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The Relegation Run In, Who Survives? Part 2

King Power Stadium, Leicester geograph.org.uk

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 three sides hovering above the relegation zone, Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Everton.

The Relegation Run In, Who Survives? Part 1
Take a look at part one here, focusing on the current bottom 3, Southampton, Bournemouth and West Ham.

Leicester – 17th

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Remaining Fixtures

  • Crystal Palace (A) – 12th
  • Aston Villa (H) – 11th
  • Bournemouth (H) – 19th
  • Man City (A) – 2nd
  • Wolves (H) – 13th
  • Leeds (A) – 14th
  • Everton (H) – 15th
  • Fulham (A) – 9th
  • Liverpool (H) – 6th
  • Newcastle (A) – 5th
  • West Ham (H) – 18th
  • Average Position: 11th

What a fall from grace for Leicester! The former Premier League champions are in some serious trouble this season, as they sit just a point above the bottom 3. After 27 games, they have won 7, drawn 4 and lost 16. Their defence has been worrying. They have the second-worst defensive record in the league, conceding 47 goals, compared to Nottingham Forests’ 49.

Unlike the other teams around them, they have been able to score goals. They have scored 38 goals this season, which is more than any other team in the bottom half of the table. A good haul of goals should be a good sign for a team fighting relegation, as usually teams who are struggling cannot score.

On paper, Leicester’s team is far too good to go down. They have England internationals James Maddison and Jamie Vardy in their ranks, and some brilliant midfielders in Tielemans and Dewsbury-Hall. Maddison and Barnes have both scored 9 goals so far this season, with Maddison missing a handful of games through injury.

Despite their abundance of goals, their strikers are not performing. Patson Daka was an exciting signing for Leicester, who seemed like a good replacement for an ageing Jamie Vardy. However, he has hardly hit the ground running, scoring just 4 goals so far this season, with veteran Vardy managing just one goal. Their strikers need to get involved with the goals if Leicester has any chance of staying above the drop zone.

One confusing piece of business that may have cost Leicester dearly was the sale of Kasper Schmeichel to OCG Nice, and the lack of a replacement for him, resulting in Danny Ward donning the gloves for the season. Danny Ward has had some good moments this season, but ultimately, he is not a Premier League goalkeeper, at least not one that should be starting for Leicester. Schmeichel has saved Leicester so many points over the past few seasons, and to not find a proper replacement for him is criminal.

Leicester’s remaining fixtures present a mixed bag. A lot of games to play against teams around them, including a mouthwatering final-day game against West Ham that could decide the fate of both sides. Thankfully for Leicester, they only play one team that currently resides in the top 4, as they travel to The Etihad to face Man City. As with every other team, Leicester’s fate will be ultimately decided based on how many points they pick up in the games against the teams around them.

Prediction: I think Leicester have too much strength in their ranks to get relegated. Like Wolves, they should start pulling away from the wrong end of the table. Their goals’ record will give them confidence going into the games against teams who are struggling to score, and if they manage to become more solid at the back, then they could find themselves opening up a comfortable gap between themselves and the bottom 3. I think they will comfortably avoid relegation in the end.

Nottingham Forest – 16th

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Remaining Fixtures

  • Wolves (H) – 13th
  • Leeds (A) – 14th
  • Aston Villa (A) – 11th
  • Man United (H) – 3rd
  • Liverpool (A) – 6th
  • Brighton (H) – 7th
  • Brentford (A) – 8th
  • Southampton (H) – 20th
  • Chelsea (A) – 10th
  • Arsenal (H) – 1st
  • Crystal Palace (A) – 12th
  • Average Position: 9th

What an addition Nottingham Forest has been to the Premier League this season. They have had some incredible moments this year, and have been a welcomed addition back to the top flight. After 27 games, Forest sits in 16th place, after 6 wins, 8 draws and 13 losses. Their record is what you would expect from a newly promoted team, not many goals scored (22), and a lot of goals conceded (49).

Forest did well to fight against people’s expectations of them this season. They were one of the favourites to get relegated from the start of the season, and it looked like that could happen. After picking up 4 points in their opening 3 games, they then failed to pick up another point in their next 4, losing heavily to Man City (6-0), and lose back to back at home against Bournemouth and Fulham, with a 3-2 score line, and then getting thumped 4-0 by Leicester.

The World Cup break came at a great time for Forest, however. A home win against Liverpool, soon followed up with another 4 points gained at home, with a draw against Brentford and a win against Crystal Palace, sent them into the World Cup break in some good form. Upon their return, they lost 3-0 against a reinvigorated Man United side. They then picked up 11 points out of a possible 15 in their next 5 games, pulling them away from the relegation zone and into mid-table.

However, this form has not lasted long. Their defensive capabilities have crept back in, and they have started conceding a lot of goals again. After their brilliant draw against Man City, they conceded 11 goals in their next 4 games, seeing them slowly slump back down towards the wrong end of the table.

In the last few weeks, Brennan Johnson has been in incredible form. He now has 7 goals to his name and is Forests’ top goal scorer. After a poor start to the season, it is good to see the young England man enjoying his football in the Premier League. Had he hit the ground running in the Premier League, and hit the heights he has in recent weeks, Forest may not be battling in a relegation fight. His ability to take a man on, paired with his brilliant finishing, will be major in their fight for survival.

Their remaining fixtures are not looking too kind for Forest. They only play one team in the bottom 3, and they still have games against Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal to play. Forest does have a good chance to get some form behind them before these games though, as their next 3 games are all against bottom-half teams, but if they make it through these games with no wins, it could be a long few weeks for Forest.

Prediction: I do not think it is looking good for Forest. A month or two ago, I would have put money on them to stay up considering their form and their ability to defend well and stretch games out when they are winning, but all this seems to have been thrown away now, and we are seeing the Forest from the start of the season. An injury to Johnson could be curtains closed for them, as they do not look creative without him. I think they may slip into the bottom 3 in the last few weeks, and will eventually get relegated to The Championship.

Everton – 15th

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Remaining Fixtures

  • Tottenham Hotspur (H) – 4th
  • Man United (A) – 3rd
  • Fulham (H) – 9th
  • Crystal Palace (A) – 12th
  • Newcastle (H) – 5th
  • Leicester (A) – 17th
  • Brighton (A) – 7th
  • Man City (H) – 2nd
  • Wolves (A) – 13th
  • Bournemouth (H) – 19th
  • Average Position: 9th

What a horrible season for Everton. With the appointment of Lampard and the summer signings they made, Everton fans were in high hopes of a good season after near relegation last year. This has not happened, however, as they sit 15th after 28 games, with 6 wins, 8 draws and 14 losses. It has not been the season that many of the Everton faithful were hoping for.

The main issue for Everton, like many of the teams in and around the relegation zone, is their lack of goals. They have the joint worst goal-scoring record, with just 22 goals all season, and seemingly struggle to defend as well, letting in 40 goals also. Demari Gray is their top goal scorer this season, with just 4 goals, followed by Dwight McNeil with 3, and, the now Newcastle man, Anthony Gordon, also with 3. Strikers Maupassant and Calvert-Lewin both sit on one goal, meaning it is another case of the strikers not doing the job.

Everton needs to sort their lack of goals out. If they do, they could easily stay up. They showed fight and desire in their 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge before the international break, coming from behind twice, with academy graduate Ellis Simms scoring an 89th-minute equaliser. They showed their defensive side when they beat Brentford 1-0, scoring after just 1 minute, and being defensively resolute to claim a rare clean sheet. If Dyche can get his forwards firing more regularly, Everton could fly up the table.

Lampard and Everton had a tough start to the season. They started with back-to-back losses against Chelsea and Aston Villa, before recording 4 successive draws, including a derby day 0-0 against Liverpool. Everton’s first win came in their 7th game, a 1-0 win against West Ham. The crowd soon grew restless with Lampard and demanded change, and the board acted, hiring former Burnley manager Sean Dyche.

If Dyche keeps Everton up, it will be a master stroke by the board. The fans wanted Bielsa, who also had an interview, but Dyche got the job. Dyche is renowned for working on a budget, getting the best out of his players, making them work for each other, and being defensively solid, which is everything Everton needed. Dyche wins struggling side points, and that is exactly what he has done since arriving at Everton.

Everton’s final 10 games see them play Spurs and Man United back to back, with difficult games against Man City and Brighton to come also. All eyes will be set on their final game of the season. A home game at Goodison Park against Bournemouth could decide who stays up and who goes down. The fixture list is extremely harsh on Everton. Every game against the teams fighting relegation, apart from Bournemouth on the last day, will all be played away from home. These are the games they need to win, and they will not have home advantage.

Prediction: It was always going to be a tough decision in regard to sacking Lampard. In the end, it looks like the right decision, but that is down to the board appointing Dyche. I have said ever since his name got linked with the Everton job, that if they hired him, they would stay up. He guarantees points, especially when his team is struggling. Despite Everton having quite a tough fixture list, they should be fine, and I expect them to stay up.

Keep an eye out for the last instalment of this three-part series, where we look at Leeds, Wolves and Crystal Palace.


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