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The Relegation Run In, Who Survives? Part 1

Bournemouth Vitality Stadium

With 10-12 games to go, we take a look at the 9 teams currently fighting relegation for their place in the Premier League next year. We analyse their fixture list, and whether they have a realistic chance of avoiding the drop or not. In this part, we look at the current bottom 3 sides, Southampton, Bournemouth and West Ham.

Southampton – 20th

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Remaining Fixtures

  • West Ham (A) – 18th
  • Man City (H) – 2nd
  • Crystal Palace (H) – 12th
  • Arsenal (A) – 1st
  • Bournemouth (H) – 19th
  • Newcastle (A) – 5th
  • Nottingham Forest (A) – 16th
  • Fulham (H) – 9th
  • Brighton (A) – 7th
  • Liverpool (H) – 6th
  • Average Position: 9th

Southampton currently sits at the bottom of the table with 23 points. After 28 games, they have won 6, drawn 5, and lost 17. Throughout their whole season, goals have been an issue. They have scored 23 this season, which is a goal above the lowest sides in the league, meaning that Erling Haaland (28) has scored more than them on his own this season.

It is more concerning when you consider the fact that James Ward-Prowse has 7 of these goals, mostly coming from free-kicks and penalties, whereas Che Adams has 5 to his name this season also. There have been 9 different goal scorers for The Saints this season, something that certainly needs addressing.

James Ward-Prowse is a brilliant player to have when you are trying to survive a relegation battle. His ability on set pieces, especially free-kicks, gives Southampton a real chance of getting something out of any game. All it takes is a free kick within 25 yards and they have a great chance of scoring. If Southampton does manage to stay up, they will owe it in large to that man.

One saving grace for Southampton is the number of games they have yet to play against teams around them in the table. Between now and the end of the season, they face West Ham, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest. These games give them the perfect opportunity to put some points between themselves and their rivals, to give them any hope of surviving the drop.

On the flip side, they also have games against the top 2, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th. Southampton cannot rely on these games to pick up points in. Both Man City and Arsenal will not let up, they will be focused on the title race. Newcastle, Liverpool, Brighton and Fulham are all competing for European spots, and will also not be looking at dropping any points between now and the end of the season.

The managerial changes this season have not really helped Southampton. Hasenhüttl got sacked in November, and despite his replacement, Nathan Jones, performing well in the cup competitions, he could not manage to get many points on board in the Premier League. Rubén Sellés is slowly picking up points now, and only time will tell whether or not they left it too late.

Prediction: At this point, it is hard to see Southampton turning it around. They have had some good results in recent weeks, but it is too easy for other teams to score against them. They have games against the top 6 teams on either side of their games against fellow relegation-threatened teams, so they really will not be able to put a good run of form together. I think we will see Southampton in The Championship next season.

Bournemouth – 19th

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Remaining Fixtures

  • Fulham (H) – 9th
  • Brighton (H) – 7th
  • Leicester (A) – 17th
  • Tottenham Hotspur (A) – 4th
  • West Ham (H) – 18th
  • Southampton (A) – 20th
  • Leeds (H) – 14th
  • Chelsea (H) – 10th
  • Crystal Palace (A) – 12th
  • Man United (H) – 3rd
  • Everton (A) – 15th
  • Average Position: 11th

Bournemouth sit 19th after 27 games with 24 points. They have managed 6 wins, 6 draws and 15 defeats. Like Southampton, Erling Haaland has also outscored them this season, his 28 goals beating Bournemouth’s 25 so far. The issue for Bournemouth has not been scoring goals, it is conceding them. They have, by far, the worst defensive record in the league, conceding 54 goals, 5 goals more than the second-worst side.

Bournemouth has been a good watch since their promotion from The Championship last season. Their opening day 2-0 win against Aston Villa may have raised some eyebrows in terms of their ability going forward in the league, only to lose the next 3 games 4-0, 3-0 and 9-0, against Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool respectively.

They have given us some very entertaining games, including their 3-2 and 4-3 losses against Spurs and Leeds, and they demonstrated their attacking prowess with their 3-0 win against fellow strugglers Everton, and they showed a rare, resilient side when they beat Liverpool 1-0. They are certainly an entertaining side for the neutral to watch, but less so for their own fans.

Bournemouth has had 8 difference goal scorers this season, but their goals are more spread out when compared to Southampton. Midfielder Philip Billing is their top scorer, with 6 goals so far this season, followed by Kieffer Moore on 4, Dominic Solanke and Marcus Tavernier on 3. Defender, and summer signing, Marcos Sensei, has 2 goals.

Bournemouth’s issue has been getting their strikers to score at a consistent rate. Their last 4 goals have been scored by 2 midfielders and a defender, and even before then, their goals came from wingers. The last goal scored by an out-and-out striker, was in that 4-3 loss against Leeds, with Dominic Solanke scoring their third. As long as the goals are going in, Bournemouth will not mind, but their strikers need to step up in these last few weeks and lead from the front line.

Defensively, Bournemouth is a mess, having the worst defensive record in the league. Despite this, they have managed 6 clean sheets this season. In those games where they earned clean sheets, they won 4 and drew 2. They will be glad, however, that the average position of those teams they have left to play, is 11th, with only 2 teams in the top 6 to play. They have 6 games against the teams around them, and these will be huge for their chances of survival.

Prediction: Bournemouth is a hard one to call. They have the ability to make games entertaining, but their defending at times this season has been woeful. They cannot seem to get the balance between attack and defence right, and they are either too open at the back but score a load, or are toothless upfront and do not concede. I think they will ultimately drop back into The Championship, but I would expect them to make it an entertaining race at least.

West Ham – 18th

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Remaining Fixtures

  • Man City (A) – 2nd
  • Southampton (H) – 20th
  • Newcastle (H) – 5th
  • Fulham (A) – 9th
  • Arsenal (H) – 1st
  • Bournemouth (A) – 19th
  • Liverpool (H) – 6th
  • Crystal Palace (A) – 12th
  • Man United (H) – 3rd
  • Brentford (A) – 8th
  • Leeds (H) – 14th
  • Leicester (A) – 16th
  • Average Position: 9th

After 26 games, West Ham sits in 18th place with 24 points. Their record currently sits at 6 won, 6 drawn and 14 lost. Unlike the other teams competing for survival, West Ham’s defensive record is surprisingly solid. They have only conceded 34 goals so far, less than any other team in the bottom half of the table, and less than Spurs who sit 4th. As always with sides around the bottom of the table, goals have been the issue. Just 24 scored all season, with those goals being split between 11 players.

West Ham is an extremely confusing side this year. In the Europa Conference League, they have performed brilliantly. They won every single one of their group-stage games, scoring 13 goals in the process. They advanced to the knockout stages comfortably, and sailed past AEK Larnaca in the round of 16, winning 6-0 on aggregate. They now face Gent in the quarter-finals in the middle of April, but have a very good chance of winning this competition.

It is hard to see why West Ham cannot carry their form over from the Europa Conference League to the Premier League. Yes, the teams West Ham have faced are not as difficult as playing Man City or Arsenal, but they have still performed well and look good in these games. These Thursday night games could cause fatigue throughout their squad, resulting in injuries or below-par performances in the Premier League, but winning those games could give them confidence going into the Premier League.

In the Premier League, and in terms of goals, it is a sorry sight for West Ham. Not a single player has hit 5 goals for them yet this season, the closest being Jarrod Bowen and Benrahma on 4. Danny Ings looked like a good signing for them in the January transfer window, as he has Premier League experience and is capable of scoring a lot of goals, yet has only returned 2 goals since his arrival, both coming in a 4-0 win at home against Nottingham Forest.

The disappointment from West Ham fans will come from their success from last season. They were the surprise package of the season, finishing in 7th place, just 2 points behind Man United in 6th. They were not entirely solid defensively, conceding 51 goals, but they could score freely, recording 60 goals. To see them drop off so much this season is confusing. The team has not changed that much and the Europa Conference League will not have had too much of an effect just yet.

West Ham’s run-in looks difficult. They have 1st, 2nd and 3rd all to play, albeit 2 of those games are at home. They also play both sides currently below them and have a game against 16th as well. It could be a tough time for West Ham in the Premier League going forward, but their squad is strong enough to beat those teams around them.

Prediction: West Ham should have more than enough to stay up this season. Yes, their involvement in the Europa Conference League could hamper their chances of survival, as the further they progress, the more congested their fixture list becomes, with them playing on Thursday nights as well. Due their team has more than enough to stay up, and they have a manager in David Moyes who knows how to survive a relegation fight. I think West Ham will be safe come to the end of the season.

Keep an eye out for the second of this three-part series, where we look at Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Everton.

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