Bournemouth, Norwich City and Watford were all victims of the harsh reality that is relegation from the Premier League. The Canaries funeral song was swung with three games to spare thanks to whitewash from West Ham, whereas both Bournemouth and Watford’s fate was settled on the final day. The Cherries took a decent bite out of Everton by beating them 3-1, although the Hornets failed to sting Arsenal sufficiently as they fell to a 3-2 defeat.
Now the trio will all have to buckle up for the Championship rollercoaster ride of which they will be all too familiar with. Norwich and Bournemouth finished champions in 2018/19 and 2014/15 respectively, whilst Watford spent eight consecutive campaign in the second division before their promotion five years ago.
Managerial changes, misforgiven mistakes, merciless injuries, meddling video technology and much more involved in the sinking of the three sides, but how will they now cope out of the spotlight of the Premier League? This data analysis will use statistics in order to determine which of the relegated EPL clubs will fare best in the Championship. It will use analysis to put data into context and consider the reasons behind and trends uncovered.
Evidently, the clearest and simplest issue was the failure to win games and not to concede goals. Aston Villa was the only team with a worst goal difference outside of those in the drop zone, a location they could have easily found themselves in if not a for a strong run post-lockdown.
Norwich managed to ship 75, Bournemouth 65 and Watford 64, which in comparison to their goals for column, never makes for positive reading.
This will be a serious worry for Daniel Farke, considering they ended victors of the Championship having shipped 57 goals, more than 16th placed Stoke City. Evidently, this is an area the German needs to address if they are to mount another siege and in contrast to their fellow rivals, they cannot take this lightly.
On average, they allowed far more shots on target against them- just over six per game- and with the end-to-end nature of the league, they simply cannot afford to be relinquishing so many chances. They are also far off the pace for aerial duels won and seeing as a direct approach is enjoyed by a majority of EFL managers, this will also be cause for concern.
Bournemouth can be pleased with their marginal gain in terms of interceptions and clearances, which does not necessarily just come from their defenders. A collective effort from the back-four and midfielders will be vital if they are to compete week-in-week-out with those who are relentless in attack.
On a purely defending aspect, Watford won the greatest number of defensive duels and conceded the fewest shots on target. This can certainly be a basis for newly appointed coach, Vladimir Ivic, to build from and from these findings, the Hornets should be able to cope best with the physical and energetic nature of the division.
Bournemouth were the top scorers from the three with 40, more than Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion, who all finished above them in the table. Their main threat: set-pieces. They managed far more set pieces and corners that ended with shots than Watford or Norwich and if you take into account the reliance of such a tactic to overcome stronger opposition, then Bournemouth have a certified extra weapon in their armoury.
Watford, on the other hand, struggled in this department, despite the +6ft pairing of Craig Cathcart and Michael Dawson coming up from the back, the imposing nature of midfielder Etienne Capoue and the outright strength of Troy Deeney up front. If they do manage to maintain all of these experienced players, then their impact may greater when they can impose themselves more on set pieces.
Norwich only prevailed with accurate shots from outside the area, highlighting their struggles to enter into the opposition area. This could change due to the openness of the Championship but they cannot on rely on speculative shots for an entire season.
Possession and passing
This is where Norwich can stake a claim for their immediate promotion. Farke insisted on the same style throughout 2019/20 but was not rewarded with the results. It was centred around passing from the back and being confident on the ball, often incurring risks and turnover of possession.
Yet, Leeds United, Fulham and almost Brentford, were successful in their promotions thanks to a similar approach which very often swept aside opponents or at least stunned them for portions of the game.
Norwich’s average possession was just under 50%, whereas Bournemouth yielded 45.71%, Watford just 43.46%. Compare that to the average possession the trio’s opponents achieved against them and it is clear that when facing Norwich, they kept less of the ball.
Free-flowing, attacking football like this has a history of gaining positive outcomes if mastered correctly. Norwich also came out on top in the accurate passing department, another indication of Farke’s philosophy has the means to make a meaningful impact.
Furthermore, they managed more accurate forward passes as a signal of their intent in moving swiftly upfield. Interestingly, however, their lateral and back passes were greater than those of Watford or Bournemouth’s. This shows both they were forced backwards by teams pressing or an inability to pass through them, but also, and perhaps more importantly for the Championship, they were willing to maintain possession even if it meant going in a negative direction.
Watford were more reliant on accurate long passes, referring back to the presence of Deeney as the focal point. Although Championship defenders are probably more in tune to route one, it was a method that worked for Cardiff City in 2017/18 during their promotion push.
Meanwhile, Bournemouth just edged out in terms of passes into the final third, thanks to generally favouring a 4-4-2 that allowed more bodies further afield, for which they used 21 times. Six of their nine victories were under this formation, which may be reverted by whomever Bournemouth locate to replace Howe to a 4-2-3-1, the shape generally adopted by most Championship sides.
Norwich are perhaps most equipped in terms of style to suit the Championship, as all of five of their lonesome victories this term came under the 4-2-3-1. In fact, Farke favoured this set-up on 32 occasions across the entire campaign, only adding the occasional 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 when their fate had all but been sealed
Watford are the most versatile when a change of formation is concerned. Their first league win of the campaign came against Norwich, where Quique Sánchez Flores set his side as 5-3-2; less than a month later, he was sacked for a second time at Vicarage Road. They also acquired wins over Manchester United in the 4-2-3-1, won against Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 4-4-1-1 and most infamously, defeated champions-elect Liverpool 3-0 thanks to a 4-5-1, then under the stewardship of Nigel Pearson. Overall, they utilised nine different shapes under four different bosses, including caretaker coach Hayden Mullins.
Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford all have good reason to believe they can return to the promised land at the first time of asking. Each has a particular skill set that will aid them against the relentless demands of the Championship.
Norwich have a gung-ho approach that could overhaul opponents, but can equally leave them exposed at the back which is a worry considering the sheer volume of goals scored in the division.
Bournemouth rarely standout in any statistical department and Cherries fans will hope the next man in charge can re-lift the club that has achieved so much in such a short period.
Watford appear resolute in defence but found left wanting upfront, reliant on long balls rather than possession football, a curse and a blessing in some quarters.
This data analysis has provided statistics to support the case for each of the fallen Premier League sides, whilst adding tactical analysis as to why it may benefit or deterrent their bids for promotion.