For Leicester City and Burnley a long and intense Championship campaign came to a successful conclusion with promotion to the Premier League.
Nigel Pearson and Sean Dyche will no doubt already be well advanced with their planning for life in the Premier League and will have drawn up a wish-list of players that they hope will enable them survive that first season back in the top league.
But for the team which clinches the third promotion spot via the playoffs it’s a great deal more complicated, with the process of finding new players only really beginning once promotion has been guaranteed. Last season’s playoff winners Crystal Palace are a case in point, with 16 players purchased during August with what appeared to be a scattergun approach.
With Crystal Palace eliminated from the League Cup at the first attempt by Bristol City from League 1 and rock bottom of the Premier League with one win and seven defeats; manager Ian Holloway resigned saying that he wouldn’t be able to prevent Crystal Palace from being relegated back to the Championship.
Following almost a month of negotiations and with Crystal Palace languishing at the bottom of the league, Tony Pulis with the proud record of never having been relegated, agreed to become manager of the south London club.
Pulis has often been derided for the direct and unsophisticated football that his Stoke City team played; yet during his seven year spell in charge, he not only took Stoke City into the Premier League, but ensured that in five seasons they remained well clear of the relegation zone, reached an FA Cup final and progressed beyond the group stages of the UEFA Europa League.
So what chance did Pulis have of preventing his new team from what appeared to be an imminent return to the Championship? What tactics would he employ with a group of players so different to those he had at Stoke?
Five months and 25 league games later and so much for stereotypes!
Pulis has achieved the improbable.
In the 25 games played with Pulis as manager, Crystal Palace are mid-table, averaging more than 1.5 points per game, having achieved 11 clean sheets and conceding fewer goals (22) than every other team in the Premier League, with the exception of Chelsea.
Their recent five game winning run, which ensured safety in the Premier League, included wins over title chasing Chelsea and an away win over high flying Everton at Goodison Park.
So how did Tony Pulis achieve such a remarkable turnaround and what is the secret of his success?
The first and most important task was to ensure that all of his squad were on the same wavelength, by creating a collective unit, with all players willing to work hard and to accept his strict regime.
With all of the players on-board, Pulis ensured that he had a solid and reliable backline, quick and skilful players suitable for counter attacking football and a team full of footballers willing to work and harry their opponent’s non-stop throughout the entire 90 minutes of every game.
How does this all play out when analysing Crystal Palace’s on field data?
Using the extensive Sportsmatrix database we can see from the chart’s below that under Tony Pulis Crystal Palace shut down the opposition attacking threat, allowing fewer scoring chances, both from good positions (shown as ‘High’ in the chart) and from less clear cut positions.
The result is that whilst opposition teams are attempting to shoot just as much as before; they are now being forced to shoot from considerably less dangerous positions and as a result are finding it much more difficult to break down the Crystal Palace defence.
Tony Pulis has also improved Crystal Palace as an attacking unit, with the next chart showing that not only have they carried out significantly more counter attacks and skilful dribbles by individual players; but that these actions have also been significantly more dangerous.
With his reputation at an all-time high, the Eagles supporters will be looking forward to next season in the hope that Tony Pulis can weave yet more magic down at the Palace.