The Premier League returns on Saturday and looks set to be more competitive than ever. New managers at Manchester United and Tottenham ensures that the fight for the top four will be even more fierce than last season. Here at Running The Show we preview the Premier League season, club by club, including their transfer dealings, we predict where in the table they will end up, and briefly profile a young player to watch in each squad.
The different sections the clubs will be placed under:
Clubs who will compete for the title throughout the season. They may not end up as eventual Champions, but they have the quality to push all the way.
Clubs who will challenge for the top four, not quite ready for a title race, but who will qualify for the Champions League or Europa League.
Clubs who are not near the top seven, but will finish comfortably in the top half of the table.
Clubs who will not be regarded as relegation candidates, or top half material.
Clubs who will fight for their lives at the foot of the table.
Arsene Wenger has been ridiculed over recent seasons for not spending any money during the transfer windows, but now the tune is different. All of a sudden, optimism is flowing around the Emirates after the signing of Alexis Sanchez in particular. In fact, the last two competitive games Arsenal have played has seen them win two trophies. First the FA Cup final in May, and now last Sunday the Community Shield. While the Community Shield is not rated as a major one, it still gave the players another taste of winning which might spur them on during the course of the coming nine months.
On paper, the team looks really good. There’s creativity, pace, goals and skill in the attacking players and a decent group of defenders at the other end. The main problem lies in defensive midfield though. Mikel Arteta was confirmed as the new Arsenal captain last week, which would indicate he will play regularly, and he is not good enough in that position to help Arsenal win the league. If they were to sign a more powerful presence to hold behind Ramsey and Wilshere, the balance would be so much better since that would allow those two to drive forward to create and score goals. Add in three of Sanchez, Özil, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Giroud, Rosicky and Campbell and you can see how dangerous they would be. It remains to be seen how Wenger will set his team up in the league, but the squad looks better than for a long time.
Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona
Mathieu Debuchy, Newcastle
Calum Chambers, Southampton
David Ospina, Nice
Lukasz Fabianski, Swansea
Bacary Sagna, Manchester City
Thomas Vermaelen, Barcelona
Johan Djourou, Hamburg
Carl Jenkinson, West Ham (loan)
Nicklas Bendtner, free
Chu-Young Park, free
Prediction: Title race
Young player to watch: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
21-years old now and really needs to force his way into Wenger’s first eleven. The talent is there, if he stays clear of injuries we can see him establish himself as one of the stars of the league.
Historically one of the biggest clubs in England, but now they are nowhere near it. It’s quite incredibly how big a distance it now is between Villa and the likes of Everton and Tottenham, compared to just five years ago when Villa challenged for the top four. Since then though, the stars have been sold, the owner wants out and there is no money to buy players. The signings is hardly exhilarating either. Cissokho never made an impression at Anfield, Richardson is a decent player but didn’t set the world alight at Fulham last year and was relegated, while Senderos and Joe Cole have been past their best for a few years now. Maybe Paul Lambert and new assistant manager Roy Keane can re-ignite their careers, but that remains to be seen. Is it all doom and gloom though? No. The signing of Carlos Sanchez is impressive. He was very good at the World Cup and is exactly the sort of player this Villa team needs. He will slot straight into their midfield and improves the squad massively.
The one positive thing over the last couple of seasons is that a young squad have been given the chance to adapt to the Premier League and develop. Players like Ashley Westwood, Brad Guzan, Andreas Weimann and Fabian Delph has developed immensely under Lambert and will be key this season too. Christian Benteke missed the World Cup through injury and didn’t match the heights set the previous season last year but will be the one charged with scoring goals, probably with Joe Cole behind, or around him. Ron Vlaar has also returned from his World Cup success and if he stays then he is the key man at the back. It will be another testing season for the Villa fans, as they will probably stay around the lower half of the table. Maybe even relegation. If so, a sad development for one of the biggest clubs in England.
Joe Cole, West Ham
Phillipe Senderos, Valencia
Kieran Richardson, Fulham
Aly Cissokho, Valencia
Carlos Sanchez, Elche
Jordan Bowery, Rotherham United
Marc Albrighton, Leicester City
Nathan Delfouneso, Blackpool
Jed Steer, Doncaster (loan)
Antonio Luna, Hellas Verona (loan)
Yacoba Sylla, Kayseri Erciyesspor (loan)
Nicklas Helenius, Aalborg (loan)
Prediction: Relegation battle
Young player to watch: Jack Grealish
Grealish is the most talked about young player at Villa Park and has hopefully earned his chance in the Premier League after being loaned out last year. The 18-year-old could be a revelation for Villa.
Burnley are back in the big time after a four-year absence. So far they have manged to keep their best players, in particular Danny Ings and Kieran Trippier, at the club which obviously enhances their chances of staying clear of relegation. Ultimately, that is where they will probably end up. If they don’t get relegated they will be in and around the positions just above the relegation zone. They have made some decent signings, Steven Reid and Matt Taylor brings Premier League experience and we’re still waiting for Michael Kightly’s breakthrough. Marvin Sordell and Lukas Jutkiewicz will increase the competition for places up front while Matt Gilks will rival Tom Heaton for the number one spot.
The worry for Burnley is their defence, where they don’t have players with Premier League experience. Reid will help with that, but the questions is if he’ll start since right-back Trippier is one of the best players. He is tipped to be included in one of Roy Hodgson’s squads during the season and will surprise many people this season with his terrific delivery from the wing. There is the option of playing as a midfielder too, with Reid behind him, but that remains to be seen. Manager Sean Dyche has not spent a lot of money on foreign exports as some promoted clubs have done in the past, but has decided to continue with his squad and sign potential and experience from British clubs instead. It remains to be seen whether that will keep Burnley in the Premier League also in 2015/16, or see them getting back to the Championship instantly.
Michael Kightly, Stoke
Matt Gilks, free
Marvin Sordell, Bolton
Matthew Taylor, West Ham
Steven Reid, West Bromwich Albion
Lukas Jutkiewicz, Middlesbrough
David Edgar, Birmingham City
Brian Stock, free
Keith Treacy, free
Junior Stanislas, Bournemouth
Chris Baird, West Bromwich Albion
Prediction: Relegation battle
Young player to watch: Danny Ings
The Championship Player of the Season last year will have to deliver in the top flight as well to keep Burnley safe, but this is a 22-year-old who has got the quality necessary to provide the goals for the Clarets.
Jose Mourinho didn’t feel his squad was good enough to win the title last year, but now he can’t keep making excuses. The additions of Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis for the same money as they sold David Luiz and Romelu Lukaku is nothing short of a masterstroke by the club. The signing of Didier Drogba will not have as big an impact on the first team as the other three, he has been signed as a back-up and a leader.
In all fairness, Chelsea should have won the league last year, but threw it away. They drew or lost against teams they should have beaten comfortably, as they were missing some creativity to unlock tight defences after the sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United. The arrival of Fabregas should go a long way in improving that area, and the signing of Costa means they finally have a really good striker. Filipe Luis will go straight in at left-back with Azpilicueta moving over to the right side. The balance of the side seems to be as good as Manchester City’s and it would surprise if those two aren’t the ones most heavily involved in the title race. There are strength in depth both in midfield and at the back, but an injury to Costa would be a massive blow to Mourinho.
Considering the obvious quality Chelsea now have in their squad, Mourinho can have no excuses if he can’t deliver the trophy in May.
Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona
Diego Costa, Atlético Madrid
Filipe Luis, Atlético Madrid
Didier Drogba, Galatasaray
Mario Pasalic, Hajduk Split
David Luiz, Paris Saint-Germain
Demba Ba, Besiktas
Ashley Cole, Roma
Samuel Eto’o, free
Henrique Hilario, free
Frank Lampard, New York City
Mark Schwarzer, free
Patrick van Aanholt, Sunderland
Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Thorgan Hazard, Borussia Monchengladbach (loan)
Tomas Kalas, FC Köln (loan)
Lucas Piazon, Eintracht Frankfurt (loan)
Prediction: Title race
Young player to watch: Thibaut Courtois
One of the best goalkeepers in the world is now back at Chelsea after three fantastic loan spells at Atlético Madrid, but it remains to be seen whether or not he will earn the number one spot from club legend Petr Cech. The 21-year-old is the better player, but Mourinho has favoured experience over talent before.
Tony Pulis was deservedly hailed as one of the managers of the season last year after Crystal Palace’s impressive form following his appointment. Palace finished safely in the table and the idea was that they should do that again this season. However, just a day before the start of the new season it was announced that Tony Pulis had left his job after disagreements with owner Steve Parish. From a team that looked sure to finish safely in the middle of the table Palace are all of a sudden relegation candidates. Why Pulis left is still only up for speculation but the timing could hardly be worse.
They haven’t strengthened significantly but the arrival of Fraizer Campbell is more exciting than that of Brede Hangeland. Campbell had a decent season at Cardiff and may not be a regular starter at Selhurst Park, but is a threat against tiring defences late in the game. However, Dwight Gayle is a more talented player and for his development he should be above Campbell in the pecking order. Hangeland will challenge for a place at the heart of defence. Martin Kelly is perhaps the best signing, as he should go straight into the side at right-back ahead of Joel Ward. There have been no big losses in terms of players leaving so Palace has got a quite settled squad but until a new manager is appointed it’s hard to make predictions. The squad isn’t as good as Pulis made it look last year and without him it isn’t unlikely to assume that Palace will struggle this season. A relegation battle looms for the Selhurst Park faithful.
Fraizer Campbell, Cardiff
Brede Hangeland, Fulham
Martin Kelly, Liverpool
Kagisho Dikgacoi, Cardiff
Daniel Gabbidon, free
Aaron Wilbraham, Bristol City
Neil Alexander, Hearts
Dean Moxey, Bolton
Jonathan Parr, Ipswich
Jose Campana, Sampdoria
Prediction: Relegation battle
Young player to watch: Dwight Gayle
Impressed in his cameos last year and should be given more opportunities this season. Gayle has got lightning pace, makes good runs and is a good finisher.
Everton improved last year under the guidance of their brilliant manager Roberto Martinez. He developed their style of play, improved young players such as Ross Barkley, John Stones and Seamus Coleman and finished higher than the year before. Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry impressed hugely while on loan at the club and Martinez has now made those two permanent signings this summer. Other than that, Bosnian centre-midfielder Muhamed Besic has arrived from Ferencvaros in Hungary and will be an interesting player to watch this year. He impressed for Bosnia at the World Cup and working under Martinez is sure to benefit him. The only player leaving compared to last year is Gerard Deulofeu, who has returned to Barcelona after his loan. That leaves a settled squad that has worked under the manager for a year with only Besic the one not knowing all about his methods. Young players like Stones, Barkley and Coleman will continue to flourish under Martinez and Everton will continue to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the Premier League.
The battle for the top four will be more fierce than ever, and Everton has the smallest squad of the clubs vying for those positions which means they can’t afford injuries to their key players. With Chelsea and Manchester City as the two favourites, a rejuvenated Arsenal (who always makes the top four), Manchester United under Louis van Gaal, Tottenham with a new manager, and of course last year’s surprise package Liverpool, it will make for a fascinating battle and Martinez should get a statue outside Goodison Park if he makes that happen this season.
Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea
Gareth Barry, Manchester City
Muhamed Besic, Ferencvaros
Apostolos Vellios, free
John Lundstram, Blackpool (loan)
Prediction: Champions League-challenging
Young player to watch: John Stones
Ross Barkley established himself last year, and this season it may be Stones’ turn. He impressed last year when Jagielka was out and is a very good defender. Jagielka and Distin have a settled partnership and are not easy to displace, but they are getting older and Stones is the perfect man to force his way into the starting eleven.
Steve Bruce continues to do a very good job at Hull without really getting recognised. He kept them up safely last season and took them to an FA Cup-final they nearly won. Now he has managed to make some very good signings to hopefully continue Hull City’s recent progress. Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass is very good additions to the attack and Jake Livermore is perfect for their midfield next to Tom Huddlestone. Harry Maguire and Andrew Robertson are two talented defenders who will increase competition. They have only lost Shane Long from last year’s successful squad and while he will be missed, the squad hasn’t been weakened.
Tactically, Hull is an interesting team too. Bruce was one of the first men to use a three-man-defence in England and it gives Hull an element of surprise. Other managers won’t know how Bruce will set his team up; 4-4-2, 4-5-1 or 3-5-2, Hull actually has the players to play all systems. Of the new signings, Livermore can play in whichever system and Ince can play as a winger in 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 and in the 3-5-2 he can play up front off a Nikica Jelavic or Sone Aluko. Snodgrass is not suited for a wing-back role though, so to get the best out of him Bruce should use a system with wingers. It is not realistic to expect Hull to challenge for Europe, they don’t have the quality other clubs has got, but a place in the top half shouldn’t be impossible for Hull City and the tactical pioneer that is Steve Bruce.
Jake Livermore, Tottenham
Robert Snodgrass, Norwich City
Tom Ince, Blackpool
Harry Maguire, Sheffield United
Andrew Robertson, Dundee United
Joe Dudgeon, free
Abdoulaye Faye, free
Matty Fryatt, Nottingham Forest
Robert Koren, free
Shane Long, Southampton
Prediction: Top half
Young player to watch: Tom Ince
Was heavily talked about a few years ago, but his transfer from Blackpool wasn’t handled well. An ineffective loan spell at Palace before his contract ran out now sees him at Hull, instead of a Liverpool or Tottenham as he was linked with when he shone at Bloomfield Road. Big, big season for him, because the talent is there.
Finally. That is probably the word most Leicester-supporters would use to describe their promotion to the Premier League. It’s been a long time coming for the Foxes and no one can possibly have forgotten about the cruel ending they suffered last season when they missed out on a place in the play-off final after missing a penalty at Watford only to see the home team score just seconds later to book their place at Wembley. Manager Nigel Pearson has decided to keep the team that got them promoted together to try and secure survival for at least another year. The addition of heavily experienced centre-back Matthew Upson won’t have the instant effect Pearson would have hoped for, as Upson has been ruled out for three months. Marc Albrighton will also add a little top flight experience and will bring some trickery and good delivery from his flank, while Leonardo Ulloa is sure to get some goals up front. Leicester’s key to success is their midfield, where Manchester United educated duo Danny Drinkwater and Matt James will pull the strings alongside Andy King, and the creative Frenchman Anthony Knockaert will be an interesting player to watch. He was the one who missed the penalty against Watford, and now he finally gets his chance to shine in the top flight.
Pearson has got a big job on his hands to keep Leicester up, but if he makes it a reality people shouldn’t be surprised. He’s done an excellent job at the club and will relish the chance to come up against managers like Louis van Gaal, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho. Leicester have got a great challenge ahead of them, but no team will look forward to a trip there this season. The fans will certainly be up for it, because finally, they are here.
Matthew Upson, Brighton
Ben Hamer, Charlton Athletic
Leonardo Ulloa, Brighton
Marc Albrighton, Aston Villa
Lloyd Dyer, Watford
Neil Danns, Bolton
Márkó Futács, free
Zak Whitbread, free
Sean St Ledger, free
Kevin Phillips, retires
Martyn Waghorn, Wigan
Prediction: Relegation Battle
Young player to watch: Marc Albrighton
Has been somewhat forgotten over the last few seasons after not cementing a regular place in Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa side but the move to Leicester will provide him with a fresh start. He showed glimpses of his potential when he burst onto the scene in 2010/11, but now needs to establish himself in the top flight.
Last year Brendan Rodgers’ men surprised everyone and pushed Manchester City all the way up until the last three games where they cracked under the pressure and lost their grip on the title. That was a team built around Luis Suarez, but now he’s gone and the money has been spent on replacements. Many of them. Eight (8) players have arrived at Melwood for the first time this summer and rumour has it that they are still on the look out for another striker. What Brendan Rodgers has done is strengthen the squad, rather than the starting eleven. Adam Lallana is a very good player, as is Rickie Lambert and Lazar Markovic, but they are not on the world class level of Suarez. Having said that, Rodgers has done well in terms of bringing in potential and depth. Moreno and Lovren is two excellent signings for a weak defence that conceded 50 goals in the league last year. Markovic, Origi and Can are three good young talents who should all play a part in the clubs future.
Liverpool’s most important asset isn’t the players though, it’s Rodgers system and style of play. If the new players can learn his way of playing quickly then Liverpool will enjoy a good season. Otherwise, he can still look to the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Coutinho to create chances and score goals. The loss of Suarez will affect the team and Liverpool shouldn’t be able to keep up with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea but they will definitely be one of the favourites to secure a top four finish, although it is more competitive than ever before.
Adam Lallana, Southampton
Rickie Lambert, Southampton
Dejan Lovren, Southampton
Lazar Markovic, Benfica
Emre Can, Bayer Leverkusen
Divock Origi, LOSC Lille
Javi Manquillo, Atlético Madrid
Alberto Moreno, Sevilla
Luis Suarez, Barcelona
Conor Coady, Huddersfield Town
Jose Manuel Reina, FC Bayern München
Luis Alberto, Malaga (loan)
Iago Aspas, Sevilla (loan)
Andre Wisdom, West Bromwich Albion (loan)
Divock Origi, LOSC Lille (loan)
Prediction: Champions League-challenging
Young player to watch: Raheem Sterling
Excellent during the second half of last season, and will now be expected to take over some of the responsibility left by Suarez. Needs to add more goals to his game this season, but should be able to do that. One of the best youngsters in the league.
Last year’s Premier League champions will be one of the favourites again this season. They have strengthened both the squad and the starting eleven which means they will have a better team this year. Eliaquim Mangala is the stand-out signing, as he is expected to go straight into the team alongside captain Vincent Kompany. Martin Demichelis finished last season strongly and impressed at the World Cup but will most likely have to stand aside for the new arrival. Kompany-Mangala should develop a very impressive partnership at the heart of defence which could be the base of this City-team for many years to come. Bacary Sagna has also arrived, he comes on a free transfer from Arsenal and will provide competition for the right-back slot with fans favourite Pablo Zabaleta, but Sagna will most likely be considered back-up to the Argentinian. Caballero arrives from Malaga to compete with Joe Hart and Frank Lampard makes the move to Manchester on loan for a few months before the MLS season starts over in the United States. Zuculini is a talented midfielder but will not be a regular fixture in the team, he is bought to hopefully secure a place in the side in the future.
Fernando is an interesting signing because it provides City with another way of playing. When playing their fluid 4-4-2 from last season, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure are likely to start in the centre of midfield most of the time. However, Fernando gives Pellegrini the option of playing the two Brazilians in the double pivot with Toure in front of them in a 4-2-3-1, which would be a very good option in certain away games, especially in the Champions League. That type of formation would bring a defensive security which is almost impossible to match, while Toure would be allowed to focus on his attacking, together with the likes of Silva, Nasri and Agüero. In terms of the quality of the squad, City has got the best one with a plethora of options in all areas of the pitch. The worry for City-fans is that the last time they won the league, in 2012, they were never close to catch Manchester United the following year and looked complacent. In fairness, they didn’t have Pellegrini then, and while ‘the engineer’ doesn’t have experience of defending titles, he still has got the best squad in the league.
Fernando, FC Porto
Bacary Sagna, Arsenal
Willy Caballero, Malaga
Bruno Zuculini, Racing Club
Frank Lampard, New York City (loan)
Eliaquim Mangala, FC Porto
Costel Pantilimon, Sunderland
Gareth Barry, Everton
Joleon Lescott, West Bromwich Albion
Jack Rodwell, Sunderland
Marcos Lopez, LOSC Lille (loan)
Emyr Huws, Wigan (loan)
Prediction: Title race
Young player to watch: Eliaquim Mangala
It’s hard to find young players in the City squad who are likely to get games, so here I’ll go with the new signing. He is 23, but is unproven in the Premier League and it will be interesting to see him settle in next to City-captain Kompany.
Louis van Gaal comes to Old Trafford to clean up the mess after last year’s disastrous campaign under David Moyes. United won the league in 2013, but finished 7th just a year later so the reason Moyes had to go is quite clear. The summer has been frustrating for the fans though in terms of the transfer market after they have seen a bunch of players leave the club, including club legends Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic while Ryan Giggs has retired to become assistant to van Gaal. The lack of players coming in has been a source of concern with only Basque midfielder Ander Herrera and England left-back Luke Shaw arriving. Both are excellent signings though with Shaw set to command the left-back/left wing-back role for 15 years to come and Herrera a big upgrade on the club’s centre midfielders. He ticks all the boxes, he is creative with the ball, plays with energy and presses well while he also likes to tackle. It makes for a complete midfielder, who will be key to the clubs fortunes this season. The general feeling around the club is that van Gaal still needs to bring in more players in order for the squad to have a chance at the title.
If the transfer window has been frustrating for the fans, the pre-season matches has been anything but. Wins against the likes of Roma, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Valencia and Inter (on penalties after a 0-0 draw) has increased the feeling that van Gaal is the man to restore order in Manchester. The most impressing part of United’s pre-season wins is the fact that they have done with a completely new system. Van Gaal has brought with him the successful 3-4-1-2 system from the World Cup with his Dutch team and United have only conceded one goal from open play, and that was a shot from Miralem Pjanic from inside his own half. The system makes sense in order to get United’s three superstars into the team in their best positions, Juan Mata will play in the number 10 role with new captain Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie up front. The lack of quality wide-men is another reason for his preference of the system ahead of his personal favourite 4-3-3. The players have seemingly taken to the new man’s ideas with the likes of Rooney, Ashley Young and Darren Fletcher enjoying great pre-seasons after questions had surrounded their futures at the club. The only downside with the new system is the fact that Adnan Januzaj won’t get regular games, although he is good enough to play in all three attacking positions meaning he should get enough chances to further his development. The lack of senior centre-backs at the club is also a concern and a new signing has to be made in that department, while a centre-midfielder of world class quality is still needed. All in all United have a good enough squad to be in the top four and that should be van Gaal’s primary target next season, as both Manchester City and Chelsea at the moment have better squads. A cup title and top four would be seen as a decent season and that should be expected from Manchester United this term.
Ander Herrera, Athletic Club
Luke Shaw, Southampton
Alexander Büttner, Dynamo Moskva
Federico Macheda, Cardiff City
Rio Ferdinand, Queens Park Rangers
Ryan Giggs, retires
Nemanja Vidic, Internazionale
Patrice Evra, Juventus
Prediction: Champions League-challenging
Young player to watch: Adnan Januzaj
Januzaj was one of United’s best players last season and almost single-handidly carried the attack over the winter. Will have to adapt to a new system but the 19-year-old Belgian will be given enough opportunities to make sure his development continues. One of the best young players in the world.
Something is happening up at Tyneside. NINE players has walked into St James’ Park this summer, and Alan Pardew’s squad looks better and better. Nottingham duo Darlow and Lascelles have returned to Forest on loan but the other seven will go straight into the squad, and most of them straight into the team. Siem de Jong has been a mainstay of the impressive Ajax-side of the last few seasons and scored two in the Champions League at Manchester City in 2012. He will play in midfield, probably just behind the striker, fellow new arrival Emmanuel Riviere. The Frenchman is likely to get the nod ahead of Facundo Ferreyra, another new signing, and Papiss Cisse. The most controversial signing of the summer, perhaps, is Jack Colback’s move from Wearside to Tyneside, from Sunderland to Newcastle. He will bring energy and strength to the heart of midfield alongside Cheick Tiote. Daryl Janmaat has impressed in the Eredivisie for Feyenoord and for the Dutch national team and is a ready-made-replacement for Mathieu Debuchy, who has left for Arsenal.
The most exciting signing is Remy Cabella. He’s been excellent for a number of years now for Montpellier and will bring some much needed creativity and spark to a Newcastle attack who last season looked very static and without ideas. He will probably start from the left, cutting in to find spaces behind the other team’s midfield to set up chances for others, and to score goals himself. Cabella scored 14 goals in Ligue 1 last year and will be expected to contribute with goals to ease the burden on the strikers.
The new signings will probably take some time to gel, but when they do, Alan Pardew can have no excuses if Newcastle don’t finish in the top half.
Emmanuel Riviere, AS Monaco
Ayoze Perez, Tenerife
Jack Colback, Sunderland
Siem De Jong, AFC Ajax
Remy Cabella, Montpellier
Daryl Janmaat, Feyenoord
Facundo Ferreyra, Shakhtar (loan)
Karl Darlow, Nottingham Forest
Jamaal Lascelles, Nottingham Forest
Mathieu Debuchy, Arsenal
Foluwashola Ameobi, free
Dan Gosling, Bournemouth
Conor Newton, Rotherham United
Jonathan Mitchell, Derby County
James Tavernier, Wigan
Karl Darlow, Nottingham Forest (loan)
Jamaal Lascelles, Nottingham Forest (loan)
Prediction: Top half
Young player to watch: Rolando Aarons
The 18-year-old winger has impressed in pre-season and is fortunate in a way as Newcastle lack wide-men with central players Sissoko and Cabella set to play on the wings. Could get some opportunities to show what he can do and the fans will enjoy this tricky winger.
Queens Park Rangers
Harry Redknapp managed to get QPR back to the Premier League at the first time of asking after beating Derby County in the play-off final at Wembley in may thanks to a Bobby Zamora goal. Over the summer, QPR has strengthened shrewdly. Rio Ferdinand is a fantastic signing, with his experience and his quality Redknapp has made a masterstroke. The two signings from Cardiff are also impressive. Steven Caulker is still viewed as a future England defender, although his development hasn’t been as quick as previously hoped. He is still at massive upgrade on what they already had so together with Ferdinand he should develop a great partnership. Jordon Mutch showed what he can do in the top flight and QPR needs him to continue his development. He is a goal-scoring midfielder and goals is what QPR will need, especially if Loic Remy gets his move away from the club. Right now, he’s a member of the squad and should Redknapp keep him and get him to deliver then QPR has a massive chance of staying up. Chile international Mauricio Isla has arrived from Juventus but there are doubts about where he will play. He could play as a right midfielder or at right-back, but the best thing for him would be a role as a right wing-back. That might be an option if the appointment of Glenn Hoddle as a coach means Redknapp wants to utilise a system with a back-three, since Hoddle is a preacher of the 3-5-2 formation.
Whatever happens formation-wise, QPR has the necessary tools to stay up. The issue with most promoted teams is that they concede to many goals, but Redknapp knows this and has therefore signed experienced Premier League defenders. The Ferdinand-Caulker partnership is the key to keep QPR in the top flight for another year, and if Remy stays they also have a good source for goals.
Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United
Steven Caulker, Cardiff City
Mauricio Isla, Juventus (loan)
Jordon Mutch, Cardiff City
Aaron Hughes, Brighton
Stephane Mbia, free
Hogan Ephraim, free
Luke Young, free
Yossi Benayoun, Maccabi Haifa
Esteban Granero, Real Sociedad
Angelo Balanta, Bradford City
Young player to watch: Jordon Mutch
Impressed at Cardiff last year and is always a goal-threat from midfield. Should be able to get a few at Loftus Road as well. Is also one of a few young players in a very experienced squad so brings a bit of energy and enthusiasm too.
The big clubs has plundered Southampton on their star assets over the summer, especially Liverpool who incredibly have signed three of Southampton’s key players of last year. Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren have all moved to Anfield while Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers left for Manchester United and Arsenal respectively. Also, manager Mauricio Pochettino left the club in May to take over at Tottenham. It’s obviously a tough blow for the club, but with new manager Ronald Koeman in place, they’ve got a man whose philosophy is somewhat similar to Pochettino’s, with focus on a high-energy pressing and possession style. They have signed well too. Dusan Tadic is the stand-out signing after his brilliant season in Holland with Twente, and he will bring goals, assists and the ability to open up a game from his left-sided attacking role. New striker Graziano Pelle is not too dissimilar to Lambert and the signing of Hull City forward Shane Long is good because while he can score goals, he is also a very good presser which fits into Koeman’s philosophy. Fraser Forster is a better goalkeeper than previous number one Artur Boruc and Ryan Bertrand is a decent replacement for Shaw, while the next academy talent Matt Targett develops behind him. Saphir Taider joins on loan from Inter and is a good option in midfield, even though he is not really needed since that is Southampton’s strongest area. Taider, Jack Cork, Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama, James Ward-Prowse, Steven Davis and Harrison Reed are all vying for the three spots in Koeman’s line-up.
New centre-back Florin Gardos is unknown to most and will probably need a bedding in period, so another centre-back is required to play alongside new club captain Jose Fonte. Southampton have sold players for tremendous amounts of money this summer and have only used a fraction of that on new arrivals, but still the squad looks better than people make out. It’s not fair to expect that Koeman should finish eight like they did last year after this major squad reshape but they should comfortably finish in the middle of the table while the players adapt to their new signings and their new manager. Despite losing all those players, Southampton should be able to field a good team in the season opener this weekend, which is ironically played at Anfield, against Liverpool.
Florin Gardos, Steaua Bukarest
Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea, (loan)
Shane Long, Hull City
Graziano Pelle, Feyenoord
Dusan Tadic, FC Twente
Saphir Taider, Internazionale (loan)
Fraser Forster, Celtic
Adam Lallana, Liverpool
Dejan Lovren, Liverpool
Rickie Lambert, Liverpool
Luke Shaw, Manchester United
Calum Chambers, Arsenal
Danny Fox, Nottingham Forest
Guly do Prado, free
Prediction: Top half
Young player to watch: James Ward-Prowse
Impressed when given more game time last year and now the midfielder is likely to start for Ronald Koeman’s side. An energetic midfielder who is good in possession and has excellent delivery from set-pieces and crosses, JWP will play a big part in Southampton’s season and maybe, just maybe, force his way into Roy Hodgson’s England plans.
Stoke impressed last season and finished ninth in the table in Mark Hughes’ first season in charge. He slowly managed to develop their style of play and at times we could see Stoke passing it brilliantly while the supporters sang in full voice: ‘We’re Stoke City, we’re passing the ball’. This summer, no influential players have left and the squad have only been strengthened. Steve Sidwell enjoyed a good season in a poor Fulham team and brings energy, work rate and goals to the midfield. Phil Bardsley has been a consistent Premier League performer for a number of years now and is a better option at right-back than Geoff Cameron. Mame Biram Diouf has been a consistent goal scorer in the Bundesliga for Hannover and has previous experience of the Premier League since his time at Manchester United when he was on loan at Blackburn Rovers. The most exciting signing is definitely the arrival of Bojan from Barcelona. He was widely considered as one of the biggest talents in world football six or seven years ago and has struggled to realise his potential. Now, he should get regular games in a competitive league under a manager who believes in him and maybe that is all he needs. He is not going to be a world beater, but could develop into a decent Premier League forward. If he plays around Diouf, then Diouf will be the centre of the defenders attention and Bojan can roam around off him and feed off the big striker’s lay offs.
All in all, Stoke have got a better squad and they should be able to hold their position in the table from last year. A top half finish and a good cup run is definitely on the cards for Mark Hughes and Stoke.
Steve Sidwell, Fulham
Phil Bardsley, Sunderland
Mame Biram Diouf, Hannover 96
Bojan Krkic, Barcelona
Dionatan Teixeira, Banska Bystrica
Juan Agudelo, free
Matthew Etherington, free
Michael Kightly, Burnley
Prediction: Top half
Young player to watch: Bojan Krkic
The Barcelona wonderkid has been a forgotten talent over the last few years. He kept Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of the Barcelona team just four years ago, but now finds himself at Stoke City. Will hopefully be given a big role and if he can realise just a fraction of his potential then Mark Hughes has a player on his hands.
Gustavo Poyet performed a small miracle when he kept Sunderland up last season against all odds. He developed their style of play and managed to get results against the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. This season is all about building on that and making sure that Sunderland won’t get drawn into the relegation battle. In order to achieve that, he has allowed a lot of players to leave, and five to come in. Jordi Gomez, Billy Jones, Costel Pantilimon and Patrick van Aanholt are mainly there to provide the squad with depth and competition for places, except for Pantilimon who should go straight into the team. The name that sticks out is Jack Rodwell and that signing alone should improve Sunderland massively. Rodwell is an excellent player who wasn’t given a chance at City, of course injuries didn’t help him, and if he stays clear of injuries and plays regularly then he should get back into the England team. He ticks all the boxes for Sunderland’s midfield; he can pass, tackle, score goals, he’s got energy and an impressive work rate. If Poyet can get the best out of him then he’s made sure the losses of Craig Gardner and Jack Colback has been fixed.
The key behind Sunderland’s brilliant end to the season last year was their defence, where experienced duo John O’Shea and Wes Brown made sure nothing was given away at the back, and Connor Wickham, who discovered a goal scoring touch previously unknown. He will be a big player for them this year, but Brown and O’Shea will, along with Rodwell and Adam Johnson, be the key players for Poyet. In fact, Brown was so good at the end of the season that there were calls for him to go with England to Brazil.
Poyet’s mission to improve the football at Wearside has been successful so far and this season Sunderland should be safe in the middle of the table to avoid any drama towards the end of the season. If they were to get off to a bad start however, they will be safe in the knowledge that Poyet has performed miracles before.
Jordi Gomez, Wigan
Billy Jones, West Bromwich Albion
Costel Pantilimon, Manchester City
Patrick van Aanholt, Chelsea
Jack Rodwell, Manchester City
David Vaughan, Nottingham Forest
Phil Bardsley, Stoke City
Craig Gardner, West Bromwich Albion
Carlos Cuellar, free
Andrea Dossena, free
Jack Colback, Newcastle
Kieren Westwood, Sheffield Wednesday
Oscar Ustari, Newell’s Old Boys
Young player to watch: Jack Rodwell
Another player considered as a massive talent that has gone quiet. Rodwell looked an excellent prospect when he broke through at Everton and was subsequently sold to Manchester City. There, opportunities have been limited and now he needs to get regular football to get back into the England team.
After Michael Laudrup left the club, club legend Garry Monk took charge of the first team and stabilised the club. This year it’s all about making sure they won’t get involved in a relegation battle and secure a mid-table finish. They have lost five influential players in goalkeeper Michel Vorm, left-back Ben Davies (both to Tottenham), Pablo Hernandez (Al Arabi), Chico Flores (Lekhwiya SC) and prolific goal scorer Michu (Napoli). Michu couldn’t replicate the success of his first season and now leaves on loan with a view to a permanent deal but the other four were regulars and will be missed. The Spanish duo will be replaced within in the squad with Amat taking over Flores’ position and Hernandez replaced by some of the wingers in the squad such as Routledge or Dyer. Davies’ replacement is already in the squad in the form of Neil Taylor, who had the left-back spot before an injury derailed his 2012/13 season and got Davies the position in the first place. Vorm’s direct replacement is Fabianski from Arsenal, a good keeper but perhaps not on the same level as the Dutchman. The other new arrivals, striker Bafetimbi Gomis, returning midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and tricky winger Jefferson Montero will all challenge for places in the starting eleven and Sigurdsson in particular will improve the team. He didn’t really make it at Tottenham but is a very good player who is sure to provide Monk with both goals and assists. Marvin Emnes’ loan has been made permanent, but he will be on the bench behind Gomis and Wilfried Bony. The Ivorian was the highest scoring Swansea player last term and will be responsible for the goals once again, especially with Michu gone.
Swansea have a clear way of playing and while it would be expected to see a bit more direct play with the powerful duo of Bony and Gomis up front, they will still entertain. The important thing is that Monk still manages to get result to secure that mid-table finish.
Marvin Emnes, Middlesbrough
Lukasz Fabianski, Arsenal
Bafetimbi Gomis, Lyon
Jefferson Montero, Morelia
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Tottenham
Stephen Kingsley, Falkirk
Michel Vorm, Tottenham
Ben Davies, Tottenham
Alejandro Pozuelo, Rayo Vallecano
Leroy Lita, Barnsley
Michu, Napoli (loan)
David Ngog, free
Pablo Hernandez, Al Arabi (Qatar)
Chico Flores, Lekhwiya SC (Qatar)
Young player to watch: Jonjo Shelvey
Impressed last year in his first season at the club and should only improve this year. The 22-year-old is a good passer and possesses a fierce long shot, which will se him score some goals this year. Can be an outsider to break into the England team.
Change is coming to White Hart Lane, and it comes with Mauricio Pochettino. Last season, manager Tim Sherwood was criticized by his lack of tactical awareness, but there will be no such doubts now. Pochettino has a meticulously worked out tactical plan which impressed everyone last season while at Southampton. Now he’s charged with implementing the same style at Tottenham and challenge for the Champions League. There has been no major squad reshape as last summer, instead all those signings from a year ago is expected to step up and deliver under the new manager. In particular Erik Lamela is one who will be given a key role in Pochettino’s system, his creativity and ability to glide past defenders and score goals will be key in Tottenham’s quest for the top four. Roberto Soldado also looks rejuvenated up front and we can expect a better season from him with Lamela behind him. Christian Eriksen shone brightly last year and will once again be key for Tottenham’s attacking play. In midfield, the likes of Nabil Bentaleb, Paulinho and Sandro seems perfect for Pochettino’s pressing and possession style and Tom Carroll will also fit in perfectly with his tremendous range of passing and intelligence. The signings that have been made has been made to strengthen the defence. Ben Davies will start at left-back and Eric Dier will compete for a place alongside Jan Vertonghen at the centre of defence. Vorm will provide competition to Hugo Lloris, although the Frenchman is the undeniable number one. Pochettino improved young full-backs at Southampton with the likes of Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne and Chambers all improving immensely under his tutelage which indicates that the likes of Davies, Danny Rose, Kyle Naughton and in particular Kyle Walker should improve massively this season. Developing the talented players already at the club, play attractive football and reach the Champions League, Pochettino definitely has got a big task on his hands in a more competitive Premier League than ever before. We’ll see how it unfolds over the next nine months.
Ben Davies, Swansea City
Michel Vorm, Swansea City
Eric Dier, Sporting Club de Portugal
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea City
Jake Livermore, Hull City
Heurelho Gomes, Watford
Prediction: Champions League-challenging
Young player to watch: Tom Carroll
An extremely gifted midfielder, Carroll was highly regarded by Andre Villas-Boas and seems to be by Pochettino too. Carroll was on loan at QPR last season and could be a perfect fit for Pochettino’s possession based game. With his left-foot he can dictate the game from midfield with his excellent passing and this is a big season for him, he needs regular games or otherwise should look for a move away from the club.
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom just managed to avoid relegation last season after finishing 17th in the table. Spanish manager Pepe Mel is no longer the boss at the Hawthorns anyway because in June it was announced that former Everton coach Alan Irvine had been appointed Head Coach. Previously, he has managed Preston North End and Sheffield Wednesday and also been a youth coach at Newcastle but this is without a doubt his biggest job in his career so far. It’s a bit risky with such an unproven manager, but at the same time it’s refreshing to see a new man with fresh ideas in the league. Over the summer West Brom have been very active in the transfer market, with eight players arriving and six leaving. The purchase of Brown Ideye for a club-record fee is the stand-out, but the best is probably the arrivals of Joleon Lescott and Craig Gardner who will bring a wealth of Premier League experience to the club. Christian Gamboa impressed for Costa Rica at the World Cup and will be interesting to watch, and the likes of Pocognoli and Baird will provide the squad with depth. Andre Wisdom will try to further his development with another loan after spending last year at Derby County, and if he does well it wouldn’t be surprising to see the deal being made permanent next summer. Despite actually having a good transfer window, I’d worry for West Brom. They lack a consistent goal scorer, and the idea is that Ideye will be that player. It remains to be seen if he can be that player but the club seemingly thinks so after paying quite a lot of money to get him to the Midlands.
With an unproven manager and a squad that doesn’t look all that impressive, it seems likely that this season will be a struggle for West Brom. Irvine will need to pick up the mantle quick in order to showcase his talents as Head Coach and will look to steer West Brom to safety first and foremost.
Craig Gardner, Sunderland
Joleon Lescott, Manchester City
Chris Baird, Burnley
Sebastien Pocognoli, Hannover 96
Brown Ideye, Dynamo Kiev
Jason Davidson, Heracles
Christian Gamboa, Rosenborg
Andre Wisdom, Liverpool (loan)
Billy Jones, Sunderland
Nicolas Anelka, free
Zoltan Gera, Ferencvaros
Diego Lugano, free
Liam Ridgewell, Portland Timbers
Steven Reid, Burnley
George Thorne, Derby County
Prediction: Relegation battle
Young player to watch: Saido Berahino
Showed glimpses of his quality last season, but needs to do it on a regular basis this season. Will be key in bringing excitement to the Hawthorns and will be a key player going forward for Alan Irvine.
Despite persistent rumours of Sam Allardyce leaving the club over the last six months, he remains the man in the hot seat. As everyone knows, he comes with a very direct way of playing which is why the signing of Andy Carroll last summer made so much sense. Therefore it is puzzling why Mauro Zarate is the big name arriving this summer. Zarate of course has previous experience of the Premier League after his stint at Birmingham but is not the type of player you would associate with a Sam Allardyce team. Enner Valencia is not that type of striker either, although he is very good in the box and the idea is that him or Zarate will feed off Carroll’s lay offs and flicks. Aaron Cresswell has been consistent in the Championship for Ipswich and deservedly gets his move to the top flight. Koyate will compete with James Collins and Winston Reid for a place at centre-back and Carl Jenkinson should go straight in at right-back. Diego Poyet didn’t end up with his father at Sunderland and will be very interesting to follow this season for West Ham. Joe Cole and Jack Collison is the two most prominent players to have left, but they weren’t regulars anyway. Allardyce team will continue to attack with long balls and from their flanks with Matt Jarvis to the left and Stewart Downing to the right. While the style of play might be predictable, West Ham are never threatened by relegation under Allardyce and that shouldn’t be the case this season either as a place in the middle looms. The signings point to a gradual change in the type of player West Ham recruit, which might mean that Allardyce’s tenure possibly can be coming to an end after this season. Whatever happens, the fans should feel safe in the knowledge that a comfortable finish should be secured come May.
Mauro Zarate, Velez Sarsfield
Cheikhou Koyate, Anderlecht
Aaron Cresswell, Ipswich Town
Diego Poyet, Charlton
Carl Jenkinson, Arsenal (loan)
Enner Valencia, Pachuca
Joe Cole, Aston Villa
Matthew Taylor, Burnley
Jordan Spence, free
Jack Collison, free
George McCartney, free
Young player to watch: Diego Poyet
Was talked about last year after his performances for Charlton and now changes division. He stays in London though, even though his father Gustavo is the manager at Sunderland. Won’t start every week, but should get enough game to leave an impression on the Upton Park faithful.
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