2016-17 Premier League Preview: Part Two

It’s time for part two of my 2016-17 Premier League Preview, and it includes lots of ‘new’ (I know, that grammar). In the following ten teams, there’s four new managers, one newly promoted team, one new stadium and bucket loads of new signings, including the world’s new most expensive player. Let’s get going…

You can read part one here.

Manchester United

CREDIT: Manchester United/John Peters
CREDIT: Manchester United/John Peters
  • Last season: 5th
  • Manager: Jose Mourinho

By appointing Jose Mourinho to succeed Louis van Gaal, Manchester United have their best chance of winning the Premier League since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. The Portuguese boss has won silverware at every club he has been at, and has been given an incredible amount of money to spend at Old Trafford. Of course the two stand out signings so far have been Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba who could make the Red Devils a real force to be reckoned with. But there’s still questions in the United camp. Will skipper Wayne Rooney play and flourish in a midfield role? Will Mourinho give youth, most notably Marcus Rashford, a chance? Can Memphis Depay come good? If the answer to all of those is yes, then we could well see the trophy being lifted at Old Trafford in May. 3rd


Middlesbrough

CREDIT: Craig Brough/Reuters
CREDIT: Craig Brough/Reuters
  • Last season: 2nd in the Championship
  • Manager: Aitor Karanka

Back in the Premier League for the first time since 2009, Middlesbrough undoubtedly have the best chance of survival out of the three newly promoted clubs. Already with the foundations to succeed in the top flight with the joint best defence in the country last season (just 31 league goals conceded and nine consecutive clean sheets) and star striker Jordan Rhodes, there have been some impressive arrivals at the Riverside this summer. Spaniards Victor Valdes, Alvaro Negredo and Antonio Barragan all come with big reputations, whilst Viktor Fischer has long been an exciting prospect from the Ajax academy. Aitor Karanka, who nearly quit in March, is an impressive manager who has learnt his trade from Jose Mourinho and has taken Boro from strength to strength since taking over nearly three years ago. How far can they go? 13th


Southampton

CREDIT: Southampton FC
CREDIT: Southampton FC
  • Last season: 6th
  • Manager: Claude Puel

After achieving their highest ever Premier League finish in 2015-16, it was a surprise to many that Southampton boss Ronald Koeman decided a move to Everton would be better for him. His replacement, Claude Puel is largely unknown in English football, but has a track record of nurturing the likes of Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Eden Hazard when they were starting out in the game. It wouldn’t be a Southampton summer without high-profile departures, and Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle (the latter two the Saints’ top two goalscorers last season) have all left the South Coast. Koeman and his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino recovered well from big sales, but can Puel do the same? Highly rated youngsters Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg have signed, but the Saints may be looking at a more mid-table finish this season, especially as they compete in European football too. 10th


Stoke City

CREDIT: Stoke City FC
CREDIT: Stoke City FC
  • Last season: 9th
  • Manager: Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes has indeed brought progress to Stoke City since his arrival in 2013, but after three successive ninth place finishes, the Potters will surely be aiming to finish higher. With players such as Bojan, Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri in their squad, ‘Stokealona’ have the quality on paper, but can these players perform to their once huge potential? This trio scored just 12 league goals between them last season in a total of 73 starts. Joe Allen has been brought in to improve the midfield, but undoubtedly the best bit of business the club have done this summer is keeping hold of last season’s top scorer Marko Arnautovic. The Austrian is also in the middle of rebuilding his reputation, and if these players – £18 million record signing Gianelli Imbula too – can do so then there’s a chance that Stoke could qualify for Europe. The likelihood is though, with other teams strengthening, we’ll see another mid-table finish at the Britannia Bet 365 Stadium. 11th


Sunderland

David Moyes Sunderland

  • Last season: 17th
  • Manager: David Moyes

Sam Allardyce leaving to take the England job has undoubtedly hampered Sunderland’s summer. Big Sam seemed to have finally got Sunderland on the up after saving them from relegation last season, with many fans positive towards the future. But I still think there’s reason to be hopeful on Wearside. In my opinion, David Moyes is a good manager, and the Sunderland job seems perfect for him as there’s a chance for him to build something – he himself has likened it to the task he walked into at Everton and achieved success. So far he has tightened the defence, signing Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea as well as Manchester United pair Paddy McNair and Donald Love. If more offensive players come in to support Jermain Defoe, still banging in the goals at 33 years old, the Black Cats might just have a season without a relegation battle, which is really all supporters want after four successive seasons of fighting to avoid the drop. 14th


Swansea City

CREDIT: Getty Images
CREDIT: Getty Images
  • Last season: 12th
  • Manager: Francesco Guidolin

The impact that Francesco Guidolin had at Swansea last season went largely unnoticed. He took over when the Welsh side were one point above the relegation zone, but guided them to seven wins in 16 matches and a 12th place finish. The task now is to get results over the entirety of a campaign. But this has been made harder by the sales of captain Ashley Williams (who ends an eight year association with the club) and last season’s top scorer Andre Ayew. Promising Dutch defender Mike van der Hoorn has come into replace the former, whilst the Swans have broken their transfer record to sign Borja Baston from Atletico Madrid upfront. Veteran striker Fernando Llorente has also come in to bolster the striking options. Are these additions enough to steer Swansea away from trouble? Probably just about, but don’t expect anything higher than mid-table. 15th


Tottenham Hotspur

CREDIT: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
CREDIT: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
  • Last season: 3rd
  • Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

In my (unpopular) opinion, Tottenham played the best football in the Premier League last season, yet ended up in third following a worrying no wins in their final four games. Ahead of the new campaign, the squad remains largely the same plus the additions of Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen, so the question is can they recover and fight for the title again? For me, Spurs haven’t strengthened as well as their rivals and also play in the Champions League this season which could take their focus off the league. Yet this is clearly a very capable squad, as shown by last term’s exploits. It will be interesting to see how Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Harry Kane react to their part in England’s horror show at the Euros, but if they can recreate the almost telepathic connection they had in 2015-16, Mauricio Pochettino’s side will be right in the mix again. 5th


Watford

CREDIT: Getty Images
CREDIT: Getty Images
  • Last season: 13th
  • Manager: Walter Mazzarri

Watford are a club about to begin their second season back in the Premier League with a new Italian manager having perhaps unfairly sacked their previous boss. The parallels with the start of Leicester City’s incredible story in 2015-16 are uncanny, but don’t expect the Hornets to be lifting the league title in May. Walter Mazzarri may be an experienced coach in his homeland, but he has a big job on his hands at Vicarage Road. Watford’s drop in form after the turn of the year last season is worrying, even if they were focusing on the FA Cup. The strike partnership of captain Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo is one of the most prolific in the division, but the burden needs to be taken of their shoulders – new signing Isaac Success has been brought in to try and help with that. But the rest of the team need to step up otherwise the Hertfordshire club could find themselves in trouble. 17th


West Bromwich Albion

CREDIT: West Bromwich Albion/Matthew Ashton - AMA
CREDIT: West Bromwich Albion/Matthew Ashton – AMA
  • Last season: 14th
  • Manager: Tony Pulis

Time for my ‘a bit out there’ prediction – I think West Brom will get relegated this season. Tony Pulis teams have a tendency to almost stagnate if you like, he was sacked by Stoke for a lack of progress. It’s very much the same situation at the Hawthorns right now. There’s not an awful lot of quality in the Baggies squad, and only the dire Aston Villa scored fewer Premier League goals in 2015-16. Not much has been done to address this problem over the summer – Victor Anichebe and Stephane Sessegnon have been released, Rickie Lambert is pretty much past his best and Saido Berahino is on the verge of leaving (as he has been for the past 18 months). Simply put, West Brom don’t fill me with confidence. If the club’s new owners invest heavily before the end of the transfer window it might be a different story, but right now I can see them struggling. 18th


West Ham United

CREDIT: Getty Images
CREDIT: Getty Images
  • Last season: 7th
  • Manager: Slaven Bilic

Farewells to the Boleyn said, West Ham achieved an impressive seventh place finish last season, meaning they got into this season’s Europa League (permitting they get through the final qualifying round). That has prompted a summer of spending in East London, with no less than seven new signings so far – Sofiane Feghouli and Andre Ayew being the stand out names. So on paper, it is a very strong Hammers squad, some say the strongest since they ‘won the World Cup’ in the 1960s, with the ever magical Dimitri Payet being the star. But if history is anything to go by, teams usually take a little while to get used to their new home, however incredible the Olympic Stadium looks, whilst playing on a Thursday night may mean West Ham’s league form suffers as a result. 8th


Click here to read part one, and if you disagree with my predictions for any teams, let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

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