TWG's bumper Premier League club guide

The World Game team has sifted through the pre-season form guides and countless transfer gossip columns, to bring you our comprehensive guide to the 2017-2018 Premier League season.

Premier League stars

Eight of the Premier League stars Source: Getty Images

ARSENAL

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Position last season: 5th

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Nickname: The Gunners

Ground: Emirates Stadium

Key signings: Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac

Key man: Alexandre Lacazette – Much of the Gunners success this season will hinge of the goalscoring form of the Frenchman. The A$90 million man scored 28 goals in Ligue 1 last campaign and Arsenal will be hoping he can replicate these feats.

Why they'll win: Arsenal currently boasts a strong attacking line-up, including the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and that man, Lacazette. Whether the Chilean and Giroud remain at the club for the entire season remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure – the Gunners will be eager to atone for a disappointing 2016-2017 campaign which should see them start the season strongly.

Why they'll struggle: Injuries and post-Christmas collapses have become all too common for Arsenal, and with the strong squads assembled by both Manchester clubs as well as their traditional London rivals, Chelsea and Tottenham, it is hard to see the Gunners claiming the title this season. 



BOURNEMOUTH

Manager: Eddie Howe

Position last season: 9th

Nickname: The Cherries

Ground: Dean Court

Key signings: Nathan Ake, Jermain Defoe, Asmir Begovic

Key man: Joshua King – The Norwegian attacker enjoyed a superb end to last season, finishing with 16 goals. His partnership with new arrival Defoe – who’s hungry for a World Cup spot with England – could be lethal.

Why they’ll win: Since promotion to the Premier League, Bournemouth have exceeded expectations with a fair amount of style and, seemingly, ease. Plaudits have deservedly rained in on ambitious and fastidious manager Howe. Their strength lay in attack last season – only six teams outscored them - and their key signings look to strengthen the spine of the team.

Why they’ll struggle: Their defence was very porous for a side in the top half of the table – the top five in goals conceded - and a worry for one with aspirations of climbing even higher.  

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

Manager: Chris Hughton

Position last season: Promoted (second in the Championship)

Nickname: The Seagulls

Ground: Falmer Stadium

Key signings: Mat Ryan, Davy Propper, Markus Suttner

Key man: Mat Ryan – With Brighton playing in their first English top-flight campaign for 34 years, the Socceroos goalkeeper will have his work cut out to ensure his side remains in the Premier League. The Seagulls look a bit skinny in defence so shot-stopper Ryan will be under enormous pressure from the outset. He will need to improve on his recent pre-season effort against Atletico Madrid though.

Why they'll win: Brighton were outstanding in the Championship last season and were the first side to be promoted for the Premier League, before being overtaken late in the season by Newcastle United. The Seagulls made Falmer Stadium a fortress last season – winning a competition-high 17 matches – so expect them to be competitive at home this campaign.

Why they'll struggle: Brighton have struggled to sign high-quality stars and the step up to the Premier League could therefore prove difficult. The Seagulls have been afforded a kind draw for the opening month, so will need to make a statement early in the season if they are to survive. 

BURNLEY

Manager: Sean Dyche

Position Last season: 16th

Nickname: The Clarets

Ground: Turf Moor

Key Signings: Jon Walters, Jack Cork, Charlie Taylor

Key Man: Jon Walters – The new man at Turf Moor fits in brilliantly to the culture and attitude at Burnley and could prove to be one of the signings of the transfer window. Walters is a player with plenty of heart and will run all day to help his team to victory.

Why they’ll win: When playing at their Turf Moor home ground, Burnley are a challenge for any side to break down. With their passionate home fans behind them, Dyche manages to get the most out of his players. If Burnley can take this form on the road then they could be a real dark horse

Why they’ll struggle: While they were good at home, Burnley struggled on the road last season. Opposition teams will give the Clarets more respect this season but if they don’t fix their ability to pick up points away from home then Burnley could find themselves battling relegation.  

 


CHELSEA

Manager: Antonio Conte

Position last season: 1st

Nickname: The Blues

Ground: Stamford Bridge

Key signings: Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger

Key man: Eden Hazard. When he plays well, Chelsea win. N’Golo Kante is more consistent but in terms of talent Hazard is number one in this side and probably the entire league. With phenomenal technique and speed the Belgian is a pleasure to watch and a nightmare for defenders. Rumoured to be a potential Neymar replacement at Barcelona, holding onto him is crucial for the Blues.

Why they’ll win: Discipline, defensive organisation and incredible work rate in midfield are the cornerstones of Conte’s success. Exemplified best by player of the year Kante, whose tireless running and tackling have been huge factors in back-to-back league titles for the Frenchman. Chelsea’s key signings are all world class and will strengthen each area of the field for the reigning champions.

Why they’ll struggle: Losing front man Diego Costa could be massive. His aggression and physicality made him a nightmare for opposition defences, even when up front alone. So much depends on how well record signing Alvaro Morata settles into the team and the league. He and Michy Batshuayi have some big boots to fill. 

CRYSTAL PALACE

Manager: Frank De Boer

Position last season: 14th

Nickname: The Eagles

Ground: Selhurst Park

Key signings: Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jairo Riedewald

Key man: Wilfred Zaha – The Ivory Coast international has the skills to be one of the breakout stars of the Premier League and Crystal Palace will be relying on him to provide both goals and assists this campaign. Blessed with lightning pace and silky dribbling skills, Zaha has come a long way since his failed move to Manchester United and is a tough customer for opposition defences.

Why they’ll win: Crystal Palace boasts one of the most underrated attacking trio’s in the league with Wilfred Zaha, Christian Benteke and Jason Puncheon all boasting the talent to find the back of the net with ease in the Premier League. Frank de Jong will add a dynamic gameplan to complement his talented front men while the lessons learnt from last year’s late season survival should steel them for a better season in 2017-18.

Why they’ll struggle: Defence is a glaring weakness for Crystal Palace and with Liverpool looking unlikely to allow Mamadou Sahko to return to Selhurst Park this season it could be a battle for De Jong to plug a leaky Eagles backline. 

EVERTON

Manager: Ronald Koeman

Position last season: 7th

Nickname: The Toffees

Ground: Goodison Park

Key signings: Wayne Rooney, Jordan Pickford, Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez

Key man: Wayne Rooney – After a history-making 13-year spell at Manchester United, Everton’s prodigal son returns to Goodison Park. Toffees fans will be hoping Rooney’s return can help them surge up to a top four finish - and off the back of a solid pre-season by the 31-year-old, they could be a decent chance.

Why they'll win: Everton have produced a strong off-season recruitment drive and with some astute signings in place, they should be set for another successful season. Also in their favour is a full pre-season under the watchful eye of Koeman, who only took over in June 2016.

Why they'll struggle: It remains to be seen whether the off-season Ross Barkley saga and the loss of star striker Romelu Lukaku will have any impact on the playing squad. Everton also faces an extremely tough opening month with clashes against Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.



HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Manager: David Wagner

Position last season: Promoted (via Championship play-offs)

Nickname: The Terriers

Ground: John Smith’s Stadium

Key signings: Aaron Mooy, Steve Mounie, Tom Ince, Laurent Depoitre

Key man: Aaron Mooy – The Socceroos star was at the cornerstone of the Terriers’ success last season, whilst on loan from Manchester City. After completing a permanent move to Huddersfield - a record deal for an Australian player - Mooy will again be the go-to man this season. It is highly unlikely he will be afforded the time on the ball that he craves and was given in the Championship.

Why they'll win: Huddersfield came through the rigorous Championship play-offs to be promoted to the Premier League via a tense penalty shootout win over Reading. Off the back of this path, expect the Terriers to be competitive early in the season – particularly with six winnable matches to open their campaign.

Why they'll struggle: Despite a string of off-season purchases, a lack of overall squad quality could prove to be Huddersfield’s Achilles heel. Mooy will be under tremendous pressure to re-produce his stellar form in a superior league and it may all prove too much for the Socceroos star. 

LEICESTER CITY

Manager: Craig Shakespeare

Position last season: 12th

Nickname: The Foxes

Ground: King Power Stadium

Key signings: Harry Maguire, Vicente Iborra, Eldin Jakupovic, Kele Iheanacho

Key man: Jamie Vardy – The England striker could have a lot more responsibility on his shoulders this season if Riyad Mahrez departs the King Power stadium. Vardy had a slow start to last campaign but finished in fine form.

Why they’ll win: Just as they did in the 2015-16, Leicester has the element of surprise. While the Foxes had a bit of a reality check last season they fired back into form at the back end of the season. Nobody expects Craig Shakespeare’s side to crack the top six this season but it was the same two seasons ago when they lifted the title.

Why they'll struggle: Leicester learned the hard way last season how important N’golo Kante was to their Premiership winning team. The Foxes struggled to replace the France international’s impact and suffered both in attack and defence. If Shakespeare is unable to find a solution for the defensive midfield position it could be another tough season.

LIVERPOOL

Manager: Jurgen Klopp

Position last season: 4th

Nickname: The Reds

Ground: Anfield

Key signings: Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson

Key man: Philippe Coutinho – His 13 goals and seven assists last season don’t even do justice to the creativity he brings in attack. Barcelona are heavily linked with the Brazilian for good reason.

Why they’ll win: Their exciting and potent attack. Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane linked up superbly last season, scoring a combined 37 goals, while new recruit Salah just had a fantastic Serie A season with Roma in which he recorded 15 goals and 11 assists. The side’s discipline last term was also superb - with the fewest yellow cards in the league and zero reds.

Why they’ll struggle: A lack of ruthlessness against the weaker sides. It proved their undoing last season - they only had six losses and all of them came against sides that had struggles: Burnley, Bournemouth, Swansea, Hull, Leicester and Crystal Palace. At the time of writing they’ve not dipped into the transfer market to strengthen the squad much at all either. Failure to land Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk could hurt them.



MANCHESTER CITY

Manager: Pep Guardiola

Position last season: 3rd

Nickname: City

Ground: Etihad Stadium

Key signings: Danilo, Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva, Ederson, Douglas Luiz

Key man: Pep Guardiola - After significantly strengthening their weakest area last season, the full backs, City now have arguably the best squad in the league. This season will define Guardiola's legacy in England - he needs to win the title. No doubt he will re-jig the squad regularly, rotate the numerous attacking midfielders when required, but for City to win Guardiola must get the best out of this talented group, just like he did at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. 

Why they’ll win: Because, despite last seasons struggles, they still have one of the world's best coaches. Guardiola has won 21 trophies as a manager, he has won the league he has been in six out of eight times. Yes he had incredible squads at both Barca and Bayern, but to ignore Guardiola's impact is unfair. The City squad has significantly improved, and in their second season under Guardiola the squad should be able to implement the Catalan's intense game plan with more fluidity. 

Why they’ll struggle: Because the Premier League is more competitive than ever, with six teams capable of challenging for the title. There is very little room for error. If the new signings don't integrate with the squad fast enough and if injuries to key players pile up it could prove too much as they try and compete in Europe as well. 

MANCHESTER UNITED

Manager:  Jose Mourinho

Position last season: 6th

Nickname: The Red Devils

Ground:  Old Trafford

Key signings: Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic

Key man: Paul Pogba – While he no longer carries the burden of being the most expensive player in history, Pogba will still shoulder the responsibility for driving the United attack. Jose Mourinho will be hoping the 24-year-old Frenchman can deliver more consistently in his second season back at old Trafford.  The signings of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic appear to have been made with Pogba in mind. If United are to return to the top of the pile this season don’t be surprised to see the mercurial midfielder's name in the mix for player of the season honours.

Why they’ll win: Jose Mourinho is king of the second season. The Portuguese manager has won the league in year two of his reign at every club he has managed since his days as Porto boss. Mourinho has added plenty of quality this transfer window and has filled glaring needs in the process. New signings Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic will both play a big role this season while Paul Pogba should have more freedom to do what he does best in the United midfield. With a supporting cast including Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Ander Herrera, Manchester United are shaping up for their best Premier League campaign since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

Why they’ll struggle: Manchester United finished 24 points behind Chelsea last season in sixth position – that’s a big gap to close if they are going to be one of the front runners this Premier League campaign. Add the pressures of competing in the Champions League for the first time in two seasons and Mourinho has plenty of hurdles ahead of him this year. 

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Manager: Rafael Benitez

Position last season: Promoted (first in the Championship)

Nickname: The Magpies

Ground: St James’ Park

Key signings: Christian Atsu, Javier Manquillo, Jacob Murphy

Key man: Jonjo Shelvey – The former Liverpool and Swansea midfielder knows what to expect from life in the Premier League and will be the fulcrum of the Newcastle midfield this season. Shelvey has always had the ability to dominate matches and he now has a new level of maturity to his game which should make him a more complete player this season.

Why they’ll win: Rafa Benetiz is Newcastle’s biggest strength and the veteran manager knows how to get the most from his squad. Newcastle has struggled to bring in the players they wanted this transfer period but their existing squad should have what it takes to avoid the relegation zone.

Why they’ll struggle: Newcastle lack a striker who can dominate at Premier League level. Dwight Gayle, Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic all have their strengths but will need to show significant improvement if any of them are to score 15 or more goals this season. 



SOUTHAMPTON

Manager: Mauricio Pellegrino

Position last season: 8th

Nickname: The Saints

Ground: St Mary’s Stadium

Key signings: None

Key man: Oriol Romeu – the defensive midfielder was rewarded for his consistent performances by scooping Southampton’s Player of the Season award. The all-action Spaniard led the side in tackles, interceptions and completed passes.

Why they’ll win: Player retention. For what feels like the first time in a while their squad hasn’t been raided by Liverpool. Their first team is extremely solid across all areas, when injury-free. Finishing eighth in a league where the top six is practically certain is pretty good, especially when it’s considered a poor season. If they can build on that, and make a strong signing or two, they’ll be a force.

Why they’ll struggle: A lack potency up front was their problem last season. Their total of 41 goals put them 15th in the scoring table as a team, and midfielder Nathan Redmond was their top scorer with just seven. At the time of writing, they have yet to bring in an established striker – so if Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin continue to have injury troubles, the Saints will struggle. 

STOKE CITY

Manager: Mark Hughes

Position last season: 13th         

Nickname: The Potters

Ground: The Britannia Stadium

Key signings: Kurt Zouma, Darren Fletcher, Josh Tymon

Key man: Xherdan Shaqiri – The Swiss winger has the ability to pull off moments of brilliance with ease. Inconsistency has been the biggest mark on Shaqiri since he joined Stoke but if he can bring it together this season he could be one of the league’s most dangerous players.

Why they’ll win: Stoke boast a formidable defence this season with the addition of Kurt Zouma to partner Ryan Shawcross in the backline. Mark Hughes has slowly transformed Stoke from their grinding route one style of the past and, combined with a solid defence, boast a squad with players who can turn a match.

Why they’ll struggle: Stoke will have a big challenge in finding a way to goal this season with Peter Crouch and Saido Berahino the men responsible for hitting the back of the net. The loss of Marko Arnautovic also removes a key creator in midfield putting extra pressure on Shaqiri to be the star Stoke are desperate for. 

SWANSEA CITY

Manager: Paul Clement

Position last season: 15th         

Nickname: The Swans

Ground: Liberty Stadium

Key signings: Roque Mesa, Tammy Abraham, Erwin Mulder

Key man: Gylfi Sigurdsson (if he stays) - Sigurdsson was third in assists last season in the Premier League and fourth in shots on target, which is incredible given how much Swansea struggled last season. If he leaves to Everton, which reports suggests he will, Roque Mesa could be the new key man. The new signing from Las Palmas had the fourth highest pass success rate in La Liga last season - eight places higher than Sergio Busquets!

Why they’ll win: Former Real Madrid assistant manager Paul Clement took over when Swansea was in the relegation zone at the start of January. He was named manager of the month by the end of January. Now a full pre-season under his belt, and Claude Makelele by his side as an assistant, Clement can take them to a new level. 

Why they’ll struggle: Sigurdsson will be a big loss should he go, given how much he created and how dangerous he was on set pieces. Also they've been on a downward trajectory, eighth in 2015, 12th in 2016, 15th in 2017.

 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Position last season: 2nd

Nickname: Spurs

Ground: Wembley

Key signings: none

Key man: Dele Alli – The 21-year-old scored 18 goals last season and has quickly become a vital part of the Spurs attack. His runs into the box playing behind Harry Kane creates many scoring opportunities while also taking defensive pressure away from his strike partner. Alli is only going to get better and better.

Why they’ll win: Tottenham boast arguably the best starting XI in the Premier League and have kept the nucleus of the side from last season’s second place finish. Harry Kane knows his way to goal and is supported by a midfield which also knows how to find the back of the net. They will have learnt valuable lessons after finishing in the top three for the past two seasons and are ready to make the next step in 2017-18.

Why they’ll struggle: Tottenham have been unable to make any signings this transfer window and could be caught out if injury takes down any of their established stars. Combined with the move to Wembley this season, Tottenham could be in for a difficult season if things don’t go their way early. 

WATFORD

Manager: Marco Silva

Position last season: 17th

Nickname: The Hornets

Ground: Vicarage Road

Key signings: Tom Cleverly, Will Hughes, Nathaniel Chalobah, Andre Gray

Key man: Troy Deeney – the burly Englishman captains the team and shoulders the burden of goal-scoring practically on his own. He was top scorer with 10 last season and gives opposing defenders headaches with his strength and aggression.

Why they’ll win: Hiring Silva as manager could be a masterstroke. In his short but impressive spell with Hull City he demonstrated tactical aptitude and an ability to get the best out of limited resources.

Why they’ll struggle: Finishing 17th last season thanks largely to dreadful form towards the end. Some consistency was desperately needed. A lack of discipline was also a big factor - last term Watford finished with the most cards, both yellow (87) and red (5) – and they were in the top five both for total goals conceded and defensive errors. 

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Manager: Tony Pulis

Position last season: 10th

Nickname: The Baggies

Ground: The Hawthorns

Key signings: Jay Rodriguez, Ahmed Hegazi

Key man: Gareth McAuley - A rock at the back who can get forward and score at set-pieces. The 37 year-old centre-back was paramount to Tony Pulis' defensive side last season who finished in the top 10. 

Why they'll win: Their defense. Four teams scored more goals than West Brom and still managed to finish below the Baggies last season on the table. 

Why they'll struggle: Because just six points separated 8th and 17th in the final standings last season, showing how just a few wins turning into draws can put you close to the drop zone. At the tail end of last season they lost seven of their last eight matches - not the best sign.

WEST HAM UNITED

Manager: Slaven Bilic

Position last season: 11th

Nickname: The Hammers

Ground: London Stadium

Key signings: Javier Hernandez, Marko Arnautovic, Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta

Key man: Javier Hernandez – The Mexico star, better known as Chicharito, returns to the Premier League and his signing could prove an astute one by Bilic. The Hammers will be hoping the former Manchester United striker can replicate his feats in England’s top flight.

Why they'll win: West Ham have been busy in the off-season with a host of solid signings, which should help them improve on a disappointing 2016-2017 campaign. Bilic’s men face a difficult first up trip to Old Trafford, with Chicharito returning to his old home ground, and a result there could lay the foundations for a strong season.

Why they'll struggle: The well-publicised exit of star Dimitri Payet played its part in their struggling season last year, so West Ham will need to be careful they don’t suffer the same slow start this campaign. Having various new recruits makes them a prime candidate for this, and the form of Hernandez and Hart in particular will prove crucial. 


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22 min read
Published 8 August 2017 at 11:52am
Source: SBS The World Game