Survival is always the ultimate aim for a team coming up from the Championship to the promised land of the Premier League. Nothing is more important for a newly promoted team than finishing in 17th position or above and consolidating themselves in the top tier of English football. This season, Leicester City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers made the jump back into the Premier League, and are all separated by just three points after their opening four fixtures. However, despite similar points totals, each team will have a very different outlook on the season based on the opening games.
W:0 D:2 L:2
Chelsea (H) L 1-3
Swansea City (A) L 1-0
Manchester United (H) D 0-0
Crystal Palace (A) D 0-0
Sean Dyche’s Burnley defied the odds last season by being promoted automatically to the Premier League, despite their modest budget and small squad size. The lack of experience in the squad has meant that many wrote Burnley off before the start of the season, however, they have acquitted themselves well to the rigours of playing in the Premier League.
Their strongest asset is their defence. Since the opening weekend defeat to Chelsea, Burnley have only conceded one goal, coming in the first half of their second game against Swansea. This means that Burnley have gone over 250 minutes without conceding a goal, showing their competence in defence. This strength will stand them in good stead, as it will help them avoid losing games, keeping the points tally ticking over and helping them in the relegation battle.
However, their defensive steel is somewhat costly, as Burnley have struggled to score goals in their opening four fixtures. Not since Scott Arfield’s early goal against Chelsea have Burnley found the net, meaning that winning a game has proved elusive so far. Part of the problem is a lack of creativity; Burnley are a well drilled, hard to break down side, which consequently stifles their attacking abilities, but their main issue is not taking their chances. Arfield missed a penalty towards the end of the Crystal Palace game and the Clarets hit only 1 out of 12 shots on target in the defeat against Swansea. Shooting accuracy must improve if Burnley are to win enough games to stay in the division.
Dyche has clearly installed a good team spirit at Turf Moor, however, which has translated onto the pitch with some organised, commendable performances. They have also faced some tough fixtures already, especially at home, taking on Chelsea and Manchester United. Their spirited displays so far suggest Burnley will make things difficult for opponents and that they are up for the fight of staying in the Premier League. By keeping games as close and tight as they do, they increase their chances of winning games by the odd goal, helping their chances of staying up.
Despite Burnley’s character and organisation, they still have a big question mark hanging over them: Is the squad actually good enough? They defied the odds in obtaining promotion last season with their squad. Difficulties in the transfer market have meant that their squad is mostly the same as last season. A lack of funds and a struggle to attract new players means that Burnley still have a largely Championship standard squad, and the test lies in competing with stronger teams week in, weekout.
In conclusion, Burnley will need to score more goals in order to ensure their survival for another season. Their strong defence and character stands them in good stead to be competitive this season, but due to their squad size and quality survival would count as a monumental achievement. They will certainly give it a good crack, and probably get close, but their lack of goals will mean that they probably won’t win enough games to stay up.
W:1 D:2 L:1
Everton (H) D 2-2
Chelsea (A) L 2-0
Arsenal (H) D 1-1
Stoke City (A) W 1-0
Championship winners Leicester City have looked the most comfortable by far out of the newly promoted teams by far, despite the daunting look of their opening fixtures. Starting the season with games against three of last season’s top 5, as well as a trip to the notoriously tough Britannia Stadium, meant that Leicester would not have expected to have many points on the board early in the season. However, they have fought hard and been competitive in all of their fixtures so far and, most importantly, have picked up a decent points total. Draws against Arsenal and Everton were highly commendable, but particularly impressive was the 1-0 win away to Stoke; a team that only lost three times at home in the last campaign.
Furthermore, Leicester frustrated league leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for long periods, and even had chances to take the lead through David Nugent. This is the main improvement needed for Leicester, who have so far looked very capable everywhere on the pitch, but do not have many players who will score enough goals to maximise their potential.
However, their big-money Patagonian centre-forward Leo Ulloa has adapted to the Premier League very well, scoring three goals in his opening four matches. Many questioned whether he would be able to make the step up to the Premier League, but he appears to be a handful for defences and is scoring goals to boot. A slight concern for the Foxes is that Ulloa has scored three of their four goals so far, and they may struggle to get goals from elsewhere, but they have a tight defence and should not need too many goals over the season in order to win plenty of matches.
On early evidence, Leicester City look by far the best equipped to beat the drop out of the newly promoted teams. Their results and performances have been impressive, especially as many would have had them down to lose their tough opening fixtures. In Ulloa they seem to have found one man who can score, and also have a fairly solid defence, boosted by the capture of experienced defensive-midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, that has genuine Premier League quality. The Foxes already look like a decent mid-table Premier League outfit; which is a credit to Nigel Pearson. Survival chances look very good for Leicester.
Queens Park Rangers
W:1 D:0 L:3
Hull City (H) L 1-0
Tottenham Hotspur (A) L 4-0
Sunderland (H) W 1-0
Manchester United (A) L 4-0
QPR were the only team to bounce straight back to the Premier League after relegation from the Championship the season before. Performing this tough feat would normally mean that they stood a good chance of staying up, however, they have started the season in a very poor manner.
For a start, Rangers concede far too many goals. They already have the worst defence in the league, as well as the worst goal difference, mainly from two incredibly abject 4-0 away defeats to Tottenham and Manchester United. Whilst losing these games is not unusual for a newly promoted side, the manner in which QPR fell to defeat was appalling. They had no sting in attack and no bite in defence, which is a very big concern for the rest of the season.
Part of the issue may be the formation. Harry Redknapp has implemented a 3-5-2, and has even brought in Glenn Hoddle to help put this system in place, but it seems to leave QPR far too open at the back. Had they gone to White Hart Lane and Old Trafford with two banks of four that would try to stop them scoring, they may have stood a much better chance of taking something from those games, or at least making the score look respectable.
Another worry is the lack of a quality striker. Without Loic Remy, it is difficult to imagine the R’s are going to be able to score enough goals to stay up. Charlie Austin seems to be Redknapp’s preferred striker, but despite his goal against Sunderland, he has been struggling in front of goal, as shown in his costly penalty miss on the opening day against Hull.
QPR do, however, have some experienced and talented players that should give them a chance of staying up. The experience of Joey Barton and Rio Ferdinand will help them win tight matches, like against Sunderland, and they also have brought in other talented players such as Leroy Fer, Steven Caulker, Edouardo Vargas and Mauricio Isla. These players have plenty of quality, but the challenge remains in getting them to gel as a team, as this was the problem for QPR during their last stint in the Premier League.
So far, QPR don’t look like they are going to develop into a strong Premier League outfit. They are weak at the back and light up front. Compared to Burnley, they have more quality individuals, which will stand them in good stead, but don’t appear to have the same sort of spirit and organisation. They have a very experienced squad and coaching team, but unless things turn around, QPR look to be in real danger.
Overall, Leicester look to be the most impressive newly promoted team so far, and look very well placed to survive and establish themselves in the Premier League. Burnley and QPR will both struggle and be down there all season; with Burnley’s organisation and spirit across the team giving them the advantage over a thus far disjointed QPR in the battle to stay up. However,early season evidence suggests that both teams would have done exceptionally well if they are a premier league team still come the 2015/16 season.