The Road To Relegation
March 13, 2012 in Premier League
The battle to avoid relegation is always an interesting one, and this trend seems to show no sign of changing. This season, there appears to be five teams who are deep down in the mix of it all. Blackburn, Bolton, QPR, Wolves and Wigan are down there fighting for their Premier League lives, and the struggle shows no sign of calming.
Blackburn started the season terribly, picking up just one win in thirteen matches, albeit an impressive one, against Arsenal. They have only been out of the relegation zone for six matches out of 28, which is probably why Blackburn fans have been calling for Steve Kean’s head all season long! With their squad containing quite a few talented players, you have to ask, why are they even in this battle?! In my opinion, it is due to a severe lack of confidence and never-ending uncertainty. The owners of the club don’t really seem to know what they are doing, which doesn’t help the club.
Another big factor in Blackburn’s recent form is the sale of Chris Samba, their star player. Since he was sold to Anzhi at the end of January, Blackburn’s form has improved. I think this could be due to the fact that other players knew he was going to leave at some point, amid constant media rumblings of him being unhappy. Without that added distraction, the players appear to have been able to focus on their football a bit more. Judging by the recent form of the clubs surrounding them, I think they could just about survive the drop, but it will be a task that will be going right down to the wire.
Bolton… where to start with Bolton? A team that four or five seasons ago was challenging for Europe, and is now fighting relegation… They have taken a dramatic drop in form, and all season long have looked ready to battle it out in the Championship next season. The main reason for their lack of form is probably that their two star players of last season, Daniel Sturridge and Johan Elmander, have moved on to better things. The remaining strike force is simply not good enough; they need better strikers than Kevin Davies and David N’Gog. The only match they have won recently is against QPR, who are looking equally beleaguered, and even that victory was filled with controversy. They are a team that can never quite find the ground that they are looking for; they can never get a foothold. Every time they win, they follow that up with 4 or 5 losses. Question is can they pull away from the pack? Or will they be sucked back in, just as they have been before?
Another team mired in the battle is QPR. Now, QPR really confuse me. They are a team who have the money. They have the players. But they can’t find any sort of result to indicate what they have going for them! I feel that if QPR get relegated, they will go back down for a good few years in my eyes, as I cannot see players like Djibril Cissé playing in the Championship. What worries me most about them is that they have already played most of their relegation rivals, and they have lost all three matches, against Wolves, Blackburn, and now Bolton. They started the season off so brightly, and with their resources, you could see them getting a comfortable mid-table position and trying to build on that in subsequent seasons. But after a few losses to Manchester United and Liverpool, they failed to recover and have struggled to find points ever since, only grabbing two from their last six games.
I think a contributing factor has to be the change of manager, with Mark Hughes replacing the always outspoken Neil Warnock. I think it was a panic move by QPR chairman Tony Fernandes; they had a drop in their form, and wanting to keep them afloat, he brought in a manager with more Premier League experience. It hasn’t seemed to have helped much though, with Hughes picking up just two wins in seven games. Personally, I would love to see them stay up, but it is looking bleak for the boys from West London. Seeing that in their last five matches, they have to play Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City, you would have to say that if they don’t pick up points soon, we will be bidding farewell to them for the foreseeable future.
After their unusually brilliant start to the season, Wolves soon dropped to where we originally expected them to be. After getting seven points from their first three games, Wolves only managed to pick up four points out of their next nine matches, leaving Mick McCarthy scratching his head, and eventually on his way out of the door at Molineux. And with former number two Terry Connor taking charge, Wolves had two paths they could take. The first would be to be able to climb the table, due to continuity; seeing as TC had previously been the assistant, the team could have been lifted by the fact that they didn’t have to acquaint themselves with a new manager. They haven’t seemed to have started that way, instead following the second path – realising that they are now under the tutelage of someone with no actual managerial experience.
Wolves have now suffered heavy defeats in three of their last four games under Connor, and will again need to pick up their form sharply to try and escape like they did last season, by the skin of their teeth. However, if Wolves do go down, you have to consider who would stay there next season. I can guarantee Matt Jarvis would leave for a Premiership side, as he has the quality to stay up there. Another player is Steven Fletcher, Wolves’ top goalscorer. While he is a big player for them, I can’t see him leaving. I think he would battle it out for one season in the Championship, and then leave if they didn’t bounce back immediately.
And finally, propping up the league from their bottom position is Wigan. Another team that has been constantly dogged by the threat of relegation, Wigan seem to be closer to going down and out more than they ever have been. Let’s face it – Wigan players paired with their manager Roberto Martinez’s tactics is a system that just doesn’t work. He is good friends with Pep Guardiola, and may have taken some tips from him tactically, but he has nowhere near the squad that Guardiola does! They have been at the foot of the table since the 16th of January, having been in the relegation zone since December. A victory against Bolton is the only solace they have found in recent months, and even then, it still didn’t lift their position. Worrying times for the team, I must say, but maybe this is because they do not belong in the top flight, and have been lucky to survive the last few seasons in the league.
Anything can change in this constant war. One win could potentially take Wigan out of the relegation zone, and one loss could put Blackburn right back into it. It is all up in the air. Who will go down though? Your guess is as good as mine right now.