There has been many a season when doom was predicted for Newcastle before the Premier League but Rafa Benitez always saved them and it might just be that this is the season when it all comes to roost. The loss of the Spaniard from the dugout is truly invaluable and whilst Steve Bruce is a manager with a strong track record, he did go down with Hull and it’s entirely possible he’s got a tougher task here than the market suggests.
It would have been hard enough for the Toon without Benitez but the loss of Ayoze Perez and Solomon Rondon robs them of 23 goals that they must replace and it would take an extraordinary season for new arrival Joelinton to do that all on his own. There is a decent spine at Newcastle, but on balance not enough to compensate for the outgoings and even taking into account market reactions, Newcastle still look overpriced to be involved in a serious struggle for survival.
Sheffield United went up through automatic promotion last season so it might seem harsh to suggest them for the drop, but it is a worry that all nine of their defeats in that Championship campaign came against top half sides. That suggests the step up could be a big issue for Chris Wilder and his men despite having the best goal difference and joint best defence in the Championship last year. Wilder has performed brilliantly in the hotseat there, and there has been a busy period during the summer, but when casting a critical eye, it’s possible that the two other promoted sides might have outspent them.
United have broken their transfer record four times, but three of those signings have come from the Championship and it’s possible that Aston Villa and Norwich could leave them behind at this higher level too, given the investment at Villa and the quality at the helm of Norwich, who have benefited hugely from Stuart Webber as Sporting Director too. The last five Championship winners have managed to stay up, and the Canaries might well stay up.
Aston Villa will need to make sure that their new signings – 10 of them to be exact – gel properly, but they appear to have brought well and they can avoid a Fulham style disaster with any luck.
Brighton could be in trouble. Graham Potter’s Swansea side ranked second in Championship possession last season but he will need to bring hat and also some cutting edge to a side that scored only 12 times from open play last season and won only 2 matches in 2019. Glenn Murray has scored 25 times in the last two Premier League seasons and should the 35 year old miss an extended part of the season then Brighton, who were 15th the year before, would be likely to find things tough.
Burnley looked in danger last season but they managed to survive with a bit of breathing space and now that they don’t have the burden of European football things should be easier for Sean Dyche’s men, who over performed when seventh but who are better than their 15th placed finish last season.
Much of Crystal Palace’s season will rest on whether Wilfred Zaha, who remains a Palace player despite handing in a transfer request. Zaha appeared set to leave on multiple occasions though the transfer widow and if he is off form or refuses to play than the Eagles would be in major trouble. They lost 14 straight games without him last season and Zaha won 6 of the 10 penalties that Luka Milovovjevic converted last season. Palace scored just 51 goals last season so his quick feet are vital and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s move to Manchester United is another blow. That said, we don’t know enough to back them to go down at this stage.
Bournemouth scored 56 goals last term and look too strong at home, and under Ralph Hasenhuttl Southampton should do well enough to maybe look at the top half of the table. Nobody else made enough appeal.
Advice – Relegation
4 pts Newcastle (9/4 Bet Victor)
3 pts Sheffield United (4/5 Betfair)
2 pts Brighton (7/4 Bet365)
Advice – To Finish Bottom
2 pts Sheffield United (3/1 general)
1 pt Brighton (8/1 Bet365)
1 pt Newcastle (12/1 Bet365)
Advice – Three Relegated Teams
1 pt Brighton, Newcastle and Sheffield United (50/1 Bet365)