Being promoted to the Premier League is a wonderful achievement. The Championship is a notoriously hard league to play in, particularly from a physical point of view and with 46 matches to play, it’s a long old season.
But getting to the Premier League is one thing and staying there is quite another. The big gulf in quality, (particularly from a technical point of view) between The Championship and the Premier League has proved too much for many a promoted side. And that’s exactly why year after year they’re the ones who are favourites to go straight back down. Let’s look at the chances of Norwich, Sheffield United and Aston Villa when it comes to avoiding the drop.
The Canaries can take great comfort from how Wolves performed last season in the top division, as champions of the Championship the previous campaign. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were the surprise package of the Premier League, suggesting that going up as champs can be a big advantage.
Unsurprisingly for a side who won the division by five clear points and who were twenty clear of sixth-placed Derby, Norwich scored a lot of goals last season. Their 93 goals was more than anyone else in the league and 34 more than Play-off finalists…Derby.
The concern for them is that Teemu Pukki, scorer of 29 league goals last campaign, doesn’t look like the sort of player who can take the step up in seamless fashion. He is admittedly a better player now than when he signed for Sevilla in 2009 or the one who had largely indifferent spells at Schalke and Celtic.
But if he couldn’t score at a rate of better than one in every four games ion those divisions, then it might be a bit much to expect him to get to double figures in the Premier League.
Of the players already at the club, a big season will be expected of Emiliano Buendia. The young Argentinian playmaker had an excellent season last time out, playing 38 league matches and scoring eight goals in the process. The same can be said of 19 year-old Max Aarons, who had a good season last year but may just find the Premier League has come a year too soon for him.
Summer business has seen Norwich secure the services of Patrick Roberts, a 22 year-old winger who belongs to Manchester City but who has had loans at Celtic and Girona.
They’ve also bought striker Josip Drmic. The fact he’s played 32 times for Switzerland tells its own story but Drmic has had so many injury problems that he’ll do well just to play most of the games, let alone score lots of goals.
There’s still some time to go but worryingly for Norwich fans, at present this doesn’t look like a Premier League-quality squad.
There’s always a bit of a temptation to splash the cash on attackers rather than defenders when getting promoted. The theory being that it’s somehow easier for newly signed arrivals to score goals than it is for defenders to try and help secure clean sheets.
That’s certainly what Fulham did last time out with such ill-fated results.
Villa it seems, have gone the other way. Having already boosted their defence with the January arrivals on loan of Kortney Hause and Tyrone Mings, both so crucial in their promotion via the play-offs, the Villa hierarchy lost no time in signing them on a permanent basis.
They’ve also signed former Bretford centre-back Ezri Konsa and in Matt Targett, a player with plenty of Premier League experience from his time at Southampton.
Then there’s Frederic Guilbert, another defender and a player Villa signed in January from Caen. It’s all part of a transfer policy that has seen them do their business nice and early rather than waiting for the last few days of the window and then making panic buys.
But what about upfront? Well, they’ll have to make do without Tammy Abraham. The youngster, on loan from Chelsea, was brilliant last season for them. He scored goals, he led the line well and made a nuisance out of himself.
It’s a pretty big gap to fill and one that Wesley Moraes will be trying to do. The £22m signing from Club Brugge is cut from the same cloth as Abraham- powerful and with an eye for goal – but will have the issue of not having played in English football at all before.
In terms of attacking players, Anwar El-Ghazi is another who made his loan move permanent after impressing last season, while Jota Peleteiro was signed from Birmingham.
Perhaps most importantly of all for their survival hopes, they’ve decided Jack Grealish is going nowhere. It may be a lot to expect from a 23-year old to hold the key to their survival hopes but he really is that good and is one of the few players to have survived from their last campaign in the Premier League. He’s the key to everything.
So Villa have made plenty of signings, made some good ones particularly in defence and upfront and have done their business at the beginning of the summer, which helps in terms of new players having done pre-season.
They may have done it the hard way last year but there are good reasons why Premier League relegation odds have them as the promoted side least likely to go down.
That their best-known player is 36-year old Phil Jagielka- returning to Sheffield after a 12-year absence-tells you a lot.
With no disrespect intended, this isn’t the easiest club to attract top talent to as the Blades are finding out right now.
They’ve had to resort to buying players who impressed in The Championship last season. Luke Freeman and Callum Robinson have arrived from QPR and Preston respectively, twice smashing the club’s record transfer fee. The first is a 27-year old midfielder, the second a 24-year old Irish striker.
Still, this doesn’t look like a squad who has an attack that is going to give the likes of Aymeric Laporte, Michael Rudiger or Andrew Robertson sleepless nights. Only two players last season got to double figures and though 23 league goals in a season is an excellent return by any standards, it’s a hell of a lot to ask 33 year-old journeyman Billy Sharp to keep the Blades in the league by himself.
You could say almost the same about David McGoldrick. He hasn’t been at quite as many clubs as Sharp but nine teams for a 31-year old is the sign of an unsettled player.
Their inability to sign attacking talent may just force Chris Wilder’s hand here in to just trying to keep things as tight as possible at the back and hope they can secure some 0-0 draws or nick 1-0 wins at home. They were after all the side who conceded the least number of goals of anyone in the Championship last season alongside Middlesbrough, with both letting in just 41 goals in 46 appearances.
That may be the strategy but it’s not so easy to pull off. Having waited so long to return to the big time, they may well go straight back down at the first time of asking.