Thursday, 5 August 2010

Premiership Preview 2010/11: The Relegation Candidates

With the title race looking likely to be one of the most wide open and close in Premiership history, you can be quite sure that the fight for survival will provide plenty of drama as well.

The three newly promoted teams could all be in a relegation fight this year. Many have already written off Blackpool who exceeded all expectations last year when they reached the Premiership via the play offs. But Ian Holloway will face possibly the biggest challenge of his career when he attempts to steer Blackpool to Premiership safety. Ian Holloway has remained loyal to the players that helped get his side promotion but it is unlikely that their current squad will have enough quality to survive. Blackpool have nothing to lose and will be determined to prove people wrong but with limited Premiership quality, it could be a long season for the Seasiders.

West Brom will also go into the new season as one of the favourites for relegation. Last year, they enjoyed yet more Championship success when they got automatic promotion. But they were along way of champions Newcastle and have suffered much Premiership misfortunate in recent years. Under Roberto Di Matteo, West Brom's attractive playing style has continued but will he be able to find the Premiership winning formula?

Newcastle won the Championship last season and in stark contrast to their relegation season, they will be returning full of confidence and optimism and looking like a more stable club on and off the field. Much of the credit for that turnaround must go to Chris Hughton who has made some potentially shrewd moves in the transfer window. Dan Gosling and Sol Campbell have joined on free tranfers to bolster a squad which already boasts plenty of Premiership quality so they should be safe.

Wolves survived their first season back in the top flight but with that success comes the inevitable suggestion that they may be affected by the "second season syndrome". Wolves survived despite scoring less goals than any other Premiership team last season and this is a problem that they will have to solve or it could be another long season for Mick McCarthy's men.

Wigan and Blackburn could also have long seasons ahead and appear to be quite strong candidates for a real scrap this season. Wigan have lost Titus Bramble to Sunderland which could prove to be vital and Blackburn appear to have limited attacking options after a frustrating transfer window and could also be dragged into a battle to avoid the drop.

Bolton struggled under Gary Megson last season but the arrival of Owen Coyle seems to have lifted everyone at the Reebok as will the addition of Martin Petrov in particular. With the fans back on side and Coyle at the helm, they should be safe.

Stoke City were the second lowest goalscorers in the Premiership last season and after having seemingly failed in their ambitious attempts to attract top attacking targets Loic Remy and Carlton Cole to the Britannia Stadium, it could be a difficult season for them. But Tony Pulis is a good manager and Stoke have gone from strength to strength in recent years and with a vociferous support helping them all the way, they should be safe.

Birmingham may struggle to repeat last season's excellent 9th place finish but should be safe and Avram Grant should be able to steer West Ham to safety.

Anyone of a number of teams could be dragged into a relegation battle this season though and it is sure to be an intriguing and unpredictable race for safety. One thing that you can bet on though is that it will be a fascinating season.

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