The Premier League season has not even kicked off yet, so this may seem a little morbid, but with so much focus on the top of the table and who will be fighting for European spots, I want to take a look at who will be fighting for their Premier League existence this year and who could be looking at relegation.
As I said, some will find it morbid to speak about this already, but for every winner there is a loser and it’s a fact of life that for three clubs this Premier League season, it will end with the dreaded drop. Naturally, the three promoted sides will immediately be amongst the favourites to go straight back down, but Middlesbrough stand out as the team with the best chance of re-establishing themselves as a Premier League club. Some of the business they have done in the transfer window has been excellent in not just improving their squad, but adding real quality to the extent where they could be a bit of a surprise package this coming season. With the experienced Victor Valdes in goal, Marten De Roon at defensive midfield, the promising Viktor Fischer out wide and the experienced Alvaro Negredo up front to add to a team that was very solid under manager Aitor Karanka, Boro look set to be safe.
The same can certainly not be said for Play-off winners Hull City, who appear to be a club in crisis. Manager Steve Bruce inexplicably resigned with rumours linking his departure to dissatisfaction at transfer funds available. Since then, key midfielder Mo Diame has moved to relegated Newcastle United and when an important player leaves a promoted side for one that has just been relegated, the signs are not good. With pre-season injuries and no new manager in place, the season ahead for Hull does not look to be a good one and I am sure they will be odds on to go down.
Meanwhile, Burnley, who came up as champions, have been very quiet by comparison; with Icelandic winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson their most notable signing. Manager Sean Dyche has done a fantastic job at Burnley and will have his team well organised and difficult to beat, but with a squad very similar to last season, it’s hard to see them having enough to survive. If they are to stay up, keeping striker Andre Gray could be vital and he has been the subject of interest from other clubs.
One club linked to Gray is Sunderland, who have been perennial Premier League strugglers. The Mackems have gone through a number of managers over the past few years and although Sam Allardyce did well in just managing to keep them up last season, the club is in need of some stability and new manager David Moyes could provide that after Allardyce left to take charge of England. Moyes has a job on his hands though because despite proving himself to be a good coach at Everton, he had a much better squad to work with there and Sunderland have a few weeks to get some business done unless they want to have yet another tough campaign.
Bournemouth will hope ‘second season syndrome’ does not hit them, manager Eddie Howe is a highly rated young coach and did a good job with the Cherries last year. He’s been busy this summer, raiding Liverpool for £15m winger Jordan Ibe and £6m left-back Brad Smith, as well as the promising Lewis Cook from Leeds and Nathan Ake on loan from Chelsea. Bournemouth should have enough to stay up, but they might find it tough going. The same can be said for Watford, who impressed last season and caused a number of upsets, but the shock departure of manager Quique Sanchez Flores could be prove to be a costly decision. His replacement, Walter Mazzarri, has been busy, bringing in youngster Jerome Sinclair from Liverpool, defenders Brice Dja Djedje, Juan Camilo Zuniga and Christian Kabasele, as well as forward Isaac Success. Perhaps more importantly, the club have hung on to strikers Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, but the team had a tough run in and with all the changes will need a positive start.
West Brom are another club who are usually there or thereabouts when it comes to relegation candidates and despite having the Tony Pulis in charge, will probably be in the mix again. The Baggies have not done much this summer and a conclusion to the Saido Berahino saga could be the trigger to them being more active before the transfer window closes. Pulis team is tough to break down, but in need of goals and unless they address that issue, this could be a testing season ahead.
The relegation battle usually throws up a surprise or two and this year it could be Swansea and Crystal Palace who are the surprise contenders for the drop this year, both flirted with potential relegation last season and look a couple of players short of mid-table security.
So, morbid or not, the reality of relegation looms for a handful of teams this season and with Hull currently looking nailed on to go down, there could be one or two established Premier League outfits set to lose their status in what promises to be one of the most intriguing seasons in years.