Premier League: An Early Look at the Relegation Battle
With Manchester City looking like the clear team to beat for the Premier League title, the more compelling race this season may be at the bottom of the table.
It is still early in the season, with each team having played 11 of their 38 league fixtures, and there is only a two-point difference between 16th-place West Brom and 19th-place Swansea.
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Certainly, there is still plenty time for other teams to lose their way back into the relegation mix, but for now, let's take a look at the chances that each of these sides have at surviving the drop.
Palace are currently floundering in last place with a putrid four points in 11 matches while also possessing the worst goal difference in the league (-18) by a 6-goal margin. On the bright side, however, Palace currently rank 9th in the league in shots per game and 11th in the league in shots conceded per game.
Whatever way you slice it, the Eagles are certainly not world beaters, but their middle-of-the-pack shooting stats are substantially better than their current place in the standings. Despite their brutal start to the season, it is way too early to already pencil in Crystal Palace as a member of the Championship for next season, and things have improved since Roy Hodgson took over.
The Swans are currently sitting in 19th place with 8 points in 11 matches and a -6 goal differential. Swansea struggled to avoid the drop last season before ultimately finishing in 15th place with 41 points to put them 7 points clear of relegation.
This summer, the Swans lost their star man, Gylfi Sigurdsson, to Everton, and they have been unable to replace his production (9 goals, 13 assists and a team-leading 7.25 WhoScored.com rating last season). Not only that, but the Swans also lost their top striker -- Fernando Llorente (15 goals last year) -- to Tottenham this summer, so it should come as no surprise that the club are currently tied for second to last in the league in goals scored.
A general lack of goal-scoring threats make the Swans a prime candidate for relegation, and they may need to address this void in the January transfer window if they want to survive for another season.
West Ham did some major spending this summer, bringing in big name players such as Javier Hernandez, Marko Arnautovic, Joe Hart, and Pablo Zabaleta. However, the Hammers' summer of spending has not translated into results, and they just fired their manager, Slaven Bilic, as they are sitting in 18th place.
Despite their struggles, West Ham should have enough talent to avoid relegation. They are tied for 10th in the league in goals scored, so if their new manager is able to patch up the defense, then they should be able to move up the table.
Bournemouth put together a magical season during their 2016-17 campaign, but so far this year, the club appears to have returned to relegation candidates. They are sitting in 17th place with only 10 points, and they are in the bottom five in the league in both shots on target (16th) and shots conceded (18th).
Last season, Bournemouth finished 7th in the league in goals scored with 55 -- scoring more goals than Manchester United -- due to strong seasons from both Joshua King (16 goals and 2 assists in 36 matches) and Junior Stanislas (7 goals and 5 assists in 21 matches).
This campaign, however, King and Stanislas have combined for two goals and one assist in the club's 11 EPL matches. If this duo does not at least show some semblance of their old form throughout the rest of the season, then Bournemouth will have to brace themselves for an exhausting relegation battle.
West Brom currently sit in 16th place in the EPL table, and they are only one point clear of the relegation zone. Tony Pulis' side are unsurprisingly last in the league in possession (40.3%) this year, with four of their nine goals coming from a counter attack or set pieces.
It's never pretty with Pulis, but his style has suited mid-table EPL teams in the past at both Stoke City and Crystal Palace before his tenure at West Brom. Pulis' system has proven to work (at least well enough to avoid relegation), and West Brom had the talent to finish in the top half of the league last season, so it would be surprising to see Pulis' team get relegated this year.