Cardiff City gave a fine account of themselves in the Premier League last term, but they were still unable to avoid an immediate return to the Championship. Fulham, promoted alongside them, also went down after a somewhat more ignominious single-season stay in the top tier.
The year before that, though, all three promoted teams retained their Premier League status. Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town and Brighton and Hove Albion finished on the right side of the dreaded dotted line in 2017/18, and there is reason to believe the same could happen again this time around.
On the face of it, that looks like a tough ask. Aston Villa appear well equipped to avoid a dogfight at the wrong end of the table, even if there is a suspicion that they have gone a little over the top with their lavish summer spending spree, which has seen 12 new names added to the squad list on a permanent basis (although one of those, former Bournemouth defender Tyrone Mings, spent 2018/19 on loan with the West Midlanders). Nevertheless, Villa have plenty of strength in depth and, provided a new-look group is able to gel without too many teething problems, Dean Smith’s men will be confident of steering clear of trouble.
There are bigger question marks over the fate of Norwich City and Sheffield United – and understandably so. Norwich dazzled in the Championship last time out, scooping the title after amassing 94 points and scoring 93 goals. However, they have taken a different approach in the transfer market to Villa, spending just £3.75m on recruits. Theirs is a relatively youthful squad and there will no doubt be charges of inexperience aimed in their direction at some points this season.
“The gaffer said I would fit in well at the club and with the boys.”
“Everyone's excited and raring to go”
- Oli McBurnie 👊
Sheffield United, on the other hand, have broken their transfer record on no fewer than four occasions since sealing a second-place finish in the Championship. However, new boys Luke Freeman, Callum Robinson, Ben Osborn and Oli McBurnie are largely untested at this level; Phil Jagielka, returning to his hometown club on a free transfer, brings useful experience but at almost 37 years old is not a guaranteed starter. Ravel Morrison, meanwhile, is surely drinking at last-chance saloon despite his undeniable talent.
Yet although a lack of proven Premier League quality will be held up against Norwich and Sheffield United, both sides have plenty going for them. Daniel Farke and Chris Wilder are bright coaches who have a clear idea of how they want their teams to play, and that sense of identity – together with a fierce team spirit – will serve both the Canaries and the Blades well this season.
The latter’s use of overlapping centre-backs is a genuinely innovative approach that could catch out teams that are not used to coming up against with such an unconventional game plan. The former are an energetic and dynamic outfit who will take the game to the opposition rather than sitting back and hoping things fall their way. The strength of both Norwich and Sheffield United lies in the collective rather than any individual.
With Brighton, Crystal Palace and Newcastle likely to struggle, it is by no means implausible that each of Villa, Norwich and Sheffield United will avoid falling through the trapdoor this season.