This Premier League season has arguably been the most dramatic ever, with a mixture of shock results and surprise packages. A key component of this has been the battle to avoid relegation, which is as open and as unpredictable as we have ever seen before.
One team who have fallen away from the pack is Aston Villa. They find themselves placed on the bottom of the table, after only managing to gain 13 points from their 23 games so far this campaign. They seem to have left themselves to much to do, needing at least 22 points to give them any chance of staying up.
Villa have been quiet during this January transfer window, which may be a sign that their board are planning for next season in the Championship.
Before every Premier League season, there are favorites to go down, which is often made up of the newly promoted teams. This season was no different. Watford, Norwich and Bournemouth were amongst the early favorites to drop straight back down to the Championship.
Watford acted quickly to prove their doubters wrong and have done so in emphatic fashion. Along with high flyers Leicester, they have earned the tags of being the surprise packages of this years campaign. A key element of their armoury is their front two. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo have put in a number of sparkling displays and have earned themselves the label of being the most dangerous striking duo so far this term. Together, they have managed to score 20 of Watford’s 27 goals in the league this season.
Norwich on the other hand, have struggled to come to terms with the step up to the Premier League this season. One of their main problems has been defensively, as it is only Sunderland who have conceded more than their rivals Norwich. This was evident in their most recent fixture against Liverpool, which they were 3-1 up in, going onto lose 5-4.
The Canaries manager Alex Neil has highlighted the need to strengthen their squad and has done so by adding five new players to his ranks, meaning Norwich have been the busiest side in terms of transfers during this window. Most notably, they have brought in the striker, Steven Naismith, whose years of experience at this level could be vital if the Canaries are going to stay up this season. When Neil was asked to give his thoughts on his new signing he stated that:
He is an intelligent player, he can play a number of roles, and if he can drop into those holes he can cause problems for the opposition and make life difficult. He gives us a good link between the frontline and the midfield.
The third and final promoted side are Bournemouth. They have impressed onlookers this term through their entertaining style of play, which they have consisted with from their Championship winning campaign last year.
If the Cherries manage to maintain their Premier League status this term, their manager, Eddie Howe, must be considered to be one of the managers of the season. When you consider the problems they have encountered this season, through long term injuries to key players such as Callum Wilson and club Captain Tommy Elphick, it would be a magnificent achievement if they did manage to stay up.
Bournemouth have pulled off one of the signings of this window by snapping up Wolves’ goal machine Benik Afobe. Afobe had struggled this season, but his big move to the Premier League seems to have given him some much needed confidence, as he has managed to score 2 goals in his first 3 appearances for his new club. Eddie Howe has been vastly impressed by Afobe thus far, after their recent 3-0 victory over Norwich he said that:
He (Afobe) worked very hard, held up the ball well and gave us a platform to build our attacks from. He was razor sharp in my opinion.
It is possible that the final relegation position could be filled by one of the North East sides, Sunderland or Newcastle. Both teams struggled at the start of the season and threatened to find themselves cut adrift from their rivals. Although, both have progressed since then and have look better outfits than they did previously.
Along with Norwich, Newcastle have been busy during this transfer window, bringing in multiple new additions. One of which is Jonjo Shelvey, who has already impressed in his first couple appearances for the club. Tottenham winger Andros Townsend is close to completing a move to the Tyneside side. Both players have valuable Premier League experience and will most definitely add quality to the Newcastle squad.
Their North East counterparts may struggle though. Sunderland have conceded the most goals of all the Premier League teams this season (46 in 23 games). On top of this, they do not seem to have as much quality in attacking areas, compared to their rivals at the bottom of the league.
A player key to Sunderland in their attempts to stay up is Jermain Defoe. He is their top scorer this term, managing to bag 12 goals in all competitions. The striker’s ability to make sure he is in the right place at the right time and his natural finishing ability will be key for Sunderland. Anyone who wants to avoid relegation in the Premier League, would need someone who can find the back of the net on a regular basis, there is no doubt that Sunderland have that player in Defoe.
There is still a long way to go in this season and a lot can happen between now and then. This seasons relegation battle is far from finished, there is a lot of drama to come. Is there another great escape on the horizon? Who do you think will stay up or go down? Let us know in the comments below!