We always talked about the leap in quality from the championship to the Premier League. Now only the poor or infirm have to worry.
If you want to take off from the second level and threaten the top regions of the top division, you should definitely spend some money. Or take a manager like Chris Wilder from Sheffield United.
But if I were a supporter of Leeds or West Brom – who currently occupies the top two spots in the championship – would I look at the number of clubs in and around the bottom six spots of the Premier League and worry about what’s next season could happen? Not a minute.
Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion don’t have to worry about joining the Premier League
Chris Wilder’s excellent management has proven that promoted clubs can do better than survive
One thing the current obligation to play football in empty stadiums has revealed is how poor the teams at the bottom of the table actually are.
Without supporters to motivate them and make life uncomfortable for the opposition, their naked horrors have been revealed.
Norwich, Bournemouth and Aston Villa have been desperately poor since the reboot and seem to deserve what’s to come. Watford, West Ham and Brighton weren’t all that bad, but are full of shortcomings.
Two notable results have been achieved: Brighton’s defeat to Arsenal and West Ham’s win over Chelsea.
West Bromwich Albion boss Slaven Bilic has the tenacity to survive in the Premier League
Both teams have also beaten Norwich and that will probably be enough to save them. Watford has also beaten Norwich.
But then everyone beats Norwich. Villa – who won for the first time since the restart on Sunday – and Bournemouth must curse the fact that they will not play a team that seemed to be relegated from day one of the season.
Yes, Norwich returns to the championship after a year without leaving a footprint in the sand. They are the club that gambled on winning promotion and surviving without making a significant signing. They were wrong.
Villa, meanwhile, came forward and thought the opposite tactic would work. They would have been right if they hadn’t spent so much of their money.
Norwich is going back to the championship because he spent no money last summer
And that leaves Sheffield United behind. Well managed and well coached by Wilder, they haven’t spent a fortune, but have invested £ 20 million in striker Oli McBurnie. The 24-year-old was not productive, but he played in 33 of his team’s 35 league games and scored in recent wins over Chelsea and Tottenham. So he must have done something right.
To some extent this is the point. More is not really necessary in the Premier League: decent players and good coaching.
Rafa Benitez mobilized Newcastle three years ago. The club released only modestly, but Benitez kept up. At Wolves two summers ago, Nuno Espirito Santo was allowed to recruit more ambitiously and that also paid off. They finished seventh and should do better this time.
So there is no glass ceiling between our two upper divisions other than the ceiling that appears to exist in people’s minds.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, spent a lot of money badly and this season ago
If it’s Leeds and West Brom to win the promotion, they already have the first building blocks – their managers. Marcelo Bielsa is more tactically smart than many of those he will join, while Slaven Bilic West Ham managed to lead 7th and 11th in the Premier League before losing his way. That can happen.
The low regions of the Premier League should and should not be the limit of the ambition of two big clubs next season.
Norwich arrived and looked lost from the start. Villa spent some of their money on the wrong players. As we said at the top of this column: flawless and flawed.
Pogba shoots aside
Paul Pogba was filmed dancing and clowning in Manchester United’s dressing room last week.
He was hammered by American fans before that. Strangely not now.
Manchester United fans don’t seem to mind if Paul Pogba dances further
Trust Dyche when it comes to inclusivity
Burnley is a club that has been criticized in the past for not lining up enough players with BAME backgrounds. In any case, it is a change if you are hammered because you have selected too many foreigners.
Anyway, it was left to my colleague, Ian Herbert, to make a striking comment about this two weeks ago.
Thirteen percent of Burnley’s squad is non-white, which, while small by Premier League standards, roughly matches the BAME makeup of the British people at the last census.
Burnley may still have problems as a city, but the football club is fully inclusive and has been for a long time. Sean Dyche’s team is also doing pretty well on the field again, suggesting that squad selection and squad should probably be left to him as long as he stays on Turf Moor.
Thirteen percent of Burnley’s squad is non-white, although small by Premier League standards, it roughly matches the BAME makeup of the British people at the last census
Doyle is a real city boy
A moving moment came and went unnoticed when Manchester City defeated Newcastle 5-0 in the Etihad.
His Premier League debut was 18-year-old Tommy Doyle, grandson of not one but two City legends.
On the paternal side, the late Mike Doyle played 448 times in the league for the club, while maternal grandfather Glyn Pardoe played 305 times after debuting at the age of 15. Pardoe did not die until May and was particularly close to young Tommy.
In any case, Pep Guardiola, the last graduate of the academy, will never be able to forget his big night after getting his framed competition shirt signed by all his teammates.
Tommy Doyle, grandson of two Manchester City legends, made his debut against Newcastle