City failed to win a trophy last season and I usually find that one bad season from them seems to motivate them for trophy success the season after. I believe that this will be the case this season as there is just too much pressure on the players and manager to perform. Additionally I think City have bought well this season. The inflated price that they paid Liverpool for Raheem Sterling has been well documented, and whilst this may be true, there is no doubt that he will make the Blues stronger and give an extra dimension to their play. Before the addition of Sterling, Jesus Navas was the only player in the team with natural pace; however Sterling provides a different dimension with his greater ability to provide an end product. Furthermore, the addition of Delph will further maximise their strength and firepower.
Once again United have splashed the cash on good quality players in Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Bastian Schweinsteiger, players which will add to a squad that should be certain to once again qualify for the Champions League. However, with it being Louis Van Gaal’s second full season in charge, United supporters will be expecting a title challenge, and with the squad they have got they are probably right. Is this realistic though? I don’t think so, simply because rivals City and Chelsea are in a different class at this moment in time. So therefore I think instead Red Devils will be fighting with Arsenal for third place although finishing in the top 4 should be much more comfortable this season than last. Is this enough for United fans? Probably not, as they would fail to finish above City for the third successive season.
For the first time in a very long time I think Newcastle have actually spent well in the transfer window. The signings of Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksander Mitrovic have gone under the radar but are no doubt priceless ones for the Magpies. Wijnaldum played under Louis Van Gaal for Holland in the World Cup and will get goals from midfield. Adding him to a midfield with Moussa Sissoko, who I’ve been surprised that they have managed to keep, will definitely cause problems for opposing teams. With them supplying Mitrovic up front, a player who knows how to score goals, Newcastle are likely to have a better season than recent years in the league. Nevertheless a cup run and a win against Sunderland is essential to keep Geordie supporters happy.
Norwich are one of those yo-yo clubs that can’t decide if they’re too good for the Championship or not. After beating Middlesbrough in the play-off final I can’t help but feel that Boro would have had a better chance of staying up. Looking at Norwich’s squad there is nobody who stands out to me as a Premier League quality player. Furthermore, manager Alex Neal has no top flight experience. It seems to me this club are heading back down to earth pretty quickly.
Southampton have had tremendous campaigns the last couple of seasons. Many thought the loss of boss Mauricio Pochettino to Spurs and a number of their key players being sold to Liverpool last season would halt their progress, however it looked to have made them stronger. Southampton’s success seems to be their kryptonite as it means their star performers are continuously getting sold to bigger clubs, this time Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathanial Clyne. I do feel that these two players are just too important for the Saints to have as good a season as they did. Add to that the fact that clubs who were below them look considerably stronger, plus them being involved with the Europa League this year, expectations once again will not be too big.
Formerly known as a ‘rugby club’ in their first few seasons in the EPL, Stoke City have become an established Premier League side that play good football. This has been influenced by a number of recent players signing from La Liga and Bundesliga such as Bojan, Mame Biram Diouf and Marko Arnautovic. They have followed the same policy this season by recruiting Ibrahim Affellay and Joselu, players who have previously played for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. It all means that the Potters have added flair to the strength and steel which they have been best known for. If they did manage to pull off the stunning signing of Xhedran Shaqiri, before he had a change of heart, I think Stoke would have definitely be challenging for Europa League places. Despite this I expect another solid season from the Potters.
In recent years the North-East of England has been a stressful place to be a football fan with both Sunderland and Newcastle fighting for the prize of the most ‘under-achieving’ Premier League club. I think Newcastle are just about winning after their relegation in 2008, however there is a strong feeling that it could be the Black Cats’ turn this season. After successfully preserving Sunderland’s top flight status last season, Dick Advocaat was set to quit as manager. However he made a sensational U-turn to continue as boss and looks set to be involved in another relegation scrap. Two wins against rivals Newcastle was the only real highlight in another tough season for the Mackems, which included a humiliating 8-0 defeat to Southampton. I think mentally the players are set for a relegation fight, a battle which I feel they may well lose this time around.
Swansea had another solid season last year and under the guidance of Garry Monk have now become an established top 10 side. Since being promoted to the Premier League, the Swans have stuck to their philosophy embedded from the days where Roberto Martinez was in charge. Rarely will you see their defenders hoof the ball up to the striker. Instead, the ball is played on the floor and passed out. This is a tactic that has allowed Swansea to gain success in the top half of the table. The loss of Wilfried Bony didn’t deter Swansea’s season and another top half finish seems on the cards.
Spurs have been slowly but surely making progress under Mauricio Pochettino with the future looking bright. Young players such as Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason, Dele Alli and of course talisman Harry Kane coming through the ranks, plus a new 61,000 seater stadium on the way, the future certainly does look bright for Tottenham fans. However it does seem as though the club have been on the brink of something great for a number of years until their best player is sold and have to rebuild. Last year was actually pretty good for Spurs with a fifth place finish and a good cup run. The target of getting into the top 4 will not change this season. Unfortunately, I think them failing to do so will also not change. This is simply because Arsenal and Man Utd have improved too much for them to do so. However, unlike usual seasons, I feel Spurs fans don’t actually expect to finish in the top 4, which to some extent keeps the pressure off the team. However after the Gunners’ back to back FA Cup wins, a trophy is definitely needed soon.
The Hornets are back in the top tier of English football and will once again be underdogs to survive in the league. They have made more signings than any other club this transfer window, meaning they want a big squad to compete in the EPL. Unfortunately I think this is going to be a losing battle for the Hornets. Despite a lot of their player being of good quality, most of them have never played in England and are unlikely to still be at the club if things do start to get tough.
I feel West Brom will be involved in a relegation scrap this season, particularly if they are unable to keep hold of Saido Berahino. To be honest, Berahino looks like a man who is just waiting for a big money move and I have been surprised that none of the big boys have come in for him. Spurs look the most interested and if he does go it means they will need to find another striker who will get goals. Victor Anichebe and Brown Ideye are decent team players but are not prolific goal-scoring strikers. If they are able to resolve this issue then they will stay up, but it won’t be easy
Last season went from fantastic to disastrous for Hammers fans, who will be looking to end their last season at Upton Park on a high. Slaven Bilic has taken over from Sam Allardyce, however I don’t see a change in fortunes on the pitch. Without Andy Carrol, West Ham do not look anywhere near as threatening whilst being supported by Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho. The problem is he is just never fit to play. Their embarrassing exit from the Europa League qualifiers may be a blessing in disguise for the East Londoners. Nevertheless, the owners will not be too happy next season if a team whose home is a 54000 Olympic Stadium does not have European football.