Will the Premier League newcomers Norwich City, Sheffield United or Aston Villa fail to find their feet in top-flight football? Or will last season’s strugglers such as Brighton, Burnley or Southampton find the battle to stay in Premier League football too much of a challenge?
There’s little doubting the fact that either Manchester City or Liverpool look very likely to pick up the Premier League title. But the battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League looks much more unpredictable. Here’s a look at the teams who will have the hardest time staying in top-flight football in 2019/20.
Chris Wilder’s team are one of the Premier League’s newcomers. The side surprised many to get automatic qualification from the Championship, but they are already emerging as one of the front-runners to get sent straight back down.
It will be the first time that Sheffield United have been in the Premier League since they were dumped out in 2007. All eyes will be on Oliver Norwood who shone for the Blades in their 2018/19 campaign, and whilst the dynamic midfielder has never played Premier League football, he will be required to play the best football of his life to help Sheffield United survive.
The Blades have made a few interesting signings over the summer to boost their Premier League chances. In particular, it’s the arrival of Lys Mousset from Bournemouth that could bolster Sheffield United’s attack alongside the proven goalscoring talents of Billy Sharp.
While there are still questions about Mousset’s £10 million fee, it’s clear that Chris Wilder had to do something to compete at the highest level. But if this doesn’t work out, then hometown favourite Wilder could easily become the next Premier League manager to get the sack.
Norwich City were in great form last season and thoroughly deserved their Championship title. But many people are already predicting that Daniel Farke’s team will go straight back down. With a past Premier League form showing that they dropped out of the top-flight four out of six seasons, it’s easy to see why the Canaries might not have an easy time this season.
However, Daniel Farke has built an attacking team that should hopefully not get cowed by the big name opposition. Teemu Pukki was Norwich’s star striker with 30 Championship goals last season, and with plenty of support from the likes of Mario Vrancic and Onel Hernandez, it’s easy to see the Canaries scoring plenty of goals.
The main issue of concern is the fact that Norwich’s defence was dangerously leaky in the Championship last season. Plus this is coupled with the fact Farke hasn’t added too many new players to his squad over the summer transfer window.
Whilst the purchase of Sam Byram from Leeds for under £1 million was a shrewd move, it’s going to be difficult to see how cut-price investments are going to hold up in the Premier League. This is especially true as the Canaries first game is away to Liverpool this Friday night.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton were just two points away from relegation last season, and it’s going to no easier this time around for Graham Potter’s squad. Whilst many will miss Chris Houghton as head coach, after just three wins from 23 matches, it was little surprise that a new manager was going to be essential for Brighton’s Premier League survival.
Potter has received plenty of admiration for his innovative approach to football during his time with the Swedish club Ostersunds FK. He will certainly have his work cut out in transforming a Brighton team who looked very sluggish for much of last season, although whilst key players like Lewis Dunk are showing plenty of consistency, there is still hope for the Seagulls.
Past big money signings like Yves Bissouma and Alireza Jahanbakhsh failed to impress, but the arrival of Leandro Trossard should give some cause for optimism. The winger was bought from Genk for £18 million and if he can consistently link up well with Glenn Murray, then Brighton might just escape relegation.
With a new boss like Graham Potter in place, it’s going to be hugely unpredictable as to how the Seagulls will shape up for the new season. If his attacking method works, then Brighton could get a respectable mid-table position. But if Trossard fails to live up to the hype, then it could be another dismal season on the South Coast.
Burnley may have crawled to a credible 15th place in the Premier League table last season, but there could be real trouble ahead unless Sean Dyche’s team can get their act together. Whilst 15th place is a respectable result, it was an alarming drop in form compared to their previous season where they managed to defy the critics and get a spot in the Europa League.
Many people have stated that Burnley’s lack of resources meant that they weren’t equipped for the demands of European football, and they certainly showed it in a barren first half of the season. Once again Dyche will be relying on Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood to get the goals upfront, and the newly re-signed Jay Rodriguez will be expected to create magic in the midfield.
Burnley’s defence was their biggest problem last season, but hopes are high that the Clarets can hang onto lynchpins like James Tarkowski to stop them going into freefall. Apart from Rodriguez, there was little transfer activity for Burnley over the summer and it’s going to be another battle for the cash-strapped club this year.
Thankfully Sean Dyche has cultivated an ‘us-against-the-world’ attitude that has worked wonders at Turf Moor. But if the initial results go against them, then it’s easy to see the Clarets heading back down to second-flight football.
Given that Newcastle United managed to claim a very respectable 13th position in the Premier League table, it might be surprising to see them listed as potential relegation candidates. But ever since Rafa Benitez was allowed to leave, it’s hardly been a happy summer up at St James’ Park.
The war between the fans and Mike Ashley isn’t going to die down anytime soon, and Steve Bruce has found himself in a very tricky position as the Magpies’ new manager. Bruce’s appointment came with plenty of controversy, but he quickly acted to distract the Newcastle faithful through the big money signing of Joelinton.
The £40 million that Newcastle spent on the Brazilian striker from Hoffenheim will hopefully add plenty of firepower to the team’s attack. The 22-year old will be joined by fellow new arrival Allan Saint-Maximin upfront, and it will be interesting to see how the Magpies’ attack will shape up alongside the proven talents of Miguel Almiron.
But ultimately, the replacement of Benitez with Bruce is a massively underwhelming move. Plus with reports that Newcastle’s fans are planning to boycott the club’s opening match against Arsenal, it looks like it’s going to be another unhappy season on Tyneside.
Of the new arrivals in the Premier League, it seems that Aston Villa have the strongest chances of survival. The fact that the team scraped through the Championship play-off rounds with a tight win over Derby County might not bode well, but Dean Smith’s team are showing plenty of ambition.
Nowhere is this better seen than in the fact that Aston Villa have already spent a whopping £100 million on 11 new players this summer. Tyrone Mings was in great form on loan last season, and Villa have wisely made his deal permanent.
But it’s the arrival of Wesley for £22 million that could really change this at Villa Park. The towering Brazilian forward will be a commanding figure in attack that could work well with the unpredictable talents of Jack Grealish.
Dean Smith is known for his attacking style of play and Villa have the potential to be one of the Premier League’s surprise packages. But whether their big-spending ways will see them suffer the same fate as Fulham last season remains to be seen.
Although Crystal Palace managed to get a 12th placed finish in the Premier League last season, they have lost some key players and it’s going to be hard to see them getting a similar result this time around.
Roy Hodgson has an ageing squad, and rather than adding any new faces, the Palace manager has spent much of the summer fending off larger clubs. As a result, Crystal Palace will have to face the new season without Aaron Wan-Bissaka who was the team’s star player, but was eventually signed by Manchester United for £45 million.
Wilfried Zaha could suffer a similar fate and the forward has been linked with larger Premier League clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton. The loss of Zaha would be devastating for a team who are already down to the bare bones in terms of quality and quantity.
Thankfully, it looks like Palace have managed to keep Andros Townsend on their books, and the winger will hopefully realise his true potential. Hodgson is known for getting the most out of his players, but without stars like Wan-Bissaka and potentially Zaha, then it’s going to be hard seeing the Crystal Palace manager sitting too comfortably this season.
Last season saw the Cherries getting another respectable mid-table finish, but can Eddie Howe’s team survive their fifth season in the Premier League?
Thanks to the attacking qualities of Callum Wilson and Joshua King, Bournemouth weren’t afraid to score goals last season. But their defensive frailties meant that the Cherries couldn’t find the consistency to take things to the next level.
As a result, we’ve seen Howe making a couple of shrewd signings such as Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey to bolster the Bournemouth defence. There’s been little transfer activity upfront, but if Callum Wilson can stay fit, then we shouldn’t see any problems in terms of scoring goals.
Bournemouth’s signing of Phillip Billing for £15 million should strengthen the midfield, and whilst the club aren’t quite an established Premier League team, they should be able to avoid any relegation worries.
Southampton’s 2018/19 Premier League campaign saw them end up just five points away from the relegation zone. It could have been much worse if Ralph Hasenhuttl hadn’t made a success of his new appointment as head coach in winter.
But it remains to be seen whether the Austrian manager can get Southampton back to their former glories. Hasenhuttl was quick to make Danny Ings a permanent fixture to the Saints team this summer. If Ings can stay fit, then he will be relied upon to score goals, whilst Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will once again be the team’s midfield dynamo.
Although the Saints had a barren time in the Premier League last season, Hasenhuttl showed that the team could pick up important points against teams like Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton. But with relatively action on the transfer market, it’s hard to picture Southampton getting better than a mid-table finish.
You never know what you are going to get with Watford, and whilst the Hornets are known for going through managers at an alarming rate, it seems that they have settled with Javi Gracia for now.
Watford finished in 11th place in the Premier League last season, and it’s thanks to dependable players like Abdoulaye Doucoure that the Hornets will be hoping for even more consistency this season.
Gracia hasn’t splashed out on too many new players so far, although there are rumours that the Rennes winger Ismaila Sarr could be joining Watford in the next couple of days. So unless something unthinkable happens, it should be yet another fairly comfortable season for the Hornets.