- Pauric Clerkin – TFN Columnist @PauricClerkin
So here we go again, the 2015/2016 Premier League gets underway this weekend.
Excitement has been building all summer as clubs have been improving their squads and most importantly preparing for the 23rd edition of English Premier League Season.
Our reporter Pauric Clerkin has had a look at how all 20 teams have been preparing for the fourth coming season.
Arsenal’s bad start cost them in the end but an impressive 2nd half to the season and a 2nd FA Cup makes sure their team go into the season in positive spirits. Petr Cech has arrived from London rivals Chelsea which has added an air of calmness to the Arsenal backline.
The Arsenal fans have been crying out for a so called world class striker and it looks like their pursuit of Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema will go right down to the wire. If not it looks like Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud will be trusted to score the goals along with Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez who will be looking to impress again after a very solid first season in the Premier League with the Gunners.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is a player who could finally blossom if he stays fit this year. The young English winger has been on fire during pre-season and grabbed the winner in Arsenals Charity Shield victory over Chelsea.
Aston Villa go into the season under their 1st full season under Tim Sherwood who after guiding the club to safety last year, fans be looking for a much improved league season from their side. An FA Cup Final appearance – even it was a heavy defeat to winners Arsenal – made up slightly for a very disappointing campaign.
Sherwood may have lost Christian Benteke’s goals to Liverpool, they have brought in Rudy Gestede from Blackburn who has a proven record in the Sky Bet Championship that should not be sniffed at. Villa’s fans will be looking forward to see how new signings Micah Richards (team captain), Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Amavi settle in to the squad this season, Spanish winger Carles Gil will be relied on a lot for his creativity.
A.F.C. Bournemouth under Eddie Howe look like a well-oiled attacking football unit but the club are in the Premier League for the first time in their history, not to forget the club where on the brink of going bust in 2008 but their Chairman Jeff Mostyn has turned things around and if any club deserve to grace this division, its Bournemouth.
Howe has moved quickly to improve his young squad and has added experience in Sylvain Distin, Artur Boruc and Christian Atsu (On loan from Chelsea). Callum Wilson and Scottish International Matt Ritchie are players to look out for but it just might not be enough for the Dorset Club.
Chelsea go in as Champions but the ‘Special One’ has had a rocky summer heading into the 2015/16 campaign. He has lost Petr Cech to Arsenal leaving sour taste in his mouth which is obvious from interviews he has done over the summer.
José Mourinho is now into 3rd season back at Stamford Bridge with Radamel Falcao arriving on loan from Monaco for a loan fee of £4 million. Mourinho will be hoping the Columbian striker can improve on what was a dismal spell at Old Trafford last season.
Asmir Begovic has arrived to fill the void left by Cech’s move to North London. There seems to be concerns over Diego Costa’s fitness but the Champions look solid again this season with Eden Hazard and Cesc Fàbregas giving the side the cutting edge to break down any club at will. Defensively the Blues always look solid and Captain John Terry gets better with age.
Crystal Palace under Alan Pardew look very dangerous on paper this season.
Their Manager may be best known for his antics on the sidelines but he has attracted some top premier League players to the club since taking the post half way through last season. Patrick Bamford has arrived on loan from Chelsea for his 1st stint in the Premier League, one thing Crystal Palace do not lack is pace and power down the flanks and will rely on Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie to torment teams once again this season.
Without doubt Yohan Cabaye has been one of the signings of the season. His quality from set pieces could just keep the team up this season.
Everton fans go into the new season wondering where it all went wrong last term, the team have all the talent needed to perform but failed to impress last season under Roberto Martinez who could just be about to lose young England centre half John Stones.
Good news for the Toffees is the contract given to Ireland midfielder James McCarthy. Gerard Deulofeu has arrived from Barcelona back for his second stint at the club, the player impressed two season back while on a season long loan. According to reports in America, Tim Howard’s wife has moved the family back to the States so it’s yet to be seen whether the shot stopper will be with the club for the up and coming season.
Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley will need to impress for Everton to improve on last season’s finish of 11th place.
Leicester City decided to show Nigel Pearson the door and maybe to late, Claudio Ranieri arrives with Premier League experience having led Chelsea in their 1st season under Roman Abramovich, but the club have failed to improve on what is already a weak.
Austrian Left back Christian Fuchs arrives having had some of the worst seasons in his career with Schalke 04 in Germany but will add experience. Kasper Schmeichel will be relied on once again to keep sides at bay.
Andrej Kramari and Jamie Vardy will be asked to score the goals but Jeff Schlupp looks like a player who can cause any defence a problem or two, Looks bleak for the Foxes.
Liverpool failed to impress after their 2013/14 campaign and also failed to replace Luis Saurez and an injured Daniel Sturridge goals.
Brendan Rodgers cannot afford to struggle again after spending over £80 million already not to mention the £110 million spent last year. Rodgers though has made top signings and has replaced Club Captain and legend Steven Gerrard with free agent James Milner from Manchester City.
Other notable arrivals are prolific Premier League goal scorer Christian Benteke, Nathan Clyne from Southampton and highly rated Brazilian attacker Roberto Firmino. Danny Ings has also arrived from relegated Burnley and his signing has gone under the radar with neutrals. Quite simply, there is no room for error for Rodgers and Liverpool.
Manchester City have had changed their transfer philosophy for the new season signing English talent even if that was down to meeting a certain home grown criteria.
They have brought in two English players who forced moves away from Liverpool and Aston Villa, they would be Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph who consequently got injured on his debut for the Sky Blues.
Manuel Pellegrini also brought in Patrick Roberts from Fulham, the young English playmaker – if given the opportunity could be a star in the making.
Obviously City will be relying on seasoned stars Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Joe Hart once again this season but Manchester City look to be in a short phase of transition but their quality will get them through.
Manchester United calmed the storm slightly after Van Gall lead the Red Devils back into Champions League football for the up and coming season but United still have to advance in the 3rd Round Qualifier.
Memphis Depay has arrived with a big reputation from PSV and rightly so, the Dutch winger has looked the part in pre-season and is knock for his skill, pacey runs and deadly shot. He will be relied on to replace Angel Di Maria who has moved to France with PSG.
Van Gaal has been busy bulking up his midfield options for the new season and fans will be very pleased to see Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin arrive from Bayern Munich and Southampton respectively.
The Red Devils do lack fire power up front with Captain Wayne Rooney and talented rookie James Wilson their only main options. You get the feeling this won’t be the case when the transfer window closes.
Newcastle United and the club that on one can really predict.
What does look very positive for the Toon army is their transfer activity and New Manager Steve McClaren has quality went about his business this pre-season in a calm and astute manner.
Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic having impressed in Belgium and the Champions League last term with Anderleacht. Georginio Wijnaldum from PSV in Holland looks like a real scoop for Newcastle and if, and I say if Siem de Jong, Moussa Sissoko and Papiss Cissé can lead the way, Newcastle could just be dark horses this season. Watch out for Ayze Pérez, the crafty Spanish striker has real potential if the team click into gear.
Norwich City under Alex Neil are back in the Premier League after one season out of the top flight which cannot be sniffed at for this club which is well run.
The club have picked up Andre Wisdom on loan from Liverpool and Robbie Brady from relegated Hull City.
Kyle Lafferty arrives with a reputation for going missing at the highest level so Gary Hooper and Wes Hoolahan will be relied on heavily for goals and creativity.
Southampton under Ronald Koeman look set for another steady season despite losing Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathan Clyne too Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
Jordy Clasie and Cédric Soares have been bought to replace the duo and once again Koeman looks to have got it right in the transfer market considering the two replacements are rated so highly in European football.
Sadio Mané, Dušan Tadli, Shane Long and Graziano Pellè will cause any backline havoc when on their game Defensively they have lost some balance to the team and will need to add to their defensive selection before the end of the transfer market.
Stoke City or Barcelona/ Real Madrid B team, all jokes aside Mark Hughes will probably be the happiest manager with his transfer activity ahead of the season.
Joselu, Ibrahim Afellay, Marco van Ginkel on loan from Chelsea and Ireland legend Shay Given have arrived to bolster an already strong squad who feature Mame Biram Diouf and Marko Arnautovic.
The team has always been defensively compact but last year we seen a different Stoke City and you can’t see the wheels coming of this train this year round. Injury to club captain and defensive’ rock’ Ryan Shawcross could see the team leak goals early but Stoke City are in safe hands under Hughes.
Sunderland will have Dick Advocaat in charge this season and the Black Cats have his wife to thank for that.
The Club stayed up last year with 3 points to spare and their fans will be hoping for a more comfortable campaign this season round but rarely does it go to plan on Wearside.
Their squad does look decent on paper, Dutch winger Jeremain Lens has arrived after a stint in Ukraine. Younès Kaboul has made the move up north from Spurs, he will be asked to make up for the lack of pace in the backline.
Once hailed as the new Patrick Vieira -Yann M’Vila has arrived on loan from Ruban Kazan in Russia. Looks like it’s going to be another cliff hanger for Sunderland.
Swansea City are the club that keep on impressing and that’s down to the ‘feel good factor.
Manager Gary Monk has brought to the club. Also Monk has been able to pick up some great talent from other European clubs such as André Ayew, Éder from Sporting Braga and Franck Tabanou who I have to warn you has a wicked left foot.
The biggest positives for the Swans is keeping hold of club captain Ashley Williams who for once has not been linked with a move away this summer.
Ki Sung-yueng will be there main man this season, he impressed from midfield last season and looks like a player who could grace any top team in the premier league with his smart move movement in the final third.
Tottenham Hotspur may have lost Gareth Bale but Mauricio Pochettino may have just found a talisman he can rely on but how long can they keep hold of Harry Kane.
Club captain Hugo Lloris will miss the opening fixtures of the season due to a shoulder injury which is a blow to the team. Spurs though have many positives to take out of the last campaign with the emergence of Nabil Bentaleb, Eric Dier and Ryan Mason.
As always Spurs will be able to rely on Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen for the cutting edge in the final 3rd.
Watford have been knocking on the door for promotion for a number of years and a manager with European experience such as Quique Flores should only bode well for the Hornets. You can only be impressed with the signings they have made so far this summer – Sebastian Prödl, José Manuel Jurado, Valon Behrami and Étienne Capoue to name just a few, also not to mention holding on to captain and proven goal getter Troy Deeney, I believe the club could stay in the Premier League without it going to the wire.
West Bromwich Albion will look to kick on after a season of ups and downs at the Hawthorns.
Tony Pulis had his work cut out last season with limited squad but it’s what this man does best and he has added some experienced fire power in Liverpool flop Rickie Lambert and young Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry.
Saido Berahino will need to be in top form and I believe this could be the season we see a certain amount of consistency from the English striker which could also see him pushed into the England squad, big call I know but this is a player to watch out for this season.
WEST HAM UNITED:
West Ham United may be already out of the Europa League but under Slaven Bilic the club will feel they are heading into exciting new era. Pedro Obiang and Angelo Ogbonna have arrived this summer from Sampdoria and Juventus with big reputations not to mention Dimitri Payet from Marseille.
Billic will have to get the fans onside quick or the atmosphere could turn nasty.
Experienced campaigners Winston Reid, club captain Kevin Nolan and record signing Andy Carroll will be called apon when the chips are down so to speak but the Hammers should have enough in the tank to stay out of relegation this season.
By Pauric Clerkin (Writer for TheFutbolNetwork & Journalist with Northern Sound Radio) Make sure to leave a comment and share your views on your club for the new season.