The new Premier League season may have only just got under way, but it’s already pretty obvious that certain teams will struggle. None of the promoted clubs looked particularly comfortable as they adjusted to life in the top flight, and all three will likely be around the drop zone all season. This piece isn’t going to focus on the new-boys, but instead is going to look at which established clubs could be joining them in the fight for survival. Bear in mind that at least one promoted side has stayed up in every season since 1998; so history would suggest that at least one of the teams below has a high chance of going down.
We reviewed Sunderland’s summer spending over a month ago, and even at that early stage, there was a lot to like. Since then, they have added arguably their biggest signing in Emanuele Giaccherini. Still, it is going to take some time for this group to become cohesive as a unit, especially with a newish manager. Remember that di Canio only took over last year to help avoid relegation. While he helped achieved that and made a huge impact in just a few games, it will be interesting to see how he performs over a long and gruelling English season. Its been a really poor start from the Black Cats, who are one of only three teams without a win. They will need to start picking up points soon though, because they face tough tests against Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United all before the end of October.
The Potters never really got going last season, and finished with a disappointing total of 42 points, their lowest since coming into the Premier League. Last year the lack of goals scored became painful for fans, as only QPR netted less, and Stoke averaged well under a goal a game. Their response in the transfer window? Sign two defenders. That’s it in terms of purchases to date – two left backs and no new attacking threats. Needless to say, consistently creating chances probably isn’t going to their strong suit this year, as anyone who watched their opening game will have noted. Mark Hughes does not appear to have instigated much of a change from Tony Pulis, and he will almost certainly struggle against the bigger clubs. That said, despite a poor opening day performance against Liverpool, Stoke have enjoyed a solid start to the season. They may have been slightly unconvincing in their victory over Crystal Palace, but they were clearly the better side when they took three points from Upton Park.
The summer window has been something of a farce on Tyneside. Getting Loic Remy on loan could prove good business, but that was Newcastle’s only addition. They also became noticeably weaker defensively, having lost both Danny Simpson and James Perch. Papiss Cisse is still receiving very little help up front, and his summer holdout over sponsorship issues was the last straw for many Toon fans over the summer. All this after Joe Kinnear made a very loud and confusing entrance as the club’s director of football. And now uncertainty flows over the future of midfield playmaker “Yohan Kebab” as Kinnear referred to him in his first press conference. If Cabaye does indeed leave, the Magpies will have few attacking threats, which could be a massive problem for a defense that Man City showed was very fallible indeed. They did improve slightly in drawing with West Ham, but the boos that rang out around St James’ Park at the end of the 90 minutes summed up the feeling of many fans. Hatem Ben Arfa scored a deserved winner against Fulham, but Newcastle will need to develop more consistency if they are to avoid a relegation scrap for the second season running.
The Cottagers have been a perennial Premier League club in recent years, but their start to this season has been disappointing. Their three points came against Sunderland in a game they simply didn’t deserve to win, and that has been followed by two poor performances in losses to Arsenal and Newcastle. Martin Jol has yet to really galvanize the team this season, but this is not totally surprising, given a lack of established attacking talent. Darren Bent is still adjusting to life in London, and outside of him, the 32 year old Dimitar Berbatov is the side most prominent threat. The likes of Bryan Ruiz , Adel Taarabt and Damian Duff show glimpses of brilliance, but Fulham seem to be lacking a real ‘x-factor’ when going forward at the moment. The usually solid defense is also showing cracks this year. The Cottagers really shouldn’t go down, but if this poor start continues, anything could happen in such a tight league.
West Brom enjoyed an incredible start last season, and finished in a very respectable 8th. The same start has eluded the Baggies this year though, and they are bottom of the log. Nicholas Anelka has yet to effectively fill the void left by the departure of Romelu Lukaku, and the team failed to star power in the window despite a great 12 months. They have only brought in loanees and free transfers, and one can’t help but feel a big signing or two is what they needed. It will be interesting to see how manager Steve Clarke responds to the current lack of form, because it was rarely an issue he had to deal with during his first season in charge.