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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Premier League Preview 2016-2017

How we want it next May

I nearly didn't get around to writing this so it will be more brief than in past years. I'm going on holiday tomorrow so I will be having to find a TV screen on Sunday afternoon while my nephew makes use of my season ticket for the day. It is going to be a long and hard nine months ahead as we should all be more than aware by now. With the new managers coming in it could be the hardest ever Premier League to win. Given that we couldn't win the easiest one ever last year you'd have to wonder how we can genuinely hope for glory this time - more on that below.

Surprisingly good before Christmas last season when they did the hard work that kept them safe for the rest of the campaign. If their injured players come back firing then they can expect similar this year, but if not then the Cherries could be in real trouble. Relegation battle ahead.

Coming up again they should be better prepared than in their previous Premier League stay. Burnley did the right thing holding on to Sean Dyche but obviously they are going to struggle. A finish in 17th place would be a massive achievement, but they have to be among the favourites to go back down again.

I keep reading how "entertaining" Conte will be on the touchline. Having watched his antics at close quarters when Ireland beat Italy in Lille back in June I can guarantee you the only people being entertained will be the media. Kante, if he can repeat his Leicester performances, will be a massive addition for them but they remain very beatable I reckon - even for Arsenal maybe. Top six.

Crystal Palace
The Eagles' FA Cup run largely masked their awful run-in last season. Andros Townsend could be a good signing if he can consistently show the form he did when he went to Newcastle. Still lacking a striker and maybe Benteke will end up at Selhurst Park. If they can add a goalscorer they should be just about safe. Fail to do so and they will be among a number of teams trying to jump the shark at the bottom.

Toffees fans no doubt hoped to see some proper money spent again with the new billionaire owner. Not so it would seem. Ashley Williams will be a good replacement for Stones, but they surely must hold on to Lukaku if progress is to be made under the new manager. Ronald Koeman worked miracles with Southampton and he might have to do it again at Goodison Park if he's to keep them challenging for Europe and a decent cup run or two.

Hull City
Promoted through the play-offs but with an owner who seems determined to undermine the team. Steve Bruce left and hasn't been replaced, and there has been a lack of signings. Nailed on to finish bottom unless something changes very soon.

Leicester City
Well nobody will underestimate them anymore, that's for certain. They showed they can hold on to some stars when Vardy turned down Arsenal but I reckon he might be regretting that by Christmas. Clearly it would be mad to write them off totally but to cope with the European Cup and maintain a challenge will be so difficult for them this season. You'd have to back them for the top half but I still maintain their fall could be as spectacular as their rise.

Another touchline "entertainer" here in the shape of Klopp. He failed to genuinely turn around Rodgers' no-hopers last season though at least had the excuse of running a squad put together by another manager. Less places to hide this season in a crowded Premier League. I wouldn't back against Klopp because he's been there and done it, but get off to a bad start and the pressure might get on early. Get off to a good start and who knows? Top six, possibly top four.

Manchester City
Can Guardiola's style be successful in the Premier League? Yes, of course it can. Has he got the players to play that at Manchester City? Maybe not yet. City are very vulnerable at the back, and Hart is creaking badly in goal. Most pundits seem to fancy City, purely based on Guardiola's past success at Barcelona and Bayern. The difference at City is that he isn't taking over the best side in Europe. Top four, maybe top two.

Manchester United
I'm going to go out on a limb and call this an ego-trip too far for Mourinho. It's as much a hope as a prediction and few things would give more pleasure than watching him squirm and fail, and watching the Sky and BBC pundits in tears as their hero and their favourite club start to fall apart. I can dream.

For me they are the most likely of the promoted teams to stay up, despite finishing below Burnley last year. The Riverside in winter is not a pleasant place to visit. It's not pleasant at any time, come to that. Near the bottom, obviously, but perhaps not too near to go down.

Losing Koeman and losing Mane must have been a massive blow. Claude Puel is left with a similar job to that faced by Koeman when he arrived. Bottom half, maybe even a struggle near the relegation zone. 

Stoke City
Safe in mid-table. Again.

Got away with it last season, but have lost England's greatest modern day manager to the FA. I didn't see them struggling last season so I really can't call it this time round. I'll go for lower mid-table.

Swansea City
Losing Ashley Williams will be a huge blow. They lack a goalscorer so the signing they made today needs to end up a good one. Without a striker who can put the ball in the net they could really struggle this season. They'll probably still get a result at Arsenal though.

Tottenham Hotspur
I'm still laughing at what happened in May. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Like Bournemouth they did the good work before Christmas last season and had a fine home record in that time. Ighalo's goals dried up, but Deeney and co did just enough. Yet another new boss at Vicarage Road though and you'd have to expect them to struggle again. What could save them is the fact that there are a number of candidates for the bottom three.

West Brom
The Berahino saga goes on but I can't see them genuinely struggling all that much. They won't play much good football - Pulis is still the manager - but they should do just about enough again.

West Ham
First season at the People's Utility Stadium, Stratford. They'll play in front of big crowds, at least to start with, but a lot of those people are sight-seeing and have no interest in West Ham. I can't see it being intimidating like Upton Park and that might affect them. Bilic did really well last year, though, and he ought to fancy pushing them on for Europe and/or a good cup run.

And so to business. But none of it in the transfer market. Just about every year I've been writing this piece I've said that we are going in to the season lacking the couple of players we need, but if we would just sign them we could end up being Champions. There's nothing new to say. We go in hope and we go to support whoever it is that is wearing that red shirt with white sleeves. Whatever happens this season, whether it's Wenger's last one or not, we'll be there and wanting the best for Arsenal FC. Come on Arsenal!

No Champions actually predicted this year. What's the point after last season?

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