Oxford United had an extraordinary 2019/20 season, despite it ending in defeat in the League One play-off final against Wycombe Wanderers.
The U’s ended their campaign fourth in League One, recorded their highest ever away win in the Football League and saw off Premier League opposition in the Carabao Cup, alongside successful runs in both of the major cup competitions.
And having seen the arrival of seven new players, how will Karl Robinson’s side fare when they return to action this season?
Oxford United: League One Season Preview
Oxford United have made seven summer signings so far. Karl Robinson has seen the arrival of winger of Joel Cooper from Linfield, Matty Taylor from Bristol City on a permanent deal after the striker spent last season loan, and right-back Sean Clare from Heart of Midlothian.
The U’s have also seen the arrival of former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Marcus McGuane, who joins on loan from Nottingham Forest, young strikers in the form of Dylan Asonganyi and Derick Osei Yaw from MK Dons and Stade Brestois 29 respectively, with Liam Kelly also returning to the U’s on a season-long loan from Feyenoord.
As far as departures go, the squad has remained largely intact. Cameron Brannagan ended speculation about a move away by signing a two-year contract extension, but the U’s have seen the sale of key defender Rob Dickie, who joined Championship side QPR for an undisclosed fee.
Goalkeeper Simon Eastwood may have had a poor run at the end of the season, but the 31-year-old looks set to keep the number one spot, despite the emergence of Jack Stevens during pre-season.
Clare, initially brought in as a first choice right-back, still face competition from Sam Long, while Elliott Moore and January signing Rob Atkinson looks the likely centre back pairing. Josh Ruffels remains the clubs only left-back.
Alex Rodriguez Gorrin had a solid debut season last time out, but the arrival of Kelly and return to fitness from Jamie Hanson will add competition. In the middle, McGuane looks like he will partner Brannagan, while Mark Sykes is one that can also feature.
If Sykes doesn’t play centrally, he can feature out wide. However, Robinson has a number of wingers to choose from. Cooper will likely be his choice on the left and James Henry on the right, but there are also Anthony Forde, Rob Hall and Malachi Napa available.
Up top, Taylor will be the main goal threat, having scored 17 times from 37 appearances in all competitions last season. Many fans will be hoping to see Dan Agyei get more game time in what was a frustrating first season for the forward. It looks like Asonganyi and Osei could be loaned out, although one may stay as a backup.
League One looks like it will be a much tougher division this season. Not only is the league back to 24 teams, but there are some strong sides competing this season.
Rivals Swindon Town, Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle all came up automatically from League Two last season. As had been the case in seasons previous, promoted sides from the fourth tier can often do fairly well when in League One, so they could all cause upsets.
Likewise, the team’s that came down from the Championship will have a point to prove. Hull City had a poor season last time out but have recruited well and will back themselves for an immediate return. As for Charlton Athletic and Wigan Athletic, it could depend on the status of the ownership of the respective clubs to see how they fare in the upcoming campaign.
And, like last season, there is plenty of competition already in the league. Sunderland, now in their third season in League One, are once again a favourite. As are Portsmouth, who Oxford knocked out in last seasons playoffs, Ipswich Town, who had a disappointing campaign, and Peterborough United, who just missed out on a top-six finish last time out.