In the old days managers used to claim that they never looked at the table until the end of September, or something like that anyway. Somehow, I get the feeling that Frank de Boer and Slaven Bilic might be very aware of what the Premier League table looks like today. The season may only be three games old, but it is quite clear who the relegation candidates are likely to be. With odds and prices changing constantly, it’s worth keeping an eye out on the latest predictions before placing a bet on who you think will make the drop this season.
For what it is worth, these are the six teams I feel have the most to worry about.
West Ham United
“But they made some great signings in the summer” people were saying. Did they though? Did they really? I accept completely that Javier Hernandez is a very, very good player who is more than capable of scoring goals aplenty given the right service. But so could Jermain Defoe, and despite getting more than his fair share for Sunderland last season they were relegated. As for Joe Hart, Pep has got many things wrong since coming to England but Joe Hart ain’t one of them. Anybody that watched Torino play last season will know that big Joe does not look good when a team plays in claret. And as for Marko Arnautovic, it is hard to find a more identikit West Ham signing – a player that has done quite well elsewhere and has been bought for at least £10m more than he is worth. Robert Snodgrass ring any bells? No? What about Jose Fonte? It is not completely Slaven Bilic’s fault, just look at the people that run the club. But mark my words, West Ham United could well be in trouble this season.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Personally, if you are a promoted club it is vital to get a win on the board in the first three games to give the players and fans the belief that they can compete at this level. Sadly, Brighton have failed to score let alone win. Granted, the 0-0 against a half decent Watford side could be considered a step in the right direction but it looks very much like Brighton’s debut season in the Premier League might be a quick stop off. Like Burnley, they will be better for the experience etc but there is nowhere near enough quality in the squad to be better than three other teams. I just hope they stick by Chris Hughton, who will not deserve the sack at any point.
Look, I like Eddie Howe and I like the Bournemouth story. They play nice football, they stick to their principles. But they just don’t seem to be getting any wiser defensively. They played really well against Manchester City and should have been coming away with a point. Genuinely, Burnley would have survived that injury time period. When you look at the teams that could well be down there come the business end of the season, I can’t see Bournemouth going away from home and keeping a clean sheet in a must win situation. Teams will be even wiser to their style now, so I think it could be a long season for the Cherries.
Yes, I know they beat Arsenal. Yes, I know have four points from the first three games. But Stoke are not improving as a team, not in anyway. Mark Hughes was my pick to be sacked first this season, until Slaven and Frank de Boer started doing their thing. I think Stoke could well be in trouble this year, and rather than working out how to avoid getting into the Europa League could well be looking at the teams below them nervously.
Stating the obvious, huh? So much rides on this international break for Palace. The chat this morning is that Frank de Boer is already in trouble. Frankly, and no pun intended, if they get shot now they 100% stay up and that is not because de Boer is a bad manager, I just feel he is the wrong manager. Palace were crazy to think they could transition from Big Sam’s style to total football in one preseason and not start the season struggling, but I don’t think anyone expected them to be struggling this much. Sack Frank, stay up. Don’t sack Frank, probably stay up but it will be tight.
I know, boo hiss. How can a team that could have been top of the table if they’d nicked a goal at the weekend be considered potential relegation fodder? We’ve been here before guys – who remembers Hull City starting like a steam train under Phil Brown? They went down. Ian Holloway’s Blackpool? Yeah, they went down too. Don’t get me wrong, Huddersfield look great to watch etc but their squad is bottom six material even with a super cool manager and all that.
So, who do I think will go down? Let me insert my caveat – I will be wrong, I always am.
I think West Ham and Crystal Palace will probably be OK – they will make the changes they need to make early and will survive. Brighton, 100% going down. Bournemouth, I can really see them being in trouble so I am going to say they are going down too. And, just because I think I’d like them to to wake them up a bit, let’s say Stoke City on the last day as Huddersfield do the impossible and finish 17th by the skin of their teeth.
Don’t remind me of this piece at the end of the season, I will deny all knowledge.