After 12 years Sheffield United is back to the Premier League, while in the meantime the club went through several major crises. They even spent six seasons in the third division, while in 2017 they returned to the Championship and won the 10th place. They finally played good enough last year to win the second place and earn direct promotion to the English strongest football league. Sheffield United occupied positions that led to the promotion play-off practically from the very beginning but they spent the most time at the second or third place. They maximally used Leeds trouble near the end of season when they overtook them and ended up in the so much wanted second place with very little uncertainty since they had seven-game unbeaten streak. Ahead of them is difficult task of staying in the Premier League, or more precisely to avoid situation from 2007 when they were relegated after just one season in the England’s first division.
Sheffield United didn’t change the manager, which was logical after last year’s success and Chris Wilder will lead the team for the fourth year in a row. This is going to be a great challenge for him as he never coached a Premier League team before. Players will be also thoroughly tested and the only objective is to stay in the Premier League given that everyone lists them among strongest candidates for relegation. Sheffield United has earned promotion to the English first division and with that it is clear that not too many players have left, although several not so important did leave. It is far more interesting whom they brought and Sheffield United has set new club records for value of transfers. Forward Mousset from Bournemouth should be the strongest reinforcement, while besides him new members of Sheffield United are midfielders Robinson from Preston and L. Freeman from Queens Park Rangers. Experienced Jagielka should strengthen the defence but it is clear that Sheffield United will continue with the shopping spree.
Probable lineups Sheffield United: Moore – O'Connell, Egan, Jagielka – Baldock, Fleck, Norwood, L.Freeman, Robinson, Stevens – Mousset
Forecast: Sheffield United has returned but to the strongest football league in the World! It will struggle to survive with players it has, and even if they bring more reinforcements Sheffield United is predestined for a bitter survival struggle. If they succeed it will be a great achievement for this team.
Norwich is also a returnee to the English first division but they hadn’t been absent for too long. They spent three seasons in the Championship and have managed to return in a grand style. They won the strongest second division in the world despite a clumsy start of season 2018/19. No one listed them among favourites to return and they won just once in first six rounds. That put them low in the table but then they played better and better. Norwich occupied the first or second place for more than half of season. Near the end Norwich was untouchable and it finished the season with 14-game unbeaten streak, which is why it is no wonder they finished in the first place. They were the most efficient and the best visiting team in the league. All this is behind them and ahead of them are harsh challenges of the Premier League, where everything will be much more difficult.
German Daniel Farke stays the manager and given his young age which implies inexperience for such strong league it is clear that he will have a very difficult task in hands. Although it is not logical to lose important players once the club earns promotion to the first league they did lose several borrowed players, like Oliveira or Passlack, and they sold stopper Franke, right back Pinto and midfielder Wildschut. They have brought several interesting reinforcements like experienced goalkeeper Fahrmann and right back Byram. New forward is Drmic from Borussia M’gladbach, while young forward Roberts was borrowed from Manchester City. It is important for Norwich that it kept its best players although it is questionable will the best scorer of the Championship last year, Finish Pukki, score with such ease in the Premier League as well. Besides, they need more reinforcements and perhaps they will bring several new names before the end of the transfer window.
Probable lineups Norwich: Krul – Aarons, Godfrey, Zimmermann, Lewis – Vrancic, Tettey – Roberts, Stiepermann, Buendia – Pukki
Forecast: Fact they dominated the Championship last year means nothing in the Premier League. Competition is much stronger now and Norwich should accustom to more defeats and survival struggle which is what most probably awaits for them, especially if they don’t bring more reinforcements.
Burnley plays for the fourth season in a row in the Premier League where in two out of three previous it struggled to survive but once it even qualified for the Europa League. They played qualifications of the Europa League last year but failed to reach the group phase and they spent the entire season in the bottom half of the table. At one point Burnley was even nailed to the bottom and had spend several rounds in the drop zone, while in the end it had six points more than teams in it despite losing last three matches. In the new season Burnley has the same objective like in the previous one, meaning survival in the strongest football league in England. They haven’t replaced manager Dyche, who has been leading the team for seven years now, while the team largely stayed the same.
Veteran Peter Crouch has decided to end his career and given his age it was not big loss for Burnley. Goalkeeper Lindergaard left as well, who wasn’t Dyche first choice, and it turns out that the biggest loss was departure of experienced Irish Stephen Ward, who covered left back position. Ward’s replacement is Erik Pieters from Stoke and it can be said that Burnley is no weaker at that position. The biggest reinforcement is forward Jay Rodriguez who came from West Bromwich Albion and he was suppose to increase competition at positions that Barns and Wood already covers well. The two of them scored half of all Burnley’s goal last season and it will be interesting to watch how Rodriguez will fit in. Altogether, this is practically the same team unless they bring more good players in the meantime.
Probable lineups Burnley: Hart – Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor – Cork, Westwood, Hendrick, D. McNeil – Barnes, Wood
Forecast: Burnley hasn’t changed much and it can be said that are of similar quality with one new name in the attack, where they anyway had two good forwards. Since they haven’t made too many changes and they struggled to survive last season we forecast something similar for them in this one. This is going to be a stressful season for Burnley and they can only hope for positive outcome.
Brighton is another team that spent the entire previous season in the bottom part of table. The season can be divided into quite solid first part and desperately bad second which could easily cost them dearly. There were ups and downs in the first par but then Brighton was far from the drop zone and it seemed that will have no problems to keep its Premier League status. They spoiled everything in the second part when they won just two times in 19 rounds. Brighton finished the season with eight-game winless streak and having just two points more than teams in the drop zone. Everything turned out good for them in the end but that should be a good lesson for the new season in which Brighton will most likely struggle to survive.
Right after the finish of the season manager Hughes left and Graham Potter took over the team. He had the whole summer to set the team and train them in way he wanted. We will see soon has he succeeded but no big names have arrived to Brighton and that is a worrying sign. The only “famous” name that arrived to Brighton is Belgian midfielder Trossard who came from the country’s champion, Genk. Other arrivals are mostly returnees from loans and in that way Potter will try to increase competition. Some of them will probably be loaned again, and we should add that no important player has left the team, where we can single out departure of experienced defender Bruno and loaning Knockaert to Fulham. Perhaps Brighton will bring more players before the end of the transfer window, which would be definitely a good thing as ahead of them is a bitter survival struggle.
Probable lineups Brighton: Ryan – Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo – Bissouma, Propper – Jahanbakhsh, P. Gros, Trossard – Locadia
Forecast: It would be ideal if they repeat the first part of the previous season and would be catastrophic if they play like in the second one. This season there will be most probably no such oscillations and it will be good if they find a middle road and survive, but surely that is going to be a very difficult thing to achieve.
Bournemouth had no problems last season to keep the Premier League status and by that it is clear that their fans should be satisfied. They even managed to occupy European positions for a long time in the first part of season, which was sensational but they couldn’t keep the pace and they gradually lost steam. During the first crisis Bournemouth lost six times in seven rounds, while later on they were hit by another one that pushed them down at the 14th place but in the end they still had 11 points more than teams in the drop zone. Despite those crises they didn’t want to replace manager Eddie Howe and he will lead Bournemouth in the new season as one of longest lasting coaches in the Premier League given that he took over the team in 2012. The first objective in the new season is to secure survival but that will be most probably more difficult than the last year.
It will be more difficult as Bournemouth hasn’t brought a significant reinforcement, or more precisely they have only two new names, Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey, who are young players and it is hard to tell are they true reinforcement, although Kelly could be a starter. Several other players returned from loans, while number of those who departed was also small. They sold stopper Mings to Aston Villa and forward Mousset went to Sheffield United, which wasn’t good as they practically strengthened teams that could be their biggest competitors in the survival race. Several less important players also left and it seems that Bournemouth is weaker than last season.
Probable lineups Bournemouth: Begovic – Smith, Cook, Mepham, Kelly – Lerma, Ake, Ibe, Fraser – Wilson, King
Forecast: The fifth season in a row for Bournemouth in which they again have just one objective and that is survival. They finished in the upper half of table in just one out of four previous season and that is what they want to repeat, however, it is realistic to again be positioned in the bottom half of table and struggle to survive, although there are weaker teams than they and Bournemouth should leave them behind.
We have listed Crystal Place in the group of clubs that should fight to survive and realistically they belongs to the bottom half of table, just like it was last season. They spent the entire last season in the bottom half but they never entered the drop zone. The Palace didn’t oscillate much and was mostly positioned around 12 and 14 places in the table, while they ended up at the 12th place having large point advantage over teams in the drop zone. We should add that Crystal Palace played well outside its stadium where was far more successful than at it. They won even nine times outside the Selhurst Park and suffered the same number defeats at home. Veteran manager Roy Hodgson leads the team well and there was no reason to change anything in this regard.
One of reasons why we put Crystal Palace in the relegation group was weak trading in the summer transfer window, or to be precise till the moment when this text was written. Practically they didn’t trade at all, although young and very perspective right back Wan-Bissake left. Young member of English national team moved to Manchester United and that is the biggest loss. It is worth mentioning departure of forward Batshuayi whose loan from Chelsea has expired. Crystal Palace had to bring a new forward and the choice was J. Ayew from Swansea, while Sorloth is back from loan to Gent. Altogether, few departures and few new names, and it is to be seen will the Palace bring someone else in the meantime or it will lose some of its stars.
Probable lineups Crystal Palace: Guaita – Ward, Sakho, Tomkins, van Aanholt – Milivojevic, Kouyate, M. Meyer, Townsend – Zaha, J. Ayew
Forecast: Crystal Palace did well in the previous season and its position at the end of it was objective one. The team is largely the same as it was and minimal changes shouldn’t disturb Crystal Palace game, meaning they could expect similar results. The Palace can hardly reach the upper half of table but on the other hand they shouldn’t be among most serious candidates for relegation.
After three years in the Championship Aston Villa is back to the English strongest league and they definitely struggled to return. It was the most difficult path as after the regular season Aston Villa had to go through the promotion play-off and that is always very stressful. Two seasons ago they failed to earn promotion through the play-off, while in the previous one they finished at the fifth place and then they had to pass two obstacles in the play-off. We should add that Aston Villa reached the play-off after very good results made in the finish of season. They eliminated West Bromwich in the dramatic semi-final, and won Derby County in the great final played at Wembley and here they are in the Premier League. Manager Dean Smith, who took the helm in October last year, will stay given that he managed to take the team to the Premiership.
Everyone in the team from Birmingham is aware how much stronger is the Premier League than the Championship and by that it is clear that they had to bring new players. There were several departures but those were mostly older players and fact that Elphick, Adomah, De Laet, Gardner and Jedinak are not with them any more shouldn’t negatively affect the team. Newcomers are more numerous and they brought players for all positions. They have brought several stoppers and we would single out Engels and Konsa. Guilbert will cover the right flank, Targett the left one, but they also didn’t forget the attack. Wesley from Club Brugge was the most expensive new player, and besides him there are Jota and Trezegeut. Aston Villa bought the contract for El Ghazi and it can be said that will be stronger and readier for challenges that are waiting for them in the Premier League.
Probable lineups Aston Villa: L. Kalinic – Guilbert, Chester, Mings, Targett – McGinn, Hourihane – Jota, Grealish, El Ghazi – Wesley
Forecast: It is logical that many see Aston Villa as a serious candidate for relegation since it was just promoted to the Premier League, however, they want to stay in the first division for a longer time and they have brought numerous reinforcements in order to do so. Aston Villa seems individually strong enough to survive but the problem can be too many new names accompanied with lack of coordination, which is why the season can be an uncertain one.