tag group opened the season with two wins and a draw from its first four. Interim boss Mike Phelan won Premier League Manager of the Month for August. It was never going to last, however. Only one more victory arrived in 2016. Phelan was sacked.
Marco Silva replaced him within 3 days of the new year. The Portuguese boss did receive funds for the winter transfer window. Andrea Ranocchia, the erstwhile Inter captain, and Oumar Niasse were the most notable journeyman cobbled together by Silva through a series of loan deals. Meanwhile, Allan McGregor, James Weir, and Jake Livermore were let go. Tom Huddlestone, Harry Maguire, and Michael Dawson stayed.
Then Robert Snodgrass and his nine goals were sold to West Ham. The attack dried up faster than Krazy Glue between your toes. Niasse and Abel Hernandez finished the season as top scorers still wearing orange, with 5 apiece.
Silva resigned at season's end for the better prospects on offer at Watford. He currently has the Hornets safely mid-table.
The Black Cats were resigned to another dogfight from the start. Sam Allardyce had engineered a narrow escape the season prior, only to fall into the Telegraph's trap just weeks into his England reign. As already noted, Big Sam's successor, David Moyes, expressed no confidence in his squad. Injuries wracked the team. Losing Lee Cattermole for a long stretch especially hurt. Jermaine Defoe was the only player to score more than three goals.
Sunderland didn't win until Match Day 11. The only consolation was a pair of clubs from Serie A and the Bundesliga would make that look great guns in 2017-18.
This year's underachievers
Under Rafa Benitez, the Magpies looked like a cohesive unit upon their return. Then Mike Ashley gave an interview to Sky Sport. Promised funds did not fully materialize. Benitez could not upgrade the squad to Premier League standards. Rumours began to circulate he was prepared to leave. In the end, the Spaniard soldiered on, even through a medical procedure.
Toon won four from its first nine, but have just a single victory since. Its last match, a defeat to rampant Manchester City, the 0-1 score flattered to deceive. Newcastle was less resistant than City was profligate with its numerous chances.
Benitez is a quality manager. On the other hand, you can't ask Gordon Ramsey to stage a five-course banquet with white bread, Marmite, and a toaster. Rafa isn't likely to land any significant players in the winter window. He'll be hard put to keep the side up.
The Swans are the Premier League's ugly ducklings in 2017-18. Paul Clement only just dragged them to safety in the previous campaign. Shorn of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente this time around, he suffered the same fate as Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley before him.
The Welsh side have managed a paltry 11 goals in 20 games. Elsewhere, Harry Kane has 18. Mo Salah, Raheem Sterling, and Sergio Aguero 15, 13, and 12 respectively.
There doesn't appear to be a silver lining attached to the black cloud hovering over the Liberty Stadium. Big Sam, David Moyes, and Roy Hodgson are already engineering rescues at Everton, West Ham, and Crystal Palace respectively. Tony Pulis has taken the Middlesbrough job. The market for relegation specialists has dried up faster than Krazy Glue on the toilet seat. Guess where Swansea is.
Europe’s sinking sides
It's not just doom and gloom in England. There are depressed fans in Italy and Germany, too.
The Witches were in ecstacy after flying their brooms into the Italian top flight for the first time in its history. They're being swept out before they've even had a chance to land. On average, Benevento has scored a goal every other game since arriving. That's nine in eighteen. Two came against AC Milan when the Campania side finally earned a point on Match Day 14. As it stands, though, the club is 13 points from safety and has conceded 41 times. The over/under for Benevento's relegation should be early April.
AC Milan will forever go down in history as the first side to drop points against the Serie A debutantes. Perhaps even the only one.
Outside the Bundesliga, the Billy Goats are most famous for producing Lukas Podolski. They've also been up and down so often, following would make you dizzier than a head-butt from the club mascot. Koln have been relegated and promoted on four times. After this season's start, a fifth relegation looks on the cards.
The Rhine side outdid Benevento, only winning its first game of the season at the seventeenth time of asking. After selling 25-goal man Anthony Modeste in the summer, they’ve failed to replace him. The goals have dried up faster than Krazy Glue between any two body parts of your choosing.
On December 3rd, the board sacked manager Peter Stoger. If the name sounds familiar, it's because he's the man who now has Borussia Dortmund back in the Bundesliga hunt after that club parted ways with Peter Bosz. If Koln keeps making such ill-advised decisions, the fifth promotion will be long in coming.
With that in mind, Frohes Neues Jahr!