The ups and downs of footballAt the time of writing, some football clubs are still buying or loaning players in the January transfer window.
This is their last throw of the dice.
Will signings made by Sam Allardyce prevent West Ham being relegated?
Will Cardiff City give new manager Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer millions of pounds to keep them in the Premier League?
On the website – for members only – I make my seasonal predictions for the ups and downs in the full knowledge that, next week, one team could buy or sell a player that would make all the difference to whether or not the club goes up or goes down.
Before the season began, and prior to the appointment of Jose Mourinho, I had a small bet on Chelsea to win the Premier League at odds of 3/1. I knew Jose would be appointed and that, once he was, that price would vanish. It did.
If you were asking me to bet on the title winners now, I would go for Manchester City. Unbeatable at home and, seemingly, they have now remembered how to win away from home.
But the best price on Man City right now is 6/5. Too short to be of interest to me. If you do bet on this market, it can pay to wait until your chosen team loses a game or two and the price on them gets bigger.
Arsenal have impressed me of late. Perhaps, for once, they will not fall away in winter. I think the odds of 9/2 do represent potential value right now. But the loss of Theo Walcott – at a time when he was firing on all cylinders – is a blow to their chances of proving wrong the fans who wanted both Wenger and Walcott out of the door. I think those people should follow another sport!
West Ham got a crucial win at Cardiff this past weekend. The Hammers are in the mess they are due to crucial injuries. I am no fan of the manager, but he can rightly claim that he has been without his best players for weeks. I think that to stay up West Ham must get those players fit and soon. Or splash more cash and buy players who will stop the rot and secure their place in the top flight. The owners could afford to do that, after all, the taxpayer is gifting them a new stadium in a couple of years!
West Ham do have to play Arsenal, Spurs, Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool and it’s hard to see them getting much from those games.
It will be in games such as those against Stoke, Norwich and Southampton that they will have to grind out results.
Maybe they can get their first choice central defenders and, up front, Andy Carroll fit for February.
For all I dislike Allardyce as a person, if you want a manager to get you out of trouble; is there a better manager currently out of work that the Hammers could hire to do just that?
It is often the case that one team can go into freefall at this time of the season. Who can forget the year I tipped Blackpool to be relegated at the time when they were 9th in the Premier League?
If there was a club in danger of dropping into the relegation zone, which club would that be?
Could Aston Villa drop that far? That would be something of a shock. The odds of 10/1 for them to go down are tempting. They have to play all the big teams and could well go into April in serious danger of the drop. But surely there are more likely candidates, aren’t there?
Southampton began the season flying high. They are currently in a bad place but probably have enough points in hand to survive. One caveat to that:- there is a chance they will sell striker Rickie Lambert in this transfer window. If they do that, the Saints could be marching down, rather than on!
Norwich City will have to make sure they are safe before their final four games. Then they have to face Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal – any or all of whom could still be challenging for the title or Champions League qualification.
Norwich will have to win earlier games such as those against Fulham, Sunderland, West Ham and Cardiff City.
Hull City are a decent price to be relegated at odds of 13/2. They are unlikely to have as good a second half to the season, as they did the first. But the owner has proved that he will provide manager Steve Bruce with funds should additional players be needed to secure survival.
Crystal Palace are the bookies odds on favourites for the drop.
Palace should have appointed Tony Pulis four weeks earlier than they did. They could have. Ian Holloway had gone and they interviewed Pulis soon after. But then they took time they could not afford to interview others. For me Pulis was always the man most likely to keep them up.
Matches in March and April will dictate if Palace stay up.
On January 18th Pulis takes his Palace side to the club he used to manage, Stoke City. I would expect him to get at least a point there.
Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer has such a lovely smile. But will he be flashing it come May?
He’s a brave man working for Vincent Tan, the man who made the Bluebirds of Cardiff play in red!
When Ole was appointed rumours were that Tan would give him a budget of 35 million pounds or more to spend on players. At the time I write this, there has been no evidence of that.
February and April are the crucial months for Cardiff. They must then get enough points up against their fellow relegation candidates. If Solskjaer does have new, better players come February 1st, they should stay up.
I just wonder if the club owner really will splash the cash.
Fulham have to play Arsenal, Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs before the season ends.
Are they going to get much if anything from those games?
Fulham may well go into their last three games, against Hull, Stoke and Crystal Palace, needing points to survive.
Their humiliating defeat at the hands of Sunderland should ring alarm bells at Craven Cottage.
Fulham arguably have the hardest run in to the end of the season of those clubs in the bottom six right now.
My 3 to go down from the Premier League, along with some tips for promotion and relegation in the other leagues, can be seen by members of VG TIPS.