After reviewing the title contenders in the English Premier League Season Preview Part 1 and mid table sides in English Premier League Season Preview Part 2, now it’s time to pay attention to the relegation strugglers. Just like every season, the survival fight is expected to go to the wire, with the three promoted sides and several usual suspects likely to enter the relegation race.
Newcastle easily avoided relegation in their first season upon the return to Premiership, even though club management continued to make big mistakes along the way. Some very poor decisions could easily end up costing the team dearly this season, so I am not really sure they will manage to avoid the relegation struggle. Boss Alan Pardew did nothing to reinforce his shaky back line, although at least he got rid of calamitous Sol Campbell. The midfield area looks like the best part of the team despite the departure of Kevin Nolan and absence of Joey Barton, although Obertan, Marveaux and Cabaye have yet to prove they deserve a place in the side. While Newcastle didn’t have time to replace Andy Carroll in January, after he joined Liverpool on deadline day, I am at pain to explain why the Magpies didn’t splash the cash on a quality striker this summer, as injury-prone Demba Ba cannot be expected to score more than 10 or 15 goals this season. All things considered, Newcastle are in for a tough season.
Last season: 12th
Important arrivals: Gabriel Obertan (Newcastle), Sylvain Marveaux (Rennes), Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Mehdi Abeid (Lens), Demba Ba (West Ham).
Important departures: Kevin Nolan (West Ham), Wayne Routlege (Swansea).
Probable starting line-up (4-4-2): Krul – Simpson, S. Taylor, Coloccini, R. Taylor – Gutierrez, Cabaye, Tiote, Marveaux – Ba, Ben Arfa.
Prediction: Lower mid table
Pick: Season points Under 43.5
Blackburn have been flirting with relegation for few years now and after escaping the drop by beating Wolves on the final day of last season, Rovers could face similar scenario this term, although the happy end might not be there. The departure of Phil Jones left a big gap to fill, and with Samba and Kalinic also likely to leave this summer, Steve Kean desperately needs to add some quality players to the squad. David Goodwillie and Radosav Petrovic are hardly the big name signings the fans were expecting, and they will do little to improve the quality of the highly average squad. With almost all key players already past their prime and important midfielders Dunne, Grella and Andrews constantly struggling with injuries, Blackburn have little chance to avoid the drop, even if they continue with strong performances at Ewood Park. I think it’s high time we saw Blackburn in the Championship.
Last season: 15th
Important arrivals: David Goodwillie (Dundee United), Myles Anderson (Aberdeen), Radosav Petrovic (Partizan Belgrade).
Important departures: Phil Jones (Manchester United), Frank Fielding (Derby).
Probable starting line-up (4-4-1-1): Robinson – Salgado, Nelsen, Samba, Olsson – Emerton, Nzonzi, Petrovic, Hoilett – Dunn – Goodwillie.
Pick: Blackburn to go down
Wigan were another one of the teams that suffered a narrow escape last term, with eight points from last four league games helping the Latics avoid the drop. Boss Roberto Martinez definitely had to be given credit for getting the maximum out of a pretty average side and if the Latics are to keep their Premiership status they will need the Spaniard at his managerial best. It will not be easy to cope without two key midfielders from last season, N’Zogbia and Cleverley, especially if the club fail to sign few more players before the transfer window closes. Apart from buying out Ali Al Habsi’s contract from Bolton and bringing David Jones, who is nothing more than a squad player, Wigan have done nothing to reinforce the current squad and that could be a problem. The Latics continue to have major problems up front, as Franco di Santo and Hugo Rodallega cannot be relied on to offer big contribution to the scoring department, although youngsters James McCarthy and Victor Moses could really explode this season.
Last season: 16th
Important arrivals: David Jones (Wolves), Ali Al Habsi (Bolton)
Important departures: Tom Cleverley (returned to Manchester United), Charles N’Zogbia (Aston Villa), Steven Caldwell (Birmingham).
Probable starting line-up (4-4-2): Al Habsi – Boyce, Lopez, Caldwell, Figueroa – Gomez, Diame, Watson, McCarthy – Rodallega, Moses.
Prediction: Narrow escape
Pick: Wigan to stay up
Wolverhampton did well to survive the last two Premiership seasons, although they were very lucky not to go down last term, after losing the final game of the campaign at home to Blackburn. There are no doubts that the experience of playing in the top flight for two seasons in a row will help Mick McCarthy’s side in what should be another difficult season, but it looks as though Wolves will be able to make it three in a row. The club management did incredibly well in the transfer window, tying up Jamie O’Hara to a long-term contract and adding one of the top Premiership defenders, Roger Johnson to their ranks, while keeping hold of star players Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle. With just one new player in the starting line-up, Wolves should be able to hit the ground running early on and that will give them the upper hand over their relegation rivals. The team start the season on a high following some very promising displays in pre-season and I can see them finishing few places above the bottom three.
Last season: 17th
Important arrivals: Roger Johnson (Birmingham), Jamie O’Hara (Tottenham), Dorus de Vries (Swansea).
Important departures: David Jones (Wigan).
Probable starting line-up (4-4-2): Hennessey – Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward – Jarvis, O’Hara, Henry, Hunt – Doyle, Fletcher.
Prediction: Lower mid table
Pick: Season points over 39.5
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Queens Park Rangers won the Championship title in style last term and fully deserved to gain promotion to the top flight, but they will have to work hard in order to stay there for the years to come. The club management did well to keep hold of star player Adel Taarabt, who is expected to lead Rs to safety this season, although he has yet to prove his worth at the biggest stage. Neil Warnock has signed some very good players in Kieron Dyer, Danny Gabbidon, Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell, but the team still look to be lacking some strength in depth, which can be a big problem this season. QPR don’t seem to be fully prepared for the Premiership campaign at the moment and despite the individual quality of their players, I am not convinced that they can survive the first season in the top flight. There are no doubts that several players will shine this season and prove they are a real Premiership material, but QPR as a team don’t look capable of avoiding the drop.
Last season: 1st in Championship
Important arrivals: Kieron Dyer, Danny Gabbidon (both West Ham), Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff), DJ Campbell (Blackpool).
Important departures: Peter Ramage (Crystal Palace), Angelo Balanta (MK Dons), Lee Brown (Bristol Rovers).
Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Kenny – Dyer, Hall, Gabbidon, Hill – Derry, Faurlin – Smith, Taarabt, Campbell – Bothroyd.
Pick: QPR to go down
Having played their football in League Two just six years ago, Swansea’s success story remains us to that of Hull City, although the Swans will be looking to stay in the top flight for much longer than the Tigers. Led by talented manager Brendan Rodgers, Swansea largely impressed in the Championship last term, with their incredible team spirit and attractive attacking play the main reasons behind their amazing success. The club couldn’t stop Darren Pratley and Dorus de Vries from leaving the club, but Danny Graham, Leroy Lita, Wayne Routledge, Jose Moreira and Michel Vorm all arrived ton increase competition for places. Swansea clearly don’t have any real stars in the squad, which is why many see them as favourites to go down, but I am convinced that Brendan Rodgers can steer the Swans to safety, mainly because he has one of the most homogenous units in the Premiership. Ian Holloway almost did something similar with Blackpool last term, but I believe Swansea will fare better than the Tangerines. Friendly victories over Celtic and Real Betis could be a sign of things to come.
Last season: 3rd in Championship
Important arrivals: Michel Vorm (Utrecht), Danny Graham (Watford), Leroy Lita (Middlesbrough), Wayne Routledge (Newcastle), Jose Moreira (Benfica), Steven Caulker (Tottenham).
Important departures: Darren Pratley (Bolton), Dorus de Vries (Wolves).
Probable starting line-up (4-3-3): Moreira– Rangel, Williams, Taylor, Tate – Britton, Allen, Dobbie – Sinclair, Graham, Routledge.
Prediction: Narrow escape
Pick: Swansea to stay up
Norwich City surprised everyone by gaining automatic promotion to the Premier League and they are now looking to cause another major upset and survive this season. Boasting a squad of players with almost no Premiership experience, boss Paul Lambert was expected to sign several experienced top flight players, but he did just the opposite, as his new signings, all six of them, have only a couple of Premiership appearances between them. That looks like a certain way to get relegated even before the season starts, so I will definitely be shocked if the Cannaries manage to survive this season. Norwich seem to lack the quality in every area of the pitch and with almost no Premiership experience, the Cannaries look destined for the drop. The only good thing is that the club managed to keep hold of their star players, but the difference in quality between Championship and Premiership is huge, as Norwich will learn the hard way.
Last season: 2nd in Championship
Important arrivals: James Vaughan (Everton), Steve Morison (Milwall), Anthony Pilkington (Huddersfield), Elliot Bennet (Brighton), Bradley Johnson (Leeds), Kyle Naughton (Tottenham).
Important departures: Luke Daley (Plymouth).
Probable starting line-up (4-4-2 diamond): Ruddy – Naughton, Whitbread, Martin, De Laet – Crofts, Fox, Bennet, Hoolahan- Holt, Vaughan.
Pick: Norwich to get relegated