Premier League 2016/17 Preview – West Ham

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Dimitri Payet was West Ham’s top scorer last season, with 12 goals in all competitions. Image: BBC Sport

West Ham have had an odd summer, as they have been linked to almost every striker in Europe. Come the start of the season, they have brought in Andre Ayew and Jonathan Calleri to support Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia. They are amongst ten new signings as the Hammers move in to the Olympic Stadium, which also include the impressive captures of highly rated defensive midfielder Havard Nordtveit as well as wingers Gokhan Tore and Sofiane Feghouli. These arrivals have prepared West Ham’s squad for Europa League football, where the Hammers will be looking to improve upon last season’s shambolic European campaign. Slaven Bilic’s side really impressed in the league last season, especially new signing Dimitri Payet, and keeping hold of the Frenchman will prove to be West Ham’s best piece of business this summer. November and December will define whether West Ham can push on from last season’s seventh place finish, as they face consecutive games against Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Key Man: Dimitri Payet. The French midfielder proved the signing of last season, chipping in with nine goals, including several impossible free kicks. With West Ham’s new signings coming in, Payet can only improve, having more quality players to support him.

One to Watch: Sam Byram. The young right back joined from Leeds last January, and made four appearances in the second half of the season. Byram has been continually nominated for the Championship Young Player of the Season during his time at Leeds, and will flourish in a West Ham side that is geared towards attacking. His versatility is also an asset, with him being able to be play all the way down the right wing. If he establishes himself at West Ham this season, you can expect to see Byram challenging Nathaniel Clyne for an England spot.

Last Season: 7th   

Prediction: 9th

 

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – West Brom

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Matt Phillips has joined West Brom and will be relied upon to replace the creativity of Stephan Sessegnon. Image: Mirror Football

West Brom’s summer stinks of a lack of ambition. They have only made one signing, Matt Phillips from QPR for £5.5m. The rest of the Baggies’ business has been getting rid of the deadwood from their squad, with Sessegnon, Anichebe and Lindegaard all being released. Despite the signing of Phillips, Tony Pulis’ side will not be exciting to watch going forward. They only scored 34 times last season, with no player managing to hit double figures in league goals. Rather riskily, the club also only have seven senior defenders, if you include the newly converted left back Chris Brunt, so they could be in trouble if injuries stack up or with the fixture congestion around Christmas. West Brom don’t face any of last season’s top six until mid-October, so if they are going to avoid a relegation scrap they will have to get points on the board early on. This does mean that they face five of last season’s top eight, plus Chelsea, in their last ten games, so Pulis’ side could get dragged back in to the relegation mix.

Key Man: Matt Phillips. The winger is now 25, and has joined for a fee of £5.5m. He has so far failed to live up to the promise that he showed at Blackpool, but this new move could be what it takes to reignite his career. He has big boots to fill in the form of Sessegnon, who although inconsistent was a player who could create things out of nothing for the Baggies. Phillips will be relied upon to create for Rondon and Berahino, but there will be limited opportunities going forward given Pulis’ reserved style.

One to Watch: Jonathan Leko. The Congolese striker made five appearances for West Brom in the league last season, and you can expect him to feature more this season. With Anichebe being released, game time will be more easily available for the England Under-17 international, who also happened to win the Baggies’ Young Player of the Season award last season.

Last Season: 14th   

Prediction: 17th

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Watford

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Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo scored 28 out of Watford’s 40 goals last season. Image: Metro

It was a season of two halves for Watford last year, after they started off very well before being found out in the second half of the season. Manager Quique Sanchez Flores was sacked and replaced by Italian Walter Mazzarri. The Hornets have brought in a number of new players, with centre backs Dja Djedje and Kabasele strengthening the defence, alongside new full back Juan Camilo Zuniga reuniting with his Mazzarri on loan from Napoli. Isaac Success and Jerome Sinclair have come in up front, suggesting that Mazzarri will continue with the two up front system, given the success of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney last season. The worry for Watford will be if Ighalo and Deeney suffer a dip in form again this season, given that no other player scored more than two goals last season. Watford only won four league games in 2016, which led to them slipping down to 13th place. But at the start of the season, 13th would have been seen as a success, and you can expect Watford to be aiming for that sort of position again this time out.

Key Man: Odion Ighalo. The Nigerian striker hit the ground running at the start of last season, ending the year, scoring 15 goals in the league. He has been rewarded with a new five year deal, and will once again be relied up to score the goals to fire Watford to another mid-table finish.

One to Watch: Jerome Sinclair. The 19 year old striker has joined from Liverpool for a £4m fee. Having only made five appearances for the Reds, Sinclair is definitely one for the future. He will probably act as a fourth choice striker this season, but will likely see some game time in the league over the course of the year.

Last Season: 13th   

Prediction: 13th

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Tottenham

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Harry Kane has hit twenty goals in both of the last two seasons, and he scored one of the goals of the season against Arsenal last season. Image: The Independent

At the beginning of the season, third place would have been seen as a success for Spurs, but given the nature of their late collapse it seems a bit of a disappointment. But with a squad of young, hungry players, Maurico Pochettino’s team will be looking to improve this time around. Spurs haven’t gone crazy with their signings, only adding Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen. Wanyama adds a real presence in midfield, being the ball winner in a holding midfield duo with Eric Dier. Janssen was the joint top scorer in the Eredevisie last season with 27 goals, so will look to ease the goal scoring burden on Harry Kane. Having to compete in both the Premier League and the Champions League could really test Spurs this season, as it is unlikely that Pochettino will be able to completely change his side in Europe like last season. The defensive trio of Lloris in goal, with Alderweirald and Vertonghen in front of him is one of the best in the Premier League, whilst the creative talents of Lamela, Eriksen and Alli behind Harry Kane will mean that Spurs will again be one of the most exciting teams to watch.

Key Man: Toby Alderweirald. The Belgian defender has been very solid since moving to the Premier League. He was a key reason behind Spurs’ 13 clean sheets last season, and having a partnership for both club and country with Jan Vertonghen means that they will know each other’s game inside out.

One to Watch: Harry Winks. The young midfielder is yet to play for Spurs in the league, but has featured in the Europa League over the last two seasons. He signed a new deal in March and will look to follow Deli Alli, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb in breaking in to the Spurs midfield. With the pressures of European football on Spurs’ squad, you can expect Winks to break through in to the team this season.

Last Season: 3rd  

Prediction: 5th

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Swansea

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Gylfi Sigurdsson netted 11 goals for the Swans last season. Image: Sky Sports

Francesco Guidolin’s Swansea impressed after he replaced Garry Monk in January. After being in the relegation battle around Christmas, the Swans worked their way up to a twelfth place finish. Swansea were one of the lowest scorers in the Premier League, and two of their tops scorers, Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis, have left the club. Much will be expected of new signing Fernando Llorente to replace these goals. The big miss for Swansea will be Ashley Williams, who has left to join Everton. As well as being one of the best defenders in the league, Williams has been a captain and a leader for the Swans. Replacing his influence will be very difficult. Mike van der Hoorn has been brought in, but will have to adapt to the Premier League very quickly if the Swans are going to avoid slipping down the table. Swansea face a very tough run of six games starting with a trip to champions Leicester at the end of August, so the pressure will be on the new signings to settle in to life at the Liberty Stadium very quickly.

Key Man: Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelandic midfielder has been an integral part of the Swansea team since his return from his spell at Spurs. He was the club’s second top scorer last season with 11, also providing four assists. His ability to create will be key in allowing Fernando Llorente lead the line, whilst Sigurdsson himself will be looking to top the scoring charts.

One to Watch: Stephen Kingsley. The 22 year old defender made his Swansea debut last season after joining in 2014. Despite only making five appearances for the Swans, Kingsley has already been capped for Scotland. He can play at either centre back or left back, and could be called upon at centre back if Van der Hoorn cannot settle quickly in to the division.

Last Season: 12th

Prediction: 12th

Premier League 2016/17 Preview -Sunderland

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Jermain Defoe scored 15 goals for Sunderland last season, including one in the Tyne-Wear derby. Image: Daily Mail

Sunderland narrowly escaped relegation last season almost entirely down to Jermain Defoe. The veteran striker scored 15 of Sunderland’s 48 league goals last season, with defender Patrick van Aanholt trailing him with only 6 goals. Manager Sam Allardyce has left for the England job, and has been replaced by David Moyes. Moyes’ reputation has been tainted by his spell in charge of Manchester United, but he Sunderland is a similar job to what he had at Everton. Not having the pressure of managing one of the biggest clubs in the world could be what Moyes needs to rebuild his career. He has brought in a contingent of United youngsters, with Adnan Januzaj, Donald Love and Paddy McNair all joining the club. The Black Cats have got rid of a lot of deadwood, with Steven Fletcher, Wes Brown and Santiago Vergini amongst those to leave the club. Sunderland will need another striker capable of scoring more than 10 league goals if they are to improve on last year. Moyes will make sure that Sunderland will continue to be hard to beat, having also added Chelsea reject Papa Djilobodji to the defence. Despite playing Chelsea on the final game of the season, the rest of Sunderland’s run-in is against sides that will be in the relegation scrap, so their performances there will dictate the success of their season.

Key Man: Jermain Defoe.  Sunderland’s top scorer last season, Defoe will again be integral to the Black Cats if they are to improve on last season’s 17th place finish. With only Fabio Borini as an alternative up front, Defoe will again have to provide the majority of Sunderland’s goals.

One to Watch: Jordan Pickford. The young stopper impressed on loan at Preston last season, equalling a club record of six consecutive clean sheets. With Sunderland struggling he was recalled in January and played three times and did not look out of his depth. With Vito Mannone as the club’s number one, it is likely that Pickford will get a chance to break through in to the first team this season.

Last Season: 17th

Prediction: 16th 

Premier League 2016/17 Preview – Stoke City

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Jack Butland’s performances for Stoke led for calls for him to become England number one before injury cut his season short. Image: The Sun

Stoke went rather under the radar last season as they secured a second ninth place finish in a row. After a terrible start to the season, the Potters recovered with a number of solid defensive displays. One of the highlights of Stoke’s season was the emergence of Jack Butland as the club’s number one, with the Englishman keeping 10 clean sheets from his 31 games. Goals were the problem for Mark Hughes’ men though, as they scored less (41) than relegated Newcastle (44). Marko Arnautovic was the only player to reach double figures, whilst only 11 players scored for the Potters in all competitions last year. So far Hughes has not addressed his striker issue, but the Potters have been very heavily linked with West Brom’s Saido Berahino. Hughes has brought in Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi from Al Ahly and Welsh deep-lying playmaker Joe Allen to provide some extra creativity to his midfield. After having a season to adapt to the Premier League, you can expect Shaqiri, Afellay and Imbula to contribute more than the 7 goals and 9 assists that they provided last season. Stoke face a number of the weaker teams in the league in September and October, so expect the Potters to be in the hunt for the European places by Christmas.

Key Man: Ryan Shawcross. One of the main reasons for Stoke’s poor start to last season was Ryan Shawcross’ absence through injury. After the sale of Robert Huth, Shawcross’ physical presence has been key to Stoke’s success throughout their time in the Premier League, and his form last season led to some calls for an England recall. His no-nonsense style certainly suits Sam Allardyce’s style so a good season could revive the centre back’s international career.

One to Watch: Ryan Sweeney. The centre back signed for Stoke from AFC Wimbledon for around £250,000 and will be looking to get his chance in the Premier League. Sweeney made his Football League debut at the age of 17 and played ten times last season for the Dons. Sweeney is a physical presence despite his young age, and could see some first team action as he looks to be a long term successor to captain Ryan Shawcross.

Last Season: 9th

Prediction: 11th