The 2015/16 season gets underway at 12:45pm on Saturday, with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur sharing the honours of playing in the the opener.
All 20 clubs have splashed the cash this summer, some more so than others, with Manchester City spending £49m on Raheem Sterling in what has been the biggest deal of the summer.
Some clubs have brought in one player, some have brought in ten. Some clubs have had complete upheavals, with managers and coaching staff leaving and being replaced, and some have just had much needed clearouts.
Of course, with any preview like this people will agree, people will disagree. I’ll remind you that this is my opinion and I urge you to not get too upset if i have your team getting relegated.
When you first look at Watford you see Ighalo, Deeney, and Vydra, and you think that they might actually do alright this season. Then you consider that they’ve now signed 10 or 11 new players, nearly all from different countries, with language barriers, a Manager who has never coached in England before and the smart money says they’ll find no cohesion and slump to the bottom of the heap.
Ins – Etienne Capoue, Valon Behrami, Jose Holebas, Miguel Britos, Jose Jurado, Matej Vydra, Allan Nyom, Sebastian Prodl, Giedrius Arlauskis, Steven Berghuis.
Outs – Jonathan Bond, Lewis McGugan, Juanfran, Uche Ikpeazu.
Who to Watch – How all of their signings gel. If they can find some cohesion early on, then they might do better than expected.
Now I’d love Bournemouth to do well, I really would. They’ve got a great young coach, they play brilliant possession football, and they’re the underdog you want to cheer for.
In reality though, they’ll find it tough to adapt to a league where they won’t have as much of the football, and their lack of quality and experience at the top level will hurt them.
Ins – Tyrone Mings, Sylvain Distin, Artur Boruc, Adam Federici, Joshua King, Christian Atsu, Filippo Costa, Max Gradel.
Outs – Ian Harte, Josh McQuoid, Darryl Flavahan, Mohamed Coulibaly, Joe Partington, Miles Addison, Ryan Fraser, Brett Pitman, Jayden Stockley.
Who to Watch – The flanks. With Mings at full-back and Gradel and Atsu on the wings, Bournemouth could be brilliant to watch.
Lets be honest, as a Newcastle fan I’ll get stick for this, but I just genuinely cannot see Sunderland surviving this season. Retaining the services of Dick Advocaat is crucial, and I like the addition of Lens, but outside of that I just cannot see any quality.
Yann M’Vila was once highly-rated, but has spent a couple of years wasting away in the Russian backwoods. That said, they’ll probably beat us twice this season.
Ins – Jeremain Lens, Younes Kaboul, Adam Matthews, Sebastian Coates, Yann M’Vila.
Outs – Connor Wickham, El-Hadji Ba, Santiago Vergini, Jordan Pickford.
Who to Watch – Lens & M’Vila. Both players were highly thought of once-upon-a-time and have struggled in recent years moving to Eastern Europe. We’ll see how they adapt to English football.
17. Leicester City
New manager Claudio Ranieri has enough experience to get them by, but the loss of their best player in Cambiasso could be devastasting, we’ll see.
I think the first 10 games will determine how the rest of their season will go. If they don’t start well, I can see them being cast adrift, but as of right now I see them staying up.
Ins – Robert Huth, Shinji Okazaki, Christian Fuchs, Yohan Benalouane, N’Golo Kante.
Outs – Esteban Cambiasso, Ben Hamer, Paul Gallagher, Matthew Upson, Chris Wood, Tom Hopper, Adam Smith, Kieran Kennedy.
Who to Watch – Who will step up in Cambiasso’s absence?
Alex Neil has all the hallmarks of doing a Nigel Pearson with Norwich City, minus all that other stuff. He’s got the brass to really grab his team by the scruff of the neck and see them safe. They haven’t done enough in the transfer market yet however, to be a guarantee for safety, and paying £7m for Robbie Brady is a massive chunk for a club like Norwich.
Ins – Graham Dorrans, Youssuf Mulumbu, Andre Wisdom, Robbie Brady, Jake Kean.
Outs – Mark Bunn, Carlton Morris, Cameron McGeehan, Sam Kelly, Remi Matthews.
Who to Watch – Nathan Redmond. He’s blossoming into a great young player, and we’ll see what he can do at Premier League level this time.
15. West Bromwich Albion
Is there much to say with Albion? Run of the mill, but with Pulis at the helm and the signing of Rickie Lambert, they’ll be safe. Nothing more. If they hold onto Berahino, he could form a great partnership with Lambert.
Ins – James McClean, James Chester, Rickie Lambert.
Outs – Graham Dorrans, Youssuf Mulumbu, Chris Baird, Alex Jones, Kemar Roofe, Jason Davidson, Bradley Garmston, Donervon Daniels, Wesley Atkinson.
Who to Watch – Saido Berahino and Rickie Lambert partnership. If Berahino stay, the two of them could form the perfect foil for each other.
14. West Ham United
I thought West Ham would do well this season under Bilic, but given their showings so far against dreadful European opposition I’ve changed my mind. Add to that Enner Valencia’s 12 week absence, and the Hammers will start poorly and struggle to cover. Dimitri Payet will show flashes of brilliance in a poor season for the East London club.
Ins – Angelo Ogbonna, Dimitri Payet, Carl Jenkinson, Pedro Obiang, Manuel Lanzini, Darren Randolph.
Outs – Stewart Downing, Dan Potts, Paul McCallum, Carlton Cole, Guy Demel, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Nene.
Who to Watch – Style of play. How will the Hammers change under new Slaven Bilic?
13. Aston Villa
Lots of people are tipping Aston Villa for the drop this year, but they’ve done enough this summer to be safe. They’ve lost their two best players in Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke, but they’ve replaced them well and then some in what’s been an impressive recruitment drive by Tim Sherwood.
Jordan Ayew, Jordan Amavi, Idrissa Gueye, and Jordan Veretout are all excellent signings. Watch out for Amavi the left-back, he could be one of the signings of the season for the Villains.
Ins – Scott Sinclair, Rudy Gestede, Jordan Veretout, Micah Richards, Jordan Amavi, Idrissa Gueye, Mark Bunn, Jordan Ayew, Jose Angel Crespo.
Outs – Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph, Shay Given, Darren Bent, Enda Stevens, Andreas Weimann, Matthew Lowton, Graham Burke, Yacouba Sylla, Antonio Luna.
Who to Watch – Their new signings. Tim Sherwood has made some good signings on paper, but lets see how they adapt to Europe. I have high hopes for Amavi.
12. Crystal Palace
The football hipsters; who have suddenly taken to Alan Pardew despite wanting him out of football when he headbutted David Meyler, will probably snort with derision with this, but they won’t finish in the top half.
Yohan Cabaye is a fantastic signing, but he’s a year older, and has spent a season growing roots on PSG’s bench. Patrick Bamford will bag 10 goals, Yannick Bolasie will continue to dazzle and confuse in equal measure but apart from that it’ll be bang average.
Ins – Patrick Bamford, Yohan Cabaye, Connor Wickham, Alex McCarthy, Bakary Sako.
Outs – Jack Hunt, Shola Ameobi, Lewis Price, Owen Garvan, Peter Ramage, Stephen Dobbie, Jerome Thomas, Kyle De Silva, Hiram Boateng, Ryan Inniss, Jerome Binnom-Williams.
Who to Watch – Simple. Yohan Cabaye. Can he reproduce his Newcastle form?
This seems relatively low for Everton, but there’s just too much uncertainty around the club. They’ve spent next to nothing in strengthening a team that struggled last year. On paper they’ve got a good side, but clearly something is amiss. If John Stones leaves, they’ll struggle to field two centre backs. Bringing Gerard Deulofeu back to the club permanently is a good signing, but their season could hang on Stones’ future. If the young defender leaves for Chelsea it could signal their direction for this season.
Ins – Gerard Deulofeu, Tom Cleverley, David Henen.
Outs – Sylvain Distin, Luke Garbutt, Chris Long, Francisco Junior, Jonjoe Kenny, Antolin Alcaraz, George Green.
Who to Watch – Ross Barkley. He promised so much before last season then really struggled. Can he produce for Everton this season, when they may need him most?
10. Stoke City
Mark Hughes has done wonders at Stoke. He’s transformed them from the long-throw specialists and the brutes of English football into a good footballing side, who are actually bearable to watch.
They’ve signed four players in the last 12 months from Barcelona of all places, and have just signed one from Real Madrid – Now it’s not Messi, Neymar, Suarez, Iniesta and Ronaldo, but it’s still a step in the right direction.
Ins – Glen Johnson, Phillipp Wollscheid, Joselu, Shay Given, Marko van Ginkel, Jakob Haugaard, Moha El Ouriachi, Ibrahim Afellay, Sergio Molina.
Outs – Asmir Begovic, Steven Nzonzi, Robert Huth, Jamie Ness, Thomas Sorensen, Wilson Palacios, Andy Wilkinson.
Who to Watch – The Potters lost the heart of their team when N’Zonzi and Begovic left. Butland will replace Begovic but can they replace N’Zonzi in the middle?
9. Newcastle United
Yes, I’m a Newcastle fan, and yes I have them finishing in the top half. Last season and most of Pardew’s regime was a complete write off. We gradually sold our best players and didn’t really replace them. We continually played players out of position, showed no ambition in games and were generally awful to watch.
Thankfully this summer Mike Ashley has put his money where his mouth is and brought in some good players. Georginio Wijnaldum is the Eredivisie Player of the Year, ahead of Memphis Depay, he scored 14 goals from midfield last year, which tells you everything you need to know. He’s operated more in a No.10 role this preseason and has scored a few goals. I’ve got really high hopes for Wijnaldum. Aleksandar Mitrovic is going to be brilliant to watch – One way or another. He’s either going to be that Diego Costa-esque player; a handful for defenders, he’ll throw himself about, opposition fans will hate him. Or, he’ll be a Mario Balotelli character, and will do very little, throw some tantrums and get sent off for headbutting someone. There will be no middle ground. Chancel Mbemba looks an excellent signing as well, regardless of age. He’s lightning quick, something that’s been missing this year.
Ins – Georginio Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Chancel Mbemba, Ivan Toney.
Outs – Sammy Ameobi, Jonas Gutierrez, Ryan Taylor, Adam Campbell, Remie Streete, Freddie Woodman, Adam Armstrong.
Who to Watch – Rolando Aarons. As much of an impact that our new signings will have, we cannot ignore the talents of Aarons. He’s now free of injury and set for a full season. He’s looked brilliant in preseason.
Gary Monk has done brilliantly for the Swans. After Laudrup left you feared a bit for Swansea, but Monk hasn’t missed a beat and has them playing better than they ever did for Laudrup. Andre Ayew should provide entertainment this season, and Gylfi Sigurdsson will be as good as always. I’d have them a tad higher, but cannot quite decide where their goals will come from.
Ins – Andre Ayew, Franck Tabanou, Eder, Kristoffer Nordfelt, Oliver McBurnie.
Outs – Jazz Richards, David Cornell, Alan Tate, Gerhard Tremmel, Kenji Gorre.
Who to Watch – Where will the goals come from? Who will share the spoils? Ayew? Eder? Will Sigurdsson score more than 10 from midfield?
7. Tottenham Hotspur
I was listening to talkSPORT the other day, and I heard a Spurs fan basically saying he felt that the club would be “treading water” for a couple of seasons whilst the new stadium gets built, they clear out the deadwood, and they balance the books, and i absolutely agree with him. They’ve reinvested the Gareth Bale money, with mixed success.
They haven’t really signed anyone of note this season, and I just feel for Tottenham that as long as they’re around the top 5 or 6 when they move into their new stadium they’ll be happy. Realistically they’re not breaking into the top four anytime soon, so they’ll hang round until they can spend the extra revenue from the new stadium and they’ll push on from there. They’ll have a typically solid season.
Ins – Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer, Kieran Trippier.
Outs – Paulinho, Benjamin Stambouli, Etienne Capoue, Younes Kaboul, Vlad Chiriches, Lewis Holtby, Jordan Archer, Bongani Khumalo, Grant Ward, Alexander McQueen, Cristian Ceballos.
Who to Watch – It’d be easy to say Harry Kane, but I’m going to say Erik Lamela. Signed for £30m with the Bale money, and hasn’t lived up to any of it yet. Showed signs of life last season, can he build on that?
Just like last season after their summer firesale, people will expect Southampton to slip, and i just don’t believe they will. They’ve done the most important thing when selling players – Replacing them. They’ve replaced Clyne with Cedric from Sporting CP, and Schneiderlin with Clasie.
Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin were both instrumental for Southampton, just like Lallana, Lambert, Lovren etc beforehand. They grew without them, and they’ll grow without these as well. Another surprisingly good season for the Saints under Koeman.
Ins – Jordy Clasie, Juanmi, Cuco Martina, Cedric Soares, Maarten Stekelenburg, Steven Caulker.
Outs – Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne, Artur Boruc, Jos Hooiveld, Cody Cropper, Omar Rowe, Jake Sinclair, Dani Osvaldo, Jack Stephens, Sam Gallagher.
Who to Watch – Cedric Soares. They had to replace Clyne, and I believe they’ve done that, but can he adapt to English football? The Saints will need him to, if they’re to finish where i have them.
5. Manchester United
I have them falling out of the top four and I’ll explain my reasons. Right now, there’s too much uncertainty around Manchester United. No one quite knows if David De Gea is going or staying, they still need a central defender, Bastian Schweinsteiger their marquee signing has played less and less games for about the last five years, and will be lucky to play ten full games this season.
If Rooney gets injured, who starts up front? I like the signing of Memphis Depay and truly believe he can be as good as Eden Hazard given a few seasons, but he’s still only 21-years old and won’t be a world beater straight away. They’ll have ups and downs this season, and just like last season when it seems like they’re struggling, you’ll look at the table and they’ll still be top four or five.
Ins – Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Sergio Romero.
Outs – Angel Di Maria, Robin van Persie, Nani, Rafael Da Silva, Tom Cleverley, Reece James, Saidy Janko, Ben Amos, Tom Thorpe, Will Keane, Angelo Henriquez, Ben Pearson, Joe Rothwell.
Who to Watch – Memphis Depay. He has all the potential in the world, and even makes playing in black Under Armor boots look cool.
I know some of you will disagree with this one, but just like Manchester United i’ll explain my reasons. Last season, the Gerrard situation really hurt them. You had a player in Gerrard that was a legend at the club, a great, and Brendan Rodgers was almost forced to play him at times despite him being well short of his best.
This season they can focus on playing their best side, no drama and no distractions. A fully fit Christian Benteke will get 18-20 goals this season, and Coutinho and Firmino will dazzle. Jordan Henderson will continue to grow and without having Gerrard looking over his shoulder i genuinely feel like he’ll be even better. James Milner may turn out to be the signing of the season, and Clyne and Moreno on the flanks will be devastating for them.
Ins – Christian Benteke, James Milner, Danny Ings, Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, Adam Bogdan.
Outs – Raheem Sterling, Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Rickie Lambert, Andre Wisdom, Lloyd Jones, Jordan Williams, Kevin Stewart, Sebastian Coates, Brad Jones, Javi Manquillo, Danny Ward, Sheyi Ojo.
Who to Watch – A couple of things for Liverpool. Jordan Ibe’s development is going to be interesting to watch. I’m one of the group that believe he can be as good as Raheem Sterling. Can Benteke stay fit? Can Sturridge GET fit? If both are yes, they could be a surprisingly good season.
3. Manchester City
You could rearrange the top three in any order and i wouldn’t disagree with you, but i’ve put Manchester City third for a couple of reasons. Despite the £49m signing of Raheem Sterling, I just don’t think they’ve strengthened enough. A front three of Aguero, Silva and Sterling could be devastating but behind that is lacking.
Yaya Toure is another year older and if last season is anything to go by, he could struggle this year. Fabian Delph is a good player, but he, Fernando and Fernandinho aren’t enough to guide Manchester City to the title, add to that there’s still questions around their defence with Mangala and Demichelis. They’ll have an average season by their standards, and Guardiola will come in next summer to revive the blue half of Manchester.
Ins – Raheem Sterling, Patrick Roberts, Fabian Delph, Enes Unal, David Faupala.
Outs – James Milner, Scott Sinclair, Stevan Jovetic, Micah Richards, John Guidetti, Dedryck Boyata, Seko Fofana, Angelino, Jordy Hiwula.
Who to Watch – Midfield. Last season, a lot of their problems originated from the likes of Fernando just not being good enough. Yaya Toure also struggled. If they’re to be successful this season, forget Sterling, their central midfielders have to improve.
I gave Arsenal strong consideration as champions but I still think that they’re lacking that midfielder and striker that they’ve longed for. Francis Coquelin has improved massively in recent seasons, but he’s not Arturo Vidal that’s the problem. The majority of Arsenal fans seemingly enjoy denying their need for a powerhouse midfielder for some reason, despite it being blatently obvious to everyone else.
Olivier Giroud is a good striker, don’t underestimate him, but if Arsenal are going to win the league, they need a 25-30 goal a season striker. They need Edinson Cavani, Karim Benzema or Robert Lewandowski. Alongside all of that is their inability to stay fit – Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere et al.
Until they address those needs properly, they’ll always be ‘that’ team that almost make it.
Negative aside, the Petr Cech signing is a masterstroke, and if they start well and stay fit, who knows.
Ins – Petr Cech – Chelsea, £10m
Outs – Carl Jenkinson, Wojciech Szczesny, Abou Diaby, Lukas Podolski, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Brandon Ormond-Ottewill, Ryo Myaichi, Semi Ajayi, Yaya Sanogo, Daniel Crowley, Isaac Hayden, Jon Toral.
Who to Watch – Mesut Ozil. One of the worlds best No.10’s but just hasn’t quite done it at Arsenal yet. He’s breathtaking at his best, and Arsenal need him to be that Ozil.
This prediction comes with a big sticking point – Diego Costa’s fitness. The Spaniard has had serious problems starting last season that continue to plague him, and if they cannot get him fit, they might just struggle this season.
If he stays fit, it’s hard to look past the champions. They’re champions for a reason, they’re regimented, their tough physically and mentally, they’re strong, they’re skilfull. It’s hard to bet against any team that Mourinho is in charge of.
Ins – Radamel Falcao, Asmir Begovic, Nathan, Danilo Pantic
Outs – Petr Cech, Filipe Luis, Patrick Bamford, Didier Drogba, Marco van Ginkel, Danilo Pantic, Christian Atsu, Josh McEachran, Tomas Kalas, Gael Kakuta, Mario Pasalic, Kenneth Omeruo, Andreas Christensen, Isaiah Brown, Lewis Baker, Jordan Houghton, Mo Salah.
Who to Watch – Diego Costa’s fitness. If he finds fitness, they’ll win the league and if he doesn’t they probably won’t. It’s that simple.
Whether I’m right or wrong on this preview, this season is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. There are so many variables; three or four teams who could win the league, and you have to pick three from a group of about eight for relegation!
Be sure to check me out on Twitter @SportingMinute (Liam)