The 2015-16 Premiership season is almost upon us, I will have a lot at each team and access what they have done thus far and what they possibly still need to do to achieve their target.
I shall split this into 3 parts, the first part being the hypothetical bottom seven, including the three promoted sides, and the four teams who survived the drop, (positions 14-17th), in the Premiership last season.
Bournemouth (Last season – 1st in the Championship)
The only times I have had to mention Bournemouth before the 2014/15 season was because voluptuous glamour model/page 3 girl Lucy Pinder was discovered on the beach there. Manager Eddie Howe’s boys though after producing some lovely free flowing attacking football, more than deserve last season, more than deserve their opportunity to mix it with the big boys.
Highly touted young full back Tyrone Mings was scooped up from Ipswich Town. The big question will be whether he can fulfil his great potential. The Championship winners will face a savagely tough challenge to stay up, but with the shrewd free transfers of former Everton centre half Sylvain Distin and two goalkeepers Polish keeper Artuc Boruc and Adam Federici, these experienced heads will be good for the dressing room and bring much needed experience at the back which could see them beat the drop. Max Gradel turned down bigger offers to join from St Etienne giving attacking flair to midfield. Lee Tomlin has joined from Middlesborough to add to the frontline.
To do list – Bournemouth racked up almost 98 goals en route to the title in the 14-15 season. Ghanaian winger Christian Atsu is in on loan from Chelsea who can also be used in an advanced role, and is another good piece of business. Another free purchase Joshua King has arrived from Blackburn and they have managed to keep hold of top scorer Callum Wilson, so Howe hopes there are enough goals to stay up. You would think that Bournemouth definitely need to strengthen their midfield to stay up though, so maybe they could nick someone like Darron Gibson from Everton for example.
Watford (Last season – 2nd in the Championship)
Quique Sanchez Flores is now in the hot seat at Watford, a coach who was highly sought after when in charge of La Liga outfit Valencia. They hope he can provide stability as Watford have done well to be where they are, despite their repeated managerial changes (6 managers in 2 years). This unwanted scenario would have hindered other clubs.
Former West Ham midfielder Valon Behrami has been brought in as well as Spurs’ Etienne Capoue, giving their midfield extra bite. Skilful Spanish midfielder Jose Jurado joined from Spartak Moscow, a deal that may have surprised a few. Defenders Miguel Britos who was acquired on a free from Napoli and Jose Holebas comes in from Roma. They could be two bargains if they adapt to the pace of the Premier League. Matej Vydra finally signed permanently from Udinese after two successful loan stints at Vicarage Road sandwiched a forgettable season on loan at West Brom in the 13/14 season.
To do list – Flores’ experience may just be what keeps Watford up and as a result, I actually think that they may be better equipped now to stay up rather than Bournemouth. Strength in numbers is the key here, and they have made some astute purchases. If one of Vydra or last season’s top scorers Troy Deenan and Odion Ighalo can get to a double figure goal tally in the league, then Watford should scrape the drop.
Norwich City (Last season – 3rd in the Championship, Play-Off Winners)
Play-off winners Norwich are back in the big time. This time it is under Mark Neil whose reputation is fast growing after a superb second part to last season. Neil has already commented he was not best pleased with Norwich’s slow start in bringing in players in the transfer window. Though they have brought in a couple of players, I fear that this could come back to bite them, unless they do something drastic in the next few weeks.
Andre Wisdom is in on loan from Liverpool, who can play at right back or centre half and the lively Robbie Brady joins from Hull. West Brom were raided for Youssuff Mulumbu and Graham Dorrans who you would expect to go straight into the lineup.
Who Norwich have kept is probably as important right now as who they have brang in. Nathan Redmond, part of England’s under-21 setup is a talent. Sebastian Bassong will provide experience at the back and Bradley Johnson had an outstanding 14-15 campaign bagging 15 league goals from central midfield.
To do list – John Ruddy who has made England squads in the past will have his work cut out in goal. It was important he was kept as he could have been a good back-up for a bigger club. Surely if Norwich are to escape the drop, they need at least three, probably four more additions before the window closes. Goals win games and the frontline specifically needs reinforcement if we are to smell what Delia Smith’s boys’ are cooking.
Aston Villa (Last season – 17th in the Premiership)
Losing your best three players (top scorer Christian Benteke to Liverpool, midfielder Fabian Delph to Manchester City and Ron Vlaar opted to become a free agent) are huge blows that will make or break this season. Tim Sherwood has gone about replacing Benteke by committee; Rudy Gustede the powerful striker bought in from Blackburn will provide a presence like Benteke physically, (whether he will find the net enough is another story), and Ghanaian international Jordan Ayew also comes in up front adding pace. Scott Sinclair has joined permanently after some impressive performances on loan from Manchester City last season.
Micah Richards arrived on a free from Man City and if he can recapture old form he will be a bargain. In addition Cordoba full back, Jose Angel Crespo has arrived on a three year contract. In midfield box to box Frenchman Jordan Veretout arrives from Nantes, who you would expect to go straight into Delph’s role in the midfield.
Villa’s lack of goals last season almost badly cost them. They must be more expansive this season, without being reckless. Sherwood is not the most tactical manager to me and they may need luck at the back to accompany any defensive strategy that he concocts.
To do list – I’m really undecided about Villa, I think it will be black and white for them this season; I think they will do well or struggle badly. Sherwood is looking to link up again with Emmanuel Adebayor; if they can get him in then this gives them even more variety up front. If holding midfielder Idrissa Gueye, bought from Lille, settles then Villa should be okay despite the names they have lost. Aly Cissokho has gone on loan to Porto, so you would think they need another left back in, as well as another centre half.
Sunderland (Last season – 16 in the Premiership)
Sunderland have made a few decent purchases, but again will face a struggle to stay up I feel. Dick Advocaat did a U-turn and has decided to stay on for a further twelve months after originally only agreeing to stay until the end of the 14-15 campaign.
Connor Wickham has joined Crystal Palace, and though they have two of the better finishers in the league in Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher, they have lacked service from the midfield. Dutch international Jeremain Lens, who has an eye for goal, joins from Dynamo Kiev and can play out wide or up top.
Sebastian Coates comes in permanently from Liverpool after spending last season on loan; the erratic Younes Kaboul signed from Spurs and Adam Matthews has come in from Celtic giving them more options in defence. In midfield, Ricky Alvarez, who was on loan last season from Inter, (once touted by Arsene Wenger) is yet to join, as legal reasons hold up a deal that should have gone through after Sunderland managed to avoid the drop.
To do list – Another out and out striker to support the cause. Although Lens has come in, he is not the natural front man they need; more presence is needed up top if they are to stay up. Defence has clearly been Advocaat’s priority so far. They need more creativity in the midfield if they are to supply their front men so they can survive. To summarise, another struggle is on the cards.
Newcastle United (Last season – 15th in the Premiership)
I’m sure the Magpies’ fans would agree, the best piece of business they did this summer was getting rid of John Carver. Though new Coach Steve McClaren took Derby from 1st to not even a place in the Championship play-offs last season they ‘should’ still have more than enough to finish a few places higher than last year.
Talented Dutch international midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum has come in from PSV Eindhoven along with the Anderlecht pair comprising of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic & defender Chancel Mbemba. They have kept hold of Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini whose on-the-pitch communication is vital. If the likes of Cheick Tiote and exciting youngster Rolando Aarons can stay fit then Newcastle should be fine. Moussa Sissoko is linked with a move away and they must try at all costs to keep the powerful midfielder.
A forgotten man also is Dutchman Siem De Jong who spent virtually the whole 14-15 season on the sidelines. This is a player who has enough about him to make a good impact. If Ayoze Perez continues to grow and the likes of Emmanuel Riviere actually realises he was bought to Newcastle to score goals, McClaren should be fine.
To do list – The defence leaked goals at crucial times last season and their defence looks lightweight this season. They need to make at least another purchase there (maybe two). With their injury concerns they may need another midfielder come January. Mitrovic has potential but another forward would be useful.
Leicester City (Last season – 14th in the Premiership)
Let truth be told. Claudio Ranieri’s diminishing reputation sees him now swimming with the bottom feeders (where he should have always been).The ‘Tinkerman’ provides experience from various leagues and will believe he can easily stay above the strugglers (we shall see). On paper though things tell a different story and Leicester need more activity to secure survival this time around.
Experience has been added at the back with Christians Fuchs who arrives from Schalke on a free and Robert Huth has signed permanently from Stoke City, as well as Yohan Benalouane from Atalanta.
Shinji Okazaki joins from Mainz after two decent seasons in Germany. Striker Leandro Ulloa blew hot and cold last season; there will be more goals needed up top unless January signing Andres Kramaric stays fit and can find the net (good luck with that).
Last season’s run of form to conclude the campaign is highly unlikely to happen again and Leicester can’t afford a mid-season dip like they experienced in 14-15. Ranieri will have to use all his experience to be successful this year; the home support will be pivotal just like they were last campaign and not many teams will find it easy travelling to the King Power Stadium. Despite this, their survival may depend on their away form.
To do list – Leicester’s squad is anaemic to say the least, though they have brought in three defenders, another is needed. In midfield they need more bodies to accompany new signing N’Golo Kante from French side Caen, having lost Esteban Cambiasso who was a driving force last season.