Arsenal must surely be eyeing this season as their best opportunity for a title push in years. With Manchester United, Chelsea, and Manchester City adapting to new management, Arsene Wenger’s team will be looking to capitalize on any slip-ups in the new top flight era. Their only summer signing has been promising young forward Yaya Sanogo, which further strengthens their already impressive portfolio of forwards.
But although Wenger may face familiar criticism over a lack of transfers, it seems that they do not have a certain problem area on the pitch. They had no huge problem with conceding or scoring goals last season. It has only been bad patches of form at critical times during the season that has cost them in the past, a habit that must be overturned if they are really to pose any threat. The Gunners must also aim to achieve better results against potential title rivals, as these games costed them valuable points last season.
After a difficult campaign last season, Paul Lambert’s men at Aston Villa will be looking for a much improved performance this time around. The news that last season’s top scorer Christian Benteke has committed himself to the club by signing a new contract was a welcome boost for Villa ahead of the new season.
However, it was at the other end of the pitch were the Midlands side suffered most last year. They had the third worst defense in the league behind relegated Wigan and Reading. But Lambert has continued to show faith in the youth by offering Matthew Lowton and Ciaran Clark new deals and recruiting two new youngsters in Jores Okore and Antonio Luna. How quickly the players learn from last season and mature in the top flight could prove vital to their survival.
After having to witness Welsh rivals Swansea attract so much praise in the top flight, Cardiff City will be hoping they too can make their mark in their debut Premiership season. Malky Mackay’s men look to be in a strong position to continue their good form from last season, as they already possess players with top flight experience such as Fraizer Campbell and local hero Craig Bellamy.
Their progress could also depend on how Peter Whittingham adapts to life as a Premiership player after years of being one of the Championship’s stars. The Bluebirds also look to have an imposing back line, having splashed out a club record fee for Tottenham center back Steven Caulker, showing further evidence that Cardiff are keen to grasp their opportunity in the top flight with both hands.
Nine years after Jose Mourinho’s debut season saw him lead the Blues to Premiership glory, Chelsea fans will be hoping for a similar outcome as the he begins his second spell in charge. Although Mourinho has not splashed the cash as much as he did in 2004, he has still bolstered his already strong midfield by capturing Marco van Ginkel and the attacking specialist Andre Schurrle.
However, this could also be a big season for striker Romelu Lukaku, who impressed on loan at West Brom last season. If the likes of Lukaku and Gary Cahill can continue to develop and adapt to playing at the very top level, Chelsea will take some stopping. Although their defense still has much room for improvement.
After an eight year absence from the Premier League, Crystal Palace will be hoping to better their one season stint in 2004/05. Much of the talk surrounding the Eagles will be how they cope without last season’s play-off hero Wilfred Zaha, who has moved to Manchester United. However, they still have last season’s top scorer Glenn Murray, who has always adapted well to higher levels of football.
But the biggest concern for Palace will likely be their defense. Despite their impressive scoring record, they had the worst defensive record out of any of the play-off teams last season, suffering a 3-0 defeat to Ipswich and a 4-0 loss at Birmingham during a poor run of form at the end of the season. If these issues are not resolved, it could be yet another disappointing Premiership season for Holloway.
After years of solidarity in the Premier League under David Moyes, a pivotal season lies ahead for Everton. Their upcoming season is made all the more interesting by their appointment of Roberto Martinez as Moyes’ successor. Despite leading Wigan to safety on several occasions and last season’s FA Cup victory, many pundits still doubt Martinez’s ability to manage a top flight side.
However, Martinez’s modest nature suits Everton’s down-to-earth approach to the game, making it the ideal stage for him to prove himself on. His capture of striker Arouna Kone, who impressed for Martinez’s Wigan last season, also fills a problematic area for the Toffees in recent years. However, the Everton faithful will have to remain patient while the club and its manager adapts to a new environment to ensure progress is made.
2012/13 was yet another steady, positive season for Fulham under the guidance of Martin Jol, although it was the first time they had finished outside the top half of the table in three seasons. Their main problem last season was in defense, particularly at Craven Cottage. They conceded more home goals than bottom of the table QPR and also tasted defeat nine times on their home turf.
Jol has looked to solve the issue by recruiting a right-back and a center-back in the summer, as well as Dutch international goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, a worthy replacement for the ageing Mark Schwarzer. However, Fulham’s chances of European football look set to hinge on them taking advantage of their home fixtures.
After two difficult seasons during their last Premier League spell, Hull City will be hoping for a more positive experience this season. Last year’s promotion success was fully deserved after impressive form both at home and on the road throughout the season, which if repeated this season could prove vital to their survival.
Steve Bruce has rightly been busy strengthening his squad ahead of the season, bringing in nine new faces. The most valuable of these could prove to be former Swansea hitman Danny Graham, who has joined on loan from Sunderland. A goal-scoring striker was something they were in short supply of last season, and an in-form Graham would provide the foundations for a successful season.
After a difficult start, Brendan Rodgers looks to have settled into life at Liverpool after leading the club to a respectable seventh place finish after a slow start. He has made some potentially difficult decisions this summer, after selling Andy Carroll and moving long term goalkeeper Pepe Reina out on loan to Napoli, bringing in Simon Mignolet as his replacement.
But Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are shining examples of Rodgers’ shrewdness in the transfer market last season, while the arrival of Iago Aspas adds to an impressive looking front line that looked fragile at times last season. A huge concern for Rodgers will obviously be the impending departure of striker Luis Suarez. Although a large transfer fee would be expected, Suarez’s exit would be hard to overcome.
If anyone doubted Manchester City’s determination to reclaim their Premiership crown, this summer has provided swift reassurance. Manuel Pellegrini has spent potentially up to £95 million on players so far, recruiting some of the most sought after names in Europe in the process. More importantly, the purchase of Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo shores up their attacking options, something that should have been done last summer to aid their title defense.
One possible problem Pellegrini has not addressed yet is the back line. With Kolo Toure having left for Anfield and Matija Nastasic set to miss the beginning of the season, Pellegrini could come to regret not adding to his defensive ranks. This does at least give England defender Joleon Lescott, so instrumental in their title winning season, a chance win back his place in the team.
If Roberto Martinez faces a big test at Everton, David Moyes faces the challenge of a lifetime at Manchester United. The Scot has been thrown into the deep end before a ball has even been kicked with the commotion surrounding Wayne Rooney’s future. Rooney’s departure would force Moyes’ hand into the transfer market, as his absence would leave them in short supply of attacking options.
Fans should still expect further transfer activity from Moyes regardless of the outcome of the Rooney saga, particularly with Cesc Fabregas’ transfer looking increasingly unlikely. It is always important to continuing strengthening your squad, something Manchester City failed to do last season. Although Moyes deserves his shot at United, this is likely to be their most challenging title defense yet.
For the surprise package of two seasons ago, last season proved a very different experience for Newcastle. The Magpies struggled for any sort of consistency home or away, winning just two games on the road at fellow strugglers QPR and Aston Villa. The loss of Demba Ba to Chelsea in January proved difficult to overcome, as Papiss Cisse showed some inconsistent league form meaning they lacked any major threat in attack.
As expected, Pardew has drafted QPR’s Loic Remy on loan, and the manager will be hoping he can at least be the short term replacement for Ba. Like Fulham, Newcastle must also take more points at St James’ Park this season, as they suffered nine home defeats last time around, including their final three of the campaign.
Although it was a difficult season at times, Chris Hughton’s Norwich City can afford to be pleased with their 11th placed finish last season. They made up for their poor away form through their impressive record at Carrow Road, where they suffered just four defeats. It has been a pivotal summer for the Canaries, with last season’s leading scorer and captain Grant Holt having left for Wigan.
One flaw in Norwich’s campaign last season was that they came to rely on Holt too much last for goals, as he had very little support from other strikers. Hughton has bolstered his attacking options by recruiting Ricky van Wolfswinkel and the in demand Gary Hooper. With these attacking options, if Norwich’s defense can remain tight both home and away, they could be the surprise package of the season.
While Nigel Adkins’ sacking was one of the low-points of last season, Southampton were still able to maintain their Premiership status. They endured a steady yet unpredictable end to the season under new boss Mauricio Pochettino. He oversaw four victories, including home wins against Manchester City and Chelsea, but also five defeats which included losses to fellow relegation rivals QPR and Newcastle, meaning Pochettino still has much work to do to fully win over the Southampton faithful.
The defense was still rather too generous at times, and the Argentine has looked to fix this problem by recruiting young stars Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren. But in what looks a tight upcoming relegation battle, his team must also aim to take more points off of their potential relegation rivals.
Similar to the situation at Everton, an intriguing season lies ahead for Stoke City in their first Premier League campaign without Tony Pulis, who was harshly sacked in May. Once again, they proved hard to beat at the Britannia Stadium and difficult to break down throughout the season. However, it was goals that they struggled to come by last year, particularly away from the Britannia, where like many other team around them, they found wins hard to come by.
Although Mark Hughes looks to be a solid enough appointment, it is surprising that he has yet to add to his attacking ranks for the beginning of the season, having only signed three defenders. Although they possess the likes of Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones, a striker or midfielder should have been the priority for the summer, and the Potters faithful will be hoping this does not prove too costly as they begin a vital season.
After all the controversy surrounding his appointment, Sunderland’s Paolo Di Canio will be hoping his passionate and eccentric approach will have the same impact that it had at Swindon. Di Canio’s first long-term task will be to solve the Black Cats’ goal-scoring issues, particularly at the Stadium of Light; only rock bottom QPR scored fewer goals at home last season. Although the likes of Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon are capable of getting goals, more support is needed in attack for Steve Fletcher.
Di Canio has taken a slight risk by only recruiting youngsters Duncan Whatmore and Jozy Altidore, who has impressed at AZ since struggling to make an impact with Hull City four seasons ago. A lot hangs in the balance ahead of Sunderland’s season, and in an increasingly competitive league, a long campaign may lay ahead.
After beating the dreaded “second season syndrome” in dramatic style last season, Swansea City will be looking to achieve a similar feat in Michael Laudrup’s second season in charge. Despite their successful campaign, Laudrup has rightly not rested on his laurels during a busy transfer market.
Despite the notable success of new signing Michu last season, Laudrup has rightly looked to strengthen his attacking line, splashing out a club record fee for striker Wilfred Bony. It is already looking like a smart move following his superb record last season in the Dutch league and some impressive pre-season performances. With plenty of competition for places in the team to keep the players on their toes, the Swans are definitely one of the teams to watch out for this season.
Even with Gareth Bale’s fate still undecided, this has still been a huge summer for Tottenham Hotspur. Andre Villas-Boas has twice broken the club-record transfer fee in recruiting striker Roberto Soldado and midfielder Paulinho. Soldado will provide much needed support for Jermain Defoe following Emmanuel Adebayor’s disappointing season, while Paulinho further strengthens an already impressive looking midfield.
While these two arrivals alone could prove enough to fire Tottenham to break into the Champions League places, the money they would receive from the potentially world record fee for Bale would provide a huge boost to their prospects, if spent appropriately. That would free up money for a suitable replacement for Bale in addition to a defender following Steven Caulker’s departure. Currently though, the North London derby again looks vital in the fight for fourth place.
West Bromwich Albion were one of the surprise packages last season under the leadership of Steve Clarke, finishing in a respectable 8th place. The main reason for their success last season was a strong home record, which included wins against Liverpool and Chelsea, and the form of Romelu Lukaku, who bagged 17 league goals. It will be interesting to see how Lukaku’s return to Chelsea affects West Brom’s progress under Clarke.
However, the signing of veteran Nicolas Anelka and Matej Vydra, who impressed for Watford last season, should more than make up for Lukaku’s absence. The Baggies should also aim to pick up more points on the road this season, after suffering a hefty 11 away defeats. Although bettering their 8th place looks unlikely, a top half finish should definitely be the minimum aim for Clarke.
As expected, West Ham enjoyed a solid campaign under Sam Allardyce after their return to the Premier League. Like West Brom, their home form laid the foundations for their season, as they suffered just four defeats at Upton Park. However, like many of the teams around them, it is their away form that will need to improve this season. They won just three of their away games and lost 12 of them; only relegated Reading lost more.
West Ham will also need some of last season’s forwards to step up in wake of Andy Carroll’s injury, although there will be no shortage of support from midfield and the likes of Joe Cole and Kevin Nolan. As long as Allardyce has the full backing he deserves, another steady season lies ahead for the Hammers.