CHRIS Graham (@ChrisGraham79) is back with a look at the relegation market for the new Premier League season.
WLB Season Preview 2017/18 | Premier League: Relegation
The Premier League relegation market is always one that intrigues me. With the title pretty much an elite shoot out where only the rich are invited, (bar 2015/16 of course, Foxes fans) the relegation market allows us to skim down the betting and find sides at chunky prices who could fall into the bottom three.
In recent seasons some sides with mid-table written all over them in August have tumbled into the Championship come May. I’m looking at you Newcastle (2015/16), Fulham (2013/14), West Ham (2010/11) and Newcastle again in 2008/09. It’s time to skim again!
Rafa to walk?
I’ll start with the side who I’ve already mentioned twice in this article, Newcastle. At 9/2 they look big for a promoted side, but that will look gargantuan if Rafael Benitez leaves.
The Spaniard doesn’t look in the best of fettle at the moment after the lack of quality of signings that have been brought into the club over the summer.
Wary of his reputation and his standing in the game it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the big man walked and left the club in the lurch. However, it is an if, and for that reason I’ll swerve.
Things going stale at The Hawthorns?
Instead I’m going against the two clubs who I backed more than any other last season. West Brom and Stoke.
Firstly, West Brom. They had an excellent season overall last year finishing 10th in the Premier League but the way they collapsed from March onwards raised concerns.
Yes, it very well may have been that once they hit the 40 point mark tools may have been downed, but it may have been deeper than that.
Tony Pulis has been in charge for approaching three years now and things may starting to go a bit stale. Recruitment has been slow this summer with the game-shy Jay Rodriguez the only major signing.
Heading out the other way was the admirable Darren Fletcher who racked up 37 appearances for the club last season. It was a move that surprised me as he looked to have a strong influence around the club.
Maybe it’s just people I follow but every time I see a West Brom fan tweeting at the moment they’re laying into Pulis.
Last season it felt silly when they were flying high in 8th but after such a flaccid end to the campaign, pathetic performances in the Cup competitions and stodgy style of football served up one does start to feel sympathy.
Maybe this is the season the feel-underwhelmed factor starts to hit West Brom. Maybe their two points out of 27 at the end of the campaign will be a sign of things to come. At 6/1 it’s worth a small interest.
Potters going backwards
I’m struggling to understand why Stoke are even bigger in the betting at 7/1 to be honest. Like West Brom there feels a sense of a side going backwards.
You have to go back to 2011/12 to find the last time the Potters finished lower than the 13th place they ended up in at the end of last season.
Manager Mark Hughes always demands year on year improvement in position and points and he must have gone into the summer on a downer.
The aforementioned Darren Fletcher has been brought into the club but you wonder whether this side need a bit more spunk amidst their personnel.
On his way out the Bet365 was Marko Arnaautovic for £24m. Judging by his social media messaging the Austrian couldn’t get out quick enough.
Stoke won just two of their last 11 Premier League games last season and 10 of their 11 wins came against sides in the bottom seven. Hardly inspiring!
This will be Hughes’s fifth season in charge and like Pulis at West Brom, there’s just a feeling that the magic has departed.
There are plenty of unexceptional sides in this season’s Premier League but it might be worth chancing the functional pair of West Brom and Stoke to get sucked into a relegation battle in 2017/18.