Premier League previews: A-C

Arsenal

Just in case

Last season: Third

Players in: Petr Cech (Chelsea)

Players out: Ryo Miyaichi (St Pauli), Semi Ajayi (Cardiff City), Abou Diaby (Marseille), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Ipswich Town, loan), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Carl Jenkinson (West Ham United, loan), Wojciech Szczesny (AS Roma, loan).

Arsenal have been quiet in the transfer market, but the one signing that they have made is a key one, with Petr Cech arriving from Chelsea. Arsene Wenger has spoken of the need for stability and he has achieved that, with a settled squad ready to mount an assault on the Premier League title, and they looked better primed to do so than they have in many seasons.

The Gunners were the strongest side in the league in the second half of last season, but a mediocre opening to the campaign cost them, and Wenger will be wary of falling into the same trap. Sunday's Community Shield victory over Chelsea is certainly a positive sign that it won't be the case again.

Wenger's squad doesn't have any gaping holes in it, but is a bit thin up front and in the defensive midfield role. Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud will share the striking burden, but neither player (nor Danny Welbeck) has been able to stay fit and firing for an extended period in recent times, and this will be a worry. 

Francis Coquelin's emergence last season has solved Arsenal's defensive midfield problems somewhat, but an injury to the Frenchman would result in one of the rapidly aging Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini (who has been linked with an exit) to fill in, and neither player is up to the task anymore.

Best XI: Cech, Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Coquelin, Cazorla, Sanchez, Ozil, Giroud.

Prediction: Second. Arsenal will be closer to winning the title than they did last season, but they will fall just short.

 

Aston Villa

Just in case

Last season: 17th

Players in: Scott Sinclair (Manchester City), Micah Richards (Manchester City), Mark Bunn (Norwich City), Idrissa Gueye (Lille), Jordan Amavi (Nice), Jordan Ayew (Lorient), Jose Angel Crespo (Cordoba), Rudy Gestede (Blackburn Rovers), Jordan Veretout (Nantes)

Players out: Darren Bent (Derby County), Enda Stevens (Portsmouth), Andreas Weimann (Derby County), Matt Lowton (Burnley), Yacouba Sylla (Rennes), Antonio Luna (SD Eibar), Shay Given (Stoke City), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Christian Benteke (Liverpool)

Best XI: Guzan, Hutton, Clark, Richards, Amavi, Westwood, Gueye, Ayew, Grealish, Sinclair, Gestede

Aston Villa have secured the services of some handy players in Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair (after a loan spell last season), Idrissa Gueye, and a trio of Jordans (Ayew, Veretout and Amavi), but it's the players heading in the opposite direction that have hogged the headlines.

Captain Fabian Delph flip-flopped over a move to Manchester City before joining the Citizens shortly after declaring his loyalty to Villa (for a second time), while striker Christian Benteke joined Liverpool in a move that was a lot more predictable. Without two such influential figures, manager Tim Sherwood really has his work cut out for him.

Villa have finished 16th, 15th, 15th and 17th in the last four seasons, and their are short odds on them continuing that downward trend. If they are to avoid doing so it's a goal-scorer that they need most. Since Benteke made his debut in 2012, Villa have scored 105 goals in the league. The Belgian had a hand in nearly half of those, scoring 42 and providing an assist in eight others – that's a sizeable gap to fill, and it's questionable whether Rudy Gestede is the man to fill it.

The ongoing takeover saga doesn't help matters either. Should the club eventually be sold and an injection of cash result, Sherwood may be able to go on a mid-season spending spree to aid Villa's potentially flagging fortunes, but don't bet on that happening.

Luckily for Sherwood the fixture list has been kind, with an opening day fixture against Bournemouth followed by – a visit from Manchester United aside – an appealing run that sees Villa face Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Leicester and West Bromwich Albion.

Prediction: Survival, just. The Midlands outfit are likely to stay up simply because there are even worse teams out there.

 

Bournemouth

Just in case

Last season: 1st, Championship

Players in: Artur Boruc (Southampton), Adam Federici (Reading), Joshua King (Blackburn Rovers), Christian Atsu (Chelsea, loan), Tyrone Mings (Ipswich Town), Sylvain Distin (Everton) 

Players out: Ian Harte (Released), Josh McQuoid (Released), Darryl Flavahan (Released), Mohamed Coulibaly (Released), Joe Partington (Released), Miles Addison (Released), Ryan Fraser (Ipswich Town, loan), Brett Pitman (Ipswich Town), Jayden Stockley (Portsmouth, loan)

Best XI: Boruc, Francis, Cook, Distin, Mings, Surman, Arter, Ritchie, Atsu, Pugh, Wilson

Led by the League Managers Association Manager of the Year for the 2014/15 campaign, Eddie Howe, Bournemouth arrive in the Premier League after topping the standings in what was an exciting season in the second tier of English football.

The Cherries scored goals for fun last season, finding the back of the net 98 times in 46 matches, while at the same time conceding the second fewest goals; they were certainly deserved winners. But, as it is always said, the Premier League is a vastly different beast, and Bournemouth have their work cut out for them if they are to survive.

Howe made it clear from early on that he would keep faith in the majority of the players that secured promotion, and the likes of Simon Francis, Matt Ritchie, Harry Arter, and Callum Wilson will be called on to repeat the performances that saw them emerge as some of the Championships' brightest performers last season.

While fellow promoted outfit Watford have taken the approach of near-on buying a whole new squad, Howe has looked to make shrewd additions to the personnel he already has. Sylvain Distin arrives following his release by Everton, and the Frenchman will provide some necessary experience alongside fellow new recruit Tyrone Mings, while Joshua King and Christian Atsu will bring pace and forward thrust.

Prediction: Relegation. They'll put in a valiant effort and win many fans with their attacking football, but it looks set to be a tough season for the Cherries. Their survival could hinge on the hope that Sunderland are even worse than they were last season, and that's certainly possible.

Chelsea

Just in case

Last season: Champions

Players in: Nathan (Atletico Paranaense), Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco, loan), Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)

Players out: Christian Atsu (AFC Bournemouth, loan), Didier Drogba (Released), Gael Kakuta (Sevilla), Petr Cech (Arsenal, Mario Pasalic (AS Monaco), Josh McEachran (Brentford), Izzy Brown (Vitesse Arnhem), Lewis Baker (Vitesse Arnhem), Marco van Ginkel (Stoke City), Tomas Kalas (Middlesbrough) , Patrick Bamford (Crystal Palace), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid) 

Best XI: Courtois, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Matic, Willian, Hazard, Oscar, Costa

Jose Mourinho stated during his side's pre-season tour to the United States that his side had no weaknesses. It's a bold statement, but not one that is wholly incorrect. The Blues boss has not dipped into the transfer market too heavily, and having strolled to the Premier League title last season it's probably no surprise.

Recruitment was key to Mourinho's success last term, plugging gaps brilliantly with the purchases of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, and Nemanja Matic. This time around he has more or less only replaced players who have departed, although there is talk of Pedro arriving from Barcelona and the Blues are actively pursuing Everton's John Stones, a player earmarked as John Terry's long-term replacement.

But the lack of a spending spree should certainly not be seen as complacency, Mourinho is too smart for that, but the Portuguese certainly has faith in the players that performed for him last season. In many ways Chelsea still look to have the best squad in every area, and they'll be hard to stop.

Prediction: Champions. It won't be nearly as straightforward as last season, but the Blues should have enough class to make it back-to-back titles.

 

Crystal Palace

Just in case

Last season: 10th

Players in: Yohan Cabaye (PSG), Patrick Bamford (Chelsea, loan), Alex McCarthy (Reading), Connor Wickham (Sunderland)

Players out: Lewis Price, Owen Garvan, Peter Ramage, Stephen Dobbie, Jerome Thomas (all released)

Best XI: Speroni, Souare, Dann, Delaney, Ward, McArthur, Cabaye, Jedinak, Bolasie, Puncheon, Wickham

Newcastle fans got what they wanted when Alan Pardew left the North East midway through last season to take up the reins at Crystal Palace, but it would be Pardew who got the last laugh as he guided Palace to a mid-table finish after the London outfit had looked bound for relegation after a poor start.

Pardew's career at times appears to be one that fluctuates from great success to bitter failure, with little time spent in between. As such, the coming season stands as not only a crucial one in Palace's history, but also in Pardew's.

There is reason for optimism at Selhurst Park though, with the recruitment of Yohan Cabaye from PSG an impressive signing and one that demonstrates great progress. 

Jason Puncheon, Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie will provide plenty of attacking intent from the midfield, but there may be some concerns about getting the goals up front. Glenn Murray will put in a workman-like showing whenever called upon, and Fraizer Campbell will have his moments, but much will be required from new signing Connor Wickham. The former Sunderland striker has shown glimpses of promise, but there are some question marks about his ability to bang in the goals in a consistent fashion. Youngster Patrick Bamford has joined on loan from Chelsea to provide further options in attack.

Pardew has built a solid looking Eagles side, and with a full term at the helm and if they can keep the goals rolling in then there is no reason why Palace can't be challenging for a top-10 finish. 

Prediction: Just outside the top 10, but well clear of the relegation battle.

Comments