Monday, August 7, 2023

Will It Be a Short Stay for Newly Promoted Clubs ?

Last season saw all three promoted clubs avoid relegation back to the Championship and remain in the Premier League. Fulham broke into the top half of the table while Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest finished 15th and 16th respectively. Tumbling from the top tier were Leicester, Leeds and Southampton. Replacing those three relegated clubs in the Premier League are Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton Town. The former two clubs are no strangers to the Premier League with Burnley returning after just a one-year hiatus and Sheffield United having competed at the highest level in England just two years ago.

Luton Town is a whole different story. The Hatters were eliminated from the top tier one season before the Premier League’s inaugural season. It’s been an eventful three decades since then for the club. Amid financial difficulties, Luton Town would descend through the tiers of football until playing themselves out of the English National League altogether before starting the long crawl back. Financial difficulties contributed to the fall with the Hatters being assessed point deductions for insolvency and financial improprieties.

On the eve of returning to the topflight, the club is now scrambling to make necessary improvements to its Kenilworth Road stadium in accordance with Premier League standards. The home opener against Burnley has already been rescheduled as the club scrambles to complete those renovations. There is also the question of whether the Luton Town roster, and that of the other two promoted sides, is up to Premier League standards. The Hatters and fellow newbie Sheffield United have spent the least of any current Premier League clubs in this summer’s transfer window.

Luton Town were unlikely aspirants for the topflight when the ill-fated Nathan Jones left the club for Southampton last November with the Hatters sitting in 9th place in the Championship table. New manager Rob Edwards, however, elevated the club’s performance with a particular focus on defense. Luton Town would concede the second fewest goals in the league as the Hatters would rise to third and qualify for the promotion playoffs. Playoff wins over Sunderland and Coventry led to the Hatter’s upcoming Premier League debut. The teams it will face this season will have much greater firepower than Sunderland and Coventry, however. At the point of its own attack, Luton Town will again look to Carlton Morris, who tallied 20 times in the Championship last season.

Sheffield United earned automatic promotion with a second-place finish. Unfortunately, the Blades just sold their best player to French side Marseilles. The sale of attacking midfielder Iliman Ndiaye, who scored 14 times and was tied for most assists in the Championship last season, was a financial decision for a club which incurred a transfer embargo last window for unpaid bills. Needless to say, a like replacement for Ndiaye will not be purchased. The Blades’ best remaining player is midfielder Sander Berge, but he may also be headed out the door. Burnley has registered interest in the Norwegian international as the Sheffield United fire sale continues.

Burnley is the promoted side with the greatest expectations and intent. The club has already invested in ten new signings in this window to bolster its survival prospects. Winners of the Championship title last season, the Clarets head back to the Premier League a much different side than they were two years ago under current Everton Manager Sean Dyche and his long ball philosophy. Leading them back to the Premier League is former Manchester City playing legend Vincent Kompany. The young manager employs a more expansive and possession-based style reflective of his time playing under Manager Pep Guardiola. After beginning his managerial career in his native Belgium, Kompany’s return to England last season was a spectacular success as Burnley retooled and dominated the division, losing only three times enroute to first place and automatic Premier League promotion.

Unfortunately, the club’s top scorer last season in Nathan Tella has returned to parent club Southampton with the Saints showing no willingness to negotiate. Former Southampton forward Nathan Redmond has been signed and his Premier League experience could prove valuable. Other attackers with Premier League experience include Jay Rodriguez and Wout Weghorst, the latter having played on loan at Manchester United last season. Burnley, however, will hope for another new signing, 22-year-old Zeki Amdouni, to take a major step up from Basel FC. The young forward scored 12 goals last season in the Swiss Super League. Perhaps more impressively, the Swiss international was the leading scorer in the Europa League with seven goals during last season’s competition. 

Important to note is that Burnley conceded the fewest goals in the Championship last season and that defensive solidity will be needed against the higher quality Premier League attacks. Backstopping the defense will be new goalkeeper James Trafford who failed to concede a goal during England’s recent run to the U21 European Championship. Burnley may have the best shot at survival but will quickly realize how difficult that struggle will be when the Clarets open the Premier League season next Friday against title defending Treble winner Manchester City.

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