The Premier League season starts on Friday. What better way to get back into the groove than taking a look at the clubs who, a year from now, might be back in the Championship? There isn’t one.
Here’s a look at the six clubs that I think will be battling for their Premier League lives come next spring. The three newly promoted clubs automatically make this category because statistically, they’re the likeliest to go back down. After that, it’s the next three finishers in the Premier League from last season. I was tempted to throw Brentford into this group. If I wanted to get really spicy, I might include Wolves, as well. But I’m feeling kind.
Key Players: Dominic Solanke (CF), Philip Billing (AM), Jaidon Anthony (RW), Marcus Tavernier (LW)
Additions: Marcus Tavernier (LW), Joe Rothwell (MF), Ryan Fredericks (LB)
Losses: Nat Phillips (CB, end of loan), Robbie Brady (LW), Gary Cahill (CB)
Predicted finish: 20th
Why it could be their year: It won’t be. Next.
Why it might not be their year: They aren’t going to score many goals. Last I heard, you need to do that to get results. Dominic Solanke, a player who has not been able to catch on in the Premier League, led them in goals last season. They’ve also got Welsh international, Kieffer Moore, who is a big rig if there ever was one, could make some noise. He signed with the Cherries in January then spent most of the spring injured, so who knows how well he’ll fit into their side.
They’re also coming into the season with a question mark at one of the centerback slots and an inexperienced right back. Bournemouth is a club that is working to remake itself with younger players after years of Eddie Howe at the helm. Honestly, I don’t think they expect to stay up this season. It’s just another step in their rebuild.
Key Players: Aleksandar Mitrović (CF), Tim Ream (CB), Antonee (Jedi) Robinson (LB), Bernd Leno (GK)
Additions: Bernd Leno (GK), Joao Palhinha (DM), Andreas Pereira (AM), Kevin Mbabu (RB), Manor Solomon (LW, loan)
Losses: Andre Anguissa (DM), Fabio Carvalho (AM), Jean Michael Seri (AM)
Predicted finish: 19th
Why it could be their year: Maybe the third time is the charm. The past two times they’ve come up, they’ve gone right back down to the Championship. They scored 106 goals in the Championship, a mark no club has reached in 20 years. You don’t bang in that many goals by accident. Two seasons ago, newly promoted Leeds showed that if you can score a whole bunch of goals, even if you concede a bunch as well, you’ll do alright.
Another reason: Bernd Leno. He could absolutely win them enough points to eke out safety.
Why it might not be their year: Aleksandar Mitrović is a Championship-level striker. The last time Fulham were up, he managed a paltry 3 goals in 27 appearances. The time before that, he hit 11 in 37. That’s not enough to keep a side in the Premier League. If Fulham are banking on him to fire them to safety, they’re going down. Losing Andre Anguissa and Fabio Carvalho will hurt, too. They were key contributors for Fulham last season.
Key Players: James Ward-Prowse (CM), Kyle Walker-Peters (RB), Joe Aribo (CM)
Additions: Gavin Bazunu (GK), Sekou Mara (CF), Romeo Lavia (DM), Armel Bella-Kotchap (CB), Joe Aribo (CM)
Losses: Fraser Forster (GK), Shane Long (CF)
Predicted finish: 18th
Why it could be their year: You never quite know what you’re going to get with Southampton. They’re a club that prides themselves on developing and playing younger guys, so if the current batch of players / new additions steps up, they could be totally fine. James Ward-Prowse’s set piece delivery / shooting will earn them a handful of results on their own.
Why it might not be their year: Their roster, save for JWP and maybe Kyle Walker-Peters, is pedestrian. It’s a bunch of dudes. Thoroughly unexciting. They scored the second-fewest goals of any club that stayed up last season, and they haven’t added attacking firepower. And they finished only five points clear of the drop. There’s just not much happening on the south coast right now.
Key Players: Patrick Bamford (CF), Tyler Adams (DM), Brenden Aaronson (AM)
Additions: Brenden Aaronson (AM), Luis Sinisterra (LW), Tyler Adams (DM), Rasmus Kistensen (RB), Marc Roca (DM), Darko Gyabi (CM)
Losses: Raphinha (RW), Kalvin Phillips (DM)
Predicted finish: 17th
Why it could be their year: Patrick Bamford spent a good chunk of last season out with significant injuries. He’s an important piece for Leeds and a Premier League-caliber striker. He scored 17 goals 38 PL appearances in 2020-21. His scoring could easily be the difference between safety and relegation. This may be my American bias talking, but Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson are quality players. They should improve Leeds.
Why it might not be their year: There has been a lot of turnover at Leeds United stretching back to Jesse Marsch replacing Marcelo Bielsa in February of last season and continuing through this summer. All that change could make for a slow start that sees Leeds playing catch-up all season. They also lost their two best players in Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips. That’s tough for any team to recover from, especially when you’ve got an overall talent level barely sufficient to escape relegation last season.
Key Players: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (CF), Anthony Gordon (LW), Abdoulaye Doucoure (CM), Jordan Pickford (GK)
Additions: James Tarkowski (CB), Dwight McNeil (LW), Ruben Vinagre (LB, loan); Idrissa Gana Gueye (CM) and Maxwell Cornet (LW) might be signed in the coming days
Losses: Richarlison (CF), Jonjoe Kenny (RB), Cenk Tosun (CF), Jarrad Branthwaite (CB), Fabian Delph (CM)
Predicted finish: 16th
Why it could be their year: On paper, Everton should be better than they were last season, even without Richarlison in the fold. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was slowed by injuries the entire season, as was Abdoulaye Doucoure. Those two (and Richarlison) were probably the Toffee’s most important players heading into last year, and they were without them for a good chunk of the season. James Tarkowski, while not flashy, is a solid addition that should firm up what was a leaky backline. Of all the relegation-fodder sides, Everton are the most talented. And what’s that they say? Form is temporary, class is permanent.
Why it might not be their year: It doesn’t matter how much class you’ve got if you can’t find any kind of form. Right now, Everton have some talented players and plenty of Premier League experience, but not much of an identity as a team. I don’t think Frank Lampard is going to help with that issue. I don’t think he’s that good of a manager. Everton have the pieces to stay up, but they’ve got to find the right way to fit them together. And there’s a decent chance that doesn’t happen.
Key Players: Brennan Johnson (CF), Ryan Yates (CM), Joe Worrall (CB), Dean Henderson (GK), Jesse Lingard (CF), Neco Williams (RB), Taiwo Awoniyi (CF)
Additions: Dean Henderson (GK, loan), Wayne Hennessey (GK), Jesse Lingard (CF), Taiwo Awoniyi (CF), Neco Williams (RB), Orel Mangala (CM), Moussa Niakhate (CB), Giulian Biancone (RB), Omar Richards (LB), Lewis O’Brien (CM), Harry Toffolo (LB), Brandon Aguilera (AM)
Losses: Brice Samba (GK), Djed Spence (RB), Tobias Figueiredo (CB), Nikolas Ioannou (LB), Xande Silva (RW), Jonathan Panzo (CB), Ethan Horvath (GK), Lewis Grabban (CF), Gaetan Bong (LB)
Predicted finish: 15th
Why it could be their year: In short, manager Steve Cooper. He’s a young, bold, tactically innovative manager who did an incredible job last season. When he took over Forest in late September, the club had lost six of their first seven matches. He turned things around and got them promoted. He seems primed to follow in the footsteps of Thomas Frank, Marcelo Bielsa, and Graham Potter (although he didn’t get Brighton promoted) as a manager whose different tactics bring (initial) PL success.
Why it might not be their year: The Premier League is tough, and we’ve not seen most of Forest’s players compete at that level. It’s quite possible they’re just not up for it (although they did beat Arsenal last season). Teams that come up are the most likely to go back down.
They’ve also had a massive amount of roster turnover, both incoming and outgoing. It takes time for teammates to learn each other, learn the manager’s system, and for the manager to find his best XI. Finally, their second leading scorer, club captain, and experienced head Lewis Grabban declined a new contract and will not be with the club this season. Stuff like that matters!