The Relegation Zone can be like a vortex that sucks you in once you have the misfortune to hover over it. The Relegation Zone is not a respecter of teams, and in the recent past, it has seen teams with EPL longevity, such as Aston Villa and Sunderland, trapped very early until they were inevitably seen out of the league. Once you’re in the hole, it’s pretty hard to get out. This season, the EPL Relegation Watch begins early with unlikely candidates: West Ham United, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. Or should we have seen this coming?
West Ham United: 2015/16 was an awkward year for the premier league (Sorry, we were in an alternate universe then), but for West Ham, it was a year where they broke multiple records in their club’s history. They lost only 8 games and held their own against the top teams. Instead of progressing from there, they have seen themselves some way off. Last year, they started off slowly, but they were still be able to finish top of the bottom half. This year, they are sitting at 4 points out of a possible 18. The acquisition of Hart, Zabelata, Arnautovic, Chicharito etc, has yet to produce dividends. They showed promise in their last game v. Tottenham, but they will need to do a lot more to avoid getting stuck in the Zone.
Bournemouth: They are three years into their first ever top flight campaign and perhaps the most surprising team in the Zone. Finishing 9th last season saw a lot of praise heaped on young manager, Eddie Howe. They got crucial points vs. teams like Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton and naturally we all assumed they would progress from there. Instead, they have found themselves at the bottom, one win out of six, with no way out. Signing Nathan Ake permanently, adding Begovic in goal and Defoe up top seemed good on paper. They are the team most likely to be able to turn this around.
Crystal Palace: Oh Crystal Palace. In 2016-17, they spent a few weeks in the relegation zone and promptly fired their manager, Alan Pardew, to employ Relegation Escape Expert, Sam Allardyce. In that period, they finished off top teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool and effectively stayed up. What is more surprising than their being in the Zone this season, is that they have not been able to score a goal in six games. They have zero wins and have conceded 13 goals in the process. Looking at their upcoming fixtures, it is difficult to see where their first win will come from. Wilfried Zaha is expected to return to the squad, but their top goal scorer from last season, Benteke, is out of the next game vs. Manchester United due to injury. We are looking at a team that will circle the relegation drain until they fall through it next May.
Other hoverers include Leicester City, Stoke City, and Brighton and Hove Albion. The Relegation Watch continues . . .
By EeJay Enekwa