As we approach the final few months of the season, chairmen of relegation-threatened clubs across the land have taken wildly different approaches to haul themselves away from the Premier League trap door.
The January transfer window is widely viewed as a last-chance saloon to stop sliding into the Championship, but the most important decision a team can make is whether to stand by their manager.
Several sides set for a relegation dogfight have new coaches at the helm, whilst others have opted for continuity.
So, as basement battlers batten down the hatches for the run-in, Coral writers take a fresh look at which teams look destined for the drop, and who could pull a Houdini.
Villa’s backline could be key for new coach Tim Sherwood, as the Midlands men have conceded just 34 times in the league this term, the same number as Tottenham, and much less than the teams around and below them.
Three goals in their last 10 fixtures across all competitions should show Sherwood where he needs to focus his attention, but the Villans’ defence must make sure they cover for an increased sense of adventure.
At 6/4 to topple into the Championship, it may already be too late to stage an escape, but the Villa Park side have a favourable run of fixtures coming up, including Stoke and Sunderland, and may still have an ace up their sleeve if Sherwood can inspire Christian Benteke.
Alan Pardew has done a fantastic job at Selhurst Park, in one instance where a dramatic mid-season coaching shake-up seems to have paid off.
Palace have previous with this, having employed escape artist Tony Pulis to save them last season. Not yet out of the woods on 27 points, the Eagles are now outsiders at 9/1 to fall off their Premier League perch, but have won five of their eight outings since switching bosses.
Just like embattled Burnley (12/5 to finish bottom), the Foxes have been commendably faithful to under-fire Nigel Pearson, who has steered big-spending Leicester City to just four league scalps.
A bright start seemed to suggest Pearson could get the East Midlands outfit back on track, but relegation now looks almost inevitable, and the Foxes (15/8 favourites to stay last) may yet rue their patience. In contrast to the Clarets, they made record signings in successive transfer windows, and any hope of a resurgence rests with those strikers Leonardo Ulloa and Andrej Kramaric.
The Hoops have taken a huge risk by placing their faith in interim coach Chis Ramsey to save their Premier League status, but it is a punt that may pay off.
QPR have a squad of under-performing big names, but the raw quality is there for Ramsey to work with, and victory over Sunderland suggests he has already lifted the club. One swallow does not make a season, however, and the new gaffer must shore up a dismal defence and woeful away record, whilst ensuring star striker Charlie Austin keeps firing on all cylinders.
If the Hoops, 5/6 to stay up, are to enjoy a renaissance, it could come at the expense of recent scalps Sunderland, who suddenly look shaky, and next must-beat opponents Hull City (2/1 for the drop).
West Bromwich Albion
The Baggies shouldn’t get ahead of themselves, but plucky Pulis looks to have done it again, as his side sit four points clear of the relegation zone. Wily West Brom pounced for the safe pair of hands after axing much-maligned Alan Irvine, in an attempt to stop the rot, and are now 6/1 for relegation, not to mention strongly odds-on at 1/10 to stay up.
Escape artist Pulis hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but the former Palace and Stoke City boss has stabilised and solidified Albion, who were without a win in five when he grabbed the reins.
Top marks to the Baggies board for taking preventative measures, though chairman Jeremy Peace now has a deserved ruthless reputation. Praise should also go to Pulis for his work with unsettled and out-of-form forwards Saido Berahino and Brown Ideye, who have now struck six times between them in the past three games.