Football Features

What to expect from Premier League new boys Norwich and Sheffield United

By William Eldridge

Published: 14:42, 29 April 2019

It has now been officially confirmed that both Norwich City and Sheffield United will be returning to the Premier League for next season.

The Canaries defeated Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at Carrow Road on Saturday to ensure that a place in the Championship’s top-two was theirs.

Just a day later, Sheffield United’s place in the Premier League was secured after third-placed Leeds United could only draw 1-1 at home to Aston Villa in a fiery encounter between the two play-off hopefuls.

With just one game left to play, Norwich sit top of the Championship on 91 points, three points ahead of Sheffield in second.

The Blades – who have a better goal difference than Norwich – can still win the league outright but would need to beat Stoke City away while Norwich would need to lose away to Villa.

Winning the title would be the icing on the cake for either side, who are understandably more than satisfied with the outcome of this season.

Norwich and Sheffield will be at England’s top table next season but what can we expect from the new boys?

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Tactics

Last season, Daniel Farke’s side finished mid-table and started with little more than a faint hope of a play-off push this time around. After all, the Canaries have been the latest club to yo-yo in and out of the Premier League in recent times, playing top-flight football in five out of the last 15 seasons.

Farke’s first full season in charge of Norwich has seen them settle into a 4-2-3-1 formation. The core of the side is laced with experience while Farke has ensured that there is plenty of youthful exuberance and energy to bypass even the sturdiest of Championship defences.

Each position seems to yield a player who can perform their role to maximum effect, with pace out wide, strength in the centre and a forward who can not just put the ball in the back of the net, but also hold the ball up and bring his teammates into play.

Meanwhile, Chris Wilder has had plenty of time to groom his side into the style he believes will be successful at the highest level.

He utilises a 3-4-1-2 formation that prides itself on three strong centre-backs and a robust midfield capable of stretching the opposition with its width.

But, most importantly, the system has kept the goals at bay, as the Blades have conceded a league-low of just 39 goals with one game left to play.

When Sheffield have needed a goal, Wilder’s formation is able to adapt by overloading the midfield and pushing men forward in the pursuit of a goal, often changing to a 5-3-2 or a 5-4-1 depending on the need.

Stand-out players

To escape the Championship, an entire team needs to be on the same wavelength but naturally, there are key players for both sides who have performed above and beyond the call of duty to help their respective side get to the promised land.

For Norwich, you can’t look past the Championship’s top scorer Teemu Pukki, with the 29-year-old directly contributing to 37 goals in 42 league matches (28 goals and nine assists). His work-rate has been sensational but averaging a goal every 133 minutes across so many games takes some doing.

Losing star men James Maddison and Josh Murphy in the summer, their creativity has been produced by Emiliano Buendia, whose silky skills have been matched by the solid efforts of full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis.

Billy Sharp has once again proven his worth at Championship level, along with David McGoldrick. The strikers have netted 38 league goals between them, with Sharp scoring 23 while McGoldrick has found the net on 15 occasions.

But as stated above, Sheffield United’s defence has seen them rise with goalkeeper Dean Henderson keeping a league-high 20 clean sheets in 44 matches this campaign.

The defensive work of Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham has been sensational while midfielder Olivier Norwood has contributed nine assists to the Sheffield United cause.

Areas they will strengthen

Despite their qualities in the Championship, both Farke and Wilder will not be naive enough to think they have enough to completely avoid a potential relegation next term.

Norwich have an experienced goalkeeper in Tim Krul but may need to but an experienced centre-back to sit in front of him to marshal the defence – including Norwich’s young full-backs – when times get tough.

The spine of the team is Norwich’s strong point so a midfielder who can take control of a fixture could be of some use. It will be interesting to see whether players such as Pukki and Buendia can make the step up.

Sheffield United have a number of players who have proven themselves in the Championship with several clubs but have failed to make the step up into the Premier League.

Sharp and McGoldrick will be fully committed to keeping Sheffield United up but Wilder may need to see if he can find a proven Premier League goalscorer to fire in the goals they will need next season.

With their defence unmatched in the Championship this season, an addition or two would be helpful, but more attacking flair is perhaps higher on Wilder’s agenda.

Transfer budget

Alongside the thrill of playing against some of the biggest sides on the planet, both Norwich and Sheffield United will be looking forward to the hefty pay packet that comes with being a Premier League team.

Both teams are in a decent position financially already, with Norwich making good profits on the sale of players last summer and continuously seeing fans turn up in great numbers to support their side at Carrow Road.

The stadium itself has been redeveloped of late and with recent years in the Premier League still benefitting the club, expect a large chunk of money to be available to Farke.

The same can be said for Wilder, whose Sheffield United side are returning to the Premier League for the first time since the 2007/08 campaign, where a final-day relegation is still a sore point for many Blades fans.

Bramall Lane is still a fine traditional stadium but may need a lick of paint before August hits. Training ground improvements may also be on the agenda.

However, Wilder will see solid financial faith installed upon him in the transfer market as he goes hunting for the players to help transform the club into Premier League regulars. Given his wealth of knowledge of the lower leagues, he may opt to shop closer to home rather than abroad.

Aspirations

For most clubs who get promoted from the Championship, the objective is fairly simple; survive.

Sometimes you get clubs who have their eye on a higher prize upon promotion, with Wolverhampton Wanderers a prime example of a promoted side who have the capabilities of more than a mere 17th-place finish.

Norwich have tasted Premier League football recently and will look to use that experience to guide them throughout the season. Farke’s side – with the right signings – could eye up a nice mid-table finish if they can start the season well and ensure the goals keep hitting the back of the net.

Sheffield United may have a more realistic perspective, with the side arguably in need of more player recruitment ahead of next season.

If you were to offer Wilder 17th place right now he would bite your hand off for that opportunity.

The Blades will have their work cut out and most bookies will have them down as one of the favourites to finish in the bottom three next year. Sheffield United fans will be hopeful that isn’t the case.

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