Here's a stat for you. Of all the managerial changes in the history of the Barclays Premier League, of those who have sacked their manager and been in the bottom three of the table at the turn of the year, only ONE in 20 years have survived. And for those interested, it was Bolton Wanderers who achieved survival despite this, when Owen Coyle took over from Gary Megson (whom was appointed manager of Bolton on the 8th January 2010 with the club 18th in the table.)
QPR decided to replace Neil Warnock, who had guided the club to promotion despite taking over the club in a dire stat and with the possibility of relegation to League One a real one, with Mark Hughes. Whilst Wolves, following a 5-1 home defeat to West Brom sacked Mick McCarthy, and after failing to agree terms with Alan Curbishley, opted to appoint McCarthy's assistant Terry Connor.
Both Hughes and Connor have seen their clubs form decrease under their stewardship (with both clubs in the bottom three of the table in league form since the turn of the year). I might have been a tad presumptuous at the start of this piece when I said both QPR and Wolves were down; however I can't see either team surviving.
QPR under Hughes have been an enigma and for every brilliant result there has been three poor ones. A combination of bad luck, indisicpline and poor form in the games against sides in and around them, have ensured that QPR are in the bottom three with easily the hardest run in of any of the relegation threatened sides.
|Barton dismissed vs Norwich|
Wolves on the other hand were very inconstant under McCarthy; however were capable of going anywhere and getting results (draws away to Tottenham and Arsenal this year, after winning at Anfield last season), and I suppose at least under Connor they've found consistency, I mean they are always losing now. A comeback point away to Newcastle in Connor's first match only papered over the cracks at the club which were oh so heavily exposed in their last four games.
Following a 2-1 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers, many expected Steve Kean to be out of a job after the huge amount of abuse he received; however to his credit since that defeat Blackburn have been superb. 18 points in those 13 games have seen Blackburn rise from the bottom of the league to 16th place and despite a couple of tricky fixtures, they run-in looks favourable.
I'll hold my hands up and admit I felt Blackburn were goners under Kean; however despite recieving a horrific amount of abuse he has handled it superbly, showing an incredible amount of dignity and if he were to lead them to safety then it would rank up there with any other managerial achievement this season in the Premier League. Despite not being the best defensively still, they are certainly a threat at the other end and in Yakubu they've an out and out goalscorer and I now feel they will survive comfortably.
Wigan are another side, who despite being in and around the bottom three for most of the season, have stuck with their manager who in turn has stuck with his attacking principles. Following a 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea, many wrote Wigan off; however five points from their last three games, including a famous 2-1 victory at Anfield, which has boosted their chances of maintaining Premier League status.
Apart from Liverpool, who have only sparingly used it, Wigan are the only Premier League side to use three central defenders in a 3-5-2 formation, something that is frequent in Italy and Spain. At home Wigan haven't been brilliant this year; however on their travels they've secured four priceless victories and have one of the better away records and after defying the odds last season to survive, Wigan will want to use their experience to keep them afloat this year.
The fifth and final side who are in trouble are Bolton Wanderers whom I feel will battle Wigan for the second most important place in the table 17th. After a dire start to the season Bolton have picked their form up over recent weeks and like the previous two sides stuck with their manager. The recent terrible incident involving Fabrice Muamba will in awful situation unite the club and they impressed in their first outing since Muamba's cardiac arrest.
Coyle has been brilliant in the loan market with previous additions of Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge working well, with Ryo Miyaichi the third impressive loanee in same amount of years at the Reebok. Bolton have also been hit hard by big injuries, with the likes of Stuart Holden, Lee Chung-Yong and Tyrone Mears missing for the whole season. If them three, in particular the first two players had been available for Bolton for the whole year, then I've no doubts Bolton wouldn't be in a relegation fight.
My bottom five come the end of the season