For football fans, it is a wonderfully exciting time of the year, as the new Premier League season is right around the corner. After having to tolerate another summer chock full of laughable transfer gossip and meaningless pre-season friendlies, fans across the UK are more than ready to watch some actual football.
So, in the spirit of looking forward to the new season, SquareEyed.tv has pooled all of its football writing talent together for one big preview, where every single club comes under the lens of our experts.
Matt Gault, Simon Furnivall, Jamie Roberts, Dan Williams and Jack Bradshaw have closely analysed all the data, statistics and records and this is what they have come up with. Please feel free to chime in with your own prediction in our comments section, or get the debate going over on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear your thoughts ahead of the new season!
Nobody has enjoyed a better run than Arsenal of late. They wobbled — in typical Arsenal fashion — after Christmas in the 14/15 campaign, but showed their resilience by finishing the season in impressive style, lifting the FA Cup for the second successive year. Arsene Wenger hasn’t embarked on the spectacular spending spree many had tipped him him for in the transfer window, with Petr Cech from Chelsea his sole acquisition.
However, the signing of the experienced keeper solves a long-standing problem between the sticks and, with this injection of quality, they now have the foundation to flex their muscles and have a proper tilt at the title.
In attack, they look as menacing as anyone, with a plethora of talent to choose from in Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. That’s not to mention Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain too, who are both quite handy themselves.
One thing Wenger will be hoping to cut out is an unwanted proclivity to throw away points from winning positions. Last season, they sacrificed 14 and, considering they finished 12 points behind eventual winners Chelsea, an inability to close out games proved rather costly indeed. MG
Tim Sherwood will not want to be reminded of the last few months. Although Villa did well to avoid relegation, being routed by Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley coupled with the sale of Sherwood’s two key players in top-scorer Christian Benteke and captain Fabian Delph (even after he had declared his loyalty to the club) to Manchester City and Liverpool respectively will have dented the Villa coach’s confidence slightly.
The main objective for Sherwood is to steer Villa away from relegation. In each of the last five seasons, the Birmingham club has flirted dangerously with the drop and the constant pressure of looking over their shoulders is something they could definitely do without.
The club has certainly been active in the transfer window to offset the high-profile departures of Benteke and Delph, drafting in Idrissa Gueye for £9m from Lille, as well as Jordan Ayew for £14m. That looks to have bolstered the forward line significantly but whether or not they can adequately fill the shoes of Benteke, who managed 49 goals in 100 league appearances for Villa, is another question entirely.
Sherwood will be hopeful that defensive investments such as Micah Richards — who was appointed captain rather peculiarly, despite not having played a single minute of competitive football for the club — and Jordan Amavi, whose arrival addressed the problematic position of left-back.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 5, 2015
The Cherries begin their first ever season in the Premier League after clinching the Championship title by just one point ahead of nearest rivals Watford. Eddie Howe has maintained he will not change his side’s style of play, which places an emphasis on ball retention and all-out attack.
After all, the Cherries scored 98 goals last season – more than any other team in the Championship – so why change a winning formula? Midfielder Matt Ritchie was the beating heart of the team last season with 15 goals and 17 assists, so getting the best out of him is crucial, while striker Calum Wilson will hope to continue his form which saw him find the net 20 times.
Sylvain Distin’s arrival on a free transfer from Everton will bring much-needed top-flight experience to a defence which is likely to come under serious strain. JB
The question for Chelsea, who are fresh off an all too comfortable title win, is can they maintain the same level of dominance over this so-called competitive league when they have been fairly relaxed in the transfer window.
Jose Mourinho, who has been typically arrogant in his pre-season press conferences, has sought to only bring in misfiring striker Radamel Falcao and back-up goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. The low-key acquisition of Nathan – a young Brazilian who is unlikely to make an impact in the first-team – serves as an indicator of how highly Mourinho regards his current crop of players.
Why shouldn’t he? Chelsea had the most parsimonious defence in the league last season, whilst in Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas they have one of the most devastating attacking tridents currently operating on these shores. It is difficult to envisage anyone displacing Chelsea at the league’s summit.
Of course, Mourinho will have to juggle the desperation to make progress in the Champions League, while also making sure they don’t fall foul of one of the toughest tasks in English football; successfully defending the title. MG
There is a great sense of optimism surrounding Palace ahead of the new season, with many predicting another finish in the top 10.
Alan Pardew has made a few interesting additions to the squad, headlined by a club record transfer of £10 million for Yohan Cabaye from French champions PSG. The signing is a statement of intent that the Eagles can attract some of the world’s best players and compete with many other top-flight clubs financially. His arrival also signals a shift towards possession-based football to improve their home form, which was below par last season.
Their forward line has been strengthened by a £7 million investment in Connor Wickham from Sunderland and Patrick Bamford, who has joined on loan from Chelsea and showed great form last year for Middlesbrough, scoring 17 goals. With relegation looking unlikely, fans can expect another exciting season with plenty of goals at both ends of the pitch. JB
The Toffees finished outside the top 10 for the first time in nine years last season, and the club is expecting a reaction to a bitterly disappointing campaign.
While there are no Europa League commitments to distract the squad, Roberto Martinez has so far been unable to significantly strengthen the squad in the transfer window. The only major recruits have been England international Tom Cleverley, signed from Aston Villa, and Spanish forward Deulofeu, whose loan move from Sevilla has been made permanent.
However, the defence has lost Sylvain Distin to Bournemouth, and talented youngster John Stones is a target for both Manchester United and Chelsea. Moreover, the pressure will be on Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku to deliver, but it’s not certain how good his service will be. The side face a tough fixture list to start the new season, and it’s likely to be a bumpy ride for Martinez if results don’t go their way. JB
It’s been a strange summer at the King Power Stadium. Nigel Pearson was sent packing after guiding the club to one of the Premier League’s greatest-ever escapes. Rock bottom and seemingly adrift at Christmas, the Foxes fought back valiantly to secure their status as a top-flight entity for another season.
However, that was not enough to save Pearson, who was dismissed in July. Many believe the sacking of his son, James, was critical in deciding Pearson’s departure. In Claudio Ranieri, the club have found a successor who, although boasts a wealth of experience, has raised a few eyebrows, mainly due to his catastrophically brief tenure as the Greece Head Coach, during which they lost at home to Faroe Islands.
The club have also lost the combative presence of Esteban Cambiasso, who was largely responsible for the upturn in fortunes during the latter stages of last season. It remains to be seen if the club can replace the veteran Argentine. They have been linked with a big-money move for Chilean Copa America hero Charles Aranguiz, but reportedly face stiff competition from Marseille for his services.
Elsewhere, the permanent capture of Robert Huth at centre-half is a shrewd piece of business, but there are significant doubts over whether this squad can withstand the pressure long enough to keep Ranieri in the job. MG
Goals were the biggest problem for Liverpool in the 2014/15 season. Having sold Luis Suarez, they tried to replace the prodigiously talented but overly bitey striker with a combination of Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert. To put it mildly, and when added to the fact that Daniel Sturridge appears to be made out of Ryvita, that was never going to work.This summer’s transfer business has taken a serious stab at rectifying this problem. Christian Benteke has come in for £32.5m, Roberto Firmino for another £29m and both will be expected to get goals. Lots of goals. Add in the fact that Danny Ings and Divock Origi should represent an upgrade on Lambert and Fabio Borini and the Reds should be significantly improving on a total of just 52 goals scored last season.
With James Milner an upgrade on the fading talents of Steven Gerrard in midfield and Nathaniel Clyne improving the club’s options at right back by the simple fact of not being Glen Johnson, the Liverpool squad which heads into this season looks much stronger than that of last year.
Questions do remain over the defence, particularly if, as expected, Brendan Rodgers continues his baffling preference for Dejan Lovren over Mamadou Sakho. Meanwhile, Alberto Moreno has more than a whiff of the John Arne Riise about him and could find his place under threat from Joe Gomez, a summer addition from Charlton, and Simon Mignolet still has plenty of convincing to do in goal.
But despite those weaknesses and a first seven away games which could make grown men cry – Stoke, Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City – there is plenty of optimism around Anfield. Should they navigate their way through that hideous list of games, which take them up to mid-November and still be in the battle for a top four finish then there will be a real belief that they can end the campaign with a return to the top table where fans will always believe they belong. SF
If there is one thing Manchester City have taught us, it’s that they are a much better side when chasing the title, as opposed to defending it. Disastrous defences in the 12/13 and 14/15 seasons suggest that the Blues do not like carrying the burden of Premier League champions. However, they are as well equipped as anyone to genuinely challenge Chelsea atop the league.
Their challenge however, relies heavily on the fitness of star striker Sergio Aguero, who finished last season as the league’s top scorer despite missing a chunk of games through injury. When fit and raring to go, there is no more lethal forward in European football.
Aguero will be helped slightly by the arrival of Raheem Sterling for a whopping £49m from Liverpool. If City’s new record signing hits the ground running, expect another well-slicked side who score goals for fun. To do that, players like Jesus Navas and Wilfried Bony will need to step up to the plate.
Undoubtedly, Manuel Pellegrini is feeling the pressure, and he will need a solid start to the campaign to keep the Qatari owners happy, after another summer of heavy investment. MG
Robin Van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Rafael da Silva, Nani and record British transfer Angel Di Maria have all departed, but the midfield has been strengthened. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin give manager Louis van Gaal plenty of options, while winger Memphis Depay offers pace to a side which was uncharacteristically sluggish last campaign.
Critics will argue the defence will still be shaky, with only right-back Matteo Darmian being signed, and there are question marks over the future of goalkeeper David De Gea. There is also the issue of getting so many new players to gel quickly, as well as a heavy reliance on Wayne Rooney as the only top striker in the squad. With so much money spent once again, the owners understandably expect a title challenge, but can van Gaal deliver? JB