2015-16 Premier League Preview #4

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We’ve made it to the end – part four of my Premier League preview is here. Congratulations and many thanks if you’ve read all three previous post. If you haven’t and want to here, just click here. If you’re just here to read my thoughts on your team, then you’re probably a fan of either Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, West Bromwich Albion or West Ham United, all of whom feature in this addition along with their star men, ones to watch, odds, fans and my predictions. Each team had very good runs at some points last season, but are likely to have mixed fortunes in 2014-15.

Swansea City

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  • Last Season: 8th
  • Most Goals: Wilfried Bony (9)
  • Most Assists: Gylfi Sigurdsson (10)
  • Stadium: Liberty Stadium (20,827)
  • Nickname: The Swans

Transfers (as of 6th August)

SWANSEA, WALES - JUNE 10:  Swansea City unveil new signing Andre Ayew on June 10, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

In: Eder (Braga, £5.2m), Franck Tabanou (St Etienne, £3.5m), Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Heerenveen, undisclosed), Oliver McBurnie (Bradford City, undisclosed), Andre Ayew (Marseille, free)

Out: Jazz Richards (Fulham, undisclosed), Rory Donnelly (Gillingham, free), David Cornell (Oldham Athletic, free), Alan Tate (released), Rory Donnelly (released), Gerhard Tremmel (released)

Manager – Garry Monk

Swansea City manager Garry Monk prior to kick-off during the Barclays Premier League match at Goodison Park, Liverpool. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 22, 2014. See PA story SOCCER Everton. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire. Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.

In his first three months in charge of Swansea at the end of the 2013-14 season, there wasn’t much to suggest that Garry Monk would make a very good manager after retiring as a player at the Liberty Stadium. Many people even tipped the Swans to struggle last season, but the 36 year old guided them to eighth in the league table with 56 points – both club records. It deservedly earned Monk a nomination for Manager of the Year.

Star Player – Gylfi Sigurdsson

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on August 16, 2014 in Manchester, England.

He may have trailed off towards the end of the campaign, but all in all 2014-15 was a hugely successful season for Gylfi Sigurdsson following his switch from Tottenham to Swansea last summer. He didn’t look back after scoring the winning goal on the opening day against Manchester United and ended the campaign hitting the back of the net seven times in total in the league as well as getting 10 assists. Those statistics show that 25 year old is the Swans’ main creative threat, but he needs to show his brilliance for the entire campaign.

One to Watch – Mo Barrow

Monday 01 September 2014 Pictured: Re: Swansea City U21 v Birmingham U21 Match at Landore, Swansea

He may wear the number 58 shirt but Mo Barrow made 11 Premier League appearances for Swansea last season, plus four out on loan at Nottingham Forest towards the end of the campaign. He may only have got two assists and no goals in those games, but the midfielder showed a huge amount of promise and attacking talent, prompting the Welsh side to hand him an extended contract until 2018.  

Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 6th August)

  • Swansea City to finish in the top six in the league – 11/1
  • Swansea City to finish in the top half of the league – 13/10
  • Bafetimbi Gomis to finish as the league’s top scorer – 66/1

Fan’s View – Declan Terry from The Liberty Legion (@TheLibLegion)

  1. Which player is a ‘one to watch’ at Swansea this season?

There’s a few worthy of a mention here. I’m expecting the likes of Ki Sung-Yueng, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jefferson Montero to carry on performing after a truly great 2014/15 season. But to pick just one, I’m going for Bafetimbi Gomis. The Frenchman signed last summer but endured a horrid first few months in Swansea, playing as Wilfried Bony’s understudy. However, when Bony left for Manchester City in January, Gomis’ form vastly improved with game-time. In the ending couple of months of last season, Gomis scored six goals. Not just an average six goals either; winners against Manchester United, Aston Villa and Arsenal! I honestly think (and hope) that Gomis can continue his great performances in the Premier League this season and I’m backing him to up there with the more prolific strikers in the league.

  1.  Are you happy with the club’s transfer activity so far?

Very happy. Garry Monk sent out a clear message before the transfer window opened that we wouldn’t be losing any key players. And in the process of keeping all of our star performers, Monk has bought very well. Persuading Andre Ayew to join Swansea ahead of the likes of Roma, Liverpool and West Ham is tremendous in its own right, but then add Franck Tabanou who can be a solid left-back for us this season and there’s two sensational signings right by there. Portuguese international striker Eder has signed from Braga for £5.8 million and he will challenge Gomis for a place up front which is also an exciting battle. New goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt can also add competition for Lukasz Fabianski for the number one jersey, although that’ll be tough for the Swedish international.

  1. Which one player would you happily drive to another club?

Ask every Swansea fan this and you’ll have the same answer; Dwight Tiendalli. The full-back is barely in the first-team picture and is wasting away at Swansea.  When he has played, he hasn’t delivered and despite being a Netherlands international, he simply isn’t good enough. It’s likely that he will go this summer, after being left out of all of our pre-season games. I do wish him well, but hopefully it’ll be a goodbye for Tiendalli.

  1. Best away ground to visit in the league?

One of the best things about supporting a Premier League team is that you get to visit some amazing grounds throughout the season. It’s a struggle to name the best, with the Emirates, Anfield, Old Trafford and St. James’ Park all springing to mind. However, I might shock you with this answer – Villa Park. Luckily, the Swans have got a tremendously impressive record against Aston Villa, which might back the fact that every time I’ve been to Villa Park, we’ve come out victorious. Anyhow, I love how traditional Villa Park is. It’s a proper English football ground, enriched in history. The Villa fans are always decent and on their day, they produce a great atmosphere and the whole stadium looks great. The Holte End is also one impressive stand, I must say.

  1. Who do you think will win the Premier League title and who will get relegated?

Hard one that. For winning the Premier League I’m going to go for Chelsea again. Despite not making any massive signings this summer, I think Jose Mourinho can edge it again with his brilliant Blues. The title race will actually be a title race this season, unlike last campaign where Chelsea ran away with it. I’m expecting Manchester United to be up there, having bought fantastically well, along with Arsenal. Manchester City always have to be considered and they’ll be well up for reclaiming the title. Picking three teams to get relegated is possibly an even harder choice. I think three of about eight teams are in contention but I’m going to go for Bournemouth in last place. Unfortunately, I can’t see the Cherries making it in the top-flight, despite having a great manager in Eddie Howe. I also think Norwich could struggle, so I’ll put them in 19th place. Then in 18th I’m going for West Brom. I don’t think they’ve at all improved the squad from last season and if they lose Berahino, I could only fear the worst for the Baggies I’m afraid.

  1. Predicted Swansea finish?

I’m going for 9th. Everton will massively improve this season without Europa League and they could pip us from our 8th place finish. However, having made some unbelievable signings, the Swans are as strong as ever and I think we can easily finish in the top-ten. For the previous four seasons, the aim was to not get relegated but ahead of 2015/16, relegation seems far from a worry, thankfully.

My Prediction

After making some good signings, Swansea should consolidate their place in the top ten, but that doesn’t mean they’ll improve on last season’s eighth place. I remain unconvinced by Bafetimbi Gomis and Eder could take time to adapt to the Premier League, but as long as goals keep on coming from midfield as they did in 2014-15, anothers strong season is to come in South Wales. 9th


Tottenham Hotspur

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  • Last Season: 5th
  • Most Goals: Harry Kane (21)
  • Most Assists: Erik Lamela (7)
  • Stadium: White Hart Lane (36,284)
  • Nickname: Spurs

Transfers (as of 6th August)

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In: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid, £11.5m), Kevin Wimmer (Cologne, £4.3m), Kieran Trippier (Burnley, £3.5m)

Out: Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande, £9.8m), Etienne Capoue (Watford, £6m), Benji Stambouli (Paris Saint-Germain, £6m), Vlad Chiriches (Napoli, £4.5m) , Younes Kaboul (Sunderland, £3m), Lewis Holtby (Hamburg, undisclosed), Ryan Fredericks (Bristol City, undisclosed), Brad Friedel (retired)

Manager – Mauricio Pochettino

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Mauricio Pochettino became Tottenham’s 12th manager in 10 years when he was appointed last summer, showing just how trigger-happy Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is. The Argentine looks like he could be staying for a lot longer than his predecessors though after the 2014-15 season which I think can be counted as a success for Tottenham as Pochettino led them to the Capital One Cup final and a fifth place finish in the league.

Star Player – Harry Kane

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This time last year, Harry Kane was just a squad player for Spurs and behind both Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado in the pecking order. However after a stunning 2014-15 campaign, in which he made his England senior debut and scored within 80 seconds, he has become one of the best strikers in the Premier League. The 22 year old scored over 30 goals in all competitions, the first Tottenham player to do so since Gary Lineker and was named PFA Young Player of Year at the end of the season. Was it a one off or will he continue to hit the back of the net left right and centre?

One to Watch – Alex Pritchard

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It’s fair to say that Alex Pritchard has worked his way up to the Premier League having spent the last two seasons on loan in League One (with Swindon) and then the Championship (with Brentford). After scoring 12 times and getting seven assists for the Bees, the 22 year old could feature heavily for Spurs this season. Pritchard mixes intelligence in possession with an ability to provide the unexpected on the edge of the opposition penalty area, and seems capable of playing in a variety of midfield positions.

Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 6th August)

  • Tottenham to finish in the top four of the league – 5/1
  • Tottenham to win the FA Cup – 14/1
  • Harry Kane to finish as the league’s top scorer – 14/1

Fan’s View – Barnaby Slater from Spurred On TV (@spurredontv)

  1. Which up and coming player is a ‘one to watch’ at Tottenham this season? 

Well, seems a bit late to say this after his performance against Real Madrid, but in fairness I’ve been saying this all summer – Dele Alli. Looks like a genuine box to box player with a great mentality. Still a bit raw for us to put all our faith in him every game, but I genuinely believe him and Bentaleb could be a beast of a pairing in our midfield for years to come.

  1. Are you happy with the club’s transfer activity so far?

Happy would be the wrong word, but I am realistic and pleased that Franco Baldini is finally earning his corn by getting rid of the foreign mercenaries. I expect Daniel Levy to get some players in over the last few days of the window.

  1. Do you think Harry Kane will be a one-season wonder or continue to impress?

He will impress again. He never hides when he misses a chance and continues to get into excellent space and make great runs. Natural finisher too.

  1. Best away ground to visit in the league?

Everton

  1. Who do you think will win the Premier League title and who will get relegated?

Chelsea and Leicester is where my money would go (and two of the promoted teams to join Leicester)

  1. Predicted Spurs finish?

Top 6. We’re still building and shouldn’t expect any more than that. Any higher is a bonus at this stage.

My Prediction

I don’t think Harry Kane will have as good a season as 2014-15, but will still be the man to spearhead Tottenham’s attempts of making the top four. It’s very unlikely they’ll succeed though, whilst Liverpool have strengthened over the summer and should leapfrog the North London side. Success in one of the cup competitions is likely though. 6th


Watford

watford-players-promotion-celeb-championship-vicarage-road-sheffield-wednesday_3298071

  • Last Season: 2nd (in the Championship)
  • Most Goals: Troy Deeney (21)
  • Most Assists: Troy Deeney (8)
  • Stadium: Vicarage Road (21,577)
  • Nickname: The Hornets

Transfers (as of 6th August)

Valon-Behrami--009

In: Etienne Capoue (Tottenham, £6m), Steven Berghuis (AZ Alkmaar, £4.6m), Valon Behrami (Hamburg, £3m), Jose Holebas (Roma, £1.8m), Matej Vydra (Udinese, undisclosed), Allan Nyom (Udinese, undisclosed), Miguel Britos (Napoli, undisclosed), Jose Jurado (Spartak Moscow, undisclosed), Sebastian Prodl (Werder Bremen, free), Giedrius Arlauskis (Steaua Bucharest, free)

Out: Jonathan Bond (Reading, undisclosed), Luke O’Nien (Wycombe Wanderers, free), Marco Motta (released), Juanfran (Deportivo, loan), Diego Fabbrini (Middlesbrough, loan)

Manager – Quique Sanchez Flores

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It’s not often that a manager departs after a promotion winning campaign, but Slavisa Jokanovic left Vicarage Road this summer after a disagreement with the board on how the club was to move forward. So in came Quique Sanchez Flores, Watford’s fifth new boss in the last year. The 50 year old could be the man to finally last, as he has taken on a similar job before, guiding newly promoted Getafe to 13th in La Liga in 2005. Flores also won the Europa League with Atletico Madrid in 2010 – beating Fulham in the final.

Star Player – Troy Deeney 

Watford v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship

It was only three years ago that Troy Deeney spent time in prison, but the striker has turned his career around, being central to Watford’s promotion last season. As shown in the stats above, Deeney recorded the most goals and assists for the Hornets in 2014-15 and by hitting the back of the net 21 times, he became the first player in Watford history to score 20 or more goals in three consecutive seasons. He’ll need to show he can step up to the top flight mentally too, as he is also club captain.

One to Watch – Odion Ighalo

Odion Ighalo

Another part of Watford’s impressive three man strike force that also includes Matej Vydra, Odion Ighalo began last season on loan at Vicarage Road before signing permanently in October. He scored 20 league goals, and actually more than Deeney did in open play. During January and February, the Nigerian hit the back of the net 13 times in nine games – more than both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo managed. I’m not drawing comparisons, but it shows you the firepower that Ighalo has.

Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 6th August)

  • Watford to finish bottom of the league – 11/4
  • Watford to get relegated – 4/5
  • Troy Deeney to be the top English goalscorer in the league – 20/1

Fan’s View – Ed Perchard from In The Wolf’s Mouth (@WFCWolfsMouth)

1. Which player is a ‘one to watch’ at Watford this season?

The obvious answer to this is Troy Deeney. Troy has been the most important player in the squad for three seasons now, becoming the talisman and spokesman for a team made up of a cosmopolitan mix of nationalities and constantly changing faces. This is the second summer he’s been given a new contract to ward off suitors, of which there have been many, and there is no doubt that if we’re going to have a successful season and stay up then Troy has to stay fit and make the step up.

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from our two seasons in the Premier League (and there have been many painful lessons among them) it’s that without a goalscorer you have no hope. Last time around in 06/07 Marlon King got injured for the year very quickly and we were left with Darius Henderson as our only real striker – one goal in 40 games later we were down. So we’re going to need Troy to put us on his back again – he’s got at least 20 goals in each of the last three campaigns – with Matej Vydra and Odion Ighalo popping up around him. If he can manage it he’ll be even more of a hero around here, and could well be an England cap by next summer.

Away from him, I’m really looking forward to see what Almen Abdi can do in the Premier League. Probably the best player I’ve seen play for Watford, he oozes class and waltzes around midfield effortlessly either picking passes or the top corner out at will. At least he did in the Championship. While the goals and cheeky character of Troy has got all the attention from the press, the quiet Abdi seems to have gone widely un-noticed, and I really hope that this season everyone gets to see what a wonderful player he is.

2. Are you happy with the club’s transfer activity so far?

The biggest move we’ve made this summer was to get rid of Slavisa Jokanovic. (Technically he didn’t sign a new contract, but it seems the club offered him pittance in a put-up-or-shut-up deal. He shut up.) In his place we’ve got Quique Sanchez Flores, who’s managed in the quarter finals of the Champions League with Valencia and won the Europa League with Atletico. In charge at Watford. He’s got the pedigree. Player-wise, while many are saying that this has been the best transfer window in recent Watford memory, I’d be a bit more cautious about judging it just yet.

As every promoted team experiences, we’ve been linked with every name under the sun. They were pretty fanciful to begin with, but more and more deals seem to be getting struck and to be honest I’m slightly worried about the squad that took us up becoming diluted.
We’ve shelled out a club record fee on Etienne Capoue from Spurs. The response from North London hasn’t been particularly positive about his performances, but some have suggested that there’s a player there somewhere, so whether we can draw it out of him remains to be seen. A lot of Watford fans are just glad that our record transfer isn’t Nathan Ellington – a ghost of the last Premier League trip that we couldn’t get out of our cupboard – any more.

The other biggish names we’ve brought in are Valon Behrami, who’s been knocking about nearish the top for a while, and Jose Holebas, who kept Ashely Cole out of the Roma side last year, so we can’t really complain about that. Elsewhere we have brought in players to address weaknesses, but none that anyone has seen too much of. So like all signings from the Bundesliga (Sebastian Prodl), unheralded Spanish clubs (Allan Nyom) or money-rich Russian sides (Jose Jurado), it’s easy to convince yourself that you’ve got a steal from Wikipedia pages and YouTube highlights but the proof will be in the pudding.

The problem is that we were promoted last season because we finally added real resilience and character to our talented squad. The last few months were a whirlwind of brave victories and hard-fought battles. There were no particular divas, and all the players went out in Watford town centre to celebrate with the fans after. Now, if you were to predict a starting eleven for the opener at Everton there may only be two or three survivors from the game in which we clinched promotion, and will the likes of Capoue, Behrami and Holebas buy into that spirit? I guess that’s all part of promotion though.

3. What one change would you make at your club?

To be honest, I don’t think there’s much for Watford fans to moan about at the moment. Three years ago, we had an owner with no money and an inventive approach to accountancy, a squad with no future and a ground with three sides. The Pozzo family, who you may have heard also own Udinese (the media don’t like to make a big deal of it), have completely transformed us: not in the way that many do with careless injections of cash and a complete rebrand, but into the best form of ourselves.

Now we can turn up every week and watch players of the pedigree we never thought possible in a complete ground and not end every season wondering if our club will actually exist by next August. We’ve retained the family feel of the club and have even got a support almost worth of ‘vocal’ thanks to a supporters group called The 1881.

One slight issue might be that we don’t see as many academy kids given a chance now, but our Harefield Academy is still one of the top facilities in the country and in the long run our elevated position will force young players to get better if they want to make the grade at the club. Tommie Hoban, a young Irish centre back, has done just that, and was one of our most consistent performers last season.

4. Was promotion a surprise last year, or were you expecting/aiming for it?

Anything other than promotion last year would have been a failure in everyone’s eyes.

When the Pozzos arrived in 2012, we were promised a transition year while the foundations of the new-look squad were set. Instead we stormed to the playoffs, only to wimp out in the final against Palace.

That added a lot of pressure to go one better the season after, and there was significant investment added to the squad. But we went backwards and only a late season surge of form got us anywhere near the playoffs.

So last season had to be it. Our team was much more talented than either of the two that had got to the Premier League in 1999 and 2006 and Gino Pozzo, our owner, was getting a bit restless.

That is perhaps why you saw us have four head coaches by October. Beppe Sannino had us third, but had seemingly unresolvable issues in the changing room so resigned before he was pushed, Oscar Garcia was appointed but quit after being diagnosed with a heart problem. Then Billy McKinley, now David Moyes’ number two at Real Sociedad, was given the job, but the owner thought he’d made a mistake and wanted to change it as soon as possible, to prevent it becoming an issue later in the season.

We may not have seen that ruthlessness from the owners had they not had enough of the Championship. But it worked, and Jokanovic masterminded us through the rest of the season. Without his tactical acumen, I don’t think we would have made it, certainly not automatically.

Him leaving was a real shame, but a sign that the Pozzos know (or are confident they know) what they’re doing, and aren’t going to take any prisoners to get it done.

5. Who do you think will win the Premier League title and who will get relegated?

Chelsea can bank on six points from us, and although it looks like Arsenal and Manchester United will be stronger than last year, I think their issues are too deep-set for either of them to convincingly challenge for the title. So Chelsea will clinch it with a few weeks to spare.

At the bottom I think Bournemouth are in real trouble. They were great last season, but got more than a little help from referees, which won’t be happening when they’re attacking the Kop or Stretford End. (No bitterness about the title here, no sir). Then there’s a whole load of teams battling it out. Newcastle, Villa, Sunderland, West Brom, Leicester, Norwich, and of course, Watford.
I think Sunderland and Norwich may make up the other two.

6. Predicted Watford finish?

I would be more than happy with 17th, thanks. I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see us as high as 12th, but then also wouldn’t be shocked if we were down by February. 15th sounds about right. We’re better than people think we are, and have already proven ourselves better than two of the teams in the league (if you discount the last ten minutes of last season).

My Prediction

As QPR learnt, sometimes spending a lot of money doesn’t save you from relegation – in fact quite the opposite. I can understand that Quique Flores wants to build his own team, but it could take time for the squad to gel whereas there was already a strong foundation from the promotion winning side. There could be player unrest at Vicarage Road, whilst we’ve seen the owners don’t give managers much time. In my opinion, it’s a recipe for disaster. 20th


West Bromwich Albion

West-Brom

  • Last Season: 13th
  • Most Goals: Saido Berahino (14)
  • Most Assists: Chris Brunt (10)
  • Stadium: The Hawthorns (26,850)
  • Nickname: The Baggies

Transfers (as of 6th August)

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In: James Chester (Hull City, £8m), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, £3m), James McClean (Wigan Athletic, undisclosed)

Out: Graham Dorrans (Norwich City, undisclosed), Chris Baird (Derby County, free), Youssouf Mulumbu (Norwich City, free), Jason Davidson (Huddersfield Town, free)

Manager – Tony Pulis

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The man to have never been relegated. Once again, that statement looked set to change when Tony Pulis arrived at the Hawthorns in January after Alan Irvine had left West Brom in a treacherous position, but the Welshman turned things around as they finished in 13th. Along the way, Pulis picked up February’s Manager of the Month Award. 12 months earlier, he had done a very similar job at Crystal Palace before resigning a few days before the start of the new campaign. West Brom are probably on tenterhooks as I write…

Star Player – Chris Brunt

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Perhaps it is down to Tony Pulis’ philosophy, but half of West Brom’s 38 goals last season came from dead-ball situations (not including penalties). However, that stat is mainly down to Chris Brunt’s superb delivery. The Northern Irishman is the Baggies’ main creator of chances and got 10 assists last season, as well as three goals. Without him, their goal tally would have been much lower, and Saido Berahino would not have got on the scoresheet 14 times.

One to Watch – Adil Nabi

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Tony Pulis isn’t exactly renowned for bringing through youth players, but with Adil Nabi he might have no choice. An exciting, pacey young striker who has regularly scored for the Baggies’ U21 side and was named the club’s young player of the season for 2014-15, Nabi says he wants to follow in the footsteps of Saido Berahino and become a first-team regular. However, unless Berahino leaves, he may have to settle for super-sub, a role he could potentially fill brilliantly.

Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 6th August)

  • West Brom to avoid relegation – 1/7
  • West Brom to finish in the top half – 3/1
  • West Brom to finish as the top Midlands club – 4/1

Fan’s View – Mark Thomas from Albion Till We Die (@albiontillwedie)

  1. Which up and coming player is a ‘one to watch’ at West Brom this season?

Whilst he may not particularly make the ‘breakthrough’ this season, most Baggies’ fans will be watching the progress of young Welsh forward Tyler Roberts. Even though he’s only 16, he’s already been involved with Albion’s first team – making the bench for last season’s final game at Arsenal – as well as training with the Welsh senior squad prior to their Euro 2016 qualifier with Belgium. The Gloucester-born player was selected for England at schoolboy level but opted instead for Wales whom he went on to captain to Victory Shield success in 2014.

  1. Are you happy with the club’s transfer activity so far?

No, it’s been awful to be honest. With only the controversial James McClean arriving at The Hawthorns at the time of writing, our squad is looking pretty weak and in major need of reinforcements. We have been linked with a number of quality players – the likes of Abou Diaby, Ricky Lambert, Charlie Austin, Matt Phillips, Adrian Ramos and Vicente Iborra, but only Lambert seems likely (and has now happened!) meaning the club need to start looking elsewhere and pretty quickly.

As for outgoings all were expected with the exception of midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu who had been fantastic for us over the last six years. Whilst he had only been a bit-part player for us following the arrival of Darren Fletcher, most Albion fans felt he still had plenty to offer us for the forthcoming campaign. Our loss is most definitely Norwich’s gain.

  1. Which one ex player would you love to have back at the Hawthorns?

Of players currently plying their trade elsewhere, for me it would be Romelu Lukaku. He was fantastic for us during the 2012/13 season, hitting 17 goals including a memorable hat-trick in a 5-5 draw with Manchester United. Lukaku lining-up alongside the free-scoring Saido Berahino is a partnership all Baggies fans would love to see.

  1. Best away ground to visit in the league?

In terms of facilities I don’t think you can look past the Emirates or the Etihad. Both are fantastic stadiums and also look superb. For me personally though I’ve always preferred the older grounds with White Hart Lane and Goodison Park standing out. Both have retained a special feel about them and both generate excellent atmospheres. If I had to pick one I would probably go for Goodison.

  1. Who do you think will win the Premier League title and who will get relegated?

I don’t think you will be able to look past Chelsea again. Whilst both Manchester clubs and Liverpool have been splashing the cash I just feel that the Blues, especially with Mourinho in charge, have the quality and know-how to repeat last season’s success.

As for the other end of the table you would imagine that the newly promoted teams – Bournemouth, Norwich City and Watford would be hot favourites to drop back down. I think you can probably add Aston Villa, Leicester City, Sunderland and ourselves if we don’t strengthen the squad sufficiently to the teams that will be fighting to survive as the season goes on. If I had to narrow it down to three I’d go with Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester.

  1. Predicted West Brom finish?

As it stands, and with the squad that we’ve got, we are going to struggle. We are desperately in need of more quality throughout the side and especially in attack.  However, if we can get at least some of the players Albion boss Tony Pulis is looking at, then I’d certainly feel a lot more confident about achieving another mid-table finish – I’ll say 14th.

My Prediction

I was worried for West Brom at the start of the summer, but their signings have changed that opinion. Rickie Lambert is a proven goalscorer, albeit not at Liverpool, whilst James Chester makes their defence stronger. Still, it’s unlikely they’ll set the world alight and reach the heights of 2012-13 when they finished eighth, but Pulis will want to keep his ‘no relegation’ record intact. 15th


West Ham United

during the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round (first leg) match between West Ham and FC Birkirkara at the Boleyn Ground on July 16, 2015 in London, England.

  • Last Season: 12th
  • Most Goals: Diafra Sakho (10)
  • Most Assists: Stewart Downing (8)
  • Stadium: The Boleyn Ground (35,016)
  • Nickname: The Hammers

Transfers (as of 6th August)

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In: Dimitri Payet (Marseille, £10.7m), Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus, £8.5m), Pedro Obiang (Sampdoria £4.4m), Stephen Hendrie (Hamilton, £1m), George Dobson (Arsenal, undisclosed), Darren Randolph (Birmingham City, free), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, loan), Manuel Lanzini (Al Jazira, loan)

Out: Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough, £5m), Dan Potts (Luton Town, free), Carlton Cole (released), Jussi Jaaskelainen (released), Guy Demel (released), Nene (released)

Manager – Slaven Bilic

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Change was needed at West Ham this summer and after Sam Allardyce left as boss, the Hammers board decided to appoint Slaven Bilic as his successor, who played for the club in the 1996-97. As a manager, Bilic has had jobs in his home country of Croatia (including the senior and Under-21 national team), Russia and Turkey. However, he is yet to have any silverware to show for his efforts on the touchline.

Star Player – Diafra Sakho

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Despite missing large parts of last season through injury, Diafra Sakho still ended up as West Ham’s top scorer with 10 league goals. This included a run of six league games in which he hit the back of the net in during September and October – in the latter he won the Player of the Month award. At £3.5 million from Metz last summer, Sakho was one of the bargains of the year, and had he stayed fit for the entire campaign, West Ham would have finished a lot higher.

One to Watch – Martin Samuelson

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A highly-rated Norwegian attacking midfielder who came through Manchester City’s academy, Martin Samuelsen’s contract expired at the end of last season and he took the brave decision to move down south and join West Ham, where he believes he’s more likely to receive first-team opportunities. He has featured in pre-season and in the Europa League, and if the Hammers remain in the continental competition, the 18 year old will continue to get his chance and perhaps earn himself a Premier League debut.

Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 6th August)

  • West Ham to finish in the top half – 7/4
  • West Ham to win the League Cup – 33/1
  • Diafra Sakho to finish as the league’s top scorer – 66/1

Fan’s View – Farewell Boleyn (@Farewell_Boleyn)

1. Which player is a ‘one to watch’ at West Ham this season?

We have a few for the future in Oxford, Burke and Samuelsen. But for this season I would have to say Diego Poyet and Elliot Lee could both break into the team. We also have to flair players in Zarate and Payet who will catch the eye!

2. Are you happy with the club’s transfer activity so far?

So far I am very happy with this transfer window, not just signing top players but also agreeing a new 5 year contract for Hammer of the Year Aaron Cresswell.

3. Do you think Slaven Bilic is the right appointment, or would you have preferred Big Sam to stay?

Big Sam did his job at West Ham. He brought in for promotion and to stabilise the club for a couple of seasons, which he has done so for that I am grateful. Having said that, it was time for a change and I believe that Bilic was the best (realistic) choice.

4. Best away ground to visit in the league?

The best away ground I have been to is probably Tottenham, none more so because they are our rivals and the atmosphere against them is always top notch.

5. Who do you think will win the Premier League title and who will get relegated?

At the current time; I can’t see past Chelsea walking the title again. Bottom 3 Norwich, Sunderland and Leicester.

6. Predicted West Ham finish?

I would say around mid-table again so either 10th or 11th.

My Prediction

West Ham have made some good signings, Dimitri Payet especially, but two things remain unclear. If they reach the Europa League group stages, how much of a distraction will it be, and is Slaven Bilic really that good a manager? Whatever happens, relegation is unlikely to be a problem meaning that they will be playing Premier League football for their first season in the Olympic Stadium in 2016-17. 12th


So that’s it. All 20 Premier League teams covered in depth, as well as a quick look at the 72 clubs that make up the Championship, League One and League Two. Who knows what’s in store for the coming season, but it won’t be dull. There will be surprises. There will be shocks. The next nine months will captivate us all again after the treacherous long summer break. Then at the end of it all, we’ve got Euro 2016 to fill our lives. Enjoy the season, I know I certainly will!

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