Every season, I indulge in the same thought experiment… What can I make out of the wreckage of the three relegated teams? Inevitably teams that get relegated tend to shed players and rebuild (Burnley and Norwich being two recent teams to go against that trend).
This year’s relegated Premier League sides are an odd mix. Let’s start with Newcastle United. They had a staggeringly good home record (10th overall) compared to their away form. Over the summer a lot of money was splashed out — Aleksandar Mitrovic (£12m), Georginio Wijnaldum (£14.5m), Chancel Mbemba (£8m) and Florian Thauvin (£12m). Mitrovic was wildly inconsistent and at times very undisciplined. On the surface, it looks like Georginio Wijnaldum had an okay season with 11 goals and 5 assists. However, when one looks a little closer, it’s not quite so rosy. All 11 goals came at home, 7 in the first half of the season including 4 against Norwich.
Then came the January debacle — not bringing in Benitez sooner and some panic buys with mixed results. Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend cost Newcastle £12m each. Townsend added some spark but Shelvey couldn’t make the starting XI under Benitez. Promising central midfielder Henri Saivet was bought for £5m but was rarely used. The most grievous error was dithering on the decision to replace McLaren with Benitez. Had that been done in January, Newcastle would very likely have stayed up.
After a promising start (2W-2L-3D after 7 matchdays), Norwich City tailed off and were never far away from the relegation zone the rest of the season. Their overall performance level was basically the same at home and away. Where it seemed to fall apart for them was during the second half of matches. It’s no surprise that the three relegated teams conceded the most second half goals of all teams in the league. This is where Norwich’s season could have been different. They were a much better first half team (almost 1/2 the number of goals conceded). Their collapse in the second half no doubt cost them several vital points over the course of the season.
What can I say about Aston Villa? It was a rough season for fans of this club. There never seemed to be any sense of fight or cohesion in the team. Without recounting the horrors, we can all agree that this relegation was several seasons in the making. They were the lowest scorers, and the side that conceded the most goals. To say anymore feels cruel, so let’s move along.