One week Blackburn look safe. The next Wigan do, having beaten Man Utd and Arsenal, before losing to Fulham. Then Bolton beat Aston Villa, and suddenly the latter could be dragged into the relegation battle. And then there is QPR, the robin hood team of the division, beating the rich, losing to the poor. The race is going to the final day most likely and it gets harder to predict every year. Swansea and Norwich were supposed to fight this battle, instead they are battling it out with Liverpool nearer to mid table. Next year Southampton come into the Premier League, and they are joined by Reading and a.n.other. If they perform as this year’s promoted teams have, then it will become even more difficult to predict the relegation battle in future years. Newcastle, in their second season back in the top flight, might qualify for the Champions League.
Blackburn now look set to go down but who knows what could happen in this most unpredictable of Premier League campaigns? The race against the drop is set to go to the wire, with Wigan motoring clear after another astonishing victory and QPR looking doomed after a thrashing by Chelsea. But then Bolton host Tottenham on Wednesday, and could easily win, and Aston Villa may lose their final two games, so predicting this particular battle is more difficult than usual.
We are also likely to see better teams going down than ever before. The same Wolves team which looked competent last year and beat Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United have been relegated already. Blackburn have battled hard all year, and only twice looked completely out of a game, whilst also beating Manchester United at Old Trafford. Bolton are still a competent team and are showing fight in the last weeks of the season. Wigan have shown just how good they are with a remarkable run of form whilst QPR are beating some of the biggest teams in the league at home. Aston Villa, whilst looking poor, are a team who should not be near the drop.
And certainly one would not want to be in Aston Villa’s shoes right now. They are struggling to keep themselves clear of the battle below them. So far this season the five teams below have been poor, but something has happened of late. Whilst Wolves dropped their game, Blackburn, QPR, Wigan and Bolton have all raised theirs. Villa have kept themselves above the relegation fray because they have been that little bit better. But now, those four have all improved, and have caught up with Villa’s level. Alex McLeish, on the evidence of last season, may not have the answers. It is likely to be close, but momentum is with four teams and against one, Villa. It is going to be a mighty end to the season, and one of the least predictable relegation battles in years.