The 2013-2014 English Premier League will welcome, as they do every year, three new members via the promotion/relegation system. Next season, Wigan Athletic, Reading and Queens Park Rangers will be replaced by Cardiff City, Hull City and Crystal Palace. As discussed previously, newly promoted clubs often struggle and find themselves relegated rather quickly; so let’s take a look and see each of these three clubs chances in the EPL next season.
Manager Malky Mackay will have his work cut out for him as he introduces his club into the top-flight for the first time in history. Mackay led the Bluebirds to an impressive Championship term, overcoming Hull City by eight points in the table. However, it wasn’t the type of dominating season that should have you excited and optimistic about their promotion into the EPL.
Mackay has been asking for patience when it comes to bringing on new talent to help improve their chances as the EPL’s newest member. “The fact is some deals are going to happen quickly and then others are going to take a while to happen,” Mackay told the South Wales Echo.
The Bluebirds have gone 51 years without advancing into the EPL and are hoping to stick around for longer than just one season. They will join Swansea City as the second Welsh side in the league and will play familiar foe West Ham United plenty; remember West Ham ended Cardiff’s chances at promotion last season with a playoff victory that earned their side promotion.
Perhaps Cardiff can take some optimism from West Ham’s 2012-2013 season in the EPL. They finished in 10th place and are in a good position to bring in some new talent to help elevate them further. But Cardiff’s one striking problem is specifically in line with their striker core. Seventeen different members of the Cardiff squad netted goals last season, lacking a true pitch leader. They had three leading the way with eight goals; 23-year-old Aron Gunnarsson, 35-year-old Heidar Helguson and 28-year-old Peter Whittingham.
Cardiff will either put all their faith into Gunnarsson and Whittingham to improve their play and turn into a formidable 1-2 punch; but that’s not likely. If they can bring in a consistent leader to help stabilize their offense, they have a chance at sticking around. Their impressive goals allowed number from last season; 45 goals in 46 games, will without a doubt carry them early while they figure out their new offense.
Hull City finished in second place behind Cardiff in the Championship, but it’s quite astonishing how they were able to pull that off. Their goal differential of just nine on the season is more in line with every club that failed to make the promotion playoffs, rather than the second best and automatic promotion club that they were. Regardless, the Tigers won 24 games, second only to Cardiff, and did so by winning 18 games by the margin of just one goal.
Therein lies the problem for Hull City: they will not be able to stave off EPL teams from equalizing the way they were able to in the Championship. It was almost with a stroke of luck that they found themselves in the EPL for the first time since 2010. On the final day of the season, against Cardiff City who had nothing to play for, Hull was able to draw with the Welsh side while promotion challenger Watford lost in heartbreaking fashion to 13th placed Leeds United. Watford led the Championship with a remarkable 85 goals on the season; they could have been a fun club to watch in the EPL.
Hull manager Steve Bruce knows that their promotion had as much to do with the clubs around them as it did with their own success on the season. “We had heard Watford were 2-0 up and they weren’t – we could have put it to bed. How many chances have we had? We had a penalty and missed it. This is totally ridiculous,” said Bruce to Sky Sports 2.
And without an offseason full of signings and talent recruitment, their performance in the EPL next season might be a bit ridiculous too. There is hope though, that 24-year-old Sone Aluko can build off an impressive season where he scored eight goals in just 22 matches. Adding to that is the 21-year-old Irish forward Robbie Brady, who netted four goals himself and led the squad with 13 assists–good for second overall in the Championship.
There is little hope for Hull to avoid relegation next season, but similar to their run in the top-flight from 2008-2010 where they were at times temporarily atop the table, they seem to have a bit of luck on their side. Though what almost happened to them this season in much lower competition, will without a doubt happen to them in the EPL: they will lose many more one goal matches than they win.
Crystal Palace might be one of the most exciting promoted clubs in years. Their last two runs in the top-flight, from 1998-1999 and from 2004-2005, lasted just one season each. Now, eight years later, it will likely be the same scenario for the London squad.
Their 1-0 promotion playoff victory over an impressive Watford club might be their last bit of enjoyment for a while. Working in their favor is their ability to put the ball in the net; their 73 goals trailed only Watford’s 85. But their 62 goals allowed were the most among promotion eligible clubs. The 29-year-old Glenn Murray had an absolutely incredible 2012-2013 campaign; netting 30 goals and assisting on seven others. That feat was by far the most impressive of the season; slightly topping Watford’s duo of Matej Vydra’s 22 goals and Troy Deeney’s 20.
However, Crystal Palace has already lost a huge piece heading into next season. The 20-year-old Wilfried Zaha netted an impressive eight goals and nine assists in a team high 46 matches during his first season with the squad. But Manchester United stole the Ivory Coast star in the making and he will be a painful loss for the Eagles for quite some time.
Replacing Zaha’s production and durability from last season will be difficult in its own right, but recovering from the loss of a potential superstar is much bigger. One of Zaha’s final matches with the club, a second leg promotion playoff semifinal against Brighton & Hove Albion where Zaha netted two goals to more or less land the Eagles in the EPL next season, will be a lasting memory of what could have been.
Manager Ian Holloway will need to rally his troops that are already in tow, and outside of that he will need to find a replacement for Zaha, which doesn’t look like it will be an easy task. Their defense needs serious work and could be their achilles heel that sees them back into the Championship come 2014.