As we head towards the busy festive period of the football season, the battle to avoid relegation to the Championship is becoming increasingly intense, and with Crystal Palace beginning to find some form after a disastrous start, it’s Swansea City who currently find themselves propping up the table.
All the promoted teams from last season are making a decent attempt at securing their top-flight status and Burnley, one of the other pre-season betting favourites for the drop, already look all but safe in the upper echelons of the table.
It’s left a number of relatively well established Premier League clubs getting anxious and firing their managers in an attempt to change their fortunes. Swansea City have yet to resort to the managerial merry-go-round this season but, despite claims to the contrary, Paul Clement’s position must be in serious jeopardy following a run of just one point from eight matches going into their home game with West Brom on Saturday.
Among the UK’s top online sports betting offers, Clement is now betting odds of just 4/7 (1.57 in Decimal) with Bet Victor to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post. Swansea are also now favourites for relegation at 1/3 (1.33) and, quite frankly, it’s difficult to argue against that prognosis as things stand. Those who see things more positively can back the Swans to stay up at 11/4 (3.75) with Sky Bet.
The recent 2-1 defeat at Stoke City led to a row among Swansea’s players after the game and means the next match with West Bromwich Albion at the Liberty Stadium is the proverbial six-pointer and one that Clement and his team can ill-afford to lose. Should they do so, they will be at least six points shy of safety and in deep trouble.
Defensively the Swans have been fairly solid, with 18 goals conceded in 15 Premier League games (at the time of writing) being perfectly respectable and actually better than both Liverpool and Arsenal. The problem is that Swansea have only found the back of the net on eight occasions themselves, the joint fewest goals alongside Crystal Palace.
Perhaps even more worrying is that they have only registered a total of 124 shots this season, again the fewest in the top-flight.
Any survival hopes will surely be heavily reliant on a productive January transfer window, with creativity and goalscoring being the most obvious areas of concern.
The question is not only how much budget Clement or any potential successor will have to spend, but whether or not they can attract players of the requisite quality should they find themselves cut adrift at the foot of the table.
Their problems largely seem to largely stem from the takeover of the club by an American consortium led by duo Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien 18-months ago, since when the main playing assets have all been cashed-in.
There were three big-money departures over the summer, with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Fernando Llorente and Jack Cork leaving the Liberty Stadium.
The three significant cash signings were Roque Mesa, Wilfried Bony and Sam Clucas, whilst Clement used his contacts to secure season-long loan deals for a couple of highly-rated youngsters in Renato Sanches and Tammy Abraham from Bayern Munich and Chelsea respectively. Few would argue that the squad is stronger as a result.
The FA Cup might offer a brief respite in the New Year, but the draw could certainly have been kinder, with a tie at current Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers looking worryingly like a clash between two teams who could well be trading divisions at the season’s end.