PREMIER LEAGUE 2016/17 SEASON PREVIEW.
It’s that time again. The English Premier League season is finally upon us. After Leicester’s heroics, you will all agree that this season looks as if it could be the most difficult in terms of predicting who will finish where.
With so many new managers and so many questions to be answered. We really just do not know what to expect. Absolutely anything can happen and that’s what makes this season so exciting.
Below is my team by team preview and predictions……
Captain: Wes Morgan
Impact Players: Vardy & Mahrez
One to watch: Ahmed Musa
The champions stroll into the new season with probably the least amount of pressure of any champions before them. The question will be how will they respond and cope with the added demands of the Champions League?
Keeping the dynamic duo of Vardy & Mahrez is even more important now that Kante has gone. But they have added a very exciting looking striker in Musa and now have a team of experience. Though everyone is making the same mistake of writing them off, I am not expecting Leicester to replicate the heroics of last term. But finishing in a Europa League spot is not too unexpected.
Captain: Per Mertesacker
Impact Players: Sanchez & Ozil
One to Watch: Santi Cazorla
Runners up last year, yet everyone is talking like they finished fifth. They always seem to have a team with all the ability in the world but always seem to get it wrong at crucial times. For me Arsenal are always a world-class player away from supremacy.
But again, Wenger doesn’t seem to want to spend the money and the Gunners always seem to just fall short. Xhaka is a good signing but there it’s no secret Arsenal are missing a clinical striker. Also, their history of injuries suggest Wenger needs to bring in more players. (example, Cazorla injury was crucial) They should be hurt and embarrassed to miss out on the league last year and nothing less will be acceptable. I know this is said every year but Wenger must really be on his last legs this season.
Captain: Hugo Lloris
Impact Players: Kane & Eriksen
One to Watch: Dele Alli
Spurs had a superb season but must be hurting to fall short to Leicester and know they will not get a better opportunity. That said, they had one of the youngest squads in the league and the way they performed, along with the experience, must give everyone a boost going into this campaign.
They may however be under a little pressure to recreate that form with teams now recognising them as a genuine threat. The Wanyama signing was a shrewd, intelligent move, along with striker Janssen as cover for Kane who was obviously burnt out the Euro’s. With the likes of Alli, Eriksen, Dembele, Son, a settled defence and strong keeper. Spurs should be expecting another strong season.
Captain: Vincent Kompany
Impact Players: Aguero & Silva
One to Watch: Kevin De Bruyne
It’s all change in Manchester as Pep arrives with a big reputation, that’s sure to lift one and all at the club. Although City have the spending power to do virtually whatever they want, Pep will still have a job on his hands to adapt to the demands of the Premier League.
One of his biggest issues will be the fitness of captain Kompany, also what will he do with Yaya? City look really strong with new signings Gundogan, Sane and Nolito. To add to the already considerable talents of Aguero, De Bruyne, Silva, Otamendi and Zabaleta to name a few. It will be interesting to see how Pep keeps all his stars happy. He will need to hit the ground running in a season where City has to improve on last season’s 4th place finish.
Captain: Wayne Rooney
Impact Players: Ibrahimovic & Martial
One to Watch: Marcus Rashford
Though they won the FA Cup, United will be chuffed to have Mourinho at the helm. Especially with his Premier League experience. Only downside is Jose will not be happy to be in the Europa league and the impact that has on the league campaign where history has shown it’s a hindrance.
United have already flexed their financial muscle with the possible, pending transfer of Pogba as well as Mikhitaryan and Bailly. Mourinho has flexed his influence by acquiring Ibrahimovic. With United’s decent defensive record (only 9 conceded at home) it seems a match made in heaven with Mourinho and his big game, Premier League experience could really make them a force this season.
Captain: Jose Fonte
Impact Players: Long & Tadic
One to Watch: Jay Rodriguez
The Saints must be the unluckiest but most impressive teams of recent years. They once again defied all the odds to finish 6th in the league but I am not sure how many times they can come back from having their team ripped apart. Not only do they again have to deal with the loss of stars such as Wanyama, Pelle and Mane. They again have to replace the manager.
I feel this could be one too many, but this has been said before. Although I expect Claude Paul to make more signings. He will have the experience of existing stars such as Long, Tadic, Van Dijk who had a great season, along with Fonte and the returning Rodriguez. That said, it will be a stretch to match the success of last season.
WEST HAM UNITED
Captain: Mark Noble
Impact Players: Payet & Antonio
One to Watch: Enner Valencia
The Hammers probably couldn’t have had a better season to lead them into playing at their new home at the Olympic stadium. The issue for Bilic will be how do they improve on last season, playing in unfamiliar surroundings?
Payet staying is a massive boost but I believe they do need to bring in more talent to compliment the likes of Lanzini, Kouyate, Antonio, Carroll and new boy Feghouli to maintain, improve and try to progress. Especially as they embark on a Europa League campaign. The fans will expect more exciting football, but their new stadium may just boost away teams playing in the stadium for the first time and it could take the Hammers sometime to make it feel like home. Although they will be better of for the experience in the long run.
Captain: Jordan Henderson
Impact Players: Coutinho & Sturridge
One to Watch: Sadio Mane
Although Anfield seems to be filled with a lot of optimism under the inspiring influence of Jurgan Klopp. There are still a lot of questions to be answered.
Two cup finals in half a season boosted that optimism, but an 8th place finish is poor and the stats will tell you Klopp’s half a season in the league, was not much better than Rodgers’ before he was sacked. Although Klopp will argue that was not his team.
He has now made some very interesting acquisitions in Karius, Matip, Grujic, Mane & Wijnaldum. If you add the Brazilian duo of Coutinho, Firmino. a maturing Can in midfield, an emerging Origi and hopefully a fit Sturridge. Plus with no distractions and demands of Europe. If they can sort out defensive frailties, Liverpool could a dark horse.
Captain: Ryan Shawcross
Impact Players: Shaqiri & Arnoutovic
One to Watch: Bojan
Mark Hughes and Stoke did as much as they could to stay in touch with the big boys last term. They displayed some exciting, attacking football and had some impressive victories against top teams. But was unable to maintain their form for the whole season and ran out of steam badly in the last few months.
That’s where they need to improve as they now know they have a team good enough to compete with the likes of Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnaoutovic, Shawcross, Butland, Imbula, Johnson and Diouf but probably not a squad. Stoke’s only significant signings so far is Joe Allen, who will add valuable experience to the squad. The question is will that help them mount a challenge for Europe?
Captain: John Terry
Impact Players: Wilian & Hazard
One to Watch: Diego Costa
It is extremely weird to see Chelsea so far down the league. They finished the lowest any English champion has defending their title and that alone must make them ultra determined to have a successful season. New manager Conte will have the boost of no European, midweek distractions to help him work longer with his players.
For me Kante is a huge singing, they also acquired young striker Batshuayi. Conte is a defensive coach by nature and he will be needed with Chelsea’s aging defence which in a weird way could be a key factor in their progress. Offensively, Oscar, Willan, Fabregas, Pedro, Costa and especially Hazard should be determined to redeem themselves which should see them mount a real challenge for the league title.
Captain: Phil Jakielka
Impact Players: Barkley & Deulofeu
One to Watch: Romalu Lukaku
Everton are another team who are embarking on a new era following the sacking of Martinez and appointment of Ronald Koeman. Rather than acquire players the new managers main tasks are to try to keep the much sought after talents of Lukaku and Stones.
Especially as there are only a few weeks left until the transfer window closes. The only significant signing is Stekelenberg in goal, but Koeman does still have the likes of Barkely, Baines, Deulofeu, Jagielka, Mirallas and Kone to draw on for experience. Even with those players, it feels like Everton are starting from scratch and this season could be more about them establishing their new identity.
Captain: Ashley Williams
Impact Players: Ayew & Sigurdsson
One to Watch: Jefferson Montero
First of all, let me just say how the hell did they manage to get Llorente? Credit to manager Francesco Guidolin for pulling that off as firepower was desperately needed. Although they do also have Ayew and Sigurdsson, who both played a major role in a respectable 12th place finish last season.
To improve on that they will need to do better away from home where only four teams won fewer games and three of them were relegated. Thew will again need the likes of Williams, Montero, Barrow, Cork, Ki and Rangel to pull their weight in what could be an underwhelming season but I’m sure consolidation will acceptable.
Captain: Troy Deeney
Impact Players: Deeney & Ighalo
One to Watch: Etienne Capoue
Watford have adopted a weird and wonderful method that amazingly seems to be working. They have had 12 managers in the last 10 years. Recently they departed with the manager that got them to the Premier League and have departed with the manager that has kept them in the Premier League.
Now new manager, former Inter man Walter Mazzarri has the task of taking them on again to the next level. But for me something has got to give. It will be interesting to see if they adopt the same type of play where the duo of Deeney & Ighalo should continue to be key to their success. It will both be interesting and intriguing to see how they can improve on a 13th place finish. And indeed what will happen after that.
Captain: Darren Fletcher
Impact Players: Berahino & Rondon
One to Watch: Jonathan Leko
The baggies went about their business in an unspectacular but efficient manor, where maintaining their Premier League status was the be all and they did that with ease.
The key now is to try to kick on and improve. Problem is, Pulis’ team thrived on defence as they had the second worst attack in the league behind Villa.
Question is, do they maintain this working, defensive method and bore the fans. Or try to excite and risk losing games thus getting caught in a relation battle? One plus is Leko, who is looking like one of the most exciting youngsters in the league. WBA will again need the steady contributions of Fletcher, Rondon, Gardener, Yakob, Morrison, Dawson, Evens & McAuley. Irritatingly for Albion. The question of where Berahino will end up still remains.
Captain: Scott Dann
Impact Players: Zaha & Bolassie
One to Watch: Andros Townsend
In the grand scheme of things, Palace flattered to deceive and will be disappointed with their 15th place finish. The first half of the season was great but they ran out of steam badly and only recorded 2 wins in their last 21 games. A deeper squad will be needed by Pardew and the acquisition of Townsend will help.
Although they struggled at the top end of the pitch and I expect them to sign a striker or two. The real issue is consistency, Palace tend to have the odd good phase but generally lack sustainability. They can be exciting going forward with the likes of Zaha, Bolassie, Cabaye & Puncheon but need a prolific striker to move them up the table. If not it will be more of the same.
Captain: Simon Francis
Impact Players: Wilson & King
One to Watch: Max Gradel
Just the sheer fact that they managed to stay in the league was an achievement in itself, but to do that after losing their three most influential players was amazing.
More so, they was barely in a relegation battle and was safe months before the season ended. That achievement even prompted manager Howe’s named to be mentioned in the reckoning for the England job.
I feel this season they can improve on 16th. I love that they stuck to their playing football philosophy and was rewarded for it. A fit Wilson will be raring to go, along with Afobe who did well when he was bought. Gradel & Mings will want to start their Bournemouth careers for real now after injury. They will be complimented by the likes of Surnam, King, Stanislas, Daniels, Pugh, Francis and new signing Ibe who will have something to prove.
Captain: John O’Shea
Impact Players: Defoe & Van Aanholt
One to Watch: Duncan Watmore
Sunderland know they cannot afford another season like the last one. They stayed in the league through the skin of their teeth thanks to now England manager Sam Allardyce. Off the field issues aside, new manager David Moyes knows he can ill afford to start slowly.
He has already started behind most, as due to his late admission, no new faces have been signed. This is something I’m sure he will be changing before the end of August. Defence has to be a priority as they conceded the most goals away last season and the likes of O’Shea, Van Aanholt, Kone & Kaboul desperately need support. Defoe’s goals was part of the reason they survived and he will be needed again but Moyes knows he will also need more support in a season I suspect will be another long, difficult one.
Captain: Tom Heaton
Impact Players: Gray & Boyd
One to Watch: Johann Berg Gudmundsson
Anywhere above 18th will do. The Championship winners finished the season on a superb 23 game unbeaten run, and will hope to get off to a good start in the top flight.
It will be interesting to see how Championship top scorer André Gray will do in the Premier League. Especially as with their small budget, not many faces will come in.
They will miss the experience of Joey Barton…..maybe. They do have top flight experience in Boyd, Meade, Vokes, Ward, Heaton, Lowton, Mee & Knightly. Not to mention Flannagan on loan from Liverpool. They also have ex Man Utd defender Keane and acquired Icelandic midfielder Gudmundsson. It will be a long season but a good start, bit of luck, added with desire and quality and it could be fruitful one.
Captain: Grant Leadbitter
Impact Players: Negredo & Ramirez
One to Watch: Jordan Rhodes
Boro could be the most prepared newly promoted side I have seen for a long time, due to their investment and for the first season at least, that could be crucial.
I am an admirer of manager Karanka who Boro almost made an error midway through the season by letting him go.
He is a shrewd tactician, where players such as Ledbitter, Nsue, Ayala, Ramirez, Clayton, Stuani, Nugent and Rhodes have thrived under him. He has also made some interesting signings with Valdes, Negredo, Fischer and Barragan. Though investment doesn’t guarantee success, their mix of PL experience, flair, fitness and tactical awareness, have put them in a good position and I expect a very decent season.
Captain: Michael Dawson
Impact Players: Hernandez & Huddlestone
One to Watch: Shaun Maloney
A summer of instability sparked by the loss of much-loved manager Steve Bruce, has put a dark cloud over the KC Stadium. But this could work in their favour and band the players together to achieve the unexpected.
Although to make matters worse, keeper McGregor & Defender Dawson will miss the start of the season and Diame’s been sold. So the likes of Huddlestone, Livermore, Snodgrass, Hernandez and Davis will really need to use all their experience to keep the team together and within a realistic chance of survival. Along with Odubajo, Robertson & Clucas. New faces will be needed but you can’t help thinking this will be a season to watch through fingers.