Previous
Chelsea
West Ham United
Dec 26, 2014 12:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Burnley
Liverpool
Dec 26, 2014 3:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Everton
Stoke City
Dec 26, 2014 3:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Manchester United
Newcastle United
Dec 26, 2014 3:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Leicester City
Tottenham Hotspur
Dec 26, 2014 3:00 PM GMT
Game Details
West Bromwich Albion
Manchester City
Dec 26, 2014 3:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Arsenal
Queens Park Rangers
Dec 26, 2014 5:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Next

Five trends of the 2014-15 Premier League

Tactics & Analysis
Read

Top 10 moments for Liga MX in 2014

Liga MX
Read

What goes up must come down?

The hard work starts now. It's probably not what Portsmouth and Leicester City want to hear after the rigours of a promotion campaign in a league as tough as the first division.

Nonetheless, most teams coming up to the Premiership are automatically tipped for relegation, even though Birmingham, Bolton and Ipswich have managed to defy the odds in recent years. And with the gulf between English football's first and second tiers widening, the task for the Premiership's newest occupants is made all the harder.

Not that the prospects of Portsmouth and Leicester should be regarded as the same after a season in which they were regarded as polar opposites. Free-spending Portsmouth were contrasted with cash-strapped Leicester, wheeler-dealer Harry Redknapp compared with Micky Adams, unable to spend, Pompey's free-flowing football so different to the Foxes' more direct game.

They are accusations which have jarred with both clubs, feeling they detract from their achievements. Whatever the truth, they do provide a useful starting point for both clubs' Premiership prospects.

Redknapp may have brought in more than 20 players, but actually has a £3million transfer profit to show for 13 months at Fratton Park. But chairman Milan Mandaric's decision to stay on is vital, though his businesses have reportedly suffered in the last 18 months. The investment of the Gold brothers and David Sullivan has played a major role in Birmingham's survival and Redknapp will be reliant on similar generosity from his own board.

Because the Portsmouth manager will have to contemplate whether to change both his system and much of his team for the higher league. Captain Paul Merson is currently the focal point of a 3-5-2 formation and Pompey's playmaker has yet to reveal whether he wants to play on; were he to, does the 35-year-old still have the stamina to be more than a bit-part player?

Without him, Redknapp must be tempted to switch from an expansive game to a more cautious 4-4-2, his wing-backs this season being primarily midfielders. The England Under-21 international Matthew Taylor's ferocious long-range shooting marks him out as a Premiership player, but needs to improve defensively or play as a left winger.

Merson and fellow veterans Steve Stone, Tim Sherwood and Gianluca Festa were deemed surplus to requirements at Aston Villa, Tottenham and Middlesbrough respectively; though all have done well in Division One, they are probably yet to convince Graham Taylor, Glenn Hoddle and Steve McClaren that they wrong to write them off as Premiership players.

Apart from Taylor and goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, strikers Svetoslav Todorov and Yakubu Ayegbeni should also flourish at the higher level. Todorov has vindicated Redknapp's faith in him by becoming the first Portsmouth player to get 20 league goals for a decade, while turning Ayegbeni's loan move into a permanent deal must be a priority.

Defending, though, could be more of a problem. Hayden Foxe, Pompey's best defender this season, could not get in a West Ham defence which is the Premiership's second most porous. Linvoy Primus and Arjan de Zeeuw are experienced journeymen, but lack experience against top quality forwards, while there is a shortage of natural full backs.

So, as much of the West Ham team are inevitably linked with moves to Fratton Park, much depends on Redknapp's summer spending. But that is a luxury Adams may not have.

After spending much of the season in administration, Leicester must be tempted to use the Premiership cash to reduce their debts. The consortium who recently took over the Foxes have less ready cash than Mandaric and Peter Taylor's spending is a warning that players are not necessarily the safest investments (Ade Akinbiyi in particular).

Redknapp: Staying at Pompey
Redknapp: Staying at Pompey

That leaves Adams with a worse squad than that relegated last year. Only World Cup semi-finalist Muzzy Izzet and keeper Ian Walker would be certain to prosper in the Premiership, though 21-year-old midfielder Jordan Stewart, the brightest of several younger players to figure this season, probably would.

Paul Dickov, with 20 goals, is surely Leicester's Player of the Year and, with Brian Deane, he has troubled virtually every First Division defence, but it is hard to think of too many Premiership sides either would get in. In the first division, Adams has turned games by bringing on Trevor Benjamin; that is inconceivable in the Premiership.

Though central defenders Matt Elliott and Gerry Taggart have both excelled in the Premiership in the past, age and a lack of pace hampered them last year and will do so more next year. And before arriving at Leicester, Dickov, Taggart, Nicky Summerbee, Billy McKinlay, Andy Impey, Alan Rogers and Callum Davidson have all been relegated from the Premiership elsewhere, an indication of a group of players found wanting at the highest level.

So it may not be a promising start, but Adams has excelled at getting results from fit, motivated and organised teams. Three promotions are testament to his success in the Nationwide League, but Adams is unproven in the top flight.

And West Brom, similarly effective in Division One, and Sunderland have found long-ball football has reaped few rewards in the Premiership. A concern, too, has been a physical approach which has brought seven red cards and 94 bookings this season. Quicker, cleverer players in the Premiership would surely increase that tally.

But although Albion have gone down, Birmingham and Manchester City survived. Both fielded six players signed in the last year on Easter Monday wins - which suggest Portsmouth's chances of survival are better than impoverished Leicester's in 12 months' time.


  • Email newsdesk@soccernet.com with your thoughts.