The Premier League 2012-13 season has drawn to a close, and for three clubs—Queens Park Rangers, Reading and Wigan Athletic—next year will begin with life in the Championship after suffering relegation.
Reading and QPR—finishing 19th and 20th, respectively—managed just 10 league victories between them all season, finishing 11 points and 14 points from safety at the end of the campaign. A final-day draw for Wigan meant they ended in 18th—three points off Sunderland, which finished one spot outside the drop zone.
It will no doubt be a summer of reflection for the coaching staff and restructuring of the playing staff once the transfer window opens, but which clubs are primed for success in the Championship to try to bounce back at the first attempt?
And, just as importantly, are there any players on these three teams who will want to jump ship to stay in the top flight? Or, will any be pushed out to keep the wage bill at a non-Premier League level?
Wigan Athletic: 18th place, nine wins, nine draws, 20 defeats, 47 scored, 73 conceded, 36 points
Wigan might have gone down, but it has been a bittersweet ending to the campaign for them. They won the FA Cup final only recently, their first-ever major honour in the professional game. Within a week or so, they had been relegated.
They will compete in the Championship next season—but also in the UEFA Europa League.
Wigan's first task will be to keep hold of manager Roberto Martinez, who, according to Mirror Football, is surrounded by rumours of a move every summer and this year is being linked with the likes of Everton.
On the playing side of things, Wigan will lose goalkeeper Joel Robles—who has only been on loan—as well as Paul Scharner, Ryo Miyaichi and Angelo Henriquez. All will return to their parent clubs in the summer.
Most of their defensive players are aged 30-plus, so they are not likely to be actively sought out by too many Premier League clubs. With a very low wage bill, Wigan will not be under pressure to sell off a large number of stars, so they should keep their back line intact—should they choose to do so, considering they conceded over 70 goals.
Midfield leader James McCarthy is the player who will be targeted by the most top-flight clubs. Rumours already surround him with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea according to the Independent, while teammate Callum McManaman has generated interest after his performances in the second half of the season. ESPN reports Liverpool have been mentioned as one possible destination, though a summer spent on the sidelines with an ankle injury may hinder any possible move.
Other at-times-impressive performers include playmaker Shaun Maloney and star striker Arouna Kone—who plundered 11 goals in 33 games for the relegated club.
Selling those two attackers and McCarthy would likely net Wigan around £15 million to strengthen their side more appropriately for the Championship ahead of the new season.
Reading: 19th place, six wins, 10 draws, 22 defeats, 43 scored, 73 conceded, 28 points
The Royals started planning for next season early by dismissing their former manager, Brian McDermott, and replacing him with Nigel Adkins. Given time, the former Southampton boss will somewhat change the style of play for Reading. But to bounce back into the top flight at the first attempt, Reading must realise that significant changes to the squad are necessary to stay there.
First out the door for Reading will likely be Pavel Pogrebnyak.
The Russian striker was one of the few big-name signings last summer but failed to deliver—scoring only five goals in 28 games and looking a shadow of the man who impressed on loan at Fulham the season previous.
Goalkeepers Alex McCarthy and Adam Federici may be looked at by other clubs over the summer, and Reading might feel they can sell one to raise funds if the other can be retained. Metro reports Alex Pearce, a central defender, is out of contract and has been linked with Liverpool, amongst others. Top scorer Adam le Fondre has been mentioned in connection with Aston Villa, West Brom and Leeds, according to Yahoo.com.
Most of the rest of the squad could likely be persuaded to help send the club up again, though there may be moderate interest in the likes of Danny Guthrie, Hal Robson-Kanu and Garath McCleary.
QPR: 20th place, four wins, 13 draws, 21 defeats, 30 scored, 60 conceded, 25 points
It's been a woeful season for QPR. They sacked a manager, spent around £45 million on new signings—and still only won a measly four games all season.
In terms of who they'll look to sell, you could almost start with the squad list and work your way down.
Big earners who have given poor returns, for a variety of reasons, will be instantly offloaded where buyers are found—including Jose Bosingwa, Park Ji-Sung, Stephane Mbia, Esteban Granero and Bobby Zamora.
The few success stories, such as Adel Taarabt in patches and Loic Remy since January, will likely make way to bring relatively good funds into the club for revamping the squad in Harry Redknapp's image. Samba Diakite, Armand Traore and Julio Cesar have all had good and bad times at QPR—but all three will also likely be off.
Who has the best chance of gaining instant promotion back to the Premier League?
And what of Chris Samba? Signed for £12.5 million and on wages of £100,000 per week is certainly not sustainable in the Championship, but he was Redknapp's flagship signing in January—heralded as the man who could lead the Rangers out of trouble.
Instead, after a series of below-par performances, he wasn't even involved in the club's last three matches of the season.
He must surely be sold.
But there is no guarantee that QPR will earn back their money, with clubs knowing that they are in a weakened position.
All told, it would not be unlikely to see QPR recoup anywhere between £35-£45 million from sales this summer.
The most important thing for the future of the club is to more wisely reinvest in the playing staff this time around.
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