Southampton – The hugely controversial decision to sack the popular Nigel Adkins and replace him with Mauricio Pochettino was starting to pay off towards the end of last season, with an identifiable high pressing style of football which saw them dismantle Manchester City 3-1 late in the season. This style of play restricts the time the opposition midfield have on the ball so they can enjoy the majority of possession. This style left them with the highest number of tackles and interceptions in the league last year. A combined total of £20 million has been spent on the highly-rated Kenyan Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren from Lyon who had been sought after by some of the bigger clubs in Europe.
- Key Player – Gaston Ramirez, he’s player who performed in patches last season, however he has immense talent and will provide the creative spark that’s needed to take Southampton to the next level. His good performances have seen interest from Italian giants Inter Milan this summer.
- Prediction – 11th, if they carry on where they left of from last season and turn some of their 14 draws into wins then they’ll be around the mid-table mark come the end of the season.
Stoke City – Fitness, power and good organisation has helped Stoke finish around 13th place for the last 5 seasons. However there has been a big change at the Britannia this season, as long-serving manager Tony Pulis has been ousted for former Wales and QPR boss Mark Hughes. Many people are left bewildered by this choice based on his spell at QPR, however he has finished in the top half of the league in 7 of his 9 premier league seasons, a very impressive return. He will be looking to slightly change the playing style, however he’ll want to keep the defensive elements in-tact as it’ll make them typically hard to beat.
- Key Player – Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke skipper has been on the fringes of the England team for the last couple of years and another impressive season could see him keep his team in the league, and snatch a place on the plane to Rio.
- Prediction – 17th, due to not really improving their squad in the transfer window, I see them falling behind their rivals and into another relegation scrap, this time coming closer to the drop, however I think their solid defence will be enough to save them.
Sunderland – Eyebrows were raised after the appointment of the hot-headed Paolo Di Canio who was given the task of keeping troubled Sunderland in the Premier League. After a great start in the job which saw his side beat local rivals Newcastle 3-0, the wheels started to come of at the end of last season and they managed to survive by the skin of their teeth. No matter what anybody says about Paolo, he managed to meet his big target which was to keep Sunderland in the promise land. He’ll be looking to push on this season and finish in a safer mid-table position, he’s shown his intent by bringing in 9 players this summer.
- Key Player – Adam Johnson, he was out of sorts for large parts last season, however he has the quality and creativity that will be needed to fire Sunderland up the league, he can win points on his own when he’s on form.
- Prediction – 15th, a slightly safer finish than last season if Paolo gets his players to believe in his rules and philosophy. I feel he will, however if they don’t respond well to his unorthodox style of management, they could be in for a long, hard season.
Swansea City – When Michael Laudrup took over last season from Brendan Rodgers, many thought they’d struggle to replicate the good football and results of the previous year. However, he finished in the top-half and had them playing a very attractive and effective style of football. Michu was undoubtedly their star man last season and bagged 18 league goals for the Swans, but at times he was carrying the team on his back. They’ve signed Wilfried Bony from Vitesse to easy the workload on the Spaniard and the Ivorians power and ability to score goals could help them battle for European and Domestic glory. They’ve again raided the Spainsh market, the stand-out signing of those being Jordi Amat from Espanyol who is tipped to be one of Spain’s finest defenders in years to come. Keeping hold of Jonathan de Guzman for another year who was hugely impressive in the heart of the Swansea midfield was another boost for the side that looks set to be challenging for a Europa League spot through the league.
- Key Player – Michu, the top scorer from last season may not score as many goals this year with him probably being dropped into his favoured position in behind the striker, but he the classy Spaniard will be key to Swansea’s challenge in Europe and in the league due to his goals and assists.
- Prediction – 7th, a much improved squad should see them finish around this spot for me, the only problem may come with the European campaign and how much that takes out of them. They should have the squad to deal with that now though.
Tottenham Hotspur – They achieved their best points tally for 28 years last term and they still missed out on the top 4. This has sparked an injection of cash from Daniel Levy and they’ve used that wisely to bring in Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and most recently, Etienne Capoue from Toulouse. The signing of Soldado has filled their major gap from last season with a lack of fire-power from the strikers being very evident, seen as a natural goalscorer, Soldado should help Spurs get over the line and qualify for the Champions League. A lot of their season now depends on the future of Gareth Bale, a player who won 24 points by himself last season, and picked up all possible player awards for his scintillating form last year. Strong interest from Real Madrid seems to be fading, however it looks as if Bale now wants out and that may force Spurs to sell their most prized asset.
- Key Player – Gareth Bale, the Premier League’s finest footballer and the most sought after player in World football had to be my choice. His future could make or break Spurs’ season, however if he stays, he’ll be sure to have another great season.
- Prediction – 4th, having bought very good players so far this window I see Spurs ahead of Arsenal in the race for 4th, a good striker and a top quality central midfielder have been signed and without any spending from Arsenal, I see Spurs finishing above them this season.
West Bromwich Albion – They were very impressive last season and an 8th place finish was probably higher than what Steve Clarke could ever have imagined in his first year in management. Romelu Lukaku played a big hand in that success last season, and without him this year will make it much tougher for them to emulate that success. They have signed the experienced French striker Nicolas Anelka and last seasons Championship player of the year, Matej Vydra to provide good competition for Shane Long. I am a big fan of the Mulumbu and Yacob combination deep in the West Brom midfield which makes them extremely hard to break down and after they win the ball they pass it off to start off attacks, they’re the heart of the team. Goals may be a problem next season and I don’t see them finishing as highly as last season, however I feel they won’t be worried about relegation for at least another year.
- Key Player – Jonas Olsson, despite help from Mulumbu and Yacob in front of him, he does a great job in organising the back four and they only had to make one last-man tackle last season, the best out of any Premier League side. He can score a goal too!
- Prediction – 14th, I feel they will struggle to get close to their finish last season due to a lack of investment in the window which leaves them with a pretty small squad to be able to challenge at the top-half again.
West Ham United – A 10th place finish was a great start to life back in the Premier League for Sam Allardyce’s men and their mixture of power and good football made them a tough team to match up against as they can beat you in many ways. The signing of Stewart Downing should really excite the fans as he is an excellent crosser of the ball, and with Matt Jarvis on the other side, Andy Carroll won’t be short of chances and I fancy him to add to his tally of 7 last season. A solid midfield three of Nolan, Noble and Diame was key to their success last season and they each provided goals and steel to guide them to a top-half finish, Big Sam will be looking for the same from them again. Winston Reid impressed me immensely last season and I felt his exceptional defensive abilities coupled with his leadership qualities made him one of the stand-out central defenders from last season.
- Key Player – Andy Carroll, the big man will be hoping to avoid injuries this season and profit from the service expected from Jarvis and Downing, he could have a big season.
- Prediction – 10th, I feel that there are many more strong teams in the league than last season, and West Ham are another. I see them finishing in 10th position again, which I think would represent another successful season for the Hammers.
Thank you for reading and for more football chat and opinions follow me on twitter @thecityopinion.