Premier League Preview – Part 2

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It feels like it’s barely been and gone doesn’t it? It’s been a mighty 3 months since we laughed (lots) at Liverpool losing 6-1 to Stoke, and watched Chelsea overcome their inconsistent competitors to win their fourth Premiership trophy. Now it’s time to see whether they can do it again. They have been big-money moves over the summer (the Sterling Saga to name just one) and managerial changes (four teams have new managers for the season). So will Chelsea continue their dominance? Will new boys Bournemouth stay up in their debut season? The answer to these questions and more is, ‘we’ll tell you in May.’

Newcastle United

CB – The perennial inconsistent team of the Premier League, Newcastle United fans seem to be in a permanent state of agony. New manager Steve McLaren will have his work cut out for him, and has already spent over £25m on offensive players Wijnaldum and Mitrovic. The intent is there, but it’s impossible to predict what type of season Newcastle will have. 11th

OO – After the most depressing season in this fan’s memory, it can only get better this year. The prising open of Mike Ashley’s wallet has been very surprising, with some decent signings made. Ideally a top 10 finish with a cup run. More likely a lower table finish with a 3rd round cup exit to Mansfield. 13th

JN – Newcastle United are a team that I dislike greatly. Their fans continue to believe that they are a huge club and that small flirtation with the Champions League a couple of seasons back only reinforced this belief. Last season’s great escape is an occurrence that I expect to continue for a few more years unless the club starts buying the right sort of players. 15th 

Norwich City

CB – A strong second half of the season proved why Norwich deserve to be back in the Premier League. Defender Andre Wisdom and midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu are solid signings, but it’s whether they have the strength to compete against the Premier League big boys and claim big points where it matters. Oh, Ricky van Wolfswinkel is still at Norwich. Second time lucky? 17th

OO – Another entertaining team who return to the Premier League, Norwich have been frugal with their summer purchases, relying on stalwarts such as Mulumbu to get the job done. Don’t seem to have the quality required at present though and will likely go straight back down. 20th

JN – Norwich City are the best equipped out of the three teams who were promoted last season. They were only away from the top flight for one season and must still be run like a premier league club. Mr Consistent, Youssouf Mulumbu, will add to Norwich’s already solid structure. They’ll struggle a little, but will ultimately end up surviving. 16th 

Southampton

CB – An impressive season against all odds last year meant that the South-coast club are now playing European football. But this could be detrimental, as it will require squad depth for Southampton to work on both fronts. New signing Cedric Soares looked impressive during pre-season, Jay Rodriguez could create a devastating partnership between himself and Graziano Pellè. A top-half finish is almost a guarantee. 7th

OO – A fantastic start for the Saints last term set their season up perfectly. This transfer window has been underwhelming, with star players leaving and uninspiring choices being brought in. Should still have enough for a top 10 position. 10th

JN – Southampton are a team that were tipped to really struggle last season but they highlighted how little footballing pundits actually know as they finished 7th and played a style of football that impressed everyone. Even the loss of Schneiderlin, Boruc and Clyne won’t stop Southampton from continuing their excellent Premier League form. 7th 

Stoke City

CB – With the remarkable addition of Ibrahim Afellay, as well as stalwarts Glen Johnson and Shay Given, Stoke fans shouldn’t be mocked for expecting an extremely strong season. The main disappointment is Asmir Begovic’s departure, but Jack Butland should be ready to step up to the plate now. The dark horses for a European spot? 9th

OO – It has been a highly eventful close-season for the Potters. They have successfully removed expensive deadweight in the squad and replaced them with players like Afellay, but have also lost Steven Nzonzi and Begovic in the process. Their squad is still highly impressive though and they should do well. 8th

JN – I fear that with the rise of Southampton, Swansea and West Ham, Stoke might struggle to replicate the 9th place finish of last season. Glen Johnson and Shay Given are good, solid, experienced players that will undoubtedly give Stoke an edge over the poorer teams in the division, but I expect them to struggle to reach the top half of the table. 13th 

Sunderland

CB – With an average squad, it may be a little too difficult for the Black Cats to avoid playing Championship football next year. Jeremain Lens has joined from Dynamo Kiev for £8m, a relatively high amount for a rather unknown quantity. He’ll have to click with Jermain Defoe immediately for Sunderland to have any hope one thinks. 18th

OO – A bizarre turn of events sees Dick Advocaat still in charge. Only three signings have been made to the side that struggled against relegation last season and they have lost Connor Wickham. Unless signings are made, and quickly, Sunderland may well go down. 18th

JN – Sunderland are simply not a good side and are doomed to fighting for survival every season until something serious happens soon. Their lack of signings and the sale of Connor Wickham to Crystal Palace will mean that Sunderland will struggle even more than last year. Expect to see more tears from Advocaat as he helps his side to survive by the skin of their teeth yet again. 17th

Swansea City

CB – Swansea have been tremendously run, and a clever financial structure has meant Swansea have been able to make big signings without crippling the club. The signing of Andre Ayew is a great addition, and Swansea have the strength to have another good season. A top-half finish beckons, but I can’t see Swansea doing anything more than in previous seasons. 8th

OO – After a season where they probably overachieved, Swansea come into the new season attempting to prove that their 8th place was more than a flash in the pan. Ayew has been a solid signing, and Garry Monk will undoubtedly look to push on towards Europe. I think mid-table is more realistic. 11th

JN – Gary Monk took the Welsh side to another level last year. Despite selling Wilfried Bony, Bafetimbi Gomis stepped up to the plate and scored goals, continuing their unbelievable progression in the Premier League. I expect more of the same from Monk and Swansea. 9th 

Tottenham Hotspur

CB – Spurs have had an incredibly strong squad on paper for the past few years now, but players like Lamela and Soldado never lived up to their hype. England and Spurs fans will both hope that Harry Kane doesn’t suffer from second season syndrome, but realistically, they might fail to reach a European spot for the first time since 2009. 6th

OO – After a good debut season under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs will be looking to enter the top four this time around. The usual scattergun approach to signings has not been in use this summer, and suggests a lean towards a more stable, youth-oriented policy. Will be close but will fall just short of the top four. 5th

JN – Tottenham are ‘specialists in failure’ and every year it looks as though they might be good enough to reach the fabled fourth spot in the Premier League. Yet they always run out of steam in the last few games. I can’t see Kane being as prolific in front of goal this time around but I still expect Tottenham to find a way to reach 6th spot and push Liverpool all the way for a Europa League spot. 6th

Watford

CB – Watford have tremendous squad depth for this upcoming season, but ultimately a lot of Championship-standard players isn’t going to be the most helpful for the London club. Vydra and Troy Deeney are talented, but so far unproven at the highest level. They’ll have grit, but like Burnley last year, they’ll succumb to the same fate. 19th

OO – Having brought in ten new players so far, Watford will be hoping the squad overhaul pays off. Etienne Capoue from Spurs is the signing that stands out, but the quality of the squad looks above that of the other promoted teams. Will survive. 16th

JN – They’ll certainly need a little more stability than having four managers last year. Capoue’s arrival shows their intent, however I just don’t think that they are well equipped enough. They’ll give their all, and fight and fight, but it won’t be enough. 19th 

West Brom

CB – Under the tactical defensive nous of Tony Pulis, West Brom will be a tough team to beat. However with this defensive mindset, it often results with a substandard offensive firepower, despite having Lambert and Berahino upfront. £8m on defender James Chester seems like a lot considering West Brom already have a stellar back four. A successful season for the Baggies will probably be avoiding any worries of relegation. 13th

OO – Another close season, another list of fairly uninspiring signings. Lambert has joined to supplement an attack that only notched 38 goals last term. With Pulis in charge, relegation should not be a worry. 15th

JN – One thing that everyone can be sure of is that any team lucky enough to have Tony Pulis as their manager will be alright in the Premier League. They’ll be a solid, hard to beat outfit that buys decent players. Callum McManaman, James McClean, Darren Fletcher and Rickie Lambert can only help to cement West Brom’s status as a top flight club. 14th

West Ham

CB – An incredibly weak and underwhelming second half of last season finally brought an end to Sam Allardyce’s working relationship with the Hammers, but he has been replaced with the divisive Slaven Bilic. Worries are already showing, as they have struggled to overcome weak opposition in the Europa League qualifying. They have a strong squad, but Stewart Downing’s departure and Enner Valencia’s injury will likely result in a rocky season for West Ham. 15th

OO – Bilic is a highly surprising but exciting appointment as manager for the Hammers. Much will depend on how far they get in the Europa league – fatigue will become a real factor if they reach the latter stages. 12th

JN – It was a surprise to many that Allardyce would be replaced by such quality as Bilic. The Croatian has already overseen two qualifying rounds for the Europa League and he has impressed so far with his style of play and his ability to win a game even when the team aren’t playing extremely well. Though this season, I don’t think they’ll be good enough to reach the heights of the top ten. Watch this space as I hope to see West Ham push on in the next few seasons. 12th

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