Championship 2020/2021: How will the relegated teams do?

The new Championship season is almost here, and three teams have joined the second division from the Premier League. Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich made their departures after all putting up fights to stay in the league, but with varying levels of success. In this article, we will look at how each team could do in the Championship this season, discussing their transfer activity, form last season, and their general strengths and weaknesses.

Norwich City (20th in Premier League)

Norwich are a team who play good football, but just couldn’t get going last season. They have a good team though, with some good individual players, and at points they did play like a team. However, what cost them last season was a lack of Premier League experience. If we look at their squad from last season, only Tim Krul and Alex Tettey had spent any real time in the top flight. That really counted against them, and January was their chance to add this; they instead went for German midfielder Lukas Rupp and Slovakia midfielder Ondrej Duda, with the former a permanent deal whilst the latter was on loan until the end of the season. Their arrivals did not have the desired effect. Another thing that led to them going down was that Teemu Pukki, who had started the season well, dried up in front of goal, and that meant the Canaries had little goal threat as the season went on.

However, they now have a chance to try again, and have added some good players to their squad in preparation for the Championship season ahead. They have added striker Jordan Hugill, who impressed last season whilst on loan at QPR, Kieran Dowell, an attacking midfielder who has shown his Championship qualities previously, particularly on loan at Nottingham Forest in 2017-2018, when he scored nine goals in the league, and Ben Gibson, a centre back who has joined on loan from Burnley, with a view to a permanent deal. Other players have joined as well, such as Polish winger Przemyslaw Placheta and Luxembourg forward Danel Sinani, so they do have quality across their team. With these signings, I feel they are in a good place to challenge again, and they are my bet to take the title and go straight back up as league champions.

They have lost star left-back Jamal Lewis, with the Northern Ireland international moving to Newcastle, but this is nothing to worry about, because Sam McCallum has now arrived after his loan spell at his former club Coventry City ended, so he will be a direct replacement for him.

All in all, if Norwich can gel all of their new signings together relatively quickly, then any big departures will be covered, and they will be set for a good season.

Watford (19th in Premier League)

Watford almost stayed up last season, but ultimately dispensing with three names over the course of the season was never going to work, especially when Nigel Pearson was dismissed with two games to go and the side one place above the relegation zone, having done so well to get them into a position where they had a chance of staying up that late in the season. Therefore, whilst they wouldn’t have definitely stayed up if Pearson had still been in charge, there was a chance they could have if he had stayed. They now have Vladimir Ivic in charge at Vicarage Road, who has no previous experience of English football, either playing or coaching. Could this be a problem? Not necessarily, because we have seen managers come in and thrive in English football. However, I don’t feel overly confident about Ivic, for some reason, perhaps because he is a bit too unknown.

They have not made too many signings, with only three major ones coming in. From Udinese, the Italian side also owned by the Pozzo family, who own Watford, they added Croatian striker Stipe Perica and Chile defender Francisco Sierralta, both for undisclosed fees, whilst veteran striker Glenn Murray joined on a season-long loan from Brighton. They have not had too many outgoings either, with Abdoulaye Doucoure being the most notable departure, signing for Everton this week for £20m. Other that him, and the releases of defenders Jose Holebas and Adrian Mariappa, the majority of the squad from last season has stayed intact. How long it stays that way remains to be seen, with the likes of Troy Deeney and Ismaila Sarr being linked with moves back to the Premier League over the summer.

As far as their season goes, I think it will be the case that they will finish in the top half of the table, maybe getting into the playoffs, but I don’t see them getting promoted. They could do very well, and surprise us, or they could be like Stoke, Huddersfield and Sunderland, and not adjust quickly enough after relegation, finding themselves struggling to stay in the league. However, Watford could be a team to keep half an eye on this season, because they could surprise us if they do manage to keep their key players.

AFC Bournemouth (18th in Premier League)

I really felt for Bournemouth and Eddie Howe last season, because I like them as a club, and like how they run things. You can see that they were always a small fish in a big pond, but that never troubled them. They continually pushed season after season to get better, but the ultimate thing that cost them was the constant leaking of goals at the back. Whilst the likes of Josh King and Callum Wilson were scoring plenty of goals, this wasn’t a massive problem, because they could just win games by outscoring their opponents, if that’s what it took. But as soon as the goals dried up, as they did last season, they were always going to be in trouble.

Eddie Howe’s departure means this is now a new era for Bournemouth, and a chance to start again in a way. His former assistant Jason Tindall was appointed manager, and, given he spent so long working under Howe at Bournemouth and at Burnley in between their two spells at the Vitality Stadium, it seems likely that the team’s playing style won’t change too much. However, the players will. They have already sold goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United), Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United, free transfer) and Callum Wilson (also Newcastle United), whilst other long-standing squad players like captain Simon Francis, Andrew Surman, Charlie Daniels, Artur Boruc and Jordon Ibe have all been released. Therefore, as far as this is concerned, it really is a new start for Bournemouth. They have been linked with re-signing Matt Ritchie from Newcastle, but this rumour may have gone cold, as it was likely that this would be in part-exchange for Wilson.

As far as this season will go, I think they could be in the playoffs at best. I don’t see them reaching the top of the league, as I think Norwich, Nottingham Forest and Brentford will all be fighting for those positions, but the playoffs I think would be a good result for them. Whether they make an instant return or not obviously remains to be seen, but I think that they will need a season to readjust to the second tier, and to see what they have and what they need, but I am not counting out that they could make a push for promotion. I don’t see them being in any trouble though.

This article has looked at the three teams who were relegated from the Premier League last season, seeing how they could do this season in the Championship. We have looked at each side’s transfer activity, form in the top flight last season, and made some predictions as to how they could do this season, and where they could finish. Watford kick off the new Championship season tomorrow night, so we haven’t got long to see if any of these predictions come true or not.

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