So with the transfer window closed and only around a third of the season to go I thought it’s time to take stock and make some predictions regarding who will be going down.
With 34 points in the bag and a Cup Final ahead of us you could argue that I shouldn’t even be bothered about who is in the bottom three and who is likely to be sucked into a relegation battle. I believe we’re safe but I don’t think I’m the only one who will sleep a little more soundly once we reach the 40 point mark. Until then I’m looking down rather than up and with this in mind I’m going to focus on those clubs who face a relegation battle between now and the end of the season.
For me there seems to be a clear gap between the bottom third and the rest of the table. The relegation places will be between those clubs currently between 20th and 14th. Starting at the bottom of the current table and working our way up:
What can you say about the basket case that is QPR? If ever there was a club that has proved you can’t get success simply by signing loads of players then Rangers have proved it. Mark Hughes signed 12 players in the summer but they were bottom when Harry Redknapp took over. His solution? Sign lots of players; well 5 more anyway. As always money talks and despite being bottom and almost certain candidates for relegation players were queuing up to join them. Loic Remy snubbed Newcastle to join them for £8M and Peter Odemwingie even tried to break into Loftus Road to join. There’s commitment for you.
A team with average gates of £18,000 have just spent £12.5M on a centre back and are reportedly paying Christopher Samba £100,000 a week for the next four and a half years. Redknapp had to have him of course as he had a crisis at centre back with Ryan Nelson leaving for Canada. But he had also let Anton Ferdinand go out on loan when he knew Nelson was off. This was a panic situation created deliberately and Redknapp knew it would put his Chairman under enormous pressure to land Samba – no matter what the cost. He is very brave with other people’s money and if QPR stay up he will be a hero. If not then he will be able to say that the situation was too desperate and he did his best. If they get relegated then Harry will stay for a while and will then move on to the next job. QPR will in all likelihood then become another Portsmouth. It’s the Chairman’s fault as he brought in Harry and is not strong enough to manage him. Would Huw be able to manage him? Pointless question really as Huw would never appoint him in the first place!
There are signs that QPR are getting it together now and it will be a very difficult game on Saturday for us. This will be a game that they will be targeting three points from as draws are of little use when you’re six points off safety with 13 games to go.
Paul’s verdict – they need around 21 points from 13 games to survive. To date they’ve got 17 from 25 games. It’s a no brainer and they will go down, probably in 20th place.
I still can’t get my head around how we only managed to take one point of them over two games. They are a very young, lightweight side and are in real trouble. Their dealings in the transfer window did little to suggest they are likely to pull out of the bottom three. Paul Lambert has clearly been told to reduce the wage bill and has replaced many overpaid players with promising kids. It’s a gamble though and one that looks at the moment that it might well fail. If they are to stay up then they will need Christian Benteke’s goals and they will be praying he doesn’t get injured.
Paul’s verdict – they will do enough to survive but it will be close – 17th
Yet again Wigan find themselves in a relegation battle and I suppose there are two ways to look at it. If you were being optimistic you could argue that they have been there before and both manager and players know what to do to survive. If you were a pessimist you could say that their luck has got to run out some time.
Having lost some quality players like Victor Moses since last season they seem weaker to me and I think this might just prove to be a season so far. They also have some very tough looking fixtures and it’s difficult to see them escaping this year.
Paul’s verdict – their luck will finally run out – 19th and down.
They looked dead and buried a few weeks ago but since Christmas they seem to have turned it around and have started to specialize in the art of getting late goals. Usually a sign of league champions it suggests a team that could avoid the drop.
The squad is still thin though and none of their Welsh trio (Church; Gunter or Hal Robson-Kanu) have proved they have what it takes to play in the Premier League. There are a number of other players there who are at best Championship level and their attempt to sign Sigurdsson for £10M on deadline day show that they recognise this.
Paul’s verdict – Reading have home games against the bottom three and Southampton and this will be crucial to their survival. 16th.
If ever there was an example of a team shooting themselves in the foot then this is it. Having finally found their feet and pulling away from trouble they go and sack manager Nigel Adkins. He was successful and very popular with the fans so that probably proved too much for the owners. His replacement, Mauricio Pochettino, doesn’t speak any English and must be a gamble. So far they haven’t crumbled but I believe that they will.
Paul’s verdict – 18th and relegation.
Look to have bought their way out of trouble during the transfer window when they added another five French players giving them a total of 11 altogether. I wonder where their scouting system is focused?
Of course quantity does not mean quality but the performances of Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko against Chelsea on Saturday suggest that they’ve picked up some real gems.
Paul’s verdict – a comfortable 14th place.
They should be safe with 28 points already in the bag but Norwich have looked shaky over the last few weeks. A lack of goals (two in seven matches since the New Year) illustrate why they were so keen to sign a striker in the window. Is Luciano Becchio the answer? Probably not. With one away win (against us of course – with 4 goals scored) they’ll be hoping to pick up enough points at home to get them over the line.
Paul’s verdict – will get the three wins they need to be safe (one of them against us) and will finish 15th.
It will take something pretty extraordinary for any of these four teams to get relegated. There is always the chance that one of them may implode but in truth they all seem fairly stable on and off the pitch and will be okay.
Paul’s verdict – will all finish lower mid-table and, with the exception of West Ham, will all have underachieved this season.
So there we have it. It will be close but, with the Swans finishing in 10th place, my final league table predictions look as follows:
Team Played Points
Newcastle 38 44
Norwich 38 41
Reading 38 39
Aston Villa 38 37
Southampton 38 36
Wigan 38 36
QPR 38 34
Last season I had us down to finish 12th but only got one out of the bottom three right. I predicted that Blackburn; Wigan and Aston Villa would be relegated and had Bolton and Wolves finishing 17th and 16th respectively. So you could ask what do I know anyway. Well if you reckon you can call it better then why not put your bottom six on the guestbook.
Next time I’ll be taking a look at the Championship and review who are likely to join us next season. Apparently one team is running away with it at the moment!