The Premier League kicks-off in two days; how will your team fare?
This looks like a tough season to call with most teams looking much of a muchness, the typical top 7, then a bunched pack for the rest to fight for a top 10 finish.
This is my prediction to how I believe the Premier League will finish.
The Blues are the bookies favourites and rightly so. Mourinho has bulked up his previously weak front line by bringing in Diego Costa for a hefty £32 million and re-signing club legend Didier Drogba. Adding Cesc Fàbregas and Filipe Luis shows the purpose to regain the Premier League title for the first time since 2009/10. The only concern will be getting the right balance of attack and defence in the starting eleven.
2) Man City
Last season’s champions will fall just short. The signings of Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero, Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala will add competition for places in the City ranks. Strengthening the defence, which at times has looked suspect (mainly Martin Demichelis), will give the Sky Blues fans confidence of having a watertight defence. City won’t retain the title due to an insufficient front line, Sergio Agüero needs to remain fit for them to challenge and Jovetic, Negredo and Džeko will need to be clinical when in front of goal.
Highest possible finish for a team that lack a world-class striker who will score 15+ league goals a season. Alexis Sanchez will add creativity and flair to create chances, but reservations remain over Giroud and Sanogo. Defensively the strongest the Gunners have been in a while, with Debuchy at left back and signing young star Calum Chambers. If Arsenal start well, it’ll be the typical question if they can maintain their challenge.
4) Man United
Haven’t lost in pre-season under new manager Louis Van Gaal playing a new formation (3-5-2), which seems to have worked well. This could be Tyler Blackett’s breakthrough season; Van Gaal has played him in the pre-season friendlies and may throw the youngster into the team this season. Ander Herrera has also impressed in pre-season and the new signing from Athletic Bilbao will be one to watch this season, if he settles quickly into the Premier League. Having been given the club captaincy Wayne Rooney should thrive, especially alongside Robin Van Persie in this new style.
Will struggle to achieve the heights of last season, mainly due to the sale of Luis Suarez. For me Daniel Sturridge isn’t an out and out goalscorer, which Liverpool are lacking. Rickie Lambert returned early to pre-season and struggled, which I can see continuing. Most of the Reds signings have been overpriced, especially Dejan Lovren who had a good season for Southampton but isn’t extraordinary or worth £20m, however this is a position they need to strengthen. Hopefully Jordan Ibe is given a chance and he could be an exceptional talent.
Mauricio Pochettino could bring the best out of some of these underachieving Spurs players. Under the new manager Erik Lamela has been given a chance, which he seems to have taken, but he and Roberto Soldado still have a lot to prove the doubters wrong. The signings of Ben Davies and Eric Dier, from Swansea and Sporting Lisbon respectively are solid, two quality young defenders, who in time could be exceptional. Spurs have completed the signing of DeAndre Yedlin, who has been loaned back to Seattle Sounders, but the 21 year old is highly regarded. This could be a building season for a push to break into the top 4 next season.
Will find it difficult this season with the Europa League alongside Premier League commitments. The Toffees have completed the permanent signings of Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku from Man City and Chelsea respectively. Adding Muhamed Bešić, who was a steady performer for Bosnia in the World Cup with add some physical presence in the central midfield areas. The squad still looks slightly bare with the Thursday-Sunday calendar ahead.
Best of the rest. Alan Pardew has brought in nine new players so far this summer. Attacking wise they have added Remy Cabella, Siem de Jong and Emmanuel Riveiere permanently, who if hit the ground running could be a trio to watch and give Newcastle the chance to break into the top 7 alongside them Facundo Ferreyra on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk. Daryl Janmaat with add a presence at the back, but unsure whether Pardew will prefer a back 3 or 4.
9) Stoke City
Quietly impressed last season and will look to achieve similar heights with an improving brand of football. Mark Hughes, much maligned for his spending at QPR, has been rather shrewd in the transfer market. The Welshman has acquired Bojan from Barcelona for around £1m alongside Phil Bardsley, Mame Biram Diouf and Steve Sidwell all on free transfers. Bojan could prove to be the signing of the summer if he carries his pre-season form of 3 goals in 3 games. Diouf will be looking to impress after failing to do so at Man United and whilst on loan at Blackburn. Stoke fans will be hoping they can start this season how they finished the last.
Gus Poyet led the revival last season, which included reaching the Capital One Cup Final. Those were the building blocks to help produce a solid season for the Black Cats. On paper they look defensively sound with Billy Jones, Patrick van Aanholt and Santiago Vergini all signed up this season, who will most likely accompany John O’Shea in a back 4, protecting either Vito Mannone or Costel Pantilimon, another recent arrival. We all know Poyet’s philosophy so the additions of Jordi Gomez and Jack Rodwell won’t make many batter an eyelid because they are both tidy footballers. May be a striker light, especially if Fletcher, Altidore or Wickham pick up slight or long-term injuries.
It has been a frustrating summer for the Saints fans watching a mass exodus of key players, mainly to Liverpool. New manager Ronald Koeman will have his work cut out to match last season’s points total (56) and position (8th). The signings so far won’t have set pulses racing, Graziano Pelle scored 50 goals in 57 games in two spells for Feyenoord, but some players signing from Eredivisie have been hit and miss in the past. Neither will a £12m swoop of Hull for Shane Long, who would fit the Rickie Lambert mould as a hold-up player. Serbian Dusan Tadic cost just under £11m, but he could add some flair lost by the sale of Adam Lallana. The Saints need to keep hold of key players from now.
Promoted via the play-offs with a late winner Bobby Zamora against Derby County. This time around they will be hoping for better than finishing bottom in the 2012/13 season. The management team and coaching staff have the expertise to keep the club in the Premier League for a second season. Adding defence quality in Rio Ferdinand, Steven Caulker and Mauricio Isla will mean clean sheets, which is important at this level. Jordon Mutch impressed in a struggling Cardiff team whilst Ravel Morrison will add some flair to life the Loftus Road crowd. Another team that looks a striker short.
Garry Monk is an inexperienced manager, which could be a worry in the long-term, especially if the Swans get off to a slow start. Have lost key players who have yet to be replaced, mainly in the backline, which would be a worry for a Swansea team that conceded 54 goals last season. Two signings this summer have caught my eye, Gylfi Sigurdsson returns to the Liberty Stadium and Bafetimbi Gomis joins from Lyon where he scored 62 goals in 172 games. With Sigurdsson’s service along with current players Gomis has the potential to be a potent goalscorer this season.
14) West Ham
Sam Allardyce has vowed to improve the style of play following criticism last year plus he is hopeful of a top 10 finish. Andy Carroll is out until Christmas at the earliest, so the Hammers have paid £12m for Enner Valencia, who impressed many at the World Cup scoring three goals, and added Mauro Zarate, who scored four goals in 14 games for Birmingham City in the Premier League in 2008. Allardyce has further reinforced the defence by signing Carl Jenkinson on loan from Arsenal and Aaron Cresswell from Ipswich. Expect a solid, steady season but nothing impressive.
15) Hull City
Steve Bruce led the Tigers to the FA Cup Final, where they fell short in extra-time, this means the added pressure of a Europa League campaign if they beat Belgian side Lokeren in the final qualifying round. If they do Hull will need to add a few extra bodies to their squad to cope with a Thursday-Sunday fixture list, especially up front following the sale of Shane Long for £12m, leaving only Nikica Jelavić as a recognised forward. So far they have completed good business with the signings of two good young defenders Harry Maguire and Andrew Robertson. Plus in midfield adding Tom Ince, with pace and trickery will create chances, whilst Robert Snodgrass will be a solid performer in the middle of the park. A little improvement on last season.
16) Crystal Palace
A club in a mini-crisis following the departure of last season’s saviour Tony Pulis, which will see them struggle. The Welshman led the Eagles away from what seemed an inevitable relegation. Pulis had bought in three defenders Scott Dann, Brede Hangeland and Martin Kelly (who arrived on Pulis’ day of departure), all of whom tall and strong, who won’t take prisoners, whilst Frazier Campbell will offer some pace, especially playing off Marouane Chamakh. But after a clearout at the end of the season, expect a few more through the door before the close of the transfer window. Chairman Steve Parish will have to make a solid appointment or else face a difficult season with relegation on the horizon.
Sean Dyche will have one of the smallest transfer budgets in the league to deal with. So far he has brought in six players, four of whom have Premier League experience, Matthew Gilks, Matthew Taylor, Steven Reid and Michael Kightly. These should add an heir of calm and knowledge of how to deal with differnet situations throughout the season ahead. The two other incoming players are Marvin Sordell and Lukas Jutkiewicz signed from the Championship, but both are talented attacking players who could cause defences some problems. The Turf Moor club may need another couple through the door, but I’d expect a unity in the team and if they make the home ground a ‘fortress’ they will survive.
18) West Brom
Alan Irvine has taken over at the club and immediately gone about strengthening the defence by signing Joleon Lescott, Christian Gamboa, Chris Baird and Andre Wisdom to name a few. Last season they conceded 59 goals, but on paper they shouldn’t this season however they’ll need to gel together and understand how each other play. Gamboa was a standout performer in the World Cup for Costa Rica and his marauding runs from right back would give extra support whilst going forward. My reservation for the Baggies is up-front. £10m signing Brown Ideye is unproven and vastly overpriced and they can’t afford to rely on youngster Saido Berahino just yet. Few goals scored could lead to a long season with some drab games. Struggles ahead.
19) Aston Villa
Paul Lambert is my favourite for the sack. Villa struggled last season, finishing 15th, but survived. This season could be different and the fans may turn on the Scot if they fail to make an early impact. The signings have been uninspiring and players who are 30+, Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson and Philippe Senderos should add experience to a fairly young squad. Aly Cissokho has also been added to the ranks, he failed to make an impression on loan at Liverpool at the end of last season. Key player will be Christian Benteke once again, if he stays fit and scores the goals Villa will be fine, but that’s where I have my reservations as there is an overreliance on the Belgian to score goals. For me they will fall through the trapdoor at the end of the season.
Nigel Pearson led Leicester to the Championship title in his second spell at the club. He’ll get financial backing from the clubs billionaire Thai owner, but so far has only spent £7m on Leonardo Ulloa, who scored 23 times in 50 appearances for Brighton in the Championship. Premier League experience has been added former England international Matthew Upson and Marc Albrighton from Midlands rivals Aston Villa on free transfers. Upson is likely to lead the defence and will use his experience and positional sense to make up for the lack of speed, whilst Albrighton will create chances with his good delivery for players like David Nugent. For me Leicester still need to add players to last season’s squad to put up a fight. My most likely to be down by February.