relegation

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January window made the difference in tighter relegation battle

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This year’s Premier League table sees just eight points between eighth place and 17th , and just four more before the relegation races. The latter gap will max at 15 and could be as small as nine.

It was 23 last season, and 21 the previous season. This year will end a three-season run of 20-plus points between 8th and 18th, and seems likely to be a harbinger of what’s to come.

With the big TV money increasing roster investment even more, it will become more difficult to stay in the league for all sides. Perhaps we’ll be talking a gap from 9th to the drop on occasion, especially if West Ham or Southampton ups its investments.

But look at tiny Burnley smashing its spending records this year, and how many clubs have shattered their transfer records. Part of that is a function of the market, but consider how much big boys Newcastle United and Aston Villa spent in an effort to return to the PL. The days of idle windows working are long gone. At best, they will be outliers.

Additionally, expect to see more activity in the transfer market itself (if not in January, then August).

Sunderland proved the old maxim of Jims and Joes being more important than x’s and o’s on a weekly basis this season, and — with apologies to Paul Clement, Sam Allardyce, and Craig Shakespeare — the winter window saved the seasons of Swansea, Palace, and Leicester as key pieces Patrick Van Aanholt, Luka Milivojevic, Mamadou Sakho, Wilfred Ndidi, Martin Olsson, and Tom Carroll arrived to new homes.

(You may find it curious to see Leicester there, but Ndidi’s arrival was probably the No. 1 move in the country. In a world without N'Golo Kante, he was Best XI quality at his position).

Even Hull City’s turnaround under Marco Silva prominently featured January buys in the forms of Andrea RanocchiaLazar Markovic, Alfred N'Diaye and others.

When you see that Sunderland whiffed on several half-hearted Moyes-Everton reunions and Middlesbrough got little from its four window buys, all four of which sit outside their Top 11 in per-match performance, it’s fairly clear that men make the difference.

There’s always danger in evaluating an entire league based on one season, but it feels prescient to me. What do you think?

STREAM LIVE: Massive six-pointer pits Palace, Hull

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Frayed nerves will be in abundance at Selhurst Park when Crystal Palace hosts Hull City in a high-stakes relegation six-pointer (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET Sunday on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com)

Swansea City beat Sunderland on Saturday to pull level with Palace on 38 points, four more than Hull.

Palace knows it can clinch top-flight status for itself with a draw or better, and for Swansea with a win. Hull needs a win to fight into Week 38.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Palace is at Manchester United on the Championship Sunday, with Swansea hosting West Brom and Hull at home to Tottenham Hotspur.

 

Relegated Sunderland “obviously distraught”; Moyes wants to stay

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Neither John O'Shea nor David Moyes had been relegated during their long careers in football.

That changed Saturday.

The former Manchester United defender and Everton manager saw Sunderland drop into the second tier after a bevy of wasted chances and a lapse at the back perfectly summed up their season in England.

[ RECAP: Sunderland 0-1 Bournemouth ]

Moyes wants to stick around and help Sunderland back to the Premier League the way Rafa Benitez did this season in the Championship. Here’s what he said on NBCSN after the match:

“I feel for the supporters. They put their hard-earned cash out there to support the team, and my thoughts are really with them today.

“Yeah, the job’s to make sure that we get ourselves prepared and ready but we’re in this position, to talk about it now is just too quick.”

As for O’Shea, he’s clearly gutted and exasperated. The veteran Irish back did not have a strong season along with the majority of his teammates, and is left grasping for answers.

“Look, we’re obviously distraught. We all wanted the support that we got today. It’s not a nice feeling.

“Performances, results, are the obvious things at the end of the season. The detail never lies. We haven’t kept enough clean sheets, we haven’t taken enough chances. We needed a miracle run to save us, and we couldn’t produce it.”

The Black Cats were kept alive by Jermain Defoe‘s heroics for most of the season, but the striker went ice cold with finishing from February onward. The club rarely looked the part this season, and this might not be a short spell away from the top flight.

Sunderland relegated from Premier League

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Timely saves from Artur Boruc kept Bournemouth in the match, and Joshua King‘s latest addition to his pile of goals sent Sunderland to the Championship with a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

The loss ends the Black Cats’ longest tenure in the Premier League at 11 years, and the Black Cats were booed off the pitch.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Steve Cook had an in-tight shot meander through a pile of bodies but wind wide of the post, as Bournemouth had Sunderland living inside its own half.

Sunderland created one threat on goal when Fabio Borini tore into a 25-yard shot from a diagonal angle. Artur Boruc was caught offguard but parried the ball, and Jermain Defoe blazed the rebound wide.

Defoe curled a shot just over the bar in the 19th minute, as the Black Cats showed another sign of life.

Joshua King nearly made Defoe pay for his miss by chipping Jordan Pickford and hitting both the cross bar and right post.

The Black Cats could have been ahead when Didier N’Dong surprised by heading Bournemouth’s clearance over the fray and onto Defoe’s foot, but the striker’s chance went directly to Boruc.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Boruc needed extension to parry Borini as Sunderland buzzed into the second half.

Wahbi Khazri was denied by a sliding Steve Cook in the 55th minute, and had two chances to serve when his corner was blocked. Lamine Kone headed over the frame, and it remained scoreless.

There was a scuffle in the 75th minute, calling three referees to the pitch to determine discipline after a dozen players came together. Fabio Borini and Harry Arter both saw yellow, but the sides remained at 11 each.

Khazri and King had penalty kick claims denied less than a minute apart in the last 10 minutes of play.

Boruc denied Defoe moments before Cook’s back directed the striker’s shot over the frame.

That’s when Bournemouth broke on a counter, with King slotting behind Pickford in a goal that effectively ended Sunderland’s PL tenure with two minutes to play.

STREAM – Four matches at half as Sunderland tries to avoid drop

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Three total hours of football.

One goal in total.

Yeah, we’d say Saturday’s Premier League matches are waiting for a breakthrough or three.


Southampton 0-0 Hull CitySTREAM (NBCSN)

The Tigers registered the first three shots of a testy game, but are yet to find the goal which will worry Swansea City ahead of Sunday.

Sunderland 0-0 BournemouthSTREAM (CNBC)

Artur Boruc has several saves for the Cherries as Sunderland works hard to avoid becoming the first relegated club of the Premier League season.

West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Leicester CitySTREAM

Vardy punished Pulis’ plans when Leicester took advantage of a poor back pass from Allan Nyom. Shinji Okazaki sent Vardy on goal, and the striker hit to the near post to beat a splayed Ben Foster.

Stoke City 0-0 West Ham UnitedSTREAM

Winner goes top half which, suffice it to say, is not the way either side envisioned 2016-17 playing out.