There has been a few times the English footballing community has been left dumbfounded, usually in the way of managerial changes. Certainly at Chelsea in November 2012 with the dismissal of the popular, Roberto Di Matteo and the appointment of the man the Chelsea fans love to hate, Rafa Benitez.
The latest happenings at Southampton have left many dumbstruck to put it, Nigel Adkins sacked when they seemed to be turning a corner. Rumours had rumbled on in September and October when Southampton had been dwindling. But at such a time as this, it seems bizarre. His replacement is slightly confusing, Maurico Pochettino has recently been sacked for his management of Espanyol, in which they looked near certainties to go down.
It does of course make the relegation battle that much more interesting. It has been a significant week in the relegation zone. Reading showed their character by beating West Brom in dramatic fashion, Aston Villa will see the return of Ron Vlaar to their defence, perhaps paving the way for more security than in early winter. QPR have potentially made their ‘impact signing in Loic Remy and now the week has been topped off by the sacking of Adkins.
It is difficult to call who will get relegated this season, QPR looked dead and buried at the end of 2012. But a couple of clean sheets against two of the leagues better sides in Chelsea and Tottenham. Along with the signing of Remy, who will look to be the catalyst in survival. Things are certainly back on the up. Aston Villa have looked horrendous in winter, the defence consisting of very unexperienced players has cost them. Regularly ripped apart very easily, exploited by any who takes them on. The fall of Villa could be seen in their cup tie against Bradford, well beaten by the League Two side. They looked as if they wanted to bury their heads in the sand. What is going for Villa is their attacking threat, Andreas Weimann and Christian Bentenke provide the most exciting attacking pairing in the bottom. Sort out the defence problems and Aston Villa are dangerous.
Injuries are important at this point in the season. All potential relegation candidates have their ‘key player’. Rickie Lambert for Southampton would be a massive loss for Southampton, without him things would get tough. Although an appointment of an Argentine manager may open the question of change in style. Rickie Lambert may suffer in this, being a very traditional English forward. Pavel Pobrebneyak has never quite hit the heights he did at Fulham yet, but he seems to be getting there. His recent goals have been important in wins over West Ham and West Brom. If they lost him, the goals could dry up.
The relegation battle will be intense to the end. Sides could be dragged into the frame, Newcastle have been dragged into the frame. The loss of Demba Ba has been most concerning. Papiss Cisse is a shadow of his former self, unable to recapture last seasons fabulous form. Cabaye returned to the fold against Norwich. He gives the Newcastle midfield that added edge. A new striker is on the cards for Newcastle, they desperately need a new striker. Missing out on Loic Remy was a hammer blow, but Yoan Gouffran has been linked to the club. He has never settled in at Bourdeaux but a move to Newcastle could be a match made in heaven.
This could be the most fierce relegation battle in years, perhaps the dramatics of West Brom in 2005 could be on the cards. Anyone in the bottom half could be dragged into it at this stage of the season. No-one is immune.
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