The battle to avoid the drop has never been tighter, with every side in the bottom half of the table capable of being dragged into the relegation zone after just two games. At the time of writing, Sunderland, Cardiff and Fulham occupy the bottom three. Two of these clubs have brought in very inexperienced managers when it comes to the Premier League and are therefore favourites to go down this May. Crystal Palace and West Ham, on the other hand, both have managers who may not be so popular, but know what it takes to survive in the top flight and are progressing well up the table.
The case of Fulham is a bizarre one, as the sacking of Rene Meulensteen came just after he had spent a reported £11million on Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou, an expensive player considering he has never played in the Premier League. Their new manager, Felix Magath, has a fair bit of experience, but only in Germany and with just four months in which to adapt to the English game and keep Fulham up, it is looking more and more likely that the West London side will be playing in the Championship come August.
Crystal Palace, on the other hand, brought in Tony Pulis to replace Ian Holloway in October last year, a manager who spent years at Stoke creating a solid Premier League side who are very rarely threatened by the prospect of relegation. Now would be the perfect time to include a statistic to reinforce the fact that Pulis was a great choice and the following does just that. Ian Holloway won 30.43% of his games as Palace boss, whereas Pulis has achieved a 46.67% win percentage, the best since Dave Bassett was manager back in 1996/97. So far, it appears that Premier League experience is vital when avoiding the drop, but until Magath has been in charge for an extended period of time, it will be difficult to judge his success. That being said, Meulensteen struggled greatly at the helm and he never managed a Premier League side, so the evidence speaks for itself.
West Ham United, a side who just a few months ago had fans calling for Sam Allardyce to get the sack, are somehow clawing their way out of the relegation zone. The board decided to stick with Allardyce and they are being greatly rewarded for doing so, with the Hammers now up in 10th place thanks to a four-game winning streak. Big Sam has managed a wealth of Premier League sides and to be quite honest, that fact alone appears enough to help his side remain in the top flight. The only managers we see who have never managed a Premier League side but succeed early on in their spell are those who are gifted a strong, relegation-free club from the off. Michael Laudrup had a hugely successful first season at Swansea, but was relieved from his duties earlier this season after a poor start to the campaign, proving to an extent that Premier League experience is vital in constructing a solid team.
Another factor to consider is how quickly managers are being fired and hired and the impact that this can have on a club's season. Fulham's eagerness to chop and change when things aren't improving quickly enough has brought them more problems than they had in the first place. A lack of stability breeds a lack of loyalty and confidence from the players and that can impact the way the team play, Fulham's league position only confirming this. West Ham sticking with Allardyce may have been one of their best decisions in recent years, as their side is clearly a close, confident team and through this has come the belief and determination to stay up, something they are on the way to achieving.
A combination of Premier League experience and time is needed if a team are to beat the drop and the way things are going, the sides who have neither of these things are the ones who will struggle. That being said, experience can only come if a manager is given a chance and it is normal for one man to change clubs over his career, but in a season that anyone could get relegated, it may come down to the small, seemingly less important factors like these.
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