Checking In On The EPL’s Promoted Clubs

It’s one of the first things we look for in the first match week: how did the promoted clubs perform? What style of football did they play? Which players stood out? How will they do over the course of the season based on this result?

Brentford, Watford, and Norwich all have come up and made an impact in some form or another. Looking at these sides, the football they played and the results they produced, let’s go a little deeper, assessing just how the promoted clubs performed in their opening-round matches.

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The Bees hosted Arsenal in the opening match in the Premier League season and you just knew something was brewing. The first top-flight match in their new stadium, Brentford were probably the most exciting team that came up from the Championship last season. The stadium was rocking from minute 1 and it didn’t take long for Brentford to make a splash. After hitting the post 11 minutes in and didn’t look back. They found the breakthrough 10 minutes later through Sergi Canos who cut in from the left and fired home on his right foot to give them the lead. They kept pressing and probing the Arsenal defence until they found a second, and with 18 minutes left in the game, they did. A long throw gets lumped into the box, it gets past the front post and is head-ed at the back post from Christian Nørgaard. The Bees held firm and stifled any attempts at a comeback from Arsenal as they got their first-ever Premier League win. 

What stood out from Brentford performance was how balanced they were. They lined up in a 3-5-2 formation and this system allowed them to overload the midfield and utilise Ivan Toney’s aerial prowess to full effect. He won the most amount of aerial duels out of anyone on the pitch (7) and this was key to success for Brentford. When they weren’t able to pass through the press, that long ball option was very effective as Toney was easily able to beat both Arsenal centre halves in the air and knock it on for Mbeumo making the advancing run. Or any of the three midfielders who are all technically gifted enough to recycle possession high up the pitch. 

The three at the back also allowed for a side that was defensively solid as seen by Arsenal not creating one big chance for the whole game. The player to look out for in that Bees line-up is Sergi Canos. The scorer of the first goal, he was everywhere on that right-hand side, defensively solid with tackles and interceptions, as well as creating 1 big chance and carries into the final third. 

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Moving from Bees to Hornets, Watford’s return to the Premier League was highly anticipated as they were pitted against Aston Villa

With an abundance of new names coming into that Watford team, fans were curious as to how they’d fare in a league that’s improved drastically since they were last in it. 

They got off to the hottest of starts as the first real attack of the game came through Ismaila Sarr who cut the ball back across goal which found Dennis, who shot blocked by Konsa rebounded back to him and he fired home to give the hosts the lead 9 minutes in. They didn’t want to hold to a slim lead, however, as 4 minutes out from the half, Ismaila Sarr received a through ball from Dennis, he drove into the box and got the luck of bounce as his shot deflected in to double their lead. Their brilliance continued into the second half as in the 66th minute a critical challenge was won in the midfield for Watford as the ball found the substitute, Juan Hernandez on the left-wing who cut in on right and curled a beauty into the far corner to give Watford a shock 3-0 lead. Villa did pull 2 goals back through John McGinn and Danny Ings, but the Hornets did enough to hold on to a gutsy 3-2 victory. 

The counterattack was the name of the game for Watford, and they executed this to perfection. Despite only having 38% possession and 317 passes to Aston Villa’s 62% and 508,they created an equal amount of big chances with 1 each, but their counterattacks and 2 goals coming from them showed how direct and effective they were. With a 4-3-3 formation being deployed this saw Dennis being the main focal point, with nearly all attacks either starting or ending with him. Ismaila Sarr was a menace cutting in from the right and used his pace to terrorise Matt Target, this saw him complete key passes and successful dribbles. The player that stood out for Watford was Oghenekaro Etebo. The defensive midfielder played as the lone pivot and did the role of two players seamlessly. He took Emi Buendia completely out of the game and had interceptions and tackles as well. Offensively he was a contributor as well, with key pass and successful dribbles. 

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Norwich City came up as champions last season and expectations were high for him to fare better than their last Premier League campaign. Their first test didn’t come easy as they played hosts to Liverpool who were seeking revenge after their disappointing campaign last time out. The first real chance of the game came from a Naby Keita cross which fell on the head of Diogo Jota who headed attempt was tipped over by an outstretched Tim Krul. Liverpool found the breakthrough 25 minutes in through a clever Mo Salah touch to put Jota through whose scuffed shot went past Tim Krul. Liverpool did well to control the game for the majority of it, not allowing the Canneries any real opportunities until they found the second themselves. It came through Roberto Firmino who received a square pass in all kinds of space in the box from Salah, and he calmly slotted home to double the Red’s lead. The third and final goal came from a poorly cleared corner, which fell to Salah on the edge of the box who curled it brilliantly into the top corner. Norwich had the last real big chance of the game as a cross from Pierre Melou cross fell into the 6-yard box and a goalmouth scramble was somehow kept out by Alisson. 

Norwich stuck to their expansive and possession style game plan, despite the opposition, which is something to admire and credit despite the result. They had an even 50% possession and completed more passes than Liverpool with 520.This was mainly achieved by Daniel Farke’s very disciplined and structured system when attacking. The 4-3-3 formation used put heavy emphasis on Billy Gilmour in midfield to dictate the tempo of the game. He completed the most accurate passes for Norwich with 68 and completed long balls. The Canneries best player on the game and one to look out for was Pierre Melou. Occupying the right-hand side on the midfield three, he was very adventurous and made runs beyond Todd Cantwell to break the lines. He had key passes and created the only big chance Norwich had. He completed tackles and a goal-line clearance to put some icing on an excellent individual performance. 

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Ari Stamatakos

Ari Stamatakos is a high school student and aspiring writer who's passionate about the sports he loves. An Avid Carlton, Melbourne Victory and Chelsea Fan, he currently writes for Carlton fan page can check him out on twitter @Ari_Y_Stama

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