We’re entering the crucial second half of the 2019/20 English Premier League (EPL) season, and already some teams are looking more likely than others to drift into the relegation places and lose their top-flight status.
With all the riches and exposure that the EPL brings, staying up is vital to the long-term financial stability of so many clubs in the league.
As the relegation battle begins to hot up, let’s assess the prime candidates for relegation, and whether we could see any big names fall through the trapdoor into the Championship in 2020/21.
It has been a bitterly disappointing season so far for newly promoted Norwich City. There was such positivity in Norfolk after the Canaries romped to the Championship title last term, but their attacking, gung-ho approach in the second-tier has been found out in so many ways in the EPL.
Some are impressed with the way head coach, Daniel Farke has kept faith with many of the players that got City promoted, while others think the German’s approach has been somewhat naïve. Despite impressive goalscoring exploits from Finnish international, Teemu Pukki, Norwich are huge favourites to finish bottom.
The latest outright prices on EPL relegation suggest that Bournemouth are now odds-on to end their five-year love affair with the top-flight.
Eddie Howe’s men have struggled for goals all season, which has subsequently impacted on their defensive record, failing to keep clean sheets at the other end. They are the second lowest scorers after 24 games, bagging only 23 goals and conceding 37.
A vital home win over fellow strugglers, Brighton has given the Cherries some light at the end of the tunnel, although Howe will need improved output in the final third to maintain their ‘Great Escape’.
West Ham United
The heat is well and truly on at the London Stadium. The Hammers find themselves only narrowly outside of the relegation area on goal difference. David Moyes’ men do have the benefit of a game in-hand on all the teams around them in the relegation area, but that happens to be against runaway leaders, Liverpool.
The financial strain of avoiding relegation is being felt incredibly hard at West Ham, having revealed recently a £27.26m annual loss, despite receiving £130m in TV revenue. The club has been warned it could face serious financial consequences were it to be relegated.
A horrendous February, with games against Man City, Liverpool and in-form Southampton scheduled, could leave United marooned in the bottom three.
Dean Smith and Aston Villa were newly promoted from the Championship this season and opted to buy virtually an entire new squad of players in the summer. This resulted in a general lack of cohesion during the opening months which, has left Villa looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
A lack of goal threat has been a real issue of late, due to the injuries to Wesley and Keinan Davis. Smith will want to ensure his players aren’t distracted from their survival bid by reaching the Carabao Cup final and a big day out at Wembley.
Watford looked down and out in the EPL prior to the festive period. The Hornets dispensed with the services of former boss, Quique Sanchez Flores, replacing him with former Leicester manager, Nigel Pearson. The decision left many Watford fans and football pundits alike scratching their heads, with much of Pearson’s best managerial work taking place in the Championship.
But Watford and Pearson have proven they have no desire to plan for life in the second tier and have rallied impressively in the last couple of months. The fear for them is that their momentum will burn out too soon and it will leave them with too much to do.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton could be the dark horses for relegation. They lost to fellow relegation strugglers Bournemouth recently, dragging them to within two points of the drop zone.
The Seagulls have some huge six-pointers on the horizon against the likes of West Ham and Watford, not to mention a ‘derby’ game with long-time rivals, Crystal Palace. These games could certainly shape their EPL future.
It also remains to be seen whether owner, Tony Bloom will dip his hand into his pockets and give boss, Graham Potter additional funds to strengthen before the transfer window shuts.