Premier League relegation dogfight: Handicapping the survivors and victims
Only three sides in the Premier League's bottom half have not changed managers. Eleventh to 19th in the table is as condensed as it's ever been this late in the season. Only seven points separate the nine clubs. With a number of relegation six-pointers yet to be played, virtually anything can happen. One certainty? A team from the Midlands is going down.
With just three wins all season, West Brom are all but mathematically eliminated. Going into a weekend split between FA Cup and Premier League action the Baggies are eight points from safety with eight games to play. The noughties' yo-yo side doesn't have the look of a team that can bounce right back this time. Could this be their last Premier League campaign for a while? The hope is they don't follow Sunderland or Portsmouth's path and absolutely fall apart. It was only five seasons ago that they finished in 8th. They were tenth last season.
Meanwhile, Stoke have only won one of their last eleven, scoring six goals in that time. With goals drying up like that, plus the league’s second leakiest defence, it's difficult to see Paul Lambert keeping them up. The Potters are just one point in the mire, though, with some quality in the team. The bell hasn't tolled for them as yet.
It really could be any side from Everton in ninth on down. Ten points is the cushion Sam Allardyce enjoys at the moment but the safest side on form is Brighton. Three wins from their last five, unbeaten in February, Chris Hughton winning Manager of the Month, that suggests a team headed in the right direction. Other sides are in danger, some more than you might think, but especially from 14th to 19th.
Opening the season with seven straight defeats doesn’t make for a comfortable season. Or any margin for error. Roy Hodgson squeezed some form from them for a while. Now they’re on a winless run stretching back two months. Palace can still survive. Excepting fixtures against Liverpool, Leicester, and Watford, their remaining games are against sides in and around them.
They've sacked Mauricio Pellegrino but it may be too little too late. The Saints have been dwindling in attack for the last 18 months even though their defence has been fairly consistent. They have lacked a finisher, which shows in their stats. Charlie Austin is their top scorer with just 6 goals in all competitions. Mauricio Pellegrino has been a game away from the sack since the turn of the year. The Newcastle defeat finally convinced the board to act.
West Brom are down. Alan Pardew is quite fortunate to still be there. Clearly the hierarchy is looking to come straight back up next season. They believe the former Newcastle, Crystal Palace, and West Ham coach can do for them what Chris Hughton and Rafa Benitez both did for the Magpies. Pardew does have a knack for bringing sides up from the Championship.
Paul Lambert hasn’t overseen a full Premier campaign since 2013/14 for a reason. He’s not a Premier League level manager. Since his time at Aston Villa, he’s been sacked in short order by both Wolves and Blackburn. The Potters have only won a solitary game under him.
Southampton would have been my pick as the third demoted side before they sacked Pellegrino. Mark Hughes might be the change they need. Sorry, Palace. My money's now on your demise.