English Premier League Run-in Roundup Part #3: The Doom of Relegation and Synopsis

Staying on top of everything that happens as the season progresses is daunting for even the most energetic and passionate of soccer fans, so you may be forgiven for letting the occasional detail slip through the crack as this 9 month drama unfolds before our very eyes. This three-part roundup can serve to inform you (or remind you if you are a seasoned veteran) of all the major plot-lines that have come to pass since last August and will set the stage for the critical games and trophies that have yet to be won.

View Part #1 – Who Will Win The Title RaceView Part #2 – Surprise Packages, Disappointments and Domestic Cups

Who will be relegated this year?

Last and very much least for our roundup, we will look at how the relegation picture is shaping up this year.

For those that don’t pay close attention, every year the three teams that finish at the bottom of the table are relegated from the league and are forced to compete in the 2nd division the following year.

Sometimes a club with admirable resources will bounce back at the first attempt, but sometimes a club will spend years or decades winding through or wallowing in the lower divisions. There is never a guarantee that a club will ever make it back to the lucrative heights of the Premier League, so clubs do everything within their power to try and avoid this fate.

Who has the displeasure of being in these tenuous positions this year?

Well, it appears that both Fulham and Huddersfield Town have already sealed their fates with extremely poor results.

Huddersfield are a club that very few casual fans will know much about, but they surprised everyone by making it to the Premier League in the first place, then they surprised everyone again by managing to avoid relegation last year.

It seems as if a 3rd surprise is one too many this year (they are a whopping 13 points from the safety of 17th), and Huddersfield have been stuck in last place for the past two months.

For a club of their size and budget, it can be seen as a fun foray back into the big time that ended with a fairly inevitable plummet back down to reality. Will we miss them? Yes. But not much.

The charm and mystique of their unlikely rise wore off this year as fans were stuck watching dull, defensive and ultimately unsuccessful football. Matters were only made worse when charismatic ‘American’ coach David Wagner left the club after being a prime driving force for getting them into this position.

The good news? They have already appointed a new, young and hungry coach who will have the rest of the season to cut his teeth in virtually pressure-less circumstances.

Also, Huddersfield did not act recklessly with the money they earned from their promotion and will likely have the chance to keep a majority of the team together next year. There aren’t that many players who will force an exit or abandon a sinking ship due to their descent into the Championship.

Similarly, there don’t appear to be many high profile suitors for most of their players. This could be hugely helpful if they are to have any realistic chance of getting back into the Premier League within the next few years. Good luck, Terriers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum regarding financial responsibility, is Fulham. Once they secured their Premier League status through the gauntlet of the Championship playoff, they immediately began splashing their cash on a massive variety of players in almost every conceivable position.

12 new players were purchased and six were brought in on loan for this season between the summer and January transfer windows. They even purchased two new goalkeepers (one bought, one on loan), both of whom likely expected to start.

This nonsensical, scattershot policy was essentially a gamble that the quality of the new players would improve the likelihood of the team maintaining their Premier League status; however, this approach seems to have backfired spectacularly.

All of the new faces disrupted the core of the team who earned Fulham’s promotion in the first place and led to a strange, Frankenstein-esque team with almost no chemistry or coherent game plan.

Results were almost immediately poor and manager Slavisa Jokanovic paid the price with his job. Claudio Rainieri was brought in to replace him and steady the ship, but he achieved virtually nothing in terms of better results or playstyle.

He was dismissed from his post, which leaves Fulham ten points from safety and on their 3rd manager of the season.

All these blunders mean there is an extremely good chance that Fulham will be relegated. This will likely force the club into a fire-sale in order to get their wage bill to a reasonable level following their incredibly irresponsible list of purchases.

Could things have gone much worse? No. The core staff and players that got them to this level have been substantially disrupted or fired and the new players on which they gambled did not pay dividends. They have no clear plan for their future and there is no indication that anyone knows what players will remain next season. Spare a thought for poor Fulham fans.

The last relegation place is much more difficult to predict, but Cardiff City are the team which currently occupy the space. Newly promoted clubs are almost always the favorites to be relegated and Cardiff is no exception.

They have a commendable methodology and have favored a stable approach which saw the bulk of last season’s players continue on in their starting roles, but they have a general dearth of top-level players and a massive problem scoring goals.

Sol Bamba, their center back, is currently tied as their leading scorer in the league with four goals. That is the type of record which should let the management know that their strikers are simply not good enough. Sadly, they recognized this in the January window and attempted to remedy it by splashing a club-record 15 million pounds on Argentine center forward Emiliano Sala from French club Nantes.

For those that do not know, Sala never made it to his new home as he perished when his plane crashed on the way to his first training session. It’s heartbreaking. Anyone with any sense of sympathy will hope that Cardiff can band together and beat the odds to stay in the division.

The main problem is that the other two clubs with whom they are most directly competing, Southampton and Brighton, have both better squads and substantially better goal differences. This is not to say that Cardiff have no chance. They are only 2 points behind the aforementioned clubs, but they remain the strong favorites to drop back down.

If the club you follow hasn’t been mentioned up to now it is likely because nothing outrageously positive or negative has happened to them this season. Which may be a good thing. In summation:

The Roundup:

Who will win the title? Manchester City. Just.

Surprise Package? Wolverhampton.

Biggest disappointment? Manchester United. Honorable mention to Spurs for being so Spursy.

Domestic Cups? Manchester City have already clinched the EFL Cup. City and United are heavy favorites for the FA Cup.

Relegated? Huddersfield, Fulham and probably poor Cardiff City.

View Part #1 – Who Will Win The Title RaceView Part #2 – Surprise Packages, Disappointments and Domestic Cups

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