Premier League Relegation Battle Main Contenders

The 2012/13 Premier League season promises to be one of the most competitive of recent times with little separating teams both at the top and the bottom.

The emergence of Manchester City in winning last season’s title has had a knock on effect with both Manchester United and Chelsea spending big on transfers. Tottenham have also reacted by changing manager as they look to build for the future while Arsenal will also be looking to make more new signings.

Southampton set for a swift return to the Championship.

However it’s the bottom half of the table which promises to be the tightest as teams look to avoid the dreaded drop to the Championship.

With three teams to be relegated from the Premier League there has been a trend in recent years of one or two of the newly promoted sides going straight back down from the top flight. However that trend was ended last season with new sides Swansea, Norwich and QPR all beating the drop.

Instead it was Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves who were relegated from the top flight to be replaced by Reading, Southampton and West Ham United.

This has all made for a very competitive betting market on who will be relegated come next May.

Prior to the season kick–off, no team is priced at odds-on to go down which hasn’t happened since the start of the Premier League and reflects how difficult it’s proving for bookmakers and punters alike to decide on who will be relegated.

Reading are narrow favourites in the market at 5/4, followed by Southampton 13/10, Norwich 13/8, Wigan 7/4, Swansea 9/4 and West Ham 11/5.  The betting would suggest that it’s three teams from this possible six but West Brom and QPR are only two points bigger in the betting at 4/1.

Off the newly promoted sides, Southampton would appear to be the weakest of the trio with no big names in their side and they stuttered towards the end of their Championship campaign losing out on top spot to Reading. They have done little in the transfer market with only former Rangers captain Steven Davis joining Nigel Adkins’ side.

Reading have a shrewd manager in Brian McDermott and has Premier League experience in his squad in senior players such as Jason Roberts & Ian Harte. They have recruited well in the summer with Danny Guthrie, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Nicky Shorey all coming in as well as young defenders Chris Gunter and Adrian Mariappa. Importantly all coming with experience of playing in English football.

West Ham United nearly missed out on promotion back to the Premier League having to go through the play-offs to secure their place. They had the best squad in last season’s Championship and would have won the league only for an extraordinary number of home draws.

Sam Allardyce has proven top flight quality with Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble, Matt Taylor & Carlton Cole in his side as well as English youngsters Jack Collison and James Tomkins. They have added to the squad by signing Mali striker Modibo Maiga from French side Sochaux for £4.7m. With more signings to come, the Hammers should survive comfortably.

Promoted to the Premier League last season both Swansea City and Norwich will start the campaign under new managers having finished 11th and 12th respectively.

Swansea have installed Michael Laudrup as their new manager and one of the first things he said was that he wished to reduce the playing staff. Given the demans of a long Premier League season and Cup competitions this may be something that Laudrup regrets.

Out has already gone Gylfi Sigurdsson and Joe Allen is also expected to leave the club. In has come to foreign players with defender Jose Manuel Flores from Genoa, Michu from Rayo Vallecano and Villarreal midfielder Jonathan de Guzman. Like most new foreign players coming into the Premier League they will take time to settle which may cause Swansea problems given the lack of depth in the squad.

Norwich’s new manager is Chris Hughton which seems to have proved a popular choice among Norwich fans and even players. Houghton convinced Grant Holt to sign a new long term contract and they haven’t lost any of last season’s key players. The new manager knows the transfer market very well so can be expected to recruit some new young players from the Championship to help increase competition for places at the club. Coupled with good home form, they should have enough to beat teams in the bottom half of the table and survive another season.

Wigan look set to lose some key players during the transfer window but made the most important signing of the summer when they kept Roberto Martinez at the club. Chairman Dave Whelan knows that players will come and go but having a good manager is vital to the club surviving in the top flight.

West Brom could struggle under new manager Steve Clarke as he has a tough act to follow in Roy Hodgson. Ben Foster will provide confidence as their new goalkeeper but they lack squad depth. If they get off to a poor start then they could struggle badly.

QPR under Mark Hughes are a team on an upward curve and won’t be in danger of relegation. They nearly went down on the last day of last season but Hughes having a full transfer window and a full season to work with will have them pushing into the top half of the table.

Recommendations: Southampton to be relegated @ 13/10; Swansea to be relegated @ 9/4

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