LET'S MEET THE NEW STUDENTS
This past weekend the Premier League kickoff welcomed us back with Hammers blowing Bubbles in a new home, Leicester back to defend their title, and three new fresh squads to spice up the league. This year's crop offers something familiar, something new, and something embarrassing. The three newly promoted teams already have some of the sharks circling as they appear unfit to contend in the hyper-competitive Premier League. With all of the movement of players and coaches it can be difficult to familiarize yourself with three new teams every year only to see three go down and a new crop....crop up..... every year. I am going to give you the crash course on the newbies this year so you know whose name to shout as the send your team down to the Championship with Villa, who will definitely, probably, hopefully still be there. So with that let's go ahead and meet the two new squads hoping to be the next Leicester, and the dumpster fire that is Hull City.
Those of you who are not completely new to the Premier League scene, or those who don't have the best memories, you may remember the ol' Clarets from the 2014-2015 season. Yup, Burnley, much like that shit storm Hull, went down only to come right back up again.
Great, they are experienced, they should have a leg up. Alright!
Wait. Maybe not all experiences are good ones.
Pay particularly close attention to the Goals For column. (No shit, you put a big red arrow there). 28 goals In 38 matches!!
QPR managed to find a way to score 42 goals, 50% more than Burnley! And do you know who led QPR in scoring that year????
Charlie Austin. And do you know where Charlie is now???
They are looking for him. If you see him let someone know. Goodness. I hope he is ok.
Anyways, there is no way they can survive if they can only muster up two goals every three games or so. You need to be able to score to win and pick up the crucial three points you need to survive. They finished 5 points from safety. If they could have scored three more timely goals it all might be different.
Then again. maybe it's like that for every team on that chart. At least they made room for the Foxes!
They only picked up seven victories all season, the first of which didn't come until November, and of the measly seven times they scored two or more goals in a game they could only muster two wins. They didn't deserve to stay up. They deserved to be sent down.
Who was sailing this listless ship back to the Championship?
The last living O'Doyle. Or as the public knows him, Sean Dyche.
Well those Burnley owners decided this fire(crotch)cracker of a coach was worth keeping on the books.
How stupid can they be?
Great job Sean, team really looks like we are almost there. Let's keep you around!
So how did the obvious car wreck of the 2015-2016 season go? You tell me:
Check out those goals! 72!
Let's take a moment to appreciate that.
If you were a Burnley fan who watched every game, this past season you would have season almost a 3:1 goal ratio when compared to the 2014-2015 season. You earned it. A ginger hasn't delivered in the clutch like this since Andy Dalto.........
So what did Sean Dyche do so differently between seasons?
He got a new team.
18 players in, 16 players out. He essentially disproved the, "what are they going to do, fire the entire team?" argument people like to use to justify coaches being fired for players poor performances.
Well the people in charge trusted him and he delivered. The team played a high press fast paced game. I mean they still gave up 35 goals, not exactly Joe Bore-hino out there.
There are a lot of people who honestly think this guy just needs a few more years and he will be leading a big club (or country) to new heights.
I think he is an emotional coach who manipulates (not used too harshly) his players to get the best out of them. The problem?
Lack of consistency.
Just like the bump a team get with a new manager, it eventually subsides and you are left with the cold hard facts.
So how do they shape up heading into this season??
While their industrious nature and hard work paid dividends in the Championship, they face a steep uphill battle in surviving the every more physically imposing Premier League.
Burnley is tough, not athletic. They are going to struggle to keep up with the pace of most teams, and need some previous role players to step up big time.
They have a pair of solid backs out of Ireland, and just signed Jon Flanagan on loan from Liverpool. They need two of them to take those roles by the horns to help lock down the back.
Teams are going to press the pace early on Burnley, (who incidentally chose their colors as an ode to the strongest team at the time,. Villa) If they fall behind they will struggle to break down well-organized defenses who have pace. Of course, there are still more than two weeks left in the trade window and maybe the first few weeks will be a wake up call.
Personally, I fear we will see a quick reversion to old habits and a Burnley team in the relegation battle the entire season.
The next newly promoted side is one that brings with it a rich history of domestic and continental success. Middlesborough (Boro) was a founding member of the reformed Premier League that kicked off in 1992, even though the 80's were a bit rough.
In 1986, Boro was relegated for the second successive season, this time to the fourth division. With investors scurrying, things got pretty bleak. People stopped showing to meeting, bills weren't paid, and they barely stayed a legitimate business.
They met the registration fee for the 1986-1987 League Football season, £350,000 , with only 10 MINUTES TO SPARE!
Failure to pay the fee would have seen them removed from the football table altogether. Gone, done, dusted. Adios.
But luckily for Boro fans, a man named Steve Gibson rounded up enough investors at the last minute to ensure the club would continue on.
On the left you see him taking the padlock off the teams former home ground, Ayersome Park after his aforementioned last minute rally kept the club afloat.
He literally saved the team from disappearing.
In typical Boro fashion, they immediately were promoted in back-to-back seasons and found themselves one step away from the top division when they were immediately relegated again.
Eventually, the old format was scrapped and the Premier League was formed, and based on their long history in all of the FA's leagues, Boro was back in the top division. After a few years of mid-table finishes, they were relegated after being fined 3 points for being unable to fulfill a fixture. How many points did they go down by?
Spoiler alert, they came right back up again the next season! They then settled into their most successful period as they won a League Cup, and even MADE A UEFA CUP FINAL in 2004! (I know, like English teams do that anymore. Also, 12 years is a long time ago. Think about it.)
Of course, they couldn't sustain forever and were sent back down in 2009. Which is where they were until last year.
I'll let you take a breath. I know that was tiring.
So after a few managers and almost going down another division, Boro appointed a new coach before the 2014/15 season, Aitor Karanka.
Who is a disciple of:
But don't hold that against him. Under his stead Boro have had their best successive seasons in ages. His first season in charge ended in a 0-2 loss to Norwich in the promotion playoffs, so this year he did one better and finished second, earning automatic qualification.
What style of soccer do Boro play? Well, he's a Mourhino guy, so you will see a solid defensive shape, quick counter attacks, and a focus on set pieces. They gave up the fewest goals in the Championship last year, a performance they will hope to repeat this season.
In their first match back in the Premier League against a quality, albeit leggy, Stoke side, they got into a bit of an open game and were probably happy to walk away with a point in their first match back with the big boys.
Stoke had only a slight edge in possession but were certainly the more consistently dangerous team.
What is interesting to note about Middlesborough is the transfer business they have done since being promoted. They have wasted no time spending money on players they believe will help them reach their goal of becoming a perennial league member.
Check out their market moves:
First off, I know it doesn't seem like a ton of money, but with what I am sure were sizable payments for Guzan and Fabio that number jumps right to £25-£30 million.
Additionally, they have been able to poach a few key players void of transfer fees.
Valdes, Ramirez and Espinosa have proven themselves as players in the toughest leagues in the world. They are not without their flaws, but when you remember the history of the club, Boro were basically having a bake sale to keep the team alive just thirty years ago.
Ok, so who is funding this new push?
None other than Steve Gibson! YES! THAT Steve Gibson.
Gibson was born and raised in Boro, attended matches as a child, borrowed £1,000 from his dad in 1981 to start a company that he turned into a conglomerate, saved the team in 1986, now owns 90 % of Boro, and is worth upwards up 165 million pounds.
So now that his team is back in the Premier League you think he is going to waste a cent to keep them there? He is going to be spending money like he is out on probation.
Imagine owning your favorite child hood (minor league) team, and they've just been promoted for the first time into a totally new financial age for the league. YOU ARE GOING F*CKING CRAZY SPENDING MONEY!
So when he is able to bring in someone like Alvaro Negredo or Marteen de Roon to a newly promoted club in the face of stiff international competition, with teams spending absurd amounts for potential, it is a testament not only to his business acumen but his ability to sell himself and his vision for the club.
Ok? So the owner cares a lot? Still have to win on the field.
That's right, and by being able to bring in guys who expect to win, you set a standard for your club as a whole. The future of Middlesborough FC is full of promise, as long as they can unlock the secret to premier league success.
And guess who's still holding the keys?
HULL CITY A.F.C.
Hull City A.F.C is like the REALLY crazy guy in college everyone was friends with. He gets kicked out of school for a year, and everyone is pretty sure you won't see him again. All agree that when he is around, it is certainly memorable, but not good for anyone, including him. He's just in over his head.
Then he comes back, and for a moment, you think he might have changed. Then you suddenly realize that he is just pulling the wool over everyone's eyes to hold onto the dream as long as he can, because this happens, every night, before classes even start:
You want to tell everyone, especially those than love him the most, his parents (fans), not to get their hopes up. He's not going to be able to sustain. It's a house of cards in a hurricane, it's just a matter of time. People don't change overnight.
The first week of classes start, and he is a mess. He doesn't have his books, barely attends a class and swears he totally just has to get his schedule fixed first, he just doesn't have a mentor.
But then the first test rolls around and not only does he pass the test, he scores higher than the smartest kid from last quarter. Is this transformation for real? Or just a one off before the inevitable crash landing?
That's Hull City in a nutshell after their 2-1 win over the defending champions Leicester.
The 25/16 season couldn't have been that bad, right? I mean, they got promoted.
While I certainly applaud their ability to be in the fight and ultimately be promoted, the cushy parachute payments relegated teams now receive (60 million!) are a big step towards continuity and overall team strength. Being able to continue paying the weekly wages of your recently signed stars makes you huge favorites for promotion.
We see the two squads that were automatically promoted, with Boro only beating out Brighton on goal differential, and a full six points behind them, we have the Tigers.
Teams 3-6 were entered into a playoff for the last promotion spot.
Hull blitzed Derby on the road with a 3-0 win, then held on for 0-2 loss at home to squeak into the final 3-2 on aggregate.
Note: Not being able to win such a huge match up 3-0 AT HOME does not bode well for the upcoming season.
Luckily for Hull, Sheffield Wednesday knocked off Brighton in the other playoff, leaving Hull an opponent that finished 15 points behind the snake-bitten Brighton. They went from missing automatic promotion by two goals to not even making the playoff final.
Obviously Hull won, 1-0, on this OK goal by Mo Diame.
So they backed their way into the top division, again. So what?
First off, Hull, isn't what you would call a consistent winner.
1998: Finish two spots safe from being removed from the FA.
2003: Finish mid-table in lowest tier of professional football
2008: Complete fastest ascent in history, going from bottom division to premier league in only 5 years.
2009: Only 1 defeat in first 9 PL matches leaves them top of the table, proceed to win only 2 of next 29, survive when others lose on last day.
2010: Team is relegated in early May, Nigel Pearson takes over as manager.
2011: Pearson goes back to Leicester (How that ends is another post), Nick Barmby is hired.
2012: Barmby resigns. Steve Bruce is hired to manage the team.
2014: FA Cup Final an Europa League qualification. Owner tries to drop A.F.C. and change name to Hull City Tigers, fans revolt. Name change rejected by FA.
Now they find themselves back in the premier league, somehow, and how does leadership respond?
Well, Steve Bruce resigned with less than three weeks left before the season started, and with the owner still fussy about the name change he wasn't looking to strengthen the squad, and the first team coach got fired on the bus. And it got worse, much worse.
So bad, in fact, that the Hull players started trolling themselves.
On August 4th, Hull had 9 fit senior outfield players.
That led one of their players, Curtis Davies to post this funny yet not untrue picture.
YOUR OWN PLAYERS ARE TROLLING YOU!!
It was so bad that promotion hero Mo Diame, scorer of that ridiculous goal to put Hull up, signed with Newcastle, back IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP!
He chose to leave Premier League football to avoid playing for Hull.
Needless to say, when Match week One rolled around with the champs coming to town, things didn't look good. Mike Phelan was the caretaker manager and they had just barely scraped enough bodies together to field a team.
So what did the Tigers do?
Just knock off the champs, including relinquishing the lead and getting it back later in the match.
So with the transfer window closing, it will be interesting to see if the team adds any depth, and can use their week one momentum to keep their heads above water and stay in the Premier League.
Their history is so volatile it is difficult to tell what is going to happen. If this name-change kerfuffle can go away and the owner opens up his check book, they might stand a chance.
It's a long season though, and I don't like their chances.