It’s been building for months, but finally we have a relegation dogfight in full swing. Teams dangling near the trap door find that added bit of fight, passion, and sheer will power as they battle for survival. With the stakes higher than ever, relegation from the Premier League can be fatal to a clubs future.
The Rascal will review the relegation battles weekly and analyse team performance to see who will be going up and who will be going down.
Aston Villa 0 – 0 Sunderland
The fact that both Villa and Sunderland were winless in 4 games heading into this fixture makes the final scoreline rather predictable. However, given the events over the course of the game, Villa could so easily have lost. They offered nothing to this fixture and in the end, had it not been for Nicklas Bendtner’s goal being ruled out for offside, Villa would be 4 points away from the drop rather than 5. At this stage of the season I guess it doesn’t matter how you get the points, as long as you just do.
If Villa are to stay up, they need to improve the quality of their passing. A pass completion of 65% is nowhere near good enough. They’d also be wise to take advantage of playing at home. Being outmuscled for possession on home soil isn’t going to help matters. What especially won’t help is the manner in which they are outmuscled. They simply give the ball away too much and their pass completion percentage reflects that.
In addition, Villa’s center backs had a torrid time – they carelessly committed many fouls around their own penalty area as did the midfield, which simply piled unneeded pressure on the team. There were also a comedy of errors in the defensive third. Things like these are very dangerous and are, unfortunately, regular features of Villa’s performances. They have to stop playing with fire, otherwise they may get burned.
Another glaring issue is the club’s profligacy in front of goal. It’s not a simple matter of the likes of Gabby Agbonlahor misfiring; it’s a matter of Agbonlahor and company not being fed the ball often enough, resulting in isolation up top. Villa have to improve their creativity in addition to their passing, Once this happens, they may be more potent in front of goal.
All in all, Villa are almost safe in 15th place, 5 points clear of the relegation zone. However, they need to improve a few crucial aspects of their game, otherwise they could easily get sucked further into the relegation dogfight. At the moment Villa are safe, but they need to shape up quickly.
QPR 1 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur
QPR sit 3 points clear of the relegation zone in 16th place. Clearly, they’re not home and dry yet and if they are to be, then they need to work on a few things: Firstly, they need to support the likes of Bobby Zamora. Zamora had no support up top. As a target man, that is never a good thing. This resulted in a poor day at the office for Zamora, who only completed a mediocre 48% of his passes, which would’ve included flick-ons & knock-downs that none of his team-mates latched on to. In addition, the only two shots he had all game were off target.
QPR also have to avoid fouling so often around their own penalty area. They should be very wary of this given they face Chelsea away next. Their passing isn’t exactly a joy to behold either. They completed just 72% of their passes on the day.
All in all, QPR have the ability to stay up, only just. Although a bit fortunate in the end, victory over Spurs would’ve provided a welcome morale boost. Hopefully, that boost can see them through their final three fixtures and through this relegation battle.
Fulham 2 – 1 Wigan
Despite the loss, the performance was rather encouraging from Wigan. They passed the ball well (completed 84% of passes) and gave Fulham a run for their money. In the end, however, they proved to be their own worst enemies.
In addition to fouling frequently around their own penalty area, Wigan wasted created chances. Franco Di Santo had a very poor game up front. At the back, Gary Caldwell played terribly, being easily outdone by Fulham’s fluid attackers.
With high-flying Newcastle coming to pay a visit to the DW in their next fixture, Roberto Martinez would be wise to ensure that his key players are on song. This game won’t be easy, but this Wigan side is inspired; surprising victories over Manchester United and Arsenal are to thank for that. All in all, with this sort of spirit and the results to match, Wigan may very well find themselves safe from harm when the dust settles at the conclusion of this relegation battle.