When trying to deduce which of the newly-promoted Premier League teams are most likely to avoid being unceremoniously relegated straight back to the second tier, one of the first things worth looking at is whether the spine of their side will stand up to the potentially back-breaking graft needed to ensure survival.
Being best furnished with two of the three types of player identified as key below, it may be Crystal Palace – 27/20 to avoid relegation – who have the best backbone at present, with only the recruitment of an experienced defender still necessary.
Having a proven goalscorer is something of a no-brainer, but in recent campaigns it’s been characters who have done their proving on the lower rungs of the English footballing ladder who have been key figures amongst those that have thumbed their nose at the Premier League trapdoor.
The goals of Grant Holt and Ricky Lambert have delivered safety to Norwich and Southampton in consecutive campaigns over the last two years.
In this respect, Palace seemed to have paid most attention to the omens of the past, re-signing veteran marksman Kevin Phillips and recruiting 23-year-old Dwight Gayle – prolific at Dagenham then Peterborough last term – to form a sorcerer and apprentice combo until last season’s Championship top gun Glenn Murray returns from injury.
Hull and Cardiff have instead taken the trouble-fraught route of signing strikers from Europe who may take time to adapt in Andreas Cornelius and Yannick Sagbo.
In midfield, high-energy physical players who interrupt the opposition’s rhythm have played huge parts in successful drop avoidances, with Chieck Tiote and Mohammed Diame pivotal in re-establishing Newcastle and West Ham on the top deck.
None of the new boys have done particularly well in recruiting such a warrior, but of their incumbent grafters Palace’s Mile Jedinak probably shades Hull’s David Meyler and the Bluebirds’ Aron Gunnarsson in terms of influence last season.
At the back, an experienced centre-half, well-versed in the ways of the Premier League has often been a boon to defences naïve as to how to repress attackers that fall into the deluxe bracket.
Aston Villa’s James Collins proved another fine acquisition for renowned shrewdie Sam Allardyce in 2012/13, whilst Leeds United wise-owl David Wetherall helped keep Bradford City in the Premier League with the then lowest points total ever to earn safety in 1999/00.
In this respect Cardiff and Hull – 33/20 and 13/20 to relegated respectively – outstrip the Eagles, whose lack of strengthening at the back bears all the hallmarks of gaffer Ian Holloway’s gung-ho Premier League holiday with Blackpool.
The Tigers have drafted in Maynor Figueroa, a survivor of 167 top flight games in a Wigan Athletic, although it may be the Bluebirds’ recruitment of Stephen Caulker that proves the more inspired move.
As a Spurs loanee Caulker was an integral part of the Swansea City side that stayed up under Brendan Rodgers and that experience can be a great source of strength to colleagues less practiced in defending at this level.