Premier League 2014/15 Season Preview: Part 2

Manchester UnitedManchester United had a dismal season by their lofty standards under David Moyes, and their seventh place finish means they will not have the distraction of European football this season. That leaves Louis van Gaal free to focus on restoring United to familiar territory as he targets a top four finish.

The club have brought in Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera and are set to continue strengthening ahead of the new season, with the squad stretched by the departure of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs, who has retired to become Van Gaal’s number two.

Van Gaal enters his new role on the back of a successful World Cup as Netherlands coach, where he led his nation to third place. His compatriot Robin van Persie will sure be firing on all cylinders seeing as he is playing for a manager with whom he shares a great relationship.

United have enjoyed a successful start under van Gaal. They have enjoyed wins against Roma, Real Madrid and Liverpool in pre-season, as well as winning other games. The likes of Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney have adapted to LVG’s system brilliantly – a fact that will fill United fans with optimism. They will definitely be battling for the top four this season.

Newcastle UnitedNewcastle United manager Alan Pardew attracted attention for all the wrong reasons last season after his infamous altercation with Hull City’s David Meyler, but will be hoping that this season is memorable for all the right reasons. The Magpies’ season went downhill after the January departure of French midfield maestro Yohan Cabaye. However, the signature of Remy Cabella will fill the Toon Army with optimism that they can challenge for a European spot.

They have also added the likes of Jack Colback on a free transfer from arch rivals Sunderland, Daryl Janmaat from Feyenoord and Siem De Jong from Ajax. In addition, they are set to sign Jamaal Lascelles and Karl Darlow from Nottingham Forest.

So the club will definitely have a big enough – and talented enough – squad to qualify for Europe. It will be a tough ask though, as they will be battling with at least seven other sides to do so. Newcastle will be hoping to rediscover their impressive home form and use that to launch an assault on the top 7.

Queens Park RangersHarry Redknapp led Queens Park Rangers back to the Premier League at the first attempt with a play-off win against Derby County in last season’s Sky Bet Championship. Bobby Zamora’s late goal secured promotion for an expensively assembled squad blessed with talent and experience.

The signings of Rio Ferdinand, after his contract with Manchester United expired, and Cardiff City’s Steven Caulker, have given the Hoops belief that they are solid enough to battle to survival this season. They are also poised to sign Juventus wing-back Mauricio Isla and have secured a deal for Cardiff man Jordon Mutch, as well as being confident of keeping hold of prolific striker Loic Remy after a proposed move to Liverpool fell through.

Redknapp will not be finished in the transfer market until the very last minute of deadline day, though, so we can all expect to see some fresh faces added to the squad between now and the start of September. With Redknapp’s know how and a squad of talented players, QPR have what it takes to survive this season.

SouthamptonThe main headlines from Southampton this summer have been about departing stars such as Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw, who joined Liverpool and Manchester United respectively. However, new manager Ronald Koeman will be hoping he can make headlines of his own this season.

The Saints finished eighth last term, just one place below a faltering Manchester United side. Since then, manager Mauricio Pochettino has departed to join Tottenham, who finished sixth. The conveyor belt of young talent coming through the ranks a St Mary’s will be put to the test this season, as Koeman looks to remould the whole squad.

The Saints do have some money to spend though and have already added left back Ryan Bertrand on a season-long loan from Chelsea and forward Graziano Pelle from Feyenoord for an undisclosed fee. In addition, they have signed Dusan Tadic for £10.9m from FC Twente. Koeman will be hoping that he can keep the silky football that is associated with Southampton and lead them to some success this season, with mid-table a realistic target.

Stoke CityMark Hughes’ impressive achievements at Stoke City went unnoticed by a large proportion of the watching world last season as he guided the Potters to ninth place in the league. They have since added Sunderland man Phil Bardsley, Banska Bystrica defender Dionatan Teixeira, Hannover’s ex-Manchester United forward Mame Biram Diouf and Barcelona star Bojan Krkic.

It is a sign of ambition from the club after their most succesful season in 39 years – even surpassing the well documented achievements of Tony Pulis – now in charge of Crystal Palace. However, a repeat of last season’s top-half finish will be difficult to achieve. But as long as they keep hold of their star players – such as Asmir Begivic and Ryan Shawcross – it is possible.

SunderlandLast season’s Capital One Cup finalists Sunderland battled their way to Premier League survival and manager Gus Poyet will be hopeful of a more successful time this season. The Uruguayan has signed several players, including Billy Jones from West Brom and Costel Pantilimon from Manchester City to bolster their defensive and goalkeeping options.

They have also signed Jordi Gomez on a free transfer and Patrick Van Aanholt from Chelsea. The Black Cats have secured the signing of Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell as well, and haven’t given up on signing last year’s loan star Fabio Borini from Liverpool. They will be aiming for a mid-table finish this season and they may just do that.

Swansea CityThis will be Gary Monk’s first full season in charge at Swansea City, having replaced Michael Laudrup midway through last season. He will take control without the distraction of the Europa League; the competition was a big factor as Swansea City finished 12th, with a strong finish steering them away from a relegation battle.

They will have to approach the season without young left-back Ben Davies, who has joined Tottenham Hotspur. But they are hopeful of keeping hold of Ivorian star striker Wilfried Bony despite interest from Spurs and Liverpool.

Meanwhile, they have added Gylfi Sigurdsson from Spurs, Lukas Fabianski from Arsenal, 20-year-old Raheem Hanley from Blackburn, Bafetimbi Gomis on a free transfer from Lyon and Marvin Emnes from Middlesbrough. They have lost Davies, Michu and Michel Vorm – who has also joined Spurs – but will be hopeful of a good season, especially if Bony stays.

Tottenham HotspurEx-Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino is now the manager of Tottenham Hotspur after chairman Daniel Levy decided against extending Tim Sherwood’s contract despite a sixth place finish last season. And he will be targeting a spot in Europe. That may be difficult, with the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and the Manchester clubs rivalling them.

But the North Londoners have improved the squad over the summer, with Swansea duo Michel Vorm and Ben Davies joining the club. England under-21 defender Eric Dier has joined from Sporting Lisbon, and the club is in talks with Villareal as they look to seal a deal for Argentine defender Mateo Musacchio.

They have also been linked with Memphis Depay, Wilfried Bony and Southampton duo Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez – a pair that Pochettino knows from his days at St Mary’s. A battle will ensue for a place in one of Europe’s elite competitions, and Spurs will hope that players such as Roberto Soldado and Andros Townsend can inspire them to success – along with new signings.

West Bromwich AlbionWest Bromwich Albion coach Alan Irvine will be hoping for a good season after an overhaul of the squad at The Hawthorns. Some of the more notable signings include Craig Gardner on a free transfer from Sunderland, Joleon Lescott on a free transfer from Manchester City and club record signing Brown Ideye, who has joined for £10million from Dynamo Kiev – one of several players to leave the Ukrainian giants amidst unrest in the region.

Irvine is unproven as a manager but will be hoping there is no repeat of last season’s relegation battle. The club is infamous for its tendency to bounce between the top tier and second tier of English football. However, the Baggies are seeking a period of prolonged stability in the top flight.

The last time they were relegated was in 2009 and have been in the Premiership since 2010 – having been promoted back to the top tier at the first attempt. Irvine’s task is to – at the very least – keep them in the division for the 2015/16 season.

West Ham UnitedWest Ham United were in danger of being sucked into a relegation battle last season, but Sam Allardyce managed to steer the Irons away from the bottom three and they had a reasonably calm and stable end to the season, finishing 13th. Allardyce will be hoping that he can lead the East London club to a much happier season, and will be looking to keep fans happy after a large amount voiced their discontent at the style of football being played last season.

Big Sam has invested in the squad as he looks for a stronger season, bringing in the likes of Charlton youngster Diego Poyet, Ipswich left-back Aaron Cresswell, Arsenal right-back Carl Jenkinson on loan and Ecuadorean World Cup star Enner Valencia, who cost £12million.

They have also brought in Cheikhou Kouyate from Anderlecht for an undisclosed fee and forward Mauro Zarate from Sarsfield. Zarate is best known in England for a productive spell on loan with Birmingham City, but their striking options have taken a hit with the news that record signing Andy Carroll faces four months out with an ankle injury.

A slow start for West Ham may encourage the club’s board to sack Allardyce, who is among the favorites to lose his job first, so the Hammers will have to put their injury problems to one side and start as they mean to go on this season.

Click here to read Part 1 of our Premier League 2014/15 Season Preview.