English Premier League Betting Preview: The Relegation Battle
Relegation from the Premier League is a painful process. The loss of top-tier soccer is not only a blow to fans and the cause of many player exits, but more importantly the removal of the riches on offer thanks to the Premier League television rights mean that a club’s future could be in jeopardy if they are relegated.
Under that joyful background, the candidates for relegation from the Premier League in the 2017/18 campaign enter the season hopeful of a successful campaign but knowing they’ll likely be fighting it out to the bitter end just to maintain their Premier League status.
Historically, it’s the newly-promoted teams that are likely to struggle to avoid the drop – Middlesbrough and Hull City added their names to the list last term, and this season looks set to be no different, with Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion favorites for the drop.
Who Gets Relegated?
The three clubs that finish in the bottom three positions in the Premier League standings (that’s 18th, 19th, and 20th) are relegated from English soccer’s top tier and will spend the following season licking their wounds in the Championship.
The Relegation Favorites
The 2017/18 campaign will be Huddersfield’s first appearance in the Premier League and their first in the top flight since 1972, which is an achievement in itself – and that’s part of their problem. Victory over Reading in a Championship play-off final that nobody expected them to get to rightly sent the Terriers’ faithful into hysterics, but even before the Champagne had stopped flowing, the reality that this is likely to be a one-season salvo set in.
Securing the stars of last season’s campaign was crucial for Huddersfield, and it’s been a partially successful project, with Aaron Mooy’s move from Manchester City made permanent, but Chelsea youngster Izzy Brown will turn out for rivals Brighton this term.
Huddersfield boss David Wagner wasted no time in making his moves when the transfer window opened, signing eight players in seven days, including breaking the club transfer record twice. That number has now been inflated to eleven, but will it do the Terriers any good?
Strikers Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounie have arrived from Porto and Montpellier respectively, and much will be expected of the pair. But it’s at the back that there is a real concern. Huddersfield shipped more goals than relegated Wigan last season (a massive 58 in 46 games) to end the season with a negative goal difference – they’re going to need more than Scott Malone from Fulham and Mathias Jorgensen from FC Copenhagen to plug all the holes in their defense. The lack of Premier League experience throughout the squad as a whole is a worry too.
Wagner and his largely unheralded squad defied the odds by securing promotion, but don’t expect another miracle this season, even with a much-changed cast of characters. Odds of 4/6 suggest that relegation is all but certain, and unfortunately for Huddersfield, while their attacking mindset is sure to entertain, it’s hard to disagree with the bookmakers on this one.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Like Huddersfield, Brighton is making their first appearance in the Premier League, having last enjoyed the sweet taste of top-flight soccer 34 years ago. Their fans probably should enjoy drinking it up while they can. Of the last five teams to make their Premier League debut, three went straight back down, and it’s almost odds on that the stat will read five from seven come the end of the coming campaign.
Manager Chris Hughton has Premier League experience, having previously been at the helm of Norwich City and Newcastle, and while he was sacked by both clubs, I think he had cause to feel hard done by on each occasion. However, while their boss might know what it’s like at the highest level, not much of the Brighton squad does. Steve Sidwell and Glenn Murray have been around the block, and they’ll need to use their experience to guide a squad that’s not young in years, but is in experience at the highest level. Anthony Knockaert was the star last season, but it’s a tough ask to expect him to make the jump in class with ease.
While Huddersfield has taken the approach of buying a new team, Brighton has adopted the opposite strategy and have largely stuck with the team that secured promotion. It’s hard to get too excited about the signings of midfielder Pascal Gross and defender Markus Suttner from Ingolstadt, while the arrival of Australian goalkeeper Matthew Ryan seems a bit harsh on David Stockdale who impressed last season. If Brighton is to stay up, they need to bring in quality reinforcements soon.
At 5/6 to be relegated, Brighton is on marginally better footing than Huddersfield according to the bookmakers, but in all honesty, they’re just as doomed.
Next on the way out of the big leagues – according to the bookies at least – is Burnley. The Clarets finished last season in 16th spot in the Premier League standings, with 40 points to their name. To have finished six points clear of the drop zone was an impressive showing from Sean Dyche’s men, but as Dyche has come to expect, there was very little fanfare surrounding their exploits. Dyche and his resilient Burnley lot remain unfashionable, but with at least another season in the top flight, they’re unlikely to care.
Can they do it again? The departure of the brilliant Michael Keane to Everton leaves a gaping wound in the middle of the Burnley defense, one which, for now at least, James Tarkowski will be asked to fill. The 24-year-old impressed when either Keane or Ben Mee were injured last season, but Burnley fans will be hoping that some of the £25m recouped for Keane will be spent on a new central defender.
Young left-back Charlie Taylor aside, Dyche has brought in, well, very Dyche-like players! Forward Jon Walters and right-back Phil Bardsley have arrived from Stoke, while midfielder Jack Cork has made his way south from Swansea. All three boast considerable Premier League experience, toughness, and are no frills, no fuss in style – just what’s required for a relegation battle.
If the Clarets can hold on to Andre Gray – who has attracted some attention – and reinvest some of the Keane transfer fees, Dyche may be able to mastermind another survival act. Burnley is third favorites for the drop at 5/4, and a relegation battle is inevitable, but this is a team that knows how to fight – and win. Home form was key last season, and it will be again this term. Should Burnley get off to another strong start, survival is possible.
If awards were handed out for the worst end to a campaign then Watford would have been in the winner’s circle at the end of last season. The Hornets lost their last six games and took just 10 points from their final 14 fixtures as they plummeted to 17th in the standings, just one position clear of the relegation zone.
It’s no surprise then that a new manager in Marco Silva is at the helm ahead of the new campaign, but a new boss alone won’t solve Watford’s problems. The Hornets never recovered from the January loss of striker Odion Ighalo, with his replacement, Mauro Zárate, lasting three games before suffering a knee injury. Zárate and skipper Troy Deeney will need to be more productive if Watford is to avoid the relegation dogfight.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look much better at the back for Watford, a team who kept just seven clean sheets last season and conceded on average more than two goals a game away from home. One area where Watford has strengthened is in the midfield, with Tom Cleverley making his move from Everton permanent, while Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes have been signed from Chelsea and Derby respectively.
Watford are rated at 7/4 to be relegated and it’s hard to think of reasons why they won’t go down – there really isn’t much to get excited about at Vicarage Road, but they may just have enough quality to stay afloat.
Paul Clement worked wonders at the Welsh outfit after taking over in early January, securing nine victories from Swansea’s last 19 games as the Swans finished 15th. This will have given Swansea fans reason to hope for a strong 2017/18, but the seemingly inevitable loss of talisman Gylfi Sigurdsson will be a hammer blow.
Sigurdsson’s match-winning goals in key fixtures against Liverpool and Southampton, and a late equalizer against Manchester United were the difference between Swansea and the drop, and he’ll be hard to replace when his £50million move to Everton is confirmed. However, there could be a silver lining to that particular dark cloud if Swansea’s American owners invest the Sigurdsson fee and allow Clement to act quickly and bring in reinforcements.
The season looks set to go one of two ways for Swansea: either they will play an attractive brand of football that sees them securely slide into the bottom end of mid-table or they will be in a relegation scrap from start to finish. With 2/1 odds on relegation, money appears to be going on the latter.
It should be stated from the outset that Newcastle shouldn’t be relegated, which probably means they’ll come all too close to doing so. It all really depends on whether owner Mike Ashley decides to loosen his notoriously tight purse strings a little more!
Manager Rafael Benitez guided the Magpies to the Championship title last term after their relegation after the 2015/16 season, but a squad that thrives in the second tier is not the same as one that succeeds in the Premier League. Striker Dwight Gayle is a perfect example of this: Gayle scored 23 goals in the Championship last season, eight more than he managed in three campaigns in the Premier League with Crystal Palace.
If the £12m (a few million too many…) spent on getting winger Jacob Murphy proves to be the biggest splurge of the transfer window then it seems only a matter of time before Benitez grows tired of Ashley’s failure to keep his promises of real investment. If Benitez goes, Newcastle will be in a world of hurt and 7/2 odds on relegation becoming an appealing prospect. If the Spaniard stays, expect lower mid-table consolidation.
The Outside Bets
Crystal Palace (9/2), West Bromwich Albion (6/1), Bournemouth (6/1), and Stoke City (7/1) all have the potential to be roped into the relegation battle, but also possess the quality to ensure they steer clear of trouble.
Palace will be relying on new boss Frank de Boer to adapt better to England than he did to Italy in what was a brief and disappointing spell at AC Milan. The Dutchman will put in place a new, attacking system and it’s one that has the potential to bear fruit – mid-table awaits the Eagles.
For so long the yo-yo club of the Premier League, West Brom are beginning to find some consistency in the top flight at last. Tony Pulis knows how to grind out wins and while his Baggies side is unlikely to excite many neutrals, they should stay up.
Eddie Howe really has worked wonders at Bournemouth – as illustrated by a ninth-place finish last season. Some shrewd acquisitions in the off season mean that the Cherries have reason to believe the top half of the table remains a realistic aim and that relegation shouldn’t be an issue.
Stoke will be too resilient to go down, but, like West Brom, survival won’t be thrill-a-minute stuff.
Where is the Value?
Unless you’re playing the long, conservative strategy, backing the likes of Huddersfield or Brighton to be relegated on their own is not going to give appealing returns. One way to improve your odds with relegation bets is to pick all three teams you think will go down. For instance, backing Brighton, Huddersfield, and Watford to all be relegated is being offered at 18/1.