Premier League Relegation: Hughes set for another season of struggle

Mark Hughes
Let's see what that clapping means for Mark Hughes come May 2019.
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Having tipped Stoke for the drop at 7.4 last year, Jamie Pacheco is back looking at the relegation market where a team with a similar profile looks a great bet for the drop...

"Southampton for my money have a poor squad and a big factor behind that is that over the past few seasons time and time again they’ve sold far better players than what they’ve bought to replace them. This is arguably the weakest squad they’ve had since returning to the top flight in 2012-13."

Promoted sides always favourites for the drop

Every season the promoted teams from The Championship are chalked up as favourites for the drop almost as soon as their leap up to English football's top division is confirmed. Not only that, but at least one of them (normally the one who went through the Play-Offs) is normally odds-on with another at around even money. That's certainly been the trend for the past five seasons or so.

This season we do have our odds-on favourite in the form of a promoted team - Cardiff at [1.68]. And we do have another promoted team as fourth-favourites for the drop, Fulham at [3.5]. Sandwiched between them are Huddersfield at [2.14], with Watford at [3.3] and then it's Brighton at [3.85] and Burnley at [4.6].

Where things become interesting are that the third of those promoted sides - Championship winners Wolves- are just 11th favourites to go down at [9.8]. But that's actually not that surprising. They bossed The Championship last season, have a good manager in charge and have a squad of great quality. As if last year's squad wasn't strong already, over the summer they added two automatic starters for Portugal no less: keeper Rui Patricio and 100 plus-times-capped midfield maestro Joao Moutinho.

Avoid the newbies this time round

Blindly backing promoted teams for the drop is the fast way to the poorhouse. Over the past five seasons these are how many of the three relegated teams were promoted sides: 2013-14 (one), 2014-15 (two), 2015-16 (one), 2016-17 (one), 2017-18 (zero).

So there we go. Of the last 15 teams to be relegated only five were promoted sides (33%) and that figure goes down to just two from nine (22%) over the past three seasons.

That's perhaps not that surprising that promoted sides avoid the drop in their first season in the 'big time'. Very often there's less pressure on their shoulders to stay up quite simply because they're not expected to. But perhaps more crucially: the players and the way the teams play are a bit of an unknown quantity to the Premier League sides. The best example of that last year was Huddersfield.

David Wagner took plenty of teams by surprise with his complex tactics that often involved changing systems several times a game. The best example was that was how they bamboozled Crystal Palace on the first day of the season away from home, beating them 3-0.

So of the promoted teams it's pretty obvious from what the stats tell us that Cardiff are no value at 1.67. Wolves are the biggest price we've seen on a promoted team for years but that's for a reason. Fulham? Maybe but they've spent heavily and their squad looks at least as good as plenty of other sides at far bigger prices. So if that trio is to be avoided, then who?

Hughes and Saints look suspect

Last year I successfully tipped Stoke for the drop at 7.4. The main reasons behind the thinking were that they'd sold their one genuine match-winner (Marko Arnautovic) and that there wasn't much of genuine quality who'd come through the door in the summer. And here we are.

Southampton's most talented player, albeit an inconsistent one, has been sold. Dusan Tadic has left for Ajax and I'm not sure who's left that is going to unlock opposition defences in tight games with that one moment of inspiration.

They spent 10 million quid on keeper Angus Gunn from Man City and whereas I get that he's one for the future that wasn't necessarily a problem area for them in the short term. They also splashed out 18 million quid on Jannik Vestergaard, a big centre-back from Borussia Monchengladbach. A player in that mould was needed after never really replacing Virgil van Dijk but there may be two slight concerns about him. The first is that centre-back is arguably the toughest position for a Premier League newcomer, the second is that it's perhaps a little worrying at the didn't get a game for Denmark at the World Cup.

Southampton for my money have a poor squad and a big factor behind that is that over the past few seasons time and time again they've sold far better players than what they've bought to replace them. This is arguably the weakest squad they've had since returning to the top flight in 2012-13.

But you'll surely notice another similarity between Stoke last season and Southampton this. Mark Hughes wasn't officially relegated with the Potters last year because he was sacked before they went down. But he was the one who got them into such a mess by the time Paul Lambert arrived there wasn't much that could be done to save their season.

Now, I don't have anything against Hughes. He seems an ok bloke who is a proper football man. But I'm not entirely sure after all these years what sort of manager he is nor what sort of football he wants his teams to play. Or what the strengths of is teams are. It doesn't bode well and at the price of 8.0, they have to be a bet for the drop.


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