Pre-season predictions are a dangerous game especially when it comes to tipping the relegation candidates. A safe bet is to always look around the teams from last year and the newly promoted sides. This is something BBC’s chief football writer Phil McNulty did when in his pre-season predictions he placed Norwich City in 17th and Swansea City in 19th. Contrary to Phil’s beliefs, these two are sitting pretty in the Premier League in 11th and 10th respectively. This suggests the view that perhaps the transition from Championship to Premier League isn’t as hard as some people seem to imagine.
When examining the squads of Championship teams it is important to see that many of these players would not look out of place in not just bottom of the table clubs but also mid-table teams. In the current Championship, players such as Adam Lallana, Jack Collison and Adrian Mariappa have been followed by Premier League clubs and thoroughly deserve that attention. Swansea and Norwich have stronger squads than people give them credit for and they certainly warrant their positions in the table. Although recognition for these players is not widespread, the facts do not lie. Other than Wayne Rooney, Danny Graham and Grant Holt are the leading English scorers (alongside the “past-it” Frank Lampard) but yet are still ignored by the England set up.
Part of the strength of the squads is down to the wise moves that their respective managers make in the transfer market. Paul Lambert has shown himself to be an excellent spotter of talent. Signings such as John Ruddy and Bradley Johnson (free transfers) and Kyle Naughton (on loan) have formed a solid base within the Norwich set up. He has also proved to be a good man-manager after promoting Grant Holt to captain and then seeing the forward score 67 in 120 for the Canaries. However if Lambert is shrewd then Brendan Rodgers is something of a genius in the transfer market. Scott Sinclair, Neil Taylor, Danny Graham and Michel Vorm are just four of Swansea’s household names that have been brought in by Rodgers, as well as loan signing Steven Caulker. Arguably his greatest signing however is Gylfi Sigurðsson. The Icelandic star has become one of key figures at the Liberty Stadium with 5 goals and 3 assists in 10 appearances in his loan spell from German side Hoffenheim.
Of course, players and managers are not the only reason that newly promoted clubs can achieve success when they get promoted. English football is an interesting game and habits can come into it quite a lot. Many clubs in the league will have realistically had to prepare for a relegation battle this season because it is what they are embroiled in year after year. For promoted clubs they are used to winning, they have gotten promoted because they have won a large number of games and as far as they’re concerned this shouldn’t change. Newly promoted teams have no fear and aren’t afraid to follow the tactics that brought them so much success in the past. Swansea is a prime example of this as they aren’t afraid to continue with their fluid passing system that took them up and they have consequently signed players that fit into their system.
Equally if teams want to develop their system of playing they cannot be too adventurous at the start as it could backfire. Stoke City has led the way here by “winning ugly” as Arsene Wenger would say, but nevertheless winning and securing safety allowing them to achieve more success in the future. Clubs shouldn’t break habits as these tactics have brought them to where they are today and by sticking with their current systems Swansea and Norwich have enjoyed fantastic debut season. QPR has tried to inject too many new players too quickly and they’re struggling to gel which can possibly explain their shortcomings this year. The quality at Loftus Road cannot be questioned but it is perhaps too much too soon.
Overall the success of these clubs should be inspirational for teams such as West Ham, Southampton and Reading who are all chasing promotion from the Championship. These three should follow Swansea and Norwich and have faith in their current squads, current managers and current tactics. These are the reasons for their success and there is no reason it shouldn’t be in the future. To tackle this grueling league, teams should not panic buy and should stick to what they know. It’s tricky with the league becoming more and more competitive but teams like Swansea and Norwich are showing the way.