Sunderland have been a short price for promotion each season since their last promotion and on each of those occasions they’ve been involved with a battle for the drop. Last year Sam Allardyce managed to perform another of his miracles in keeping them up, this earning him the England job after the Euro 2016 disappointment.
Moyes on the face of things looks to be ideal for this position, which surely suits him a lot better than United or Sociedad, but doing any job is difficult without the tools and the prolonged chase made by the FA to get their man took much time away from their own transfer ambitions and at the time of writing there has been just one singing of note, albeit a good one in the shape of Papy Djilobodji, a Senegal centre-half, for £8m from Chelsea.
It should be said that in this calendar year, three quarters of the defeats they’ve had have been top four teams – although this is not the first time they’ve really improved for the turn of the season, as they’ve had to do it every single season to stay up – and in the shape of Jan Kirchoff there was finally someone to cover the back four whilst Khabi Kahzari gave some much needed edge to what was, Jermaine Defoe apart, one of the league’s bluntest attacks.
However it could be difficult not avoid another slow start unless players come before the window closes and the presumed departure of Lamine Kone is a big hole for Papy Djilobodji to fill and DeAndre Yedlin and Yann M’Villa are still not confirmed to stay. Sunderland could struggle once again and the 11/4 best price (a general 5/2) that they go down could go shorter at some stage. They could also be worth a speculative investment in trebles with other sides to go down.
Another side who are in danger based on their transfer dealings are Swansea, who were walked to safety by Francesco Guidolin through the second half of the season but appear to have stagnated since with doubts over the intentions of their American owners. The wave that Welsh football is riding doesn’t seem to be flat down there and whilst missing out on a number of important transfer targets is not a total surprise, the quality of those heading through the exit door has raised some alarms.
Eder and Bafetembi Gomis have already left whilst Alberto Paloschi didn’t get much of a chance to endear himself to the fans having been given a few for short months at the Liberty. However the biggest departure by far is Andre Ayew, scorer of 12 goals last season who’s now at West Ham. Fernando Llorente, who didn’t have the success that he’d hoped at Sevilla or Juventus but who is an ideal Premier League targetman if recovering his mojo.
Jefferson Montero, Glyfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Routledge will have to step forward once again and they care capable of doing so but the non-replacement of Ashley Williams is a problem that needs solving even with Lukas Fabianski having enhanced his reputation at the Euros.
West Brom have the master of staying up – well he’s now the master seeing as Big Sam has the England job – in Tony Pulis but they’ll have to be on watch from early on. However they managed just one win in their last 11 games to end last season and it will be most the same side this season that takes to the field.
If Johnny Evans moves to Arsenal then that can’t bode well and West Brom were bottom for shots on target and second bottom for shots taken. Of course with a Pulis side that is to be expected, but Saido Berahino is still a wantaway and there’s precious little margin for error in a goalscoring strategy that saw them score 34 even if they conceded less than Chelsea and Liverpool. More of the same can be expected this season.
The three promoted sides may have it tougher than ever with the amount of money that’s flowing through the league’s middle echelons and only once have all three Championship sides survived in the top flight. The action over the summer is now more crucial than ever for those reasons and all that we’ve had from Hull since their playoff final success.
Owner Assem Allam is seriously ill and Steve Bruce, so inspirational in managing to take the Tigers up, last year, left over a falling out with Assem’s son, the vice-chairman Ehab Allam and attempts to recruit a new gaffer have not worked brilliantly with Chris Coleman rejecting the so called ‘lure’ of coming to Humberside.
The initial squad which came up has had no improvement and through the summer they have had an injury crisis that left them with only 10 fit players (professionals) at least and of those Moses Odubajo, Allan McGregor and Alex Bruce won’t be back before Christmas and Michael Dawson’s absence needs to be as short as possible for Hull (but October is the earliest set date). Tom Huddlestone will be vital as the cornerstone of the midfield but whether he and Abel Hernandez (scored 20 of Hull’s 69 last season) have anything to hold onto is a different matter and the 4/6 on them going down is a fair bet, although the 9/4 on them finishing bottom should also be taken.
Title winners Burnley have had a very stable summer which gives them a platform but they have reached the promised-land twice before only to go straight down the next season and it’ll be hard for them to stay up once again. Last time around financial handicaps meant they managed to spend just £10m and this time around it’s been much the same story with little change in the team That brings its benefits and most important they’ve kept Sean Dyche, able to plan to a tee what his XI should do whilst also smart enough to embrace the modern sports sciences.
The only big departure is Joey Barton to Rangers and if you’d read the Championship season preview there wouldn’t be much change here and of the core – nine players started at least 35 games last year and amongst them are Tom Heaton, now an England international, the hotsout duo of Andre Gray and Sam Vokes (a Euro 2016 scorer in their quarter final win over Belgium), Scott Arfield, Ben Mee and George Boyd.
They’re all solid names and very decent players but this League’s middle to lower tiers get stronger with every season and Burnley haven’t made the major improvements needed to presume they can survive again. The 20/21 they go down seems fair although one would presume that’d they’d beat Hull to the punch for the bottom.
Middlesbrough were beaten to the punch by Burnley for the Championship title last season but they have ended their seven year absence from the top flight with real ambition to go far and their additions have serious quality.
The first and biggest of them is Alvaro Negredo, an international striker for Spain who has years of experience for Valencia and a whole season with Manchester City behind him (nearly). The addition of Viktor Fischer to the midfield is a fascinating one but his eight goals despite falling out of favour at Ajax speak well of his ability and he should thrive if bringing the same quality to the Riverside.
Gaston Ramirez is already proven in the No.10 role but he made a massive contribution to the promotion campaign and he’s also a proven Premier League midfielder too having worked with Southampton. Behind him Marten de Roon made more tackled than any other midfielder in Serie A last season and that midfield safeguard is vital considering that there won’t be much change to a back four that didn’t conceded more than one goal in a home league match last season (and 15 clean sheets too). Victor Valdes has the experience needed between the sticks to be a massive asset but Brad Guzan’s previous efforts to keep Villa afloat demonstrate the seriousness that Aitor Karanka has put into upgrading the squad over the summer; Bernando Espinosa has arrived from Valencia just in case the pairing of Ben Gibson and Daniel Ayala aren’t up to it, an example of the safeguards made there.
4 pts Hull to be relegated (4/6 Paddy Power)
2 pts Hull to finish bottom (9/4 Stan James)
1 pt Hull, Burnley and West Brom to go down (28/1 Stan James)
1 pt Hull, Burnley and Sunderland to go down (33/1 Bet365)