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English Premier League

The Usual Suspects

As the new Premier League season draws near, it bears considering what sides will be battling relegation this year. Generally speaking, the favourites to go down are always the newly promoted sides and those who flirted with relegation the previous season. In recent seasons however, Swansea, Southampton and Norwich have all proven competitive upon promotion and West Brom have progressed beyond perennial yo-yo club status, whilst traditionally much larger teams such as Newcastle and West Ham have suffered the pain of relegation. However, this season, expect a return to normality, with the newly promoted usual suspects bound to struggle.

Nothing in the offseason has done anything to dispel the likelihood of Hull, Crystal Palace and Cardiff going down. Palace have brought in Spanish youngster José Campaña, veteran Phillips and lower league strikers Gayle and Dobbie, all competent, but hardly the squad overhaul that Palace need if they are to dispel preseason predictions, with Zaha certain to be a big miss. Cardiff have thrown money around all summer with little success, whilst Andreas Cornelius represents something of a coup, bids for Thomas Ince and Victor Wanyama have all come to nought. Their recent bid for Toulouse battler Étienne Capoue is another move that smacks of over ambition and if Cardiff are to have any chance of staying up, they will need to start completing moves for solid and sensible additions to their squad. Hull have been the busiest of this year’s crop of promoted sides, bringing in no less than eight new signings. However, whilst Figueroa, Steve Harper and Danny Graham are all solid additions, one would expect that Hull will require a higher standard of player if they are to survive their return to the top flight.

To make things worse for the promoted sides, their survival competitors have all significantly strengthened; Aston Villa’s young side will no doubt be a sterner opposition with greater experience and excellent additions in Jores Okore and Nicklas Helenius. Cardiff’s local rivals Swansea look far from relegation candidates, with goal scoring sensation Wilfried Bony, Spain under-21 star Jordi Amat and former Liverpool starlet Jonjo Shelvy adding to a fearsome squad that could be dark horses for Europa League spots. West Ham and Norwich have both strengthened their attacks with the purchases of Andy Carroll and Ricky Ricky van Wolfswinkel respectively, with Norwich also swooping for Gary Hooper and Dutch midfielder Leroy Fer. Southampton have been linked with some huge names this summer and although the rumours of a move for Brazil forward Leandro Damião have cooled, Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren will both help prevent Southampton’s penchant for conceding goals. Other recent strugglers include Newcastle United, but if the Toon are able to stay relatively injury free, they shouldn’t ever be in any danger of relegation.

Therefore, barring serious strengthening by Hull, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City, it will be the newly promoted usual suspects that are most likely to face the drop. Expect Stoke to also struggle, the Potters have been pushing their look in recent seasons and if Mark Hughes is to truly change Stoke’s  fortunes and style of play it will take more than a Dutch left back and a La Masia product that didn’t make the grade. The verdict is also out on De Canio’s Black Cats; very poor last season, Sunderland have strengthened significantly and although football is of course a most unpredictable of games, don’t be surprised if two if not all of the promoted sides head straight back down.