Assessing Which Championship Playoff Team Is Best Equipped for the Premier League

25 July 2020 04:45

With 46 pesky gameweeks out the way, it's business time in the Championship.


Brentford, Fulham, Cardiff City and Swansea City have all booked their place in this season's playoffs, and the battle will now commence to determine who will be making the step up to the Premier League via the Most Lucrative Game in Football™.


The final day of the Championship season was filled with drama, with Brentford failing to capitalise on West Brom's draw with QPR - meaning they stayed in third and missed out on an automatic promotion spot. As for the fight for sixth, it appeared fairly clear-cut.


Swansea celebrate their shock final day confirmation of a playoff berth

Nottingham Forest really didn't have much to do to ensure their place in the top six. But their 4-1 defeat to Stoke, as well as Swansea's 4-1 win at Reading, saw the Swans nip in on goal difference. Heartache for Forest, but euphoria in Wales.


Here, we take a look beyond the playoff drama to determine which of the four is best equipped to succeed in the Premier League next season (in a number of key areas), should they be promoted.



1. Finances

Mitrovic is a proven Premier League goalscorer

Following Fulham's promotion to the Premier League for the 2018/19 season, the west Londoners did not hold back in the transfer market - going on a (somewhat ridiculous) £100m spending spree.

Of course, a large number of these signings didn't exactly have the impact the club were hoping for, while it would also be fair to say the Cottagers overpaid on some playersby quite a lot.

But you would suspect/hope they have learned from their mistakes, and the fact also remains that, thanks to their wealthy owners and the luxury of parachute payments, the Cottagers have the financial muscle to compete at Premier League level.

The likes of Brentford, Cardiff and Swansea will all benefit financially if they are promoted to the Premier League, but they cannot compete with Fulham in this department - with the Bees in particular never having paid more than £2.5m for a signing.


2. Existing Squad/Experience

Benrahma has been linked with a move away from Brentford

There is a clear reason why both Brentford and Fulham finished eight points clear of Cardiff and a further three points clear of Swansea.

Brentford were the top scorers in the division, netting 80 times in their 46 league games (12 more than Cardiff, who scored the second-most of all the playoff teams). But equally, only Leeds have conceded fewer goals than the Bees - underlining their strength at the back, as well.

While Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and Josh Dasilva all appear perfectly capable of making the step up, Thomas Frank's squad is remarkably devoid of any Premier League experience.

Fulham also have a strong squad for their level, with a proven Premier League striker in Aleksandar Mitrovic. The west Londoners' squad is also still filled with a number of players who featured in the Premier League in 2018/19. The depth of their squad could also prove advantageous, but question marks most definitely still remain regarding their defence.

As for Cardiff, they too have experienced squad members who were present during their 2018/19 top flight campaign, but they lack the same quality and depth.

Lee Tomlin is the Bluebirds top scorer this season with just eight, while stars like defender Sean Morrison, Josh Murphy and Junior Hoilett have never really stood out at Premier League level.

Swansea, meanwhile, have an experienced forward like Andre Ayew but could also be impacted by a number of key players currently at the club who are only on loan (such as Rhian Brewster).

While experience is, of course, crucial, Brentford could enjoy a very successful campaign next term in the Premier League if they do gain promotion - as long as they are able to keep hold of their best players.


3. Manager

Cooper has done an excellent job at Swansea

Aged 39, it is actually Fulham boss Scott Parker who has the most Premier League experience as a manger, having taken over the reigns towards the end of the 2018/19 season.

Brentford's Thomas Frank, Cardiff's Neil Harris and Swansea's Steve Cooper have all never managed in England's top flight - which may give Fulham something of an advantage.

However, questions do still remain regarding Parker's style of play, with fans questioning the incisiveness of the attacking play. As a possession-based side, the Cottagers see plenty of the ball, but they often lack the killer pass - despite the number of hugely talented and creative players they have.

In this category, Frank, Harris, Cooper and Parker are all on course to achieve their goals this season, if they haven't already. The work Cooper has done at Swansea to help them climb into the playoffs has been remarkable, transforming the club and their philosophy.

Harris, meanwhile, spoke passionately about his side's chances of making the playoffs when he took over, and he has delivered. As for Frank, his side have excelled in the Championship and his style of play would suit the Premier League.

However, it is Fulham's Parker who has that extra knowledge and understanding of how England's top flight works - as well as its media - and how to approach games.


4. Ability to Attract Signings

Harrison Reed has been very impressive at Fulham in 2019/20

A club's ability to attract signings ties in with their financial power and how much they will be able to spend in the transfer market. For Fulham, however, it isn't just the money that makes them dominant in this department, it is their location, history and project that will entice big-name players to the club.

This was seen when Fulham signed the likes of Jean Michael Seri, who had once been linked with the likes of Barcelona and top Premier League clubs. The defence still needs work, but this is a side who have a young and exciting manager who likes to control matches and dominate possession, while the squad is already filled with talent.

This isn't to take anything away from Brentford, Cardiff and Swansea - but they may not been on the same level in this department. Should Brentford gain promotion, a number of targets could prove to be interested in a move. However, the problem for the Bees is whether they are able to hold onto their star players. Should this prove too challenging, the club will struggle to attract the top names at prices they can afford.

The two Welsh sides have paid big for targets in the past - with Swansea notably paying over £20m for Ayew and having attracted a manager like Michael Laudrup - but the draw of London is real.

As a result, it is Fulham who would be the club most likely to bring in the high-profile talents.


5. Conclusion

Parker's men are in the best position to succeed in the Premier League

Winning three out of the four categories, it is Fulham who are in the best equipped position to succeed in the Premier League out of the Championship playoff teams, should they gain promotion to the top flight.

This isn't to say they are the most likely to win the playoffs as they do next face off against Cardiff in what will be a tough fixture, while Brentford and Swansea will also fancy their chances.

However, the Cottagers have the finances, the location, an exciting footballing project and experience, hence putting themselves in the best position to succeed next season if they can win their next three matches.



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Source: 90min