With the EFL season over, we now know which three teams will be plying their trade at English football’s top table next year.
Norwich, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, three teams with a proud history at the top of the game, all achieved the dream to reach the Premier League and the pot of gold that comes with it.
Norwich were worthy champions, playing exciting football under the watchful eye of German coach Daniel Farke. His attacking quadrant were key to the team’s success, while Sheffield United also went up demonstrating both grit and the ability to play the right way.
Aston Villa won promotion in the best way possible, via a play-off final victory over Derby County at Wembley. Dean Smith, a fan of the club growing up, came in after a brilliant spell at Brentford and an excellent stint with Walsall. He turned the club around upon arrival and delivered success to a fanbase crying out for something positive to grab onto.
Now they are up, the work really begins. The Premier League, as Fulham discovered this season, is a huge leap in quality and if you don’t get it right then your stay at the top will be only fleeting.
With that in mind, we’ve asked six writers to give their opinion on which of the three promoted sides will have the best campaign in the 2019/20 Premier League season. Read on to find who we think will do a Wolves and who will do a flip-flop Fulham:
James Richards (@JRD3D4)
It is perhaps against better judgement to go with Norwich when you consider their last foray into the top flight in 2015/16 but I’m going to go with my heart on this one. The Canaries forever planted themselves into my psyche after I watched them beat Bayern Munich in 1993 thanks to THAT Jeremy Goss goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Sheffield United and Aston Villa, coached by the brilliant Chris Wilder and Dean Smith respectively, could also have decent returns but Norwich appear slightly better prepared (note, I say this before any summer transfer business).
With Teemu Pukki, Marco Stiepermann, Onel Hernandez and Emi Buendia, they head up with a similar attacking ability to that which helped Wolves make such a smooth transition but the ghost of Craven Cottage is niggling me with this one. Do they have the grit and defensive ability to deal with the high-octane pace of the Premier League’s elite? Time will tell but I have been burned by doubting Daniel Farke before so I am not going to repeat that mistake.
Tom Green (@OnlyoneTomGreen)
Despite being the lowest of all three teams to be promoted, I think Aston Villa will do the best next season in the Premier League; their appointment of manager Dean Smith turned out to be a revelation for the club and despite the fact that this will be his first season in the top flight, I believe he will have a strong summer of transfers (where the board are likely to back him) and a strong year with the Villans back in the Premier League.
The big question that surrounds Aston Villa, however, will be can they get Tammy Abraham back on loan or find a replacement who can bag goals for them next season? Villa have a decent track record in the top flight of English football and a history of finding strong goalscorers so I’m backing them to sort out that situation and have an enjoyable 2019/20.
Chris Smith (@CJSmith91)
This may be an unpopular vote but I’m going to stick my neck out with Sheffield United. Going totally under the radar, Chris Wilder seems to be one of the most tactically interesting English managers right now, playing overlapping centre-backs and sticking firm to their mantra of playing with as much width as possible. This, combined with their more old-school method of getting crosses in for the likes of Billy Sharp, means many Premier League teams may struggle to work them out at first. Sophomore slump (second season syndrome) may hit them hard in 2020/21, but next season could see the Blades catch a few sides off guard.
Steve Jennings (@_Steve_Jennings)
No club has a divine right to be in the Premier League, but Aston Villa’s return to the top-flight almost feels compulsory. They were a mainstay in the division before a series of bad decisions behind the scenes brought about their temporary demise. But now they’re back, and Dean Smith will do everything to ensure his boyhood club stays where they feel they belong.
That sense of entitlement will be the driving force behind a comfortable season for Villa, as long as they keep hold of the likes of Jack Grealish. Signing Tammy Abraham on a permanent basis would be a huge boost, too; players of that quality should ensure the Villans finish above Norwich and Sheffield United despite the fact Smith’s side relied on the play-offs to reach the promised land. Indeed, the Championship’s top two are more likely to struggle to stay in the Premier League than Villa next term.
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Muhammad Butt (@MuhammadButt)
It would be wonderful to be able to say that Norwich will be the best side in the Premier League next season, or even Sheffield United, but ultimately Aston Villa have to be the pick. Why? Simply that their majority owner is an Egyptian billionaire.
He has deep, deep pockets and with Premier League TV money behind him, will able to delve into his wallet more vigorously. Sure, Villa need to replace loanees Axel Tuanzebe and Tammy Abraham (Tyrone Mings could be a gettable transfer target) but with good scouting, Dean Smith’s progressive coaching and local hero, Captain Jack Grealish, leading the way, Nassef Sawiris’ money can make a real difference here. Ultimately, it’s the money which makes Aston Villa most likely to scale up to the Premier League level, whereas Norwich and Sheffield United (superior in 2018/19, no doubt) could struggle to do that.
Sam Long (@Samuelplong)
Nobody has a ‘Wolves’ in them and the trio would all count survival as success. On paper you would have to say Aston Villa appear to be best equipped to make an impact given their historical standing in the English game. But with the nucleus of their team largely built on several loan players, they may struggle to retain that talent in the top flight – and would have to spend big to replace them. For example, if Tyrone Mings is put up for sale, then Dean Smith would be far from the only manager interested in the defender’s services.
The Villans will also have to deal with immediate expectation, while Norwich are likely to go under the radar somewhat. That suited the Canaries in the Championship and – with Daniel Farke implementing a clear playing style and proving himself to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market – I think Norwich are going to do the best of the newly-promoted sides.