The theory of ‘Natural Selection” put forth by Charles Darwin specifies that only the toughest species survive. It is evidently true, even in sports – football, to be exact.
At the end of every season, the three clubs who are not good enough to remain in the top flight of English football are sent down into the Sky Bet Championship, or commonly know as English Football League Championship.
This season, the three who will be joining the pinnacle of English football are Aston Villa, Norwich City, and Sheffield United. Here is the lowdown on who the new boys are and what to expect for them.
After getting relegated in the 2015/16 season, the Villans have finally made a return to the Premier League after a thrilling that started after last year’s playoff final when they missed out on promotion to the reverting Fulham. Not long after that disappointment, Dean Smith took over the reigns from Steve Bruce three months into the new season and improved the club’s fortunes. Smith led his squad to an impressive run of 10 consecutive wins in the league and even made the bold decision of nominating the young Irishman, Jack Grealish, as the club captain.
They finished off the season in fifth place which was enough to secure them a playoff spot where they got past West Bromwich Albion on penalties and came back against Derby to head back to the top tier of English football and as a parting gift, they got a £170 million for their efforts.
It wasn’t all luck as they have some good quality players in their teams. Grealish, their young and tenacious leader, has been their most consistent and threatening player. He has the highest number of key passes and dribbles per game in the entire team. He is also their most fouled player which can only mean that opponents are constantly on the lookout for Villa’s main creative outlet.
John McGinn was signed from Hibernian for a mere £3 million and that is looking like a major bargain right now. While his seven goals and nine assists in 42 league games may not look like a great achievement, keep in mind that he is a central midfielder and not an attacker. He may not constantly be scoring but he’s scored when it mattered as it was his goal that sent them back to the Premier League. Villa heavily rely on individual sparks of brilliance like this to win them games and their attacking threat is what got them promoted.
Defensively, James Chester seems to be the only proper full-time centre back for Villa as Tyrone Mings and Axel Tuanzebe are at Villa on-loan from Bournemouth and Manchester United respectively.
Villa play a sturdy 4-5-1 formation with a deep-lying midfielder in the form of Glenn Whelan and attack through the wings most of the time which is difficult for other teams to deal with. From there, they get the ball into their main source of goals, Tammy Abraham, who is on loan from Chelsea and scored a respectable 26 goals in the last campaign.
While most of their success is based on the performances of loanees, it can be the basis of their downfall next season. Almost half of their first team players are already on their way back to their parent clubs. So far, they’ve only managed to make El Ghazi’s transfer permanent but that still leaves a huge void in the line-up. This could mean trouble for Villa if they do not use the £170 million wisely to keep them at the club or find new recruits as it could be hard to survive the first year back in the Premier League without them.
Predicted Premier League Finish: 19th
The tale of the EFL champions begins with the sale of James Maddison and Josh Murphy, two of their most promising players in the team, right after finishing 14th in the league. Most people would think that their manager, Daniel Farke, would have been canned by now but the Carrow Road faithful believed in him and eventually found success.
The belief that the players had and the frugal but clever signings they made were vital to their triumph.
Their most important player would have to be midfielder Emi Buendía. Signed for £1.5 million from Getafe, the 22-year-old made an impact on Norwich and became their midfield talisman as they have never lost in any of the games he’s played in.
He’s contributed eight goals and 12 assists in 35 league appearances and is best known for his ability to play perfectly weighted through balls to the strikers who beat the offside trap with great precision to score. As a result of this perfect combination play, Norwich were able to boast an impressive haul of goals this season.
They scored 93 goals to return to the Premier League and it is all because of one particularly good “Finnish-er” – Teemu Pukki. The Finland international’s 29 goals in 43 games made up 33% of Norwich’s goals this season and it is likely to continue in the Premier League. Considering his returns and the fact that he arrived on a free transfer, he is one of the best signings in EFL history.
His finishing ability is undoubtedly the biggest asset that Norwich have going into the new season and if they can get the ball to him, he’ll do what he does best and ensure safety for the Canaries in their first season back.
While they boast one of the most potent attacks in the championship, their defence isn’t exactly the best. They are prone to errors and easily concede goals. They also lose most of the aerial battles which has led to them conceding many goals through set pieces. Unless they find a way to strengthen their defence, other Premier League teams will take full advantage of their defensive frailties and hammer a few past their veteran custodian, Tim Krul. However, their attacking 4-2-3-1 formation could easily break down teams’ defences on the attack and their consistent starting 11 have developed good chemistry whilst playing together over the past season.
Predicted Premier League Finish: 17th
Ever since the club hired their current manager and former player, Chris Wilder, they have never looked back. He was brought into the club in 2016 to help them move up the leagues. Three years and two promotions later, Wilder & Co. find themselves back in the Premier League after a 12-year absence and it is all because of the management skills of Wilder.
The man is a fantastic man-manager and knows how to spot talent and bring the best out of his players. His first year at the club saw him win League One to gain promotion to the Championship. He made shrewd signings and even managed to help them overturn a financial profit which is rare considering the financially straining circumstances of Championship football. His side play a modern 3-5-2 attacking formation with the centre back often making runs forward to join the attack.
This formation also means that they exploit the wide areas of the pitch and get the ball to the front two with the attacking midfielder, Mark Duffy, sitting behind the strikers similar to how Eintracht Frankfurt lined up with Sebastian Haller, Anter Rebic, and Luka Jovic last season.
Billy Sharp leads United from the front and has scored 23 goals in 34 league appearances. The 33-year-old is more of the brawn in the attacking partnership with David McGoldrick. McGoldrick, on the other hand, is the one blessed with technical ability. At 31, the pair would be one of the oldest attacking duos in the Premier League next season.
The Sheffield United teams are also centred around the rigidity of the centre backs John Egan, Jack O’Connell, and Chris Basham who have kept the most clean sheets in the league with the help of Manchester United goalkeeper, Dean Henderson, playing on loan for them.
However, they have been caught out many times by their disorganisation at the back as players have been able to break past their offside line with ease on more occasions than one. If they can circumvent this issue, they could become a sturdy defensive side like Burnley in the 2017/18 season that saw them qualify for the Europa League after only conceding an impressive 39 goals.
Arguably their most important player would have to be Oliver Norwood who plays in the centre of the park for the Blades and contributes 2.3 key passes per game, more than any other United player. His three goals and eight assists aren’t much to boast about but the presence he provides at the in midfield makes him the heart of this team.
He’s averaged the most passes in the squad and most of their play seems to be going through him. His tackling and hardworking attitude make him an invaluable asset to Wilder’s side, and he will be the key to Sheffield United’s success in the Premier League next season.
Predicted Premier League Finish: 14thLeave a comment