The gulf in class between the Premier League and the Championship is big and without the right coaches, players and investment, clubs only enjoy a brief stay in the top-flight after promotion. Fulham and West Brom last season were prime examples. But staying up doesn’t rely solely on new signings, those already at the newly-promoted clubs must improve for the occassion too. Brentford, Norwich and Watford are the newcomers next season, let’s see which promoted players they will need to step up to help them avoid relegation in the upcoming campaign.
6 vital promoted players in 2021/22
Ivan Toney (Brentford)
If Brentford had lost in the play-off final. Ivan Toney would not be playing for his current club in the upcoming campaign. The striker had a magnificent 2020/21 season for the Bees, scoring a record-breaking 31 goals and was unplayable in most matches. Many are optimistic about Thomas Frank’s team in their first-ever Premier League season, however, a lot of that hope relies on Toney performing as well as he did last year.
Toney is a well-rounded forward, he flourishes when used as a target man with his strike partner or wingers playing off of him, but he has the speed to run in behind if required too. The 25-year-old is a clinical finisher, outscoring his xG by five last season, and a true aerial presence. The former Newcastle man has a lot to prove now in the top-flight, especially since Brentford has warned off plenty of interest for him so far this summer and he will certainly be one of the promoted players to keep an eye on this season.
Ethan Pinnock (Brentford)
One of the most underrated players in the Championship. Ethan Pinnock has been brilliant for Brentford since he arrived in 2019. The Jamaican defender has the qualities of a typical no-nonsense centre back, but also a ball-playing defender. He is strong and sharp to a tackle, but when in possession he is a calm presence that can play out from the back well.
Brentford’s playstyle, assuming they don’t tinker with it, puts a huge reliance on what they can do with the ball quickly. They play with intensity and want to have the ball and attack as much as possible, therefore Pinnock is set for a huge campaign. It is crucial that he can retrieve the ball back and move it forward to the attacking-minded teammates with a sense of urgency at all times.
But the Bees cannot assume they will be put on the front foot for most games in the Prem, so how well they can defend as a unit and individually will be tested. If Brentford fail to survive next season then, assuming Pinnock doesn’t crumble under the pressure, it wouldn’t be a shock to see a top-flight club put an offer in for the 28-year-old who could be one of the surprise promoted players to impress.
Teemu Pukki (Norwich)
He’s done it once, can he do it again? Norwich’s chances of survival rely heavily on Teemu Pukki putting the ball in the back of the net consistently. The Finnish forward scored 26 last season in the Championship, just three less than his 2018/19 campaign, and showcased that he is still the man to lead the line for The Canaries.
Pukki is a powerful presence up front, he holds up the ball for his teammates, draws cheap fouls from defenders and sparks attacks. The 31-year-old is great in the air but also has a true poachers instinct, he isn’t one to shoot from outside of the box but if the ball is bouncing around in the penalty area then you know Pukki will be there to tuck it home.
Norwich have new-found funds thanks to the sale of Emiliano Buendia (£31m) so are investing in their squad, but they aren’t replacing Pukki which shows that Daniel Farke has faith in his striker to deliver the goals required so that his team aren’t immediately relegated back to the Championship… again.
Billy Gilmour (Norwich)
In one of the most underrated pieces of business in the transfer window so far, Norwich has acquired the services of young prospect Billy Gilmour on loan from Chelsea. Last season, Farke’s side were reliant on Spurs-loanee Oliver Skipp in the heart of midfield, and there is the expectation that Gilmour will be just as successful at the Norfolk club.
When given the opportunities, the 20-year-old has shown why he is so highly rated by Chelsea staff and players. The Scotland international is an out and out ball-winner, snapping into tackles and retrieving possession at all costs. On the ball, Gilmour is a decent player too, he can dictate the tempo of a match when required and prioritises ball retention over tricky passes. If Norwich are to survive next season then they will need Gilmour to live up to expectations, if they are overruled in midfield then it will leave their defence very vulnerable.
Ismaila Sarr (Watford)
The fact that Liverpool has reportedly been interested in signing Ismaila Sarr this summer showcases what a top talent he is. The Senegalese right-winger scored 13 and assisted four last season, and if he can replicate those figures in the top-flight then he will be Watford’s best asset. Sarr is undoubtedly one of the promoted players to watch and it was a surprise that he wasn’t snapped up from the Championship last season anyway.
Sarr has the pace and energy to race in behind and tear defences apart with his speed alone, dragging defenders out of position and allowing midfielders to dart into vacant space. The 23-year-old is fairly competent with both feet which means that when he cuts inside he is just as dangerous as when on the outside. If the Hornets want to beat the drop then they need to make the most of having a player as good as Sarr on their books.
Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford)
Being brutally honest, Watford will struggle next season. Against more Prem-proven sides they will be expected to defend for long periods of matches and sit deep, which puts a significant reliance on central midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah stepping up to the mark. The Englishman will need to protect his defensive line behind him but also try and fuel attacks and allow his team to get numbers forward when he finds himself in possession.
Chalobah was an integral part of the Hornets’ team last season, with his willingness to do the dirty work and try and break up play gaining plaudits. The former Chelsea academy graduate isn’t the midfielder who will score plenty of goals or regularly assist, but he is a key clog in the wheel and will need to perform next season to avoid dropping back into the Championship.
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