The news that David Wagner had left Huddersfield came as a real shock both to fans of the Terriers and neutrals. Wagner did an incredible job of first getting Huddersfield into the Premier League on a shoestring budget and then keeping them in the top flight last season.
Many questioned the sanity of Dean Hoyle, the Huddersfield chairman, for letting Wagner go. When further details emerged it became clear that it was a genuinely mutual decision as Wagner had become incredibly jaded by the effort the battle against relegation took and had decided that he would leave at the end of the season.
Together, Wagner and Hoyle came to the view that it was best for all concerned if Wagner took a break from the game and Huddersfield made a new appointment. The big question that Huddersfield fans have though, is whether the club will be looking for a manager who has the best chance of winning promotion from the Championship in the likely event of relegation or if they’ll go down the route of a firefighter on a short term deal such as Sam Allardyce or David Moyes.
Fans of the other clubs fighting relegation were unsure how to take the news of Wagner’s departure. The jury is out whether fresh ideas will improve things for the Terriers or if Wagner was already getting the best out of the players at his disposal but one thing is certain, Huddersfield will be fighting relegation for the remainder of the season. They will not be alone though so we thought we would run the rule over the teams currently in the relegation shake up and see who has what it takes to get out of trouble and who may be playing Championship football come August.
Lack of Goals to Condemn Huddersfield
Wagner’s appointment as Huddersfield manager was met with widespread shrugging of shoulders. He was anything but a household name at that point but quickly won the fans over thanks to his energetic, pressing, entertaining style of football. That style remained the same throughout his time at Huddersfield but the entertainment levels took a major turn for the worse this season.
Huddersfield’s first 22 matches have yielded a meagre 13 goals. That lack of goals is the product of any number of factors. Clearly, their strikers are bang out of form but the team aren’t creating enough good chances. They’re not actually underperforming their expected goals stats by too much which shows that the whole team needs to improve, not just the strikers, if they are to start scoring enough goals.
Hoyle has already said that Huddersfield will be active in the transfer window but, much like their search for a new manager, it is unclear whether they will target players with Premier League experience who can do a job for the time being or if they are already concentrating on building a squad for next season in the Championship. Moreover, who will be in control of transfer policy with nobody currently in charge?
With the team cut so far adrift at the bottom of the table the writing is on the wall whichever route the club’s hierarchy decide to take. Huddersfield are a general price of 1/20 to be relegated with the bookies which is an accurate reflection of the size of the task facing them. It’s not a task anybody realistically foresees them achieving and even at those crazy odds, it might not be a bad bet.
Ranieri’s Frustration to Grow at Fulham
The nature of Slavisa Jokanovic’s departure from Fulham was rather different to Wagner’s departure from Huddersfield but it appeared from the outside as though the Fulham board were every bit as tortured about the decision. Shahid Khan and his son, Tony, both came out in support for Jokanovic as Fulham made a horrendous start to the season and relieving him from his duties did not come easily.
Jokanovic had very obvious faults in terms of setting Fulham’s defence up to be robust enough to cope with the demands of the Premier League. Hope was, therefore, high that Claudio Ranieri would be able to sort things out given his experience and reputation as a manager who builds from the back.
The arrival of the popular Italian did have a positive impact on Fulham’s results but he quickly came to realise that he just doesn’t have the right tools for the job. Fulham’s squad is incredibly unbalanced with a wealth of attacking talent but a real lack of quality in defence. Ranieri’s frustration with his Fulham team is made obvious by his demeanour on the touchline and press conferences and yet the club’s only signing in the transfer window so far is Ryan Babel, another forward!
Just as Huddersfield aren’t going to stay up unless they improve dramatically going forwards, Fulham are doomed to be relegated unless they make huge strides forward in defence. That looks very difficult with over half of the season gone already so Fulham are another side available at pretty heavy odds-on to be relegated who are unlikely to cause a shock in the betting. They are 2/5 to go down at the time of writing and despite the miracles Ranieri achieved at Leicester that certainly looks a very solid price.
Benitez to Work His Magic Again
Rafael Benitez has never had a problem using the media to deliver a message to his club’s boardroom. The Spaniard is a master at dropping not so subtle hints to the press and the cameras when he feels he is not getting the financial support he needs and he has been at it again in recent weeks as he desperately tries to get Mike Ashley to part with some cash and bolster the Newcastle squad.
— Betfred (@Betfred) 28 January 2018
When you look through the players available to Newcastle it is entirely unsurprising that they are inside the bottom three. No member of the Toon Army is happy with the way things are going but few would argue that the team would be in better shape were they to have a different manager.
Benitez is getting everything he possibly can out of his Newcastle squad and far from being in danger of the sack, the only chance of him leaving the club is if he decides to walk away in the summer. That continuity and the brilliance of Benitez as a manager are two of the only positives for Newcastle at the moment and given the number of teams who could quite easily be dragged into the relegation battle, those factors could be enough to see them just about keep their heads above water once more.
Uncompromising Cardiff to Fight Their Way to Safety
There are many parallels between Cardiff and Huddersfield. Both teams won promotion to the Premier League despite being rank outsiders to do so and both did so despite operating on a strict budget. Just as Huddersfield were at the start of last season, Cardiff were odds on shots to be relegated back to the Championship and the Bluebirds could be about to make a mockery of those odds just as the Terriers did.
The comparisons stop when you start looking at the style of football played by both clubs and the experience of the men at the helm. Neil Warnock is at a very different stage of his career to David Wagner. His style of management has brought him much success in the game and at 70-years-old he isn’t about to change now.
Cardiff’s style of play is agricultural compared to many of their competitors in the Premier League but that is a real positive for the Bluebirds. The players love knowing that they will outfight and outcompete any team they come up against whilst their unique style demands something different from their opposition.
Nobody could describe Cardiff under Warnock as pleasing on the eye but they actually have some players of real quality in their squad. Junior Hoilett is capable of moments of magic when he drifts in from the wing, Sol Bamba marshals the defence admirably and Victor Camarasa would get into many Premier League midfields.
That combination of quality and work rate could well be enough for Cardiff to avoid the drop so they are a good price at 6/5 with bet365 to stay up. If you disagree the Bluebirds are just 8/11 with BetVictor to drop straight back down to the second tier.
Southampton Still Bang in Trouble
We’ve seen several impressive examples of the ‘new manager bounce’ in the Premier League this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had the biggest impact of all the new managers but Southampton fans are very happy with the work that their new boss, Ralph Hasenhuttl, has done since arriving at St Mary’s.
Hasenhuttl has lived up to his billing as the ‘Klopp of the Alps’ thus far. He is very tactile with his players, making sure to congratulate them after every positive performance, and has introduced the gegenpress to Southampton. The atmosphere around the club has been transformed since his arrival but is there a danger that we’re all getting a bit carried away with Hasenhuttl?
It is almost easy to forget just how dire Southampton were under the management of Mark Hughes. The Welshman got far too much praise for just about keeping the Saints up last season and the manner of their performances at the start of the new campaign were worryingly reminiscent of Stoke in Hughes’ final few months at the bet365 Stadium. It would be a real surprise if Southampton did not improve immediately after Hughes’ sacking and results have been far from completely convincing.
Before being dumped out of the FA Cup by Derby County in a replay, Southampton lost back to back home matches against West Ham and Manchester City. There have been highlights including the wins over Arsenal, Huddersfield and Leicester but Southampton got more than a little helping hand from each of their opponents in those matches.
Some bookies make Southampton as short as 1/20 to stay up and as big as 10/1 to be relegated. That paints a picture of a team who have already done the hard yards in the battle against the drop. That is most definitely not the case so those odds could well change fast and in our opinion the widely available 10/1 should be taken.
Burnley Moving in the Right Direction
Burnley are another team who have not yet done enough to shake off the spectre of relegation but look to be improving. The Clarets are still haunted by their first few months of the season where they almost totally lost what made them so difficult to beat since winning promotion back to the Premier League. Some even questioned whether Sean Dyche’s position should be under pressure because it did look as though the other top flight managers had found the cheat codes to beating Burnley.
Dyche remained the calmest person at the club throughout their bad spell. He told anybody who would listen that he and his coaching staff trust the process and were doing all the right things to put things right. A run of three straight wins against West Ham, Huddersfield and Fulham shows that work is really starting to pay off and they have eased out in the betting to a top price of 11/8 to be relegated.
That price shows the bookies are yet to be completely convinced but it does mean that they are available at a generous looking 8/11 to stay up. At their best, Burnley are masters of remaining in a game, even when they are being outplayed. As long as they can remain in touching distance of a point or three in more matches than not the Clarets will continue to climb the table. They are capable of creating chances which are perfect for their three strikers – Ashley Barnes, Chris Wood and Sam Vokes – so they should be able to keep moving away from the bottom three as we move into spring. 8/11 looks a very solid price and that’s another relegation (or should we say survival?) bet that we really like the look of.