One of the worst things about writing a preview for the new league season is that it’s like writing the start of a book then trying to predict the end of the book before actually knowing what goes in the middle. The transfer window is not closed, in fact there are still a number of weeks left to sign players, giving each team a chance to buy a superstar or sell their best player. With that in mind a season preview has to be taken with a pinch of salt and after the window closes everyone will have a better idea of how the league season will go. Despite all that here’s a season preview of the Premier League!
Premier League Champions
The defending champions roll in to this season with a big smirk on their face after strolling to the title last season. I don’t want to take anything away from Chelsea, but they didn’t really ever have real competition last year. None of their main rivals were able to sustain any sort of challenge. It’s harsh but true, it however doesn’t take away from the fact that Chelsea took their opportunities and made more than the most out of them, they were deserving champions.
What can you say about Chelsea? They have easily the best manager in the league, the best defence, the best player and overall the best starting eleven; so it’s a given that they win the league then? No it is anything but. One of the benefits of having Mourinho is that he knows how to grind out the difficult wins; in fact the second half of last season was essentially Chelsea grinding out wins over and over again. This is great, especially when you have a player of Hazard’s ability to make the difference on those cold rainy nights in… The one thing which I think shouldn’t be ignored from Chelsea last season is their distinct lack of injuries throughout the squad. Yes Diego Costa was out on numerous occasions but beyond him was there really more than a few injuries of minor seriousness throughout the season? I think not, and the issue with this is that the chance of going another entire season without picking up a few injuries is highly unlikely. This is where new problems arise for Chelsea because although I feel they have the best first team in the league, I don’t think they have particularly good depth. If Costa goes out he is replaced by Falcao or Remy, neither of whom is good enough to lead the line for a sustained period of time. If Terry goes out you are replacing him with either Zouma (who is a tank but I’m not sure about his actual ability to play centre back at this level) or Ake (who seems to have been kicking about for a while without ever making an impact on the team), neither of whom currently look good enough. If Hazard goes out he’s replaced by Victor Moses…I think this one says it all. Chelsea have maybe 15/16 top notch players who are good enough to play at this level, beyond that there really isn’t that much. If Chelsea go fairly injury free this season then maybe it won’t matter, however in all likelihood they will have injuries, something which is only compounded further by the fact that if they have a good run in Europe this season the squad will be even further stretched. I’d be concerned if I were a Chelsea fan.
Something which would concern me even further is the fact that Chelsea have only signed three players so far this summer. Begovic is a straight replacement for Cech and is a very good back up (although not as good as Cech), Nathan who has already been put out on loan and finally Falcao. The question is whether or not Falcao can get back to his Atletico Madrid form? Thankfully after much research and tape watching I have formulated the answer! The answer is no, I highly doubt he will and the reason for that is that in my mind he has lost confidence in his body. Things which Falcao lacked last year at Utd include; sharpness, fitness, purpose in his running, strength on the ball and pace. All of these things can be put down to not getting a solid run in the Utd first team, however the thing which concerned me most about Falcao was that he seemed scared that he was going to re-injure himself. He pulls out of 50/50s almost every time and he looks uncertain when he runs, it’s sad but I think he has lost total confidence in his body, if this is the case he will never get back to his old level.
Chelsea’s losses this season aren’t on the face of it hugely impactful, however Cech was easily the best back up in the league last year and Filipe Luis was another excellent back up who is no longer at the club.
City had their second successive limp title defence; it seems to be a bit of a trend. Surprisingly Pellegrini managed to keep his job this summer, which I think was an excellent decision by City. Last season was a bit of a disaster for City; however what’s the point of sacking the manager when you can’t replace him with someone better? Considering Klopp and Ancelotti rejected their advances, City made the correct long term decision to give Pellegrini another year to prove himself. What will be interesting is if Pellegrini has a good year and Guardiola becomes available and is willing to go to City (I seriously have my doubts) will City toss him aside like a Yaya Toure birthday party?
If I were a City fan I would be very concerned with this upcoming season, this is an aging team which has, despite winning two league titles, massively under performed. City have an incredibly old squad and worse than that most of their key players are pushing into their thirties which is never a good thing. Another concern I would have if I was City is that key players like Kompany, Zabaleta, Toure and Nasri all are coming off very poor seasons, if they bounce back to their potential ability then City will be fine but if they don’t they are in massive trouble.
City have made the biggest signing of the summer in the Premier League when they splashed out £50m on Raheem Sterling. Wow…£50m…he’s 20 and has had a couple of good (not great) seasons at Liverpool and now he is worth £50m? I don’t think I understand football anymore. At best Sterling should have cost £30m (and that is me stretching it), however because he is English and because City are desperately short on their English quota Liverpool bent them over the table and had their way with them. Delph is a peculiar signing because at £8m he isn’t a bad price but I don’t see how he is good enough for this very top level, maybe I’ll be wrong, but the only reason he has been signed is cause he is English. Roberts is one for the future but I think it’s a bad move for his career. It will be interesting to see if Jason Denayer will be given a chance in a very weak City central defence.
City have lost a number of players; Negredo went for remarkably good money (somebody fucked up at Valencia), Nastasic went for buttons (something I don’t understand when their centre backs are generally poor), Jovetic went out on loan (no loss), Dzeko is meant to be going as well (a loss of depth but not catastrophic), Lampard’s loan finished, Richards finally left and Milner also was let go on a free (a squad depth loss but not dramatically bad).
I look at City’s squad and first team and think that they will finish top four, however challenging for the league is not a given and I think they are in for a really tough season. I think they’re four or five players off of where they should be.
Back to back FA Cup’s have given Arsenal some of their swagger back, however at the end of the day if you don’t win the league or the Champions League it is generally a failed season. Arsenal at times showed real bite in the big games, which is something which has been totally lacking since Arsenal became uncompetitive but the signs are starting to look bright for the fourth place warriors.
One major concern which I would have for Arsenal is that they are really close but they haven’t done enough to push themselves to a position where you think winning the league is a legitimate option. Petr Cech is an excellent signing and for an excellent price, he finally fixes Arsenal’s goalkeeping problem which has been a mess for years, however that is the end of Arsenal’s summer signings. They need a centre back, a striker and a holding midfielder (Coquelin isn’t good enough) if they are to put in a legitimate challenge for the title, rather than the typical Arsenal play well till April then fall away when it really matters (did it last year as well because they really should have finished second). Arsenal’s player losses aren’t worth a paragraph to themselves.
Can Arsenal win the league? I guess they probably can but as things stand I doubt they probably will. Their first team is good and they have a strong creative midfield, however there are big gaps in big areas of the pitch. They need someone to come in to push Arsenal towards the title; if they get them then Arsenal could be very dangerous. They’re very close.
Utd hit minimum expectations last season by getting back in to the Champions League, however anything but a title challenge this season will be seen as a failure. I wrote a squad analysis a few days ago which you can read here if you’re interested.
If you look at the current Utd squad it is rather impressive, gone are Falcao, RVP, Di Maria, Rafael and Nani, which sound on paper like a rough amount of losses, however in reality it is anything but. I would have probably kept RVP (because there is nobody to replace him), the rest were surplus to requirements, which is quite surprising really. If you had told me that Falcao and Di Maria would no longer be at Utd after last summer and I wouldn’t be bothered, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Utd have been busy bringing in a number of players, with big names signings like Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Memphis, and less big signings but still important like Darmian and Romero. Potentially Utd have four starters in that line-up, however to say that Utd should be finished in the transfer window would be a lie. Utd will need to sign a replacement for Di Maria (preferably with pace), a centre back and a striker for them to be able to make a very strong title challenge. Another major issue is De Gea, because he is the best keeper in the league, however if his head isn’t in it and he isn’t giving his all, you have to wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to sell him and bring in a replacement who would give his all.
If De Gea stays and plays like a professional and Utd make another couple of signings then I think you could be looking at the Premier League champions, without that I think you’re looking at a team who will challenge but ultimately fail.
I’m struggling to choose who I think will win the league this year because I think an argument can be made for all four teams, however when it comes down to it I’m going to plump for Chelsea because they have the best first eleven and Mourinho. Both Utd and Arsenal are really close and only need one or two players for me to tip them as my favourites, however until it happens I can’t pick them in front of Chelsea. I doubt City will win the league.
Europa League Places
Spurs have been particularly thrifty in the past couple of seasons, spending very little and bringing in value signings. You have to wonder if this new strategy is due to Spurs finally accepting that they aren’t really a top four club (doubtful) or the effects of building a new stadium (more likely).
Despite that Spurs have some good value players, with Alderweireld leading the crop, better than that they have sold off a lot of their dead weight and many for good amounts (although players like Soldado, Lennon and Adebayor still linger). Spurs have a decent young team but I can’t honestly believe that they will be able to challenge for the Champions League, especially when Spurs are perennial under achievers. The question is whether Spurs as a club have matured and accepted that challenging for fifth is their level and allow Pochettino to develop their young squad so that maybe in a year or two they could do exactly that…It’s a big if and this is Spurs after all.
Who would have thought that in the space of a year Liverpool’s three stars of their 2013/14 season would no longer be at the club? Yet that is the exact situation we find ourselves in. For the second season running Liverpool have sold their best player, hardly the characteristic of a big team. The season Liverpool finished 2nd was a total fluke and last year they went back to where they belong, this season will follow the same sort of pattern.
Despite spending a lot of money again this summer and bringing in a number of players (Clyne, Benteke, Firmino, Ings and Milner) I don’t think Liverpool are any closer to finishing top four. It isn’t necessarily that they are bad signings; however they are the sort of players that nobody else wanted (moneyball!) so Liverpool signed them. They grossly overpaid for both Firmino and Benteke but when you’ve got all that greedy bastard money sitting in your pocket, it probably doesn’t have the same impact.
It would surprise me if Brendan Rodgers seen the end of the season because he has had a lot of money to spend, expectations are too high at the club and he has an abrasive personality. Ask yourself how many of the Liverpool players would get in to the first eleven of the top four teams? The answer is none of them, which says everything.
Southampton have more or less lost an entire team (including a manager) over the last two seasons (Schneiderlin, Alderweireld and Clyne all gone), yet they are still one of the better teams in the league, quite remarkable really. If you wanted a blueprint for building a successful club without much money then I would show you Southampton every time. Every year they have had to sell their best players, and yet they come back the next year better than the one before. I doubt that this season they will bounce back quite as well as last, however I thought the same last year. The only thing I can criticise them for is letting Alderweireld get away when they had a deal in place, however I have to respect them for being mature and accepting that he didn’t want to play for the club, instead of trying to force him to because Atletico broke their agreement. I don’t know how you can’t like Southampton; they are how football clubs should be run; smart buys and developing home-grown youth talent.
I was of the opinion last year that people were too quick to suck Martinez’ cock, after all even an idiot can have one good season (BR). Last season was a bad one for Everton and many people blamed this on the distraction of the Europa League… Why is it that the Europa League is seen as a distraction to a club like Everton who haven’t got a hope in hell of making top four? This is as good as it gets for Everton, this is bigger than winning the FA Cup and this gets you a place in the Champions League, yet it’s called a distraction… It’s an excuse for a bad season, not a distraction. Everton will have no excuse this season and to be honest I imagine they’ll do better, however I think last year’s struggles were down to the team losing the defensive discipline of the Moyes years and teams being wiser to their style of play.
Regardless of all that if Everton make a few good signings they can push for the Europa League places which they desperately seek for only to decide they don’t want the next season. Luckily for Everton I doubt that Europa League will actually be on their plans because their total signings of this summer being Deulofeu and Cleverley doesn’t really set the world on fire. Can you really blame the manager when the team more or less hasn’t changed since he took over? There is an issue with Everton’s transfer policy
Top Half Finish
I’m really looking forward to seeing how Garry Monk does this year because last season he was the outstanding young manager of the league. I’m not sure Swansea can really hope for much better than a top half finish, so if Monk were to deliver I think it would be another very successful season. Swansea have a fairly good team (for this level), although the lack of signings does concern me, yes they haven’t really lost anyone but when the teams around them are all spending and they are not, there is only one way to go and that is backwards. I don’t want them to throw silly money at people but they’ve not really replaced Bony which may have a big impact on the team this season. They aren’t going to get relegated, but Swansea aren’t going to do anything special either, just sort of something in the middle.
Stoke are another team who aren’t going to flirt with relegation but aren’t going to do anything special (not very surprising when a chunk of their players are the negative stereotype of British football). Begovic is out but Butland is a good replacement and N’Zonzi is gone which is quite a loss, especially for not that much money. Stoke have brought in some solid players (much like last season) and a flair player who has fallen from grace (much like last season), they will finish somewhere mid-table (much like last season). I feel there is a pattern there.
West Ham United
Fire a manager who gets you European football when you aren’t a European football team…sounds about right for West Ham. Again similar to Everton why aren’t West Ham desperate to try and win the Europa League? It is beyond me. What is also beyond me is their treatment of Big Sam when he was playing some nice stuff and had stabilised the club in the Premier League (you don’t win the fair play award if you’re playing long ball). They’ve signed a bunch of players who look good on FIFA and unless Bilic fucks it up they will finish about 12th.
Alan Pardew the best manager in the league!!! Woooo!!! It probably isn’t far off it, the guy did wonders last season at both Newcastle and Palace and he’s back for another year, how will Palace do under his stewardship for an entire season? Will he head-butt somebody out of pure rage? Does he have the biggest nose in management? There’s only one way to find out…tune in to Sky Sports News Head Quarters with Jim White (a fellow silver haired fox) and blah blah blah. This is Palace’s first season back in the league where I don’t think they will go down (yay) and Pardew is a big part of that. The other big part is that the team is actually starting to blend together; they have pace and skill with the likes of Zaha and Bolasie, they have steel with Jedinak, McArthur and Ledley and they’ve added a bit of class with Cabaye (which is a hell of a signing). It should be another fun season for the Palace fans.
It is odd to see Newcastle having made so many good moves in the summer, but in this alternate reality this is exactly what has happened. The managerial appointment of Steve McLaren is very prudent as he is an excellent coach; they’ve also splashed the cash on three players who all have massive upside (Mitrovic, Wijnaldum and Mbemba). It all sounds so good (we can gloss over the defence being iffy) until you remember that this is Newcastle and they will somehow mess it up in some way, possibly new signings Mitrovic is spotted shopping in JD and this pisses Mike Ashley off because he could have got him a Greggs but didn’t offer so forces McLaren to not play him, or some sort of nonsense which often seems to come out of Newcastle.
West Bromwich Albion
Not a pretty team to watch but it will be a hard game for all the teams above them. It will be classic Pulis, defensively astute but a horrible footballing side, just look at the players at his disposal and it already look like Stoke 2.0. I think the signing of Rickie Lambert says everything about Tony Pulis, he’ll win you games but don’t expect much else, and as a West Brom fan that should really be enough for you.
The mighty Tim Sherwood (ugh) is back for another knee slapping jacket throwing season as he takes the Midlands by storm! Villa have followed Liverpool’s lead as how to have success by selling their two best players and buying in a bunch of other players to replace them. They’ve also followed Newcastle’s lead by buying them all more or less from the Premier League (cause Newcastle are a success story). I can’t imagine Villa being in trouble this season; however with Tim Sherwood in charge you never really know what’s going on, I’m not even sure he does.
I find it hard to know what to make of Sunderland because every year seems to follow the same pattern of hold on to a manager until the final third of the season sack him and bring in a character who is generally useless but will keep you up and then inexplicably keep that person on. The issue I have with them is that Dick Advocaat is not a good manager. They’re signings have been decent, but when your squad is packed full of under achievers and guys who are over the hill, I would begin to have serious doubts about the clubs safety. They probably won’t go down but it will be another almighty struggle.
Straight off the bat, Leicester are getting relegated this season. In fact they should have been relegated last season, but by some luck of god (or a magic Thai prostitute) they managed to string a ridiculous run of results together. Nigel Pearson was correctly sacked because he is a numpty but Claudio Ranieri is also a numpty so they’ve replaced one problem with the same problem. Their signings are meh, but they’ve thrown money at the problem and some of it may stick (you never know). Luckily their squad last season was so shit that they didn’t actually lose any of their players (Cambiasso left on a free) but that says everything about the quality of their squad.
I’d love to see Bournemouth stay up, it really is a great story, sadly I can’t see it happening. Their team just isn’t good enough. I like the manager, I like their style of play and I like that they are being intelligent with their spending, however they are just this seasons Burnley, and we all know how that turned out. I hope I’m wrong.
I think Watford have a decent team for this level, if anything I would criticise them for having way too many players, which can be a blessing and a curse. What really concerns me about Watford is how the club is run at the boardroom level; they seem to go through managers like Joey Barton goes through friends. Their squad is good enough to stay up, whether they will is a totally different question.
I have to say I don’t see that much difference between the Norwich team this season and the team which was relegated (maybe Norwich fans will disagree). The team isn’t good enough to stay up in the Premier League, that’s the honest truth. This is more or less a Championship team playing in the Premier League and they’ve barely signed anyone, it’s all very concerning. The one thing which is in their favour is that Alex Neil is a very good manager and in contrast to Watford, Norwich’s managerial situation could keep them up, because it won’t be the squad making the difference.
I’m leaning towards Chelsea winning the league currently and Bournemouth, Norwich and Leicester going down; however everything could change when the window officially closes.
I don’t like make predictions at this stage of the season because it’s next to impossible to really know what is going to happen. Let’s say Man Utd were to buy Bale, all of a sudden they are favourites for the league, if City go out and buy Pogba they look a hell of a lot stronger, you don’t really know. It’s like solving a puzzle without being given all the pieces, chances are you are going to fail. One thing I can say is that it is setting up to be a very exciting season, especially up at the top end of the table and that can only be a good thing for the fans.
If you’ve made it this far then why not take that step further by leaving a comment about any of the teams involved in the post or just tell me how much I suck or otherwise. Also if you’ve made it this far it would be great if you could take that little extra step by joining up to the Facebook and Twitter pages and showing your support, we aren’t the LadBible, we don’t spam you with utter shit on a consistent basis.