Bottom 6: Why each team will, won't be relegated

Following the recent bout of domestic cup fixtures, theScore explores the reasons why each of the bottom six (and an extra side increasingly in trouble) will survive the drop, or be consigned for a spot in the second tier next season.

20. Hull City

Case for survival

Considering Marco Silva’s curriculum vitae and the fact that, according to transfermarkt, he’s represented by the same people that look after Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo and big-earning boss Andre Villas-Boas, it’s unbelievable that he went under the radar for so long.

Hull City’s new manager won the Portuguese Cup with Sporting Lisbon and, perhaps most impressively, last season guided Olympiacos to Greece’s Super League title with a whopping 30-point cushion. If anything, Humberside is a step down for Silva.

Destined for the drop

Whether Silva gets support from the boardroom remains to be seen. The Allam family have distanced themselves from the project in Hull after falling out of favour with fans over a failed re-brand and going back on promises not to increase ticket prices.

That atmosphere has spilled over to the point that Silva’s first match at the helm – Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup win over Swansea City – was played in front of 6,608. That’s less than what Oxford United pulled for an average gate in the fourth tier last season.

Silva could have a resume that includes a glowing reference from David Blaine and a graduation from Hogwarts, but without the support from the stands and boardroom he may only be able to conjure the disappearance of Hull.

And here’s what’s on the agenda for Hull:

Date Competition Opponent Home or away
Jan. 14 Premier League Bournemouth Home
Jan. 22 Premier League Chelsea Away
Jan. 26 League Cup Manchester United Home
Jan. 28 FA Cup Fulham Away
Feb. 1 Premier League Manchester United Away
Feb. 4 Premier League Liverpool Home
Feb. 11 Premier League Arsenal Away

19. Swansea City

Case for survival

That midfield is pretty good. Gylfi Sigurdsson is one of the division’s finest in dead-ball situations and is the sole creative spark, Leroy Fer is a precious box-to-box asset, and there are raw talents that can be smoothed, like Alfie Mawson and Modou Barrow.

The latter could be particularly impactful. Barrow is a keen perpetrator of chaos, one who doesn’t charge with great intelligence but, upon finding a dead end, lays a couple of sticks of dynamite to blast through regardless. Ask Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal, a victim of Barrow’s pace and brawn in October.

Positives can be taken from Paul Clement’s appointment, too. He’s built up an impressive address book from working at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich – perhaps handy for brokering a couple of deals – and has learned under one of the best as a longtime assistant of Carlo Ancelotti.

Destined for the drop

How could the Swansea brass believe that Ashley Williams, the club captain who had been with the club since 2008, could leave without being replaced? His summer departure to Everton has unbalanced the backline – perhaps the whole starting XI – and cleared the squad of a vital influential presence.

Know-how is needed in defence quickly, but also more bite in the strikeforce. Borja Baston and potentially Chelsea-bound Fernando Llorente don’t appear to be acclimatising to Welsh life, and there is little option in reserve.

And, like at Hull, there is a growing discord between the club’s owners and fan base.

18. Sunderland

Case for survival

Jermain Defoe has carried Sunderland at times, scoring 11 of its 19 Premier League goals and is a positive presence around those at the club who’ve been written off in the past, like Victor Anichebe, and the younger ranks, like Duncan Watmore.

There is also evidence that David Moyes is familiarising himself with what’s at his disposal on Wearside. Jason Denayer was finally deployed in his natural position of centre-half in Saturday’s FA Cup draw with Burnley, putting in a man of the match performance, and he’s finally getting defensive brute Lamine Kone near his best.

Destined for the drop

The loss of young shot-stopper Jordan Pickford to a knee injury was damaging – he’d been excellent – but the fact that he also joins Watmore, Paddy McNair, Jan Kirchhoff, Lee Cattermole, and Lynden Gooch as long-term residents of the treatment room makes for a thin squad at Sunderland.

And after panic buying for some time, there isn’t money available to correct Sunderland’s descent. It’s all on David Moyes’ management.

“We’re rebuilding and restructuring, it’s going to take a while and we’re not going to be able to spend to get out of trouble,” said club chief executive Martin Bain in December.

17. Crystal Palace

Case for survival

With the exception of Notts County in the earlier years of his managerial career, Sam Allardyce has developed a reputation of steering clubs with minimum resources and playing talent to safety. Or, in the case of his Bolton Wanderers stint, into Europe. His appointment was an obvious decision.

There’s considerable pedigree in the squad as well. Scott Dann, Yohan Cabaye, Wilfried Zaha (who’s on Africa Cup of Nations duty), Andros Townsend, and Christian Benteke would push for inclusion from the first whistle for most Premier League sides, and have the attributes to thrive in a route-one, hoof-ball game plan.

Destined for the drop

Crystal Palace has scored only one less league goal than Manchester United, so at the top of Allardyce’s agenda was to sort out a defence which, on paper, shouldn’t be one of the worst in the league. But, if anything, the bulky boss has tried to change too much so far.

Fielding Jason Puncheon much deeper in the XI is at a detriment to the protection that a back four bereft of confidence requires right now, and the downturn in form for Benteke shows that, somewhat surprisingly, Allardyce is yet to use a system which plays to his aerial prowess and physicality.

Time to splash the cash?

“We shall have some money to spend but it will have to be more than a bit at this level now because the prices of players are astronomically high, particularly players in this country,” Allardyce told Sky Sports’ Nick Lustig.

16. Middlesbrough

Case for survival

Only the defences of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, and Manchester United are better, which is a credit to the impeccable organisation of a backline steadied by Daniel Ayala. Sorting out a defence can take months of arduous toil on the training grounds, but sorting a strikeforce – where Aitor Karanka’s problems lie – can take just one wise acquisition in the transfer market.

And the frontline isn’t necessarily condemned to mediocrity for good; if Alvaro Negredo gets to even half of the level he played for Manchester City in the 2013-14 season, he can single-handedly drag his employer from its current precarious setting of four points above the bottom three.

Destined for the drop

The early signs of how Karanka intends to correct his team that has scored just 17 goals in 20 matches isn’t exactly inspiring: Rudy Gestede.

The bovine striker joined from Aston Villa for around £6 million, despite struggling to get into the starting lineup of the Championship outfit and adding just four goals this season to an underwhelming record in English football.

There needs to be more if Jordan Rhodes isn’t going to be given a fair crack in the XI, otherwise the Riverside will continue to stage dull, low-scoring affairs that could prematurely drop the curtain on a club which has personnel equipped for the Premier League.

15. Leicester City

Case for survival

Leicester City is the reigning champion – a team that shocked the world through stout defending, a battling midfield, enterprising wing-play, and a ruthless frontman called Jamie Vardy. Even without N’Golo Kante, the decent options in the middle have now been supplemented by Wilfred Ndidi, an exciting Nigerian youngster who’s arrived much to the excitement of the Foxes’ recruitment team.

Only one club has dropped from the top tier the season after capturing the title: Manchester City in 1937-38, when it ended with a positive goal difference in 21st having scored more than anyone else. It was a freak campaign.

With reported promises of further investment, and the irrepressible belief from the King Power Stadium stands in Claudio Ranieri’s stewardship, Leicester will be fine.

Destined for the drop

Last term, clubs simply didn’t give Leicester enough respect and played with a high line, inviting Vardy to scamper behind the defence and pick up the record for scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League outings. Failing that, Riyad Mahrez, who looked interested over those nine months, would make a meandering run through leaden-footed defenders.

But the hunger appears to have gone, and opponents are sitting deeper. Claudio Ranieri, a shock appointment following a disastrous spell in charge of Greece, seems to be at a loss to name his best side, when in last season’s miracle he named the same starting XI regularly, and used less players than any other team.

There’s no shying away from this predicament: Leicester is in a mess.

Dropping like a stone: Watford

The Hornets are in danger of being dragged into the relegation mire. Odion Ighalo’s wanting form has taken the sting out of the attack, and perhaps the lack of a set game plan at Vicarage Road has resulted in confusion and, ultimately, one point taken from the last 15 on offer.

Captain Troy Deeney may have to drag his troops over the line on his own.

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