The Relegation Battle: Five Weeks Left | Infographics

The Relegation Battle: Five Weeks Left | Infographics

With only weeks of football left, for the bottom five clubs in the Premier League it has all come down to this. Some have their hopes of survival hanging by a thread – and some slimmer than that – whilst others are looking up the table rather than down. Either way, it looks likely that three of Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Sunderland, Newcastle United and Aston Villa will go down, and they have six or fewer games in which to do so. In this article I assess the candidates for relegation and their chances at saving themselves, as well as their season’s high and low points.

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So, to start at the highest-placed of the five:

palace 6gtgfix

Season Form

The rollercoaster ride that is Crystal Palace continues to breeze gaily onwards. From the heights of the first half of the season, where they sat in fifth place at times, Palace crumbled under the weight of multiple injuries tearing through a thin squad. Then, injured players came back, belief started flowing again… and they kept losing, as individual errors and close losses continued their woes. Manager Alan Pardew faced mounting pressure, but finally this Saturday just gone Palace recorded a 1-0 home win over fellow strugglers Norwich that broke a winless run that had been going since late December. The relief around the stadium was palpable as the whistle blew to end a nervy and cagey game, and local boy Jason Puncheon’s genuine emotion at scoring the winner endeared him yet further to the fans at Selhurst Park.

Chances of staying up

Very high. Prior to the Norwich win, Palace had been slipping down the table worryingly, as alarm bells started ringing despite the points amassed in the first half of the season. Now, with the three points the team won bringing them up to 37 – the average points total required to avoid relegation over the past five seasons – they can start looking up rather than down for the first time in months. Palace can still be caught, but it would take a minor miracle from one or both of Sunderland and Norwich to send them down. A win over Everton in the midweek may well make their safety a reality.

High Point of the season

In a season marked by the profligacy of their forwards, Palace’s 5-1 win over Newcastle showed their potential when their players could finish. Connor Wickham turned in a supreme display of centre-forward skill, making three goals and requiring Rob Elliott to be at full stretch to deny the striker one for himself. James McArthur and Yannick Bolasie both bagged braces, but sweetest of all Alan Pardew got to stick it to his old club in the most convincing of fashions.

Low Point of the season

Go 1-0 up at home against a team you’re used to getting the better of, and you’d expect to get at least a draw. Then add the opposition going down to ten men, and you’d expect an easy win, right? Wrong. Palace threw away their lead courtesy of an awful clanger by goalkeeper Alex McCarthy – something that has plagued both McCarthy and incumbent Wayne Hennessey all season – and Damien Delaney’s unnecessary lunge giving Christian Benteke a penalty he dispatched deep into injury time.

Key Player

Yannick Bolasie is part of a Crystal Palace squad that doesn’t have any outright stars that are head and shoulders above the rest of the group, but rather includes multiple players that could readily claim to be the best in the team. What really underlined Bolasie’s importance to the side was how everything collapsed in the aftermath of the Congolese’ injury that kept him out for months. Before Bolasie went down, Palace were flying high; when he returned, they were struggling to stay afloat. Now he’s fit and firing, Palace will hope he can return to some of the form that makes him such a scintillating player to watch at his best for the remainder of the season.


norwich 5gtgSeason Form

Norwich’s season started with a controversial loss at home to Crystal Palace, and their current predicament has been deepened by the same club. The team has never looked likely to fully pull clear of the relegation battle, but an awful winless run between mid-January and mid-March confirmed their status as strugglers. Now, with Palace jubilant and with six points and a game in hand over the Canaries, it looks like a straight shootout between Norwich and the North-East clubs. It’s not all doom and gloom, mind you; two huge wins away at West Brom and, more importantly, a late 3-2 win at home against Newcastle may have cut the challengers down to just Sunderland.

Chances of staying up

In the driving seat. Norwich are four points ahead of Sunderland, and hold the home advantage going into the biggest game of both teams’ seasons when they play each other this Saturday. With that said, Sunderland do have a game in hand, and the goal difference between the two teams is a paltry one goal in Sunderland’s favour. Norwich need to take something from that game – preferably a win, but a draw would do – due to the rather dicey remaining games they have, which include Arsenal away and Manchester United at home.

High Point of the season

Norwich arrived at Old Trafford hovering just above the relegation zone, and left with a first win there since 1989 as they shocked their hosts. A well-organised Norwich side played deep and compact, and were good value for their victory as Cameron Jerome and Alex Tettey netted, and only David De Gea’s good save prevented Youssouf Mulumbu from putting the game out of reach with the score at 1-2.

Low Point of the season

Eight weeks into the season and things weren’t going terribly for a side many picked to go down. Suddenly, however, things went very wrong very quickly, as they visited St James’ Park and Newcastle United put six goals past the visitors in a 6-2 win. Giorginio Wijnaldum absolutely ran rampant, scoring four goals as they punished Norwich’s leaky defence.

Key Player

Just like Yannick Bolasie for Palace, it can easily be argued that Sebastien Bassong isn’t Norwich’s best player. What he is, however, is extremely important to their chances of survival. Centre-back Timm Klose, who had been putting in assured displays at the back and even netting the opening goal against Newcastle the week before last, limped off the field after jarring his knee against Crystal Palace. The extent of the German’s injuries are yet to be known, but if he is out for a while then Bassong needs to step up, and do so in a big way. Bassong has vast experience of the Premier League, having played for Newcastle and Spurs prior to joining Norwich, and needs to replicate Klose’s good form if Norwich are to have any chance of staying up.


sunderland 6gtg

Season Form

What’s ridiculous about Sunderland’s current form is that compared to the rest of their season, it isn’t even that bad. This is despite being winless in six games and lying 18th in the Premier League. Their season began with a nine game winless run, before – to the chagrin of Geordies everywhere – they suddenly snapped it with a 3-0 home win over bitter rivals Newcastle. Since then, they left the relegation zone for the first time with two successive wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke City, only to plunge themselves right back into it with five consecutive losses. Their recent form has been a litany of draws, starting with throwing away a two goal lead to draw against Crystal Palace, through a 1-1 with Southampton, a brutal 1-1 in the return fixture of the Tyne-Wear derby, and a dull goalless draw with West Brom two weeks ago.

Chances of staying up

Still in with a chance. Sunderland have a game in hand over Norwich, and they have the Canaries up next. Should they beat Norwich, suddenly things seem a lot rosier, and games against the likes of injury-hit Stoke and an out of form Everton makes their run in marginally easier than their Saturday opponents’. Most critical are two people: Jermain Defoe, whose goalscoring ability has not been dulled by age, and manager Sam Allardyce. Allardyce’s experience and talent at managing at the bottom of the table towards the end of the season cannot be overstated, and he’s worth his weight in gold to the team.

High Point of the season

No wins in nine and the fans begin to get worried, but one day later everything is sunshine and roses at the Stadium of Light again. Certainly, that’s what it felt like in the aftermath of Sunderland 3-0 home win over Newcastle in late October that stretched their winning record to six over the Magpies. Newcastle started the game in the ascendancy, with Costel Pantilimon defending his goal from 14 shots in the first half alone. Then, right on the stroke of half time, Fabricio Coloccini had a moment of madness, bumping over Steven Fletcher in the area and promptly getting sent off on top of the soft penalty. Newcastle started the second half furiously, but a Billy Jones goal and late Fletcher volley ended any hopes of an improbable comeback.

Low Point of the season

One week after their derby win, Sunderland were brought back to Earth with a bump as they travelled to Merseyside only to get summarily destroyed 6-2 by Everton. Arouna Kone scored three and made another as the Blues ripped apart Sunderland’s experimental three at the back formation with rapid counterattacks through Kone and Gerard Deulofeu, and the visitors spent the majority of the game desperately defending against Everton’s array of attacking talent.

Key Player

The biggest asset to any team is a reliable goalscorer, and Sunderland’s most potent weapon is the fact that they have just that in Jermain Defoe. Now in his 17th year of professional football, Defoe’s pace may have eroded but his movement, instincts and deadly finishing ability remain intact. He’s scored 18 goals for the club in all competitions since returning to the Premier League from MLS in 2014. Sunderland have a decent selection of offensive talent to support him with too, with the likes of Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini both inconsistent but capable of winning matches in an instant. Whether Sunderland’s defence can reduce their errors is another matter, but Defoe should be able to turn half chances into goals at the other end.


newcastle 6gtg

Season Form

It has not been a good season for Newcastle. They established their presence in the relegation zone early on, with a heavy 6-1 away loss at Manchester City even dropping them into 10th for a week, but things slowly came around as they thrashed Norwich City and picked up improbable wins over Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. The Spurs win lifted them as high as 15th, and although they dropped back into the relegation zone safety was easily within reach in early February. Since then, however, they have lost six of their last seven games to fall six points off Norwich in 17th place, and things are looking bleak.

Chances of staying up

Slim. Like rivals Sunderland, Newcastle have a game in hand over Norwich, but they’re languishing on 25 points and have a brutal run in with the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, and – on the last day of the season – Spurs. More pertinently though, it’s the complete lack of quality, fight and above all else organisation in the squad that really makes Newcastle look like dead men walking. Rafael Benitez, who chairman Mike Ashley threw cash at and subsequently parachuted in to replace the hapless Steve McLaren, has been unable to arrest the slide and even his famed structural and organisational skills are nowhere to be seen.

High Point of the season

One team’s low point is another team’s high point. Newcastle’s 6-2 demolition of Norwich gave real hope to fans. New signings like Giorginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandr Mitrovic looked excellent, and for the first time in a while Newcastle looked like a genuinely threatening prospect going forward. Even Moussa Sissoko put in a shift, but as it turned out these results were to be short-lived.

Low Point of the season

You can pick from a few of them. A 6-1 thrashing by Manchester City is one of them, when the teams went in at half time at 1-1 before Sergio Aguero blew Newcastle away, scoring five goals in 20 minutes either side of the half. Derby day defeat was also up there, with Sunderland winning comfortably despite being outclassed for long stretches of the game. But few games sum up Newcastle’s season more than the 3-2 away loss to Norwich two weeks ago, when Aleksandr Mitrovic – a player who can hold his head up high however Newcastle’s season ends – dragged them back into the match twice, only for another defensive lapse letting Norwich’s left back Martin Olsson lash in at the death and deal a terrible blow to Newcastle’s hopes.

Key Player

Daryl Janmaat is something of a left-field pick for this section. He doesn’t have the goalscoring potential of Mitrovic, nor does he have the ability to grab a game by the scruff of the neck like Wijnaldum, nor even is he one of the worst players in the team like Steven Taylor that one can pick out as something of a negative importance. No, what Daryl Janmaat is is a sort of microcosm of what Newcastle United have been this season in a player. A big name who should be performing at a high level, yet one that has frequently made mistakes defensively, and has been criticised for lack of ‘fight’ and desire to win. That said, given the recent news about him punching a wall in frustration and breaking his fingers at half time against Southampton, that last could well be debated. Either way, he should be able to play the rest of the season, and so much of Newcastle’s game could be improved upon if he does well; width in support of Andros Townsend in attack, organisation in defence at the back, communication with his inexperienced goalkeeper and iffy midfielders, and most of all leadership in a team shorn of inspiration. If Janmaat plays well, expect the team to play well. If he plays badly, Newcastle might well be doomed.


villa 5gtg

Season Form

It’s been Aston Villa and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Season. Villa have won only three times this season and are now stuck on a miserable 16 points. It really has been a complete trainwreck of a season for the Villa, as they won their opening match against Bournemouth and then failed to pick up a win for their next 19 matches. Victory then came over Crystal Palace, courtesy of a horrible goalkeeping mistake, and a win over Norwich sparked some brief hope that maybe the unlikeliest of escapes could be achieved, but eight winless games since that last win have extinguished even that hope.

Chances of staying up

Figuratively – if not literally – none. Villa have five games left, and if Norwich pick up one singular point between now and the end of the season Villa are finished. Essentially, the only way Villa can possibly stay up is by winning all their games, making up a 20 goals goal difference deficit, hoping Norwich don’t pick up a single point, and having Sunderland and Newcastle stay below 31 points. In other words, if this were to actually come about, it would be arguably the single greatest overcoming of the odds in all of footballing history.

High Point of the season

It’s depressing to think that there might not actually be a high point of Villa’s season. Probably the most optimistic Villa fans felt all season was on the very first day, where new signing Rudy Gestede was subbed on and promptly made himself the hero with a 72nd minute winner away at Bournemouth. Villa looked bright down the flanks and the majority of the six new signings impressed on debut in a win that belied the carnage of what was to come.

Low Point of the season

The whole season has more or less been one massive low point, but the most hapless defeat was likely against Liverpool. At home and coming off a victory against Norwich, Villa got annihilated 0-6 by the Merseysiders, six separate scorers blowing away the Villa defence. The home side made mistake after mistake with Leandro Bacuna and Mark Bunn both culpable for goals, and by the time the third goal went in the entire team just capitulated. 75 minutes in and six goals up, and Liverpool went into training ground mode. Villa hardly raised a whimper.

Key Player

The only reason I’m not picking God for this section is because I don’t believe he’s a registered player for the club this season. Realistically though, it will take some serious divine intervention to stop Villa from going down. With all that said, Jordan Ayew recovered from some early season woes to lead the line for Villa with some success. His quick feet, dribbling ability and versatility marked him out as a successful purchase, and even as the rest of the team collapsed around him he was still a willing runner. Six goals for an awful team isn’t an altogether terrible return for someone in his debut season in the Premier League, too.