By 90Min
October 13, 2019

Ah, the Premier League, how we miss you so. 

You battle and scrap your way out of the world's most competitive and topsy-turvy division, playing 46 (or 49 in Aston Villa's case) gruelling matches to escape the dreaded Championship and reach the promised land. 

But you've not shed all of that blood, sweat and tears only to make up the numbers in an equally demanding Premier League. To paraphrase the in-the-know Beastie Boys, you gotta fight for your right to not get relegated. 

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Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa all earned their place in the 2019/20 top flight of English football, and the three teams have made differing starts to Premier League life. Each club has picked up a marquee result in their opening eight matches, and they have all looked at home at one time or another. 

However, the trio have shown their frailties and shortcomings too, and in a division which is decided by the finest of margins, these issues need to be ironed out as quickly as possible.

But supporters of these Premier League newbies, be proud of the starts you've made, and check out 90min's assessment of your teams' survival credentials after the opening two months of the new campaign. 


Summer Recruits 

Interestingly, each team implemented a different transfer strategy to their opponents over the summer, as the newly-promoted clubs addressed any gaps or imbalances in their squads. 

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Promoted as champions, Norwich showed great faith in the group of players which delivered so consistently in the Championship, and hardly spent a penny over the summer. The Canaries invested in new goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann, winger Patrick Roberts and striker Josip Drmic without loosening their purse strings.

The new recruits have padded out their squad well, but the trio have not improved the quality within their starting XI.  

Sheffield United did pull out their cheque book over the summer, but they followed their strict transfer policy to the letter. Chris Wilder likes a certain style of player: hard-working, committed, full of running, and generally, British.

Ex-Blade Phil Jagielka, Callum Robinson and Oli McBurnie fit the profile nicely, but Wilder also took a gamble on the likes of Ravel Morrison and Lys Mousset.

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Then there's Aston Villa. Dean Smith did an excellent job in securing promotion with a group of loanees and squad players who were nearing the end of their contracts. The Villans weren't messing about over the summer months, and splashed a mammoth £130m on fresh faces to bolster their depleted squad.


Smith's side has been strengthened hugely by the return of Tyrone Mings, and their big-money striker Wesley is beginning to find his feet in the top flight. 

Promising signs indeed. 


Eight-Match Review 

When you glance at the Premier League table, you're almost in disbelief that Norwich find themselves in the bottom three with only six points. 'But they beat Manchester City!' we all cry out in incredulousness. 

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But it's legit. They say the table never lies, and although the Canaries did earn a shock win over the Premier League champions and battered Newcastle too, their other performances have been pretty wretched. 

Daniel Farke's 'all-or-nothing' approach to matches often produced the former in the Championship, but his side's defensive naivety is making the latter a much more common occurrence in the top-flight. They need to wisen up - and fast. 

Before the Premier League curtain rose on a new campaign, all the talk at Sheffield United was about Wilder's marauding overlapping centre-backs, and how they'll fare in the big league. Well, the Blades' boss has toned down their attacking duties, but he's stuck to his principles and his side are playing lovely football whilst picking up some good results in the process.

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Sheffield United sit 13th in the table with 9 points, and showed great character to overturn a two-goal deficit at Stamford Bridge against Frank Lampard's Chelsea, as well as sealing a deserved away win at struggling Everton

Aston Villa, meanwhile, seemed to be the team in most difficulty during the opening two months, as players struggled to gel in their new-look side. Smith's men slid to four defeats and threw away victories from seemingly strong positions.

However, there was a monumental power shift before the international break, where everything seemed to click into place for the Villans, culminating in a 5-1 dismantling of rivals Norwich.

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The beginning of something special? 


What Needs to Improve? 

Simply, Norwich must tighten up at the back. They've conceded 21 times in eight games, and although they possess an out-and-out goalscorer in Teemu Pukki, his goals won't be enough to save them from the drop if they concede two or three times every game.

Norwich's attacking and free-flowing style of football is attractive to watch, but as things stand, they'll be watching it back in the Championship next season. 

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Sheffield United are ticking along nicely, picking up points, showing plenty of heart and looking nice and strong at the back. Goals are proving hard to come by however. The Blades have scored seven goals in eight matches, and frankly, they need to be turning these scoreless draws into 1-0 wins if they want to escape the drop.

 

Wilder's side have a great structure, but they must build on it and turn one point into three. 

Although Villa sit below the Blades in the table, they may be the most confident promoted side going into the international break. Their huge win over Norwich has reignited belief within the fanbase that they can survive this season, and in players like John McGinn, Jack Grealish and Mings, they have genuine Premier League class throughout the starting XI. 

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To improve, the Villans simply need time to allow everything to come together, and the results will start to follow for Smith's side. 


Who Will Survive?

It's touch-and-go for the Canaries. Any team which bleeds goals stands little chance of Premier League survival, but they also have plenty of attacking firepower in their side. 

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Lessons need to be learnt quickly by Farke, and Norwich's inexperience throughout the starting XI may be a fatal blow to their top-flight ambitions. The Canaries will fight, but ultimately, they'll fall unless a mindset adjustment is made.

Over at Sheffield United, you get the feeling that is something special about Wilder. Arguably the side with the least talented individuals, but as a team they are organised and determined - and if they can score more goals in key matches, they may just have enough in the bank.


It's a tough one to call, but there's a feel-good factor around Sheffield which is hard to ignore. It might go down to the wire, but the Blades may well cut themselves free from the Premier League trap door.

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Over in the Midlands, Villa are exciting to watch - there's no two ways about it. They have the potential to  rise up the Premier League table, and there's a lovely balance of youthful energy and calming experience which oozes from this side.

 

Smith is a man who knows and loves the club, and his reign has been a success story thus far. As a result, there's no reason to think that won't continue - leading to a respectable mid-table finish.

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