The battle to avoid the drop out of the EPL is every bit as enthralling as the battle to win the title. More so in actual fact. There are more teams involved, and instead of merely failing to win a shiny piece of silverware, losing this battle could very well put a huge dent in your club’s future or very existence. In terms of audience figures, paper and pub chat and betting markets – encapsulated by comparison sites like OddsChecker – the fight for survival is right up there with what’s going on at the summit of the league. According to odds on the platform, the bottom three clubs are favorites to drop down, and both Everton and Leeds are still firmly in the danger zone.
It has been an incredibly open EPL this season. Up until very recently, up to ten teams had a very real chance of dropping out of the league. The field has narrowed to five teams, with the rest – barring absolute disaster – safe for another year. Let’s take a look at who’s in the fight.
In their first season up, Leeds finished in ninth position. In Marcelo Bielsa, they had one of the most progressive, exciting and respected managers in the game. Their fans could be forgiven for thinking the wilderness years were over and that the future was bright. Of course, football doesn’t work like that.
Last season saw a dramatic downturn in form and Bielsa depart. Leeds survived by the skin of their teeth, but this season has seen another managerial departure and no improvement. Of all the teams fighting for survival, they have the most points (at the time of writing) but the worst form. Recent heavy losses have not only seen Leeds plumet, but have dented their goal difference and stripped the club, its players and fans of any confidence. Momentum at this stage of the season is crucial.
Leeds are probably going to be just about safe, but they need to halt their slide very quickly.
When Everton survived with a game to go last season, fans hoped it would be a new dawn for the club that has been plagued by unrest for what seems like an eternity. It wasn’t to be, and this season has been no different. Everton’s inability to find the back of the net has cost them dear. When Sean Dyche arrived, there was an upturn in results and the team did appear to have taken on some of the steel the ex Burnley manager has built his reputation on. They weren’t able to maintain that run, however, and are back right in the fight for relegation.
Everton’s final two games are against Wolves and Bournemouth, two sides who have, in recent weeks, managed to get themselves out of the relegation dogfight. If they are on the beach already, Dyche’s men may just have enough to ensure their EPL status for another year.
Forest’s first season back in the big time has certainly not been dull. After spending £150 million in the summer to bring in 22 players, unsurprisingly it took Steve Cooper a while to find a settled side. Then, when everything suddenly clicked, it looked like the spending had paid off. Unfortunately for the former double European Cup winners, everything then unclicked.
Forest are dropping like a stone. Their away form has been terrible all season and, of late, their hitherto impressive home form has deserted them too. They also have the hardest run in of anyone in the bottom five. It is hard to see them picking up enough points to drag themselves clear if any of the other four teams can find anything resembling form.
Since winning the title in 2016, the Foxes have been in steady decline. Brendan Rodgers’ departure was no surprise, though his replacement Dean Smith was. Leicester’s problem this season is that the world class players they have just haven’t performed. A powder puff attack and a defence that is always liable to concede is a terrible combination.
If the new manager bounce is to happen, it needs to do so very soon, and it needs to be a very high one.
The south coast club’s spell in the country’s top tier looks like it is coming to an end. Southampton has flirted with the trapdoor for several years, but this year they have never managed to get going. They are adrift and need to go on a run that they have not managed to produce all season and, to be honest, have not looked capable of producing.
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