The Boot Room Predicts the Premier League 2015/16

The Boot Room Predicts the Premier League 2015/16

Ahead of the new Barclays Premier League season which bursts into life once more on Saturday 8th August, many of The Boot Room columnists have outlined their predictions for some of the most interesting categories. It should be noted that these predictions were made almost two months before the end of the summer transfer window and so each is taken on the assumption that the squads remain fairly similar from this moment forwards.

We hope that you enjoy reading the various perspectives of each columnist and please feel free to get involved in the comments section and on twitter (@TBRFootball), sending us in your suggestions for how the Premier League will play out over the next few months.

Jack Linley

Champions and Top Four

1st – Chelsea

With José Mourinho at the helm, Chelsea are once again the fiercest of competitors and there is no doubt that winning is the absolute priority. With no significant losses to the first team squad of last season and the potential title-securing addition of Falcao along with the continued growth of youth team products, I expect The Blues to be just as formidable as last year and retain their title. I do however think that they will not have it secured as early in the season as last time out.

2nd – Manchester United

The recruitment drive at Old Trafford has occurred this summer at a ruthless pace and currently, with highly impressive results. Van Gaal has been quick to identify the areas that were in desperate need of strengthening and has acted upon it, perhaps now only requiring an addition in the striking department to be fully prepared for the season ahead. Depay has outstanding potential, Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin will contribute to the most complete midfield since the days of Keane and Scholes, and Darmian has impressed already in his fledgling career. I think they will be the ones to push Chelsea the closest but will just fall short.

3rd – Arsenal

The Gunners were in scintillating form for the latter half of the 2014/15 Premier League season, demolishing the vast majority of sides that they came up against. A strong finish to the league campaign and eventual FA Cup glory demonstrated the potential of a team full of fit and firing stars. Sanchez, Cazorla and Coquelin were perhaps the stand-out performers, but players previously on the fringes of first team action such as Walcott and Bellerin also stepped up to the plate. With a couple of significant additions, I believe that Wenger’s side can once again achieve a guaranteed spot for Champions League qualification and should probably be a more realistic challenger for the Premier League title throughout the season rather than just in brief spurts.

4th – Manchester City

Widely lambasted towards the end of the last campaign when their assault on retaining the Premier League title seemed to collapse around their ears, Manchester City have a mostly aging squad that has been refreshed with the addition of youthful England stars Sterling and Delph. Under Manuel Pellegrini, previously heralded performers such as Kompany and Yaya Touré had one of their most disappointing seasons of recent times and seemed to really struggle for motivation at some of the more crucial periods of the campaign.

This has to change to mount any form of challenge but I think that too much of a backward step was taken last year and they will be unable to compete with the much fresher teams mentioned earlier. More likely to be involved in a fight for Champions League qualification rather than the title, I believe that they will just about perform well enough to pip Liverpool to fourth spot, though if The Reds’ new signings gel instantaneously, it could be even worse for The Citizens.

Relegated Teams

18th – Leicester City

The Foxes impressed many with their scintillating form towards the end of last season which resulted in them clutching victory from the jaws of defeat in their quest to avoid an immediate return to Championship football. Despite this however, it is clear that there are some serious deficiencies in their squad and I do not feel that these have been addressed with sufficient care and attention over the summer. Adding to the forward line in the shape of Okazaki is not where their priorities should lie, while defence and midfield would benefit from significant recruitment.

There has admittedly been a change of intention over recent days with a couple of signings entering in these areas and rumours of more to come, but I do not think that they are of the quality or experience required. Leicester City are almost certain to feel the absence of Cambiasso cut deeply into the side’s overall success and potency in addition to the knowledge he brought of all manner of footballing situations. I believe that they will fall just short of survival this time around.

19th – Norwich

The East Anglian club have bounced straight back into England’s top flight after only one campaign away from the pressure cooker of Premier League football. Under Alex Neil, the Play-off winners are in a rich vein of form and will initially have momentum on their side. Norwich City’s main issue in my opinion will be finishing off chances by Hoolahan and Redmond.

The English flying winger is one of the few bright sparks amongst the squad and there must be a fear that if he starts to produce a string of dazzling displays at the highest level in the early portion of the season, then the former Birmingham City winger will be whisked away by a more established side come January.

Robbie Brady will prove to be a good addition to Neil’s group of players; although he has certainly come at a premium, as long as he can put niggling groin and hip injuries to bed which plagued his career at Hull City. Between now and the end of the transfer window, acquisitions of a similar standard are required to give The Canaries a fighting chance of beating the drop.

20th – Watford

The Hornets squad that achieved automatic promotion from the Championship in 2nd place during 2014/15 did need strengthening I will admit, but the nature and quantity of signings leave a lot to be desired. A significant overhaul of players is never advisable when continuity is desired and it will be quite a managerial feat for Watford’s new man at the helm to begin his career in England with a few positive results. It is by no means a simple task to develop a group bond and understanding with such a turnaround over a short space of time and as such, not only do I predict Watford finishing bottom of the league come May but also to see at least one managerial switch during the campaign.

Player of the Season

Alexis Sanchez – Although the Chilean has hardly been able to enjoy the perfect preparation for a new season over the summer, I expect Alexis to be flying once more as soon as he returns to the Arsenal side. The former Barcelona forward was a vital part of his nation’s victory in the Copa America and has therefore been granted an extended break but such is his determination and outstanding appetite for the game, defenders will be quaking in their boots at the anticipation of facing him.

Sanchez experienced Premier League football for the first time last season and took to it like a duck to water. Perhaps the greatest praise that I can pay him is that; excluding the ‘extra-curricular’ antics of the infamous Uruguayan, Alexis is the closest player possible to Luis Suarez. With an eye for the spectacular to go along with his tremendous work ethic, I can see him easily breaking the 20 goal mark in the league and confirm his place as the absolute talisman for this latest Arsenal side.

Signing of the Season

Petr Cech – I was slightly torn between Petr Cech and James Milner for who I thought deserved the accolade of Signing of the Season. I tend to side towards the Czech goalkeeper for the proven world-class talent that he brings to Arsenal in an area that The Gunners undoubtedly desperately needed to improve. In the first season since his arrival on these shores, he was displaced from the position of number one by Thibaut Courtois and was therefore limited to seven Premier League appearances. However, his statistics in these games were nothing short of staggering. He only conceded 2 goals, kept 5 clean sheets, and was able to boast the longest duration between each strike beating his gloves; a simply stupendous 606 minutes.

If he can achieve anything like this level of performance over the next few months, then his addition to the Arsenal ranks will be looked back upon with wonderment, especially as only £11 million was required to prise him from Chelsea’s clutches.

Flop of the Season

Bastian Schweinsteiger – There are a few factors behind my opinion that Bastian Schweinsteiger will fail to live up to the weighty expectations placed upon him. At the age of 31 and having succeeded as much as the German veteran has, he could well suffer from a lack of motivation to continue to perform at the highest level. Additionally, Schweinsteiger has had a physically draining career, playing for both Bayern and his national side on the big stage for a decade. There are now a great deal of miles on the clock and he suffered particularly after Germany’s World Cup triumph. The midfielder never really hit top gear in his final campaign with the Munich based outfit, being plagued with injuries throughout. It is up for debate whether he is really over these concerns as he moves into a tough career in the Premier League.

Furthermore, there is the question of how he will combine with the other midfield options available at Old Trafford. Schneiderlin is such a complete player that he can perform almost any role, Carrick is a favourite son of Van Gaal’s, and Ander Herrera rose to prominence in the latter half of last season with some accomplished displays and a knack for popping up with the odd important goal. All in all, he is in with a fierce fight to nail down a regular first team spot and in my view, will find life at Old Trafford much more difficult than at the Allianz Arena.

Can Arsenal build on their FA Cup triumphs and become genuine contenders to grab Chelsea’s Premier League crown?

Michael Powell

Champions and Top Four

1st – Chelsea

Chelsea won the title at a canter last season, easing through the final two months without any serious competition. José Mourinho has decided to make small alterations to the squad with no major signing arriving at the Bridge, but they still boast the best starting 11 in the league. Injuries and suspensions are a concern for any side but Chelsea have most areas covered with the exception of left-back, should Cesar Azpilicueta pick up a knock. It is hard to see any of the sides below them closing the cavernous gap of last season despite new additions and the squad now have the experience of winning a title, something that proved costly in Mourinho’s first season back. Therefore I expect Chelsea to make it back-to-back league titles.

2nd – Arsenal

David Ospina did a solid job in goal for Arsenal last year with Szczesny, but the addition of Petr Cech takes the side to a new level. Cech’s experience should help a notoriously shaky defence gain more confidence whilst the attacking talent at Arsene Wenger’s disposal is arguably the best in the league. The Gunners may still be short of a world class striker with Olivier Giroud flattering to deceive and Theo Walcott prone to injury but bigger problems lie in their lack of defensive cover. Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin both impressed last season but were originally seen as stop gaps that haven’t been replaced and Gabriel is still adapting to the Premier League. These deficiencies mean Arsenal will come up just shy again but one place closer in my opinion.

3rd – Manchester United

Since Louis Van Gaal arrived last summer, United have spent a huge amount of money trying to attract the best talent from across the world. Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger have been brought in to try and solve the midfield conundrum that has plagued the club for the best part of 10 years but central defence still looks like a big issue. Added to the lack of viable alternative to Wayne Rooney up front and it appears the club won’t be making as much progress as many of their fans will hope for.

4th – Manchester City

With stories about Pep Guardiola continuing to circle, Manual Pellegrini’s position looks under threat. How this rubs off on the players remains to be seen, but the uncertainty can’t help the club in any way. As was the case for man of the rival’s, City’s defence let them down badly last season, but rather than rectifying this, most of their transfer funds have been spent on Raheem Sterling meaning it is hard to see the Etihad side progressing. Sterling will offer more than Jesus Navas has while Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony are arguably the most potent strike force in the league, but the rest of the team looks a shambles for the amount of money spent since the arrival of Sheikh Mansour. City will be looking over their shoulder at Liverpool in 5th rather than overtaking the three sides ahead of them.

Relegated Teams:

18th – Watford

The Hornets have hit double figures for summer singings, something that appears worryingly similar to the previously doomed QPR. The step up from Championship to Premier League is an incredibly tough one and the current side have limited Premier League experience which will provide an extra barrier. Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra have formed a formidable partnership in the Championship but even their goals won’t be enough to stop Watford facing an immediate return to the second tier.

19th – Aston Villa

Aston Villa have endured tough times in recent years, not finishing above 15th in the past four seasons and looking destined for the Championship last season until Tim Sherwood was brought in and saved their campaign. However, with top scorer Christian Benteke, club captain Fabian Delph and defensive rock Ron Vlaar all leaving over the summer, top class talent in the squad looks very limited. The transfer policy seems to have been based on Newcastle’s of bringing in players from Ligue 1, something that has had mixed success at St James’ Park, whilst Sherwood is still lacking in managerial experience. Getting so many new faces to gel will be an extremely hard task and everything points towards Villa losing their Premier League status for the first time in their history.

20th – Bournemouth 

Like Burnley in 2013-14, very few people expected Bournemouth to be challenging for promotion at the start of last season. As a result, the club aren’t equipped for Premier League survival and despite the addition of the experienced Sylvain Distin, the Cherries look the weakest team in the league and set for an immediate relegation. The club scored an incredible 98 goals on the way to winning the Championship and will undoubtedly earn plaudits for their style throughout the season, but the substance required for the big time appears to be lacking.

Player of the season:

Sergio Aguero: The diminutive Argentine is the best player in the league and only injuries in recent seasons have stopped his talent coming to the fore more often. His current Manchester City record stands at 107 goals in 162 appearances, a fantastic strike rate in anybody’s book apart from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The only thing standing between Aguero and the Golden Boot is his susceptible body but if he can remain fit, expect the Argentine to scoop the top scorer award and Player of the Season.

Signing of the season:

Petr Cech: Arsenal have had goalkeeping issues for many years but the signing of Cech will solve that. The Czech international might be far from the formative years of his career but still remains one of the best keepers in the world and only the exceptional Thibaut Courtois was able to eventually displaced him at Stamford Bridge. His title-winning experience will help to reinforce the rest of the squad’s confidence whilst in a glowing endorsement, former team-mate John Terry said Cech will save Arsenal “12 to 15 points a season”; something that is definitely possible to envisage. If Cech does gain the Gunners that many points, it will be hard to argue anybody else has spent their summer money better than Wenger, particularly at the bargain price of £10 million.

Flop of the season

Yaya Touré: The Ivorian was one of the stand-out players in the league during his first four seasons in Manchester, culminating in a fantastic 20 goal haul in City’s 2013-14 title winning campaign. However, a birthday cake dispute followed and the midfielder only sporadically showed his quality last season, often looking disinterested.  At 32 he’s not getting any younger and those shows of brilliance are only likely to become fewer and farther between and if the team starts struggling, the disinterest could easily resurface. He has often been labelled as a liability playing in a two man central midfield, restricting Manual Pellegrini’s options of where to play him. Touré’s star is on the wane and this could be the season he no longer remains a City regular.


Joe Walsh

Champions and Top Four

1st – Chelsea

After winning the league comfortably by 8 points last season, I simply cannot see any outcome other than the Champions retaining their crown. The Blues are in the process of adding depth to an already strong squad, with the acquisitions of Asmir Begovic and Radamal Falcao set to be joined by a left-back and quite possibly John Stones from Everton. With Mourinho at the helm and last season’s first team remaining intact, Chelsea are still the team to beat.

2nd – Arsenal

If Arsenal can keep everyone fit this season, they have the best chance of overthrowing their London rivals. The squad’s attacking options are frightening and; as usual with an Arsene Wenger side, they probably possess the most technically gifted set of players in the league. Alexis Sanchez’s first season in the Premier League was a resounding success and he will remain the main man this season. However, the Chilean’s supporting cast is also rather handy. This should be the season we see the best of Mesut Ozil, an undoubted talent. A rejuvenated and fit Theo Walcott and Alex Oxalde-Chamberlain along with the masterful Santi Cazorla should provide solid reinforcements. I predict Arsenal will finish just short, most likely due to unnecessary slip-ups away from home.

3rd – Manchester United

There is no doubt that United have made big strides this transfer window. The Red Devils have acquired the hottest youngster in football; Memphis Depay, one of the most complete midfielders in the league; Morgan Schneiderlin and a man who has won it all; Bastian Schweinsteiger. The latter of these I think is a brilliant coup, providing Louis Van Gaal’s side with the experience and steel in midfield the have been craving since Roy Keane’s departure. Van Gaal has also put his faith in Wayne Rooney to lead his line, another wise move. However, the big worry for me is Manchester United’s defence, which is certainly a problem Matteo Darmain cannot fix by himself. A third place finish would indicate good progress from the Old Trafford outfit, and look for them to be challenging for titles again sooner rather than later.

4th – Manchester City

Progress seems to have halted at The Etihad and the Sky Blues may well have gone into reverse towards the end of last season. City have taken a big punt on Raheem Sterling – if it pays off the deal is brilliant, however I feel City may have put all their eggs in the wrong basket. Sterling; for all his trickery and lighting pace, is not a player to grab a game and change it. I have never seen Stirling lift his team when it is playing badly with a goal or a moment completely out of the blue. This is what I would expect from a player with such a hefty price tag. Manuel Pellegrini has a great deal of problems that have failed to be addressed. Their central defence; including Vincent Kompany, remains simply not good enough for a team with Champions League aspirations. Further improvements must be made in central midfield and on the wings too, as Delph and Sterling are not nearly enough. The squad needs a complete overhaul and if Sergio Aguero struggles for fitness, the Citezens will rapidly lose ground on their rivals.

Relegated Teams

18th – Watford

A shed-load of goals is what secured promotion for Watford last season with Troy Deeney, Matej Vydra and Odiom Ighalo all contributing significantly. This season though, the three will find it a lot more difficult. For example, Vydra has already struggled in the Premier League during a spell with West Brom. Without the goals I doubt Watford are up to the job defensively. They have made interesting signings in Ettiene Capoue and Jose Holebas but the lack of Premier League experience in the squad and the manager combined will prove their eventual downfall.

19th – Sunderland

The Black Cats have been on the brink of dropping out of the Premier League for the last few seasons and this will be one season too far. Sunderland have never learnt from their scares and it is no different this season – the squad desperately needs an overhaul. Dick Advocaat does not really want to be there with other matters clearly on his mind and I predict a late season manager change which will fail and Sunderand’s luck will run out.

20th – Leicester City

The Foxes summer period has been turbulent to say the least and the departure of Nigel Pearson is an extremely risky move. It was undoubtedly Pearson that inspired his seemingly doomed side to an incredible run of results which saw Leicester City comfortably stay up in the end. Without both Pearson and the leadership of Cambiasso, I fear this squad are very ordinary.

Player of the season

Alexis Sanchez – With the league’s two best strikers; Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa, struggling to stay healthy for an entire season, the league could well not see an out-and-out striker as top scorer. Eden Hazard will obviously be in contention but if Alexis Sanchez can contribute the goals he is capable of he may well fire the Gunners to the title, and in the process collect the player of the season award.

Signing of the season

Petr Cech – At the risk of sounding biased, I have included another Arsenal player here. Cech is a signing that Gunners fans have been crying out for and solves a position which has been a problem since Jens Lehmann left the club. Cech provides a calm and purposeful presence in goal, in contrast to the North London club’s recent swathe of erratic goalies. The former Chelsea star signing not only improves the goalkeeper position but also improves the defence as a whole with his supreme organisation.

Flop of the season

Everton – Rather than an individual, I believe that the most notable failure this year will come from Everton as a whole. Last season was a flop for The Blues and things may get worse for the Merseyside club before they get better. Two seasons ago, the Toffees marched to their highest ever Premier League points title, narrowly missing out on fourth place. Since then, the side has barely changed and this failure to improve has resulted in other teams catching them at a frightening rate. Ageing players such as Tim Howard, Gareth Barry and Phil Jagielka do not look like being replaced any time soon, while the like of Lukaku and Seamus Coleman are being provided with little in the way of competiton. If Everton don’t seriously strengthen in the rest of the window they could finish even further behind the like of Stoke and Palace.

As one of the more skilful players in the Premier League, can Nathan Redmond do enough to keep Norwich City up?

David Marples

Champions and Top Four

1st – Chelsea

Quite simply put, they were the best team in the land by the proverbial country mile last season and there’s nothing to suggest that they will be any weaker this time around. Diego Costa’s fitness might be a concern; an issue which was again flagged up in a pre-season friendly against Barcelona, but then again it ailed him for large portions of the last campaign his side still lifted the trophy. Besides, Loic Remy is a surprisingly adept deputy and I am confident that José Mourinho will somehow coax some quality out of Radamel Falcao if required. It will quite possibly me more difficult and a little closer this time but the Portugese manager has constructed a fabulous team that ticks along like a finely tuned Swiss clock.

2nd – Manchester United

There is a mind-boggling stockpile of quality assembled at Old Trafford these days – so much so that the supreme technician Juan Mata might find it hard to get a game with Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger fighting it out for a starting position. Memphis Depay might not be the out and out striker fans would like him to be but he will doubtlessly help Wayne Rooney to fill in the goals tally column. The hastily assembled defence might just let them down on the big occasions though.

3rd – Arsenal

Everything is in the right place, the stars are aligned, a top quality goalkeeper is on the books, trophies are nestled securely in the cabinet and harmony is rife amongst the squad. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing much really – apart from perhaps being a touch over-reliant on Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin in what are key positions in the side as a whole. Regardless of their recent excellent form, concerns persist over whether they can be relied upon to sustain their excellence over the course of the season.

4th – Manchester City

There’s no shortage of quality in the squad but too many players suffered a loss of form last season with little to suggest that they will snap out of their stupor. In defence, Kompany has looked far short of his previous insurmountable best, Demichelis is not the most reliable and Mangala has simply not settled in English football yet. Fabian Delph’s pre-season injury means that the midfield engine room is still comprised of Fernando and Fernandinho and even more worryingly, is short of James Milner. Up front, it looks like Sergio Aguero is going to have to do it all on his own again while Wilfried Bony lumbers around desperately attempting to recapture his Swansea form. Expect more furrowed brows than ever creeping across Manuel Pellegrini’s face.

Relegated Teams:

Leicester City – The defence looks to have greater stability with the permanent signing of Robert Huth. Exciting talents in the form of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Andrej Kramaric now have an invaluable Premier League season under their belts. For all his glowering and bristly demeanour, Nigel Pearson certainly knew how to get the best out of the players at his disposal, most of which had been with him for a while. Claudio Ranieri’s appointment might well turn out to be a brilliant stroke of genius but then again, I don’t suspect that it will; just ask Greece fans. Besides, the power of the infamous ‘second season syndrome’ knows no bounds and Leicester may well be found susceptible to it.

Watford – The Hornets played some thrilling stuff in the process of waltzing their way out of the Championship but sooner or later, the churn of players and managers is bound catch up with them. Admittedly, it has not done much harm thus far and they have gone some way towards proving that a team can be fashioned and created quickly rather than having to be carefully nurtured over seasons. However, Matej Vydra struggled in the top tier last time whilst at West Brom and the signing of Etienne Capoue to bring experience and solidity to the defence is nowhere near as reassuring as one would hope.

Norwich City – The nucleus of the team from their previous Premier League incarnation remains – a positive in terms of experience but not so beneficial if lessons haven’t been learned. Alex Neil is a steely type of character who wouldn’t look out of place playing the quiet but fierce enforcer in a British gangster film; one that will always have a trick up his sleeve. An observer does have wonder about the quality present at Carrow Road and whether they possess enough strength in depth to avoid a season of struggle.

Player of the Season:

Morgan Schneiderlin – Neat, skilful and effortlessly efficient in everything he does, Schneiderlin will surely be an excellent acquisition for Manchester United. He not only wins the ball but is creative too, so perhaps he might be just the type of player United need. The former Southampton man can bring some cohesion and organisation to the defensive area of midfield that seemed sorely lacking at times last season.

Signing of the Season:

Yohan Cabaye – At 29 years of age, Cabaye is arguably in his prime as a midfield maestro. His departure from Newcastle and the club’s decline seem inextricably bound together and for him to flee PSG for Pardew suggests that he is in the mood to bring a touch of elegance and class to Selhurst Park.

Flop of the Season:

Roberto Firmino – There is no doubt that he will show hints of promise marauding in and around the front line, perhaps so much so that he will even get in the way of Phillippe Coutinho. But his versatility will be his downfall as he will be deployed at left back in a new-fangled lopsided ‘element of surprise’ formation by Brendan Rodgers. He and Lazar Markovic will become buddies on the bench by November, not helping to dispel the theory that Brendan Rodgers is far from astute in the transfer market.

Adam Payne

Champions and Top Four

1st – Chelsea

Do Chelsea play the best football? Not by most people’s standards it has to be said but does this really matter? That is open to debate. What certainly does matter however is winning football matches and no team in the league is better at doing just that than José Mourinho’s Chelsea. I suspect that they will be pushed closer by an improved set of rivals but the balance of José’s squad is simply unmatched by the efforts of Wenger, Pellegrini and Van Gaal. Begovic and Falcao could turn out to be very shrewd signings too.

2nd – Arsenal

An optimistic mood has settled on the Emirates amid the belief that this Arsenal team could go all the way next season. No league team has defended better than Arsenal in 2015 and going forward, Wenger is able to boast an embarrassment of riches. Can Giroud be a title-winning striker? He is talented for sure but I just do not see him as a player at that level. Add a Benzema or Lacazette to the fold and the conversation changes, however until the powers-that-be cash their next huge cheque I struggle to see Wenger getting the better of Jose over 38 games. This squad is better equipped than the Manchester clubs to secure the next best finish on offer however.

3rd – Manchester City.

Is it just me or does City’s business so far this summer leave a great deal of questions unanswered for a club absolutely determined to win the title back? The departure of Jovetic and imminent exit of Dzeko leaves Pellegrini with not a great deal of choice at the top end of the pitch, while the arrival of Delph is unlikely to breathe a huge gust of new life into midfield.  Pellegrini’s squad remains an ageing bunch and fresh, young, exciting talent is a must. Raheem Sterling is a fine start but other areas of the squad could really use a shake-up. Rumoured target Kevin De Bruyne would add an extra dimension to attack and Paul Pogba would give the midfield one hell of a revamp – but these deals don’t appear yet to be forthcoming however. A team with Aguero, Silva, Hart and company is a match for anyone on its day but new faces are certainly needed.

4th – Manchester United.

Van Gaal has bought very well so far this summer in my opinion but is what he has enough for a title challenge? Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Darmian and Depay all bring something useful to the squad and for the first time in years, the problematic position of central midfield appears to have been solved. Can Rooney really do it all himself up top across four competitions though? Are Jones and Smalling up to it at the top level? I certainly expect United to enjoy an improvement on last season but until a top striker and world-class central defender are signed, talk of the title is somewhat of a futile venture. The movements of David De Gea are of course hugely significant too. The Spaniard’s heroics may well have saved United over ten points last season – an amount they can’t afford to surrender with Liverpool, Spurs and others hot on their heels.

Relegated Teams

18th – Leicester

After miraculously surviving the drop last season, I expected the club to look towards steadying the ship. Sacking the manager is not exactly how I’d go about it; though the board were not left with much choice given his antics over the season, and replacing him with a guy with no experience of a relegation battle would probably not be my next move either. Claudio Ranieri is an incredibly strange choice and one that brings all kind of risks. The ex-Chelsea man has been slow to make moves in the window and just does not fill me with a confidence as the manager to steer the club away from troublesome waters.

19th – Watford

Not only do Watford have a host of new signings to try and settle into the team, but a brand new manager in Quique Sanchez Flores to try and oversee it. Flores simply has to have his squad up to speed as soon as possible for the club to avoid an immediate return to the Championship but amid so much change I really cannot see this happening. The Hornets also had a habit of giving up goals before coming from behind last season but such a practice is unlikely to serve them well in the unforgiving Premier League.

20th – Bournemouth

I would absolutely love to see Eddie Howe’s side write the story of the season and survive the drop – but I would also like to win the ‘Euromillions’ next week. In fairness, the odds are not that slim, but if Bournemouth were to do the unthinkable then it would be a staggering achievement. The signings of seasoned pros such as Adam Federici and Sylvain Distin certainly won’t harm their cause and with nothing to lose, who knows what they could achieve? Dean Court will not be an easy place for any team to go and big shock or two should not be ruled out. Can they do it over 38 games? Prove me wrong, boys…

Player of the season

I am going to make a bold claim here and go for the enigmatic Mesut Özil. The World Cup winner has endured a patchy time at Arsenal so far with injury and “exhaustion” of international duty disabling him from putting a lengthy run of form together. However in two seasons he has displayed sheer brilliance on numerous occasions and is potentially a player of the season waiting to happen.  I have not seen an Arsenal team so glowing and confident in a long time and provided that he can stay away from the treatment room, I would not be surprised at all to see Ozil flourish in this side next season.  After watching Özil and the rest of his team brush off the challenge of Lyon in pre-season, Arsene Wenger claimed the German will achieve big things in his third season at the club – I am tempted to agree with him.

Signing of the season

It must be said that a number of great deals have been completed this summer. The free transfer of James Milner to Liverpool ought to have Ian Ayre facing the charge of robbery while for the measly fee of £4 million, Everton have acquired the services of an incredibly talented youngster in the form of Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu. The signing of the season so far though for me simply has to be Yohan Cabaye to Crystal Palace. The French international may not have featured regularly at PSG but is rightly regarded as one of the most gifted players to grace the Premier League in recent years. At 29, the ex-Newcastle man is not getting any younger but there are no signs of his brilliance wavering as he prepares for his first season at Selhurst Park. Talk about a coup.

Flop of the season

I am going do things a little differently here and go for a manager in the shape of Slaven Bilic. The English football fan is known to be partial to a romantic appointment and this was evidenced once again in the reaction to West Ham United replacing Big Sam with ex-player Bilic. Not only is the Croatian noted for being a former Hammer but was also the face behind his country’s famous win over England in Euro qualifying back in 2008. Sounds like a great appointment, right? I’m not so sure.  Bilic’s international CV may make impressive reading but his history in club management is far from gleaming. He left FC Lokomotiv Moscow in 2013 after leading the club to its worst league finish since the establishment of the Russian championship and lasted just one season at his next club Besiktas. An improvement on Big Sam? I am going to take some convincing. On a side note, Bilic is said to incorporate music into the dressing room as a source of inspiration for his players. I’m expecting Big Sam to receive a copy of Take That’s ‘Back For Good’ from David Gold before the season is out.

Will the addition of Memphis Depay to Manchester United’s ranks help turn them into a title-challenging force once more?

Harvey Lewis

Champions and Top Four

1st – Chelsea

With Mourinho not indulging in a great deal of transfer activity this summer, some pessimist may say they haven’t added depth to their title winning ranks. However, do they really need to? The Blues have a solid starting eleven and an equal back up in every position. They can also alter the formation in potential title deciding games, with Mourinho pondering the choice of a lineup accommodating both Diego Costa and Radamel Falcao. This wide variety will give Chelsea the edge over the other title contenders ensuring they retain their trophy for a second year running.

2nd – Arsenal

Having added a world class goalkeeper in Petr Cech, The Gunners are serious title contenders this year. However, Wenger’s men aren’t currently of the same class as Chelsea. Arsenal have endured a tough time in the league having become known for fading away at the final hurdle. It may be a case of others below having poor seasons rather than the Gunners being outstanding. They have a strong first team to compete but lack the longevity, especially if in juries infest at The Emirates.

3rd – Manchester United 

After achieving bare minimum last season, Van Gaal has been given an easy ride by United fans considering his constant formation tinkering and his confidence shattering brutality. His investment on Di Maria failed and Van Gaal avoided the blame even though he never operated the Argentinian in his best position. However, the United manager has noticed the need for a central midfielder, he’s now got 7. With such talent in the middle of the park, and the array around it, there’s no way United cannot make progress. United possess depth and ability which will enable them to win key clashes. They’ll finish third due to the stability of the two London sides above them.

4th – Manchester City

An addition of Raheem Sterling has done little to convince people about City’s title winning credentials. The policy of throwing money at it has become despised but also has hindered The Citizens. With aims of a Champions League trophy, their league form could be damaged and with rumours about Pep Guardiola’s Bayern future hanging over Manuel Pellegrini’s head, the pressure could get too much. City, like Arsenal, have a stunning starting eleven but look pretty bland after that. The lack of quality from the bench could ruin them this season and if injury hinders star man Sergio Aguero they will be left chasing the pack.

Relegated Teams:

Leicester City – With a lack of attraction surrounding the Midlands club, being a relatively small city, the transfers into the club have been slow. Charles Aranguiz is said to have doubts about joining even after the agreement by both clubs involved. This could be detrimental to the club with European ambitions within 3 years of promotion. The other issue lies with the uncertainty about the choice of manager. Claudio Ranieri has had a mixed career and many fans are uneasy to whether he’s up to the survival challenge. His mission has not been made any easier by Esteban Cambiasso however. The man who’s admired as ‘magic’ by the Foxes fans decided against renewing his contract leaving a gaping hole in Leicester’s team, in terms of both quality and experience. The Foxes look set for a season of struggle and look likely to end up in the Championship next year.

Watford – The Hornets have added a fair few imports this summer and like QPR a few seasons ago, could struggle to bond new and old players over the course of the season. Paired with the lack of managerial stability, averaging one per season under the Pozzo family, Watford could receive a fair few hidings this season as the ship starts to sway. With 11 new men through the door already; none of whom could be necessarily classed as eye-catching signings, the squad’s average aura will mean they end up back in the Championship. The Hornets are also over reliant on Troy Deeney’s goals while at the back the addition of Sebastian Prodl has not dispersed relegation fears. Three factors will nail down Watford’s relegation; boardroom/owner instability, poor signings and the differences in the dressing room, with Watford playing host to 22 different nationalities this season.

AFC Bournemouth – Boasting a comparatively miniscule capacity of 11,000, Bournemouth’s achievements are admirable and credit must go to Eddie Howe who has transformed the cub magnificently. However, they just will not be able to cut it with the big boys. The Premier League will prove too tough especially as they were not exactly solid at the back last season in the Championship. The consumption of goals will be their downfall and even if Callum Wilson is able to fire at a consistent rate, they will lose out at the other end. The aforementioned player; Wilson, only needs to have a good half-season before being snapped up by a more financially powerful side than Bournemouth, especially as he counts as home-grown. An imitation of Blackpool’s Premier League adventure will become the story of Bournemouth’s season as they sink back into the Championship.

Player of the Season:

Eden Hazard – José Mourinho has called it, so who are we to argue. The self proclaimed ‘Special One’ has insisted Hazard will be even better this season causing defenders across the country to shriek with fear. Eden Hazard ended last campaign with a Player of the Season award, 14 goals and 8 assists however he is far from resting on his laurels. Hazard himself has said he must improve while aiming to reach the heights of Messi and Ronaldo. However, 40+ goals a season may not be achievable for the Belgian, but being by far the best in the Premier League again is certainly within his grasp. With world class players surrounding him and magic at his feet, the 24 year old will be a wonder to watch throughout the 2015-16 campaign.

Signing of the Season:

Ibrahim Afellay – Having previously had Georginio Wijnaldum in my preliminary thoughts as the player of the season, Newcastle’s lacklustre pre-season has cast doubts over their revival. However, the same can hardly be said about Stoke City. Mark Hughes is well into his passing revolution at the Britannia and the addition of Afellay has done little to hinder the change. An academy graduate at Barcelona, the Dutchman failed to make the breakthrough into the first team and has had various spells on loan, impressing at some while failing at others. However, being surrounded by other former Catalan men will enable Afellay to undergo a smooth transition, while his undoubted talent will impress on the pitch. Afellay could form part of an impressive campaign by Stoke with Europa League a possibility and the Dutchman; who arrived on a free, could end with a bountiful number of goals and assists, especially if he impresses on his first few outings.

Flop of the Season:

Adnan Januzaj – The young Belgian who broke through under David Moyes has certainly suffered under the pressure of being labelled as a ‘future Ballon D’or winner’. Whether you agree with the tag or not, Januzaj has a majestic aura on a football pitch and possesses the ability to win games on his own. He is certainly special as when United are struggling and Januzaj is on the pitch, they repeatedly look to him for inspiration. However, Van Gaal is perhaps being a little arrogant and just does not seem to fancy him. The progress made under Moyes was reversed by Van Gaal and the tricky Belgian who is capable of holding down a first team spot received very little game time. Now Manchester United’s brightest academy talent of recent times is having his preferred position altered by the Dutch manager after appearing as a striker during pre-season. It is not Januzaj’s own fault that he is down as a candidate for flop of the season but Van Gaal’s curious attitude will mean the glittering Belgian will have another poor campaign where one bad performance will probably get criticised by his manager, leaving Januzaj severely lacking in confidence. It would not come as a surprise to me to see Januzaj appearing for another team either on loan from January onwards or permanently next summer.

Arlen Pettitt

Champions and Top Four

1st – Chelsea
There are two ways you can tell José Mourinho is confident ahead of the coming season. The first; he has not felt the need to strengthen his side massively. The second; he is spending his time teasing and poking at the opposition. Chelsea were over-worldly for much of last season, and there is no reason this cannot be the same again this season. A Community Shield loss to Arsenal has not helped their preparations, and the battle with Arsene Wenger’s side will be the plot arch of the coming season, but Chelsea will be too much.

2nd – Arsenal
Arsene Wenger has been brewing this particular team for many years now. Two consecutive FA Cups and a strong pre-season have Gunners fans daring to dream that this might be their year. Petr Cech is a huge signing for the club; a diligent and talented keeper with the sort of quality they have lacked between the sticks since Jens Lehmann departed. In terms of creativity, Arsenal are unmatched. With Sanchez, Cazorla and Özil in particular, they have world-beating talents but they are still missing a top quality partner for Olivier Giroud. There is still time to correct that deficiency but more crucially, do they have the grit and the guile to grind out results the way that is absolutely necessary if you are to win the league? Competition will be fierce, but they will just miss out.

3rd – Manchester United
Louis van Gaal continues to strengthen at Old Trafford, and United continue to spend big money. The Dutchman will be desperate for Memphis Depay to hit the ground running and for Morgan Schneiderlin to make the step up. On this front, he should not be too fearful as it is not as big a step up as it used to be from Southampton to Manchester United. It will surely be another intriguing season, but consistency in defence and consistency of results will prevent them from making a concerted challenge for the title. They will edge it in the battle between the two Manchester sides though.

4th – Manchester City
The blue half of Manchester have spent big as well; young Raheem Sterling got his wish and will be gracing the turf at The Etihad this season. He has been the sole marquee signing; with all due respect to Fabian Delph, in a team that for all its expensively assembled squad is still dangerously reliant on the magnificence of Sergio Aguero. The Blue Moon may be beginning to fade just a little.

Relegated Teams

18th – Aston Villa
There are two giant holes in Tim Sherwood’s side; a side that just barely avoided relegation last time out. Without Benteke and without the talismanic Fabian Delph, they will struggle again this time around. The manner of Benteke’s departure was inevitable, but Delph’s – complete with public proclamations, about-faces and all manner of confused posturing – was disruptive, and the side lost a key player and a captain in a way that is bound to have shaken the dressing room. If they are to survive this season; and this seems unlikely, Scott Sinclair will have to show the league what it has been missing while he’s been in the wilderness, and Jack Grealish will have to graduate early from wonder-kid to stalwart.

19th – Norwich City
Norwich were worthy play-off winners in the Championship last year, but they did have their weaknesses exposed at times. Alex Neil glavanised a team that was drifting when he arrived in January, and the form of Cameron Jerome and Bradley Johnson carried them to promotion. Jerome however is not a stand-out performer at Premier League level, and they are unlikely to have the goals from elsewhere to enable them to compete. They will enjoy the ride, cause the occasional upset, but ultimately lack the quality needed to survive.

20th – Watford
Poor Watford. They came so close to winning the Championship title last season, neck and neck with Bournemouth but were pipped to the post at the death. They have spent this summer looking to strengthen their team for the Premier League season, and the received wisdom is that is the right thing to do. However, that is of course not all there is to it – momentum is important even across seasons; Bournemouth have it and Watford simply do not. There is always one team that spends and ends up looking silly, this season it will be Watford.

Player of the season
Wayne Rooney: Wayne Rooney is expecting a lot from himself this season, with this expectation perhaps only being matched by his manager. The promise is that Rooney will be played in his favoured centre forward role, and as a result, we will surely see goals galore. It is strange that a player with more than one hundred appearances for his country and the chance to beat Bobby Charlton’s England goal record before the age of thirty is not the receiver of greater respect. He has worked tirelessly in a variety of positions for United in recent years and as a result, it has been a while since we have witnessed Wayne at his powerful, prolific best – but this might be the year.

Signing of the season
Christian Benteke: Liverpool shelled out more than £30million to bring Benteke to Merseyside and if he brings his goal scoring boots with him, he is bound to be worth every penny. Anfield loves a figurehead for a striker, a player who embodies what the team is at that moment – think Rush, Fowler or Torres. Benteke could burn just as brightly, with his rare combination of power and technique. Of course, Liverpool’s other key players may have to adjust their play-style to supply the Belgian with deliveries to take maximum advantage from his significant attributes.

Flop of the season
Harry Kane: Not a new signing, but a player needing to prove himself nonetheless. Kane had such a good season last time around that this will be more about expectations than performance. The whole country is willing him to be unstoppable again, desperate for him to kick on and put himself in the pack with the very best. That’s a lot of pressure on young shoulders. Hopefully he responds well but if not, then it could be a disappointing season.

Will Chelsea’s brilliant Belgian hold off competition from the likes of Alexis and Aguero to be Player of the Season once more?

Wes Smith

Premier League Champion and Top Four

1st – Chelsea

Chelsea were the best team in England last term and nothing over the summer has convinced me this will fail to be the case for this season as well. Asmir Begovic will be motivated to push Thibaut Courtois to achieve even greater heights and if; and it is a massive if, Falcao can get anywhere close to replicating his pre-Monaco form, then Chelsea could be even more potent.

2nd – Manchester City

£49 million man Raheem Sterling will add a huge injection of pace to a team severely lacking a driving force last year and the attacking combination of Sterling, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Touré could wreak havoc on the rest of the league. The defence however was leaky and that could be their downfall once more if Vincent Kompany cannot regain his form and Eliaquim Mangala continues to fail to deliver on his expensive price tag.

They are still lacking a creative force to take the burden off Silva, hence the reported pursuits of Kevin De Bruyne and now supposedly Isco. The central midfield does lack quality and it remains to be seen if Fabian Delph will provide the midfield upgrade they require. Paul Pogba would have satisfied all of these criteria, but that saga is yet to show any signs of being concluded any time soon. City will be dangerous and will be hurting from their poor title defence last season, but has the squad been rejuvenated enough for another title push?

3rd Arsenal

The addition of Petr Cech will provide a huge boost for Arsenal and he could easily be worth six points alone as an upgrade on Ospina or Szczesny. One of Arsenal’s biggest weaknesses over the past few years has been the failure to win important games against their rivals, however last year saw a change of tactics from Arsene Wenger and the victory at Manchester City was extremely impressive. It remains to be seen if the defence and defensive midfield positions are of title-winning calibre.

Olivier Giroud has provided some important goals for Arsenal, but I am still yet to be convinced that he is the right man to fire the Gunners to the title. Should they be successful however with the reported pursuit of Karim Benzema, then they can definitely overhaul Chelsea.

4th – Manchester United

The Red Devils have strengthened in midfield as well as right back during the transfer window so far, although I am not completely convinced that Bastian Schweinsteiger is the answer to their midfield prayers. The capture of Memphis Depay will provide excitement down the left hand side of the attack, but just having James Wilson and a potentially unsettled Chicharito backing up Wayne Rooney could be the Red Devils undoing. To truly challenge, they need another striker, something Louis Van Gaal hinted at in a cryptic press conference last week. At this point though it is difficult to see them as true challengers.

As for the top four contenders, Liverpool have added wisely and it seems to be Brendan Rodgers best transfer window since he took charge at Anfield. Nevertheless, I am not sure if they are quite ready yet although they will be close and ready to pounce should anyone slip up. Spurs have bought well with the signing of Toby Alderweireld, but there is not the quality to last the pace that the top four will set.

Relegated Teams – AFC Bournemouth, Norwich City and Watford

There is quite often a surprise candidate for relegation, but this season it is difficult to see the newly promoted teams surviving although a few may run them close.

The four teams that flirted with relegation last season; namely Aston Villa, Leicester City, Newcastle United and Sunderland, have all strengthened over the summer and even though Villa have lost key members in Benteke and Delph, they have set about spending the proceeds on improving different areas of their squad. It has to be said however that it will be a huge test to replace the big Belgian’s goals, especially for a team that isn’t prolific.

Bournemouth have had an incredible few years and Eddie Howe’s men play an exciting brand of football, but the lack of quality and depth in their squad could be the undoing. Although in my opinion, they have done more to enhance their chances of survival than Norwich City, who I think will finish bottom. Watford have strengthened well, and could be the promoted team to survive the drop if any of them can manage it.

Sunderland and Aston Villa could provide hope for the promoted teams, although the Black Cats are reportedly closing in on the signing of Yann M’Vila. It seems as though he has been on the verge of many a move to a Premier League side but after spending seasons in the top divisions of France, Russia and Italy, he should bring essential quality to the side.

Player of the Season

Sergio Aguero: Last season’s Golden Boot winner can win games single-handedly and will no doubt be in contention for the award again this year. His link-up play with David Silva is already well established and if he can develop an understanding with Raheem Sterling too; a player who set up more goal scoring opportunities from open play than anyone but Silva and Eden Hazard last season, he should be in for another productive and possibly title-winning year.

The current goal scoring record for a 38 game season is held Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez. The Argentinian has all the talent to break that record if he can stay fit. There have been reports this off-season that claim City have found the solution to his injury problems and if this is found to be true, there will be a few sleepless nights for Premier League defenders this season.

Signing of the Season

Andre Ayew: There have been several eye-catching transfers so far this summer, but Swansea’s signing of Andre Ayew on a free transfer ranks amongst the best value.

Although his name appears to have been bounded around Premier League transfer gossip columns for a number of seasons now, Ayew is still just 25 years old and entering the traditional peak period in an outfield player’s career.

The Ghanaian international; who has won 62 caps for his country, will add creativity, pace and goals to the Welsh outfit. Last season, he scored 13 goals in 35 games for Marseille and maintaining this sort of form, he could provide the goals that fire The Swans into the Europa League this season. His ability to play across the attacking line will also be of immensely useful to Garry Monk’s side.

Flop of the Season

Bastian Schweinsteiger: This is an incredibly difficult category to predict, but there were a few potential candidates for this unwanted award including Radamel Falcao, Roberto Firmino and Fabian Delph to name a few, but in the end I decided upon Bastian Schweinsteiger as my prediction for the biggest flop of the season.

There are obvious positives; he is a World Cup winner and will add huge experience and ability to United’s midfield which has been lacking real talent to compliment Michael Carrick’s skill set. However with a huge salary, United have to keep the 31 year old fit and that has been a problem over the past few years. He managed just 20 Bundesliga games last season and it has been suggested that he would have enjoyed even less game time if Pep Guardiola had not been under such huge pressure to select him straight after the much anticipated return from injury. According to Sqauwka, his form has dipped over the past few years as the injuries have taken its toll.

The Premier League is renowned for its unforgiving nature and even the most experienced players often struggle to adapt initially to the pace and physicality. Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal are expectant, so Schweinsteiger will need to find his feet quickly, something I feel he will find it too difficult to achieve.

Can Manchester City’s senior players come to the party this season, helped along by a summer of refreshing additions?

Chris Lowe

1st – Chelsea

I think The Blues will be victorious once again. They have the strongest back 5 in the league by a considerable margin, the top central midfield partnership in the league with Fabregas and Matic, the Premier League’s leading light in Eden Hazard and a finishing maestro in Diego Costa up top. While Falcao and Begovic are the only significant additions, I think they will have enough to earn Mourinho’s fourth Premier League title.

2nd – Manchester United

They have arguably done the best business of anyone in the window. Long standing target Schniederlin was signed, Memphis Depay was secured and Bastian Schwienstieger brought in for a relatively low fee. I expect a top class centre half to be signed in the remaining weeks of the transfer market and the Sergio Ramos saga will rumble on, no doubt. Retaining David de Gea; should they achieve it, will be the most important piece of business they do this summer.

3rd – Manchester City

Good business has been completed so far, with Delph, Roberts and Sterling joining the ranks at The Etihad. Fabian Delph adds to their midfield, Roberts is one for the future but a sparkling prospect and there can be no doubt as to the talent of Raheem Sterling if he can return to the form of 13/14. My only worry is at centre half. Kompany was off the pace for vast parts of last season; though I expect better from him this time around, and Mangala endured a difficult first campaign. The post-Christmas form was a worry and cannot be repeated if they wish to challenge the champions. Mourinho’s Chelsea started their season superbly last time around and I expect the same again; City will need to match them if they want their title back.

4th – Arsenal

Petr Cech is a magnificent signing but I cannot see it being enough to push them on to challenge Chelsea. If they sign a striker and a defensive midfielder then things could change but as it stands, I think they will finish fourth.

Relegated Teams

I find this so difficult to call and at the risk of sounding predictable, I am going to go for the three promoted clubs. Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa; all of whom flirted with relegation last season, have spent a fair amount of money and on paper look stronger than the three promoted sides. Of the clubs present in the top flight last season, I fear most for Leicester. No Cambiasso, no Pearson and Ranieri at the helm having spent eleven seasons out of the English game. It poses several questions and if Ranieri survives the season I would be surprised. In my opinion, Sam Allardyce ending up at Leicester to rescue them from the mire once the New Year rolls around is quite a safe bet.

Bournemouth – I think that the south coast outfit will go down but I am certainly looking forward to seeing them in the top flight. Bournemouth fans won’t be in any way patronised by the suggestion that their rise has been meteoric – as little as six years ago they were in League 2; a staggering and unprecedented achievement in the modern game. Eddie Howe is the brightest young manager in the country and he deserves a crack at the top flight but ultimately I think they will fall short. Tyrone Mings is a bright English prospect and it will be interesting to see how he acclimatises to the Premier League while Matt Richie will surely excite. Max Gradel’s return to the English game for £7m will provide pace and verve on the wing. Expect a carnival atmosphere down on the south coast ala Bloomfield Road 2010/11.

Watford – There is no doubt they have improved their squad since sealing their third Premier League promotion. Etienne Capoue will be important in the centre of their midfield. They have potentially lethal firepower as Deeney, Ighalo and Vydra were prolific in the second tier but the lack of Premier League experience is poignant.

Norwich – I think that of all the promoted sides, The Canaries have the best chance of staying up. Solid and experienced Premier League players in Mulumbu and Dorrans are astute signings and will strengthen the centre of the park while Nathan Redmond was magnificent once Alex Neil took over. Cameron Jerome has been hit-and-miss in the top flight though he comes into this season on the back of his most prolific season since his breakthrough year at Cardiff. His goals will be vital to Norwich City’s chances but they need more striking prowess up front if they are to stay up.

Player of the Season – Eden Hazard. The jewel in the Premier League crown. Electrifying in the most part last season and now is truly living up to the billing and hype that surrounded his arrival on these shores; quite simply a genuine world class talent.


Signing of the Season – 4 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League; all for £10 million in the form of the imposingly framed Petr Cech. Bargain.

Flop of the Season – Radamel Falcao. Maybe not in terms of financial outlay, but last season Falcao was a pale imitation of the man who terrorised Europe with Porto and Atlético and the acquisition of a striker past his peak smacks of previous Chelsea vanity projects; namely Shevchenko and Torres. Mourinho evidently believes he can resurrect the career of the Columbian but the likelihood of him returning to his once terrifying best is slim.

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