With the champions of the Premier League being fairly easy to predict given Manchester City’s vast superiority so far this season, it is at the bottom of the table where things are much more unpredictable.
Indeed, just nine points separate Swansea City, at the foot of the table, from tenth placed Watford. What’s more, The Hornets are only five points clear of the relegation places, despite currently being half way up the league.
Once again, the fight for survival in the Premier League is tightly contested with many teams still looking over their shoulder in the hope of staying clear of the dreaded relegation places.
Mark Hughes has come under pressure as his Stoke City side have fallen into 18th place, yet a win could soon lift them out of the relegation zone, such is the nature of the league at the bottom. Seven defeats in ten games have resulted in strong rumours that Hughes is in danger of losing his job.
The Potters are level on points with Southampton, who will be needing to replace Virgil Van Dijk after his big-money move to Liverpool. Mauricio Pellegrino’s side are on an atrocious run of form, with their winless run stretching back to November 26th, when they beat Everton 4-1. Sam Allardyce has galvanised Everton since then, as they have climbed up to ninth place, seven clear of the drop as it stands.
Three days after the 4-1 win over Everton, Southampton were cruelly defeated by a last gasp Raheem Sterling winner at the Etihad as The Saints narrowly lost 2-1 to preserve City’s winning run. Since then, Southampton had an appalling December, with the low point being a 4-1 defeat at home to Leicester. Despite picking up a point in a goalless draw at Old Trafford, and at home to Arsenal, The Saints were also trounced 5-2 by Tottenham and recently lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace.
Second half goals from James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic moved Palace up to 14th, two clear of the drop on the back of their spirited 0-0 draw at home to Manchester City. Rather than halting City’s 18 consecutive wins through defensive solidity, Palace went for the win, and Milivojevic missed a glorious chance to snatch the three points from the penalty spot. However, the confidence from that game clearly carried on into the win at Southampton.
West Brom and Swansea both have 16 points, four points adrift at the bottom of the table. Carlos Carvalhal’s appointment at Swansea was somewhat surprising, given he has struggled in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday. However, Carvalhal had guided Wednesday to the play-offs in successive seasons, and looks to play attractive football.
The Swans were defeated 2-0 at home to Tottenham in midweek with Carvalhal left furious that the first Spurs goal from Fernando Llorente was allowed to stand, since it looked like offside.
This brought the honeymoon period crashing to a halt for Carvalhal, who inspired his team to a 2-1 win at Watford in his first game in charge, with late goals from Jordan Ayew and substitute, Luciano Narsingh, in the 86th and 90th minutes turning the game on its head.
Three points have proven to be elusive for Alan Pardew’s West Brom side, who have not won since August 19th. The Baggies started the season with consecutive wins against Bournemouth and West Brom, but have picked up just ten points since then, all of these being draws. Such inability to win games is not looking good for Pardew.
Two goals from Andy Carroll earnt West Ham a crucial three points over West Brom earlier in midweek, with his 94th minute winner being an especially cruel blow for Pardew’s side after their spirited draw from behind against Arsenal just two days previously. West Ham are now five clear of West Brom, but only a solitary point above the drop.
It is extremely close to call at the bottom, but West Brom and Swansea do need to start picking up more points or they run the risk of being cut apart at the very bottom of the league. They have scored the fewest amount of goals in the league with just 16 and 13 respectively.
Brighton are the next team to score the fewest amount of goals, just one more than West Brom (17), and Chris Hughton’s side have been linked to Mousa Dembele of Celtic to resolve this issue, even though Hughton stated this was only speculation after the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth.
The January transfer window may ultimately prove decisive in terms of avoiding the drop for all of the sides in the bottom half of the table.