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18 Jul 2018

Wolves, Cardiff & Fulham: How will the Premier League new boys get on?

Wolves, Cardiff & Fulham: How will the Premier League
new boys get on?

Neither side are in uncharted territory having all dined at the top table before but what will the 2018/19 season bring for them?

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Last season delight

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A perfect summer?

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Who stands the best chance?

Action Images via Reuters/Adam Holt

After impressive campaigns last season in differing circumstances, Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham will enter the top flight hoping their stay will last much longer than in times gone by. No strangers to the Premier League, all three teams have all been here before.

The 2017/18 EFL Championship season's die had been cast long before the end of the campaign with Wolves and Cardiff having a seemingly impenetrable hold on the division's top two automatic promotion spots, and Fulham emerging as the 'best of the rest' before the conclusion in May.

As these three sides know all too well, though, the Premier League is a different animal, a challenge like no other - how will they get on...?

Last season delight

Wolves' dominance of the league will cause concern to some sides that languished in the bottom half of the top flight last time out as Molineux prepares to host the biggest teams in the land once again. Over the last ten seasons, only Newcastle United and Leicester City had bettered Wolves' points return in the Championship as Nuno Espirito Santo's men put 82 league goals past their opponents.

A high-profile international takeover in July 2016 put the wheels in motion at the West Midlands club before an internal re-jig at Fosun International saw Jeff Shi become the club's chairman. Wolves saw an influx of talent arrive from the continent at the end of last summer in an investment risk that appears to have paid off.

Over in Wales, Cardiff City flew out of the traps and their ability to hold their position in the top two was almost as impressive as Wolves' showing. Few predicted their ability to hang on after their impressive start, wondering when, not if, their bubble would burst.

Reuters/Matthew Childs 

The Bluebirds, though, were often criticised for their style of play. Manager Neil Warnock has a reputation for a certain brand of football and it's a tactic that has paid off for him frequently in the second tier. Warnock will have another attempt to get to grips with the Premier League in a season that survival will surely take top priority. 

For Fulham, the success of going up via the playoffs assuaged the agonising pain of falling just short the season before. In standard fashion, the West London side started slowly but made their charge up the table much earlier than the season before, allowing them to cement their place in the top six with plenty of time to spare. 

Slavisa Jokanovic has earned many a plaudit during his time in the Championship. His introduction played a big part in turning Fulham's fortunes around; the club flirting with the second tier trapdoor before his arrival. In only two full seasons at the helm, Jokanovic has allowed Fulham to fulfil their potential. 

A perfect summer?

Much of Wolves' success in the Championship last time out was down to the instant impact of loan signings from across the continent. 

Diogo Jota, Leo Bonatini and Willy Boly are just a few of the names that came with the gate at Molineux in the summer of 2017 as well as Portuguese duo Ruben Neves and Helder Costa (in January 2017) who arrived from FC Porto and SL Benfica, respectively.

The Wolves board have pleased fans so far this summer by signing the impactful loanees up to permanent deals. Jota, Bonatini and Boly all put pen to paper on longer-term deals with the club also gaining the services of experienced goalkeeper, Rui Patricio. 

Cardiff City's summer window has been less notable, although not entirely uneventful. All of their recent signings have come from second-tier clubs with whom Cardiff shared a division last season. 

REUTERS/Murad Sezer 

Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Alex Smithies secured a four-year deal with the club, while Preston North End left-back Greg Cunningham signed up for three years. Cardiff also persuaded Norwich City to part ways with winger Josh Murphy and goal machine Bobby Reid made the switch to the Welsh side from Bristol City. 

Fulham's boardroom has been slightly quieter. The Cottagers have made only two signings so far this window with Jokanovic confident that it is only the defensive side of his team which needs strengthening most. 

Ligue 1 side OGC Nice have been the go-to so far with both acquisitions coming from the French side. Holding midfielder Jean Michael Seri followed centre-back Maxime Le Marchand across the channel: the pair costing the club an estimated £30 million.

Wolves have been the busier of the three sides but, with plenty of time still left until the window closes, there may be more incomings on the horizon. 

Who stands the best chance?

Wolves - Predicted finish: 10th

With the financial gulf between the Premier League and the Championship, the common aim for most sides promoted is to survive their first season back in the big time, then build from there. For Wolves, though, their sights may be set on a much higher finish. 

In didn't take long to notice the level of quality that Wolves brought in in the summer of 2017. The likes of Jota, Bonatini and Neves all appeared to be head and shoulders above the level of the division in a matter of weeks, and their talent told.

Securing these players to a longer-term Wolves future was an obvious choice for the board. With the signing of experienced goalkeeper Patricio and the loan of SL Benfica forward Raul Jimenez, there is a strong feeling of balance across the squad. 

Another dip into the market wouldn't come as a surprise although this current Wolves side will be a threat to teams in the lower reaches of the league - a top-half finish is a distinct possibility. 

Cardiff - Predicted finish: 20th

Newly promoted sides are always a strong contender for an instant relegation back to the Championship, and Cardiff City won't be an exception to the rule. 

The Bluebirds might liken their position to Huddersfield Town last season. The Terriers were odds-on favourites to go straight back down, though their performances merited another year in the top flight. 

Cardiff will take inspiration from Huddersfield's odds-defying season, and will hope that they too can prove everyone wrong. 

Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra 

The most concerning aspect of the summer for Cardiff fans may well be the club's transfer dealings. To survive in the Premier League, proven quality needs to be added. A team full of Championship level players cannot compete in the top division nor can a direct, long ball style of football without the right squad. 

Cardiff may well have made some astute signings, though. Josh Murphy is a talent and deserves a chance to prove himself, as does Bobby Reid. But will the pair - like countless others before them - find the jump from Championship to Premier League too hot to handle?

Fulham - Predicted finish: 15th

The Cottagers are returning to the Premier League for the first time since the 2013/14 season and the sense of optimism and belief that the club are where they belong is high. After falling just short in the 2016/17 campaign, Fulham's promotion, on the evidence of the performances, desire and intent of the last two seasons was deserved. 

Their style of play in the Championship was attractive; fluid, interchanging attacking play. The conundrum for newly promoted sides that may feel out of their depth, though, is to stick to their proven style and tackle opponents head on at higher risk or change to a more defensive style and try to take points when they can.

Action Images via Reuters/Adam Holt 

Teams that try to migrate their Championship style of play into the Premier League have often fallen short in a war of attacking attrition and Fulham may not have the firepower to continue to play in that way in the Premier League. 

More activity in the window may be required though their two signings are astute. Jean Michael Seri and Maxime La Marchand will bolster a defensive line that will experience much tougher challenges in the months ahead. 

The emergence of Ryan Sessegnon is a spectacle the whole league can't wait to see, as is the talent of Tom Cairney and Floyd Ayite. Fulham, though, need a proven left back to complete their defensive ranks. 

If the Cottagers can bring one or two more signings over the line, then they may just about have enough quality in their ranks to stabilise and build for seasons to come. 

What do you think? Who will do the best out of the three promoted sides? Let us know by commenting below.