Media coverage of the big kick-off

SH

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You don't have to be Nostradamus to predict that a fair few column inches will be devoted to l'il ol' BFC over the next 48 hours. Please share any good articles here. It'll be good to look back at the 'expert' pundit predictions at the end of the season ;). I know some of these have been posted separately, but just back from hols, so thought I'd put in one place:








 

Voice from the Braemar

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makes me laugh at how MOST of the journalists who used to belittle and scoff at us now trying to say how great we are.....hideous reptiles :( and as for the sub london standard...we really should be banning them from even being there as they never knew we existed for about the last 20 years or so.....makes me want to puke
 
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makes me laugh at how MOST of the journalists who used to belittle and scoff at us now trying to say how great we are.....hideous reptiles :( and as for the sub london standard...we really should be banning them from even being there as they never knew we existed for about the last 20 years or so.....makes me want to puke
Sub-Standard still haven’t twigged which league we’re in… 🤡

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makes me laugh at how MOST of the journalists who used to belittle and scoff at us now trying to say how great we are.....hideous reptiles :( and as for the sub london standard...we really should be banning them from even being there as they never knew we existed for about the last 20 years or so.....makes me want to puke
Beautifully put, sir 👏👏👏
 
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Remembering Robert Rowan - and his role in Brentford’s promotion miracle​

Before his death in 2018, Rowan helped to define the club’s culture and ultimately put them on the path to the Premier League

In the quieter moments at Brentford’s training ground, in the days when they were just an ambitious Championship team rather than Premier League newcomers, Robert Rowan would sneak out of the main offices and head to the small cabins that house the club’s communications staff. As soon as Rowan knocked on the door, the work would stop. Laptops were shut, emails were forgotten, phone calls could wait. Rob was here, which meant it was time to unwind. Brentford’s technical director had nicknames for everyone and together they would fall about laughing as they played a version of indoor football. Inevitably, the work would have to start again, and when it did, Rowan would return to the main building and switch into serious mode, adopting mannerisms far more befitting of a man whose rise to a position of such seniority before the age of 30 was almost unheard of in English football. For a while, this was the world that Rowan created for himself: an ambitious and driven professional, dedicated to overseeing the development of Brentford’s B team and helping to define the club’s strategy, but also a man whose working relationships were founded on enjoyment and friendship. Then, one Sunday night in November 2018, it all stopped. Rowan went to bed at his home in Ealing and never woke up: as he slept, his heart simply stopped beating. He was 28. The next day, Brentford’s players received a text message: an important meeting had been scheduled. When the news was delivered, it felt like a punch in the stomach. Nearly three years later, that pain remains. But mingled with that is a pride that the project Rowan helped launch is about to come to fruition, with Brentford preparing for their first match as a Premier League football club against Arsenal on Friday night, at their gleaming new stadium by Kew Bridge. Brentford’s success is often told through the prism of their data-driven approach and outstanding recruitment, but it is also a story of human bravery and emotional strength, of innovation and introspection, of improbable glory and, preceding it, incalculable grief. This is Robert Rowan’s story.

‘I feel close to Rob when I’m at Brentford’

Suzanne Rowan, Robert’s wife, never used to pay much attention to football. She knew the gist of his work, of course, and she always checked the Brentford score before he came home, for it was good to know what sort of mood to expect. But the actual nuts and bolts of it, the relentless ups and downs of a Championship season? It was not for her. That has changed now. Since Rowan passed away – the post-mortem ruled it as heart failure – Suzanne’s connection with Brentford has grown strong. Unlike the thousands of people who use football as an escape from their lives, she has found that it allows her to reconnect with the husband she lost in such traumatic circumstances. “It is therapeutic,” she says. “I feel close to Rob when I am at Brentford. I always like to think he is close by, especially on game days. It is something to look forward to, walking to the stadium, thinking about him and having conversations with him in my head. “He was so keen to see Brentford get to this point. I am not sure he genuinely thought it would ever happen but he hoped it would, and obviously he put a lot of work into it. It is hard now, not being able to speak to him about it. I am sure he is watching down and I hope he is proud of himself, because we are all proud of him.”

Brentford’s promotion brought mixed emotions. Suzanne was able to attend the play-off final against Swansea in May, and she desperately wishes that Covid restrictions had not prevented his family in Scotland from being there alongside her. After the match, amid all the celebrations, streams of Brentford players, coaches and staff sought her out, eager to share their memories of her husband. The first thing she was told by Thomas Frank, the head coach, was that he still has Rowan’s picture on his desk. “To have people acknowledge that the person you love most in the world had a big part in it, it gives me a reason to keep pushing forward,” she says. “He has not been given the chance to live his life, so I am not going to waste mine. When the final whistle went at Wembley, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was genuinely so happy for the club, but there was also this massive hole because he was not there to enjoy it.”

‘He would drive me around looking for places I could live’

If you were to search for one moment to define Rowan’s impact at Brentford, you need look no further than the 81st minute of their play-off semi-final second leg against Bournemouth. The winning goal was struck by Marcus Forss, one of the many players signed by Rowan for the B team who have since graduated into the senior side. “If I had never met him, I would not be where I am,” says Forss. “He was the one that persuaded me to come to Brentford. “I was young at that time and I could not drive, so he literally drove me around looking for places to live. After training we would sit down and just chat. That goal is part of his legacy.” Rowan’s rise in the sport is perhaps even more implausible than Brentford’s rise to the Premier League. He was at college in Fife when he wrote a scouting report of the 2009 Champions League final and sent it to every club in Scotland and England. It was characteristically bold and surprisingly effective: Celtic offered him a role with their youth side.

From there, Rowan spent time at the Scottish FA and in Sweden as part of a coaching course. He fell out of football briefly, taking up work in a bank, but was back in the fold soon enough. In 2014 he met with Brentford and became the club’s scouting coordinator. Rowan then accelerated through the ranks. He became head of football operations in 2015 and was the chief architect of the B team, and the subsequent closure of the academy, the following year. At the start of 2018, he was promoted to the role of technical director. The introduction of the B team is a defining moment in Brentford’s journey. Firstly because it strengthened the team by creating a pathway for talented youngsters. Secondly because of what it represents: being willing to abandon convention and do their own thing is a key principle of the club under the ownership of Matthew Benham. Brentford have been bold enough to trust in their own methods and analysis, to find hidden gems and to constantly improve despite the frequent need to sell their best players. The formula has worked better and faster than anyone could have expected.

'People don't think it can happen to them'

When Suzanne first met the man who was to become her husband, he was working in a toy store in Kirkcaldy. He was hot property, she was told. Everyone fancied the tall guy who loved to laugh. He was 19 when they got together, and she was there as he started his unexpected journey into football. At first, Rowan did not even drive. Suzanne would take him on four-hour trips, dropping him off at matches and then popping to the shops. “A way to spend time together,” she says. For as long as Suzanne had known him, Rowan had been managing a heart issue. It first flared up when he was a teenager, but he was never diagnosed with a specific condition. Since his passing, Suzanne, Rowan’s family and their friends have worked hard to raise awareness of the threat of hidden cardiac problems. She works closely with the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) and wants people to know that these tragedies are far more common than one would expect. “People just don’t think it would ever happen to them,” she says. For her, life will never be the same and that can be a hard truth to digest. But there is solace to be found in Brentford, and in the success that Rowan did so much to engineer.

On Friday night, 17,000 Brentford supporters will descend on their new stadium to salute their team in their first match in the top tier since 1947, giddy with optimism ahead of a meeting with one of English football's aristocrats – the kind of occasion they must have thought would have been beyond their club 18 years ago, when they were languishing in League Two. Suzanne will walk to the ground alone. In her mind, though, she will be talking to Rob.
 

rebus

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Remembering Robert Rowan - and his role in Brentford’s promotion miracle​

Before his death in 2018, Rowan helped to define the club’s culture and ultimately put them on the path to the Premier League

In the quieter moments at Brentford’s training ground, in the days when they were just an ambitious Championship team rather than Premier League newcomers, Robert Rowan would sneak out of the main offices and head to the small cabins that house the club’s communications staff. As soon as Rowan knocked on the door, the work would stop. Laptops were shut, emails were forgotten, phone calls could wait. Rob was here, which meant it was time to unwind. Brentford’s technical director had nicknames for everyone and together they would fall about laughing as they played a version of indoor football. Inevitably, the work would have to start again, and when it did, Rowan would return to the main building and switch into serious mode, adopting mannerisms far more befitting of a man whose rise to a position of such seniority before the age of 30 was almost unheard of in English football. For a while, this was the world that Rowan created for himself: an ambitious and driven professional, dedicated to overseeing the development of Brentford’s B team and helping to define the club’s strategy, but also a man whose working relationships were founded on enjoyment and friendship. Then, one Sunday night in November 2018, it all stopped. Rowan went to bed at his home in Ealing and never woke up: as he slept, his heart simply stopped beating. He was 28. The next day, Brentford’s players received a text message: an important meeting had been scheduled. When the news was delivered, it felt like a punch in the stomach. Nearly three years later, that pain remains. But mingled with that is a pride that the project Rowan helped launch is about to come to fruition, with Brentford preparing for their first match as a Premier League football club against Arsenal on Friday night, at their gleaming new stadium by Kew Bridge. Brentford’s success is often told through the prism of their data-driven approach and outstanding recruitment, but it is also a story of human bravery and emotional strength, of innovation and introspection, of improbable glory and, preceding it, incalculable grief. This is Robert Rowan’s story.

‘I feel close to Rob when I’m at Brentford’

Suzanne Rowan, Robert’s wife, never used to pay much attention to football. She knew the gist of his work, of course, and she always checked the Brentford score before he came home, for it was good to know what sort of mood to expect. But the actual nuts and bolts of it, the relentless ups and downs of a Championship season? It was not for her. That has changed now. Since Rowan passed away – the post-mortem ruled it as heart failure – Suzanne’s connection with Brentford has grown strong. Unlike the thousands of people who use football as an escape from their lives, she has found that it allows her to reconnect with the husband she lost in such traumatic circumstances. “It is therapeutic,” she says. “I feel close to Rob when I am at Brentford. I always like to think he is close by, especially on game days. It is something to look forward to, walking to the stadium, thinking about him and having conversations with him in my head. “He was so keen to see Brentford get to this point. I am not sure he genuinely thought it would ever happen but he hoped it would, and obviously he put a lot of work into it. It is hard now, not being able to speak to him about it. I am sure he is watching down and I hope he is proud of himself, because we are all proud of him.”

Brentford’s promotion brought mixed emotions. Suzanne was able to attend the play-off final against Swansea in May, and she desperately wishes that Covid restrictions had not prevented his family in Scotland from being there alongside her. After the match, amid all the celebrations, streams of Brentford players, coaches and staff sought her out, eager to share their memories of her husband. The first thing she was told by Thomas Frank, the head coach, was that he still has Rowan’s picture on his desk. “To have people acknowledge that the person you love most in the world had a big part in it, it gives me a reason to keep pushing forward,” she says. “He has not been given the chance to live his life, so I am not going to waste mine. When the final whistle went at Wembley, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was genuinely so happy for the club, but there was also this massive hole because he was not there to enjoy it.”

‘He would drive me around looking for places I could live’

If you were to search for one moment to define Rowan’s impact at Brentford, you need look no further than the 81st minute of their play-off semi-final second leg against Bournemouth. The winning goal was struck by Marcus Forss, one of the many players signed by Rowan for the B team who have since graduated into the senior side. “If I had never met him, I would not be where I am,” says Forss. “He was the one that persuaded me to come to Brentford. “I was young at that time and I could not drive, so he literally drove me around looking for places to live. After training we would sit down and just chat. That goal is part of his legacy.” Rowan’s rise in the sport is perhaps even more implausible than Brentford’s rise to the Premier League. He was at college in Fife when he wrote a scouting report of the 2009 Champions League final and sent it to every club in Scotland and England. It was characteristically bold and surprisingly effective: Celtic offered him a role with their youth side.

From there, Rowan spent time at the Scottish FA and in Sweden as part of a coaching course. He fell out of football briefly, taking up work in a bank, but was back in the fold soon enough. In 2014 he met with Brentford and became the club’s scouting coordinator. Rowan then accelerated through the ranks. He became head of football operations in 2015 and was the chief architect of the B team, and the subsequent closure of the academy, the following year. At the start of 2018, he was promoted to the role of technical director. The introduction of the B team is a defining moment in Brentford’s journey. Firstly because it strengthened the team by creating a pathway for talented youngsters. Secondly because of what it represents: being willing to abandon convention and do their own thing is a key principle of the club under the ownership of Matthew Benham. Brentford have been bold enough to trust in their own methods and analysis, to find hidden gems and to constantly improve despite the frequent need to sell their best players. The formula has worked better and faster than anyone could have expected.

'People don't think it can happen to them'

When Suzanne first met the man who was to become her husband, he was working in a toy store in Kirkcaldy. He was hot property, she was told. Everyone fancied the tall guy who loved to laugh. He was 19 when they got together, and she was there as he started his unexpected journey into football. At first, Rowan did not even drive. Suzanne would take him on four-hour trips, dropping him off at matches and then popping to the shops. “A way to spend time together,” she says. For as long as Suzanne had known him, Rowan had been managing a heart issue. It first flared up when he was a teenager, but he was never diagnosed with a specific condition. Since his passing, Suzanne, Rowan’s family and their friends have worked hard to raise awareness of the threat of hidden cardiac problems. She works closely with the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) and wants people to know that these tragedies are far more common than one would expect. “People just don’t think it would ever happen to them,” she says. For her, life will never be the same and that can be a hard truth to digest. But there is solace to be found in Brentford, and in the success that Rowan did so much to engineer.

On Friday night, 17,000 Brentford supporters will descend on their new stadium to salute their team in their first match in the top tier since 1947, giddy with optimism ahead of a meeting with one of English football's aristocrats – the kind of occasion they must have thought would have been beyond their club 18 years ago, when they were languishing in League Two. Suzanne will walk to the ground alone. In her mind, though, she will be talking to Rob.
That’s a beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing.
 

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Oh how I'd love to run into Cottee one day
Bumped into him and Tony Gale at the oval one year. Really good guys who spoke to and bought a pint for anyone who went up to them!
 

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Interview with the athletic fella, ian wright and others.
Thanks for posting👌 A proper 15 minute discussion… about Brentford 😂 The Athletic fella makes a good impression.
 

wanderer paul

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Jay Harris spoke well too. 😎
 

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The tifo guys are usually knowledgeable and respectable. In particular always have a thing for underdogs and non conventional teams. They use the term Moneyball though. Oops. And they think we are gonna use a 4-3-3.. Charlie Goode is one of the 2 CBs.. which is not great
 
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From the ever-excellent 'No Grass in the Clouds' email newsletter. Also worth noting to his point about set plays that Wissa was one of the most fouled players in Ligue 1.....

20 Predictions for the 2021-22 Premier League Season

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaack!​

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Ryan O'HanlonAug 13 Comment Share
Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
All right! Season starts today, and we’ve got words for all 20 teams, in the order that I’m predicting them to finish. Let’s get to it.
1. Manchester City
This isn’t the same Manchester City. Last year, of course, the story was their defense: Ruben Dias won Premier League Player of the Year, while their leading scorer was Ilkay Gundogan, who scored 13 goals and is a 30-year-old midfielder. They easily won the league, so it sure seems like this is just another one of Pep Guardiola’s indomitable machines, but there was a noticeable decline in just about all aspects of play for City last season. Yes, the defense was the best in the league last year, yet they conceded just three fewer goals than the previous season, when the defense was seen as one of the reasons they coughed up the title to Liverpool. City also scored 19 fewer goals from season to season. Their goal difference has declined in each of the past three seasons, too: plus-79 in 17-18, then plus-72, then plus-67, then plus-51. So why are they still no. 1 here? Well, those first three numbers are three of the four-best marks in league history, and their “off” year is still a top-20 mark in league history.
2. Liverpool
Here’s where Liverpool, a team that suffered a near-Biblical collection of injuries, ranked across a slate of key stats¹ last season:
-Non-penalty expected goals: first
-Non-penalty xG against: fifth
-Shots: first
-Shots against: second
-Passes into the penalty area: first
-Passes into the penalty area against: third
So, the best attacking team in the league is getting back the best center back in the world, plus three other good-to-potentially-really-good center backs in Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, and Ibrahima Konate. They’re due some positive regression anyway -- their npxG differential trailed their actual non-penalty differential by 7.8 goals -- and the weakest area of the team from last season just got pretty much the larget talent upgrade possible. A big bounce-back season seems like a distinct possibility!
3. Chelsea
Betting markets have Chelsea and Liverpool neck and neck for second, and it looks like they’ve recently edged Chelsea ahead with the pending Romelu Lukaku signing. The main reason I’m higher on Liverpool: the differentiating factor when you get this high in the table and you’re aiming for a plus-80-point season tends to be goal-scoring. You win that many points by beating your opponents by multiple goals and eliminating variance, rather than attempting to win a bunch of matches 1-0. We know attacking isn’t a problem at LFC, and we know they’re getting back a bunch of key players on the defensive end. Under Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea became one of the best ... defensive teams of all time? But they only scored the 10th-most goals in the league after Tuchel took over. The pieces and the coaching is all there for a title challenge; we just still haven’t seen them click as an elite attacking unit yet.
4. Manchester United
The difference between United and the three sides above them is control. Liverpool, Chelsea, and City both registered top-three shot totals, for and against. United, meanwhile, attempted the sixth-most shots in the league and they conceded the ninth-fewest. Forget the quality of those chances, when you’re shooting less often than Aston Villa and conceding more attempts than Fulham, you’re just opening yourself up to all kinds of bad outcomes with the ball in the air. Despite finishing second last year, United’s fourth-best non-penalty xG differential of plus-12.6 wasn’t anywhere near Chelsea’s third-best mark of plus-26.6. Jadon Sancho might be the best player in the league from the moment he steps on the field, and Raphael Varane seems like a pretty big upgrade over Victor Lindelof, but with Liverpool and Chelsea both likely to improve, that gap in underlying quality and in control just seems way too big to make up in one season.
5. Brighton
Listen, there’s no point in making these predictions if you don’t do at least one bold and potentially stupid thing. Just noting down all of the median outcomes is the way to be right most often, but there’s almost no chance that everyone just hits their median outcomes this season. Some crazy sh*t is gonna happen, and so I’ll pick the thing that seems like it would be crazy as hell but really might not be all that crazy! Yes, Brighton finished in, uh, 16th-place last season. But Brighton also finished with the fifth-best xG differential in the freakin’ Premier League last season. Regression to the mean, baby. They kept manager Graham Potter, and their only major personnel loss was Ben White to Arsenal; he’s a promising player but I’m not sure he was even the best center back on this team last year, and replacing a CB in a back three is a lot easier than replacing one in a back four. On top of that, they went for the tried-and-true, NGITC-approved transfer method of “signing a player from a much better team than yours” in adding winger Enock Mwepu from Champions League side Red Bull Salzburg. I love this team.
6. Tottenham
Fun story: Tottenham had the fourth-best goal differential in the league last season. Yes, they lost Gareth Bale, who according to Statsbomb’s OBV (on-ball value) model, was the second-best player in the league with the ball at his feet when he was on the field last season. What?
And, y’know, their actual best player, Harry Kane, who led the league in goals and assists last season, might leave the club and certainly does not want to be at the club anymore. Yet, there’s still a pretty good chance he stays. Plus, Nuno Espirito-Santo finished seventh twice with Wolves, and this team has way more talent. I’m certainly not bullish on Tottenham, but I don’t think they’re as bad as the Mourinho departure and subsequent managerial-search saga made them seem.
7. Arsenal
Another mediocre big club that is never as bad or as good as its fans think it is. Arsenal had the seventh-best goal differential and the seventh-best xG differential in the Premier League last season. So, yeah, seventh this year? Sounds about right. One obvious area of improvement for Mikel Arteta: find some pressure. Only Burnley, Newcastle, West Ham, and West Brom allowed more opponent touches per pressure last season.
8. Leicester
I don’t feel good about this pick. The Foxes have a higher ceiling than any of the other not-top-four teams ahead of them. But while they were a legit top-four quality team two years ago, last season’s challenge was a bit of a mirage. Their non-penalty xG differential was plus-2.2. When you pretty much create the same quality of chances that you concede over 38 games, finishing one spot outside of the top four is about as good as it can get. At the same time, they have added some nice pieces. Patson Daka from RB Leipzig and Boubacary Soumare from Lille are classic Leicester signings: use the financial power of the Premier League to acquire prospects that could have easily gone to Champions League teams in another country. Plus, maybe thisis the season where Ricardo Pereira remains healthy and finally looks like one of the best fullbacks in the league again. But the thing is: even if Leicester do improve on last year’s underlying performance, they could still finish further down the table.
9. Leeds
Why do we love Leeds? Well, they came up from the Championship and did two things. They finished FOURTH IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE in non-penalty xG -- sandwiched between Chelsea and Manchester United. Secondly, while the rest of the world stopped pressing, Marcelo Bielsa didn’t give a f***. Leeds led all of Europe’s Big Five leagues with 2.9 touches allowed per pressure. Next most aggressive was RB Leipzig, significantly far behind at 3.5. And that was just year one. So, why do I have them sitting in the same spot as last season? In 20-21, Leeds conceded 12 fewer non-penalty goals than expected -- the biggest discrepancy in the league. Given that the history of high pressing teams is that, if anything, they tend to concede more goals than expected, I think we might see Leeds take a big step back defensively this year.
10. West Ham
Will widespread pressing return this year? The players won’t be any less tired, but we’ll have fans back in the stands (maybe???????) and the games won’t be as compressed as they were last season. As Statsbomb’s James Yorke wrote about in his preview of West Ham’s season, it seems like the less-aggro Premier League allowed West Ham to flourish: no pressure on the ball at all, followed by counters at breakneck pace. It worked wonders -- to the tune of a sixth-place finish, just two points back of fourth. Lingardinho and his nine goals from 5.1 xG are back at Manchester United, and this is one of the oldest sides in the league -- third-oldest behind Crystal Palace and Burnley -- but their baseline from last season is a respectable plus-6.2 non-penalty xG differential. Even if there’s a sizable drop off from that level, tenth (or higher) is still in play.
11. Aston Villa
With Jack Grealish on the field last season, Aston Villa were a plus-0.13 expected goals team per 90 minutes. That’s basically the same level Tottenham were at over the full season. Without Jack Grealish on the field, Villa’s xG differential dropped to about minus-0.26, which would’ve slotted them in right between Wolverhampton and relegated Fulham. It’s a big difference, and taken together it spit Villa out as essentially a completely average side: their xG differential for the season -- not per 90 minutes -- was plus-0.1. As that graphic above shows, Grealish was possibly the most valuable player in the league with the ball at his feet last season. See if you can see, on this heat map of Aston Villa’s touches in the attacking half, where Grealish played last year:
Villa’s signings of Emi Buendia -- a creative ball-progressor -- and Leon Bailey -- a progressive outlet and ball-carrier -- compliment each other nicely and could eventually combine to replace the various levels of value lost from Grealish, but that seems like it might be more of a long-term project. The system shock of replacing a ball-dominant player Grealish might take a while to iron out, but a second mid table finish is still progress for a team that was fighting relegation a little over a year ago.
12. Everton
A quick shout out to Carlo Ancelloti, who led Everton to a minus-1 goal differential in his one full season at the club and parlayed that into the Real Madrid job. May we all fail that far upwards at least once in our lives. The pieces for this to work well for Liverpool legend Rafa Benitez are there: Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James Rodriguez can sort of be his Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, while Richarlison chips in as a taller version of Dirk Kuyt, scoring some goals and doing a bunch of defensive work. I’m not a huge fan of, you know, any of the other players on this team, but it’s a lot of league-average dudes and Benitez has turned worse collections of talent into solid defensive units in the past. However, James doesn’t seem long for the club, and even if this does work well for Everton, it’s hard to see that meaning anything more than, say, an eighth-place finish.
13. Wolverhampton
And thus brings an end to the “Teams I’m Pretty Confident Won’t Get Relegated” portion of the programming. Wolves were worse in pretty much every aspect of play last season. Some of that had to do with the departure of Diogo Jota and the head injury suffered by Raul Jimenez, but it doesn’t really explain why they were terrible at defending set pieces. I don’t really know what to expect from Bruno Lage -- by all accounts, a much more attacking manager than Nuno -- but unless everything goes wrong again, Wolves should be safe from a fight for the bottom three. They were a minus-3 non-penalty xGD team last year, and unless they quadruple that in the wrong direction, lower-mid-table sounds about right.
14. Southampton
In a vacuum, selling Danny Ings for 30-something-million was a smart move. He’s 29, he gets hurt all the time, and he’s coming off a pretty uninspiring season -- unless you’re really into strikers who block a lot of shots and passes?
However, over the past two seasons, Ings has accounted for 37 percent of Southampton’s goals (per Stats Perform) -- a higher proportion than any player other than Chris Wood, who’s notched 39 percent of Burnley’s goals since the start of 2020-21. Saints replaced Ings with 24-year-old Adam Armstrong, who led the Championship in shots and non-penalty goals last season, but replacing Ings’s production is a lot to ask in his first full season in the Premier League. On top of Ings, they’re likely losing center back Jannik Vestergaard to Leicester, and James Ward-Prowse might be on the move, too. This team wasn’t good at all last year, and without those three players, it’s not likely to get any better.
15. Burnley
If Chris Wood gets injured or, uh, starts “being a 30 year old”, which he will soon be, things could get real sketchy real fast for Sean Dyche. Burnley were the second-oldest team in the league last year, and this summer’s business has been the same as every other summer’s business: a bunch of mostly white, mostly tall, often beefy guys from the lower leagues. The club is also hemorrhaging high-level staff members, and it’s unclear if there’s a plan beyond Dyche trying to max out what he’s got until the last possible moment. Among the non-relegated teams, only Crystal Palace had a worse non-penalty xG differential. Given the direction they’ve been trending, Burnley seem headed for a season-long relegation battle.
16. Watford
As I basically write about every year, research from 21st Group found that, historically, the biggest indicator of whether or not a promoted team will remain in the Premier League is its defense. Who had the best defense in the Championship last season? Watford, who allowed 30 goals in 46 games -- six fewer than any other team in the league. Another reason to like them? It’s a very similar squad to the one that was relegated two years ago, and although they were, well, relegated, that team produced the 13th-best xG differential in the league. If they play anywhere close to that level again this time ‘round, they’re likely to see a few more bounces go their way and earn another season in the top flight.
17. Brentford
This is a bet on the way Brentford does things. In terms of identifying and valuing what wins soccer games, there might not be a better club in the world. Despite just the 14th-biggest wage bill in the league, Brentford have constantly been in the Championship playoffs, finally winning it last season. Their stylistic profile doesn’t bode well for a smooth transition to the top flight, as they led the league in goals scored but were fourth in goals allowed. Good defense tracks against all levels of competition, but Brentford just won’t have the tactical or talent advantages they had in the Championship that allowed them to score so many goals. Still, I’m sure the club understands this and has a plan to deal with it. (Expect them to be lights-out on set plays.) That’s more than I can say about most of the other teams in this part of the table.
18. Newcastle
This team just looks ready for the bottom to fall out. A late 2021 surge, powered by some tactical tweaks and Arsenal loanee Joe Willock scoring with 47 percent of his shots, pushed Steve Bruce’s team all the way up to a 12th-place finish and some bad-but-not-god-awful underlying numbers (minus-14.7 xGD, 16th-best). Despite that, they were the lowest pressing team in the league, and they just don’t care at all about controlling ... any aspect of the game? They conceded the most shots in the league last season and lost the penalty-box battle, registering the fewest touches in the opposition box and allowing the second-most after West Brom. If that happens again, I have a really hard time seeing them turning that into enough goal-scoring and goal-stopping to keep them from going down.
19. Crystal Palace
Yes, they signed a handful of promising young players this summer, but yikes. Palace have been in the bottom four in xGD in each of the past two seasons, they had the oldest squad in the league last season, and they’ve got a new manager with a maybe-mixed-mostly-mediocre track record and no experience coaching a team in a relegation fight. Christian Benteke and Wilifried Zaha combined for just slightly below half of the team’s non-penalty xG last season. The team was bad enough with that production; if either one gets injured or has an off-year, it could be a long season at Selhurst Park.
20. Norwich
What a weird existence: first place in the Championship in 18-19, last place in the Premier League in 19-20, first place in the Championship in 20-21. The thing is, though, Norwich have spoken openly about their desire to be what they call a “top 26 club” -- at worst good enough to be in the Championship playoff, and at best surviving relegation in the Premier League. One coach in the second tier referred to them as the “Manchester City of the Championship”, as they led the league in shots and xG differential. Of course, as they found out last time ‘round, it’s really hard to bring that same dominant style into a league where nearly every team is more talented than you are. On top of that, they lost Buendia, who’d just put together one of the best individual seasons the Championship has ever seen: 15 goals and 14 assists, while also playing more passes into the final third and, when adjusted for possession, pressuring the ball more often than anyone else in the league. Acquiring Buendia for $1.65 million and then selling him for $42.24 million is how you become and remain a top 26 club, but at least for this year, it doesn’t seem like the best way to break into the top 17.
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Unless otherwise noted, all of the stats references in the piece come from the site FBref.
 
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