The Premier League was never over despite the proclamations of Liverpool supporters. Whilst the Merseysiders are strolling to a title success, the rest of the league still have their own battles.
The top four conversation is tiresome. More fascinating is the competition at the other end of the table to avoid relegation. The consequences of being relegated are far more damaging to football clubs and people’s livelihoods than missing out on the top four. So the relegation battle should be analysed.
Needed breathing space for Brighton
Brighton’s win against Arsenal has given the Seagulls some much needed breathing room from those underneath. Although six points clear of 18th placed Bournemouth, the south coast side aren’t out of the running yet. Difficult fixtures against Manchester Utd, Liverpool and Manchester City remain which means Brighton definitely aren’t safe yet.
Teemu Pukki’s early goal scoring form hasn’t bee consistent
Despite Brighton’s teetering position, Norwich City would definitely exchange scenarios if they could. Bottom of the league with 21 points, Norwich are six points from safety with eight matches remaining. Teemu Pukki’s early goal scoring form hasn’t been consistent, and without the Finn firing, goals really are a premium for the Canaries with a league low 25 scored so far.
Additionally Norwich have a terrible fixture list with games against Manchester Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. This means that any points dropped against Brighton, West Ham or Watford will definitely condemn the Daniel Farke’s team to an already likely relegation.
Team who spent big last summer who expected not to be in a relegation scrap
Sandwiched between Brighton and Norwich are Watford, West Ham, Bournemouth and Aston Villa. All are teams who spent big last summer and with the exception of Villa are all clubs who expected not to be in a relegation scrap.
Bournemouth and Aston Villa are currently in the unenviable relegation spots. Despite their precarious position, Villa can be confident because they have the best players. England defender Tyrone Mings and Manchester Utd target Jack Grealish have kept Villa competitive throughout the season. The Villains VAR “assisted” draw against Sheffield Utd may yet prove vital at the season´s conclusion and could show that luck is a Villain’s deception.
Footballing miracles nearly always have an expiration date
Eddie Howe’s miracle achievement of guiding a small club like Bournemouth from the lower leagues to the upper echelons of the Premier League has been inspired. Howe has been praised for playing attractive football and was linked as a future Arsenal manager. Bournemouth’s current season does show though, that footballing miracles nearly always have an expiration date.
The Cherries hopes of survival has been further dented by Ryan Fraser’s decision not to extend his contract post June to play in this Covid-19 extended season, especially since the fixture list for Bournemouth is horrid. England frontman Callum Wilson will need to score any opportunities that come his way against Wolves, Manchester Utd, Spurs, Leicester and Manchester City.
Moyes embarrassingly rehired after an £100 million spending spree
This leaves Watford and West Ham gripping to safety by the skin of their teeth. The Hammers are only ahead of Bournemouth on goal difference with an extra game played. The Olympic Stadium tenants spent over £100 million last summer, yet the board had to embarrassingly rehire former manager David Moyes after Manuel Pellegrini made a hatchet job to the first half of the season.
Moyes´ teams tend to be defensively solid, but against Tottenham, West Ham were forced to play wing back, Michail Antonio as a lone striker, highlighting the club´s problems. West Ham are an agent´s dream of a club and appear to be saddled with players with little experience or desire of a relegation fight, and this will probably prove to be their downfall.
Watford hoping to be safe before the final two fixtures against Man City and Arsenal
Finally, Watford are a team with a manager in Nigel Pearson who has experience of leading teams from relegation and players in Troy Deeney and Craig Dawson who are passionate to fight for their team, unlike West Ham. The Hornets will be hoping to be safe from the drop before the final two fixtures against Manchester City and Arsenal, but their battling performance and last moment equaliser against high flying Leicester shows that Watford should have enough to be in the Premier League next season.
Predicting football is for gamblers
Predicting football outcomes is a gamblers game, but West Ham, Bournemouth and Norwich are this writer’s predicted losers in the scrap to avoid the drop. Battling relegation though can inspire incredulous results and performances, and it could very well be Watford, Villa, and probably Norwich still that are demoted. That’s the beauty of football and at least we’ll definitely have a completed season to find out.