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The Fight For Survival: Who Is Best Equipped?



We are currently two-thirds of the way through the season, and multiple clubs are still embroiled in an entertaining fight for survival.


Just nine points separate Luton in 18th and Fulham in 12th, which sets up a crucial few months for more than a few teams.


Like last season, teams are looking to pull away from that bottom three as quickly as possible, in attempt to not get drawn into a gruelling relegation battle.


Who is best equipped for the fight for survival then, who is more likely to stay up, and who is likely to face the drop back down to The Championship?





Fulham

Surprisingly, Fulham are part of this list, after their successful first season back in the Premier League last year, but here they find themselves a few bad results away from an unwanted relegation battle.


Fulham are one of those sides that seem to pick up points here and there and sit around mid-table for the majority of the season.


As of late, they have had a few unfortunate results. They drew a blank at home against relegation rivals Everton, before recording an entertaining 2-2 draw against another relegation rival, this time Burnley.


They then recorded an impressive 3-1 victory at home against a tricky Bournemouth side and then lost 2-1 at home against top 4 pushing Aston Villa.


The draws will have concerned Marco Silva and Fulham fans, especially the one at home against Everton.


This is a side that, come the end of the season, should be clear of the relegation places. The squad is far too strong, and they are one of the many teams that should start to pull away from the bottom sides in the next few weeks.


With the likes of Jiminez, Fulham have goals, and the January arrival of Broja will certainly help take some pressure off him.


Palhinha and Pereira possess the quality to control games and grind points out when needed, and Leno has already kept six clean sheets so far this season.


This Fulham side should have more than enough to stay up comfortably, but they are only a few bad results away from being dragged into a fight they will want to avoid.





Bournemouth

Bournemouth are another side who, realistically, are too good to be in a relegation fight this season.


Unlike most of the other clubs at the bottom end of the table, Bournemouth actually have a striker who can consistently find the back of the net, that player being Solanke, who has scored 14 goals so far this season and is in contention for the golden boot.


Bournemouth have been on an absolute rollercoaster this season. They failed to pick up a single win in their first nine games, having scored just six goals in the process.


Iraola has turned it around, however. After losing 6-1 to Manchester City, they then went seven games unbeaten, winning six of those, including an impressive 3-0 win at Old Trafford against Manchester United.


Like Fulham, Bournemouth possess the quality this season to avoid a relegation fight. They have the players to score goals, they have a plethora of creative players to help get the ball up the pitch to Solanke and have also started keeping clean sheets this season.


The only worry for Bournemouth is how they react to bad results. After not winning in their first nine games, it was all doom and gloom. Currently, they are on another winless run, which currently sits at six games, following three draws and three losses.


Bournemouth cannot afford to go on these kinds of runs, especially when the teams below them are starting to pick up points.


Like Fulham, however, Bournemouth should comfortably avoid a relegation fight come the end of the season, and even if they do start to slip down the table, Solanke should be able to fire them to safety.





Brentford

A few months ago, this section could have been completely different to how it is being analysed now.


A few months ago, Brentford were absolutely hopeless. Without Toney, Wissa and Mbeumo, they were struggling to not only win games but to score goals.


They lost five games on the bounce not too long ago, which kept them dangerously close to the bottom three, including a horrendous loss against relegation contenders Sheffield United.


Since then, Ivan Toney has returned from his ban, and that has lifted the club. He returned in Brentford’s crucial home game against Nottingham Forest and found himself on the scoresheet, helping his side to a much-needed 3-2 win.


Toney also scored in Brentford’s next game, against Tottenham Hotspur, but it was not enough to help them get all three points, as Brentford surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 3-2.


He also found himself on the scoresheet against Wolves, helping Brentford to a 2-0 win, which helped them rise up the table.


Wissa also returned to action from the bench in Brentford’s 4-1 loss against Liverpool, another game in which Toney scored, with his return delighting the Brentford fans.


With the players returning, and Toney scoring four times in five games since his ban, Brentford should comfortably be safe come the end of the season.


They have played some entertaining games against sides in the top six, where they have narrowly lost, have put in good performances, and picked up three points, against the teams around them.


Brentford are, questionably, the strongest team featuring on this list, with the likes of Toney, Wissa, Mbeumo, Maupay, Jensen, Norgaard, Pinnock and Collins in the squad, it is hard to see a scenario where they end up in the bottom three.





Crystal Palace

It is surprising to see the ‘number ten’ side here in this list, and fighting in a relegation battle this season.


The team that never seems to move from 10th position are finally getting to experience something other than mid-table stability, for better or for worse.


Crystal Palace have been dragged into a relegation fight, and the owners are massively to blame here.


After two very disappointing transfer windows, which saw a combined six players join the club, despite six also leaving the club, the lack of investment has heavily hurt Crystal Palace this season.


After losing their main man, Wilfried Zaha, in the summer transfer window, they barely replaced him, relying on Eze and Olise to step up and fill his boots.


To an extent, they have done this. Olise is the club's joint top scorer with six goals this season so far, also grabbing three assists, whilst Eze is not too far behind, with five goals and one assist.


The promising Adam Wharton arrived from Blackburn in January, but with no Premier League experience, it will be hard for him to adjust to life in the top division quickly, especially when part of a relegation battle.


Palace’s prayers could be answered however, as Roy Hodgson has stepped down in his role as manager of Crystal Palace, with the board appointing Oliver Glasner as the new boss.


Only time will tell whether this appointment proves to be fruitful or not, but the club is full of quality, and with the right manager, can steer well clear of the relegation battle.


Other than this, consistency has been another big issue Palace have faced this season. They have not won back-to-back games once this season, and have only managed two games with a loss on two occasions this season.


Stability needs to be brought to the club, and investment needs to be made in the next transfer window. Whether it will be too late by then, only time will tell.





Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest have been enjoying their time back in the Premier League, and they will be hoping to extend that stay by another year come the end of the season.


Forest were always going to be involved in another relegation fight this season, but they will hope it will not be as close as last season's struggle.


They have a much better squad this year, however. The team is more settled, they have some brilliant young players, attacking players who are capable of changing games in an instant, and most importantly, they have goals in them now.


With the likes of Elanga, Hudson-Odoi, Awoniyi, Wood and Gibbs-White, their attacking options are to be feared. Even if it is not those players doing the damage, their attacking fullbacks can cause all sorts of problems.


The issues Forest are facing, just like last year, is their inability to keep clean sheets. Last season, they could not find the right balance between scoring goals, and keeping them out. They either had a goal fest or lost by the odd goal.


This season is no different. They have tried three different keepers, who have kept a combined four clean sheets this entire season. The defence has been shuffled and moved around, but they have not got that mixture right just yet.


Like Palace, Forest struggle to put together a string of wins. They have only won back-to-back games once this season, but they are always an entertaining watch. They need to find some consistency from somewhere though, as they are also a few bad results away from being in real danger.


One question mark hanging over them, and their Premier League status is the pending investigations into their FFP breaches. If they get a points deduction this season, it could spell big trouble for them, and they could have a massive fight on their hands.


Goals win football matches, and as long as Forest can outscore their opponents, they should earn themselves another season in the Premier League. They have a very strong squad, especially compared to the teams below them, but they need the points on the board.





Everton

Everton have been a bit hard done by this season. They have had a 10-point deduction already this season, which, had they not had, would have them sat in 12th on 30 points.


Instead, their 10-point deduction has them hovering over the bottom three on goal difference alone.


There are talks of a further points deduction for Everton, and if this were to happen, could absolutely destroy their spirit going forward towards the end of the season.


It could have an adverse effect, however. It could spur them on to defy the odds and beat the drop.


Outside of the points deductions, Everton enjoyed a fruitful start to the season. After not winning in their first five games, they enjoyed a profitable period in which they earned themselves eight wins in twelve games.


This is what separates them from the majority of the clubs around them. They have managed to put a good run of results together, however, lately, their form has dropped, finding themselves without a win in their last eight games.


Everton are concerning in front of goal, to say the least. Their top scorer is Doucoure, a midfielder, with six goals, with forwards Calvert-Lewin (three goals), Beto (one goal), Dobbin (one goal), and Chermiti (no goals), struggling to regularly get on the scoresheet this season.


It is strange that Everton are performing so poorly as of late, as Pickford is joint top of the clean sheet list. He is one player that is absolutely vital for this club, and his performances have earned Everton points alone this season. His form could be the difference for Everton this season.


It is hard to predict where Everton are going to finish this season. The club is united at the moment, and a further point deduction could bring the club and fans even closer together. Alternatively, it could destroy any hope Everton have of remaining in the Premier League.


Should they not get another points deduction, they need to find a way to score goals consistently. Calvert-Lewin coming back from injury was a massive boost for them, but they need him scoring week in week out, like the forwards at the clubs above them in the league.


It has always been a fact that Sean Dyche earns his team points. He did it last season and it kept Everton up, and he will be hoping he can do the same again here. Under Dyche, they should be fine.





Luton

Nobody would have thought Luton would have made it to the Premier League, yet they made it there.


Nobody gave Luton a chance of survival, everyone thought they would finish rock bottom, and struggle from the very first minute, yet they have defied those odds as well.


They have had a brilliant journey so far, and have picked up some brilliant points along the road, including a draw at home against Liverpool, wins over Newcastle, and Crystal Palace, and a 4-0 hammering of Brighton.


They have taken the top teams in the division all the way, narrowing losing against Man City (2-1), Arsenal (4-3), United (2-1) and Spurs (1-0), whilst stamping their own brand of football onto every game.


Rob Edwards has done a fantastic job so far, as has given Luton a real shout of surviving the drop this season.


Surprisingly, goals have not been the issue for Luton, unlike the other two newly promoted clubs. Adebayo has found the back of the net on nine occasions this season, with Carlton Morris scoring six so far.


Ross Barkley has revived his career at Luton, impressing since his return to the Premier League, and Alfie Doughty has raised eyebrows with some of his performances this season.


The issue for Luton is cutting out the silly mistakes and errors that lead to goals. Against Man United, a horrible attempted back pass led to Hojlund opening the scoring within the first 30 seconds of the game.


It is moments like this that define a team's fate when they are battling against the drop, and Luton need to cut these mistakes out.


It was always going to be hard for Luton to perform well in this division, especially considering the strength of their team compared to others around them, and it shows when looking at their form.


They have won back-to-back games on one occasion this season, which is something they are going to have to improve on if they are to make their survival ambitions a reality.


It would be fantastic to see Luton again in the Premier League next season, and Rob Edwards deserves it with how he has composed not only himself but his Luton side this season.


It will be extremely tough for Luton going forward into the back end of the season, but if Forest and Everton get further point deductions, they could find themselves with a big gap between themselves and the bottom three.





Burnley

Burnley have been very disappointing this season. They lit The Championship alight last season, and Kompany impressed with his style of play.


They were predicted to be the better of the three sides to be promoted, but so far, that prediction has failed to come true.


They signed a lot of players in the summer, which were needed to help improve the quality of the squad, but they failed to bring someone in who can score goals on a consistent basis for them.


This is one area Burnley have really struggled in this season. Foster and Amdouni are their top scorers this season, but both have only found the back of the net four times so far.


They are the second-lowest scorers in the league, with just 25 goals, and it is a massive area for improvement.


David Fofana did join from Chelsea on loan in the January transfer window and has already grabbed himself two goals in a Burnley shirt, but he will need to do more than that to give Burnley a chance.


Aside from goals, their defence is a massive issue. A massive 55 goals conceded is a major problem, and just two clean sheets all season should be ringing alarm bells.


Kompany is seemingly reluctant to change his style of play, and that could hurt Burnley in the end. They need to learn how to grind out results and nick a goal here and there.


It will not be a fruitful end of the season for Burnley, and I cannot see them overturning such poor form in time to earn survival. They are relying too much on other teams dropping points to even give themselves half a chance at the moment. They should be back in The Championship next season.





Sheffield United

Sheffield United are, undoubtedly, one of the worst Premier League teams in recent memory. Burnley have scored little and conceded a lot, but at least they are trying to win games their way.


Sheffield United, on the other hand, have scored the fewest amount of goals this season (22) and have conceded an embarrassing 65 goals. To make matters worse, they are not even putting their own stamp on games. They are getting trampled by every team they come up against.


It was always going to be difficult for them. Coming into the Premier League season after selling their best two players, whilst making little to no improvements in areas, was always going to make it a tough task to avoid relegation.


Even in January, they barely made any improvements. They brought a centre back in who barely got used in The Championship, Mason Holgate, who has barely impressed so far.


Like Burnley, Sheffield United have been poor in the defensive areas, bordering on embarrassing. A lot of the goals they concede are far too soft to be conceding in the Premier League. These kinds of goals get teams relegated, and Sheffield United are conceding these every week.


There is not much more Chris Wilder can do. He is trying his best with the tools he has at his disposal, but the quality is just not there.


It is going to be a horrible end to the season for Sheffield United, and they are going to go down with a whimper, there is next to no hope of them surviving relegation this season.





One thing is for certain, that we are going to have a very entertaining relegation fight with plenty of twists and turns along the way.


Will Luton be able to do the unthinkable and retain their Premier League status? Or will Burnley and Sheffield United stage incredible comebacks? Will FFP rule breaks come to haunt Nottingham Forest or Everton? Will Crystal Palace's new manager guide them away from the danger zone?


All these questions will be answered in the next few months, and there are going to be some key clashes further down the line. This relegation fight could go all the way to the wire, again.



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