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Will promoted sides be forced to change styles in the Premier League?

 • by Mark Thompson
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The make-up of next season’s Premier League is finally decided after Fulham’s play-off win, their passing style triumphing over Aston Villa’s more old-school methods.

Whites manager Slaviša Jokanović has said that his side will carry that style into the Premier League, although he knows it won’t be easy.

“We believe we can play this way,” he said after the play-off final. “We must show ambition but we must know that next season we will probably not win as many games as at this level.

“In general, we must try to dominate the teams we believe we can dominate against.”

But how easy will this be?

How did last year’s teams get on?

Looking at how last season’s promoted sides stuck to their guns (or didn’t) might give us some indication.

Brighton & Hove Albion, the least possession-focused of the three, were unsurprisingly able to keep to a similar style after their promotion. The only major difference was that they conceded a lot more chances.

Newcastle United were a bit keener on keeping the ball but dropped off noticeably when they re-joined the Premier League. Their Persona radar shows it, and they attempted nearly 100 fewer passes per game in 2017/18 (369) than 2016/17 (456).

The most interesting of the trio, and the one most relevant to whether Jokanović will be able to stick to his word and preferred style of play, is Huddersfield Town.

Their Persona radars for the two seasons suggests that their possession game dropped off after promotion to the Premier League. That might be partly due to the heavily increased amount of dogged defending that they needed to do, and the areas of the pitch where Huddersfield regained the ball changed a lot from season-to-season.

In 2016/17, 39 per cent of the times Huddersfield regained possession it happened in their defensive third. In 2017/18, this percentage had increased to 48 per cent, the pressure that they were putting on the ball shifting from a middle third focus closer to their own goal.

What does it mean?

This last point shouldn’t be much of an issue for any of the newly promoted sides. All three place their emphasis on defending in their own defensive third already, although it will be interesting to see whether they move even further back.

But in terms of a possession game, both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham might need to take heed from the Terriers. Both averaged over 500 attempted passes per game, a figure only matched by the top six when looking at the Premier League.

It seems likely that both of these sides will adopt styles closer to how newly promoted teams always seem to play. In that respect, suggestions that Fulham will play the same way in the Premier League as they did in the Championship look to be off the mark.

However, Jokanović qualified his claim by saying, “We must try to dominate the teams we believe we can dominate against.”

We saw this season how many sides towards the bottom of the Premier League are vulnerable to a relegation battle. Could we see two very different Fulhams in the top flight next year – one who is more cautious against bigger sides but comes out to play against the bottom half?

A game of ideas

With regards to what we might expect from Wolves, manager Nuno Espírito Santo said in a recent article for The Coaches Voice: “When you think about the Championship, when you are offered a job in the Championship, the first thought you must have is this: can I make my idea work in this league?”

He will, no doubt, be undertaking the same evaluation now for whether his philosophy can work for his side in the Premier League.

“Football is the game. It is always the same,” he said “There are specific situations and characteristics of the Championship, yes. But it is a competition. There are good teams, there are good players. What matters most is your idea.”

As for Cardiff City and their ideas, they profile like a newly promoted Premier League team already with long balls and a low share of possession.

What else would you expect from a Neil Warnock side?

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