Surviving the drop – the key to Premier League survival

Redknapp deadline dayAs the heavyweights of English football get ready for another battle for supremacy at the top of the Premier League table, a completely different battle is set to take place at the other end of the table. The Arsenals, Manchester Citys and Chelseas of the world are looking for players to sign that will drive them towards European and domestic dominance, while the newly promoted teams are busy looking for players to sign that will give them the spark they need to regain Premier League status for more that just a year.

The word “signing” was used in the singular in this instance, but often the burden can be put on several new signings to keep their respective teams’ heads above water. We take a look at some stats written up for the years up to and including 2011, and then decide for ourselves what information we can extract from the last three years’ newly promoted teams, their transfer habits and the pitfalls that Leicester City, Burney and Queens Park Rangers need to avoid in their first year back in the top flight.

2001-02 was the last time the three newly promoted teams survived the drop, but don’t expect something like that to happen again. Up until the 2010-11 season, almost 50% of teams were sent straight back down but in the two years since, only two of the six teams promoted have been relegated after the briefest of stints. Reading went straight back down after winning the Championship in style during the 2011-12 season, and Cardiff suffered a season of turmoil before being relegated at the end of last year.

The other four have had mixed fortunes. West Ham and Hull City might now be considered mid-table teams, while Southampton exceeded all expectations with an eighth place finish last year and Crystal Palace have been given a new lease of life under Manager of the Year Tony Pulis.

Thirteen of 30 teams that were promoted up until the end of the 2011-12 season were relegated, while another six were relegated after two years in the top flight, but it seems once you reach the end of the second year without being sent back down, your status as a top flight team, while not guaranteed, is certainly looking more and more likely.

Transfers

While there is no science or glaring pattern on how to do business as a newly promoted team, there is somewhat of a trend that points towards more signings being a bad thing. Reading brought in no less than nine new signings in the year they were relegated, many of whom arrived on free transfers and undisclosed fees. This included the signing of Chris Gunter for £2.3 million. Cardiff City spent enormous amounts of money during the summer transfer window before their first year in the Premier League. £7.5 million Andreas Cornelius, £8 million Steven Caulker and the £9.5 million Gary Medel were the marquee signings, and while Caulker and Medel played a huge part in the Welsh side’s season, Cornelius was gone by January with no goals to his name and only 11 appearances.

QPR stayed in the top flight for two years before being sent back to the Championship in classic crash-and-burn type viewing. They finished last and 14 points clear of safety. The London-based club went for the marquee signing approach, also. Esteban Granero, Stephan M’Bia, Samba Diakite and Julio Cesar were the big names brought in by Harry Redknapp. The one thing noticeable here is that the lack of Premier League experience amongst their biggest stars was glaring. They also panicked in January buying no less than five players for a combined fee of £22.5, the free transfer of Tal Ben Haim and an undisclosed fee for Yuk-Suk Young.

Of the teams that stayed up that were mentioned before, Southampton landed Jay Rodriguez for £7.5 million and Hull City brought in Tom Huddlstone for an undisclosed fee. Two very good English signings appearing 35 times and 36 times for their respective clubs. A player who produces this kind of consistency in your squad can really help establish yourself in the top flight.

Crystal Palace sacked Ian Holloway after a very poor start to their first year back in the Premier League and his successor, Tony Pulis, not only made better use of Holloway’s summer signings, most notably Dwight Gayle, but brought in his own four players in January, which coincided with their rise out of the relegation zone and into the dizzying heights of mid-table success.

West Ham, the other team who survived the first two years of Premier League insecurity after returning to the top, finished their first season back a very respectable 10th and needed the services of Andy Carroll on a season-long loan, Matt Jarvis for an undisclosed fee and Yossi Benayoun on another season-long loan to help them achieve such respectability.

This year’s promoted sides

QPR seem to have learned their lesson and are buying experienced, albeit expensive, players from newly relegated clubs and not purchasing but loaning foreign players with no Premier League experience. Mixed with the signing of Rio Ferdinand, this can not be viewed in a negative light, and the fact that Mauricio Isla is an excellent player, you might just give Harry Redknapp the benefit of the doubt this time around for prolonged Premier League existance.

Leicester seem to be doing good business, bringing in experience in the form of Matthew Upson, mixed with homegrown talent in Marc Albrighton. They also added depth in their goalkpeeping chart with the signing Ben Hamer and former Manchester United youngster Jack Barmby to add versatility.

Burnley are bringing in experience in the form of Stephen Reid and Matt Taylor, Reid is a friend of Manager Dyche and will surely take on a role that encompasses playing along with aiding in the development of youngsters during what will be a tough year for them. Lukas Jutkiewicz has been their biggest signing from Middlesborough for £2.5 million. They seem to be operating with the least risk, which might lead to little reward but, manager Sean Dyche, has promised more signings before the end of the window. Perhaps a few games in the Premier League are needed to assess their weaknesses and indeed strengths before diving back into the transfer market.

Conclusion

There doesn’t seem to be what you might call definitive trends but it is quite obvious that bringing in a lot of high risk, high reward type players is not as effective as bringing in a couple of good ones, when depth at all positions is something that managers often look towards strengthening. QPR is a good example of this. The acquisition of an experienced midfielder with plenty of versatility is always a good idea, with them influencing many aspects of your squad in a single purchase.

Loaning players with a view to buy is quite a shrewd way of going about your summer dealings and keeping some money in the kitty to re-strengthen in January is never a bad idea. Panicking in the winter window, however, is not advised. QPR is a good example of this.

Experience is key and players at the end of their Premier League careers and looking to play for another year or two can be priceless to a newly promoted team, and players who have fallen on hard times at their clubs and looking for an escape route are always welcomed, as their desire to prove themselves fits perfectly with the dogged mentality that the relegation zone brings on. Andy Carroll is a good example of this.

Buying foreign players is never a good idea for a newly-promoted team as throwing a player into a new league where every game is a final is not necessarily an ideal situation. Gaston Ramirez is a good example of this. Andreas Cornelius is another good example of this, although Vincent Tan might argue that this transfer was a shambles from the get-go.

It will be interesting to see how each team fares in the Premier League. It also comes down to the board keeping cool heads and not panicking at the first sign of danger by sacking the coach. If given time to properly gel, at least two out of the newly promoted teams should be able to stave of relegation, for another year, anyway.

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Robbie Dunne

A student journalist who drinks too much coffee and takes too much stock in formations. I believe in Johan Cryuff and attacking football.

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