With the table well in shape and the Premier League past the half way point we assess who has got what it takes to beat the drop.
Starting from the bottom it looks a certainty that there will be Championship football at Villa Park next season. A summer of investment saw a large number signings, but it was certainly a case of quantity over quality. Survival now would mean a run more miraculous than Leicester’s great escape last year that surely even the most optimistic Villa fan couldn’t see happening.
The remaining relegation places are currently occupied by North East neighbours Sunderland and Newcastle. The Black Cats now have Big Sam at the tiller after Dick Advocaat jumped ship just 8 league games into the season. Consistency has been an issue at the Stadium of Light but there have been signs of improvement since the turn of the year. In Jermaine Defoe they have a striker with a proven track record of scoring goals in this league. If they can keep him fit and plug some of the leaks in defence they’ll have a chance.
With the Premier League money significantly rising next season relegation for Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is unthinkable. The threat of the drop has seen the Sports Direct magnate whip out his cheque book big time. England hopeful Jonjo Shelvey has arrived for £12 million as well as Bordeaux midfielder and ‘Champ Man Legend’ Henri Saviet for an undisclosed fee. And the former had an immediate impact playing a major part in the 2-1 win over West Ham.
With a good case for Newcastle and Sunderland to stay up who is going to fill the remaining 2 relegation places? For me it’s 2 from the 3 of Swansea, Norwich and Bournemouth. They say no team’s good to go down, but surely Chelsea in 14th are safe (famous last words I know!).
AFC Bournemouth are looking to consolidate in their debut season in the Premier League. Sponsored by the Mansion group who own Casino.com they have won many admirers by largely sticking to the attacking philosophy that got them promoted. The board have backed manager Eddie Howe too in the form of the January arrival of £10 million striker Benik Afobe from Wolverhampton Wanderers and Juan Iturbe on loan from Serie A side Roma. They will be hoping these signings will fire the goals to help them reach the magical 40 point mark.
That leaves 2 and it doesn’t look good for Swansea or Norwich. The Swans have been dropping like a stone after a promising start to the season and have now turned to former Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin for help. Unproven on these shores it could be a master stroke but things do look bleak at the Liberty Stadium.
Finally there’s Norwich. Despite the signing of Steven Naismith they still look weak up front with Cameron Jerome having just 3 goals to his name this season. It doesn’t look good at the back either with 14 goals conceded in their last 4 games. In Swiss defender Timm Klose they’ve moved to fix this but I don’t think this alone will be enough.
For me Aston Villa, Norwich City and Swansea City will be starting next season in the Championship, you heard it here first!