WLB Season Preview 2020/21 | Three teams to endure campaigns
Aston Villa to be relegated (2/1 William Hill)
Aston Villa got away with murder last season by staying up in the Premier League, after being promoted via the play-offs. Without Jack Grealish they would have given Norwich a run for their money down the bottom, if goal line technology was switched on in the first match of the resumption of play against Sheffield United and Orjan Nyland’s own goal had stood than that point lost would have relegated them.
The escape came with one last stroke of luck on the final day when Grealish of course scored their goal in a 1-1 draw away to West Ham United. But the goal itself was an absolute clanger from Lukasz Fabianski, lose and they drop into the Championship. Fortunate.
Villa had the second worst defence, only Norwich’s was leakier, in terms of goals against and Expected Goals (xG) against. They got away with one, and though backs to the wall performances improved after lockdown they have not addressed that shortcoming in the transfer market.
Attacking full-back Matty Cash has been the only addition so far and despite coming with some pedigree commanding a fee of over £14m, he does not increase their solidity. The 23-year-old has scored 11 and assisted seven from right back and midfield in the last two seasons for Nottingham Forest in the Championship, his contributions to a squad are in an offensive sense.
In the last week they have missed out on Callum Wilson who signed for potential relegation rivals Newcastle United and Michy Batshuayi looks set to strengthen Crystal Palace’s attacking contingent on loan, Grealish cannot carry the team on his shoulders again. If they start the campaign with the current squad, they are one injury away from dropping like a lead balloon.
West Brom to be relegated (2/1 William Hill)
This looks the most nailed-on of the three. Unproven manager, a defence that has failed before and an inexperienced attack. Games are not won on paper but this was their starting eleven against Brighton and Hove Albion in the dress rehearsal friendly on Saturday.
In a 4-3-3 formation; Sam Johnstone, Darnell Furlong, Kyle Bartley, Semi Ajayi, Kieran Gibbs, Rahkeem Harper, Jake Livermore, Romaine Sawyers, Kyle Edwards, Matheus Pereira and Charlie Austin.
It must be said that this is in the absence of new signings Cedric Kipre and Grady Diangana. But without those two unknown entities in the Premier League, I see three players who may be up to the standard for the fight. Sawyers is a classy midfielder to keep an eye on but dropped off in performance levels severely at times last term.
Slaven Bilic’s men staggered over the line to automatic promotion and if truth be told were very lucky not to be pipped by Brentford, they look like the whipping boys and you can find Bilic at 14/1 best price with Betfair to be the first manager sacked.
The Croatian admitted towards the end of the season that he was preparing for the play-offs; such was the depths his confidence in the squad had fallen to. The Baggies have a tough opening five matches that could see them adrift in the drop zone in Leicester City; Everton, Chelsea, Southampton and Burnley. West Bromwich Albion to be relegated (11/10 Betfair).
Norwich to finish in the bottom-half (5/1 William Hill)
The Canaries are often joint but, in some cases, outright favourites to win the Championship, as short as 5/1 with BetVictor. This is ludicrous given their limp performances in the Premier League last season, where they finished rock bottom with a total of 21 points from 38 outings, an embarrassing 13 points adrift from Watford and Bournemouth.
The latter are fourth favourites priced up at 13/1 best price to win the title with Sport Nation. Daniel Farke’s men are 5/1 to finish in the bottom half with William Hill.
Their title triumph in 2018/19 was a true one off, with the rest of the field underperforming. As has been shown by the dominance of Leeds when they had their second opportunity to show what they were made of last term.
In that season they conceded 57 goals which was a rearguard performance bettered by seven clubs, despite improvement being essential in that department to survive in the Premier League, it was ignored, and they paid the price.
In preparation for the likely sale of Jamal Lewis, Daniel Farke has sourced Xavi Quintilla as left back cover, he will join Sam McCallam in the pecking order. But still in the heart of defence, they are fragile. A lot has been said about Ben Godfrey, my standpoint is that he is still more favourable in defensive midfield.
Norwich are relying a lot on out of nick players like Ben Gibson and Oliver Skipp who come in on loan to sure them up as a unit when out of possession. Gibson has bags of Championship experience but has only played six times in an abysmal two-year spell with Burnley, not convincing.
A whole host of teams have struggled in the second tier immediately after relegation in recent years and Norwich will follow that trend. It is hard to see them dropping into a battle towards the foot of the table, but they are team to avoid backing for any kind of top six, top two finish in 2020/21.
Premier League 2020/21 – Aston Villa to be relegated (2/1 William Hill)
Premier League 2020/21 – West Brom to be relegated (11/10 Betfair)
Championship 2020/21 – Norwich to finish in the bottom-half (5/1 William Hill)