Each year, the three clubs that are promoted from the Championship are the favourites for relegation, but it’s very rare that all three go back down. With the increased finances of Premier League clubs due to the new television deal, the gap between the two divisions will grow so an immediate return to the Championship will become more common for most clubs. Last season, it was Cardiff City, Hull City and Crystal Palace who gained promotion to the English top flight and all three have brought their own drama with them.
Cardiff have a mad owner who could put the Welsh club in turmoil overnight, as he did with the sacking of Iain Moody. He also incredibly replaced the diligent head of recruitment with one of his son’s friends. Surely this man can give Mike Ashley a run for his money when it comes to crazy decisions. The Hull owner has also caused controversy with his bid to change the club’s name to ‘Hull Tigers’ to increase the club’s profile abroad, this has resulted in protests from the Hull fans and empathy from everyone in the world of football. Finally Crystal Palace have already changed managers. Tony Pulis has replaced Ian Holloway and it appears to be a good move as results have drastically improved. So which club has the best chance of avoiding relegation?
The Welsh club came up as Championship winners, so in theory, they should have the best chance of survival. They have had an okay start to the season as they find themselves in 15th place, four points above the drop zone. They have had huge praise for their home form after beating Swansea and Manchester City. They also gained a credible draws with Manchester United and Everton, and gave good performances against Arsenal and Tottenham. It’s certainly difficult to win at Cardiff, they have played six of the top 8 and taken points from half of them. Their home fixtures will be much easier in the second part of the season and they will have to take the majority of points to stay up at home, as their away form looks very dodgy. They haven’t had many tricky away games, yet only 6 of their 17 points have come away from home.
They have invested pretty heavily in the summer, with the likes of Gary Medal, Andreas Cornelius, Steven Caulker and Peter Odemwingie joining the club. Cardiff certainly added quality to their already reliable squad and it’s easy to see why they have been causing the big clubs a lot of trouble. The two standout performers for me have been David Marshall and Jordan Mutch. Both have shown they are good enough to be regulars in the Premier League. If the Welsh club do go straight back down, neither of these two will have trouble finding another club.
Hull are in 12th place with 19 points. They have shown themselves to be a very well organised side who concede very few goals, which is no surprise considering their manager is Steve Bruce. He received a lot of criticism in his tenure at Sunderland, most of which undeserved, but he is showing himself to be a Premier League quality manager with Hull. They have only conceded more than two goals once, which is impressive considering they have been to Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, Newcastle, Everton and Chelsea. However scoring goals has been an issue, Hull have only scored more than one goal on two occasions (they scored three against Newcastle and Liverpool). If they add goals to their game, they will certainly stay up.
Steve Bruce was more shrewd than Malky Mackay was in the transfer market as he added plenty of Premier League experience in Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Danny Graham, Steve Harper, Curtis Davies and Maynor Figueroa. The central midfield partnership of Huddlestone and Livermore is the main reason that Hull have done as well as they have, with both players showing their Premier League class in the centre of the park.
After taking only three points from their opening ten matches, things looked bleak for Palace, but now they are just one point from getting out of the relegation zone. Since Tony Pulis was announced as the new manager, Palace have won three of their last five matches. This shows the effect a new manager can have on a team, but the big question is can he keep it up? His appointment has coincided with the return to form for Marouane Chamakh who has scored three in his last three matches. Pulis has yet to be relegated as a manager, and he will be hoping not to suffer his first this season, but he needs to buy in January as his squad isn’t strong enough now.
Palace signed 16 new players in the summer, none of whom could be considered to be established Premier League players. Cameron Jerome, Jason Puncheon, Barry Bannan and Chamakh have all been good in the Premier League in spells before, but none of them could be considered established in the top flight. They certainly need to add experience in January as their current squad looks unlikely to be strong enough to survive a season in the Premier League. Pulis’ appointment has caused an upturn in form, but that is unlikely to last the entire season.
Cardiff Verdict: Going Down
Cardiff are an interesting team as they could beat anyone on their day but they are extremely poor on the road. They play really well when they have no expectations, but they have struggled against some of the sides around them in the table. Their owner has also created a very unstable environment with nobody feeling secure at the club, while other clubs will surely be eyeing up Malky Mackay. Vincent Tan has already made it clear that no funds will be available in January. They will regret that.
Hull Verdict: Staying Up
I think Hull City are certainties to stay in the division as they are really well organised which will allow them to grind out results in the Premier League. Also Steve Bruce is a very shrewd operator who will probably bring in one or two in January to boost his side’s chances, a striker who can score 7-10 goals in the second part of the season should be a priority.
Crystal Palace Verdict: Staying Up (Just)
Pulis is a very good manager who knows the division well and he will certainly strengthen in January. He should look to strengthen the spine of the side, with a central defender, central midfielder and a striker being the priorities. A winger with a good delivery should also be looked at as Jimmy Kebe and Puncheon are inconsistent. I think they will be good enough to just survive, but they will be in the fight until the final game