Arsenal – “This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time – the escalation in our financial fire power.” This bold statement from Arsenal Chief Exec Ivan Gazidis prior to the start of the transfer window signalled a change in stance for Arsenal and that they were now willing and capable of spending big on new players. This excited Arsenal fans no-end, however it’s now August 14th and they have only signed a 20-year-old French striker in Yaya Sanogo who has only played 21 games in three seasons at Ligue 2 club Auxerre…on a free! However the possible arrival of Bayern anchor-man Luis Gustavo will give the Gunners that well needed protection in front of the back four which they have been missing for some time now. However this signing is still far from complete with Napoli also thinking of making a bid for the player. Another striker, defender and goalkeeper are still needed in my opinion for Arsenal to challenge at the top of the table once again.
- Key Player – Theo Walcott, only Gareth Bale, Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez contributed to more goals than the English forward last season, and he will only improve this following year.
- Prediction – 5th as the window is currently, they haven’t improved the squad that only pipped Spurs to 4th last year and I feel they may lose their grip on that 4th spot unless they spend big before September 3rd.
Aston Villa – The biggest signing for Villa this summer without a doubt has been keeping hold of Belgian giant Christian Benteke. He proved his worth to the team last season by scoring 19 league goals for the Villans and contributed to 49% of the team’s goals last season. They have done more business still, signing no fewer than 6 players including talented Danish duo Jores Okore and Nicklas Helenius. A big challenge for Villa’s young stars this season will be keeping their heads up as they face a gruelling first three games against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea which they may struggle to pick many points up in.
- Key Player – Christian Benteke, as stated above he almost single-handedly kept Villa up last season and if he performs anywhere close to what he did last season, he’ll be delighted.
- Prediction – 13th, I feel Villa will be much more comfortable than they were last season and should stay clear of any intense relegation battle this year with a far bigger squad to choose from if important players do get injured during the season. The strong end to last season may also make the team more united and they should be well clear of the drop.
Cardiff City – Cardiff’s Championship winning success was based on having a solid defence and being able to win ugly, they won 17 games by 1 goal last season. They have also added defender John Brayford and England international Steven Caulker to the solid defence that won them the league last year which will only help them to be prepared for the Premier League. A club record fee of £11 million has seen Gary Medel sign from Sevilla who is known as the “Pitbull” due to his tenacious style of play in the midfield, it’s safe to say Cardiff City won’t roll-over easily this season. Despite Fraizer Campbell’s good form towards the end of last season, Cardiff spent £7.5 million on Danish wonderkid Andreas Cornelius who they’ll hope will provide a greater attacking threat, something they lacked last season.
- Key Player – Mark Hudson, the highly influential skipper is the rock of the team which managed to keep 18 clean sheets last season. Good leadership and defending will be needed from him to guide Cardiff to safety.
- Prediction – 16th, defensive solidity and good home form will be the two main ingredients to keep Cardiff City in the Premier League and with a good attacking threat, they could finish higher than my prediction into a more solid mid-table position.
Chelsea – Jose is back. The hugely popular manager has returned to the Bridge with the side ready to fight for the title again, and with him back would you bet against them? As he did in his first spell, he will make sure the defence is solid and break quickly on the counter-attack when the ball is won. However with no Claude Makelele, Chelsea lack that world-class defensive midfielder to protect the defence which he had last time. Instead, I believe he will adopt the 4-2-3-1 which he used at Madrid with Oscar, Schurrle, Hazard and Mata vying for those three attacking midfield positions. Chelsea look very well set but I feel they lack a certain goalscorer which may put too much pressure on the midfield to score the bulk of their goals, which they did last season. I believe if they sign Wayne Rooney they are a clear favourites for the title as he will link well with the supporting mid-fielders and will score goals as he has for United over the years.
- Key Player – Eden Hazard, Juan Mata was arguably Chelsea outstanding performer from last season but after a fine first season, Eden Hazard will be ready to take the league by storm with his immense balance and speed which will give premier league defences nightmares.
- Prediction – 2nd, as their squad is currently I feel they will just fall short due to a lack of goals from the front-men, however as I said earlier, the signing of Wayne Rooney would make them my favourites. The productivity of Frank Lampard and John Terry will be interesting as Mourinho will try to balance experience will young exciting players. Romelu Lukaku could be the man Chelsea need, however at just 20 years of age, he may struggle with the expectations of being the front-man for a club like Chelsea.
Crystal Palace – Out of all the teams to come up, I fear for Palace the most. Having already lost their star man, without the resources to bring in a worthy replacement they will struggle create as many chances as they did last season. Marouane Chamakh may prove to be a inspired signing as given a run of games he can find the back of the net and provide Palace with an outlet with his height to get other involved. They have also signed highly-rated Spanish midfielder Jose Campana from Sevilla who is tipped to be a great player for the future. The team does not lack in confidence and with exciting players in Jon Williams and Yannick Bolasie they can go and attack teams and cause problems.
- Key Player – Mile Jedinak, the solid Australian picked up Palace’s player of the year award last season and will be key to their survival chances this season as he will provide Palace with a solid midfield presence to compete with other teams down towards the bottom of the table.
- Prediction – 20th, teams may not want to go to Selhurst park because of the atmosphere and tight pitch, however due to the departure of Wilfried Zaha and with Glenn Murray injured, a lack of goals may prove their Achilles heel and they’re my tip to go down.
Everton – Last season, Everton played with a counter-attacking style, however with Martinez in charge a more free-flowing possession style of football may be more prominent. It’s still unknown whether he will play with the 3-5-2 that he used at Wigan or keep the same system that proved successful for previous Manager, David Moyes. Everton needed more goals than last seasons 55, only eight more than Martinez’s old side Wigan Athletic. With a mis-firing Nikica Jelavic, new signing Arouna Kone may be the Toffees main front-man, a player Martinez took to Wigan from Levante just last summer. Since taking over, Martinez has took 3 of his Wigan players with him and bolstered the squad which seemed necessary with David Moyes’s reluctance to rotate his team due to the lack of depth. Keeping hold of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini will be Martinez’s main target from now until the end of the window.
- Key Player – Kevin Mirallas, the exciting Belgian forward enjoyed a good first season in the premier league, using his pace to drift in from the right wing and chipped in with 6 league goals. He’ll be looking to improve on that tally this season, and should be a vital player for Everton this year.
- Prediction – 8th, with the main players still at the club, they should enjoy another good season. Martinez’s philosophy may take time to take effect but they should be comfortably in the top half with the players at his disposal.
Fulham – Fulham are a strange team for me, impressive league finishes in the last 5 seasons have not been supplemented with good business in the transfer window. Their over-reliance on Dimitar Berbatov last season may be a problem this year and if he was to get injured, they would be left in a bad spot. The squad is ageing and having signed Amorebieta from Atheltic Bilbao it offers a good partner for Brede Hangeland. However the Venezuelan has been sent off 13 times during his time at Bilbao which shows him to be liable for a team that will need their defenders to be disciplined to be safe in the division. The loan signing of Adel Taarabt is an interesting one because they already have two similar style players in Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz and if they all start together, their defence will be in for a busy game with the lack of work rate from each of them. Alex Kacaniklic may provide the spark for them to be safe this season, however I believe this season will prove to be a big struggle for the team by the river.
- Key Player – Sascha Riether, one of the outstanding full-backs in the premier league last season provides good support down the right-hand side and is a solid defender going the other way. If he performs to the standard that he did last year, he may help Fulham to stay clear of a relegation dog-fight.
- Prediction – 18th, this may be seen as a shock pick to many but I feel this is a team without a real identity and also a team that lacks a quality central midfield player which is crucial to surviving in this league. Their form towards the back-end of last season was shocking with some fans calling for Martin Jol’s head, I fear that the wheels may come of this season and they may find themselves facing a shock relegation.