SWANSEA CITY: Gylfi Saga Overshadows Paul’s Prep
Swansea and their boss Paul Clement have seen their preparations for the new campaign disrupted by the ongoing transfer saga surrounding Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelandic star has seemingly been set for a move to Everton all summer but the deal is still to be finalised, although Clement has prepared for the new campaign without the midfielder.
Clement, who took over in January after the disastrous Bob Bradley experiment was ditched is looking forward to his first full season at the helm will have at least two new faces at his disposal as he bids to ensure the Swans are not dragged into another relegation battle.
Playmaker Roque Mesa (above), signed from Las Palmas for £11m is a crisp-passing midfielder who will, in all likelihood, play at the base of midfield and become the side’s playmaker. Second only to Sevilla’s Stephen N’Zonzi for passing accuracy in La Liga last season, Mesa should be perfectly suited to his new team’s possession-based game.
The second newcomer, Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham, will, it is hoped, provide the scoring boost the Swans will surely appreciate. Abraham was targeted by a host of Premier clubs over the summer after enjoying an excellent season in the Championship with Bristol City. That he elected to move to the Liberty Stadium to continue his education speaks highly of Clement’s reputation and persuasive powers.
With Fernando Llorente looking more likely to stay and the likes of Nathan Dyer, Luciano Narsingh, Wayne Routledge and Jordan Ayew all capable of creating chances, Clement looks to have a squad capable of scoring enough goals, even without the ever-dangerous Sigurdsson.
Whilst they aren’t likely to threaten the top half of the table, it should be a season of safety at the Liberty Stadium.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: How Deep Is Your Squad?
Squad depth and home advantage could be the two biggest issues on the horizon for Tottenham this season.
Mauricio Pochettino recently promised new faces before the transfer window closes for last season’s runners-up while Danny Rose recently gave a strong indication that, like Kyle Walker, he sees his future elsewhere.
The move to their temporary home in NW London might prove a handicap for Pochettino and his men but the depth of his squad, and lack of new faces, might be an even bigger hinderance.
There is little doubt that, if they can put their strongest side out every week, Tottenham are a match for anyone in the Premier League; it is squad depth that represents the potential pitfall. The gulf from Harry Kane to Vincent Jansson, for example, is much larger then that between first and second string hit men elsewhere and that situation repeats itself in other areas of the pitch.
Spurs have good youngsters on the way, not least the extremely promising Harry Winks, and it is understandable that the manager is loathe to block their path to the first team. And so long as they can ease those newcomers in rather than relying on them, the future is bright. But a few injuries could create problems.
Then there is that ‘Wembley factor’. Spurs have struggled at their temporary home when they have used it for Champions League fixtures in the past. Can they expect things to be different over the course of a full season?
Given a clean bill of health with injuries, and no loss of advantage when playing at home, Spurs could make a serious run at the title. But those two question marks give enough reason to suggest that they might again fall just short.
WATFORD: Hunger Games
Watford will begin the new season with their eighth manager in the last six years, a pretty grim record and one Mauro Silva will hope to improve on. Silva impressed during his time at the helm at Hull last season and the Hornets reportedly beat a number of clubs to secure his services.
Silva has some interesting new recruits to work with. Will Hughes has been a standout for Derby in the Championship and will relish this opportunity to show he can do it in the top flight. Likewise Nathaniel Chalobah will feel he has a point to prove after being discarded by champions Chelsea. These two have a hunger to succeed which Silva can harness to the Hornets’ advantage.
To aid Troy Deeney in the goalscoring department, the club smashed their transfer record to bring Andre Gray to the club. Gray, who had 12 months remaining on his contract at Burnley and had refused a new deal, cost his new club £18.5m and will look to build on the nine top flight goals he managed last term. Brazil under-20 starlet Richarlison (above) was also added, coming over from Fluminense for an £11m fee and it will be hoped that these three can provide the cutting edge.
Tom Cleverley spent last term on loan at the club and his move has now been made permanent. He will form a solid central midfield trio with the aforementioned Chalobah and Etienne Capoue.
Roberto Pereyra, whilst not a new signing, will in many ways seem like one. The Argentine international came over from Juventus in a £13m deal last summer and after an impressive start his season was brought to an early end by injury. A full campaign could see the 26-year-old shine.
Regularly on short lists to be relegated from the top flight, Watford’s summer business suggests that they can again defy the pundits and hold on to their top flight place. Silva will be eager to prove that he can keep a team up, and more.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Tony’s Woe?
Albion have had three comfortable seasons in the Premier League but this one might be less so.
The last time the Baggies flirted with relegation was back in 2014 when they finished 17th but improvements elsewhere, along with a lack of serious upgrades at the Hawthorns might see them back in that basement battle.
A 10th place finish last season was an upward move for Tony Pulis and his squad and under normal circumstances further upward mobility might be expected.
The major arrival this summer was Jay Rodriguez (above) for whom the club paid Southampton a reported £12m. The energetic Darren Fletcher aside, little has been lost so Pulis will go to work with basically the same squad.
So, what could go wrong? Well, plenty; Premier League tactics are evolving and West Brom might not be ideally equipped to deal with the pacier line-ups they are likely to face on a more regular basis in the coming campaign. It is easy to see the likes of Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley struggling against the speed that the top teams can put on the pitch and it will come down to their displays against the lesser teams to determine their fate.
Rodriguez might take over from Salomon Rondon at the sharp end of the attack but the one-time England international has yet to consistently reproduce his best form after missing the whole of the 2014-15 season and a heavy burden will be placed on his shoulders.
West Brom’s first three matches could well define their season. Games against Bournemouth, Burnley and West Ham can all be seen as eminently winnable. A good start there and another comfortable mid-table season is in the offing. A poor beginning could see the Baggies playing catch-up when the tougher matches come along.
WEST HAM UNITED: Hammers Take Hart + Add Goals
Whilst the addition of England’s goalkeeper Joe Hart drew the early attention, West Ham’s two new attacking threats could be the difference this term.
Hart arrives on a season-long loan from Manchester City, where there was clearly no way back into first-team contention under a manager who had lost faith in him. His confidence have been undermined in recent seasons and Hammers fans will hope he can regain his old form in a new setting.
Back in tandem with his former teammate in defence is Pablo Zabaleta who will bring a wealth of experience and also fill a right-back position that was a black hole last season.
But it is up front where the Hammers have been transformed. Marko Arnautovic arrives from Stoke for a club record fee. The Austrian has the ability to play either through the middle or out wide and is one of those players who can make things happen.
The Hammers followed up the capture of Arnautovic with the £16m signing of Javier Hernandez (above) from Bayer Leverkusen and, in ‘Chicharito’, Slaven Bilic has added a proven goalgetter to his squad. The Mexican is his country’s all-time top scorer and his experience will be a valuable asset.
The addition of Hernandez and Arnautovic to add to injury-plagued Andy Carroll, Michail Antonio and Manuel Lanzini gives the team plenty of goal threats, something severely lacking last term.
It is also interesting to note that all of the Hammers’ big signings are players come with a wealth of Premier League experience and this will surely stand them in good stead.
Upton Park was a daunting place for teams to visit and it will be virtually impossible to replicate that in the wide open spaces of the London Stadium. But the team’s new captures should see a more comfortable second season at their new base.