With the start of the 2013/2014 Premier League season just days away, we will take a look at the teams competing in England’s top flight this season, discuss their transfers and most importantly, what kind of season they can expect to have.
In recent seasons, Arsenal have made it into the top 4 by the skin of their teeth. 8 years has passed since Arsenal last won a trophy, but is this going to be the year they finally win some silverware?
The aim for Arsenal will no doubt be Champions League qualification, and with the transfer fund on offer to Arsene Wenger, this season may be slightly more comfortable than more recent ones, providing he opens his cheque book and make’s some signings. After missing out on Higuain, Arsenal are still in need of a world class striker. Despite Walcott and Giroud chipping in with the goals last season, the gunners never looked as much of a threat than they did when RVP was at the Emirates.
But even though claims were made that they can compete at the higher end of the transfer market, Arsenal fans have only had to welcome France Under-20 striker Yaya Sanogo to the club. While a player with a lot of potential, he is not the signing Arsenal fans are hoping for. After losing to Bradford in the League cup last season, I believe that Wenger will take the competition more seriously in an attempt to win some silverware.
With the current squad, I wouldn’t be able to see past a 5th place finish to be honest, but Arsenal still have 3 weeks of the transfer window to make some signings. Arsenal’s season will depend entirely on what happens in these last 3 weeks of the window.
Predicted Finish: 5th
For a club which was knocking on the door of the top 4 not too long ago, the recent demise of Aston Villa hasn’t been a pretty one, only just avoiding relegation last term. However throughout the season, there were glimpses that their young squad truly does have talent. The experience gained last season will no doubt make every player at the club a better one.
The biggest triumph for Villa in the transfer market has been keeping Benteke. If he had left Villa park, then it would have been hard to see where the goals would come from. If he can start the season where he left off, Aston Villa should avoid the relegation battle they found themselves in last season.
Paul Lambert has added several new signings to the squad, although like last season, they are young and upcoming players. With the likes of Richard Dunne, Shay Given, Stephen Ireland and Darren Bent hardly getting a sniff last year, I feel that experience needs to be added to the squad.
This season will be an improvement from the last one, however I can’t see them breaking into the top half of the table. But I also can’t see them finding themselves in a relegation dogfight. It will be an up and down season for Villa, but I feel they now have enough about them not to be flirting with relegation this term.
Predicated Finish: 14th
After coming so close to promotion on numerous occasions, Cardiff are finally a Premier League club. As West Ham and Southampton proved last season, and Norwich City the season before, newly promoted teams can easily establish themselves in the top flight, and with the likes of Steven Caulker and Gary Medel joining the club, Cardiff have a squad which should see them survive the upcoming season. It will not be easy, but with the improvements made to the playing squad, Cardiff have given themselves the best possible chance of survival.
The capture of Caulker is a significant one for Cardiff, a defender who will no doubt earn more caps for his country and has already proven himself to be a worthy Centre-back with Spurs. He will be pivotal in making Cardiff’s defense solid. While Caulker is very much still learning his trade, Craig Bellamy is entering the latter stages of his career, and will be bring back to the Premier League that passion and drive he is famous for.
A season which will be extremely tough on Cardiff, and may go right down until the end of the season, but I think the outcome will be Premier League survival for Cardiff.
Predicted Finish: 17th
“The Special One” will be hoping to perform the same kind of magic he did in his first spell at Stamford Bridge, which saw Chelsea win back-to-back titles. Mourinho however will find himself up against more competition for the title than when he joined in 2004. And despite the issues Chelsea faced last season and the lack of support for Benitez, they still secured a 3rd place finish in one of the tightest leagues in the world. Proving that Chelsea has a squad full of talent and class, and with a bit of tinkering and better management, they could be crowned champions of the Premier League.
Mourinho’s return couldn’t have happened at a better time, what with Sir Alex Ferguson stepping down as manager of United. This season will be an exciting one for Blues fans, especially with the likes of Andre Schurrle joining from Bayern Leverkusen. Schurrle is the kind of player who can be quiet all game, and then come up with a moment of brilliance to win it. Of course, Chelsea have a whole squad full of those players, and that makes them serious contenders for the title.
With Manchester City adapting to a new manager and imbedding their new signings, as well as the pressure Moyes will be under to retain the title, I think Chelsea will have enough about them to claim the title. As much as I would like to see Moyes succeed, I think Mourinho will be the one who will have a major say in where the title ends up.
Predicted Finish: 1st
After an 8 year absence from the Premier League, Crystal Palace will be making a return to the big time after gaining promotion in the Championship Play-off Final last season. Ian Holloway will also feel he has unfinished business in the Premier League after being relegated on the final day of the 2010/2011 season with Blackpool. Lacking the financial power of other clubs, this season could be extremely tough on Palace.
Crysta Palace haven’t signed any big names in this window, with their biggest signing being for Dwight Gayle from Peterborough. While Gayle demanded a fee in the region of £8.5m, he has no previous Premier League experience but could be the one player who could Palace a chance of survival. Jerome Thomas could also play a pivotal role as he joins on a free transfer.
Crystal Palace will do well to survive their first season back in the top flight, but what they lack in Premier League experience and skill, they make up for with their unity and readiness to get stuck in and grind out results when needed.
Unfortunately 3 clubs have to be relegated, and I can’t see Palace having enough about them to stay up, especially when you consider some of the signings clubs around them have made. I feel it could be a season similar to Reading’s last season, when at times they competed, but failed to achieve the results against the teams around them.
Predicted Finish: 20th
There is no doubt that Everton over-achieved under David Moyes, considering the budget and the relatively small, yet talented squad he had to work with. Now that role falls to Roberto Martinez, a manager who kept Wigan in the Premier League against all the odds on multiple occasions, and even has a FA Cup winners medal to his name. It will be a baptism by fire for Martinez however, with the Everton fans and board expecting the same sort of success that they enjoyed under Moyes.
The vital thing for Everton will be keeping hold of their star players Leighton Baines and Maroune Fellani. The sooner the window closes the better for them. Martinez signed Arouna Kone for £6m from Wigan, but questions will be asked whether he can compete at the higher end of the league. Antolin Alcaraz should at least provide some experienced back-up should one of the two first choice center-backs become injured.
One thing Martinez has proved is that he can cope under pressure, and I feel he has what it takes to enjoy a successful season with the Toffees. A good start will be vital to get the fans right behind him, but Everton have enough about them to continue where they left off.
Predicted Finish: 7th
Fulham enjoyed a relatively quiet season last term out under Martin Jol finishing 12th in the league. With there being a new owner at Craven Cottage in the shape of Shahid Khan, Fulham should avoid relegation again comfortably with another mid-table finish predicted for them.
Berbatov will be central to Fulham’s attack once again, and with several new signings, including Adel Taarabt, It could be an interesting season for Fulham fans. Taarabt however will definitely be a wildcard, having shown moments of brilliance last season, along with some terrible performances. It will be interesting to see how Stekelenburg fits into the Premier League, as has the hard job of replacing Mark Schwarzer, who has been one of the Premier League’s most consistent goalkeepers.
Predicted Finish: 13th
When Hull made their debut in the Premier League in 2008, they took the league by storm with a string of victories in their first few games. But after a blistering start they found wins hard to come by, and only just survived their first season before being relegated in the 09/10 season. Under Steve Bruce, Hull City will have a more consistent season than their first one in the league several seasons ago.
Hull City have signed some experienced players in the form of Alan McGregor and of course Tom Huddlestone. However I just don’t see them having enough about to fight relegation. If they are to have any chance though, they will need Danny Graham to hit the ground running, after what can only be described as a poor start to his Sunderland career last season. Irish midfielder Robbie Brady could be one to watch and will no doubt be relishing his chance to play in the Premier League. Brady is an exciting and skillful player and no doubt Hull will be looking to him to perform in the big time.
While Hull City have a great spine of the team, the strength of the squads most clubs have will be too much for Hull to handle.
Predicted Finish: 19th
It hasn’t quite been the summer Liverpool were hoping for. The Luis Suarez sage finally looks to be coming to an end, however he will still miss the first 6 games of Liverpool season. It will be interesting to see where Liverpool are at when Suarez is eligible to play again. Last season there were signs of improvement under Brendan Rodgers, but a string of good performances were often overshadowed by a poor one.
Liverpool will be hoping for a more consistent season, and I see no reason why that can’t be the case. With the several additions made to the squad, along with Coutinho becoming more settled at Liverpool, it could be an extremely exciting season. This season should see Liverpool finish above Everton. If Liverpool are to really challenge for a top 4 place, some more signings will need to be made, but with not many targets available, I think Liverpool will have to settle with 6th.
Not being in Europe this season could really play into Liverpool’s hand, and Rodgers will no doubt demand more consistency from his players.
Predicted Finish: 6th
After winning the title, City would have hoped to have put up a better defence of their title than they actually did. If they thought defending the title was hard, then trying to regain it from United while getting there before Chelsea will be even more of a challenge. There is no doubt pressure on Manuel Pellegrini to achieve a good start to the season, with high expectations of doing well in all competitions, especially the Champions League.
City’s signings however show they mean business, with Fernandinho coming in to play alongside Yaya Toure (What a midfield pair that is!) along with Sevilla players Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo. Add to that Steven Jovetic from Fiorentina and Manchester City will surely take the challenge for the title down to the wire.
Manchester City are for sure candidates to win the league, however I feel they will just be beaten to it by the “Special One”.
Predicted Finish: 2nd
27 years and 13 Premier League trophies later, Manchester United will for the first time in nearly 3 decades begin a season without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm. The job of defending the title falls into the hands of David Moyes. While clubs around them have strengthened their squads, with the exception of Arsenal, United have so far failed to bring in any big signings to help keep the title from their city rivals and Stamford Bridge. Much of the summer has surrounded one man, Wayne Rooney.
With it still not clear whether Rooney is in Moyes plans or if Rooney wants out, the saga wouldn’t fill United fans with confidence over the way Moyes has handled the situation. You feel that if United are to be real challengers, then some signings have to be made. United have made their interest in Fabregas clear, but it looks unlikely he will be heading to Old Trafford.
It will be a huge season for United, and more importantly Moyes. He also hasn’t been helped by being handed one of the toughest starts to the season. Given United’s need for a world class midfielder and the lack of top signings, United will do well to challenge City and Chelsea every step of the way, but I feel they must just fall short. Even with Robin Van Persie in the squad.
Predicted Finish: 3rd
Newcastle’s poor league position last season wasn’t helped by European competition, but even now without it, I can’t see Newcastle improving too much upon last season. After signing an 8 year contract not too long ago, it will be interesting to see if Alan Pardew survives the season if Newcastle have a similar, unpredictable season. Tensions between the club and the fans haven’t been helped by the appointment of Joe Kinnear. Just when everything seems to be getting on track, something happens to create divisions at St. James Park.
The addition of Loic Remy to the squad is a smart move and could prove the difference between a mid-table finish and fighting relegation. Newcastle have been quiet on the transfer front however, but they have kept hold of key players Krul, Coloccini, Cabaye and Cisse. The return of Ben-Arfa will also be a massive boost.
Predicted Finish: 15th
Norwich City have made several improvements to their squad, and should enjoy a higher points tally than last season. Whether that will see a higher league position however remains to be seen, but Norwich should have a comfortable season. Chris Houghton wouldn’t have been happy with his team tailing off at the end of last season which left them with a real threat of relegation.
With Grant Holt leaving the club for Wigan, Norwich have bought in two strikers in the form of Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper. Both have a proven record of scoring goals wherever they have played, so Norwich fans will be hoping they can hit the net a number of times this season. Leroy Fer could also be a great addition and should be able to create numerous chances for the new frontmen.
I expect Norwich to have enough about them to retain a mid-table finish and to stay clear of relegation this time out.
Predicted Finish: 12th
Southampton could well be the dark horse of this season’s Premier League. With a string of upsets against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool at home, as well as coming close to walking away with points at City and United, Southampton will be hoping to perform more upsets. They spent most of last season as real candidates for relegation, but this shouldn’t be the case this season.
Southampton have spent cleverly this transfer window with the signings of Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren. Lovren could be the player to tighten up a defence which conceded 60 goals last season, while Wanyama, alongside Cork and Schneiderlin, could be a formidable midfield 3. One area Southampton could do with strengthening would be bringing in one more forward to play alongside Lambert.
The club have real ambition and is run in such a way which makes those ambitions achievable. This season could be a stepping stone to really challenging for a European place in a few seasons. I expect Southampton to earn a top half finish.
Predicted Finish: 8th
Mark Hughes has a point to prove after a terrible spell at QPR. Stoke fans started to become unsettled with Pulis and Stoke’s results, and if Hughes has a bad start, then they will certainly be on his back. Stoke have established themselves as a Premier League team since gaining promotion several seasons ago, but last season saw them come close to joining QPR and Reading in the Championship.
Stoke haven’t made many signings this window, so Hughes will be working with pretty much the same team Pulis had. If he looks to change the style of Stoke’s play, itcould be risky, as the Stoke way of playing has proved to be a successful one so far.
I can’t see Stoke improving on last season, but they will have enough just to survive.
Predicted Finish: 16th
With Di Canio in charge, anything can happen at Sunderland. However with his management style and personality, Sunderland will be an unpredictable team, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they find themselves struggling come the end of the season. And I feel that Sunderland could find themselves playing Championship football next season.
The loss of Mignolet in particular is a huge one, and Vito Mannone has some huge boots to fill. How will he be able to cope playing week in, week out in a side like Sunderland? Di Canio has bought in nearly a whole new squad of players, and despite some being well known names like Altidore and Giaccherini, it will take time for them to gel together. Plus I just don’t see the signings having much of an impact on the Premier League.
Sunderland will be hard to predict, but if things get off to a bad start or the players become unhappy, than relegation could be a real possibility for Sunderland.
Predicted Finish: 18th
Having finished 9th last season and winning the League Cup, Swansea enjoyed a very successful season under Michael Laudrup. Laurdrup has once again used his knowledge of the Spanish league to bring in some new faces to the Liberty stadium. Unlike last season however, Swansea will have to juggle the League along with the Europa League. No doubt Swansea fans will be relishing European matches at the Liberty.
A massive boost to Swansea’s season will be keeping hold of Ashley Williams who has had two outstanding seasons in the Premier League. Laudrup will be hoping that his new partnership of Michu and Bony will bag his side goals in all competitions. Swansea play some outstanding football while having a solid defence, so this season will be another successful one for the Welsh outfit.
Predicted Finish: 9th
Andre Villas-boas enjoyed a successful first season with Spurs, obtaining their highest number of points, but it wasn’t enough to qualify for the Champions League. This season could be the season for Spurs, given the signings they have made, and the lack of them at the Emirates. Whether Gareth Bale will be staying or going is still unanswered, but with Bale not coming out and stating he wants to stay, a move to Real Madrid still looks more than possible.
If Bale does leave, I don’t see it having a huge effect on Spurs. It would instead put less emphasis on one player which in turn could bring the squad closer together and allow other players to step up to the plate. The signing of Paulinho was a brilliant signing, along with breaking their club record to bring Soldado to White Hart Lane. In Soldado, they have a clinical finisher and could be the final piece in the puzzle.
If Bale remains at Spurs, then they could be not only serious contenders for the Champions League, but also for the title. Although I believe that Spurs will have to sell Bale in the end due to the players wishes, but they will still have enough depth and talent to juggle the Europa League and the Premier League to obtain 4th spot.
Predicted Finish: 4th
Steve Clarke steered West Brom to 8th position last season, but it will be hard for West Brom to beat it, let alone match it. Lukaku was instrumental to their success with his goals and they will be sad to see him return to Stamford Bridge. A mid-table finish could be in order for West Brom, they have a squad of talented players and manager who has so far proven to be a success in the Premier League.
Nicholas Anelka will be expected to chip in with the goals, considering his previous records at his other clubs. Shane Long could play a bigger role this season, given Anelka’s age and that Lukaku is no longer around. Diego Lugano is another great signing from PSG on a free transfer, the Uruguayan being an experienced and dependable defender. West Brom have also secured Vydra on a season-long loan from Udinese. Vydra had a great season on loan with Watford last term, so this is his chance to prove himself in the Premier League.
Given the strength of the teams around them, I feel West Brom will achieve a mid-table finish with minimal fuss.
Predicted Finish: 10th
West Ham surprised many last season by adapting to life back in the Premier League so quickly. They achieved a respectable 10th position finish. Sam Allardyce is one of the most experience Premier League managers, and he has once again signed some big players for West Ham.
With Andy Carrol signing for £15m, West Ham now have the perfect striker to supply crosses to through both Matt Jarvis and new addition Stewart Downing. West Ham could do with signing one more Striker, as Maiga and Vaz Te are yet to prove themselves in the top flight, especially if Andy Carrol is absence as much as he was last season. If Carrol can stay fit, then West Ham could enjoy another successful season in the Premier League.
Predicted Finish: 11th