The new Premier League season is almost upon us, and we have three new teams who will be gracing our screens this season. Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham have all made their returns to the top flight after different lengths of time away, and this article will see how all three of them could do this season. We will look at their transfer activity, form last season, and general ability of the squad in order to do this.
Leeds United (1st in Championship)
Leeds eventually got promoted to the Premier League last season, having fallen short the season before, when they were knocked out of the playoffs by Frank Lampard’s Derby County. The key thing about their team last season was that they were flexible in who played where; Stuart Dallas and Ezgjan Alioski were both signed as wingers at the club, from Brentford in 2015 and Lugano in 2017 respectively, but both have played at full-back at times in the last few seasons. Therefore, this will help Leeds going into the new season, because they will be able to use their full squad in suiting the game they are in.
They have brought in some new players this summer, most notably Spain striker Rodrigo from Valencia, and the aim here is to bolster their attacking options with clear international quality. Without Rodrigo, they only had Patrick Bamford as a genuine first-choice striker, with Wales international Tyler Roberts able to play there, but more often than not playing as a winger or wide forward. Therefore, they now have competition in the central role, which was important. They have also brought in Germany defender Robin Koch from Eintracht Frankfurt, in a move that bolsters their defence. They had Ben White on loan from Brighton last season, but he looks set to stay with the Seagulls this season, despite Leeds being keen to bring him back on a permanent deal. Koch therefore looks to be his replacement, but he will have big shoes to fill, because White was arguably the best centre back in the Championship last season.
As a prediction for how their season will go, I think they will end up surviving, but I think they need to add more Premier League quality to the team. When a club is newly promoted, it’s vitally important that they add experience, because the Premier League is completely different to the Championship; they need different players to help them stay up. We have seen teams fall foul of this in recent seasons, such as Norwich last season, Fulham the season before, and ultimately it all comes down to bringing in just one or two players who have played significantly in the Premier League before, and that can be the difference. However, I do think that, with Marcelo Bielsa in charge, and the quality we saw from them last season, they should be fine.
West Bromwich Albion (2nd in Championship)
West Brom made their return to the Premier League after being relegated in 2018, and looked last season like a team that could stay up. I have commented in a book chapter I wrote for a Premier League prospectus that I felt they have a good style of play, but could come up short if they don’t add the right players; they have begun to add these in the last week or so. The permanent returns of Callum Robinson, who was considered surplus to requirements at Sheffield United after spending the second half of last season on loan with the Baggies, and Grady Diangana, who impressed last season on loan at the Hawthorns from West Ham, will give them a welcome boost in the final third. Both have shown they are goalscorers, and Robinson did score goals for the Blades in the Premier League last season, so I think this will help them. They have also added experienced goalkeeper David Button and defender Cedric Kipre from Brighton and Wigan respectively, and those two will add quality to the backline.
If we look at their squad, the only other players with good experience of the Premier League are left-back Kieran Gibbs, centre-back Ahmed Hegazi, strikers Hal Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin, and midfielder Jake Livermore. Therefore, whilst it is clear that they do have top flight experience, you just feel that they need a bit more to help them survive an immediate drop back to the Championship. However, I do feel more confident now that they have Robinson and Diangana, because they will now carry more of a threat in the final third.
Next season will not be easy for them, but if they can make a good start and get some early results on the board, then they will have a good chance of staying up. If not, then it could be difficult for them to survive. Games against the bottom teams in the league could prove decisive across the season.
Fulham (play-off winners)
Fulham have spent one season away from the Premier League, and this season they will want to stay in it. With Scott Parker as manager, they have a good chance. However, they do need to build their squad with more Premier League experience. Last time they were in this league, they didn’t have a striker who could lead the team and score the goals they needed to stay up, having resorted to signing forwards from abroad on loan, such as Luciano Vietto and Andre Schurrle. They added Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic on loan from Newcastle in January that season, and, whilst he scored goals to keep them in the fight, it wasn’t enough to save them. He showed last season what he can do when in top form; this season, I expect him to take that up to another level. It is his presence, and probable goal haul, that could keep Fulham up, or certainly keep them in the fight if they are struggling.
However, they have also been clever in their signings this season. Promoted teams need to get the balance right between bringing in no players at all, and bringing in too many, and Fulham last time brought in too many, and quite a few relatively random and unknown players. The likes of Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa seemed a bit unnecessary, because their midfield was already packed, and their squad that season only had limited Premier League experience; only defenders Calum Chambers, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Alfie Mawson, and strikers Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle had played significantly in the top flight at that point. This was one of their main problems that season.
This time, Parker has been more conservative with his transfer approach. The Cottagers have so far brought in midfielder Harrison Reed on a permanent deal from Southampton, after he spent last season on loan with Fulham, another Southampton midfielder, Mario Lemina, on loan, left-back Antonee Robinson from Wigan, who almost moved to AC Milan in January, which shows how highly-rated he is, and France goalkeeper Alphonse Areola on loan from Paris Saint-Germain.
I still worry about the lack of Premier League experience in their squad, but there is still time to make a few more additions to the team in this regard. However, with Scott Parker in charge, I do think they will be able to pick up more points, and maybe just survive relegation. However, like with West Brom, they will need to make a good start, or they risk falling behind early on in the season.
Therefore, this is how I think all three promoted teams will do this season. I have looked at each team’s transfers briefly, as well as dicussing how they could do this season, and whether they will stay up or not. The new season is almost upon us, so we will see whether any of the points made in this piece actually turn out to come true, but that is the beauty of predictions. Ultimately, Leeds are the only team I am confident will stay up, whereas West Brom and Fulham will need to make a good start, but are at risk of doing what Norwich did last season when they came up, and staying in the bottom three for the majority of the season. However, both have good managers, and that will definitely help them in the fight to survive.