Survival Is Thy Name

Cor blimey, it’s the business end of the season and the most expansive relegation battle in Premier League history has still not been resolved. Sure, we have whittled the teams down a touch and some clubs have gotten their acts together, but it’s May and no one is really down yet. #impressive

Let’s take a look at the bottom of the table and who each team has left to face as everybody prays they avoid the drop.

20. West Bromwich Albion: 28 points, 2 matches remaining, -24 goal difference

The Baggies were down and out just a few short weeks ago, but now are somehow clinging to life. They sacked Alan Pardew, who is so incredibly inept that I wonder how he continues working in the managerial business, and hired former West Brom defender Darren Moore as caretaker. Moore, a Jamaican centre back who played for numerous clubs including my hometown of Barnsley for four years, is 44 years old and has been in charge for four matches. In these matches he has won 8 points. It took Pardew EIGHTEEN matches to collect the same amount of points! Look at this form: drew with Swansea City at home in Moore’s debut, defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford, drew with Liverpool at home and defeated Newcastle United away at St. James’ Park. That is flat out astonishing! Just so we’re clear, Moore and his West Brom charges took full points off the team that will likely finish second in the Premier League (#MUFC), drew against the potential Champions League winners (#LFC secures a final berth vs. Real Madrid) and defeated a top half of the table and one of the season’s best surprises (#NUFC) at their cauldron like home. Slow clap.

Now, don’t get me wrong, West Brom are going down. It’s all a little too late. Their remaining fixtures are a home tie against a Tottenham Hotspur side fighting for their top 4 lives and away to a high flying at the right time Crystal Palace squad. I honestly do not see them picking up any points in these matches. They still can stay up with victories and the three clubs above them slipping up, but they have found their form one month too late. Sorry, lads.

19. Stoke City: 30 points, 2 matches remaining, -33 goal difference

The Potters have been abysmal this season. They are allergic to winning. With only one win in 2018 (this includes a loss to FOURTH tier Coventry City in the FA Cup), they sort of deserve to go down. They’ve taken three points from their last 3 matches and that has been deemed a success. It actually has kept them from the foot of the table. These recent draws versus West Ham, Burnley and Liverpool are somewhat impressive in comparison to their season. And with the tightness of the relegation battles, the three points from their last 3 keep the pressure on at least five teams staring down at them. Stoke will not go without a fight, but with one game played more than their rivals, it is looking to be a tough ask.

Stoke’s remaining fixtures are the aforementioned on fire Palace at home and a potential winner takes all tilt against Swansea in Wales. It is doable and they have the leaders (Darren Fletcher, Ryan Shawcross, Jack Butland) to pull it off, but they will need too much help. Soz.

18. Southampton: 32 points, 3 matches remaining, -19 goal difference

The Saints have shot themselves in the foot repeatedly this term. It has not been pretty. On April 8th they let a 2-1 lead away at Arsenal slip as Danny Welbeck equalized in the 81st minute and Mohamed Elneny then scored the winner in the 93rd. Heartbreak. To follow that feat up, they returned in their very next match against Chelsea to go up 2 nil only to squander that to 3 Blues goals in five minutes. Those were massive points dropped so so late. You simply cannot do that if you want to survive in this league. BUT, four points from their next 2 matches have Southampton breathing and focused on an escape.

Southampton have three fixtures left to get them up the table. They play an in-form Everton side away at Goodison Park, a potential winner takes all away to Swansea and finish with the already crowned champions Manchester City at home. These are difficult but winnable ties with the firepower the Saints have in stock. The talent isn’t lacking, which makes them such a disappointment this season. Luckily for them, Dušan Tadić has finally found his dancing boots and is becoming problematic for opposing back lines. The Serbian along with the likes of Charlie Austin and Nathan Redmond will need to be at their peak to engineer this survival. It can happen!

17. Swansea City: 33 points, 3 matches remaining, -25 goal difference

The Swans have plateaued since their heady January days of beating Liverpool and Arsenal. Since then they’ve beaten Burnley and West Ham, which would be fantastic results normally, but they have not beaten anyone else. Swansea have not been afforded a kind schedule either as they have played Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all in the last month losing to the tune of 8 nil combined. Manager Carlos Carvalhal will not be denied though and will look to finish the season as he started it months ago.

Swansea do have the easier of the schedules of the teams fighting relegation as their remaining fixtures include Bournemouth away, Southampton and then Stoke both at home. The so called 6 pointers abound. Not only can Swansea win these matches with their roster, but all of the matches are against other relegation threatened sides. That will bring the tetchiness as well as the nerves to these ties. But also, it will bring the knowledge and wherewithal that beating the teams around you guarantees your safety. It will be a pressure-filled eight days for Swansea knowing that survival is somehow in their own hands after spending much of the season at the bottom of the league.

16. Huddersfield Town: 35 points, 3 matches remaining, -29 goal difference

The Terriers are in deep trouble. They’ve had a wonderful season thus far and have arguably been the biggest surprise in recent Premier League history, but their form has been woefully inconsistent of late. During a crucial March run they lost to Tottenham, drew at home to a ten man Swansea, lost to Palace and lost to Newcastle. OOOOF. Consequently, they have their head above water only ever so slightly. And can thank their great performances up until then for leaving them in a position where they could potentially stay up.

Huddersfield have a borderline impossible upcoming schedule with remaining fixtures against Manchester City away, Chelsea away and Arsenal at home! My word, that is disastrous. City are playing for points and goals records so will not take their foot off the gas. Chelsea are fiercely fighting for a top 4 place ensuring Champions League football next season. Arsenal will be playing Arsene Wenger’s last ever match as a Gunner so expect them to be bang in form and up for it like never before. #yikes The stars are not aligning for the West Yorkshire club! This Huddersfield schedule could be the key that opens the door for Swansea, Southampton or Stoke to remain in the Premier League.

15. West Ham United: 35 points, 3 matches remaining, -24 goal difference

The Hammers are incredibly confusing. One day they’re phenomenal and in tune and their stars look like they’ve peeled back the years (see: their draw against Chelsea in early April). One day they’re shipping four goals in a game, a thing they’ve done FOUR times in 2018 (two of these occasions have been in their last 2 outings). They look miserable. David Moyes is not a talented manager and does not know how to get the best out of his players. West Ham have wasted Marko Arnautović’s golden form by dropping recent points to the likes of Stoke, Burnley, Swansea and Brighton. They cannot get a good run of form going.

West Ham’s remaining fixtures see them facing Leicester City away, Manchester United at home and Everton at home. These will not be easy as Leicester have a point to prove in their quest to finish in the top 8 (they are currently four points adrift of Everton), United will be looking to shore up second place and Everton have finally possibly found something under Sam Allardyce, going unbeaten in April. I fancy the Hammers to eke out their safety, but it will be nervy and goal difference could well play its part.

14. Brighton & Hove Albion: 37 points, 3 matches remaining, -15 goal difference

The Seagulls are almost at the finish line. They have had a successful return to the top flight with some big results (recently beating Arsenal and drawing with Tottenham). They have been decent throughout proving difficult to beat, but could not turn enough of the draws into wins. That has led to a cushion of sorts as they buckle up for a very bumpy finish.

Brighton’s remaining fixtures see them in a similar situation to Huddersfield as they face Manchester United at home, Manchester City away and Liverpool away. That’s the top 3 teams in the land! The only silver lining Brighton and their fans can hold onto is that Manchester City have already been crowned champions and Liverpool will have an eye on the Champions League final. Which translates to a potential of rotating squads and theoretically weaker lineups. Brighton will have to get some points in this final stretch, even one, otherwise they will begin to sweat about their survival hopes.

13. Watford: 38 points, 2 matches remaining, -20 goal difference

12. Bournemouth: 38 points, 2 matches remaining, -18 goal difference

11. Crystal Palace: 38 points, 2 matches remaining, -13 goal difference

I believe these sides are safe, but this is a useful example of goal difference mattering. All three clubs have 2 fixtures left to get to the 41 point total that guarantees safety this season. So much would have to go right for the bottom dwellers for one of these clubs to go down. It would be staggering. Not out of the question mathematically, but it would entail a minor miracle. Watford, Bournemouth and Palace have been too good to get relegated.

Watford started the season well but have been mostly subpar in the new year (only three wins in 2018 coming within 4 weeks of each other), They sacked their manager and haven’t really found a consistency (they followed up their three wins in 4 weeks ending at the beginning of March with TWO points in total since then). That surely is relegation form, but sitting six points clear of the drop this late on should be enough. Tough matchups against Newcastle and Manchester United to finish will not help either.

Bournemouth have stuttered of late as well. They should be properly clear of the relegation battle, but only collected two points from their last 5 matches. That is not good enough. Putting aside a victory against bottom club West Brom on March 17th, the Cherries have only picked up four points from their last 9 matches. They have defeated the likes of Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea just prior to this horrific spell showing what they actually are capable of. That’s the team that needs to be showing up if they want another year in the Prem. Bournemouth have Swansea and Burnley left to face and they will need points from those fixtures to breathe easily again.

Crystal Palace had one of the worst starts in Premier League history, but got their stars back from injury and sorted themselves out just in time. Recent last minute/late on agonizing losses to Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool don’t do their point total justice. Just a few less minutes and they would be up there in the top 8 mix. They play the bottom two sides to finish off the season and should be safe by a comfortable distance.

So, strap yourselves in, my friends. The story at the top may be told, but the scrap at the bottom has a few twists yet. Squeaky bum time for ten clubs to follow.

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