The focus on the unresolved relegation scrap in the Premier League and the titanic three-way promotion battle at the top of the Championship has perhaps been more intense this season due to a lot of the other issues being resolved with games to spare. Tom Simmonds reacts to this by getting the crystal ball out and looking for clues as to how next season might pan out for some teams based on how their seasons are ending.
Whether or not Leicester City finally confirm the unthinkable and get the Premier League trophy into the King Power’s trophy cabinet, Champions League football for the Foxes will be a reality in 2016-17. Seeing how Leicester cope with the extended fixture list this will bring, particularly if they progress or – heaven forbid – they finish third in their group and end up in the Europa League, is one of the forthcoming season’s most intriguing storylines. Claudio Ranieri has a hell of a job on to not disturb the special balance he has fostered in his group this season when he necessarily bulks out his squad to cope with their schedule. It’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime season for Leicester, but fans’ expectations as to what they can achieve from it probably require careful management.
When Rotherham United decided to jump off the tumultuous, if giddy, ride that comes with being managed by Steve Evans, their appointment of Neil Redfearn did not usher in the uptick in fortunes they hoped for. The SOS sent to Neil Warnock in February certainly has. Two defeats in 14 games have shown that Millers players have instantly adopted Warnock’s core principles: organisation, physicality and an over-my-dead-body attitude to conceding anything.
Warnock’s claim that “I don’t think there is anybody who can touch me at this level” does not seem like such an immodest brag when you look at his record in getting teams promoted going back three decades, starting with his mighty effort to bring league football to Scarborough in 1987. If you hate Warnock, or are just irritated by him, you cannot deny that he probably has a point about his ability, and that betting on Rotherham at the skinny odds you’ll get on them being relegated from the cash-rich Championship will be an almighty waste of money if Warnock is there beyond May.
Morecambe’s concession of 89 league goals this season at the time of writing, including a 7-0 hammering by Cambridge and another 1-4 home defeat by Stevenage in their last two games signal that defensive arrivals will be a priority for Shrimps boss Jim Bentley. Though the 67 goals they have managed to score this season makes their goal difference look less alarming. However, a team who have conceded 20 goals in their last five games clearly has a major problem, even if they have switched off slightly due to York and Dagenham having made the relegation places their own long ago. If they don’t add some solidity to their back line over the summer, it is likely that the hardy faithful at the Globe Arena will witness a relegation struggle next season.
Have you seen any clues at the tail end of this season which you think reveal how a team might get on in 2016-17? Let us hear them!