Analysing the Premier League's promoted sides and their credentials to avoid the drop this season
As the 2019/20 edition of the Premier League approaches the festive period, a fair bit of football has already been played to pass educated guesses concerning the fate of the promoted teams. Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Norwich City achieved promotion to the top-flight this season and after 12 matchdays, we now have a clearer picture as to where they'd stand next summer.
Chris Wilder's side have been the revelation of the Premier League season so far and have taken the top-flight by storm, as they sit pretty in sixth place in the league standings. Aston Villa, on the other hand, have not been consistent enough and find themselves in a spot of bother despite playing some good football in patches.
The Villans find themselves in 17th place, 3 points above the relegation zone but Dean Smith will be confident his side can avoid the drop, as they look to climb up the table in the coming weeks. In stark contrast, Norwich City have cooled off after a stunning start to their league campaign and look doomed for the drop, as they are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table.
That said, let's look at the three sides in isolation to get a clearer picture as to which of them look primed to avoid the drop.
The rise and rise of Sheffield United
Sheffield United returned to the top-flight after a 12-year absence and the Blades have been the surprise package of the Premier League season so far. Chris Wilder's side returned to the grandest stage by virtue of their second-place finish in the Championship last season and although they were touted to be amongst the favourites for the drop in the early weeks of the season, all those doubts have since then dissipated as they've taken the Premier League by storm.
They currently find themselves in fifth place after 12 matchdays but what stands out distinctly is the togetherness of the squad and their brand of football, incorporating the idea of overlapping fullbacks which was virtually unheard of in the Premier League thus far. Wilder's philosophy coupled with his players' mental fortitude has made them one of the hardest sides to play against and his team have gained plaudits universally for how they've adapted to one of the most competitive leagues in world football, without seemingly having the personnel to do so.
Sheffield are unbeaten against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Arsenal and were a Dean Henderson blunder away from holding reigning European champions Liverpool at home, a startling example of the grit and integrity of the newly-promoted side. Although these are early days, Wilder's side look primed to avoid the drop and are likely to finish as the best-promoted side in the Premier League this season.
Testing times for Aston Villa
Aston Villa returned to the Premier League via the playoffs and although the Villans have by no means been disappointing, they find themselves just three points above the relegation zone in 17th place. 11 points from 12 games represents a decent start for a newly-promoted side but Dean Smith's side will need to start racking up the points, as they aim to extend their stay in the Premier League.
Villa retained the core of their team that achieved promotion and made as many as 12 signings in the offseason, spending the most of any club in England this summer. Traditionally, the key to survival has been defensive solidarity and retaining the core group of players from the promotion-winning team, as we've been with Burnley over the years and Villa have managed to tick both those boxes whilst spending big in the transfer market.
Although consistency has been a problem, the Villans have enough in their arsenal to avoid the drop but the festive period will be crucial to their hopes, as games come in thick and fast between December and January. In many ways, it could be argued that their on-field performances do not reflect their position in the Premier League standings but such is the competition in England, as only five points separate them and Manchester United in seventh place.
All doom and gloom at Carrow Road?
Norwich City marked their return to the Premier League with encouraging performances against Liverpool and Chelsea and managed to beat Newcastle United in their second league game of the season, as Teemu Pukki made his name in the Premier League with goals in all three games, including a stunning hat-trick against the Magpies.
Since then, both Pukki and the Canaries have been on a downward spiral but despite their struggles, their moment of the season came in late September when they blew reigning Premier League champions Manchester City away at Carrow Road.
Daniel Farke's side are yet to win a league game since their historic result and in recent weeks have been usurped by Watford, as they find themselves rooted to the bottom of the league standings with 7 points. The German manager has gained plaudits for his free-flowing brand of football but his side have continued to leak goals at an unhealthy rate, representing worrying signs, to say the least.
Only Ralph Hasenhuttl's Southampton have conceded more league goals than Norwich this season and it's not a coincidence that both sides find themselves in the relegation zone. Although Farke's side have dazzled the Premier League at times with their attractive brand of football, his side have not been stringent enough defensively to stand any chance of staying up.
Ultimately, the sad reality of the sport remains that points on the board matter and the Canaries, alongside Watford and Southampton, are amongst the favourites for relegation at this stage of the season. It's not all doom and gloom for the Canaries, but things need to change quickly for last season's Championship winners if they are to secure safety at the end of the season.