Every year, three promoted clubs turn up on the first day of the new Premier League season full of hope and confidence that they are there to stay. It rarely turns out the way that they want.
However, you only have to look to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leeds United and Aston Villa to show that there’s always a chance a newly-promoted team cements themselves within the league. Simon Kelly takes a closer look at this season’s long-term hopefuls.
Brentford are certainly one of the more exciting teams to be promoted to the Premier League in recent seasons and it will be fascinating to see how Thomas Frank’s men do at top-flight. Under the Danish manager’s reign, Brentford have looked a different class, playing with a flare and confidence that matches the clubs ambitions for the future. With a sparkling new stadium to boot, the West Londoners look like the perfect club for this level.
Players to watch
Despite selling star players like Neal Maupay, Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma in seasons past, Brentford have recruited excellently. Their newest goalscoring marvel, Ivan Toney is ready to set the league alight come August. The 25-year-old finished last season’s Championship as top scorer and his physicality and guile in front of goal make him a perfect Premier League striker. England are not short of firepower up front but if Toney impresses this season he’s bound to be on Southgate’s radar. Having been sold by Newcastle in 2018 after multiple loans and only two starts, he’ll have a point to prove this time around.
Bryan Mbuemo, Rico Henry, Ethan Pinnock and goalkeeper David Raya are all names to keep an eye out for this season too. Brentford have a lot of depth when it comes to exciting players and will undoubtedly birth some new stars at the top level.
Thomas Frank took over in 2018 after Dean Smith’s departure and has taken the team from mid-table to two successive third place finishes in the Championship. Having narrowly lost the playoffs in 2020, Frank’s team made no mistake on their second time of asking.
The enigmatic Dane will no doubt be a media star in the Premier League. His famously honest interviews and touchline antics have already dubbed him a popular figure at Championship level and neutrals are bound to love him. He’s also an excitingly progressive coach, whose man management skills are second to none.
Frank lost 8 of 10 first matches but the data showed that the team were performing well. Most other managers would have got the sack. But at Brentford, the underlying numbers and figures are always considered to back decisions up. The innovative way in which the hierarchy run the club might work in their and Frank’s favour at Premier League level, hopefully avoiding an early sacking if results start to frustrate.
Despite finishing below Watford and Norwich last season, Brentford feel like the team most ready to handle the jump up to the Premier League. While it will be tough at the bottom, the Bees may just have enough firepower up front in Toney to get some much-needed points and may even surprise a couple of the bigger teams with their tactical set-up. No matter what happens this season however, the club is in a fantastic position, and will no doubt be in the mix for promotion again if they do happen to go down.
Watford, unlike their promoted counterparts are a little more of a question mark on how they will do in the upcoming Premier League season. Despite avoiding playoffs and finishing a handsome second place, the club is built on unstable managerial ground, which sees a new man in the dugout nearly every six months.
Players to watch
Ismaila Sarr has previous in the Premier League, joining Watford last time they played in the top-flight. The Senegalese international turned heads that season from some of the bigger clubs in the league but has remained at Watford and has continued to grow as a player. Last season, he picked up both Player of the Season and Player’s Player of the Season awards, showing he’s a valuable and well-regarded member of the squad.
The 23-year-old netted thirteen goals and provided five assists, running riot on the left wing in a potent Watford attack. With interest brewing again from some big-name clubs, it will be an anxious wait for Watford fans to see if their star player stays with them for their first season back in the Premier League.
Danny Rose is also set to be an excellent addition to the team and will bring Premier League experience to the back line. The ex-Spurs left back will no doubt be looking to get his career back on track after a disastrous few years stuck in limbo at his old club.
Xisco Munoz, who took over in December 2020 after Vladimir Ivic was sacked, is looking to buck the Watford trend of manager merry-go-rounds. Munoz is a young and progressive manager who, despite having little experience, managed to push them back up the table where they eventually finished with an impressive 91 points. Xisco demands adaptability in his style of play. He uses a variety of formations, famously switching to a 4-3-3 in February and subsequently walloping Bristol City 6-0. His adaptive style should be a good tool to have in the English top-flight as each game will bring its own challenges.
Despite an exciting manager and some great players within the squad, Watford as a club is too unstable to avoid relegation. One would fear that Munoz doesn’t get much of a chance to implement his style of play before he gets the axe from the famously impatient board. This all reeks of an Alan Pardew appointment halfway through the season.
Norwich won the Championship last season with a flourish of brilliant performances built on a solid foundation of players that remained post-relegation from the Premier League. Daniel Farke stayed on as head coach and has once again trusted the youth as his team soared to league victory with some incredible performances throughout. However, there will be an air of uncertainty over this Norwich side as the transfer window has already taken their star player Emi Buendia and the likes of Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons look likely targets to be poached before the window shuts.
Norwich have been extremely smart in their business over the last few seasons, losing James Maddison to Leicester and immediately replacing him with Buendia for just £1.3 million, they seem well equipped to bring in eligible replacements. Spurs loanee Oliver Skipp was one of their best players last year, coming in with very little first team experience to becoming a stalwart of the Canaries’ midfield. Whether they can regain his services for another season is unlikely at this point, but they will have to build a new midfield quickly to have any hope of staying up.
Players to watch
Irish internationals Adam Idah and Andrew Omobamidele have received a lot of faith from their manager and are now starting to pay it back. Both youngsters are coming into the Premier League run off the back of an impressive preseason. Omobamidele played every minute of the Canaries’ five games at the back and Idah scored an impressive four goals. Surely the minutes that the two have been given in preparation for the season means that they’re both in Farke’s plans for the upcoming campaign.
Billy Gilmour joins on loan from Chelsea off the back of a rise to stardom with the Scottish national team at the euros. Gilmour will look to cement himself in the midfield and prove himself capable and reliable, knowing full well he’ll get his chance to do so under Farke.
Daniel Farke is coming into the new campaign with a massive point to prove. After committing his future to the Norfolk club, he’ll want to show that he can make it in the big leagues, especially after the late season collapse his club went through last time out.
Having been given little money to spend in 2019, Farke is now getting more leeway, having spent £35 million so far on PAOK’S Christos Ztolis and USA starlet Josh Sargent from Bremen. The German has done wonders considering the tiny budget he has to work with and despite whether the Canaries survive this season, he’s already proven himself an immensely talented manager, able to balance youth and experience while continuing to adapt each season, showed in the faith given to him by Delia and co.
It will be touch and go at the bottom for Norwich. Despite playing some scintillating football last season in the Championship, they need to prove they can step up this time and keep themselves afloat for the duration of an incredibly tough season. Hopefully their smart investment sees them just about stay up but it’s difficult to see it happening unless some more established Premier League clubs struggle (Crystal Palace and Newcastle United, we’re looking at you).