Premier League Preview – Part One

Posted: August 7, 2015 in Football
Tags: , , , , ,
Chelsea Champions

Chelsea emerged champions last season. Will they do it again?

The football season is back! Rejoice! The tedium that is the close season and the rubbish that fills our newspapers and websites desperate to fill column inches is finally at an end, and we can focus on the football itself. Well, nearly. I’m looking at you Daily Mail.

The Premier League has opted to kick-off at the same time as the other divisions in England this season due to a major tournament appearing next summer and it looks set to be potentially the most interesting season in a while, with a number of teams well equipped to mount a title challenge and nobody looking quite weak enough to be dead certs for the drop.

Thus I have compiled a quick preview of every side in the division, rated and/or slated their summer transfer activity and attempted the fools’ game of predicting where they will end up. Enjoy and feel free to add your own comments at the bottom!

Here’s part one, taking us from Arsenal to Crystal Palace:

Arsene Wenger

Can Wenger finally deliver another league title?


Last Season: 3rd

Transfers In: Petr Cech (Chelsea)

Transfers Out: Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Ryo Miyaichi (St Pauli), Abou Diaby (Marseille), Yaya Sanogo (Ajax, Loan), Wojciech Szczesny (Roma, Loan), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham, Loan), Chuba Akpom (Hull, Loan)

Every pre-season we are forced to talk about Arsenal as title contenders due to the quality of players they possess, before eventually placing our bets elsewhere because….well it’s Arsenal isn’t it? Sure there’s plenty of quality there, but mental factors will eventually play against them and/or injuries will hit, proving a very shallow depth of quality. That would be the norm.

This year feels very different. The strength in depth that the Gunners have is incredible and one would be comfortable claiming that they potentially possess the best bench in the Premier League now. This might be the first year for a while in which it has seemed Arsenal have all their ducks in a row, with no real glaring weaknesses in the squad.

Olivier Giroud is made out to be a far worse player than he actually is, and when you have such a multitude of goal-scoring talent around you, he is hardly required to net 20-odd goals to ensure success. The likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla provide some of the best attacking back-up in England currently, so there is no shortage of goals, especially when you throw the likes of Aaron Ramsey into the equation too.

With the purchase of Petr Cech they have addressed the biggest flaw in their squad from last season, and with the emerging Francis Coquelin now marshalling that previously-flimsy midfield role in front of a more than capable back four, it’s hard to not see them as genuine favourites, especially when they have real quality to call upon when the annual injury event strikes once again.

Prediction: Champions

Tim Sherwood

A first full season as a manger for Sherwood. Presuming he lasts that long

Aston Villa

Last Season: 17th

Transfers In: Jordan Ayew (Lorient), Jordan Amavi (Nice), Idrissa Gueye (Lille), Scott Sinclair, Micah Richards (Manchester City), Jose Angel Crespo (Cordoba), Mark Bunn (Norwich), Jordan Veretout (Nantes), Rudy Gestede (Blackburn)

Transfers Out: Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Andres Weimann, Darren Bent (Derby), Yacouba Sylla (Rennes), Matthew Lowton (Burnley), Antonio Luna (Eibar), Shay Given (Stoke), Ron Vlaar, Chris Herd (Released)

When you finish just one place outside of the drop zone, quite frankly you don’t want things to get much worse. Yet that is exactly what has happened at Aston Villa, who have had the entire spine of the side ripped out, with Vlaar, Delph and Benteke all departing the club this summer.

Couple that with a rookie manager experiencing his first transfer window in charge of a club and you have a seriously unpredictable scenario in which one of two things could happen: A) Villa could be the surprise package of the season and achieve a top half finish, or B) they implode in farcical fashion and earn their first relegation since the advent of the Premier League.

If we take the examples of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool though, when you lose your best player(s) and then spend wildly on a number of players with little to no Premier League experience, it doesn’t often go too well and that’s unfortunately what I see happening with Villa now.

I haven’t watched enough of Ligue Un football to really cast judgement on the players that have so far been drafted in from France, but more learned people than me have already casted doubt on the ability of these players to be much of a success in the Premier League. Protracted moves for Emmanuel Adebayor and Dimitar Berbatov are yet to yield any fruit and Villa are running out of time to put together a side that will not have a serious battle on their hands to remain in the division.

Prediction: Relegation

Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe can finally test himself among the best


Last Season: 1st (Championship)

Transfers In: Artur Boruc (Southampton), Adam Federici (Reading), Joshua King (Blackburn), Christian Atsu (Chelsea, Loan), Tyrone Mings (Ipswich), Sylvain Distin (Everton), Filippo Costa (Chievo), Max Gradel (St Etienne), Lee Tomlin (Middlesbrough)

Transfers Out: Ian Harte, Miles Addison (Released), Ryan Fraser (Ipswich, Loan) Brett Pitman (Ipswich)

It’s always a difficult thing to judge just how well a club coming up from the Championship will fare in their first season and with this being Bournemouth’s first return to the top flight since the advent of the Premier League, it is even harder to judge.

Coming up as champions suggests they should be the strongest of the promoted trio, yet I fear for them in their attempts to retain their position in the top flight. They seem to have recruited well, with a good mix of experience and raw hunger, yet I still feel they will be lacking in the quality to achieve survival come the season’s end.

Eddie Howe always demands that his side play an attractive brand of football and that could just prove their undoing in the end. You feel whatever happens, Howe will still have his managerial reputation intact, but I just feel he is raising this Bournemouth side to just be too nice to handle the fight in the end.

Prediction: Relegation

Jose Mourinho

Never a dull a moment with this man around


Last Season: 1st

Transfers In: Nathan (Atletico Paranaense), Asmir Begovic (Stoke), Radamel Falcao (Monaco, Loan), Danilo Pantic (Partizan Belgrade)

Transfers In: Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Christian Atsu (Bournemouth, Loan), Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact), Petr Cech (Arsenal), Marco van Ginkel (Stoke), Patrick Bamford (Crystal Palace)

After finally bringing the Premier League trophy back to Stamford Bridge, now comes the hard part for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho (I am contractually obliged to make him sound as important as the club itself).

Many people feel that retaining the title is harder than winning it in the first place and Chelsea will not be able to be so reliant on the failings of their rivals to wrap up consecutive first place finishes, with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United having strengthened heavily over the summer months and addressed their glaring flaws.

There is an air of Chelsea that is akin to Manchester City of a year ago, in that they have stood practically still over the summer months. Not that they had any big weaknesses to address, but sometimes a bit of fresh competition can just be healthy, rotating around some of the squad players.

Changing the back-up ‘keeper doesn’t necessarily do much for that, whilst they have only otherwise seen Radamel Falcao come in for another crack at the Premier League following his disastrous spell at Manchester United last season, in place of the departing Drogba.

The expected arrival of Baba Rahman from Augsburg will freshen up the battle on the left-hand side of defence, but one feels that an injury or two to their defensive line could actually leave them a bit short handed at the back, which is a worry.

Last season, Diego Costa’s dodgy hamstrings aside, Chelsea got rather lucky with injuries and they will have to hope that they can achieve the same again this year, as a bit of digging beyond the impressive surface sees John Obi Mikel as back-up to Nemanja Matic and nobody to cover for a crippled Fabregas. Chelsea simply have not reacted to the strengthening of their rivals and could pay for their dalliances.

Prediction: Runners-Up

Pardew & Cabaye

Pardew and Cabaye reunited again in one of the shock transfers of the summer

Crystal Palace

Last Season: 10th

Transfers In: Yohan Cabaye (Paris St Germain), Patrick Bamford (Chelsea, Loan), Alex McCarthy (QPR), Connor Wickham (Sunderland), Bakary Sako (Wolves)

Transfers Out: Shola Ameobi, Owen Garvan, Jerome Thomas (Released), Stephen Dobbie (Bolton)

I think everyone is curious to see how Crystal Palace will fare this season. The signing of Cabaye has made everybody sit up and take notice of Palace and their intention not to dwell on an impressive top half finish from last season, with Pardew claiming he wants to take Palace into Europe.

And why the hell not? With Cabaye pulling the strings in midfield and an endless supply of pace in Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha in front of him to utilise, now ably backed up with the arrival of Sako on a free transfer, Palace have the attacking credentials to really push the likes of Southampton and Swansea.

Yet the questions still remain over their defensive attributes. Re-signing Brede Hangeland for a further season is the only thing they have done for the back-four so far, with only an optimistic chase to prise Ashley Williams from Swansea the only other news to emerge on fixing an area of the pitch that needs some work if these lofty ambitions are to come true.

Palace could improve on their 10th place finish of last season, and yet as we have seen with Pardew so many times before, it could also yo-yo from season to season and last season’s impressive run-in could have already been the upward motion they required. Either way it should be an interesting season at Selhurst Park that has definitely piqued my interest.

Prediction: 9th


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