Premier League Preview: The Newbies

With each new season, there brings a new wave of excitement for newly-promoted teams. Clubs rich with history that might have been stuck in the lower leagues for the last few years are now back to the pinnacle of English football. Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United are not only looking to stay up for another season, but to make a splash much like Wolves did last season.

Not every club can have the success that Wolves had last season (7th place in their first season back in the top flight), instead most are likely to be fighting for survival for most of the season. I’m going to dive into who these newly-promoted teams are, their new signings who can make a difference and their likelihood to stay in the league for next season.

Norwich City

Let’s start with the team that won the Championship last season with an impressive 94 points, Norwich City. The Canaries were last in the Premier League in 2015/2016 season and before that spent a solid 5-6 years bouncing from League One to the Championship and the Premier League. It seems now that they have found some sort of stability which is often key to staying in the top flight for newly-promoted teams. Norwich play at Carrow Road which was built in 1935 and has a capacity of 27,244.

Key Players

Teemu Pukki

Teemu Pukki: The Championship Player of the Year and scoring leader from last season’s Championship will enter the Premier League as Norwich’s best option up top. His 29 goals in 43 matches proved that he has the ability to score and that he’s durable over a long season. He’s a solid finisher, he knows how to get in behind the line to punish keepers one-on-one and he always puts himself in position to score when in the box. Norwich will need his production to continue.

Emiliano Buendia: The man feeding Pukki for a lot of the season was Buendia, who was the creative force behind Norwich’s attack last year with a second-best 12 assists in the league and second-best 2.4 key passes per game. He has endless creativity and his ability to put a ball in behind the backline from anywhere on the field could really cause problems in the Premier League this season.

Tim Krul: It’s always nice having a goalie on your team who has six years of Premier League experience and international experience with Netherlands and he’ll likely need to have a great year if Norwich want to stay up. He didn’t have his best season with Norwich last year due to their average defense, but still managed to have 13 clean sheets so there’s still hope he can save the team.

Strengths

Norwich’s offense ran through the Championship where they scored 93 goals in 46 matches (2 goals per match) and were one of only three teams who scored more than 80 goals and the only one who scored more than 90. Obviously their production will slow down dramatically in the Premier League but it’s the most important part of their team and they’ll need to produce as much as they can if they want to have any chance of avoiding the axe come May of 2020.

Weaknesses

Norwich conceded a 7th best 57 goals last season, a shocking tally for a team who won the league last season. Their strategy of winning shootouts is just not going to work in the Premier League and it will be interesting to see how they fare against the big clubs with world class strikers.

Unlike other newly-promoted clubs (we’ll get to them), Norwich barely spent this summer. That isn’t always a problem though as overspending and getting relegated again could hurt a club for years after the fact, but in this instance it is a problem. Little to no investment when there are problem areas (like center back) is just as bad as over-investing. They brought in Sam Byram and Josip Drmic but they don’t really move the needle too much and they didn’t pay enough attention to their defensive issues.

Notable Transfers

In: Sam Byrum (West Ham, $4 million), Josip Drmic (Borussia Mochengladbach ($3.4 million)

Out: Nobody notable

Prediction

I think Norwich will be in or right on the border of the relegation zone for most of the season. They’re just not polished enough to have sustained success in the league. They were a team that likely needed to spend in order to plug a few holes and instead they’re gambling on a fiscally responsible transfer policy, hoping they stay up and then spend. I have them getting relegated and would take their odds at doing so at (-150).

Sheffield United

Sheffield United are one of the most historically rich clubs in England but when the money came into the top division and the Premier League was born, United fell to the third division as they had trouble keeping up. From 1994 to 2013, the Blades had trouble both financially and on the pitch until they were taken over by a Saudi Prince. Now they’re back in the Premier League for the first time in 12 years and only the second time in 25 years. Sheffield United play at Bramall Lane which originally broke ground in 1855 with numerous renovations since, and it holds 32,609.

Key Players

Oliver Norwood: Norwood made the PFA Championship Team of the Year and was United’s best central midfielder in the 18/19 season. He’s prolific delivering set pieces (which will be key for United in getting goals this upcoming season), has the ability to play most forms of the central midfield role and is the likely best passer on the team. As the creative force going forward, United will need him to have another big year.

Billy Sharp: The other United player on the PFA Team of the Year last year was captain Billy Sharp who scored 23 goals, good enough for third best in the league. The veteran striker has been with the team since their League One days and he’ll be crucial in guiding them through their first Premier League season in over a decade. The only issue is if he still has what it takes to play at the highest level. They can’t depend on an older striker without Premier League experience as their only serious threat up top.

Oliver McBurnie: Sheffield United’s new record signing is coming off of a breakout campaign for Swansea City where he had 22 goals in the Championship last season. He’s had a little Premier League experience but was too young and didn’t get enough time to make an impact. This will likely be his best chance and it should be interesting to see how production when given more first team minutes. I’d keep an eye out for McBurnie as he’ll likely turn some heads this upcoming season.

Strengths

Chris Wilder

Sheffield United’s manager Chris Wilder is not only a hometown guy but he went against the grain last season by playing a 3-5-2 with a focus on their wingbacks going forward, and still having the best statistical defense. They also haven’t spent much and he’s guided them up from League One to the Premier League, giving the fans a lot of optimism and faith. He’s a great man-manager and can really be key in their quest for staying in the top flight.

Weaknesses

The biggest problem with this squad is that it’s filled with Championship caliber players instead of Premier League caliber players. I don’t think they’re ready and other than McBurnie (who still isn’t a proven Premier League caliber player), they haven’t made a splash in the transfer market. The biggest worry is that they’ll rely too much on Billy Sharp, who’s a great striker but is aging and has never proven himself in any league higher than the Championship. Obviously these are issues that can be proven otherwise as the season goes on, but I think we will find out in the first 5 or so matchweeks if they’re in trouble or not.

Notable Transfers

In: Oliver McBurnie (Swansea City, $21.77 million), Phil Jagielka (Everton, Free), Lys Mousset (Bournemouth, $12.67)

Out: Nobody notable

Prediction

Sheffield United are odds-on favorites to get relegated and finish 20th in this upcoming season. I think they will get relegated for the exact reason I put in my weakness; this is a Championship caliber squad. I don’t think they can hang with the rest of the league and we may see a similar season to Huddersfield from last year. I wouldn’t take them at (-200) to be relegated since the price is so steep and I wouldn’t put down double what I’d return.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa were a Premier League and First Division staple for decades, most recently with a 29-year stint in the top flight. From the 1975/76 season to the 2015/16 season Villa were only outside of the top division for one season, in 1987/88 and they had numerous 6th place finishes in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. After gaining promotion via the playoff last season, one of England’s most storied and recently successful clubs returns and with this time with some serious momentum. Aston Villa play at Villa park which originally opened in 1897 and currently 42,582, the largest stadium in the English Midlands.

Key Players

Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish: Grealish is arguably the best and most exciting player coming from the Championship this season and for good reason. The 23-year-old captain has been with Aston Villa since he was 6 years old and he was instrumental in Villa’s miracle run at the end of the season to gain promotion. He’s an extremely well-rounded player who can beat players with pace and skill, while also having the ability to finish from outside and inside the box. He led the league with being fouled 4.7 times per game (almost twice as much as the next player), and was top four in key passes per match and dribbles per game. This club starts and ends with Grealish and he’s no doubt the most important player on the team.

John McGinn: Similar to Grealish, McGinn is a very skilled and pacey player but is based more in the attacking central midfield role. He’s a fantastic passer and can dribble through the midfield, giving Villa a fantastic one-two punch with he and Grealish. He’s even turned the heads of the likes of Manchester United and I wouldn’t be surprised if he secures a big move after this season.

Strengths

Aston Villa spent $169 million this summer on incoming signings, giving the squad a huge boost especially after losing Tammy Abraham whose loan deal was up after last season. The club also has a fantastic foundation within the football league with a large support base and new owners who are willing to invest and support. Also, their offensive system is predicated on creative players and this team has several players who fit that mold (Grealish, McGinn and more). I can see this team really making an impact right away, especially against teams whoa re more vulnerable defensively.

Weaknesses

That style can sometimes lead to an over-aggressive approach which can really hurt them in the Premier League. Their aggressiveness likely won’t always work in the top flight and it could lead to the better teams countering. Another worry is that there aren’t any proven goal-scorers on this team. Their leading scorer from last season, Tammy Abraham, is back to Chelsea after his loan expired and they’ll now look to see who can replace him at a much higher level. They can find goals from Grealish and McGinn, but you can’t rely on attacking midfielders or wingers for the bulk of your production over a season.

Notable Transfers

In: Wesley (Club Brugge, $28.5 million), Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth, $25.4 million), Douglas Luiz (Manchester City, $19.2 million)

Out: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea, Loan expired)

Prediction

I think Villa will not only survive in this season’s Premier League, but could very well finish a few places above the relegation zone. Although they likely won’t get near to replicating Wolves’ performance from last season, this team has the quality, spirit and foundation to finish in the 13-17 range.

That’s all for my preview of the newly-promoted teams! Next will be my Top 4 preview which will give my prediction for who will win this season’s Premier League, who make the coveted Champions League qualification spots and other teams that will make a splash.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Nico

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