In any given Premier League season, the majority of the headlines are always written about just who will go on to be crowned champions come the end of an arduous nine-month campaign. At the same time though, this is far from the only plot line that the competition serves up.
In English football, and like many other countries around the world, there is a case of what goes up must come down and that means that we are treated to what is usually a dramatic fight to stave off the threat of relegation.
It’s a drama that is arguably more interesting than the title race itself, what with the high stakes that are involved. It’s something that is consequently great viewing for the neutral and ultimately gut wrenching if you are a fan of any of the clubs involved.
And this season it looks like there are set to be a lot of nervous stomachs, as it is anyone’s guess just as to who will suffer the ignominy of relegation. Although, that said, we can almost start preparing the farewell party for both Fulham and Huddersfield, as they are firmly cast adrift from safety.
Both Fulham and Huddersfield have rolled the dice in terms of appointing new managerial personnel during the course of the season and, in all fairness, you would have to say that neither gamble has paid off.
For Fulham, it was the installation of Claudio Ranieri in November that raised some eyebrows, especially after the work that previous incumbent Slavisa Jokanovic had done in getting the Cottagers back to the Premier League.
The hope, if not the expectation, was that Ranieri would be able to perform a similar kind of miracle to the one when unfancied Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions nearly three years ago.
However, Ranieri has not been able to work his magic in West London and, although there has been the odd win here and there, it has not been enough to gain any real traction and in turn pull themselves away from the relegation zone.
And it is the relegation zone which has been Huddersfield’s natural habitat for almost the duration of the season. The Terriers are clearly suffering from all the symptoms of ‘Second Season Syndrome’ and a poor run of results before Christmas ultimately cost David Wagner his job as manager.
Wagner previously was manager of Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team and it is there that the Yorkshire outfit looked to in order to name his successor, with 36-year-old Jan Siewert being given the near-impossible task of keeping Huddersfield up.
It’s a statement that Oddschecker are able to reinforce when you take a look at the latest Premier League relegation markets. The 2017 Championship play-offs winners are priced around 1/100 with Betfair, who offer a winnings and odds boost to make up for the Yorkshire club’s almost-inevitable fate.
Then again it does not make for much better reading if you are a Fulham fan. They themselves won the Championship play-offs just 12 months later and most online bookmakers have them priced at 7/100 to go down.
But even with these two all but a mere formality in terms of dropping back down to the Championship, it still means that there is another unwanted relegation place available and a number of teams are doing their best to steer well clear of it.
Southampton currently occupy that spot and, like the two clubs above, they also decided that a managerial change was necessary. That came in the shape of former RB Lepizig coach Ralph Hasenhuttl.
The Saints progress under the Austrian has been steady, if not spectacular, and although they are making small steps under their new man in charge, you do get the feeling that soon they will have to start making giant strides.
This is especially so, as the likes of Burnley and Cardiff are now starting to turn the corner and win games that perhaps earlier in the season you would not have expected them to. If their trajectory up the table continues, then life will get ever harder for Southampton and Hasenhuttl in the final few weeks.
And perhaps the fact that all three teams who currently sit in the drop zone changed their managers and are showing no real tangible benefits lends itself to a question being asked. Just why weren’t the previous men in charge given more time to turn things around?
Fulham and Huddersfield took a gamble and, for them, it is one that will all but see them play in English football’s second tier next season. Now we will have to wait and see whether Southampton end up joining them and complete the trio of relegated teams.
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