The final weekend of Premier League play has come to a close. Unfortunately for the bottom 3 PL teams, their fates were all but sealed before the weekend even began.
Swansea: The Welsh club that had previously won the hearts of many for their style of play and providing an archetypal path for ambitious teams to hold their own in their Premier League forays (a la Bournemouth). After 7 years the Swans succumbed to poor ownership decisions, an unfortunate manager carousel, and lack of product on the field. The situation was already a complete disaster in previous years with the aforementioned coaching changes, then the lack of player retention, maintenance, and recruitment led to an untenable situation. The uncouth Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien led takeover in 2016 proved to be a flash point between the supporters trust and the new leadership. Ultimately it seems a gradual decline due to a sort of negligence or ignorance slowly digging Swansea’s grave.
Stoke: having spent 10 years mostly boring the fans then hacking and trudging through the opposition, are at long last gone. With this being said, it is hard to hate what the club was trying to accomplish in terms of repairing their image in recent years. Mark Hughes was ambitiously pursuing the ‘Stoke-celona’ reinvention of Stoke in the hopes that it would provide the necessary steps to take the club into a new era. Unfortunately for the club, and eventually Hughes himself, it was all for naught. Club record signings, sexy loanees, and astute role players seemed to have set the stage for this season to be something potentially special for Stoke. Then the season unfolded, Stoke simply wasn’t able to really form a solid lineup or perform as a cohesive unit. Revelations in the aftermath of relegation have shown that manager Paul Lambert came into a squad of players that lacked real motivation. Lambert presented that players who actually wanted to play were in the squad for the final day, leaving many of the recent signings out, but not naming the names that contributed to the fall of Stoke.
West Brom: Been up and down in recent seasons (mostly up). Since 2010 the club has provided a standard for the mid-table English club. Managerial changes, risky signings, and a tough brand of football that still allowed for a brief flash of brilliance from time to time. Things seemed to be changing around the club when in 2016 a Chinese investment group snapped up the club. However, no real in-depth investment into an overhaul of the squad ever materialized. A few pop signings came in, but it wasn’t really enough to rejuvenate the club. This season really was somewhat of an aberration. Tony Pulis never really got the club moving in the right direction when the new season got started, continuing poor results from the previous season carried over. Pulis was shown the door in November, he is the longest-serving manager for the club in some time. Then Alan Pardew arrived, having previously been sacked for tanking Crystal Palace, who in the end were able to escape the drop the year before. Pardew kept this form trying to implement his expansive tactics to West Brom which proved calamitous, providing only 1 win in 18 matches. How he wasn’t canned before April is astounding. This fact became evident even more so after caretaker manager Darren Moore galvanized the side to almost escape their seemingly decided fate.
The last day usually provides some form of drama at the bottom of the table, this year, however, was a different story. The table had Swansea as possible escapees in the case of a 10 goal swing in their favor, unable to win at Stoke on the final day, they never even had a true hope. With these 3 clubs headed to the Championship for next year, the lessons to be learned seem clear. Pray your favorite club isn’t taken over by the wrong investors, pay attention to the warning signs of the seemingly innocuous decision ownership makes about managers and players, and take nothing for granted in the Premier League because even the most promising, entertaining, and ambitious clubs can have a season from the depths.