Last season was not one to remember for Aston Villa, Newcastle United or Norwich City fans, but they could easily find a chance to redeem themselves this coming season in the Championship.
The Championship is quite alien to Aston Villa and Newcastle with them rarely venturing downwards into the lower leagues, but the feeling is common for Norwich, who often bounce between the two divisions.
The decisions made in the pre-season by Newcastle and Aston Villa and less so for Norwich are important because they can often be the difference between a team going straight up or becoming a regular fixture in the lower leagues.
Newcastle and Norwich have both managed to keep their managers, which is significant because Rafa Benitez has a Champions League title among his credentials, and he has a vast amount of managerial experience.
Keeping Alex Neil was important for Norwich due to his previous experience of getting them into the Premier League a few seasons ago, which will obviously come in handy because he has experienced all the challenges and so forth before.
The acquisition of Roberto Di Matteo’s services as manager was a bold move by Aston Villa, but one that could easily prove to be fruitful because he is similar to Rafa Benitez in that he has a Champions League title to his name, and he has managerial experience from some of the top leagues in Europe. This know-how could easily prove to be telling during the season when the Villa squad need a manager with a clear vision, and significant understanding of the game to lead them.
Conducting good transfer business is key in this market because key players often want to leave due to the unattractive nature of the Championship, so suitable replacements need to be brought in.
Aston Villa have made a few signings in the window so far bringing in: Tommy Elphick, Pierluigi Gollini and Aaron Tshibola. Elphick will bring in some experience and steel to the defence which was completely overawed and out of its depth last season. Tshibola and Gollini will provide competition to the midfield and goalkeeper positions respectively, and are both promising players for the future.
Newcastle have definitely had to deal with the issue of players moving because Georginio Wijnaldum, and Andros Townsend have both left due to offers from Premier League teams (Liverpool and Crystal Palace) which were too good to turn down. Both of these players were two of Newcastle’s most consistent performers last season, so losing them was a blow, but they received a total of £38 million for them both which is good value.
They’ve found suitable replacements with that money because they’ve brought in Dwight Gayle from Crystal Palace who is a proven scorer in the lower leagues, and Matt Ritchie who helped Bournemouth get in to the Premier League, so he has experience of the league.
Benitez has also brought in experience to the defence by buying Grant Hanley from Blackburn who understands the Championship style of play well as well as bringing in some much needed solidity, and Jesus Gamez from Atletico Madrid who brings some added quality to the defence which was lacking last season.
Newcastle have also invested in Matz Sels to compete for the top goalkeeper spot, and Isaac Hayden who will bring in some youthful vigour to the team.
These signings point towards a positive season for the Magpies because they each bring in something unique to the squad.
Norwich have been quiet in the transfer market so far, but that is probably influenced by the fact that the majority of the squad was involved in their initial promotion to the Premier League, so they have plenty of experience at this level.
The signings they have made are Sergi Canos from Liverpool for £2.5 million, and Michael McGovern on a free, while rumours are currently circulating that they have made a £10 million bid for Ross McCormack from Fulham. Canos could prove to be a great signing because of his potential, and an added bonus is that he has experience of the Championship with Brentford last season. McGovern showed his quality at the Euros with his man of the match performances for Northern Ireland, so acquiring him is a great move.
Aston Villa have had multiple changes off the pitch because they have a new owner Dr. Xia Jiantong who seems to be much more popular with the supporters than Randy Lerner which will hopefully bring some stability to the club. They also had a reorganisation of the board of directors due to multiple resignations after the debacle that was last season, so these new faces should help provide a new direction for the club.
Players such as Charles N’Zogbia have been released which is another good move because they were a drain on finances, and were reducing the competitiveness of the squad.
The majority of Newcastle’s restructuring was focused on the squad because they’ve managed to keep Rafa Benitez, and they still have Mark Ashley as the owner.
An important change implemented when Benitez became manager is that he has full control over transfers which explains the smart transfers they have made this summer with the experience of Rafa being the reason for this.
Newcastle have also gotten ridden of the dead weight in order to reduce the wages Fabricio Coloccini and Stephen Taylor being released, and other players that aren’t needed such as Papiss Cisse have been sold.
Norwich have made few changes due to them not needing to downsize although they have lost Nathan Redmond and Gary O’Neil who were key first team players last season. The loss of Redmond’s quality will be missed in the upcoming season, but Canos could easily prove to be a great replacement.
An important factor which has helped reduce the impact of relegation is parachute payments. The fact that Aston Villa and Newcastle United are huge clubs with substantial fan bases means that they shouldn’t suffer much financially due to the buffer zone that the payments give them. However, it’s important they get promoted soon in order to benefit from the Premier League TV rights deal.
The parachute payments are also significant for Norwich because it enables them to bounce between the top two leagues without having to make significant changes each time they get relegated.
Each of these teams have made the right kind of decisions for the new environment they find themselves in, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the majority of them ended up getting promoted back in to the Premier League either in the upcoming season or in the next few years.
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