There’s a week to go, more or less, to the big kick-off so it’s time to revisit our dodgy numbers relegation stakes. 6,373 votes were cast in our poll, with Bournemouth and Watford being consistently clear favourites for the drop since the early days:
Sunderland have been in third place since fans of other clubs were invited to take part. Were our voters looking through the prism of reality, like football fans always do, or could it be their hearts ruled their heads? Did fans of other clubs seek revenge because I had the temerity to suggest they won’t stay up?
Surely not, you’re probably thinking, fans would never behave in such a biased way,
and nor would any true fan ever deny reality. But, just in case one or two did, fourth and fifth favourites Leicester and Norwich have made up the numbers in our relegation watch.
What’s been going on since the poll opened?
They kept Callum Wilson, which will please their fans, on top of which Tyrone Mings came in from Ipswich for a reputed £8 million, and another 4 players came in on free transfers. One, keeper Artur Boric, was there as a loanee and played a key part in their promotion with about 50% of his starts resulting in clean sheets. Another, Sylvain Distin, is now 37 and must be pushing it, even though his pedigree includes starts alongside Jack Rodwell. I can’t say much about the other two but I’m sure Bournemouth fans will be letting us know how good they are.
Especially as I have to say sorry, Bournemouth. Even with Callum Wilson that won’t be enough.
Watford have been a lot busier than Bournemouth, with ten arrivals. A record-breaking deal brought in Etienne Capoue from Spurs but although some of the other new players have International and Champions league appearances to their credit they don’t appear to have much Premier League experience.
It’s a tricky one, made trickier by the managerial merry-go-round. Dealing with Asamoah Gyan at Al Ain is no preparation for the Premier league. Will the new manager cope? Will the new players gel? I think they’ll struggle but, no doubt, Watford fans will soon be letting me know I’m wrong.
Norwich have been very quiet. They brought in only two players. Both are from West Brom so they have considerable PL experience and have shown they can fight a relegation battle. But will they be enough? I’m not convinced.
Robert Huth’s loan deal was instrumental in Leicester’s great escape so fans will be pleased the move has been made permanent, and I can’t imagine any forward will look forward to playing against him. I do wonder, however, if his knee injuries will cramp his style.
Leicester’s other two deals move in players from the Bundesliga. Interesting and potentially tasty, will they be enough to overcome the loss of a few of the seasoned veterans who helped them stay up last season? And, like Watford, they have new manager. He does have PL experience but it was over ten years ago, when he brought in Bolo Zenden, among others, in a £30 million spending spree. Then he used up a further £120 million when Roman Abramovitch arrived and still only finished second. Time will tell if he can do anything without money, there are many who think he’ll struggle.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on Aston Villa. One of the clubs in the frame last year and sliding downwards for much of the season, they did revive under Tim Sherwood. For this season they’ve had a bit of a revolving door, with seven players coming in (and more to follow, apparently) and ten moving out. I wonder what effect this will have, and how much Benteke contributed to Sherwood’s new manager bounce. In other words, will Sherwood manage to maintain a 43% win record? If he does he could be almost safe by Christmas and he’d finish the season with over 50 points.
And then there’s us. We’ve strengthened our defence but that’s about it. The latest rumour is that Whickham’s on his way. I wouldn’t complain if we sold him, Danny Graham (I saw him score) and Fletcher for dog meat. We wouldn’t get much but we’d free up some wage money and we’d maybe get in someone who could hit a barn door.
And that’s before we discuss the midfield, where Catts, who will miss some games, and Seb Larssen , who won’t stop running, won’t be enough. It’s time for Giacherrini and Rodwell to step up.
If not, don’t worry. there’s a further month during which players can climb in or out of the window, and the gaffer must have his eyes on others…
… I hope.
And with another week to go I might as well keep the poll running:
See you soon. Roll on Saturday week