Let's talk relegation: who goes down this season?
Hey, we've almost made it! The English Premier League kicks off tomorrow, with Man United and Spurs getting things started at 7:45 ET Saturday morning.
I'm anxiously anticipating the season and have been doing some previous about my pick for eventual champions, player of the year, and more; check it out here.
In this card, I'm taking a look at one of my favorite parts of the EPL: the relegation battle. I'm naming the six teams that I believe have the best shot of going down, and I'll finish by picking the three that I have my money on (or, rather, against!)
Which teams are set to finish in the bottom three? Sunderland
Former Manchester City winger Adam Johnson may be Sunderland's best player. The problem is, Johnson was charged last season of having sex with an underage girl. So, that's really bad. Fuck Adam Johnson.
They're also led by Old Man Jermain Defoe, big Romanian keeper Costel Pantillimon (another ex-City player) and newcomers Jeremain Lens and Yann M'Vila, both legitimately good players. Outside of that, though, Sunderland are completely devoid of innovation and energy. They finished 16th last season and just barely escaped relegation, and haven't gotten much better. There isn't much to get excited about here. Bournemouth
Bournemouth won the Championship last year, gaining automatic promotion to the Premiership. It's their first time in the Premier League in the club's history. They scored tons of goals in the Championship last season and had a solid defense too, meaning they could make some noise. However, it could be a suicide kind of squad, a la QPR last season - despite last year's success, their defense probably isn't good enough to lock down Premiership-quality attackers and they could suffer for that. It's a tiny, tiny club, and based on that and their lack of star power (of which there is essentially none), no one gives them too great a chance of beating the drop.
Overall, they're something of a mystery to most who didn't watch them last season, so there's really no telling what they're capable of. My bet? Not much. Leicester
Leicester had a nightmare of a summer. After pulling off one of the greatest escapes in recent memory to avoid getting relegated last season, they were everyone's favorite minnows; then, a NSFW vide of three of their players (including the manager's son) with a prostitute in Thailand surfaced and the club has been mired in controversy since.
On the pitch, they lost their most important player in Esteban Cambiasso. Striker Jamie Vardy might actually be good, but beyond him the pickings are slim: Riyad Mahrez is a fine midfielder and Rob Huth is a reliable center-half, but not good enough, really. They'll rely a lot on strikers Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa, but the rest of the team will struggle to match their energy and quality. Watford
Watford were the second team to gain automatic promotion to the Premiership in last year's Championship. They have made some legitimately great signings this summer, bringing in quality players with experience all around the world: Etienne Capoue, Valon Behrami, and Miguel Britos will form a really solid defensive base. There isn't a whole lot to be excited about up front, but they could well be a team that is very tough to break down.
It's not impossible to imagine them giving some top teams real trouble, especially at home - they figure to be a difficult squad to beat, even if they don't often secure all three points.
Villa just barely stayed up last season, finishing 17th. They have a few quality players - baby-faced Jack Grealish, for one, looks to have a true breakout season, while defender Micah Richards hopes to revive his once-promising career and competent players Cieran Clark, Scott Sinclair and Charles N'Zogbia figure to be major keys for the squad.
However, they lost their two best players over the summer - goal-scoring machine Christian Benteke (Liverpool) and midfielder Fabian Delph (Man City). Can the squad they have make up for the absences of the two true quality stars?
Owners of the Premiership's best kits, Norwich City gained promotion the hard way, via the Championship playoff. They were in the Prem just two years ago, then fell down after one season, and are now back; it's a ping-pong style that is totally unsustainable.
Key players for Norwich are defender Sebastian Bassong, left wingback/winger Robbie Brady (who starred for Hull City last season despite their relegation), strikers Cameron Jerome and Ricky van Wolfswinkle, and most importantly promising winger Nathan Redmond. Redmond could well develop into a serious star, as he one was maybe the best player in the Championship last season. So, who goes down?
With these six the most likely to drop down (with the possible inclusion of West Brom, who will probably be safe), it's going to be an interesting season at the bottom.
My picks are Bournemouth, Leicester and Sunderland.
Villa and Norwich will barely survive, while I see Watford having a solid season.
Bournemouth simply don't have enough quality. Am I picking them to go down just because I know the least about them? Yes. But maybe the fact that I know so little says something about how good they are...
Leicester are a mess after the Thailand scandal and were required a miracle late-season run to avoid relegation last season. The squad has lost its most important player and will not pull off the same escape this time around.
Sunderland have been on the verge of going down too many season in a row to avoid the drop again. Average management, average players. They'll be relegated.
Who are your picks?