2014-15 Premier League Preview

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It feels like we say this every year, but this season is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing and exciting in Premier League history. There are managerial changes, with all four incoming bosses with questions to answer. Can Louis van Gaal return Manchester United to the glory days? Can Mauricio Pochettino get Spurs into the top four? How well Ronald Koeman deal with the mass exodus at Southampton? And is Alan Irvine a Premier League quality manager? Stunning signings have arrived up and down the league, with Chelsea bringing in stars such as Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, whilst all of the other big clubs have strengthened well. Talking of the big clubs, I think this will be the closest title race yet. There is a considerable gap between the top seven and the rest of the league, with any of Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur having a chance of making the top four. As for the other 13, they could all be in danger, but the teams most at risk appear to be all three promoted clubs – Burnley, Leicester and QPR – as well as West Brom and Aston Villa, who both narrowly avoided the drop last season. Whatever happens at the top and the bottom, expect it to be fiercely competitive, nail-biting, full of drama, and just incredibly fascinating and enjoyable to watch. Brace yourselves.


My Prediction

1. Chelsea

2. Manchester City

3. Arsenal

4. Manchester United

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5. Liverpool

6. Tottenham Hotspur

7. Everton

8. Sunderland

9. Stoke City

10. Newcastle United

11. Swansea City

12. Southampton

13. QPR

14. West Ham United

15. Hull City

16. Crystal Palace

17. Aston Villa

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18. Leicester City

19. West Bromwich Albion

20. Burnley


Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 9th August 2014)

To win division

  • Chelsea – 19/10
  • Manchester City – 5/2
  • Manchester United – 9/2
  • Arsenal – 6/1
  • Liverpool – 12/1

To finish in the top four

  • Manchester City – 1/20
  • Chelsea – 1/20
  • Manchester United – 4/9
  • Arsenal – 8/15
  • Liverpool – 10/11

To get relegated

  • Burnley – 4/7
  • QPR – 2/1
  • Crystal Palace – 11/5
  • Leicester – 9/4
  • West Brom – 5/2

Top scorer

  • Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – 9/2
  •  Robin van Persie (Manchester United) – 9/2
  • Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – 5/1
  • Diego Costa (Chelsea) – 7/1
  • Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – 12/1

PFA Player of the Year

  • Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – 9/2
  • Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – 8/1
  • Yaya Toure (Manchester City) – 9/1
  • Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – 10/1
  • Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – 12/1

Club-by-Club Guide

Arsenal

arsenal

  • Last season: 4th
  • Nickname: The Gunners
  • Stadium: Emirates Stadium (60,338)

Ins (as of 13th August): Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona, £30m), Calum Chambers (Southampton, £16m), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United, £12m), David Ospina (Nice, £3m), Elias Chatzitheodoridis (Mas Kallitheakos, Undisclosed), Hugo Keto (HJK Helsinki, Undisclosed), Ben Sheaf (West Ham, United, Undisclosed).

Outs (as of 13th August): Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona, £15m), Johan Djourou (Hamburg, £2.5m), Thomas Eisfeld (Fulham, Unidsclosed), Zak Ansah (Charlton Athletic), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Zachari Fagan (Welling United), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Chuks Aneke (Zulte Waregem), Wellington Silva (UD Almeria, Loan), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham United, Loan), Benik Afobe (MK Dons, Loan).

The Manager – Arsene Wenger

It was a relief to a lot of people that Arsenal won the FA Cup last season, least of all to Arsene Wenger, as The Gunners ended their nine year trophy drought against Hull at Wembley. Having also now won the Community Shield, Wenger will have confidence that his side can challenge for the title this season.

Star Man – Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal’s big money summer signing last season failed to impress, so Arsene Wenger will hope that Alexis Sanchez (above), who has joined from Barcelona for £30 million, will be much more productive than Mesut Ozil was in 2013-14. The Chilean put in a couple of fantastic showings at the World Cup this summer, and seems to have fitted into The Gunners’ squad perfectly so far, with his performance in the Community Shield suggesting that Sanchez could have been with the club for 10 years. Naturally a winger, it has been suggested that the 25 year old could be played as a striker by Arsene Wenger, with Arsenal already having a few impressive widemen but little firepower upfront except for Olivier Giroud.

One to Watch – Calum Chambers

Another summer signing, 19 year old Calum Chambers is the youngest of the bunch, but second most expensive behind Sanchez after moving from Southampton for £16 million. It was considered an odd move my Arsene Wenger, who had signed another right-back, Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle just days before bringing in Chambers. However The Frenchman has revealed that he wants the England Under 19 international to play in the holding midfield position for The Gunners this season, however he was trialled at centre-back in the Community Shield where he impressed.

Fan’s View – Kallum Mehta

“It’s an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan – the signings of [Mesut] Ozil and Alexis [Sanchez] show our intent to compete at the top level, and it’s the first time in almost 10 years that I’m looking forward to our prospects in the coming season. The transformation of [Aaron] Ramsey is almost as good as a new signing, and as he said after the Community Shield, it’s the best atmosphere around the camp since he’s been at the club. It’s not only players that we’ve signed this summer – the fitness coach that worked with the World Cup winning German team has joined, so hopefully our injury problems of recent years will be resolved. I don’t think we’ll win the league against the stronger squads of Chelsea and City, however we’ll provide a good challenge. We need a defensive midfielder to have a better chance this season.”

My Prediction – 3rd

Arsene Wenger has made some fantastic signings this summer as he looks for more silverware following their FA Cup and Community Shield triumphs. As per usual, they could well lead the table for the first half of the campaign, but although they may slightly drop off in the new year, 2014-15 could be the season where they stay in the title race up until the end.


Aston Villa

aston villa

  • Last season: 15th
  • Nickname: The Villains
  • Stadium: Villa Park (42,682)

Ins (as of 13th August): Joe Cole (West Ham United), Aly Cissokho (Valencia, Undisclosed), Tom Leggett, Isaac Nehemie (Both Southampton, Undisclosed), Philippe Senderos (Valencia), Kieran Richardson (Fulham).

Outs (as of 13th August): Jordan Bowery (Rotherham United, £250,000), Samir Carruthers (MK Dons, Undisclosed), Marc Albrighton (Leicester City), Nathan Delfouneso (Blackpool), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg, Loan), Yacouba Sylla (Erciyesspor, Loan), Jed Steer (Doncaster Rovers, Loan), Antonio Luna (Verona, Loan), Daniel Johnson (Chesterfield, Loan), Aleksander Tonev (Celtic, Loan).

The Manager – Paul Lambert

The ex-Norwich manager is not the most popular among fans putting it lightly, and it’s not hard to understand why after he has guided a once top six chasing club to two successive 15th placed finishes. He did have a lot of injury problems last season, but has made some decent signings this summer, adding experience to a youthful squad.

Star Man – Fabian Delph

As the rest of the squad seemed to regress last season, Fabian Delph came to the fore with numerous impressive performances which turned him into a surprise dark-horse for England’s World Cup squad. He didn’t go to Brazil, but has spent the summer stating that he would love a new contract at Villa Park, a rare piece of good news for supporters. His intelligent, all-action style of player in 2013-14 earned him the club’s Player of Season award. After promising so much as a teenager for Leeds, it didn’t quite work out for the midfielder when he signed for Villa in 2009, but Delph finally appears to have lived up to his potential.

One to Watch – Jack Grealish

18 year old Jack Grealish (above) got his first taste of Premier League football when he came on as an 88th-minute substitute in Villa’s 4-0 defeat at champions Manchester City in the penultimate game of last season. Not the best introduction, but the winger has been encouraged by Paul Lambert to force into the first team this season after spending 2013-14 on loan at Notts County where he made 39 appearances and scored five times.  He has made a good start to this season by impressing in Villa’s pre-season tour of the United States, and with few other natural widemen at Villa Park, Grealish, who plays for the Republic of Ireland at youth level, may well get his chance on the opening day of the season.

My Prediction – 17th

There’s just no light at the end of the tunnel for Villa fans, with some average signings adding to an already average squad, managed by a fairly averaged manager who none of the supporters like. Sorry to be so critical, but it’s the sad reality for the Midlands outfit, who will no doubt be involved in another relegation battle. Their days in the top half seem like they never happened.


Burnley

burnley

  • Last season: 2nd in the Championship
  • Nickname: The Clarets
  • Stadium: Turf Moor (22,546)

Ins (as of 13th August): Lukas Jutkiewicz (Middlesbrough, £1.5m), Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Michael Kightly (Stoke City, Undisclosed), Matt Gilks (Blackpool), Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion), Matt Taylor (West Ham United).

Outs (as of 13th August): David Edgar (Birmingham City), Joseph Mills (Oldham Athletic), Junior Stanislas (AFC Bournemouth), Chris Baird (West Bromwich Albion).

The Manager – Sean Dyche

Nicknamed the ‘Ginger Mourinho’ by fans, Sean Dyche (above) has transformed Burnley’s fortunes after arriving in July 2012 following a harsh dismissal from Watford. On a relatively low budget, he led them to 11th in his first season and then to everyone’s surprise, automatic promotion in 2013-14.

Star Man – Michael Kightly

Goals from Burnley’s accomplished strike-force will of course be crucial to their survival this season, but as will Michael Kightly, who has the experience which most of the rest of the squad don’t have. He has had four previous campaigns in the Premier League with Stoke City and Wolverhampton, the latter of whom he faced relegation battles with, something which The Clarets are likely to face this season. After spending 2013-14 on loan at Turf Moor and scoring five goals from the wing, Kightly made his move from Stoke permanent at the end of June, much to the delight of the fans and manager.

One to Watch – Danny Ings

It could perhaps be said without Burnley’s striking duo of Danny Ings and Sam Vokes last season, The Clarets may not have gone up, with the pair notching 41 league goals between them. It is the former, who netted  who could be 21 of that tally, who could be the one about to take the Premier League by storm. Ings won the Championship’s player of the season award in 2013-14 and has attracted plenty of Premier League interest, including from Southampton who want him to replace Rickie Lambert. Still only 22 years old, Ings has virtually his whole career ahead of him, and after flourishing in the second divison, how will he get on in the Premier League?

My Prediction – 20th

Just like when they went up in 2009, Burnley were unlikely promotion winners last season, and they are a plucky side who could win the league if it was based on effort and determination. Sadly for them it’s not, and just like their first and season in the top flight, safety may be too much to ask and relegation looms.


Chelsea

chelsea

  • Last season: 3rd
  • Nickname: The Blues
  • Stadium: Stamford Bridge (41,798)

Ins (as of 13th August): Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid, £32m), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, £27m), Filipe Luis (Atlético Madrid, £15.8m), Mario Pasalic (Hajduk Split, £2.4m), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray).

Outs (as of 13th August): David Luiz (Paris Saint-Germain, £50m), Romelu Lukaku (Everton, £28m), Demba Ba (Besiktas, £4.7m), Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland, Undisclosed), Ashley Cole (Roma), Sam Hutchinson (Sheffield Wednesday), Frank Lampard (New York City), George Cole, Daniel Pappoe (Both Brighton & Hove Albion), Billy Clifford (Walsall), Tomas Kalas (Cologne, Loan), Wallace (Vitesse Arnhem, Loan), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Mönchengladbach, Loan), Bertrand Traore (Vitesse, Loan), Cristián Cuevas (Club Universidad de Chile, Loan), Mario Pasalic (Elche, Loan), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton, Loan), Gael Kakuta (Rayo Vallecano, Loan), John Swift (Rotherham United, Loan), Oriol Romeu (Chelsea, Loan), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough, Loan), Christian Atsu (Everton, Loan), Marko Marin (Fiorentina, Loan).

The Manager – Jose Mourinho

How can you sum up Jose Mourinho in just a few sentences? His mind games, strange tactics, amusing press conferences and controversial remarks returned to Stamford Bridge last season, but no trophy was won. The Special One/Happy One has spent a lot of money this summer to make sure this doesn’t happen. Whatever does happen, it definately won’t be dull.

Star Man – Eden Hazard

With speculation linking him to PSG seemingly having blown over, Eden Hazard will be the key man to Chelsea’s title challenge this season. Given the number 1o shirt for the new season, it will be interesting to see if Jose Mourinho deploys him in that position, or out wide like last season, when performances led to him being awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year and Chelsea’s Player of the Year. After going to the World Cup with Belgium, Hazard only recently joined up with his club-teammates, but even if he only met with the squad on the opening day it is unlikely it would effect The Blues, with the 23 year old seemingly able to fit into any team with his ability to terrorise defenders and create chances for himself and his teammates.

One to Watch – Nathan Ake

The name of Nathan Ake has been known to football fans for the last few years, but despite the hype, the 19 year old defender has never been able to properly break into the Chelsea first team. However after an impressive pre-season, Jose Mourinho has announced that he will be using Ake along with fellow young centre-back Andreas Christensen regularly this season. This is a step in the right defender for the Dutchman, but with the likes of John Terry, Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill also in the team, how much time will Ake really get on the pitch?

Fan’s View – Harry Blacknell

“As per usual Chelsea have pumped money into our squad, and I feel the latest signings: Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis will all earn and prove their regular places in our starting 11 for the upcoming season. As well as the re-signing of legend Didier Drogba who will help Costa to adapt to the Premier League, and I doubt will start many games with Torres also still at the club. As well as getting good buys in the market we also made a good amount from selling players. David Luiz costing PSG around £40 million is ridiculously overpriced and Lukaku, who I would have liked to stay at the club instead of Torres, to Everton for £28 million.

Just the same as any other Chelsea fan last season I became fed up with our 3 non-prolific strikers: Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba. I felt that this summer we definitely needed a new proven goalscorer to be added to our team. I think that after a superb season at BBVA winners and Champions League finalists, Atletico Madrid, Diego Costa is that man. Also from that club is Filipe Luis who had a consistent season will replace Ashley Cole who joined Roma this summer. Our other newcomer is Cesc Fabregas who has already proven himself in the Premier League with a spell at Arsenal and I think will be the perfect replacement for club legend Frank Lampard. Many people believe Chelsea will win the league this year, and I also feel the same unless stars Costa, Hazard, Oscar and Fabregas are performing week in week out and in that case we have a brilliant chance of competed for the coveted prize against the likes of Man City.”

My Prediction – 1st

Jose Mourinho was not happy with finishing last season with no trophies, so he has set out this season to get as many as he can get. Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas look to be fantastic signings, whilst the return of Didier Drogba will also be a boost. They have the squad, they have the manager, the only thing stopping them from winning the league is themselves.


Crystal Palace

crystal palace

  • Last season: 11th
  • Nickname: The Eagles
  • Stadium: Selhurst Park (26,255)

Ins (as of 13th August): Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff City, £900,000), Chris Kettings (Blackpool), Brede Hangeland (Fulham).

Outs (as of 13th August): Jose Campana (Sampdoria, £1.4m), Neil Alexander (Heart of Midlothian), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Cardiff City), Dean Moxey (Bolton Wanderers), Aaron Wilbraham (Bristol City), Jonathan Parr (Ipswich Town), Ross Fitzsimons (Bolton Wanderers), Osman Sow (Heart of Midlothian), Alex Wynter (Portsmouth, Loan), Kwesi Appiah (Cambridge United, Loan), Jack Hunt (Nottingham Forest, Loan), Stephen Dobbie (Fleetwood Town, Loan).

The Manager – Tony Pulis

Tony Pulis oversaw a remarkable turnaround at Selhurst Park last season by taking Palace from a relegation destined club in the autumn to an 11th place finish in May. This achievement was recognised when he was voted the LMA Manager of the Year, and his only goal now is get a top ten finish for The Eagles, for whose fans he can do no wrong.

Star Man – Mile Jedinak

Palace captain Mile Jedinak (above) epitomised The Eagles’ gritty first campaign back in the Premier League. The Aussie enforcer was the torchbearer for Premier League engine men last season, making more clearances and interceptions and winning more tackles and aerial duels than any other player. The 30 year old featured in all three of Australia’s games at the World Cup this summer, scoring from the penalty spot against The Dutch, and gaining the experience of facing world-class players such as Arjen Robben and Alexis Sanchez, who he should come up against on the opening day when Palace visit The Emirates on August 16th.

One to Watch – Sullay Kaikai

Perhaps unlucky not to get on the pitch for the first team last season, Sullay Kaikai scored bucketloads of goals for the reserves and youth team last season as well as having a short loan spell with Crawley Town. The 18 year old did travel with Tony Pulis’ squad for some games though, but never managed to force his way into the starting XI as Palace completed the great escape. This season though, we should see the breakthrough of the strong and confident striker, who signed a new long-term contract at Selhurst Park in January.

Fan’s View – Joe Hyland Deeson

“I think this season will be an interesting one. We’ll do one of two things, ‘a Stoke’ where we survive one season and then build on that to establish ourselves as a Premier League team, or ‘a QPR’ where we survive one season and then bomb the next, and go up and down again in a few years time. As far as star players, we’ve just signed Brede Hangeland which should be interesting, and it’ll mean Pulis will have replaced both of our centre backs since becoming manager which is good because they were the weakpoint of the team. Another dilemma is in goal, we have our stalwart keeper [Julian] Speroni, but apparently Pulis favours Wayne Hennessey.

As far as midfield is concerned, Mile Jedinak is one to watch as ever, and Yannick Bolasie. Up front, [Marouane] Chamakh has been resigned but, as good as he can be, you need another clinical forward to play off him. Dwight Gayle scored 5 goals in the last five games (or something like that) and he looks like he might yet come good. As for where we finish, who knows? I doubt we’ll finish higher than we did last season, but how much lower? All I know is, it will be damn exciting.”

My Prediction – 16th

Reproducing last season’s form to finish 11th is a tough ask for Palace, even with Tony Pulis at the helm. They haven’t made as many signings as teams around them have, which could cost them in the long run. The other query you would have is where the goals will come from, but The Eagles should have enough spirit in their squad to stay up.


Everton

everton

  • Last season: 5th
  • Nickname: The Toffees
  • Stadium: Goodison Park (39,571)

Ins (as of 13th August): Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, £28m), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros, £4m), Gareth Barry (Manchester City, £1m), Brendon Galloway (MK Dons, Undisclosed), Christian Atsu (Chelsea, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): Magaye Gueye (Millwall), John Lundstram (Blackpool, Loan), Matthew Kennedy (Hibernian, Loan).

The Manager – Roberto Martinez

At Swansea and Wigan, Roberto Martinez earned a reputation for producing sides that play slick, passing football, which is something he brought to Goodison Park last summer. It worked a treat, as The Toffees competed for fourth place all season, even looking favourites to get it at one point. After eventually finishing fifth, Martinez was rewarded with a new five year deal.

Star Man – Ross Barkley

Young star Ross Barkley went from under-20 World Cup to actual World Cup inside 12 months after going to Brazil this summer and being one of the few bright sparks in England’s squad. It signifies the midfielder’s emergence as one of this country’s most exciting young prospects and it is a thrilling sight to behold. A powerful, driving playmaker, Barkley scored seven goals in all competitions last season, some of which were truly remarkable, including a superb solo effort against Newcastle as he ran from his own half, and an instinctive curled finish from 25 yards against Manchester City, which won Everton’s goal of the season award. The Toffees know what a hot prospect he is and gave him a new four year contract at the end of July.

One to Watch – John Stones

Another young player who has committed his future to Everton this summer is 20 year old defender John Stones (above), who signed a new five year deal last week. It comes after Roberto Martinez gave Stones a chance in the first team in the second half of last season with injuries causing The Toffees defensive problems, which he took with both hands, impressing at right-back and centre-back. By the end of the season, he had been named on Roy Hodgson’s seven man standby list for England’s World Cup squad and travelled, along with other young standby defender Jon Flanagan of Liverpool, with the squad to Miami where he made his international debut.

My Prediction – 7th

The top seven is so close this year, that the team who finish seventh won’t perhaps deserve to. It could well be Everton who fall in this position on May 24th, purely because there are questions over too many of the squad. The Toffees won’t fear anybody though and should still challenge to get into the top four.


Hull City

hull

  • Last season: 16th
  • Nickname: The Tigers
  • Stadium: KC Stadium (25,400)

Ins (as of 13th August): Jake Livermore (Tottenham Hotspur, £8m), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City, £7m), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United, £2.85m), Tom Ince (Blackpool, Compensation to be agreed), Karim Rossi (Stoke City).

Outs (as of 13th August): Matty Fryatt (Nottingham Forest), Paul McElroy (Sheffield Wednesday), Conor Henderson (Crawley Town), Cameron Stewart (Ipswich Town), Jack Barlow (Boston United), Robert Koren (Melbourne City), Mark Oxley (Hibernian, Loan), Conor Townsend (Dundee United, Loan), Joe Dudgeon (Barnsley, Loan).

The Manager – Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce (above) has managed four Premier League clubs, but has had his most successful few years in the last couple of seasons in charge of Hull City. He led them automatic promotion from the Championship in 2012-13, and then to Premier League survival and an FA Cup final in the last campaign, meaning he is the first man to take charge of The Tigers in Europe this season.

Star Man – Tom Huddlestone

The 27 year old was one of the signings of last summer when he moved from Tottenham to the newly-promoted side, and he played a big role in ensuring the Tigers didn’t go back down. They now need Huddlestone to maintain the high standards set in that fine first season at the club. He was Hull’s best passer and strongest tackler last season, and his metronomic distribution contributed hugely to their first season back in the big time. An all-round action man, Huddlestone even played in goal at one point last season after Allan McGregor was sent-off with Hull having made their three substitutions against Crystal Palace. He also scored his first goal in almost three years last campaign, causing him to finally get a hair cut.

One to Watch – Tom Ince

With offers from clubs such as Inter Milan, it was a surprise to many people that Tom Ince did not decide to play abroad this season, but instead sign for Hull. Yet this could prove to be a good decision, with the pressure of moving to big clubs often ruining the careers of promising youngsters. He got his first taste of Premier League football on loan at Crystal Palace last season, and was one of many players to leave Blackpool this summer. At Bloomfield Road, he built his reputation as a goal scoring winger, scoring 33 goals in 113 games for The Seasiders which is an impressive set of numbers for a 22 year old.

My Prediction – 15th

Juggling European and domestic football for the first time will make things tricky for The Tigers, especially in the first half of the season, where they could well find themselves in a relegation scrap. Their fortunes should change in the New Year though, after going out of the Europa League meaning they survive.


Leicester City

leicester

  • Last season: 1st in the Championship
  • Nickname: The Foxes
  • Stadium: King Power Stadium (32,262)

Ins (as of 13th August): Leonardo Ulloa (Brighton & Hove Albion, £8m rising to £10m), Matthew Upson (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa), Jack Barmby, Louis Rowley (Both Manchester United), Ben Hamer (Charlton Athletic).

Outs (as of 13th August): Lloyd Dyer (Watford), George Taft (Burton Albion), Zak Whitbread (Derby County), Neil Danns (Bolton Wanderers), Ben Frempah (Ross County), Paul Gallagher (Preston North End, Loan).

The Manager – Nigel Pearson

In his first spell in charge of the club, Nigel Pearson steered Leicester to the League One title in 2009 and then to a play-off finish the following season. After returning following a season’s absence, the 50 year old, who signed a new three year contract in June, got The Foxes into the top six again in 2012-13 before going up as Champions last season.

Star Man – Danny Drinkwater

Leicester had a whole squad full of heroes on their way to promotion last season, including former Manchester United trainee Danny Drinkwater in midfield. The 24 year old was named the Foxes’ player of the season, as well as being included in the Championship’s team of the season (along with teammates Kasper Schmeichel and Wes Morgan and being nominated for the division’s player of the year award. During the course of the season, Drinkwater missed just one game, notching seven times and was the heartbeat of Leicester’s midfield, averaging more passes per game than any other player in the league. In June, he signed a new deal with the club which will keep him at the King Power Stadium until 2018.

One to Watch – Riyad Mahrez

23 year old Riyad Mahrez has had a dream year. 12 months ago he was starting a French Ligue 2 season with Le Havre, and now he could be about to take the Premier League by storm with his electric pace and mesmerising trickery. He moved across the channel to Leicester in January, and featured 19 times and and scored thrice as the club raced to the league title. Having not even featured for his country’s youth sides before, Mahrez was then called up to Algeria’s World Cup squad in June, and featured in their first game against Belgium before not appearing for the rest of the tournament.

My Prediction – 18th

The last two Championship title winners have gone straight back down the following season, and Leicester may unfortunately suffer the same fate. The Foxes have belief, but in the end it could come down to whether they have the funds and/or the experience to survive the dreaded drop.


Liverpool

liverpool

  • Last season: 2nd
  • Nickname: The Reds
  • Stadium: Anfield (45,276)

Ins (as of 13th August): Adam Lallana (Southampton, £25m), Dejan Lovren (Southampton, £20m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m), Divock Origi (Lille, £10m), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.75m), Rickie Lambert (Southampton, £4m), Lawrence Vigouroux, Kevin Stewart (Both Tottenham Hotspur), Javier Manquillo (Atlético Madrid, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): Luis Suarez (Barcelona, £75m) Conor Coady (Huddersfield Town, £375,000), Pepe Reina (Bayern Munich, Undisclosed), Villyan Bijev (Slavia Sofia), Jakub Sokolik (Yeovil Town), Luis Alberto (Malaga, Loan), Iago Aspas (Sevilla, Loan), Andre Wisdom (West Bromwich Albion, Loan), Brad Smith (Swindon Town, Loan).

The Manager – Brendan Rodgers

Arguably one of the Premier League’s most tactically aware managers, Brendan Rodgers transformed Liverpool into title contenders last season. He gave in to selling Luis Suarez to Barcelona this summer, but has been very busy in the transfer market, bringing in seven first team players so far.

Star Man – Daniel Sturridge

With Luis Suarez gone, it is time for Daniel Sturridge (above) to be a 30 goal a season striker, with back-up Rickie Lambert unlikely to reach that tally. Sturridge certainly is, as we saw last season when he notched 21 league goals, a tally only beaten by Suarez. Having previously played for Manchester City and Chelsea, this was Sturridge’s last chance at a ‘big’ club, and he has taken the last 19 months in his stride and is on fire. With the deal to sign Loic Remy breaking down, the goal-scoring burden at Anfield will be on the 24 year old’s shoulders for the majority of the time and you just sense that that might be the pressure which he flourishes in.

One to Watch – Jordan Ibe

The 18 year old has been highly-rated at Anfield for some, and has featured heavily in pre-season for The Reds. He spent the back end of last season on loan at Birmingham, featuring 11 times for The Blues and scoring once, as well as being heavily involved in Paul Caddis’ last minute goal on the final day which kept the club in the Championship. The winger is also a regular England youth international, and has four goals in six games for the Under 19s. Ibe is very quick, skillful, and although still developing, could force his way into Brendan Rodgers’ first team plans – something which Raheem Sterling did this time last year at Ibe’s age.

Fan’s View – Josh Nicholson

“Last season was one of the best for the club for years and years, we had our first real title push and very nearly won it! A real change from finishing 7th and 8th. Next season the competition will be even stronger, we have lost the best striker in the world and haven’t really signed a proven replacement. Without [Luis] Suarez I don’t think we can aim for the title but I think a 4th place finish is achievable with the players we have. Watch out for [Raheem] Sterling and [Philippe] Coutinho this season, they are class!”

My Prediction – 5th

With Luis Suarez gone and replaced by a number of lesser-quality players, you just wonder whether a title challenge is beyond Liverpool. Moreover, with competition closer than ever, The Reds could even miss out on the top if all of their new signings don’t gel and Rodgers has no Plan B.


Manchester City

manchester city

  • Last season: 1st
  • Nickname: The Citizens
  • Stadium: Etihad Stadium (47,405)

Ins (as of 13th August): Eliaquim Mangala (Porto, £32m), Fernando (Porto, £12m), Willy Caballero (Malaga, £6m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Frank Lampard (New York City, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): Jack Rodwell (Sunderland, £10m), Gareth Barry (Everton, £1m), Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland), Joleon Lescott (WBA), Alex Henshall (Ipswich Town), Ellis Plummer (St Mirren), Reece Wabara (Doncaster Rovers), Marcos Lopes (Lille, Loan), Emyr Huws (Wigan Athletic, Loan), Greg Leigh (Crewe Alexandra, Loan), Jason Denayer (Celtic, Loan).

The Manager – Manuel Pellegrini

Domestically at least, Manuel Pellegrini did a perfect job at City last season winning the league and Capital One Cup. Their downfall was the Champions League, a competition which the Chilean is aiming to win this time around. He hasn’t bought as much as previous managers have since the Qatari takeover, but still has a very strong squad to work with.

Star Man – Vincent Kompany

The absence of Vincent Kompany in the City defence in the Community Shield against Arsenal was hugely visible, whilst with their captain not on the pitch, the whole squad didn’t look up for it. That is why Kompany is a motivational skipper and key to the club’s recent success. A rock at the back, he often gets on the scoresheet as well, such as on the final day last season when it was only fitting that it was his goal against West Ham which effectively secured the title which the Belgian would lift for the second time. Named in the PFA Team of the Year for the third time in his career in 2013-14, Kompany will again be the unsung hero for Manuel Pellegrini’s side this season.

One to Watch – Frank Lampard

At the World Cup my veteran one to watch was Didier Drogba, and for this Premier League season it’s Frank Lampard, well for the first half at least. Frank Lampard of Manchester City. It just doesn’t sound right does it? The Chelsea legend quit Stamford Bridge at the end of the season and joined City’s new MLS franchise New York City. But with the new season in the US not starting until February, Lampard has been loaned to Manuel Pellegrini’s side. It is hard to seem him featuring week in, week out at the Etihad, but it will be interesting to see if his heart is really in it, especially when City host Chelsea on September 21st.

My Prediction – 2nd

Although City have brought in players, they haven’t strengthened as much as the other big teams thanks to the Financial Fair Play rules implemented on them by UEFA. There have also been suggestions that Manuel Pellegrini’s side could concentrate more on the Champions League this season, but with the squad they have, you’d still expect them to challenge on both European and domestic fronts in 2014-15.


Manchester United

manchester united

  • Last season: 7th
  • Nickname: The Red Devils
  • Stadium: Old Trafford (75,731)

Ins (as of 13th August):  Luke Shaw (Southampton, £30m rising to £31m), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £28.8m), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina, Undisclosed).

Outs (as of 13th August): Alexander Buttner (Dynamo Moscow, £4.4m rising to £5.6m), Patrice Evra (Juventus, £1.2m rising to £1.5m), Bebe (Benfica, £2.25m), Jack Barmby (Leicester City), Feredrico Macheda (Cardiff City), Nemanja Vidic (Inter Milan), Louis Rowley (Leicester City), Rio Ferdinand (Queens Park Rangers), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina, Loan), Angelo Henriquez (Dynamo Zagreb, Loan).

The Manager – Louis Van Gaal

Arriving at Old Trafford fresh from leading his native Netherlands to the World Cup semi-finals, Louis Van Gaal’s (above left) job is to turn United back into title contenders after last season’s mess under David Moyes. He has a history of success, and English football awaits the impact of the one of the fines managers around.

Star Man – Robin van Persie

Even though Van Gaal seems to be leaning towards Wayne Rooney as his captain, Robin van Persie’s closeness to the former Netherlands boss could be The Red Devils’ trump card. Injury hampered the 31 year old last season from almost the first minute of pre-season to the last day, restricting him to just 21 league games as United crumbled. Twelve goals and three assists during that time however showed just how vital he is even when not fully fit. It will be interesting to see how and where Van Gaal chooses to play RVP, but wherever he does, goals are guarantee. He isn’t getting any younger mind.

One to Watch – Ashley Young

The once surplus-to-requirements attacker has enjoyed a renaissance as a wing-back under Louis van Gaal. Ashley Young backed up his two-goal haul against Real Madrid with another solid outing against Liverpool as Manchester United won the International Champions Cup in pre-season. The 29 year old has been given a fresh lease of life under Louis van Gaal, and showcased his ability at both ends of the pitch in Miami. He’s also got a smile on his face for the first time in three years, and may surprise a few people in the Premier League this season, making him a rejuvinated one to watch.

Fan’s View – Ollie Tipple

“Personally I would expect for United to get 4th (Champions League) although they still need to make some more signings to secure this. It would also be nice to see a successful cup campaign as in the last couple of years we’ve been knocked out [in early rounds]. Personally there is a few players to watch out for, depending on if they avoid injury which is unlikely such as Rafael, [Jonny] Evans, [Phil] Jones and [Chris] Smalling. Both Jones and Smalling have been messed around under Ferguson by being played in unfamiliar positions and Rafael in previous seasons having to be more aggressive because of the lack of commitment of ageing centre backs and centre midfielders.

I would expect De Gea to cement himself as one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers and become Spain’s no.1 as I knew he’d become. If RVP, [Juan] Mata and [Wayne] Rooney avoid injuries they will make impacts. Watch out for youngsters [James] Wilson (already proven, scored 4 goals against City’s youth in a seniors cup, to help MU win 4 – 1) as well as Tyler Blackett who has adapted well to CB, Saidy Janko as well who is a real physical player who would be great playing at RWB in the future and Angelo Henriquez if given the chance could make an impact.”

My Prediction – 4th

Van Gaal is a fantastic manager and he has a squad with many fantastic players, with RVP, Rooney and Mata expected to shine as Ollie said. The fact that they have no European commitments this season also helps United like it helped Liverpool last season, meaning The Red Devils could be ready to challenge for the title once again.


Newcastle United

newcastle

  • Last season: 10th
  • Nickname: The Magpies
  • Stadium: St. James’ Park (52,405)

Ins (as of 13th August): Rémy Cabella (Montpellier, £12m), Karl Darlow, Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, £7m combined), Emmanuel Riviere (Monaco, £6.3m), Siem de Jong (Ajax, £6m), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord, £5m), Ayoze Perez (Tenerife, £1.5m), Jack Colback (Sunderland), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal, £12m), James Tavernier (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed), Dan Gosling (AFC Bournemouth), Jonathan Mitchell (Derby County), Conor Newton (Rotherham United), Romain Amalfitano (Dijon), Shola Ameobi (Gaziantep), Adam Campbell (Fleetwood Town, Loan), Sylvain Marveaux (Guingcamp, Loan), Karl Darlow, Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, Loans).

The Manager – Alan Pardew

The Magpies boss couldn’t even get out of the dugout without being booed at the last home game of 2013-14, which shows just how much fans don’t want him at St. James’ Park. He made the headlines last season by headbutting Hull’s David Meyler, for which he was fined £160,000 for in total and given a four game touchline ban and three game stadium ban. He may well be the first Prem boss to be shown the door this term.

Star Man – Tim Krul

The fact that there’s no player who stands out week in week out at St James’ Park gives supporters even more to be gloomy about, but those in the stands will hopefully at least realise what a solid, reliable and consistent goalkeeper Tim Krul is. More than just a safe pair of hands, the diving Dutchman has the agility and dexterity to pull off crucial saves. And of course, there’s that new-found brilliance at saving penalties that gave Krul his fifteen minutes of fame at the World Cup this summer. As everyone will remember, after being brought on in the 120th minute in Holland’s quarter-final, the 26 year old two of the five penalties in the Netherlands’ quarter-final shoot-out with Costa Rica to send Oranje through.

One to Watch – Facundo Ferreyra

One of two new strikers on Tyneside this summer (the other being Emmanuel Riviere), Argentinian Facundo Ferreyra (above) failed to establish himself in the Shakhtar Donetsk side in 2013-14, despite scoring six times from five starts. The Ukrainian club bought him after he 11 times in the final seven games of the season in his homeland to fire his club Velez Sarsfield to the title – so the potential is definately there. The 23 year old has arrived at St James’ Park initially on loan, but if his second chance of cracking European football goes well, a permanent move is likely to come into play next summer.

My Prediction – 10th

Magpies fans may not be looking forward to the season ahead, but there is reason to be optimistic on Tyneside, with a number of impressive players arriving at St. James’ Park. Saying that, such is the unpredictability of Alan Pardew’s team, they could finish anywhere between 8th and 18th depending on how well the squad actually performs under an unpopular manager.


Queens Park Rangers

qpr

  • Last season: 4th in the Championship
  • Nickname: The R’s
  • Stadium: Loftus Road (18,360)

Ins (as of 13th August): Steven Caulker (Cardiff City, £8.5m), Jordan Mutch (Cardiff City, £6m), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Mauricio Isla (Juventus, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): Yossi Benayoun (Maccabi Haifa, Undisclosed), Esteban Granero (Real Sociedad, Undisclosed), Tom Hitchcock (MK Dons), Aaron Hughes (Brighton & Hove Albion), Mo Shariff (Bradford City), Gary O’Neil (Norwich City).

The Manager – Harry Redknapp

Redknapp has admitted that had QPR not been promoted to the Premier League last year, he would have retired from management, but after beating Derby in the play-off final, the 67 year old remains at Loftus Road, but knows as much as anybody that his time in the dugout is coming to end.

Star Man – Joey Barton

It is hard to believe that the loud-mouthed, red card magnet that is Joey Barton (above) is now QPR’s star man but it is hard to see The R’s where they are now without him. After saying he would never return to club after a loan spell with Marseille, Barton ended up playing a crucial role in Rangers’ promotion. He puts in more effort than anybody on the pitch, and although he does occasionally get involved in the odd fight, his arguments now are usually either on TV or on Twitter. The midfielder, who has been described as the Premier League’s dirtiest ever player, is back in the top division and his all-round game and leadership will be key to QPR’s survival.

One to Watch – Michael Petrasso

There are other promising wingers already at QPR, but Canadian Michael Petrasso may fancy his chances of breaking into the first team at Loftus Road after making his debut on the final day of the league season in 2013-14, so should already in Harry Redknapp’s thoughts for this campaign. The 19 year old spent time on loan at Oldham and Coventry last term, and has been capped for Canada at youth level as well as being called up to the senior team but not making the pitch. Despite signing a new three year deal in April, Petrasso has reportedly been on the radar of other Premier League clubs this summer, including Stoke City, managed by Mark Hughes who signed the youngster for QPR in 2012.

My Prediction – 13th

It’s unlikely to be a walk in the park, but QPR should perform the best out of all three promoted teams thanks to the experience of their manager and key players such as Barton and Rio Ferdinand. They haven’t wildly splashed the cash like the last time they were in this division, so it will be a more comfortable squad meaning they could surprise people.


Southampton

southampton

  • Last season: 8th
  • Nickname: The Saints
  • Stadium: St Mary’s (32,589)

Ins (as of 13th August): Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, £10.9m), Fraser Forster (Celtic, £10m), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, £9m), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan, Swap), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): Luke Shaw (Manchester United, £30m rising to £31m), Adam Lallana (Liverpool, £25m), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool, £20m), Calum Chambers (Arsenal, £16m), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, £4m), Tom Leggett, Isaac Nehemie (Both Aston Villa, Undisclosed), Danny Fox (Nottingham Forest), Andy Robinson (Bolton), Lee Barnard (Southend United), Matt Young (Sheffield Wednesday), Jonathan Forte (Oldham Athletic), Dani Osvaldo (Inter Milan, Swap), Jordan Turnbull (Swindon Town, Loan).

The Manager – Ronald Koeman

At least Ronald Koeman can see the funny side of Southampton letting several players go this summer by tweeting a picture of the club’s training ground empty, but on a serious note, the Dutchman does have a track record of developing young players into star men. He arrives at Southampton after guiding Feyenoord to a second placed finish in the Dutch Eredivisie last season.

Star Man – Jay Rodriguez

Had Jay Rodriguez not injured his knee in April and gone to the World Cup, he too may have left Southampton by now. He may well still quit the South Coast with Tottenham interested, but for now he will remains the best player still at the club from last season. Before his injury against Manchester City, he had scored 15 league goals, including five in his last four games meaning he was ruled out at the top of his form. Now hopefully over that disappointment over missing Brazil, he could be ready for an even better season as long as his heart is still at St. Mary’s.

One to Watch – Matt Targett

With one promising young left-back leaving the club, it gives another to step up to take his place, with Matt Targett (above) ready to fill the boots of Luke Shaw in the Saint’s defence this season. The 18 year old, who is an England youth international, made the breakthrough into the first-team squad last term, making the bench in both the Premier League and League Cup and the club believe he could save them millions in the transfer market by replacing Shaw. Ronald Koeman is reportedly a big fan of Targett, but will a big season mean he follows in Shaw’s footsteps and signs for a bigger club?

My Prediction – 12th

A summer of upheaval means The Saints could have a slow start which will cost them a top ten finish like last season, but there have been some good signings at St. Mary’s whilst their academy is continuing to churn out young stars meaning relegation will not be a worry on the South Coast.


Stoke City

stoke

  • Last season: 9th
  • Nickname: The Potters
  • Stadium: Britannia Stadium (27,740)

Ins (as of 13th August): Bojan Krkic (Barcelona, £3m), Dionatan Teixeira (Banska Bystrica, Undisclosed), Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover 96), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland), Steve Sidwell (Fulham).

Outs (as of 13th August): Michael Kightly (Burnley, Undisclosed), Jordan Keane (Alfreton Town), Ed Sanders (Sheffield Wednesday), Karim Rossi (Hull City), James Alabi (Accrington Stanley, Loan).

The Manager – Mark Hughes

There were mixed feelings when Hughes (above) took over at the Britannia Stadium last summer, but the former QPR boss has turned Stoke into a daring and more exciting team, with a new style which led them to a 9th – their best finish since 1975. He has made some astute signings as he aims to better this in May.

Star Man – Peter Odemwingie

Peter Odemwingie has never truly returned to the form he showed in his first season in English football, when he netted 15 times for West Brom in 2010-11. He has only hit double figures in one other season, and saw his Baggies career come into doubt when he drove himself to Loftus Road on January deadline day 2013 to force a move to QPR. When he eventually did leave The Hawthorns, a move to Cardiff didn’t work out, but made an impact upon signing for Stoke in January, scoring six goals in 15 outings. This season could be when we see the 33 year old back to his best, especially after a confidence boosting World Cup, at which he scored the goal which gave Nigeria their first win at the tournament since 1998.

One to Watch – Marc Muniesa

After signing for Stoke last summer, 2013-14 was a season of adapting to English football for 22 year old defender Marc Muniesa, formerly of Barcelona. To begin with he found life Staffordshire hard, but impressed at centre-back and full-back at the tail end of the campaign. The Spaniard has undoubted talent, and is able to play all across the defence or in the centre of midfield so will be looking to become a regular starter this season after only featuring 13 times last term. Plus, not many people in this country can boast an Under-21 European Championships winners medal.

My Prediction – 9th

Mark Hughes has got an organised squad at The Britannia, whilst he has made some astute signings in the transfer market by bringing in some very good free signings to add experience. Bojan Krkic is also bursting to get his career back on track meaning The Potters should be looking at a top half finish once again.


Sunderland

sunderland

  • Last season: 14th
  • Nickname: The Black Cats
  • Stadium: Stadium of Light (48,707)

Ins (as of 13th August): Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, £10m), Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea, Undisclosed), Jordi Gómez (Wigan Athletic), Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): Ignacio Scocco (Newell’s Old Boys, £2.1m), Phil Bardsley (Stoke City), Jack Colback (Newcastle United), Craig Gardner (West Bromwich Albion), Billy Knott (Bradford City), John Egan (Gillingham), Kieren Westwood (Sheffield Wednesday), Louis Laing (Nottingham Forest), Reece Noble (Durham City), Jordan Pickford (Bradford City, Loan).

The Manager – Gus Poyet

The Uruguayan took charge of Sunderland in October last year and saved them from relegation, beating a number of top sides on their way to a 14th place finish. A fine motivator with pedigree as a player, a season of improvement is expected, especially after acting well in the transfer market.

Star Man – Jack Rodwell

It’s fair to say Jack Rodwell’s repuatation took a massive hit during his two year spell at Manchester City, but Sunderland could be exactly the club where we see the side of the 23 year old which earned him such a good reputation at Everton. That was a reputation as a hard-working, ball playing midfielder, something which he never got to show at The Etihad Stadium. Despite what’s gone on in the last two seasons, Rodwell still has to be regarded as one of the best players in Gus Poyet’s squad, and we could seen him back to his best this season in a midfield where he feels comfortable.

One to Watch – Connor Wickham

He may have made over 140 senior club appearances under his belt (47 with Sunderland), but Connor Wickham is only 21 years old and starting to join the Premier League party. His five goals from The Black Cat’s final six games last season earned him the Premier League Player of the Month for April, and gave his confidence a massive boost ahead of a season which could be the biggest in his career to date. He will be out to prove that his end of season form was not a fluke, and if he does then he will definately hit double figures and could help Sunderland push for the top ten.

My Prediction – 8th

There’s about four of five teams who could contend for the next spot after the top seven, but Sunderland probably aren’t considered as one of those teams. But there’s something about Gus Poyet that makes me think that The Black Cats could finish eighth, whilst they have made some good signings this summer as well adding to a fairly youthful squad raring to go.


Swansea City

swansea

  • Last season: 12th
  • Nickname: The Swans
  • Stadium: Liberty Stadium (20,750)

Ins (as of 13th August): Jefferson Montero (Monarcas Morelia, £4m), Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, £1.5m), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk, Undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal), Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham Hotspur, swap).

Outs (as of 13th August): Michel Vorm (Tottenham Hotspur, £4.5m), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur, £8m plus swap), Gwion Edwards (Crawley Town, £700,000), Chico Flores (Lekhwiya SC, Undisclosed), Alejandro Pozuelo (Rayo Vallecano, Undisclosed), Thomas Atyeo (Aberystwyth Town), Leroy Lita (Barnsley), Daniel Alfei (Northampton Town, Loan), Michu (Napoli, Loan).

The Manager – Garry Monk

After playing in four divisions for Swansea, Garry Monk was appointed as Michael Laudrup’s replacement in February despite still being on the list of playing staff at the Liberty Stadium. He announced his retirement as a player at the end of 2013-14 after guiding them from the touchline to a 12th place finish and to the  Europa League round of 32 stage, where they were beaten by a very strong Napoli side.

Star Man – Wilfried Bony

Nobody really noticed the impact Wilfried Bony (above) had at Swansea last season, as the Ivorian quietly tucked away 25 goals in all competitions with people paying more attention to the fact that Michu was now virtually non-existent in South Wales. But this season, all eyes will be on Bony at The Liberty Stadium, not least of all because several clubs are interested in buying him. After Michael Laudrup showed a surprising lack of faith in the 25 year old at the beginning of last season, Garry Monk made him a regular starter and has now put a £19 million price tag on the striker, who scored twice at the World Cup this summer.

One to Watch – Jay Fulton

Signed from Falkirk in January and originally meant for The Swans’ Under-21 squad, Jay Fulton had worked his way into the thoughts of Garry Monk at the end of last season who asked him to train with the first team and then picked him to play twice at the end of the campaign against Aston Villa and Sunderland. As a teenager, the midfielder made over 100 appearances North of the border, which shows how much faith Falkirk had in him, and after giving him a new four year contract in July just a few months after signing him, it is clear that Swansea also see the huge potential the 20 year old has.

My Prediction – 11th

Garry Monk still has a lot to prove, and the rookie manager needs his best players like Bony and Gylfi Sigurdsson to stay fit week in week out. If this is the case, then the Swans may flirt with relegation but in the end finish comfortably and push for the top ten if other teams around them fall off the pace.


Tottenham Hotspur

lamela

  • Last season: 6th
  • Nickname: Spurs
  • Stadium: White Hart Lane

Ins (as of 13th August): Ben Davies (Swansea City, £8m plus swap), Michel Vorm (Swansea City, £4.5m), Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon, £4m).

Outs (as of 13th August): Jake Livermore (Hull City, £8m), Iago Falque (Genoa, £4m), Heurelho Gomes (Watford), Lawrence Vigouroux, Kevin Stewart (Both Liverpool), Darren McQueen (Ipswich Town), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City, swap), Grant Hall (Birmingham City, Loan), Alex Pritchard (Brentford, Loan), Kenny McEvoy (Peterborough United, Loan), Shaquile Coulthirst (Southend United, Loan), Jordan Archer (Northampton Town, Loan).

The Manager – Mauricio Pochettino

The latest man to try his hand at getting Tottenham Champions League football again, Mauricio Pochettino has been given this opportunity following Tim Sherwood’s sacking after he led Southampton to an eighth place finish last season despite relegation fears, having previously done a similar job with Espanyol in Spain, driving them too away from the La Liga dropzone.

Star Man – Christian Eriksen

After a slow start, Christian Eriksen flourished in his first season at Tottenham and was the best player to be bought using the money they received from Gareth Bales’ move to Real Madrid. The Danish playmaker bagged 10 goals and 10 assists in 36 appearances in all competitions for the North London, and will be aiming to build on that in 2014-15, which is achievable. At only 22 years old, his performances are mature and give the impression he can fit into any team and link up superbly with the striker. His dead-ball prowess and ability to pick any pass are particularly impressive and make the £11.5 million Spurs paid for him last summer seem like a bargain.

One to Watch – Erik Lamela

Definitely Spurs’ worst buy last summer, at £30 million Erik Lamela (above) is the club’s most expensive signing ever, but he certainly didn’t show it in 2013-14. The Argentinian featured 17 times in all competitions and only managed to score once. This season though, could we see the rise of the 22 year old as he shows English football what he is really about? He has been in good form in pre-season since his return from a back injury, and is showing all the signs that he may well flourish under a manager who is also Argentinian.The quality is definately there – he scored 15 goals in 33 league games for Roma in 2012-13 – so if Lamela is at his best, his trickery on the ball, finishing ability, and creativity could provide a sturdy base for Tottenham’s attack this year.

My Prediction – 6th

This could be the season when last summer’s supposedly dreadful signings come good, with Roberto Soldado and the aforementioned Lamela looking good in pre-season. But with the emphasis on the Europa League as the winners now get a Champions League spot, the top four may be a bit too much to ask for, even if Pochettino can handle the pressure of Levy’s lair.


West Bromwich Albion

west brom

  • Last season: 17th
  • Nickname: The Baggies
  • Stadium: The Hawthorns (26,445)

Ins (as of 13th August): Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev, £10m), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover 96, £1.5m), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo, Undisclosed), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg, Undisclosed), Craig Gardner (Sunderland), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Chris Baird (Burnley), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): George Thorne (Derby County, £2m), Billy Jones (Sunderland), Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers), Steven Reid (Burnley), Cameron Gayle (Shrewsbury Town), Donervon Daniels (Blackpool, Loan).

The Manager – Alan Irvine

The Scot (above) was the surprise choice to replace Pepe Mel this summer, and if was being I honest, I have to say I hadn’t heard of him before. He arrives at The Hawthorns from Everton’s academy, helping the likes of Ross Barkley since 2011. His only previous managerial positions came at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday.

Star Man – Ben Foster

After returning from Brazil, West Brom may need the same heroics from Ben Foster this season as when he starred between the sticks for Watford in their doomed 2006-07 campaign. England’s No.2 made 24 appearances for The Baggies last season and played a crucial role in helping the club retain their Premier League status after four months out with a broken foot. His teammates and fans recognised this and Foster won the Supporters’ and Players’ Player of the Season at the club. Alan Irvine has also seen the keeper’s value to Albion by rewarding him with a new four year contract with an option of another year, effectively keeping him in the Midlands until 2019.

One to Watch – Adil Nabi

Despite spending £10 million on Brown Ideye , West Bromwich Albion are still weak in the striker department, with only Victor Anichebe and Saido Berahino as the other senior forwards. That is where Adil Nabi comes in, with the 20 year old keen to break into Alan Irvine’s team in 2014-15, with the Scot willing to give him a chance. Nabi was ruled out for the virtually the whole campaign when he sustained a serious knee injury in pre-season last summer, so now back fit, he is determined to make an impact. Furthermore, he has shown his goal scoring prowess on a international stage, scoring two goals on his debut for England under 17s.

My Prediction – 19th

The Baggies have a very difficult run-in at the end of the season, meaning they’ll need to be safe by April to beat the drop. This looks unlikely though, with Alan Irvine unproven at this level and a squad who only narrowly survived last season. However, this is what people were saying at the beginning of the 2012-13 season when unproven boss Steve Clarke turned The Baggies from relegation contenders to top ten finishers. A repeat of this is probably too much to ask for though.


West Ham United

west ham

  • Last season: 13th
  • Nickname: The Hammers
  • Stadium: Upton Park (35,016)

Ins (as of 13th August): Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12m), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town, £3.75m), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht, Undisclosed), Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield, Undisclosed), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic, Compensation), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, Loan).

Outs (as of 13th August): Ben Sheaf (Arsenal, Undisclosed), Joe Cole (Aston Villa), Matt Taylor (Burnley), Stephen Henderson (Charlton Athletic), Robert Girdlestone (Chelmsford City), Raphael Spiegel (Crawley Town, Loan), George Moncur (Colchester United, Loan).

The Manager – Sam Allardyce

Sam Allardyce has two main jobs this season. One, to play more attacking football with flair to silence the boo boys and excite the supporters, and two, just to make sure that West Ham are a comfortable Premier League side by the end of the campaign, with the Olympic Stadium awaiting their arrival in 2016.

Star Man – Mauro Zarate

A controversial figure at times, Mauro Zarate could be a real coup for West Ham, with the striker having previously been on the books of Lazio and Inter Milan. He was the first arrival at Upton Park this summer, as Allardyce looks to increase The Hammers’ firepower. Last season, Zarate finished as leading scorer in the Argentine first division with 13 goals in 19 appearances, prompting Big Sam to choose the 27 year old as the answer to his problems. In 2008, Zarate spent time on loan at Birmingham City from January until the end of the season, but four goals in 14 games wasn’t enough to save The Blues from relegation.

One to Watch – Ravel Morrison

With his future now appearing to definately lie at Upton Park, Ravel Morrison could have a fantastic season in East London if he can sort his attitude out because the midfielder certainly has talent. A Manchester United academy graduate, Morrison signed for West Ham in 2011, but has seen the majority of his game time come in loan spells at Birmingham and more recently at QPR, for whom he scored six goals in 15 games to help their promotion push at the back end of last season. The 21 year old does often hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, making him a one to watch off the pitch as well as on it.

My Prediction – 14th

The Hammers’ re-tuned squad suggests a mid-table finish rather than a relegation scrap, and although the latter may be the case in parts of the season, overall West Ham should be fairly safe without challenging the top ten. The big question though is whether it will be exciting or not. If not, it may signal the end for Big Sam.

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