Part 1 of this 15-16 Season review looked at the newly promoted sides and the teams that survived the drop (14th-17th) in the Premiership last season. For the second out of this three part review of the season we now look at the teams who finished 7th to 13th in 14/15.
West Bromwich Albion (Last season – 13th)
With Tony Pulis still at the helm, you are already on board when looking at West Brom expecting them to be safe come the end of the 2015-16 season, though their signings do not immediately move you. The football he wants his teams to play may at times can be as exciting as watching paint dry but he gets results.
A quite steep 8 million pounds secured defender James Chester from Hull City, and winger James Mclean joined from Wigan Athletic. Rickie Lambert has signed from Liverpool for 3 million pounds after an anti-climactic 2014-15 season on Merseyside. Pulis will have plans to make him the target man and if they hold on to Saido Berahino (20 goals in all competitions in 14/15), then an effective throwback little man–big man partnership could be formed. Brown Ideye started slowly but then had a good run last season, they will be hoping for consistency from him to keep them clear of the drop this time around. With injury prone Victor Anichebe also still on the books, Pulis will feel he has enough firepower at hand.
West Brom surprisingly kept the second most amount of clean sheets in the top division last season with 16 and Pulis will have them organised again this term, with 10 of those 16 clean sheets coming after Pulis took over from Alan Irvine.
To-do list – Though they haven’t dabbled in the market as much as you would have thought just yet, the Baggies should be able to clearly beat the drop and solidify a mid-table position. Though they did better than expected in defence, they have lost Andre Wisdom who was on loan last season, so you would think another defender is needed along with Chester. With Mulumbu and Dorrans also exiting, you would feel the midfield needs an additional body.
West Ham United (Last season – 12th)
Upton Park welcomes former player Slaven Bilic, who whilst in charge of Croatia earlier on in his managerial career had them playing well enough to suggest he has enough about him to keep West Ham in the division.
Two eye catching purchases were the nippy midfielder Dimitri Payet, who surprised a few by moving to East London from Marseille and centre half Angelo Ogbonna who rarely looked out of place whenever he was actually given a start at Juventus. Carl Jenkinson will complete another season on loan from Arsenal to bolster right back options.
Manuel Lanzini has joined on loan from Al Jazira, and the Argentine has been touted by some as possibly the ‘new Pablo Aimar’; in essence huge shoes to fill. Darren Randolph has been bought in from Birmingham to back up Adrian in goal. Box-to-box midfielder Pedro Obiang joined from Sampdoria for 5 million pounds giving the midfield greater depth.
To do list – West Ham have a done a decent job recruiting thus far. Enner Valencia will miss the start of the season through injury which is a huge blow. Diafro Sakho started like a house on fire in 14/15 and then went cold, so you would definitely think another body up top is needed. This is because Paolo Di Canio is more likely to start more games for the Hammers this season than the injury prone Andy Carroll. If Alex Song could be brought in permanently then that would be a major coup as there is apparent interest from bigger clubs. Payet is a straight replacement for Stuart Downing so that should not be a massive loss. Overall West Ham will stay clear from the drop with their physical prowess being a real tight match-up for teams.
Everton (Last season – 11th)
The Toffees had a very disappointing 14-15 campaign. Roberto Martinez’ style was found out and though they had a decent run in the Europa Cup, their League form left much to be desired. Martinez knows he has to make waves in the transfer market, but it is more about who he can keep which is vital. Leighton Baines has reached an age where although teams know his qualities, they would be cautious about trying to bring him in, so he will stay put by default. Seamus Coleman was being tracked by Manchester United before they bought Matteo Darmian. John Stones is being so blatantly courted by Chelsea that all that is missing is a long lens camera shot of him on an Abramovich yacht with a glass of bolly. You almost feel Everton have to swallow pride and give in.
James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas are being sniffed around too, as well as record signing Romelo Lukaku, due to a recent social media message from Memphis Depay that he will see him soon. Maybe Man United will come knocking, however Everton cannot afford to lose any of these players.
Gerard Deulofeu joins from Barcelona, a player who enjoyed a successful 13-14 season with the men from the blue side of Merseyside. Tom Cleverley comes in also on a free from Man United, a player who won’t dazzle, but will recycle possession and allow Gareth Barry to be rested more.
To do list – More work has to be done in almost every position here. A better backup for Tim Howard, maybe even a replacement in goal. With Distin gone and Antolin Alcaraz also departing, a centre half needs to be purchased. They should try to get Aaron Lennon from Spurs permanently after having him on loan in the second part of last season. It may be another season of mid table obscurity unless Everton tighten up and spend before the window ends. What will help them is not having Europe as a distraction this time round though.
Crystal Palace (Last season – 10th)
Things are looking up for the Eagles. Alan Pardew a manager I’ve been highly critical of in the past came in and used his formula of power and pace to accumulate enough points to easily escape the drop zone and remarkably end up in the top half of the table.
In one of the best moves in the window, Palace have managed to lure Yohan Cabaye after an unsuccessful spell at Paris Saint Germain, he and Pardew link up again after being together at Newcastle. Conor Wickham is a decent purchase from Sunderland, though maybe a couple of million pounds too high at 9 million pounds. Alex McCarthy provides back up in goal for Julian Speroni after being bought in from Reading. Chelsea’s Patrick Bamford has been reined in on loan after spending the previous season with Championship outfit Middlesborough. After the way a fit Glenn Murray found the net, you feel that Palace,with Wickham, Dwight Gayle and Frazier Campbell up top, (added to Yannick Bolassie, Jason Puncheon and Wilfred Zaha pushing on from midfield), will have enough goal options.
At the start of the summer there were rumours of a US Consortium taking over which would be superb, but the longer speculation goes on, the less likely it seems it will happen.
To do list – With the front line looking like it may be ready, the defence needs a signing or two. Although Pardew did well, Palace overall still conceded more than they scored last season. Cabaye and Miles Jedinak could form quite a partnership of industry in central midfield. They may though need to assess in January if another midfielder is necessary, overall they should be fine and at a bare minimum finish where they did last season.
Stoke City (Last Season – 9th)
Stoke will still hope to tie up Xeridan Shaqiri from Bayern Munich which would be an outstanding purchase. Just in case they can’t though, they have slotted in Barcelona’s Dutch international Ibrahim Afellay; a deal which can turn out to be more or less on the same level as Shaqiri, as Afellay comes on a free. There could be real value here.
Mark Hughes will continue on his voyage to disconnect Stoke from the negativity of the press that surrounded his predecessor Tony Pulis’ footballing methods. With Bojan returning from injury, Stoke can mix styles when needed as they continue to bring in individuals who like having the ball on the deck.
Goalkeepers Jakob Haugaard & Shay Given join from Midtylland and Aston Villa respectively as back ups, as it would seem Jack Butland will be the number one choice in goal with Asmir Begovic going to Chelsea. Defender Philipp Wollscheid is in from Leverkusen and Glen Johnson has joined on a free transfer from Liverpool. Marko Van Ginkel has arrived on loan from Chelsea, 19 year old attacking midfielder Moha El Ouriachi comes in from Barcelona and Sergio Molino is in on a free from Real Madrid. Joselu has been brought in from Hannover to bolster forward options. If the signings adapt it will all have been great work from Hughes, who is doing a very good job at the Brittania Stadium thus far.
To do List – With captain Ryan Shawcross out for two months with back surgery, they need a centre half in that can start immediately. Losing Steven N’Zonzi to Sevilla is a big blow and a solid central midfield player is needed as cover, whom can also go into the starting line-up. Otherwise Stoke look like they have done decent business and will be fine to roughly finish in the same position as last year, but not with as many points seeing as they have the distractions of the Europa League.
Swansea City (Last season – 8th)
An early move to bring in Ghanaian International Andre Ayew on loan from Marseille showed the Swans intent. Many thought the versatile midfielder may join a bigger club. Gary Monk drew him in though, rumoured to be on 70k a week, teams have definitely missed a tick here for the tireless left footer.
Eder has been bought in from Braga to provide more competition up front; Kristoffer Nordfeldt has been brought in to back up Lukasz Fabianski in goal, also joining are defenders Franck Tabanou who left St Etienne and Kyle Naughton has arrived permanently from Tottenham too.
Importantly Fabianski has signed a four year deal, after an impressive 14-15 term when he kept 13 clean sheets. Captain Ashley Williams and Jonjo Shelvey are still here and along with Bafetimbi Gomis, the spine of the team is clearly intact. If they get another solid season from Gylfi Sigurdsson who scored freely last term then Swansea would like to think they can target an automatic Europa Cup place.
With Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer, Jefferson Montero and Ki Sung-Yong all chipping in with goals from midfield, Swansea on paper look comfortable; seasons do not always replicate their last though and they should be wary of the teams around them.
To do list – Though they have Jack Cork doing dirty work in midfield, you would think Swansea need a combative midfielder that can also play box to box for them, they will hope Eder can adapt and Gomis stays fit or they may need to add to their frontline come January. Swansea may want European football but may have to be content with about 9th or 10th.
Southampton (Last season – 7th)
Southampton were the best story of the 14-15 season. They sold numerous players and defied the odds to come 7th, just missing out on automatic qualification for the Europa Cup. They have done well to hang on to Manager Ronald Koeman who even before the end of last season was being linked to other clubs.
Southampton have made solid loan signings in Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg and Steven Caulker comes in from QPR. Sporting Lisbon’s Cedric Soares comes in at full back to replace the departed Nathaniel Clyne. Another defender in is FC Twente’s Rhu-endly Martina. ‘Dutch Xavi’ Jordy Clasie joined from Feyenoord: clearly hyperbole was used with whoever gave him that tag, but a good signing nonetheless. Malaga’s exciting Juanmi has been brought in and will support Shane Long and the main man Italian Graziano Pelle up front. Expect goals again from Saido Mane also.
Southampton have knocked out Vitesse Arnhem to secure their qualification for the Europa Cup and we will see how they balance Europe and the league as they never had to deal with this vigour last season. The fans at St Mary’s will be optimistic, but they also have to be realistic with their expectations.
To do list – Clyne has been replaced, but Morgan Schneiderlin has gone and Toby Alderweireld who spent a successful season on loan was not signed permanently, and these are huge losses. Alderweireld’s versatility at the back needs replacing and though Clasie is an accomplished passer of the football, Schneiderlin’s ability to get around the pitch will be sorely missed. Overall the Saints will be fine, but maybe replicating a 7th place finish might be a tough task. Having Jay Rodriguez back after a broken leg meant he missed the whole of last season and his return will seem like a new signing.