Twenty of the last 30 teams promoted to the Premier League endured relegation dogfights but Stephen Tudor thinks Norwich, Watford and Brentford should aim higher...
"If we view their forthcoming adventures through an optimistic prism then betting on the three promoted sides begins to make sense."
It was only a couple of short months ago when Norwich, Watford and Brentford were kings of their realm in the Championship. In Premier League new season betting, however, the odds are stacked against them: history indicates all three will struggle and the best they can hope for is to avoid relegation.
Such is the fate of Premier League newcomers, something that the Canaries and Hornets understand having already secured promotion to the top-flight seven times between them since the Millennium only to have reality firmly bite soon after.
It is hoped that both clubs will have learned valuable lessons from 2019/20, when Watford endured a horrendous start that brought just one win from their opening 17 games, while Norwich exposed their jaw too often against the best counter punchers in the business. It is also must be hoped that Brentford adapt quickly to the top flight, or else they'll be patronised for their pluckiness while languishing at the foot of the table.
Yet maybe - as the downbeat text above only illustrates - we're too guilty each summer of looking at the negatives when it comes to promoted sides. After all, Leeds finished ninth last season after coming up as champions. Wolves qualified for European football after doing likewise in 2018.
And if we view their forthcoming adventures through an optimistic prism then betting on the three promoted sides begins to make sense. Because some of those odds that are stacked against them are generous indeed.
Canaries can top the trio
Before we look at best case scenarios, though, let's try and determine how they'll fare against one another.
In the past decade five teams who went up as champions ultimately topped the other two promoted outfits. That puts Norwich in the frame to avoid being stung by the Hornets and Bees, finishing highest of the three next May.
Last season offers up the biggest clue as to how this mini-league will play out and it's telling that Daniel Farke's men saw off their rivals with points to spare, remaining in top spot from November on. The Canaries also carved out the best XG in the Championship last term and that's a significant plus with chances hard to come by a level up.
Additionally, the Norfolk side have enjoyed a decent transfer window to date, bringing back Angus Gunn to Carrow Road and making Ben Gibson's switch from Burnley permanent. The season-long loan of Billy Gilmour meanwhile, intrigues and it matters that all three boast Premier League experience.
Most persuasive of all is the fact that Norwich have finally struck the right balance between possession-based football and keeping things tight at the back. Two years ago, their settings were all askew, leaving them vulnerable. That has clearly been addressed with Farke saying at the tail-end of their title-winning campaign: "It was one of our plans to be rock solid in terms of the defending. This season we have been unbelievably solid in many, many games with many clean sheets."
If Norwich continue this new-found mix of progressiveness and conservatism, then they'll be in much better shape this time out than last.
Top half for the Hornets
For a mean defence, look no further than Vicarage Road. Last season, Watford kept clean sheets in exactly half of their league fixtures. Cliché dictates that being hard to break down is half the battle won when fighting for Premier League survival.
Could the Hornets exceed this aim, keeping away from the relegation scrap and instead bettering their 11th place finish in 2019? It's unlikely but don't put it past them.
Last season saw a change in personnel in the dug-out at the midway point but Watford wouldn't be Watford without some managerial upheaval and, when taken in isolation, the brief tenure of Xisco Munoz appears highly encouraging. The well-drilled back-line has stayed firmly in place but up front an array of attacking options look liberated, relishing their license to improvise that was withheld under Munoz's dour predecessor Vladamir Ivic.
In Ismaila Sarr, Watford possess a player who has previously ignited the Premier League and if the Pozzo family could kindly refrain from sacking yet another gaffer at the first hint of trouble then the Hertfordshire club might just surprise a few people this year.
Brentford could shock with top six finish
It is of course entirely counter-intuitive to back Norwich to finish higher than Brentford then make any sort of claim that the Bees could become the first promoted side in 21 years to break into the top six. But hear me out.
Norwich are the safe bet to do just fine but Brentford could do just about anything.
Seriously, they could finish rock bottom, beloved by neutrals for their doomed daring-do, or the tremendous work undertaken by Thomas Frank across three years might further flourish and then who knows what this entertaining collective is capable of? One thing is for sure: Brentford have a go and being fearless as a newbie is not always punished in the Premier League. Just usually.
If everything clicks, then a side that has outscored their Championship peers for two years running might scale unexpected heights in the months ahead and should that happen don't underestimate momentum to carry them forward.
There are a thousand reasons why Brentford are a distant 22/1 to complete a top six finish this season, all of them logical. But at this time of the year we all deserve a fun bet, a 'why not?' With the Bees set to become everyone's second favourite team, let's go with this one.
Toney can challenge for goalscorer award
It is implausible to think that Ivan Toney can out-fire Harry Kane and co in the Brentford man's inaugural top-flight campaign. Then again, it was implausible to believe he would score 33 last year after moving up to the Championship. Prior to that, few expected him to be so instantly prolific for Peterborough after being loaned here, there and everywhere.
In his last 77 league games, the 25-year-old has bagged 55 goals, the vast majority of which have been converted from close range. He is a poacher supreme and a ball and a chance is the same regardless of the opponent. It's only the quality of the keeper that changes.
Last term, his predecessor at Brentford, Ollie Watkins smashed the double-figure mark for Aston Villa, after making the step up in class, and Toney has already backed himself to regularly grab the headlines in 2020/21. "I want to achieve something crazy," he informed The Athletic this week.
And it would certainly need to be something crazy in order for the Brentford front-man to secure the Golden Boot. The average number of goals scored by the last 10 recipients is 26.7 which equates to a goal every 128 mins assuming the player participates in every single minute of the season without injury, rest or suspension. More so, the closest a promoted player has come to winning the prized merit was Charlie Austin in 2015 who came fourth with 18.
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