TFN’s Bumper Guide To The Brand New Premier League Season

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AFC Bournemouth

Eddie Howe AFCB Bournemouth

Eddie Howe is being touted as a potential future England manager.

Manager: This transfer window Eddie Howe has put his faith youth, bringing in ex-Liverpool winger Jordan Ibe and long term target Lewis Cook to name a few. While it is always exciting to see a manager put his faith in youth, especially when they are English, Howe is taking a gamble. Bournemouth will be looking to beat relegation for the second season and with the lack of proven Premier League experience already in the squad these additions don’t numb the worries.

Strength: Bournemouth’s biggest strength will still be their determination and hunger. The players at Bournemouth have all bought into Eddie Howe’s philosophy and are all-willing to work for him as much as they are for each other.

Weakest Link: Bournemouth’s weakness last season was their defence as only Aston Villa conceded more goals and we all know how their season went. They were often leaky and made mistakes as the campaign saw the Cherries let in ten goals in two games- 5 to Tottenham Hotspurs and 5 to Manchester City. To add to this Bournemouth are yet to sign a centre back after the departure of captain Tommy Elphick and with the season vastly approaching, if the Cherries do make this signing they will have little time to adjust to the team and the league. However, Bournemouth did sign Nathan Ake on a season long loan from Chelsea. Ake had previously been on loan at Watford and was a key player for them. With some experience in England’s top flight this will be some reassurance.

Young Star: A player to watch is Lewis Cook who arrived from Leeds United. The central midfielder has a knack of making things happen when on the ball and was one of Leeds best players last season. His composure and elegance makes up for his lack of pace but overall he looks like a promising talent who will fit straight into Howe’s style of play.

Prospects: The Cherries first ever appearance in the Premier League saw them finish in 16th, five points above the relegation zone, which they never touched. Their campaign saw a win at Stamford Bridge and against Manchester United at Deans Court. Bournemouth will now have to overcome the second season syndrome, as they no longer have the momentum from winning the Championship behind them.


Arsenal

Manager: Weird season on the cards for Arsenal, as Arsene Wenger has only made one big signing as of yet (10th August), that being Granit Xhaka. Still no striker solution solved also, fans are already losing their patience. However though, their squad is still very strong and has many star players.

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Alexis will be pivotal if Arsenal are to win the title.

Star Player: For me I think that the star player of the season will be Alexis Sanchez. At the moment he is playing some of the best football of his career, coming off a strong Copa America (which he won again) and looks to be at the peak of his fitness and ability now.

Weakest Link: Weak link for the team this season isn’t such a player but more a position, that being Striker. Giroud is a good player but not world class, Walcott is playing the worst football of his whole career at the moment, and I think it’s very sad to see. He seems to have no confidence at all. I still think Arsenal will get a new striker but it has to be a big name and nothing less.

Young Star:I think the standout young player again will be Alex Iwobi. He stunned people towards the back end of the 2015-2016 season and looked a real talent. This season is going to be huge for him, make or break. We should also keep an eye on Chris Willock, an Arsenal youth star. Exceptional 1st touch, the ball sticks to his feet like it’s been glued to them. I feel he’ll get a very good chance this season to show himself to be a good player.

Prospects: Consistency is the key for Arsenal this year. Getting moderately good results against the big teams last season was huge for the club but once again it was the smaller teams that stunned Arsenal at times and led to unbelievable meltdowns in the Arsenal fanbase. Consistency is key for another title challenge.


Burnley

Manager: Sean Dyche will relish a second chance at the top flight after an unsuccessful first attempt during the 2014/15 season. This year he will feel better prepared having fought bravely last time around.

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Andre Gray was in stunning form last season an will need to carry that into this campaign.

Star Player: They key man in this set up is Andre Gray. Since his arrival he has been exceptional and it was his goals that saw the Clarets promoted last season. They will look to him find the net this campaign too.

Weakest Link: Lukas Jutkiewicz. After arriving for a substantial fee he has yet to find the net for the club. If or when he does go onto find the net it may cause greater celebration than when the club achieved promotion. If.

Young Star: Keep an eye out for Cameron Dummigan, who featured 26 times for Oldham last season.

Prospects: Due to their lack of financial power Burnley will always struggle but after twice being promoted and getting relegated immediately, I feel now Burnley have the nous to perform well. At Turf Moor they are a match for anyone and I expect them to avoid relegation this season.

 


Chelsea

Manager: Antonio Conte’s appointment for the upcoming season is a major positive for Chelsea fans. The manager is well-known for his shrewd no-nonsense approach, tactical understanding of the game and above all a will to win.  He led Italy to a decent Euro 2016 campaign until they were beaten by Germany on penalties in the quarter finals. It’ll be interesting to see if he opts to stick with the 3-5-2 formation he implemented so effectively with Italy, making this current squad adapt to it or continue with Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 formation which they’ve been used to for years.

Star Player: Chelsea’s squad might be full of stars but Eden Hazard is still undoubtedly Chelsea’s star player even after suffering from a serious lack of form last season. His performances at the Euros will be a source of encouragement for Chelsea fans who’d be hoping he manages to match his impeccable form during Chelsea’s title winning season. Last year’s Player of the season Willian will be hoping to have another good season while other stars such as Fabregas, Terry, Diego Costa, etc will all hope for a better season.

Weakest Link: Mental weakness, weak defending and indifferent form of too many top players proved a deterrent to Chelsea’s aspirations last season. Having suffered an implosion, the squad’s mentality and determination will be tested throughout the new campaign. Conte’s foremost task at his new club would be to strengthen their defensive organization, Zouma’s return from injury will help that cause.

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Batshuayi will look to have an immediate impact. 

Young Star: Michy Batshuayi is a very exciting young forward who will try to make an instant impact at Stanford Bridge and grab every opportunity to make the centre forward role his own, contesting Diego Costa for a starting berth. However, it’ll be intriguing to see how his partnership Diego Costa will be [or possibly Romelu Lukaku if the transfer goes through] if indeed Conte decides to set up his new team in a 3-5-2 formation. Another new signing Kante will certainly be an immediate starter and academy players like Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy and Nathaniel Chalobah will look to impress Conte.

Prospects: A tenth place finish will always be considered as a disappointment for a club of Chelsea’s stature. However, there are plenty of positives for the club going into the new season with 3 excellent appointments. Other big clubs like Man United and Man City are going through a similar phase of managerial changes while bringing in top players for huge sums of money. A top four finish would be a minimum requirement for Conte this season. We might expect him to even mount a fresh title challenge if he manages to inspire Chelsea’s underperforming stars of last season and implement his ideology effectively.  If there was ever to be a book written on “How not to be defending champions”, Chelsea’s disastrous title defense under Mourinho last year would be a perfect example.  You’d know they’ve had a shambolic season after one of their best ever manager was hounded out just 4 months into the new season while the club was 16th on the league table dangerously treading on brink of a relegation battle. Gus Hiddink’s charge after Mourinho’s departure proved to a decent appointment as he managed to steady the rocking ship having finished a respectable 10th position which looked difficult at some point. However, Antonio Conte’s arrival followed by signings of Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo Kanté will definitely mean Chelsea are back in the mix for a Top 4 position at least.


Crystal Palace

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Alan Pardew will be hoping for improved league form this season.

Manager: Alan Pardew’s Palace finished 15th last season, which may have been lower than some expected. However, it is a club he clearly loves, and will want to improve this season, and the strong performance in the FA cup last season may inspire some form for the start of this season. Pardew likes quick attacking football, and tries to make the most of his wide players, making them a hard team to defend against.

Star Player: Palace’s captain is a real fan favourite down at Selhurst Park, and watching him, it’s easy to see why. A natural leader, who makes sure every action he takes is filled with the same level of determination and commitment. The highly capable defender is also a big threat from set pieces, hitting nine goals in his three years in the Prem, with five coming last season. Scott Dann will be hoping to keep things solid at the back, whilst leading Palace to a successful season.

Weakest Link: Connor Wickham did show his quality at times last season, but not often enough. Five goals from 21 games is not a great return for a forward at this level, and it’s bizarre how Palace seem to have him as their only out and out striker, following the departure of Dwight Gayle. If Palace want a successful season, they need more from their frontman, and they certainly need more than just one frontman.

Young Star: Sullay Kaikai has just undergone a fine pre season with Palace, grabbing a hatful of goals and putting in some dangerous performances. The winger picked up 12 goals in 26 games on loan at Shrewsbury in League One last season, and with Bolasie’s future at the club growing increasingly uncertain, Kaikai may find a Premier League chance for himself soon.

Prospects: The signings of Steve Mandanda, James Tomkins and Andros Townsend are good ones, as Mandanda is an excellent goalkeeper, Tomkins adds a lot to an aging Palace defence, and Townsend could flourish under Pardew’s wide attacking approach. This may improve their chances of success, but I still feel their squad is weak compared to a lot of other teams in the league, and it could be mid-table at the very best for Palace this season.


Everton

Manager: Ronald Koeman. Koeman went to Southampton during a summer when they lost several first team players, and he still managed to right this ship. His reward was the Everton job, where he is in danger of losing many of his best players. On one hand, he’s managed to keep them all and seems to be creating a solid foundation under the new ownership. On the other hand, without any significant signings, Everton are going to struggle to get into Europe and the great players are going to leave next season.

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Lukaku will offer Everton’s main attacking threat.

Star Player: Romelu Lukaku. Speaking of the great players at Everton, Lukaku’s name definitely heads the list. Unlike John Stones, Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley who are still suspect on the basics, Lukaku has scored 119 goals in 278 matches. And he’s only 23. Technically, he could still count as Everton’s young player to watch.

 Weakest Link: Central Midfield. Theoretically, this shouldn’t be a problem. On paper, Gareth Barry, Barkley and Muhamed Besic should form a solid yet penetrative midfield. However, Barry is 35, Barkley is still struggling for consistency, and Besic just wasn’t good enough against top half opposition last season. Their replacements don’t exactly scream competition either. Tom Cleverly, Darren Gibson and James McCarthy are nothing more than mid-table players. Idrissa Gueye has been signed, but only time will tell if he can bring some solidity to the centre of the park.

 Young Star: Tom Davies. Luckily for Everton’s midfield woes, they seem to have a solution within their ranks. Given a chance towards the end of last season, the academy product didn’t disappoint. In fact, the youngster has been known for his composure and mentality, and was even granted license to train with Hodgson’s England team last October. There is a lot of competition in the Everton midfield, but if Davies gets a chance, expect him to take it. 

Prospects: Mid-table. Despite their financial stabilisation and the appointment of Koeman, Everton have been one of the quieter sides in the transfer window. For a side that finished 12th last season, Koeman’s tactical teachings can only improve the players so much. Without significant investment, don’t expect major success.


Hull City

Manager: Steve Bruce resigned as manager just days before the new season leaving Mike Phealan in charge on a temporary basis.

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Hernandez is potent upfront.

Star Player: Hull will look to Abel Hernandez to provide the goals upfront to keep the Tigers in the league. The Uruguayan was pivotal in their promotion campaign last season. His goals or lack thereof will be a decisive factor in whether they can secure Premier League survival.

Weakest Link: Squad depth is a major problem for Hull as they are yet to sign a first team player this season. For a newly promoted team this will leave them in a bad way, especially after losing some key squad members during the off season.

Young Star: Irish full back Brian Lenihan is worth keeping an eye on. The former Cork City man might be thrown into the deep end thi year considering Hull’s lack of options.

Prospects: I’m afraid Hull face almost certain relegation unless a manager is appointed and signings are made very soon.


Leicester City

 

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Ranieri’s crowning moment.

Manager: Claudio Ranieri. Is there anything left to be said about the Italian that hasn’t already been covered by every media outlet in the land? The perpetual bridesmaid finally got her own wedding last season. In wake of the loss against Manchester United in the Community Shield, Ranieri stated that Leicester’s ambition for the season was 40 points. A cute answer, but expect him to be preparing for at least another tilt at the top four.

Star Player: Riyad Mahrez. Leicester have spent big this summer to flesh out their squad, with exciting arrivals in Ahmed Musa and Nampalys Mendy. However, Mahrez has to still be considered the main man at the King Power Stadium. He practically delivered the title during Vardy’s drought in the second half of last season, and it is inexplicable that no one has tried to lure him away. It will be a surprise if Leicester’s one truly world-class player is still around next season.

Weakest Link: Danny Simpson. Going through their squad, Ranieri has done a very good job of keeping positions competitive. Even Kante’s sale has been well covered, and their attack looks particular fearsome. However, Simpson’s undisputed first choice berth is definitely a position to watch, especially in the Champions League. There is a reason he was let go by Manchester United, as last season’s consistency seems like a blip by all accounts.

Young Star: Demarai Gray. In a team that has a surprising number of young starlets, Gray stands out. He joined in January from Birmingham, after two incredibly productive years, and showcased a fine range of skills during his limited cameos. Coming on against Manchester United in the Community Shield, he looked the most likely to make something happen. He should be able to break into the first team in a few months, barring any unfortunate injuries.

Prospects: Europa League places. While Leicester’s title win last season was a freak occurrence, it has changed both expectations and the reality. Danny Drinkwater and Wes Morgan are no longer lower mid-table players, but a solid European-level performers. Similarly, their transfer activity has been shrewd. However, with the strengthening of traditional big clubs, Leicester are going to struggle to repeat their heroics. They might be able to pick up a domestic trophy, or even the Europa League if they are knocked out at the group stage of the Champions League.


Liverpool

Manager: The Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp finished the season 8th on the log but also took the team to the Europa league final in Basel where he lost to Sevilla. Klopp’s stats stands at 23 wins, 17 draws and 12 losses in 52 professional games under his belt at Liverpool, a stat he would be looking forward to improve on this season being his first full season at the club.

Star Player: Liverpool’s star player could simply have been Philippe Coutinho but the arrival of new signings in Sadio Mané  and Georginio Wijnaldum who both had a better stat than Coutinho last season (having scored 11 goals each and 11 assists standing between the two new signings) have taken the shine off the red’s best player for last season.
Nonetheless, the trio would definitely form a formidable team for Liverpool in this new season.

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Alberto Moreno had a torrid time at left back last season.

Weakest Link: With Nathaniel Clyne already cemented his place at right back and the arrival of Ragnar Klavan joining both Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho at Centerback, it is easy to say Liverpool’s weakest link in the new season would be at left back. Reason being the inconsistency shown by the red’s leftback Alberto Moreno all through last season.

Young Star: Liverpool’s young player to watch could be the 20 year old Serbian Marko Grujic who was signed from Red Star Belgrade in January 2016 but was immediately loaned back to gain more experience at same club where he was signed. His finest moment for Liverpool so far was the looping header he scored in their 4-0 thumping of Barcelona in the pre-season.

Prospects: I see Liverpool finishing 5th or 6th at best.


Manchester City

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Pep Guardiola faces the biggest challenge of his managerial career.

Manager: I’m rather looking forward to seeing how Pep Guardiola deals with the intensity and the gruelling calendar in English football. Something he isn’t used to but I personally think he’ll strive. Already in his pre season games he’s got his players playing his standard ‘possession under pressure’ football but he is still looking for his perfect team. He’s already changing players positions up (we’ve seen Sagna at DM and Fernando at CB) and it won’t be the last of the players to have their positions changed up by Guardiola.

Star Player: For me the standout player will be Kevin de Bruyne. Last season he was spectacular, personally I’m over the moon he’s back in England because it suits him perfectly. I’m expecting him to contribute to around 40 goals or more this season. With the players he has around him and how Pep uses players like KDB I seriously think he’ll be a contender for POTY.

Weakest Link: Samir Nasri – it’s self explanatory!

Young Star: John Stones signed for City also this summer in a huge deal that cost City almost £50 million. And I think Stones can be extremely influential in games because of how technically good he is. Pep has always liked Defenders that are very good with the ball (Boateng and Pique being two prime expamples). Possession under pressure is how Pep likes to control a game and Stones is very good at keeping hold of the ball.

Prospects: I think the first 10-15 games for City will tell if that Pep has got things right. I think he’ll do very well and show pundits that you don’t have to play the standard 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 to play in the Premier League. They are my personal favourites to win the league.


Manchester United:

 

Manager: Jose Mourinho brings with him a proven record of building title-winning teams and achieving success. The Manchester United manager is a position that he has long sought after and he will work ferociously at accomplishing what he and management have planned. The club expects Premier League and Champions League titles moving forward and the Special One expects them as well. Judging by previous positions, it may take time. But the Red Devils have one of the most talented managers in the world on their sidelines.

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How will Ibrahimovic cope with the step up in quality from Ligue 1 to the Premier League?

Star Player: A team with plenty of quality has had some major additions this summer. Swedish international forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic brings with him absurd goal scoring numbers from his time in Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain (113 goals in 122 appearances), and experience working with Jose Mourinho during their time together at Inter Milan. But the star of the show will be the return of French midfielder Paul Pogba. The former Juventus playmaker brings an attacking flair and great skill to the United lineup and will be expected to be a focal point of the Mourinho regime. Expect to see Pogba help to provide this new era with a new identity.

Weakest Link: This may sound a bit crazy in some ways, but one of the biggest weaknesses for Manchester United will be the proper use for Wayne Rooney. The English striker has seen his quality and production drop over the past few seasons and his place in the squad could be changing. Jose Mourinho has already stated that he expects to use Rooney in the midfield instead of the forward position, which could lead to problems. Rooney’s skills as a midfielder are not always as effective as desired. Finding the right position and role for Rooney will be vital to success.

Young Star: One of the most exciting sensations for Manchester United last season was academy product Marcus Rashford. The 18-year old forward tallied 8 goals across all competitions and his production numbers are expected to greatly increase. Mourinho has stated that he plans to use Rashford and Ibrahimovic together up top in the formation, combining the duo’s mix of pace, size, strength and incredible skills on the ball. Premier League defenses have been put on notice.

Prospects: Expectations are always high for the manager of Manchester United, no matter who may be filling the role. Jose Mourinho is no exception and the club will want to improve upon their fifth-place finish last season. With the quality in the roster, the team should be able to compete for a league title. At the very least, a return to the top 4 and Champions League qualification should be a minimum requirement. Even with several clubs greatly improving during this offseason, 2016-17 should be a successful campaign for Manchester United.


Middlesbrough

Manager: Given the meltdown that Aitor Karanka faced at one point of time last season, this start is something afresh. If he can get his acts right, the setup right and gets the best out of his players who provide that premier league experience and quality, Boro can give themselves a good chance for survival and indeed push for a place in mid table.

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In Alvaro Negredo, Middlesbrough have a forward of real quality.

Star Player: Being a hitman, Alvaro Negredo thrives on service and the ones who have seen him play at City know the threat he poses in the opponent’s box. Victor Valdes is a smart buy considering his plethora of experience, and the know how’s which he will bring to the team. In his absence, Guzan mostly will fill in as a good back up option.

Weakest Link: Middlesbrough’s midfield lacks Premier League experience and is at risk of being overrun in high tempo matches.

Young Star: Viktor Fischer and Marten de Loon are relatively unknown and one would only expect these players to shine at the earliest.

Prospects: Gaston Ramirez is a player who lives his life behind a striker and if he proves to be effective , this guy who can torment any defender on his day. One player who would bring in a wealth of experience is Antonio Barragan. The 31 year old who used to ply his trade with Valencia would be a massive influence on the team and a fierce competitor on field. Among the existing squad players , one must keep an eye on the trio of George Friend, Albert Adomah and Jordan Rhodes. Rhodes being a proven goal-scorer in the championship will be under pressure to perform in the top flight of English football .If he plays on a regular basis and scores consistently, we can expect this team to be propelled and propelled in the right direction it will be. Boro should do enough to avoid relegation.


Southampton

Manager: Southampton’s new appointment Claude Puel is a veteran manager from Ligue 1 having managed four different French sides (Monaco, Lyon, Lille and Nice) since 1999. Widely known as someone who builds the squad over a period of time, gives young players opportunities while still implementing an attractive brand of football. He joins from Nice who finished two points behind Monaco and Lyon securing a Europa League place. Claude Puel’s sides have been known to implement a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation which fits well the Southampton’s system over the years. Much credit for Hatem Ben Arfa’s career revival should go to Claude, who flourished under his guidance last season. It’ll be intruiging to see if Claude Puel can repeat this with some of the promising youngsters at his new club.

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Many people felt Forster should have been England’s number one at Euro 2016.

Star player: The sheer amount of talent that have exited Southampton over the past 2-3 years is staggering to say the least. One could only imagine how good their current squad might have been if they had managed to hold on to some of their star players. However it’s not all so gloomy. They have decent, experienced strikers in the form of Shane Long and Charlie Austin, Dusan Tadic as their primary playmaker, Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand are solid dependable defenders while Fraser Forster sports a safe pair of hands. Claude Puel will surely build the new squad around these eshtablished players.

Weakest Link: Defensive organization has always been one of Southamptons’s strengths over the past few years. Although they have solid defenders like Virgil van Dijk and Jose Fonte, they don’t have a certain Victor Wanyama anymore in their side to shield their defensive unit. Responsibility will be on Oriol Romeu to fill in the void left by Wanyama in that defensive midfield position. The primary area in which Southampton might struggle in the upcoming season is their attack. Having lost Graziano Pellè this summer, Shane Long will be entrusted the responsibility to consistently score goals. Charlie Austin suffered from injuries last season which meant he barely scored but he will look to regain his 2014-15 form when he was at QPR where he netted 18 league goals.

Young Star: Southampton has always boasted of a robust club academy, developing young talent and promoting promising players to the first team. James Ward Prowse is one such talent who has risen through the academy ranks to the first team place. The talented midfielder will be expected to make a genuine impact with the first team this season. The £10m arrival of Nathan Redmond from Norwich City isn’t particularly a man to man replacement for Sadio Mane but the 22 year old is an exciting winger who will try to fill in the void left by Mane. Another new signing Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who was bought for £12.8m from Bayern Munich is an exciting prospect. The 21 year old Danish midfielder was highly regarded by Pep Guardiola for his silky smooth touches and chance creation in midfield.

Prospects: Southampton are always expected to struggle by many before the beginning of a new season due to high profile departures but they always manage to surprise by finishing much higher than they were expected to. However, this time around they won’t have Ronald Koeman’s expertise at their disposal and will have to rely on their new veteran French manager to deliver instead. Assuming Southampton get a good draw, they will be expected to reach the knockout stages of Europa League. Finishing in the top half of the league table again will be a required minimum while their new manager will be expected to get the best out of the promising squad he has inherited. Rewind back the time to the summer of 2015.


Stoke City

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Can Mark Hughes guide Stoke to Europe?

Manager: Mark Hughes has played a massive part in completely redefining Stoke’s style of play. His impact on the club hasn’t just improved their football, but it has turned them into a consistent top half side. Hughes will be hoping to push on from their previous three consecutive ninth place finishes.

Star Player: Marko Arnautovic played an important role for Stoke last season, hitting the net 11 times and notching six assists from the left wing. The skilful winger is powerful and unpredictable, and on his day is a real nightmare for defenders. The Austrian has just signed a long term contract for Stoke, and he could take Stoke to that next level if he maintains his form this season.

Weakest Link: Glen Johnson may bring experience to the squad, but he is no longer good enough to be a starter in a team that wants to challenge for Europe. He made 25 appearances last year, but was outperformed by Geoff Cameron, who is a natural midfielder, when Cameron slotted in there. An upgrade at right back should be Stoke’s priority.

Young Star: Ollie Shenton is a highly rated central midfielder, who made his Premier League debut for the club aged just 17 in February 2015. The now 18 year old has featured well in a number of pre season games, and it looks likely that he may get some opportunities to impress during the season.

Prospects: Stoke need to prove that they haven’t hit a glass ceiling with their form, and will be pushing to break into a European place. They’ll face a lot of competition, but with a mixture of Prem proven experience (Joe Allen) and exciting young talents (Ramadan Sobhi and Ryan Sweeney) coming in, they’ll be looking to make a statement this season.


Sunderland

Manager: David Moyes is the latest man to take over at the Stadium of Light after the departure of Sam Allardyce to the England job. Former Everton gaffer Moyes will look to prove the doubters wrong after disastrous spells in charge of Manchester United and Real Sociedad.

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Defoe rolled back the years last season to keep Sunderland up.

Star Player: Jermain Defoe without a doubt. The ex England international’s goals was what kept Sunderland up last season. Another season like that will likely keep the Black Cats out of danger, however the hitman is not getting any younger.

Weakest Link: Defensively Sunderland are weak. John O’Shea, Younes Kaboul and Seb Coates were all caught out badly last season and it is an area Moyes will have to address.

Young Star: Duncan Watmore is the brightest talent at the club. The young attacker played 23 times last season and will look to play an even bigger role next season.

Prospects: I still believe Moyes is a good manager and with Defoe’s goals I think Sunderland should comfortably avoid the drop this season. However, they never make it easy.


Swansea City

Manager: Francesco Guidolin brought new life to a struggling Swansea side after taking over from Garry Monk last season. He will look to push on this season and see the Swans climb the table.

Star Player: Gylfi Sigurdsson is the star man. Following his return to the Liberty Stadium he has been a revelation and was the main reason Swansea stayed clear of relegation comfortably last season. He has recently signed a new contract with the club which will provide a big boost ahead of the new season.

Weakest Link: Up front. Swansea have a lack a goalscorer since the departure of Wilfred Bony to Manchester City in January 2015. Bafetimbi Gomis was their main striker last season but he struggled and has since left for Marseille. Fernando Llorente has arrived but beyond him it is hard to see where the goals will come from.

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Modou Barrow offers a threat from out wide.

Young Star: Winger Modou Barrow will hope to feature more this season as he continues his development having played 19 times last season.

Prospects: They haven’t improved their squad significantly enough to suggest they can finish mid table. Another relegation fight looks likely.


Tottenham Hotspur

Manager:  Mauricio Pochettino has certainly improved Spurs since his appointment in 2014. His fluid, high pressing style of play has earned Spurs a Champions League place for this season, and his ability at bringing on and improving youngsters has set Spurs up for an exciting season. Pochettino will be hoping to continue the rapid development and progression of his young squad.

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Harry Kane is a class act.

Star Player: With 4 players making last season’s Team of the Season, it’s fair to say that Spurs have a bit of talent at their disposal. Academy graduate and Barclays Premier League top scorer 2015/16, Harry Kane is certainly one of their finest talents. With 46 League goals in his last two seasons, Kane has been one of the best strikers in the league, and at only 23, there promises to be a lot more to come from him.

Weakest Link: It’s looking likely that Tom Carroll will act as cover for Spurs’ midfield. Despite now being 24, Carroll hasn’t developed as much as initially expected, especially in the physical sense, where he is still very lightweight. With midfield powerhouses such as Dier, Wanyama and Dembele expected to occupy the starting positions at the club, it’s tough to see how Carroll can adequately fill in for them.

Young Star: With the youngest average squad in the league last season, Spurs have a lot of promising youth on their hands. Josh Onomah featured 19 times last season, and played a big role in England U19’s Euro campaign this Summer. The versatile attacking midfielder can play centrally, or on either wing and will hope to cement a more regular place in the Spurs side this season.

Prospects: Spurs will be used to competing in four competitions due to their regular inclusion in the Europa League. The Champions League will offer a slightly different challenge for this group of players, but they’ll be aiming to take it in their stride, whilst hoping to land another top four finish.


Watford

Manager: Last season saw Watford return to the Premier League after… years. The Hornets finished 13th place under Spaniard Quique Sanchez Flores as they completely escaped a relegation scrap. This was mainly down to their good start to the campaign which saw them pick up 29 points from their first 19 games. However they slipped down the table after winning only four games since the New Year. Consequently Sanchez Flores was sacked and has since been replaced by Walter Mazzarri.

troy

Troy Deeney will look to provide the goals again.

Star Player: In terms of Watford’s strengths it is hard to look past Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney’s striker partnership. In total the duo are responsible for 70% (28) of Watford’s league goals, while only three other players managed to score more than two goals in the whole of last season. The fact that Watford managed to ward off a combined £60m bid for the two as well as Deeney agreeing to spend another 5-years at the club is only a positive sign for the Hornets.

Weakest Link: Mazzarri is known to play three out and out centre backs in either a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 formation. When played well, these formation can lead to defensive security as the wing backs can move back to create a five man defence. As Watford conceded 50 goals last season, while scoring 40, this would bring them to the next level. However this could also be their weakness. When the formation isn’t played to perfection it can be easily exploited, as seen in the Hornet’s preseason friendly against QPR. It is easy for the centre-backs to be dragged out of position often getting lost further up-field.

Young Star: Watford fans will be keeping a close eye on record signing Isaac Success, who signed for £12.5m from Granada. The 20-year-old is said to be a talented forward after scoring 37 goals in 63 appearances for the Spanish Club. He is known for his quick, strong, direct style of play.

Prospects: They will face a tough task to avoid relegation.


West Bromwich Albion

Manager: Tony Pulis. Dull, bland, boring, predictable, effective!

Star Player: Leading from the back is Jonny Evans. He has been linked with a move to Arsenal recently as he is playing the football of his life after starring for Northern Ireland at Euro 2016. It is vital that Albion keep a hold of him. Rondon will look to continue to provide the goals upfront while Darren Fletcher has been very effective in midfield since arriving from Manchester United.

Weakest Link: Saido Berahino. Bags of potential but refuses to play. Not what you want from your most talented squad member.

Soccer - Pre-Season Friendly - Walsall v West Bromwich Albion - Banks's Stadium

Saido Berahino will have to make a decision on his future soon.

Young Star: Saido Berahino. Still just 23, Berahino is West Brom’s best youth product yet he is determined to play football elsewhere. His future must be decided quickly for the good of the club and player.

Prospects: It’s Tony Pulis, mid table of course!


West Ham United

Manager: Croatian manager Slaven Bilic took over the squad at the beginning of last season and immediately saw positive results. His experience as a West Ham United player in the late 1990’s also clearly endeared him to the home supporters and he seems very comfortable in his role. His managerial efforts have greatly improved the squad’s goal-scoring record, as the Hammers found the back of the net with great regularity last season. However, in order to make a run at Champions league qualification, Bilic must find a way to fix a defense that loses leads in matches far too often.

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Dimitri Payet lit up Euro 2016 as France just fell short.

Star Player: West Ham saw several key players emerge as major contributors during last year’s campaign, including Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll. But West Ham will be counting on midfielder Dimitri Payet to lead them to success. The 29-year old Frenchman was a human highlight reel at Euro 2016 and is expected to have another strong season in the English top flight as well. Rumours of the arrival of AC Milan forward Carlos Bacca have not come to pass, but we should see even more additions down the line.

Weakest Link: A major issue for West Ham United last season was problems on the defensive end. The Hammers displayed a terrible habit of giving up leads late in matches and finding themselves in high-scoring affairs too often. If reinforcements can be brought in for the backline, West Ham will have a much greater chance of improving upon last season’s league finish. With the added responsibility of Europa League action as well, the club will see its depth tested in various competitions.

Young Star: Midfield and the backline are two areas that will need to see improvement for West Ham United to be successful. 17-year old Reece Oxford could see more playing time in order to remedy these problems. As the second youngest starter ever in the Premier League last season in a match against Arsenal, Oxford showed incredible composure, positioning and defensive work in helping the team to a 2-0 victory. Expect to see Oxford get much more playing time, especially with Europa League action on the schedule.

Prospects: One of West Ham’s main goals last season was Champions League qualification for their new home in the Olympic Stadium. Although they fell short of that accomplishment, they will certainly have the capability of reaching the top 4 this season. The Hammers will be competitive in the league table, will provide a strong showing in the Europa League and (of course) expect plenty of bubbles in the air.


TFN Team on 11/08/2016 at 12:05

Contributions by: Anand N, Anirudh N, Ben J, Dan G, Francesca B, Olatunde, Peter M, Roy E & Tarutr M.

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