Wolverhampton Wanderers dominated last season’s EFL Championship comfortably bagging both the trophy and automatic promotion to the Premier League with four games to spare.
Nuno Espirito Santo, appointed as manager in May 2017, motivated the Midlands club to Championship glory, transforming the team after a disappointing previous season under Paul Lambert where the Wanderers failed to finish in the top half of the table. Nuno has the highest win percentage of any Wolves manager and, with the club’s financial backing behind him to make big signings, he will be expected to produce consistent results yet again.
Ruben Neves emerged as Wanderer’s star man in the search for promotion, netting six stunning goals, all from outside the box in last season’s Championship. Wolves’ fans will hope the Portuguese midfielder’s form will be replicated next season. If Wolves’ can implement the same style of play in this season’s Premier League, they could dominate against weaker teams as well as exploiting the Premier League’s top teams; through their solid defence and a confident deep possession ability, Wolves can initiate quick counter attacks.
Wolves have shown their eagerness to impress in the Premier League through their presence in the transfer market, signing some huge names, the majority of them Portuguese. The signing of Joao Moutinho from Monaco for £5 million has been labelled as one of the most impressive signings of the transfer window, now playing in Wolves’ gold jersey, it will be hoped that he can assist Neves in the midfield. Their frontline has been strengthened by the snatching up of Benfica striker Raul Jimenez on loan and they have secured a new goal stopper in the form of the Portuguese number one, Rui Patricio, despite John Ruddy’s successful year as Wolves keeper. Wolves have also made the loans of key players permanent. Top goal-scorers, Diogo Jota (17 goals) and Léo Bonatini (12 goals) have both signed a new permanent contract with the club, alongside regular defender Willy Boly.
Cardiff City will be replacing their Welsh rivals, Swansea, in the upcoming Premier League season. As the Swans lost their relegation battle, Cardiff placed second in the Championship and guaranteed automatic promotion to the top-tier.
Despite finishing second, Neil Warnock has been criticised for a style of play which was dominated by long aerial passes. Whilst effective in last season’s Championship, it differs from the attractive attacking play of Fulham and the progressive possession work of Wolves.
Yet it was never expected that Warnock would be the man to bring Cardiff into the Premier League, so perhaps it is unwise to predict an unsuccessful season for Cardiff just yet.
The Bluebirds will have to rely more heavily on their defence this season as they face the daunting challenge of England’s best attacking teams. Fortunately, Cardiff City’s defence remained a strong-point within their Championship season as they achieved the joint-best defensive record of the division, alongside Wolves. Sol Bamba, named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, will remain a key part of the club’s defensive stronghold while Callum Paterson will be expected to prove himself for a second season in City’s attacking force. The midfielder produced 10 goals and 4 assists last season’s Championship.
Cardiff have been somewhat quiet in the transfer market in comparison to Wolves and Fulham. However, the Welsh club have signed Bristol City’s Bobby Reid who was the Championship’s third top goal-scorer with 19 goals and 7 assists. Cardiff will expect him to perform at this level in the Premier League and add an attacking flair to the Bluebird’s game. Warnock’s midfield and goalkeeper options have been strengthened with the addition of Josh Murphy from Norwich who netted 7 goals last season and QPR’s goalie Alex Smithies.
Fulham had to put up an extra fight in the final stages of the 17/18 Championship, competing in the play-offs against Derby and then Aston Villa, in the final at Wembley, where they triumphed 1-0, despite playing the last twenty minutes with 10-men.
Manager Slavisa Jokanovic has fuelled Fulham’s regeneration. Saving the club from relegation just three seasons ago, the Serbian has revived Fulham, leading them back to top flight English football for the first time in 4 years. With the progress Jokanovic has made in three short years with the Cottagers, it is doubtful that he will fail to make a positive impression in the Premier League.
Ryan Sessegnon has emerged as a rising talent for both club and country. The English teenager was Fulham’s top scorer in their Championship campaign, with 16 goals and 8 assists. All eyes will be on the 18- year-old to make the same impact in his debut season in the Premier League. Fulham are on the brink of holding onto another top goal-scorer as the details of Aleksander Mitrovic’s permanent move from Newcastle are finalised. The Serbian striker scored 12 goals in the Championship campaign and will remain key player in Fulham’s frontline.
Fulham’s considerable summer budget will aim to ensure a successful 2018/2019 campaign. The signing of Jean Michael Seri from Nice to Craven Cottage cost around £25 million, a club record fee which shows just how serious the club are to compete this season. Defender Maxime Le Marchand has followed in his Nice team-mate’s footsteps by also joining the Cottagers. The West London side have gained a big name and vast experience with the signing of World Cup winner Andre Schürrle on a two-season loan from Borussia Dortmund.
With such a consistent Championship season and an impressive list of summer signings, Wolves look likely, not only to avoid relegation, but to compete against the Premier League’s mid-table teams. The same applies to Fulham who have also gained from the transfer market and their exciting attacking style of play should succeed in the top tier. Cardiff City, on the other hand, will struggle, with an unattractive long passing game and having failed to match the financial investment of their promoted counterparts, the Welsh club will find it difficult to compete with much stronger sides.