After the restart of the Premier League I wrote an article about the relegation candidates. You can find that here, but while much of what I predicted ultimately came true, some didn’t. Watford sacked Nigel Pearson with two games remaining in a move that made no sense, and still got relegated.
Aston Villa managed to avoid relegation but, honestly, they deserved to be relegated. They conceded against Sheffield United upon restart of the Premier League, but referee Michael Oliver failed to receive a notification that the ball crossed the line and didn’t give the goal. That ghost goal meant that the match finished 0-0 and Villa got a point for the draw, and Villa only finished one point above relegation. If the goal was allowed, Villa would’ve lost and been relegated, and Bournemouth would have stayed in the Premier League on goal differential. However, that isn’t what happened, and Bournemouth were relegated, as well as Norwich City and Watford. So who do these clubs need to sell to help them return to the Premier League?
AFC Bournemouth (18th Place, 34 Points)
Who Might Be Sold: Simon Francis, Artur Boruc, Nathan Aké, Callum Wilson
Artur Boruc and Simon Francis aren’t going to be sold, but they will be departing on free transfers. Boruc is 40 and captain Francis is 35, and Bournemouth need to inject some youth into the squad. At the same time, 25-year old center back Nathan Aké is far too good to play in the EFL Championship and Bournemouth should take advantage of Aké’s good form and sell him for a massive profit.
Despite scoring only 40 goals, Bournemouth have a great selection of strikers including Callum Wilson, Joshua King and Dominic Solanke. Wilson is 28 and the club’s top earner, but he is past his prime, scoring just eight Premier League goals in 35 matches. Bournemouth should move on from Wilson, who has been at the club since 2014, and focus on Josh King and young Solanke up top.
Watford (19th Place, 34 Points)
Who Might Be Sold: Heurelho Gomes, Roberto Pereyra, Ismaïla Sarr, Andre Gray
Watford looked great at several points in the season, including a 3-0 win against Liverpool. They fell just short of a final day comeback against Arsenal which would have kept them in the Premier League, and will certainly have a transitional year. Watford should still be considered favorites to return to the Premier League, and young striker João Pedro could very well fire Watford back to the top flight.
Watford should commit up front to João Pedro and Cucho Hernandez and keep Danny Welbeck, Alberto Peñaranda and Troy Deeney as backup. If they keep all five there isn’t any room for striker Andre Gray, who scored just two goals in 23 games for Watford this season. Winger Ismaïla Sarr, who scored a brace against Premier League champions Liverpool, contributed to 11 Premier League goals this season and will probably be sold to a top-tier team. Watford will also get rid of long time players Heurelho Gomes and Roberto Pereyra. Gomes is 39 and has his contract expires this summer, and Pereyra is aging, commands high wages, and has been uninspirational this season.
Norwich City (20th Place, 21 Points)
Who Might Be Sold: Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons
Norwich, the first Premier League club to be relegated, aren’t going to want to part with any of these players, but they probably will have to. Norwich had a young talented core but looked poor outside of those players, as Teemu Pukki started the season well but struggled for the remainder of the season. The Canaries will need a good transfer window to even get in the chase for promotion.
Argentine winger Emi Buendia had seven assists and a goal and starred in the Championship with Norwich in 2019. He has insisted that he is happy at Norwich, but with Atletico Madrid and newly-promoted Leeds United interested, Buendia will probably be sold. Cantwell had six goals and two assists and has dazzled for Norwich, but he’s been linked strongly to Liverpool, and is almost guaranteed to be sold to a Premier League club. Another player linked to a Premier League club is 20-year old wingback Max Aarons, who played in 36 out of Norwich’s 38 games. Aarons has been strongly linked to Wolverhampton, Tottenham, and West Ham.
All of these teams have gone down and will play Championship soccer next season, but can they earn their way back into the Premier League? I’ll explore this in a future post.
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