Cardiff City have coped well with life in the Premier League. Chris Sutton, talking on BBC Five Live, at the beginning of the season, stated that Cardiff City, “could break Derby’s record.”
Sutton has been proved wrong. For the relegation battle of this season is both unpredictable and changes shape each week, with each result.
Let’s take it as the teams who will likely be facing relegation at the end of the season are Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Fulham, Southampton, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Newcastle.
It is difficult to predict who exactly will be managing each one of these teams come the end of the season but at the current moment, one would give Newcastle the edge.
They have a Champions League winner in the dugout. Whilst this counts for nothing in the dog eat dog business of the Premier League survival race, Rafa Benitez is certainly the best equipped to keep his side in the league. Benitez is aware of how to achieve results in the league.
At Goodison Park and even their previous game versus Huddersfield, Newcastle played will less than 30% possession in both fixtures, demonstrating Rafa’s capabilities to grind out results when it matters most, he has experience and know how. With players such as Marvin Dubravka, Jamaal Lascelles, Mo Diame and Salomon Rondon, Newcastle United have a good, solid spine to the team and you would think, coupled with Benitez’s experience and quality, they will have enough to secure safety, despite the situation they find themselves in.
Roy Hodgson, speaking after Palace’s game against Everton, said: “It is difficult to be on the losing side again." Hodgson has a point. In their victory against Burnley, Palace had 29 shots on the opposition goal, scoring only two goals. Against Manchester United, they had chance after chance but only secured a stalemate.
Since then Palace have been noted as somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde team. Wins against Wolves and Manchester City have only been backed up by a mediocre home stalemate versus Cardiff City and a home defeat to Watford.
In order for Hodgson to secure safety, he will have to be on the hunt for more goals in the January transfer window or will risk being sucked into a relegation dogfight.
Since the appointment of Ralph Hasenhuttl, Southampton have been somewhat lifted from the pit of misery they found themselves embroiled in under Mark Hughes.
Attacking with pace and purpose, Hasenhuttl has given Southampton hope and for their sakes the belief that the club can return to the situation it found itself in under Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman.
In terms of the relegation battle, they are still well and truly in the quagmire, with the club finding itself in 16th place in the Premier League. Southampton have to hope that the upturn in form under Hasenhuttl is more than a new manager bounce and a sign for things to come.
Southampton in their current state should have enough to escape the drop, however, it should still go right until the end with there being so much competition in that regard.
After an impressive 7th place finish last term, Burnley and Sean Dyche now find themselves in a bid to avoid relegation.
When last season’s form was at its zenith, Burnley were hard to beat, direct and functional in the way they went about winning Football matches. Whilst Dyche would not have tried to change that much this time around, the form has not been the same with Burnley finding themselves in 15th place.
It was certainly worse for the Clarets after the demoralising 5-1 home defeat to Everton on Boxing Day, however since then, wins against West Ham, Huddersfield and Fulham have seen an improvement from Burnley, with the club returning to the principal of 4-4-2 which worked so well in their qualification for the Europa League.
It will be tough work, but Burnley should find a way of securing safety from relegation.
Cardiff have fared well since their promotion to the Premier League last season. Despite a slow start to the campaign, Warnock has found a way of getting results despite his limited squad suggesting an immediate return to the Championship.
Impressive home wins against Wolves and Brighton, coupled with a fantastic win versus Leicester away from home, has landed Warnock’s side 17th, above Newcastle in the league. The direct, functional style of play, used by Cardiff, both helps them to create more chances as well as be secure defensively.
Cardiff are also soon to capture Nantes striker Emiliano Sala for a reported fee of £20 million. The signing of an ostensibly Premier League quality centre forward as opposed to shoehorning Calum Paterson in that position will give them the necessary quality to attempt Premier League survival.
The ask will the still be tough, but Cardiff have given themselves every chance of survival.
Fulham never envisaged being in such a bleak position after Slavisa Jokanovic bankrolled £100 million in the summer market. Jokanovic went after a poor run of form, coupled by the greatest amount of goals conceded by a side in any of the major leagues across Europe.
Since then, Claudio Ranieri has been appointed Fulham boss, but despite the recent revival, they still look bereft of being able of attacking with purpose as well as defending strongly.
Fulham’s hard luck story can be epitomised in their recent defeat to Burnley, where despite the Clarets not having an attempt on target in the whole game, Fulham still lost 2-1, through two own goals.
The ask could be too much for Ranieri and Fulham, but still, they have to do all possible to avoid a return to the Championship as the financial consequences could be harsh for a club who recklessly spent money last summer.
Finally Huddersfield. This week Huddersfield have announced the departure of manager David Wagner, who has decided he does not have a miracle left in him.
Who replaces him is unclear. Wagner has done an incredible job for Huddersfield. Probably with the worst team ever to be promoted and certainly the worst team to ever stay there, Wagner has performed miracles but Dean Hoyle and the German manager himself have decided he doesn’t have one last miracle left in him at the club.
There's a consensus that we haven’t seen the last of Wagner in England and indeed the Premier League as he is, without doubt, a manager on the up.
There will be vacancies for Wagner in the summer but for Huddersfield, they need to make a quick decision. Opt for a manager like Gary Rowett, Carlos Carvahal or Jokanovic who will take stock of the squad and prepare them for the Championship or have one last throw at the dice at Sam Allardyce or Hughes. Big times ahead for Huddersfield.