What with the Manchester derby in the FA Cup semi-final and the first game in the football World Series over in Spain, viewers could be forgiven for taking their eyes of the relegation race in the Premiership this weekend to focus on other matches. Nevertheless, it could be that this weekend marks the time when the bottom half of the table finally begins to take shape and serious relegation candidates emerge. We’ve been waiting for a long time but it finally looks like there are five serious candidates for the drop. Blackpool, Blackburn, Wigan, West Ham and Wolves all look like the real contenders for the drop. Sunderland are also on a horrific run of form but they should have enough points from the first half of the season to avoid the drop. Nevertheless they could still be sucked into the scrap if they don’t record a win soon. Indeed, it says a lot about Arsenal’s title challenge that the one place that both Sunderland and Blackburn have managed to pick up points in recent weeks is at the Emirates where both sides kept clean sheets.
Of course many teams have been mired in the relegation scrap for a long time now but before this weekend there was always the promise that even one victory could alter a team’s position fairly drastically. Blackpool have been the neutrals favourite side this year, not just because they came up via the playoffs which tends to endear fans to a club, but because they have really set out to attack team’s this year. However the sad fact is that this attitude may also be their downfall. Having gone two-nil up against Manchester United, the Seasiders didn’t attempt to sit back and defend their lead but try for a third. Seeing both full-backs bombing forward with fifteen minutes to go is certainly admirable but it is also suicidal against a team like United. Their defeat to Wigan might prove to be crucial. A win at home to the side bottom of the lead and they might have reversed their slide down the table. Now a return to the Championship looks very likely to the disappointment of everyone.
Along with Blackpool, Blackburn are in a wretched run of form and the decision to sack Sam Allardyce looks worse every week. Both teams will struggle to pick up many more points this season which is a problem because, as bad as West Ham, Wolves and Wigan have been at times this season they all have the ability to pick up points here and there. One of the three sides in the drop zone currently will almost certainly escape but which one remains to be seen. Wolves currently have a game in hand on their rivals but have the victims of rotten luck as much as poor form. Who will go down is still unclear but this weekend finally saw breathing space emerge between the teams in real trouble and the likes of Fulham or Aston Villa.