Despite the different ideologies on and off the pitch, Norwich City and Sheffield United have what it takes in order to avoid relegation in the top flight next season. 

By 90Min
May 05, 2019

It's a waste of time claiming the Championship is a better league than the Premier League but the sheer quantity of drama and exhilarating moments from the top down in the division makes a strong case for it being more exciting and unpredictable.

Such a league naturally coughs up a few sides who have what it takes to not only finish top of the pile, but build on their success and get the pan hot, ready to fry some much bigger fish.

The remarkable seasons from Norwich and Sheffield United indicate that there is no guaranteed winning formula on how to achieve promotion from the Championship, with both clubs opting for a different approach that ultimately yielded success. Just as with Wolves and Fulham's vastly differing plights in the top-flight this season, it also demonstrates there is no such recipe for Premier League survival.

The Canaries' decision to appoint Daniel Farke totally eclipses that of Sheffield United's to hire Chris Wilder. Yet, both clubs defied the odds and secured automatic promotion.

Norwich proved that the answer is not always close to home. When Farke joined the club at the beginning of last season, eyebrows were raised when he could only lead to club to a 14th place finish with frustrations mounting over an unappealing style of play. They stuck with their man, however, and have been the standout performers in the second tier this season by a country mile. 

After maintaining its place in the Championship, Farke changed styles drastically, landing the players he needed to implement his attacking philosophy. The club scored fewer goals last season than Sunderland (49) and the majority of the team’s threat came through the center - much due to an over-reliance on James Maddison. Since he left to join Leicester, the play is almost entirely down the flanks through new signing Emiliano Buendía, with the Argentine netting eight times and registering 12 assists this term.

Its devastating, swashbuckling style has yielded an unsurprisingly league high 91 goals - more than Wolves last year.

Akin to that of Wolves, astute overseas recruitment and promotion from the academy has been its philosophy, which was highlighted when free transfer Teemu Pukki was voted Player of the Season and teenager Max Aarons was given the young player award.

While it would be some stretch to imagine Norwich could produce a similarly glittering season to that of Nuno Espirito Santo's side, the like-minded direction the club is taking could definitely rattle a few cages in the Premier League. They've demonstrated that hiring a manager with Championship experience isn't the be all and end all, while faith in the man in the hotseat can actually breed results.

Bringing us onto the Blades, who have gone down an entirely different route to secure their promotion. A route that is the result of sentimental appointments coupled with tactical astuteness.

Chris Wilder. Born in Stocksbridge just ten miles north of Sheffield and brought up a United fan. The definition of 'one of our own'. 

Wilder has performed miracles with his club after years of anguish for the red half of the steel city. Having been snapped up from Northampton Town to take the reins in 2016, he guided the club out of League One in his first season and led the side to a history-making 100 point haul to finish as league winner.

Upon return to the Championship, it spent only £5 million as it comfortably consolidated its league status with a mightily impressive tenth place finish. After losing star player David Brooks to Bournemouth before a ball was kicked this season, Wilder made some shrewd signings in every department, with a budget of £6 million.

Throughout the entirety of this season, Wilder implemented a 3-5-2 formation, resulting in an unheralded renaissance and bamboozling opposing sides all season. 

Defensive-minded players Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham are given freedom to go forward, overlapping the wing backs while the team of the season player Oliver Norwood retains the ball in midfield in a controlled possession-based setup.

John Egan's signing from Brentford has also been pivotal. The central defender is Sheffield's Franz Beckenbauer, performing the sweeping role while equally adept at finding the strikers with precision long balls. It's a system unfamiliar to the Premier League, and a refreshing change that may well cause plenty of upsets.

What has been key for the Yorkshire club this season, however, and what stands them in good stead to stay up next season is Wilder's philosophy. It is built around an unbreakable team spirit, full of passion, something only heightened by the manager's personal endearment to the club. Furthermore, leading goalscorer BIlly Sharp is a Blades fan too, and his commitment to the cause reverberates throughout the squad.

Both clubs operate in glaringly dissimilar ways, yet could pose equal quantities of danger to the Premier League when it all kicks off again on August 10.

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