The English Premier League is back in full swing, and while most eyes are on the battle to ascertain dominance at the top of the table, there is another struggle going on further below. Come season’s end three teams will be condemned to Championship football for the 2020/21 season – but which three will it be?
Norwich City surprised everyone by winning the Championship last season, earning themselves a trip to the Premier League for the first time since 2016. The momentum they brought to the top level meant many viewed them as a good chance to finish outside the dreaded bottom three, but there were also plenty of question marks surrounding their ability to bring the same style of play to games against the best in the business. Unfortunately, they haven’t exactly done a whole lot to allay those fears with their start to the season, losing six of their first eight games.
As expected, the Canaries’ defence has been a problem; last season, despite winning the Championship, they conceded a hefty 57 goals, and the step up has proven too much for their shaky back half so far. The 21 goals which have been scored against them so far is the most in the league, and spread betting is a popular choice in their games given this tendency to lose by large margins. Having endured a number of defeats by multiple goals already this season, they will need to find a way to stem the bleeding if they want to remain in the Premier League.
Many predicted Watford’s fourth consecutive season in the Premier League would end in relegation, but they outperformed the expectations of almost everyone with a 2018/19 season which saw them win 14 games, finish in 11thand make the final of the FA Cup. As a result, predictions were much more positive heading into this season, but eight games in things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.
The Hornets find themselves in dead last with a woeful goal differential of -16 – five less than the team sitting just above them and nine less than the next worst.
They have scored just four goals – that’s right, just a solitary goal per two matches – despite taking 113 shots so far this season, and are yet to win a game in what is their longest winless start to a season since 2006. Betting markets have punished them accordingly, and if they are to be believed then Watford could well be headed back to the Championship for the first time in half a decade.
Newcastle United has endured just two seasons outside of the top league since 1993, and on both occasions – in 2009/10 and 2016/17 – they won the Championship. In the two seasons since their return to the Premier League a couple of years ago they have finished mid-table with 12-win seasons, but they had a disappointing summer and entered this season under a lot more pressure than they were when the last one ended. The exit of beloved coach Rafa Benitez was a major reason for this, as were the losses of Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez, and new coach Steve Bruce was appointed just three weeks before the new season began.
A 1-0 victory over Manchester United last weekend will keep the critics at bay at least for a few days, but prior to that they had done very little to suggest they have the capacity to maintain their place in the Premier League. A 5-0 loss to Leicester City and a 3-1 defeat at the hands of fellow relegation candidate Norwich City are already lowlights in a season which is just eight weeks old, and having scored on just five occasions so far, there will need to be a significant turnaround if they are to avoid being sent back to the Championship.
Of course, there are numerous other teams which can hardly afford to breathe easy, and it wouldn’t surprise to see any of Sheffield United, Aston Villa or Brighton and Hove Albion struggling to survive in a few months’ time. Norwich City, Watford and Newcastle, however, are the three teams which, at this relatively early stage in the season, appear most likely to spend the 2020/21 season in the Championship.
They all find themselves either in or marginally clear of the dreaded bottom three, and betting agencies have them pegged as the three teams with the most work to do to escape it. It’s a long season and there is plenty of time to turn things around, but whether these sides have the ability to do so is another question entirely.