Kieran Davies previews every team ahead of a potentially memorable Premier League season and looks into his crystal ball to see what the future has in store for each of them.
With the kick off nearly upon us, let’s take a look at the runners and riders and see what hurdles they need to overcome to achieve their goals for the season. Looking at how they’ve strengthened their squads or struggled to hold on to prized assets over the summer. With the transfer window still open many clubs, big and small, will be hoping that their star players are still their property on September 1st.
After missing out on a top four finish last season, pressure will be on to deliver this season. The capture of Alexandre Lacazette will add firepower through the middle, providing Wenger can keep hold of prized assets such as Alexis Sanchez. Adding Kolasinac at full back gives them more options but it will remain to be seen whether their problems from last season persist. They struggled against ‘the big six’ sides and took very few points from those games. Also, they looked frail defensively when teams got at them and this has been an issue for a number of seasons now. If behind closed doors the coaches have addressed these problems, I still think Arsenal are a couple of signings short of a real title challenge. Unless they surprise us all with a splurge in the final weeks of the window, a Wembley cup final could be the highlight of another season in North London.
Eddie Howe will feel the South Coast club have had a successful summer. With the captures of Begovic, Defoe and club record signing Nathan Ake, Cherries fans will be feeling in optimistic mood. The reality for Howe’s side is that a top half of the table finish is the dream here. Staying out of a relegation battle would be seen as a success, cementing yet another season of Premier League football. At home, they should be able to give anyone a game on their day yet depth of squad will mean that ‘their day’ will not as often as Eddie Howe would like.
The promised land has finally been reached by Hughton’s side. They will need to try and enjoy the challenges of this season while focusing on Premier League safety. Having broken their club transfer record twice this summer, they still seem to be lacking an out and out goalscorer. Murray has struggled to hit double figures in previous seasons in the top flight. It is no coincidence that season on season the teams who tend to go down are the ones who didn’t have a recognized goalscorer. They will have flourishes to savour and may take a few big scalps but this may prove to be too big of a step for Brighton.
Having added few additions and lost their central defensive rock Michael Keane, this could be a long season for Dyche’s side. The form of Tom Heaton won The Clarets a lot of games last season and to hope that he can reproduce that form without Keane controlling the defence, seems a lot to ask. Walters and Cork can add to the squad strength but this seems to be another side short of a proven goalscorer. It could be a long season while the resolve of the board is tested as to whether they remain loyal to their manager.
Conte’s champions will have a much sterner test this season with the squad strength being tested with the addition of Champion’s League football. The purchases of Rudiger, Morata and Bakayoko should add to the strength of the squad but Matic will be a big loss for the champions. Many people think Conte’s side were assisted in their title win without the distractions of European football and are expecting to see them fall off their perch. With Diego Costa being frozen out by the manager and the owner seemingly selling players from underneath the manager, will Conte last the season? More signings may come in the following weeks but retaining a title is always a difficult task.
Having lost their manager from their last campaign, Frank de Boer comes in looking to add some stability to Palace’s Premier League status. Recently, they flirted with relegation battles too much for their fans liking. There have been no real additions as yet a lot of first team squad members have been released. A lot rests on the shoulders of the likes of Zaha, Townsend and Benteke. In such a competitive league, good teams will close down these outlets and cut off the team’s supply. With an inexperienced manager at the helm, safety will be the main aim of the season and may prove to be quite a challenge.
Koeman’s side have been very active through the transfer window and have seen a number of comings and goings. The drawn-out transfer of Gylfi Sigurdsson seems that it will reach a conclusion eventually with him becoming an Everton player. They have added strength to their squad yet may find bedding such a number of new players into first team affairs takes some time. The goals of Romelu Lukaku will definitely be sorely missed and the big question is where these goals are going to come from. Koeman would hope his summer spending would push them on to the next level to challenge for a Champion’s League spot but I feel they have under-estimated how much they will miss the big Belgian’s goals.
Gracing the Premier League for the first time, this really is a dream come true for everyone associated to the club. The reality is that there will be lots of highs and lows throughout the season. Some of the bigger teams will give Wagner’s side a hiding from time to time. However, the German has a real passion about his character which seems infectious with his players. He has tried to spend wisely in the summer, scouring Europe for bargains. In the main this makes these players unknown entities to most of us. Wagner’s biggest problem will be where the goals are going to come from. The Premier League can be an unforgiving beast and he needs to find someone who can be relied upon to find the back of the net for him.
The Leicester owners have backed Craig Shakespeare in the transfer window and he has not hesitated in bringing in some big signings. With Mahrez wanting to leave but no deal having been done, they find themselves in the predicament of how to utilise the player. If the player is sold, whether the funds raised are given to the manager to spend could prove pivotal in their season. Having experienced both the highs and lows of the Premier League over the last couple of years, The Foxes should be well equipped to have a good season.
Fans will have been left disappointed with the lack of spending by the owners in the summer. Having spent most of it hearing about Barcelona targeting one of their star players in a Suarez de-ja-vous moment. A good pre-season showing Salah settling into his new side well will give hope that Klopp can build upon last season’s top four finish. They still need a good three of four signings to compete with the sides around them who have spent big this summer. Whether the club stick to their word and resist Barcelona’s advances towards Coutinho could be a catalyst for the Merseysider’s season.
Pepe’s City side has probably been the most impressive spenders of the summer. Strengthening their squad with talent of the likes of Mendy, Danilo, Silva, Ederson and Walker is a real statement of intent. Despite trimming their squad considerably also, the players they have got rid of are not by any stretch of the imagination any of their stars. With a few weeks of the transfer window remaining, I fully expect City to spend further as they do not have much cover for Sergio Aguero. Last season will have hurt Guardiola as he has become accustomed to winning. They will be the team to beat this season for me.
Jose Mourinho acted like a man with a plan in the summer. Despite being linked to every player in Europe, he has made three big signings that will strengthen his first team. He may need cover at striker even if they re-sign Ibrahimovic as Lukaku leads the line. This is another team who I expect to spend further before the transfer window closes with some big-name signings. Worryingly, this team looks a lot stronger than when the Portugese manager took the helm. With domestic and European affairs to juggle this season also, games against ‘the big six’ may prove the difference between winning titles and not.
The experienced Rafa Benitez takes his Newcastle side back into another Premier League campaign. Having won the Championship last season, this possibly could give Magpies fans false hope for the season ahead. Rafa has not strengthened his squad with any big names at all. While hidden gems are still there to be found, finding enough of them to cope with the rigors of a top-flight season is almost impossible. A lot of this squad were found not to be good enough for this league before, has anything changed since then? A tough challenge ahead.
New season, new manager. Pellegrino goes into a debut season having made no major signings of any sort. With Jay Rodriguez moving onto pastures new, you wonder if Southampton are looking to move on to the next level or not. They have kept their players in the main despite Virgil Van Dijk making it no secret of his desire to leave. With a strong academy churning out starlets and the quality of the squad from last season, Southampton shouldn’t be involved in matters South of the Premier League table.
Adding Fletcher and Zouma will give Hughes more options this season. Losing Jon Walters may prove to be a blow as he was a player who always seemed to pop up with important goals. Keeping Shaqiri fit will be key to success for Hughes’ side this term. He will no doubt be looking to bring a few fresh faces in before the end of the transfer window having also lost Arnautovic this summer. Where the goals will come from may be an issue for The Potters but if Hughes can set out a tight defence as we have seen in previous seasons, Stoke should be fine.
Having flirted with relegation last season, Swansea’s plight really does rest upon two things this season. It seems they are resigned to losing Sigurdsson to Everton but how the transfer fee is spent could be key. Gylfi and Lorente were responsible for keeping them up last season, if they lose the Icelandic midfielder keeping the Spaniard fit will be that more important. Abraham will look to build on a successful loan spell at Bristol City last season, plying his trade in the top flight for the first time. The final couple of weeks of the transfer window could be something Swansea fans reflect on for the rest of the campaign.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the summer so far is that last season’s runners up have failed to spend a single penny in the transfer market. They have managed to keep a hold of the majority of their squad although Kyle Walker did leave for Manchester City. The depth of the squad could be an issue again over the course of the long season. The manager has assured fans that they are working on deals constantly but fans will be concerned with the lack of new faces. To build upon last season, they should be bringing in some big-name players. Frantic few weeks?
Marco Silva has looked to put his own mark on The Hornets squad this summer. Silva was lauded in his start at Hull as he won a manager of the month award yet The Tigers still ended up getting relegated. He will feel he has a lot to prove in this country and so he should. Having added a lot of unknown entities it seems it will be another season where Troy Deeney is one of the few players any non-Watford fan could pick out of a police line-up.
Another team who have not set the transfer window alight but the signing of Jay Rodriguez could prove to be a shrewd capture. A chance to rebuild a career blighted by injury. One thing Baggies fans can be sure with a Pullis side is that he will try and make them difficult to beat. He will miss Darren Fletcher and will also be hoping to do some deals before the window closes. As with most Pullis sides you know they will be hard working and will be difficult to break down with two banks of four. The Welshman has been around the course too many times to get involved in relegation matters.
Considering his position seemed less certain than an MEP last year, the board have backed the Croatian in the window. Signings of Zabaletta, Hart, Arnautovic and particularly Hernandez have been inspired. Many of the top team’s fans have been left wondering ‘why didn’t we go in for him? when it came to the signing of Chicarito. How apt that his debut come at Old Trafford. A very disappointing season last time out, with the strengthening of the squad surely Hammers fans can hope for a far more successful season?
Premier League Table 2017/18
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Leicester City
- West Ham
- West Brom
- Stoke City
- Crystal Palace
- Newcastle United
- Swansea City
- Huddersfield Town
- Brighton & Hove Albion