Writer: Bryan King
Date:Saturday March 13 2010
After such a great start to the season beating Arsenal, Liverpool and earning a brilliant point at Old Trafford nobody would have thought Sunderland would be mentioned as been part of a relegation battle but unfortunately that's where we find ourselves, I will take a look at the bottom 8 and try and predict what lies ahead.
With the premier league not having already deducted the 9 points for entering administration there has been suggestions that they might not lose the points after-all but there is no chance of this happening, all premiership clubs are signed to the premiership charter which states that anybody entering administration will lose 9 points.... this will happen and that will see Portsmouth become the first side to lose there top flight status, even without this they find themselves in huge trouble with all the off field problems taking the gloss of the problems they have on the pitch. No team can afford to lose players of the calibre of Defoe, Crouch, Diarra, Johnson, Kranjcar, Kaboul etc and still hope to compete at the top level. Key Player - Jamie O Hara (Shining light during disastrous season)
A team that have been punching well above there weight all season. For them to be still in with a fight should be seen as a huge success considering the the strength of the squad they possess and their limited finances. At the start of the season they picked up some superb results at home, notably against Man Utd and Everton but they have been woeful on there travels taking only 1 point from 45. For them to then start struggling at home as they are now will see them join Pompey as the second side to go through the relegation trap door. Key Player - Chris Eagles (Burnleys most creative player).
Home form is going to be key for all the struggling sides but more so for the likes of Hull. Having only lost 2 out the last 11 home games and 5 of there last 9 been at the KC Stadium including games against Burnley and ourselves they must take points if they are to stand a chance of beating the drop. 4 draws on the road and no wins is again the problem of why they see themselves sitting in trouble. The performance against Arsenal suggests they have the character for a fight but big question marks remain of do they have the quality? To concede such a late goal after a battling performance can be a huge blow to morale and a defeat at Pompey next week could make them massive favourites for the last relegation spot. Key Player - Jimmy Bullard (His return from injury earlier in the season has given them half a chance of beating the drop, lose him again and Hull would stand no chance whatsoever of beating the drop).
The win at Burnley could turn into the key result that will help in there battle against the drop. Scoring only 10 goals on home turf all season is the sole reason that see's Wolves battling at the bottom. They have produced some good performances of late in beating Spurs at home and been very unlucky to lose to Man Utd by a single goal but scoring goals will remain there problem and could drag them back into the mix. Key Player - Kevin Doyle (His all round play has been key in Wolves results this season but can he find the goals to shoot wolves to safety)
Another side that has had plenty of off field problems over the course of the season but a couple of wins at home has lifted them up the table and taken a bit of pressure of the hammers. They still possess a lot of quality throughout the side in Green, Upson, Parker and Cole and this will see them rise up the table and away from the drop. Key Player - Carlton Cole (His best season ever that has taken him to the brink of the world cup squad)
This is the side that I find the hardest to judge (after ourselves obviously) to go and deservedly beat Liverpool and then get battered at Bolton just a few days later sums up Wigans season. (Remember the 9-1 defeat at Spurs and then the 1-0 win against us anyone?) They are a big physical side with some very good players. The biggest problem Wigan have is the fact that they have only scored 27 goals all season which is one of the lowest in the league. They will grind enough points out to secure there premiership safety and one of the other things they have going for them is that they possess one of the best away records out of the bottom 8. Key Player - Charles Nzogbia (Not only has he scored some vital goals for Wigan this season but he seems to create most of there goals as well).
As stated earlier I don't think anyone would have predicted we would find ourselves in this position. There has been numerous factors, loss of form, injuries, suspensions, a woeful away record etc etc. The win against Bolton midweek came as a major relief to everyone on Wearside and lifted the doom and gloom that was starting to build. We are far from safe but having games in hand, the best goal difference from any of the bottom 8 and a couple of winnable home games still to play should see us over the line. Finally we are starting to look pretty solid and keeping Mensah fit is going to be massive as he has looked a class act when he has been able to play. In Bent and Jones we have the best forward line from any of the sides battling against the drop and this should be the key in our survival. Key Player - Darren Bent (to gain points you need to score goals and in Bent we have one of the best about)
A side that a few weeks ago would have been tipped to go down is now within touching distance of safety. Wins against Wolves, West Ham and Wigan (bet Jonathan Ross would love saying that sentence) has put them on 32 points and most likely only 4 points or so from safety. Key Player - Kevin Davies (everything Bolton do goes through the Bolton captain, not a great scoring record but such a physical presence).
3 to go.
Date:Saturday March 13 2010
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