With the 2016/17 English Premier League season now 3 months in, most supporters and fans have an idea for where their respective sides are in terms of this season’s performances. Supporters of the more prestigious sides and neutral followers of the English Premier League alike have their gaze set atop of the table and the vital Champions League places. As with most aspects of the game many tend to forget about the 10 month scrap which will be the relegation battle due to its unsexy connotations and the allure of showcasing a winning side lifting a trophy in the obligatory television special. The common stigma with relegation battling sides is that the quality of play isn’t as good or the final product doesn’t merit its allocation to television. Yes, in part the sides at the bottom of the table are not gaining the results required but with the Premier League getting another influx of money and players; it’s easy to understand as to why the gulf is becoming bigger between the established sides and those consistently at the bottom or recently promoted. Within the 6 lower sides at the bottom this is where the intensity, verve, and graft is seen. Squad members, youngsters breaking into the first 11, and star players are all essentially fighting for top tier status and their footballing livelihood. The negative distinction of being a player to have been with a relegated side still holds some heavy weight within the game. There is roughly only 7 points separating last season’s champions Leicester City who currently sit in 14th place from the bottom two sides Sunderland and Swansea entering the 12th round of fixtures.
Sunderland is almost certain to be the book maker’s favourite to face the drop and fight relegation for most of if not all of the 2016/17 season. The Mackems currently sit bottom of the table with a league worst 5 points from 11 matches played. The Black Cats have struggled to regroup after then manager Sam Allerdyce’s ill-fated summer appointment to manage the English National Team. Without much time before the 2016/17 Premier League season due to kick off, the Tyneside club made a move that stunned many pundits and supporters alike; Sunderland replaced Big Sam’s vacated seat with former Real Socedad, Manchester United, and Everton manager: David Moyes. As with his last two clubs, the Scotsman has gone through bit of a rough time securing results and has found it difficult to replicate some of his previous successes whilst at Everton. Bringing in former Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj and former Everton and South African winger Steven Pineaar, Moyes will hope that his familiar faces will help boost the Tyneside’s push for safety.
Looking up the table, Swansea sit second from bottom and have almost mirrored Sunderland in taking only five points from 11 matches played respectively. The Swans have recently made a managerial switch, sacking Italian Francesco Guidolin and bringing in former U.S. Men’s and Egyptian National Team manager Bob Bradley. Unfortunately, the South Wales side has seen a total of 5 managers take charge in the club’s current six year run of Premier League football and many pundits can not see Bradley keeping Swansea safe. Hopefully Bradley can continue his upward growth in European club management, as he had decent spells with French side Le Harve and Norwegian club Stabæk. The impetus of securing the Swans safety in English top flight will be job one for Bob Bradley, unfortunately with style of play being sacrificed as a casualty for the need of results and crucial points; it’s a massive job tasked to Bradley. Which most neutrals will find a shame, as the southern welsh side has been known to put out some fluid and entertaining football over the previous 5 seasons.
Lying third from bottom in the table is Hull City. The Tigers have shown some spirit in their fight against relegation. Following a modest start within the first few fixtures, the Tigers have had a more difficult time piecing results together. Over the summer, the club was forced into an appointment for a new first team manager after Steve Bruce’s departure for Aston Villa. Enter former Manchester United assistant Mike Phelan. The experienced Lancashire born Phelan earned a name for himself as a top assistant and first team coach under Sir Alex Fergusson whilst at Old Trafford which he also played for during his 16 year playing career. For a relatively inexperienced Hull City side, he has been able to take himself from caretaker onto a permanent manager and also show promise with his young Tigers side. Ultimately, Hull City will need a bit of luck on their side as well if they are to secure top flight status. As it stands three points separate eight teams.
With the aforementioned smaller number of points separating so many sides towards the bottom, one is to expect many of the classic relegation six pointers will only carry that much more weight to it. This 2016/17 is most definitely shaping up to be a competitive year ensuring there is no boring matches.