Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield: The race to 40 points
By Abhishek Ramachandran
The Premier league will welcome two relatively unknown commodities in Brighton and Huddersfield, and a familiar figure in Newcastle for the upcoming season. While Newcastle and Brighton secured automatic promotion, Huddersfield ended up unlikely victors of the championship playoffs, beating Reading 4–3 on penalties.
With a fresh influx of funds, all three clubs will be looking to make signings to bolster their squad for the season that lies ahead.
Let’s take a look at each clubs’ chances of staying up in the prem.
2016–2017 Sky Bet Championship Winners — Newcastle United
Newcastle were destined to win the Championship, it would seem. A late Brighton slip up gave Rafa Benitez’s side the title. With an impressive total of 94 points and the joint best defensive record in the Championship, Newcastle will be brimming with confidence.
The man at the helm, Rafa Benitez, is no stranger to the Premier League. Having tasted success with Liverpool, he knows just what is needed to perform in this level of the game.
The Newcastle squad has no dearth of players with Premier League experience, with players like Mohammad Diame and Ayoze Perez who have played in the top flight at St. James’ Park, and players like Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle, who have experience in the top flight with Swansea and Crystal Palace respectively.
In attack, Benitez will be pleased with what he has seen so far. The combination of the prolific Dwight Gayle, along with the pace of Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie on the flanks and the creative prowess of Ayoze Perez and Jonjo Shelvey has provided some breath-taking football. Having finished with 85 goals in the Championship, Benitez will be hoping that with some additional firepower, his attack will be able to take up the challenge when they face defences of a higher order in the Premier League.
In defence however, there is an element of uncertainty. While Jamal Lascelles, Chancel Mbemba, Paul Dummett and DeAndre Yedlin have stitched together to form the best defence in the Championship, the Prem is a whole different ballgame. Benitez will be looking to tighten up at the back and acquire some defenders with top-flight game time under their belt.
With Mike Ashley promising every penny of the clubs extra income due to their promotion, Rafa Benitez could have a considerable war chest to work with. The Daily Mail reports that the figure will be somewhere around the £70 million mark.
With strength in defence being the priority, Newcastle have been linked with wide variety of defenders. Having lost out on Harry Maguire and Ruben Semedo, Newcastle have been linked with Arsenal full back Calum Chambers and former Liverpool center half Martin Skrtel. There are also rumors surrounding a possible transfer of Eliaquim Mangala. The Magpies are also supposedly in pursuit of Eibar defender Lejeune.
Despite having a good season in the Championship, Dwight Gayle is yet to prove his worth in the Prem. With Mitrovic being inconsistent and Murphy unlikely to see much game time, Benitez will be looking for some firepower upfront. Newcastle have been linked with Leicester City winger Demarai Gray and utility forward Tom Lawrence.
Hopefully with the right signings to add on to their already promising squad, Newcastle will be able to push for a top half finish this season. With Rafa Benitez in the hotseat and the Toon army in the stands, the Magpies will be looking to settle down in the Premier League, where they rightfully belong.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Brighton and Hove back with the big guns.
Brighton, who finished runners-up in the Championship, seemed on course for the pole position until a late slip-up gave Newcastle the title. While this will be their fifth appearance in the top-flight, it will be their debut season in the Premier League era.
With former Newcastle and Norwich boss Chris Hughton at the helm, the Seagulls have found a manager who epitomizes the team with his sense of understated ambition, and his ability to stay calm in high pressure situations.
While Brighton do have certain players of Premier league quality, like their star winger Anthony Knockaert, they lack depth in their squad. The Seagulls should look to bring in more players of top-flight quality over the course of the summer.
In attack, they haven’t exactly had a stellar season. Brighton ended up with a return of 74 goals, which was only fifth best in the division. Glenn Murray will have another chance to prove his worth in the top-flight, after mediocre loan spells with Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. The Seagulls will be looking to strengthen in attack and some firepower to their squad and boost their hopes of survival.
At the back, Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk have come together to form the best defensive pairing in the division. Brighton have conceded a paltry 40 goals in 48 games, a number matched only by Newcastle. They will be looking to sign a left back however, with Seb Pocognoli leaving to Standard Liege and Gaeten Bong being a backup, at best. The Seagulls will also be considering adding another center half to shore up the defence for the upcoming campaign, where they will go up against some of the best attackers in world football at the moment.
Chris Hughton will also be looking to insert some youthful zest into his aging squad. While he does have young talents like Knockaert at his disposal, way too many players are hovering around the 30-age mark.
Club chairman Tony Bloom has insisted that there will be no breaking of the bank this season. He is looking to spend realistically, investing in infrastructure as well rather than spending it all on players and trying to ensure survival on the first attempt.
The Seagulls have started the window well, snapping up Pascal Gross, the Ingolstadt attacking midfielder. Hughton had said that he was looking for a number 10, and has found one that matched his requirements.
With David Stockdale leaving to Birmingham, Brighton wasted no time in signing Australian shot stopper Mathew Ryan from Valencia for an undisclosed fee.
To meet their requirement at left-back, the Seagulls are rumoured to be after Ingolstadt’s Markus Suttner and Le Havre’s Ferland Mendy, who is one of the hottest properties in France right now, with Lyon and Lille pursuing him as well.
To add some firepower up front, Brighton are rumoured to be in the market for Boro midfielder Steward Downing. They are also believed to be in talks for Milan forward Gianluca Lapadula and FC Sion forward Moussa Konate.
With bookies already touting Brighton as one of the favourites for relegation, the Seagulls certainly have their work cut out for them. However, they do have matchwinners like Knockaert and Dunk in their side. With the right signings and hopefully no injuries to their star players, Hughton, with his sense of steely calm, might just be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat and ensure that Brighton get another season of Premier League football.
Huddersfield Town will look to make an impact in this year’s Premier league
Huddersfield town sure were the surprise package of the 16–17 season. While many pundits were predicting relegation, Huddersfield had other ideas. They stuck to their guns and overcame Reading on penalties to secure promotion to the Premier League.
The man at the helm, David Wagner, has proved to be a genius. He stitched together a lovely squad which had no individual stars, but functioned well together as a unit. He will have to come up with another tactical masterclass if Huddersfield are to stand a chance of staying up.
Huddersfield relied majorly on a core of loanee players, with Aaron Mooy of Manchester City and Izzy Brown of Chelsea providing them with some attacking intent, and Danny Ward of Liverpool proving to be a more than useful between the sticks. Wagner will be hoping to retain these players for another season.
Wagner has relied majorly on a high-pressure game, with his full backs Chris Lowe and Tommy Smith pressing up most of the time. This tactic may be harder to execute in the prem, with attackers of a higher standard being able to make use of the spaces left behind more effectively.
While Christopher Schindler and Michael Heefe have formed a nice partnership in central defence, the Terriers have leaked 58 goals, suggesting the need for reinforcements at the back.
With the fresh inflow of funds due to promotion, Wagner and Chairman Dean Hoyle will know that they will need to make some quality signings to stay relevant in the Premier League.
Huddersfield have already started to acquire some top notch attacking talents. They secured the services of on loan Ingolstadt forward Elias Kachunga on a permanent basis for £1.1 million. They have also signed Laurent Depoitre from Porto for an undisclosed, club record fee.
There are also rumors of a bid to secure the services of Aaron Mooy on a permanent basis. Rumors of a £11 million deal for Montpellier’s Steve Mounie are circulating as well. Talk are on with Chelsea to sign Izzy Brown as well. A repeat loan deal for Kasey Palmer is also a possibility. Talks for Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and Derby winger Tom Ince are believed to be underway.
On the defensive front, Huddersfield are set to battle it out with Leeds to sign Iceland defender Sverrir Ingason for a fee rumoured to be around £2 million.
With Lorius Karius staying at Liverpool and fighting for his first team place, Wagner will be looking to snap up Danny Ward before the season begins.
The Terriers will know that hard times lie ahead. Wagner has taken a surprisingly aggressive approach in the transfer market which will please Huddersfield fans. With a relegation battle almost a certainty, it is upto David Wagner to use all the tricks he has up his sleeve to keep his team afloat in the Premier League.
Without a doubt, Newcastle are the favourites amongst the three to stay up. Their squad has the most Premier League experience and Rafa Benitez knows just how to milk every last ounce of football from every one of his players. Brighton have a fair chance of survival, but will have to make the right signings and stick together as a unit when tough times arrive during the course of the season. Huddersfield’s chances of survival are slim, but that’s what they were told last season as well. Only time will tell whether David Wagner will be able to marshall his troops toward the unlikely prospect of staying afloat in the Premier League.