With the new Premier League season nearly upon us, it is only natural that attention is being drawn to the battle at the top of the table and the teams that are most likely to compete for the title.
It is always intriguing to see how the newly-promoted clubs fare, particularly as the majority of teams are either relegated in their first season or enjoy an elongated stay in the Premier League.
Since the 1995/96 season, when the play-off system was augmented to promote a third team from the Championship, 63 teams have gone up and completed a single season in the Premier League.
Of these, 47% have dropped back down after one year, while 18% have remained in place for more than five seasons, and this should offer even greater incentive for Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town to retain their top-flight status this term.
The question that remains, of course, is which of these teams will fare better on the intense battlegrounds of the Premier League? Let’s take a look?
The Toon Army have endured something of a frustrating summer transfer window, as a big name signing has continued to elude manager Rafael Benitez. Aside from the confirmed signing of Jacob Murphy from Norwich City (which, according to Sky Sports, was agreed for a fee of £12 million), the club have so far been frustrated in their attempts to spend big and lure established names to St. James Park.
Talented winger Christian Atsu has joined on a permanent deal, while the signing of former Liverpool defender Javier Manquillo from Atletico Madrid will at least add some top-flight experience to the defensive unit. More reinforcements will be required for the Magpies to fulfill the expectations of their ambitious fan base, however, with Sky Sports suggesting that West Ham goalkeeper Adrian may be on the club’s radar after the Hammers signed Joe Hart on a season long loan.
The Standard has also reported that the Magpies are keen on signing out of favour Arsenal striker Lucas Perez, but are so far unwilling to match the Gunners’ £13.4 million valuation.
This sums up Newcastle’s frustrating summer, but they do at least boast a wealth of Premier League experience in the form of players such as Jonjo Shelvey, Mo Diame and Jack Colback, while in manager Rafa Benitez they have an outstanding coach with excellent top-flight pedigree.
This, along with the clubs’s passionate support and the immense promise of young Jacob Murphy, affords them a fighting chance of retaining their place in the Premier League come May.
Brighton & Hove Albion
The Gulls were fast out of the blocks at the start of the summer window, with the club announcing the signing of cultured German midfielder Pascal Gross from FC Ingolstadt on 19th May.
The club has completed a further eight deals since then, including the loan signing of the talented Izzy Brown from Premier League Champions Chelsea. Additionally, The Sun has also reported that manager Chris Hughton is preparing a club record £12 million bid for Leeds United striker Chris Wood, as he looks for a strong and powerful forward to lead the line.
Despite this activity, a quick glance at the Gulls’ squad confirms that the club is short of Premier League quality and experience. This is particularly evident in attack, where veteran Glenn Murray is the only forward who has scored regularly in the Premier League during his career.
Even the signing of Wood may not be enough to redress this balance, as while he has been prolific at Championship level he has only made three appearances in the top-flight as a youth player with West Bromwich Albion. A potential lack of goals could prove crucial for Brighton over the course of the season, as this can undermine even the most organised and hard-working of Premier League sides.
This was certainly the case with Middlesbrough last season, whose obvious technical and organisational qualities were overshadowed by a chronic lack of potency in front of goal.
Finally, we come to play-off winners Huddersfield Town, who are undoubtedly this season’s wild card when it come to Premier League football. Not only were 12 of the 24 play-off winners between 1991 and 2015 relegated after their first season in the top-flight, for example, but the Terriers also boast two fascinating X-factors in the form of their playing style and manager David Wagner.
Wagner, who was mentored by Jurgen Klopp during his tenure as the manager of Borussia Dortmund’s reserve side in Germany, has installed an attacking style and intense pressing game on the Terriers and will look to continue this philosophy in the Premier League. This is reflected by his nine summer signings, as while there is a dearth of established top-flight talent Wagner has secured the services of fast and energetic players such as Tom Ince (who transferred from Derby).
The confirmed signing of former Manchester City loanee and last season’s player of the year Aaron Mooy is also a huge coup for the Terriers, as Wagner continues to build a side that can implement his expansive style of play.
Such an approach makes it hard to gauge how Huddersfield will perform in the Premier League, as the execution of their style and the intensity of their play will be all important. The Terriers may struggle against superior opposition (as was the case during their 5-1 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium during a fifth round FA Cup replay last season), but the question that remains is whether they can impose their will and overcome the less accomplished sides in the division.
One thing is for sure, Huddersfield will bring huge value with them and are likely to ruffle at least a few feather during their Premier League stay.