Premier League previews: Will Arsenal and Chelsea be title challengers?

The 2016/17 Premier League season is nearly upon us, and we’ve run the rule over the 20 teams set  to do battle.

First up we have clubs at the opposite end of the spectrum; Arsenal and Chelsea will be vying for the title (one with a new manager, the other with a manager some no longer want), while Bournemouth and Burnley are among those likely to be battling relegation.

AFC Bournemouth

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In what was the club’s first-ever season in England’s top flight, Bournemouth ended the 2015/16 campaign in 16th spot, two positions and five points above the drop zone. Despite their inconsistency and being hit by injury to key players, the Cherries did enough to stay clear of the relegation scrap for the most part, their survival cause aided by three consecutive wins in March.

Manager Eddie Howe was in the mix for the England job in the off-season, but having been overlooked, the man that led the club from League Two to the Premier League will be in charge again this term, a big plus for Bournemouth.

Transfer dealings: The signing of promising young Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe would suggest the south-coast outfit intend to do more than make up the numbers in the Premier League and are hoping to build and improve on last season. There have been no noteworthy departures, while Ivory Coast striker Max Gradel has signed a new four-year deal at Dean Court.

Confirmed signings: Lewis Cook (Leeds United – undisclosed), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham – free), Jordon Ibe (Liverpool – £15m), Lys Mousset (Le Havre – £5.4m), Brad Smith (Liverpool – undisclosed).

First five fixtures:

August 14: Man United (home)
August 21: West Ham (away)
August 27: Crystal Palace (a)
September 10: West Brom (h)
September 17: Manchester City (a)

Prediction: 14-16th

Arsenal

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Although last season saw a second-placed finish – one point above arch-rivals Tottenham – Arsenal still ended 10 points shy of champions Leicester City. There was the feeling that the north London club could have done more to end their 12-year wait to win the Premier League, the pressure continuing to increase on manager Arsene Wenger, whose departure was demanded by some sections of the Gunners support.

While rivals such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool have strengthened considerably in the market, Arsenal have not as yet, and it’s difficult to see them putting in a strong title challenge.

Transfer dealings: For Gunners fans it’s a situation they have become accustomed to, the capital club having made only two confirmed signings as the transfer window heads into the final few weeks. Granit Xhaka’s capture from Borussia Monchengladbach for £34 million is a significant boost for the team and will add to an impressive array of attacking talents. Questions may remain though over a lack of quality and depth at the back, with Wenger still reportedly searching for more cover in central defence. One imagines that a top  class striker is also required if Arsenal are to really challenge for the title. The departures of Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky are unlikely to have much impact.

Confirmed signings: Rob Holding (Bolton Wanderers – undisclosed), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach – £34m)

First five fixtures:

August 14: Liverpool (h)
August 20: Leicester (a)
August 27: Watford (a)
September 10: Southampton (h)
September 17: Hull (a)

Prediction: 3-4th

Burnley

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Last term’s Championship winners, with whom manager Sean Dyche only used 25 players all season, seem happy to trust their existing squad for the upcoming campaign. Not too many significant signings have been made, and not many key players, with the exception of Joey Barton, have moved on.

Dyche will be hoping to take inspiration from Leicester and see his team punching above their weight with a tight-knit group of players lacking much top-flight experience. Last season’s top scorer with 25 goals, Andre Gray, could be crucial to their hopes of survival.

Transfer dealings: The only well-known addition to the Clarets squad so far has been that of Liverpool full-back Jon Flanagan.

Confirmed signings: Jon Flanagan (Liverpool – loan), Cameron Dummigan (youth team), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Charlton Athletic – undisclosed), Daniel Lafferty (Oldham Athletic – loan expired), Kevin Long (Milton Keynes Dons – loan expired), Nick Pope (Charlton Athletic – undisclosed), Jamie Thomas (Bolton Wanderers – free).

Prediction: 17-18th

Chelsea

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The disappointment of last season, when the Blues imploded under Jose Mourinho and went on to finish 10th after winning the title the previous campaign, has been tempered by the arrival of a new manager in Antonio Conte, as well as a couple of key new signings and the apparent return to form of Eden Hazard.

A repeat of the 2015/16 nightmare is unlikely; the Blues are too good to suffer further calamity. How Conte quickly adapts to life in England will be crucial to their success.

Transfer dealings: The arrival of Belgium international Michy Batshuayi gives Chelsea increased pace and power up front, while N’Golo Kante will be a massive asset if he can replicate last season’s form in the middle of the park for Leicester. Of the departures, only the name of Mohamed Salah, who moved to Roma, was a significant one.

Confirmed signings: Michy Batshuayi (Marseille – £33.2m), N’Golo Kante (Leicester City – £30m)

First five fixtures:

August 15: West Ham (h)
August 20: Watford (a)
August 27: Burnley (h)
September 11: Swansea (a)
September 16: Liverpool (h)

Prediction: 3-4th

Crystal Palace

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Last season was one which promised much in the opening months as the Eagles found themselves in and around the top-five bracket, only for a poor run of form in the new year – just two wins in the last 21 matches – saw the team ending the campaign 15th and just five points and three places above the relegation zone. There was also added disappointment for the south London club when they lost the FA Cup final to Manchester United.

Palace, however, remain a club seemingly on an overall upward trajectory and will be hoping to push for a top-10 finish, especially if they can add a few more major signings.

Transfer dealings: There have been more ins and outs to date, with the likes of Brede Hangeland, Emmanuel Adebayor, Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh all having left. Andros Townsend and James Tomkins potentially look like useful additions to the squad. Christian Benteke could make a big impact if he does indeed arrive from Liverpool, although the club may face a struggle to hang on to winger Yannick Bolasie.

Confirmed signings: Steve Mandanda (Marseille – undisclosed), James Tomkins (West Ham United – £10.0m), Andros Townsend (Newcastle United – £13m)

First five fixtures:

August 13: West Brom (h)
August 20: Tottenham (a)
August 27: Bournemouth (h)
September 10: Middlesbrough (a)
September 18: Stoke (h)

Prediction: 12-14th

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