As a result of yesterday’s matches, Birmingham and Blackpool have joined West Ham in the Championship, missing out on survival as their defeats have left them on 39 points, just behind Wolves, Wigan and Blackburn.
Although it took until game 38 of the season (37 for West Ham), these three teams have been relegated because of the problems that have troubled them all season, without which they could’ve just stayed up.
Despite the fact that the three teams have done better than some of the other teams relegated from the Premier League in terms of getting enough points that would keep them up in most previous seasons, they still have problems that they will want to reverse to try to bounce straight back up to the top flight in 2011-12.
Yes, they played the kind of football that made them the second-favourite Premier League club to many, and they may have taken many by surprise by just how well they have done this season, but Blackpool still deserve relegation.
The reason for this is simple: They have been suspect in defence all season.
This is proven by the fact that they conceded more goals than any other team, at an average of just over two goals a game, which was always going to be a problem considering that Holloway didn’t make many significant changes to the defence that was promoted from the Championship in 2009-10, and because their focus on attacking football often left them vulnerable to counter attacks.
Also, when they have taken the lead in games, they haven’t been able to park the bus and try to consolidate the lead, firstly because of Holloway’s tactics of attack being the best form of defence, and also because they wouldn’t be able to stop teams scoring if they did focus on closing out results.
This has meant that crucial points have been dropped in the late stages of games, something that has plagued them all season.
All of these problems led to a dip in form after Christmas, something that has plagued many newly promoted teams over the years, and Blackpool simply weren’t getting the results on a consistent basis in 2011 compared to how they were doing in the late stages of 2010.
Ian Evatt’s own goal at Old Trafford may have put Blackpool into the relegation slot, but it’s the problems all season that have led to them going down.
It is unusual for a team to win a major trophy and get relegated in the same season, but in Birmingham’s case, it is hard to argue against the former causing the latter over the course of the season.
The results since the Carling Cup win in late-February show exactly why Birmingham will be in the Championship next season.
They have won just two games since, and failed to beat any of the three teams who stayed up on the final day when they were given the opportunity to do so towards the end of the season, which could well have edged the side to safety.
Furthermore, their defence never looked the same since the Carling Cup final, keeping just one clean sheet, due in part to injuries to key players such as Scott Dann in an area of the field that contributed greatly to their success of 2009-10, when they finished ninth.
As well as this, many of the strikers brought in to improve the attack, the one area where Birmingham had serious problems last season, didn’t meet the expected standards.
The likes of Obafemi Martins and Matt Derbyshire haven’t had a significant impact, while Cameron Jerome and Kevin Phillips haven’t performed to the standards they set last season, which has meant that the killer instinct needed to survive in the Premier League has been lacking.
The best striker at Birmingham this season was Nicola Zigic, and even he failed to really meet expectations, despite some good performances towards the middle of the season.
The events late on Sunday may have dragged Birmingham below the relegation line, but the problems that they have suffered all year are the reason why they are going down.
Well, where do I even begin?
The team conceded too many goals, didn’t score enough, were terrible towards the end of the season when they needed victories, and speculation regarding everything from the Olympic Stadium and the owners of West Ham to the future of Avram Grant and their best player Scott Parker have been a few of the rather unwelcome off-field distractions that have contributed to the team’s relegation.
Although there is no doubt that the club has quality players in the squad, they simply haven’t performed to the standard that they really should.
This was seen by most of the signings that made the club either permanently or on-loan since last summer, especially the likes of Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge and Frederic Piquionne, who haven’t performed to the level that they perhaps should have both in defence and attack.
This seemed to be because the players simply didn’t believe that they could pull the team to safety, and when conceding a goal, falling behind and most importantly when going through a bad run of form, the players seemed to lack the motivation to get themselves out of trouble.
I know that I’m not the first, or the last, to say this but a large amount of this blame has to go to Avram Grant, whose inability to improve and motivate the team has led to the relegation and his sacking.
The only good thing I can say about West Ham is that they will probably do better next season.
It may be seem slightly unfair for these clubs that they were relegated with so many points, but once again it is clear that reaching 40 points is important, and the three teams will have to suffer the implications of not quite reaching this landmark.
As the teams enter the Championship, many issues such as financial implications and the desire of players to remain in the Premier League may have on-the-field implications.
The likes of Charlie Adam from Blackpool, Scott Parker, Demba Ba and Carlton Cole from West Ham, Scott Dann and Roger Johnson from Birmingham, as well as many more will probably want to stay in the Premier League, but it is important to keep as many top players at the club as possible for at least one season to mount a serious challenge for promotion.
The teams should take note of the 2009-10 season in the Championship, where Newcastle and West Brom managed to bounce straight back up because they managed to keep the majority of the players from the Premier League, despite management changes.
However, it may be harder for Birmingham and West Ham especially to do this due to the financial repercussions of relegation, which will inevitably result in cuts including wages, and the need to offload some of the club’s highest earners.
Will any of the clubs bounce straight back up? It’s really anyone’s guess at the moment.