Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Championship Discussion 6: Stoke, Swansea, West Brom, Wigan

After over a decade of Premier League, I think it was a real surprise to see Stoke relegated to the second tier. However, that is the reality they have been faced with the club and they must re-build and go again under the new leadership of Gary Rowett. Rowett has been an excellent manager in the Championship with successful spells in charge of Birmingham and Derby but this is arguably the biggest job he has been given in his managerial career. While Birmingham and Derby may have expected play-offs, Stoke want promotion and a title to go with it. The pressure is on Rowett to get that squad to quickly adapt to Championship football with most of the relegated squad still on the books of the club including Joe Allen, Ryan Shawcross, Saido Berahino and Darren Fletcher. They will all play important roles this season and Rowett will rely on them to be the players they have to be. However, Rowett has spent some money as well strengthening his squad by signing the likes of Tom Ince, James McClean, Benik Afobe and Ashley Williams. All are proven players at this level and like the previous players mentioned, they will play an important role in defining how Stoke’s season ends up. I’m sure there will be more business done by Rowett as he may feel the squad isn’t what he wants currently. Furthermore, more players are likely to leave the club so Stoke are certainly not the finished article, but their squad is only going to get stronger. There will be immense pressure on the team to perform this season with the fans and the board expecting promotion and anything other than this would be a failed season. Rowett needs to hit the ground running and quickly to give the Stoke fans belief they will return at the first time of asking. There a quality team at Rowett’s disposal and he must find a winning formula and if he does Stoke will be difficult to handle and promotion could well be inevitable come May.
I think should Rowett find a winning formula from the start Stoke will be a force to be reckoned with and Stoke will relish the pressure of promotion and they will be a difficult team to stop and there is every reason for Stoke fans to be excited.

My Predicted Finish: 1st

Like Stoke, Swansea’s relegation came as a surprise but after years of constant managerial changes and instability in the playing squad relegation almost seemed inevitable and now the task for new boss Graham Potter is promotion at the first attempt. Potter is largely unknown in England, but he will be hoping to bring the success from his 8 years at Swedish side Oestersunds to the welsh side. He has a mighty task on his hands to give Swansea a fighting chance at promotion and with a huge number of departures, the players remaining must step up. The likes of Leroy Fer, Nathan Dyer, Luciano Narsingh and Federico Fernandez must quickly adapt to the difficult challenge that is the Championship. Furthermore, Potter desperately needs numbers in his squad to give them a chance with further players expected to leave the club in the near future. It is a difficult job for Potter and must find a winning formula and make Swansea competitive with the fans expecting nothing but promotion this season with a play-off place being the minimum expectation for the welsh club. Like Rowett at Stoke, Potter must start well to install that belief into the whole football club that they can bounce back. Swansea must find a consistent goal scorer for any success in the Championship and he will hope highly rated youngster Ollie McBurnie can be that man. After a successful loan spell at Barnsley, McBurnie will be confident of carrying that form into the new season with his parent club and he will vital to any success Swansea have this season. The pressure is on for Swansea with promotion being the goal and anything less is surely deemed a failed season.
I think Swansea will be a competitive team this season, but I feel with the number of changes both in and out of the club means I feel this is a transitional season for the whole football club and they must stick by Potter throughout this season as I feel they will just miss out on the play-offs this season.

My Predicted Finish: 9th

West Brom
It was a hugely disappointing season at West Brom and despite Darren Moore’s best efforts in the final few games of the season I don’t think there can be any argument that West Brom deserved to be relegated. Now the pressure shifts to a promotion charge and the West Brom fans will expect nothing less going into the new season. West Brom have largely kept the core of their relegated team mainly due to the fact West Brom’s team is relatively experienced and they are players entering the twilight stages of their careers. Darren Moore must find a good balance between youth and experience and signing players such as Sam Johnstone, Conor Townsend and Kyle Bartley highlights the shift at the club. Darren Moore must find a winning formula straight away to install belief they can bounce back but as seen previously, relegated clubs struggle to get back up at the first attempt and the pressure is on. West Brom do have excellent footballers at this level and they will be crucial should they remain at the club. The likes of Jay Rodriguez, Matt Phillips and Craig Dawson will be crucial to any success should West Brom manage to keep the players at the club. However, the loan signing of Dwight Gayle is an excellent piece of business by West Brom cause there is no doubt should he stay fit he will bash the goals in and will be vital along with much of this team to any success this season. The West Brom fans expect promotion and surely a play-off place is the minimal expectation for the fans and the club and anything other than this is a failed season for the club.
I think West Brom are good enough to secure a play-off place and the pressure is on Darren Moore to deliver because he needs a good start to the season and the pressure will be on straight away and they will thrive on this and secure a play-off spot.

My Predicted Finish: 4th

It has been a strange 5 years for Wigan with new owners at the club as well as either being promoted or relegated in the last 4 seasons and the club will certainly be hoping for continuity and stability this season. Paul Cook has done a wonderful job so far at Wigan and he will belief Wigan can ruffle a few feathers this season and there is a real buzz around the whole football club. They were comfortably the best team in League 1 last season and Wigan will want to carry the momentum from last season into this. Paul Cook is an exciting, confident manager and this rubs off on his players with players like Michael Jacobs, Will Grigg and Nick Powell finding new levels and they will be important players for the newly promoted side in their battle to least survive their safety in the league. However, an exciting, attacking style implanted by Paul Cook has seen him master a solid defence built with Chey Dunkley and Dan Burn who were instrumental last season and they will hope to showcase their abilities on the bigger stage to help Wigan progress this season. Wigan have an array of quality and the fans will be confident survival will be assured but the next phase will be to push for a top half finish and this isn’t out of their reach because they will beat a few teams this season and Wigan fans have every right to be excited because they could well be the dark horses for a play-off spot should they have consistency in their results. Paul Cook is ambitious, and he will want more than survival as will the Wigan fans but another season in the Championship would represent an excellent season at Wigan.
I think Wigan will be fine in terms of the relegation scrap and they will be pushing for a top half finish which they will just miss out on but, they will cause a few shocks this season but another season in the Championship will be assured for the Lactics.

My Predicted Finish: 18th

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