The fight to avoid the bottom three in the Premier League is heating up, with the bottom four separated by a mere three points. It’s fair to say the expectation is that the bottom four will stay the same. One will survive however, and the transfer window could well be pivotal in deciding which team retains their Premier League status come the 2017/18 season.
Sunderland are rock bottom going into the final round of matches before the window slams shut. It is fair to say it hasn’t been the most thrilling month for The Black Cats in terms of additions. David Moyes has brought in Joleon Lescott as a free agent, in an attempt to bolster his defensive capabilities. This very much an example of a manager bringing in a player he has worked with before, who he feels he can rely on. Sunderland have been struck with a couple of blows in the injury department.
Jordan Pickford, who was performing so well when fit, has been on the sidelines since the end of December with a knee injury. Victor Anichebe, another one of Moyes’ ex-players has been ruled out for ten weeks with knee ligament damage, shifting even more pressure on to Jermain Defoe.
Patrick Van Aanholt has today become a Crystal Palace player – a big loss for Sunderland. Aanholt had established himself as a key player in the side.
On paper I have to say it isn’t looking good for them, with it looking increasingly likely Tyneside will trade places with Wearside next season. That said, Sunderland always seem to survive when all the odds are against them, and that should be the inspiration for the squad going into the end of the season.
Hull City were the favourites prior to the start of the season to go back down to The Championship. With January coming to a close they are down there as expected, but since the appointment of Marco Silva there has been nothing but positive signs in Hull’s play. On paper January has been a tough month for The Tigers, losing two of their main players in Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass, to fellow Premier League rivals West Brom and West Ham.
That said, Silva hasn’t shied away from bringing players in. The Portuguese manager has brought in Evandro from Porto, in what would seem a replacement for Livermore. He, similar to Moyes, has brought in a familiar face in Omar Elabdellaoui, the right back joins on loan from Silva’s last club, Olympiakos. Markus Henriksen put pen to paper on a permanent deal from AZ Alkmaar, after his six month loan expired. The out of favour Oumar Niasse has also signed on loan from Everton, as well as fellow Merseyside winger Lazar Markovic, from Liverpool.
Since he has taken over, things are looking up for Hull, with victory over Bournemouth in the Premier League and a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the second leg of the Semi Final in the EFL Cup. Despite crashing out of the tournament, Hull made an excellent account of themselves. Niasse got on the score sheet and looks a handful up top, with determination and power the key components to his game. Lazar Markovic provided a pinpoint pass to set up the winning goal, a player who has a lot of promise, but yet to hit the heights in the Premier League.
The football Hull have been playing is much improved, with Harry Maguire establishing his place at centre half and performing well. If Silva can get the team playing how he wants them to and to effect, Hull, against the odds, could well mind the gap.
It has been a season of disappointment to say the least at Swansea, with Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley coming and going as managers. Swansea turned to Paul Clement, their third manager of the season, and maybe this could be a case of third time lucky for the South Wales outfit.
With respect to Guidolin and Bradley, perhaps Clement understands the Premier League a little more, and the relentlessness of it. Clement has been quick to add to the squad, bringing in some shrewd additions. Luciano Narsingh, Tom Carroll and Martin Olsson have all been brought in this window.
Narsingh has yet to feature, but is an international player who has pace and trickery about him, with a striker like Fernando Llorente in the box you need quality out wide. Obviously Clement feels Narsingh was worth a punt. Dutch footballers certainly have divided opinion in the Premier League. “Hit and miss” seems to be the appropriate phrase to use.
Tom Carroll is certainly a player with a lot of promise: a neat midfielder who unfortunately fell out of the picture at Tottenham with the breakthrough made my fellow young players.
Martin Olsson is a good addition, a solid, nippy left back who likes to get forward, and was probably playing below his level with Norwich in The Championship.
Swansea recently won 2-3 at Liverpool, Llorente and Sigurdsson on the score sheet. Those are the sort of results they must build on if they are to stay in the League, wins where you don’t expect them, at title hopefuls. If that isn’t enough to pump some belief into the squad then I’m not sure what is.
Llorente will be full of confidence after his two brilliantly taken goals, and Gylfi Sigurdsson is their real quality player in the middle of the park.
Since their promotion in 2011 Swansea have been a good team to have in the league. They play with a good brand of football and to see them fall out would be a shame. They, without a doubt, have the players in the squad to produce, and if they can string wins together against other teams down there – like the recent win at Selhurst Park – they stand themselves in good stead.
One club really punching below their weight is Crystal Palace. In the relegation mix is not where Palace fans would’ve expected, nor wanted their team to be at this stage.
Patrick Van Aanholt teams up with former manager, to solve Palace’s left back troubles. The versatile Jeffrey Schlupp also joins The Eagles from holding Champions Leicester City.
The situation with Palace is a tricky one to put a finger on where it’s all going wrong. The appointment of Sam Allardyce was one that I’m sure Steve Parish would’ve hoped to hae a quicker and almost immediate impact on results. That has been far from the case however, Allardyce without a point on the board yet and Palace with a run stretching to eight successive losses in the league.
The loss at home to Swansea was a tough one to take, a result that sort of amplifies the severity of the situation Palace are in, losing to a fellow relegation battler.
The summer transfer window on paper looked a strong one for Crystal Palace. Christian Benteke and Loic Remy is a strike force you would far from associate with relegation, but the duo need to start hitting the back of the net when it matters.
Hunger, tenacity and desire are all things that served Palace so well since their return to the top flight.
The loss of Yannick Bolasie and now Wilfried Zaha to the Africa Cup of Nations haven’t helped Palace’s cause, two players who complemented each other so well and were instrumental in many of the goals their team scored. It is time for big name players to start stepping up to the plate for them, and if there’s one manager who knows what it takes to survive, it’s Sam Allardyce.