w ^ith the new 超级联赛 season looming, it’s prediction time. Many will expect the three clubs that came up to drop straight back down again given the gulf in quality between the Championship and the Premier League. That would be a familiar feeling for Norwich City. They were promoted as champions back in May 2019 only to foot the table come July 2020, picking up just 21 points from 38 games and ending their return to the top tier with a 10-game losing streak.
Having again led his team to promotion as champions, Daniel Farke is hoping the experience of 2019-20 will stand them in good stead for the coming campaign. That said, the departure of Emiliano Buendía to Aston Villa earlier this summer will hurt the team. Buendía scored 15 goals and set up 16 more last season, finishing the campaign as our highest rated player in the Championship. Half of those assists were for Teemu Pukki to score, so Norwich go into the season with a big hole in their attack.
Milot Rashica been signed in to replace Buendía, but he will need time to settle following his £9.4m move from Werder Bremen. The same will be the case for new £8m striker Josh Sargent, who has also joined from Werder Bremen. Both will need to adapt to their new club and the Premier League, which puts added pressure on Todd Cantwell, but he has also been linked with a move to Villa this summer and may be affected by the speculation surrounding his future.
Oliver Skipp, who was an important presence in the middle of the park as Norwich won the Championship, has returned to his parent club Tottenham, but Billy Gilmour has joined on loan from Chelsea to pick up some experience and develop. Given Chelsea’s abundance of riches in midfield, the 20-year-old needed a season away from the club to play regularly. Norwich should be a good fit and, as we saw during the Euros, he is certainly capable of making an impact against Premier League midfielders.
On the whole, Norwich have strengthened well. They have signed centre-back Ben Gibson permanently after his loan last season as well as bringing in winger Christos Tzolis and left-back Dimitris Giannoulis, both from Greece, but there is an underlying worry that it may not be enough to stay up. Buendía and centre-back Ben Godfrey have both departed since their last jaunt in the Premier League and the new arrivals will need time to gel. The Premier League is an uncompromising and unforgiving place for any team hoping to learn on the job.
Watford were also relegated from the Premier League in 2020 only to return at the first time of asking, finishing second behind Norwich. The appointment of Xisco in December set the club on their path to promotion, 和 Watford picking up more points (57) than any other side in the Championship after the Spaniard succeeded Vladimir Ivic at Vicarage Road.
They have brought in a few experienced heads, with Danny Rose and Josh King both notable free transfers to the squad. Peter Etebo has top-flight experience from his time in Portugal, Spain and Turkey, as does 34-year-old Juraj Kucka, from his stints with Genoa, Milan and Parma in Italy. Imrân Louza has joined from Nantes for €10m and, Emmanuel Dennis, who you may remember for scoring a brace for Club Brugge in their 2-2 draw at Real Madrid in 2019, is another headline signing.
Unlike some of his players, Xisco lacks Premier League experience and that could come back to haunt Watford. The 40-year-old will relish the opportunity and his youth adds weight to their underdog tag, but the division’s elder statesmen may see Watford as an easy opportunity for three points.
Watford will have to turn Vicarage Road into a stadium no team wants to visit. They had the best home record in the Championship last season, picking up 59 points from 23 games and dropping points in just four of their home matches. Nevertheless, their decision to recruit midfielders and attackers in the transfer window while leaving their defence largely unchanged could be a mistake.
Brentford were one of the four clubs who came away from Vicarage Road with a positive result last season and they have joined Norwich and Watford in the top flight. After suffering a heartbreaking defeat to Fulham in the Championship final 去年, they went one better in May, beating Swansea City 2-0 at Wembley to return to the top tier for the first time in 74 年. They begin their debut Premier League campaign in style, welcoming Arsenal to the Brentford Community Stadium on Friday night.
Brentford were the top scorers in the Championship last season. Ivan Toney was one of two players in the division who ended the campaign with double figures for both goals (31) and assists (10), the former figure a record in a Championship season.
Brentford have sought to improve their centre-back options over the summer with the £13.5m signing of Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic. Spending big on the Norwegian was a smart move. Investing in forwards is no bad thing, but too many promoted sides have come to rue neglecting their defence. Signing a high-profile centre-back and having a surprise factor as a new Premier League club could be the difference between consolidation and relegation for Brentford.
Brentford have not lost key players, like Norwich, and they have not made an abundance of signings, like Watford. With a settled system in place under Thomas Frank, do not be surprised if Brentford secure safety at the first time of asking, but Norwich and Watford drop back down a division.