With the new Premier League season only around the corner, Ben Smith previews what is surely to be one of the most enthralling title races in recent memory.
It has been a frustrating summer for Arsenal supporters so far, with a sense of dejà vu to previous transfer windows. They have been linked with a whole host of players but as of yet have failed to make any marquee signings.
One player they have acquired however is Granit Xhaka and this should add some steel to their midfield. I feel they are a little bit lightweight at centre half and could also use a top class striker to help them challenge the best at home and in Europe.
Olivier Giroud is a good player but has not been prolific in his time at the Emirates. I see it being a difficult campaign for Arsenal. They have failed to strengthen whilst those around them are spending significantly. Arsene Wenger enters the final year of his contract and I think this could well be the Frenchman’s final season at the helm.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Granit Xhaka PREDICTION: 5th
An interesting campaign awaits for Bournemouth in their attempt to build on a fine first season in the top flight. Eddie Howe has lost the influential Matt Ritchie to Newcastle, a player who was arguably Bournemouth’s brightest light in their debut campaign. He has brought in young Jordan Ibe from Liverpool who certainly has potential, but I feel this season might be a step too far for Bournemouth.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Callum Wilson PREDICTION: 18th
Burnley are a club that I am delighted to see back in the top tier. Their loyalty to Sean Dyche has been rewarded with an immediate return to the Premier League, following the disappointment of relegation at the end of the 14/15 campaign.
They finished last season as Championship winners, having scored the most goals and conceded the least in the entire division. Keeping things tight at the back will be of paramount importance if they are to achieve their aim of survival this year.
I think they will have learned their lessons from their last Premier League adventure, and will do just enough to avoid the drop this time around.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Andre Gray PREDICTION: 17th
Chelsea have slipped under the radar this summer with all the talk of Mourinho and Guardiola in Manchester, but make no mistake expectations in West London will be high following what was an extremely disappointing campaign last time out. Blues supporters will be encouraged by the performances of the Italian football team in the European Championships, and I expect Antonio Conte to implement the same 3-5-2 philosophy at Chelsea this year. They have not been overly active in the transfer market as of yet, but the signings of Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo Kante are a sign of a plan for the future being put in place. I expect Chelsea to be a serious force to be reckoned with in the league this season, particularly with the lack of European football midweek.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Eden Hazard PREDICTION: 3rd
Crystal Palace should have another decent campaign. They started really brightly last year and then fell away after Christmas when they went through a very barren spell of form. The aim this year will be to try and sustain that early season form throughout the season, particularly at home. I think they have acquired a good player in Andros Townsend and are not yet finished in the transfer market. They are also believed to be close to signing Christian Benteke, who has undoubted talent and will hope to rediscover the form he showed for Aston Villa. Like him or hate him Alan Pardew always has well-drilled teams and I expect Selhurst Park to be a difficult trip for all teams next year.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Wilfred Zaha PREDICTION: 12th
Exciting times at Goodison with the arrival of new manager Ronald Koeman. Koeman’s Southampton side were always very impressive offensively, but I think his defensive organisation is what has landed him the job at Goodison.
Everton conceded 24 goals from errors last season and were very fragile at the back throughout the course of the campaign. John Stones has moved on but they have an excellent replacement in Ashley Williams and he should slot in nicely alongside Phil Jagielka in the centre of the defence.
Keeping Romelu Lukaku at Goodison will be of vital importance if Everton are to challenge the big boys towards the top of the table, but in Koeman I think they have a manager who will get the very best out of the players at his disposal. I expect Everton to have a strong campaign and a good run in the FA Cup.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ross Barkley PREDICTION: 7th
This summer has been a disaster for Hull City. The elation of winning the play-off final has quickly evaporated with the unexpected departure of manager Steve Bruce.
In addition to this they have yet to add a single player to their squad, and have lost a key player in Mohamed Diame, who scored the crucial goal in Wembley just a couple of months ago.
They do have experience with players like Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone, who have both played at this level before, but I believe their lack of signings will come back to haunt them come May.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Robert Snodgrass PREDICTION: 20th
Leicester enter the campaign as reigning champions after an incredible campaign last term. This season they have the additional excitement of a Champions League campaign and will be challenging on all fronts.
They have lost the influential N’Golo Kante to Chelsea but have thus far retained both Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, who were integral to their success last season. Retaining the title will be beyond Leicester this season.
They were fortunate with injuries last season and were able to play their strongest 11 on most occasions. With games in midweek this season the squad will be stretched to the limit, and injuries will no doubt accrue. I still expect Leicester to have a strong campaign and don’t be surprised to see them take a big scalp in the Champions League.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ahmed Musa PREDICTION: 8th
A big season ahead for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. Klopp has had his first full summer in charge and has been able to shape his squad with players of his own choosing. Liverpool have an abundance of talent in attacking areas, with the likes of Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana all impressing at various stages last season.
The additions of Sadio Mane and Georginho Wijnaldum will only improve their options and they will be a very strong attacking force next season, particularly if they can manage to keep Daniel Sturridge fully fit. The area that I feel Liverpool will struggle in is defensively. New goalkeeper Loris Karius suffered a broken hand in a pre-season game and will be unavailable until mid-October at the earliest.
They have also failed to recruit a left full back and with both Simon Mignolet and Alberto Moreno putting in some below par performances last season this will be an area of concern for Liverpool supporters. I expect Liverpool to be a daunting proposition in Anfield next season, and I feel they have the potential to win one of the domestic cups, but I feel their squad is not yet ready for an assault on the top 4.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Sadio Mane PREDICTION: 6th
Exciting times for Manchester City after the appointment of Pep Guardiola. You sense a revolution at the Etihad and the signings of young stars like John Stones and Leroy Sane show that the manager is laying the foundations for future success. Money will be no option to the Manchester outfit and with such a young and talented coach they were be a force in both England and Europe for years to come. No key players have departed the Etihad and I expect another fine season from talisman Sergio Aguero. I think this season will be a transition for Man City but they are a scary prospect moving forward and with Pep at the helm they can become one of the best teams in world football.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin De Bruyne PREDICTION: 2nd