EPL Preview

With the English Premier League kicking off in less than a week, we at Sportdot decided to review the upcoming season, predicting the teams who will make the top 4, as well as the surprise packet for the season and the teams who will face relegation. So strap yourselves in for a comprehensive preview of the 2015/16 EPL season.

Arsenal

After another slow start to the season, Arsenal managed to finish a respectable third, thanks to a dominant start to 2015. Arsenal supporters eagerly anticipate the new season, believing the development of the younger players, plus the star quality of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, will see the Gunners flourish and challenge for their first EPL title since 2003/04.

So far the summer transfer window has seen the sole purchase of Petr Cech, the Chelsea legend, who will be a steadying hand between goals. However without any other signings, it suggests Arsene Wenger is happy with the squad and believes they have the capacity to leap past champions, Chelsea.

It is a huge gamble to make little movement in the transfer market and if Arsenal again start slowly, fans will be asking questions about the future of the coach. Striker Olivier Giroud is serviceable, but tends to go missing in crucial games, while the defensive midfield position is an area that also needs some improvement. With both Manchester sides spending freely and Chelsea still a formidable force, Arsenal and Wenger face a critical year in their respective futures.

Prediction – 3rd

Chelsea

What can you say about Chelsea, except they are a very good side. At times last year, the Blues looked as though they were from another planet, with slick ball movement and outrageous goals. Recruits, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa had unbelievable first seasons, while Eden Hazard will only get better with age and experience. The back four, consisting of Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Garry Cahill and Cesar Azilicueta was consistent and resolute. The problem Chelsea face this year is that they will be the hunted, instead of the hunter as they were last season. It is usually difficult for a side to win consecutive championships.

Chelsea were fortunate to not suffer any significant injuries last year and they will be foolish to believe skipper John Terry could play the entire season injury free. And then there is the lack of summer recruits. Major recruits, Radamel Falcao and Asmir Begovic both do not have realistic chances of breaking into the first 11. The lack of rejuvenation is something unseen in a Jose Mourinho team and this could be critical in the race for the title.

Prediction – 2nd

Liverpool

After the soaring heights of 2013/14, last year was a utter failure for Liverpool, who sorely missed the attacking flair of Luis Suarez. Eight players were brought into the squad, with possibly Adam Lallana and Emre Can the only transfers to prosper, while Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and of course Mario Balotelli were absolute flops.

This year has so far seen Liverpool purchase seven players, with James Milner being a steal for a free transfer. Nathaniel Clyne is also a good purchase but the rest have question marks. Danny Ings, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke are all attacking players and will compete for positions with Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Divock Origi, Fabio Borini and Jordon Ibe, which begs the question; How many attackers can play in a team?

The defence needs a restructuring, as does the midfield, which will rely heavily on the performances of Jordan Henderson and James Milner. Without Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, Liverpool have lost an all time great and one of the worlds hottest young prospects, which makes this year significantly difficult for the under pressure Brendan Rodgers.

Prediction – 5th

Manchester City

After claiming their second title in three years, Manchester City were favourites to win last years title, However, a side who on their day can be so dominant, City looked an old tired side that need rejuvenation. Pressure was on Manuel Pellegrini, who somehow managed to retain his job at seasons end. But with rumours Pep Guardiola will coach the Sky Blue next year, this year appears to be Pellegrini’s last chance to win his second Premier League title. The acquisition of Raheem Sterling is enormous as it results in a mouth watering array of attacking options for City.

The loss of James Milner will hurt City as his versatility allowed Pellegrini to play different formations, meaning former Aston Villa captain Fabian Delph will have the tough task of filling this void. If Yaya Toure can return to his best, City will have a formidable forward and midfield setup. However, like most teams around the world, the defence is an area of weakness. Vincent Kompany showed signs of vulnerability and without any new defenders, Kompany will have to be fit most weeks and partner with Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala. But if City can score more than they concede, then they will win games, which will see them fighting for the title.

Prediction – 1st

Manchester United

Louis Van Gaal inherited a side that finished seventh and returned them to a Champions League spot. Any other team and this would be considered a success, but with Manchester United, success is evaluated by silverware, which Van Gaal failed to achieve. At times last season, United looked like title contenders, while at other times they struggled to break open defences. With an array of attacking talent it was surprising United only managed to score 62 goals for the season. The departures of Robin Van Persie, Radimal Falcao and Angel Di Maria will see United rely heavily on Wayne Rooney to score the goals. New boy Memphis Depay will also have to fill the goal scoring burden, which will difficult considering it is his first season at Old Trafford.

One area where United look stronger than ever is in midfield. Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin will all be given considerable game time and will have an important job of shielding the vulnerable defence, which has not had any inclusion except for Italian right back Matteo Darmian. Daley Blind has been tested at Centre Back, but at 180cm and 72kg, he is not strong enough to compete with menacing strikers. David De Gea’s future is still up in the air, meaning a new goalkeeper will be needed if he decides to sign for Real Madrid. Too many question marks linger over United, making it difficult to see them having a chance of winning the title.

Prediction – 4th

Surprise Packet: West Ham

A restructure has taken shape at West Ham during the off season, with an importance on maintaining a position in the Premier League, as revenue increases from the new broadcast deal and moving to the Olympic Stadium next year. Sam Allardyce and his direct style of play have been ditched in favour of former Hammer’s player Slaven Bilic, who has had success coaching the Croatian national side and Turkish club, Besiktas. The signing of creative maestro Dimitri Payet will create numerous chances for Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho, who both had good first seasons in England.

West Ham will be a threat this year.

Andy Carroll will have an important role if he can stay fit and string good performances together. The defence is assured and the midfield is well balanced and could be improved if Alex Song returns to the club on a permanent basis. West Ham have the talent to compete with the big boys and if they do they will be the surprise packet of the season.

Prediction – 6th

Relegation

  1. Leicester

Tumultuous end of the season, with coach Nigel Pearson sacked. Last years revival was a miracle and will be difficult to repeat.

  1. Watford

Similar to Leicester, coach Slavisa Jokanovic left the club after he failed to renew his contract with the club. Not enough talent on the list to stay in the Premier League.

  1. AFC Bournemouth 

The Cinderella story of last year. Promoted to the Premier League for the first time, fans and pundits alike will not have high expectations this year, instead they will enjoy the thrill of hosting teams like Manchester United and Liverpool at their home ground, which has a capacity of 11,700.

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