Stag Weekends Premier League Preview

It feels like a cliché, but this is one of the most eagerly anticipated Premier League seasons of all time! Following Leicester City's remarkable title winning campaign, anything really is possible.

The close season has seen some fascinating managerial and player changes take place. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola will renew their El Clasico rivalry in the setting of Manchester. Both clubs have spent big over the summer, including the world record deal that has taken Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford from Juventus.

There's a new man in town for 2015 champions Chelsea in the form of Antonio Conte so they will be expected to improve on last season's disappointment. Arsenal are likely to be there or thereabouts despite their lack of transfer activity and then there's Liverpool, Everton… we could go on.

We have decided to go through each team and identify where their strengths and weaknesses could be this season, as well as predicting where they'll finish. You can see our full predicted table in the blog; let us know what yours is!

Arsenal

Arsenal will be looking to go one better this season after finishing runners-up last year to Leicester. Despite their second-place finish, Arsene Wenger was heavily criticised for Arsenal's failure to win the league when all the other'big clubs' stuttered.

Wenger has also come in for criticism over the lack of transfer activity at the Emirates over the summer. Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka has arrived and will be another good central option, but other than that no-one of note has arrived. Arsenal fans are still crying out for a central defender, especially after the injuries to Gabriel and Per Mertesacker; Shkodran Mustafi could yet join from Valencia.

After Jamie Vardy turned Arsenal down a few weeks back, it's unclear whether or not the three-time Premier League winners are still in the market for a striker. Despite all the negativity, we're backing Arsenal for a strong season and to go close. With the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil still among their ranks, the Gunners will possess enough of an attacking threat to mount a serious title challenge.

Predicted Finish: 2nd

Bournemouth

Bournemouth proved doubters wrong by avoiding relegation last season. Eddie Howe's side continued to play an exciting brand of football that won many plaudits and even saw Howe strongly linked with the England manager vacancy following Euro 2016.

The Cherries will be delighted to have kept hold of their young manager, and will hope he can work wonders again. Newly promoted sides that have avoided relegation have sometimes gone on to suffer'second season syndrome' so this season will be purely about avoiding relegation again.

Howe has made some impressive signings in the close season with the likes of Jordan Ibe and Nathan Ake joining the club from Liverpool and Chelsea, respectively. We fancy that Bournemouth will be able to retain their Premier League status relatively comfortably.

Predicted Finish: 15th

Burnley

Burnley bounced back at the first time of asking as they won the Championship title at a canter last season. As with all newly promoted sides Burnley's only target this season will be to try and avoid the drop something they failed to do the season before last.

So far, the Clarets have failed to add any notable players to their squad and are hoping to push a few deals through before the transfer window shuts. Although, Sean Dyche possesses great belief in his squad so won't make any signings just for the sake of doing so.

As things stand we see another season of struggle for Burnley in the big time and have predicted that they will be one of the three to go down. A lack of goals could prove to be their problem, we believe.

Predicted Finish: 19th

Chelsea

After winning the league in the 2014/15 season, Chelsea suffered a disastrous title defence last term and stuttered to a tenth-place finish. A season like that isn't acceptable for a club with the financial backing of Chelsea, and the absolute minimum for new boss Antonio Conte will be a top-four finish.

The nucleus of the Chelsea squad still remains and Conte will be hoping for better seasons from the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa; both who were so influential the season before last. The Blues have made one of the signings of the summer in the form of N'Golo Kante'the tenacious midfielder was one of the key factors behind Leicester's title win.

Young Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi has also been brought in to compete with Costa, and there's a strong possibility that Chelsea will sign a centre back before the end of the window with Kalidou Koulibaly heavily linked. We expect Chelsea to be much improved this campaign and believe they will benefit from no European football and comfortably finish in the Champions League spots.

Predicted Finish: 3rd

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace were sitting pretty in the top-six last Christmas, but an alarming run of form in the second half of the season saw the Eagles finish 15th.

Alan Pardew has gone about his transfer business diligently; bringing in the vastly experienced James Tomkins to sure up the backline, French international'keeper Steve Mandanda and activating the release clause in Andros Townsend's contract. It looks as though Yannick Bolasie may be off to Everton, but Palace still have great options in wide positions. Christian Benteke should also join over the next week or so'that would be a fantastic addition.

We expect Palace to go slightly better in the league this season and'like most clubs around mid-table'their best chance of glory will come in the cup competitions.

Predicted Finish: 13th

Everton

Everton's below-par finish of 11th last season resulted in Roberto Martinez getting the axe. With one of the most exciting squads in the league, Everton need to be aspiring to greater things. One of the Toffees' main issues last season was their inability to see games out'with a worrying amount of goals shipped.

Ronald Koeman has been brought in to steady the ship after his impressive two-season stint with Southampton. Yes, John Stones may have departed for Manchester City, but Ashley Williams has been brought in; he will be expected to marshal the backline. Lamine Kone and Bolasie should both sign in the coming days and if Everton to keep Chelsea away from Romelu Lukaku, they have the makings of a very strong squad.

Koeman's side should be in contention for the European places come the end of the season and will be a far more accomplished side compared to last season with the Dutchman at the helm.

Predicted Finish: 7th

Hull City

Where do we begin with Hull? A team that has just been promoted should be full of optimism and hope'that is not the case for the East Yorkshire side. The close season has been nothing short of disastrous for the Tigers; with Steve Bruce departing and the future ownership of the club hanging in the balance.

One of the reasons behind Bruce's departure from Hull was the lack of transfer activity. The club have failed to make any signings thus far, and with an injury hit squad, they will face champions Leicester on the opening day of the season with just 11 fit, senior players to choose from.

Still, no permanent manager looks like being appointed anytime soon and Mike Phelan remains in caretaker charge for the time being. With such farce and lack of preparation surrounding the Tigers, we can't foresee anything other than a season to forget. 

Predicted Finish: 20th

Leicester City

Last time out, the Foxes defied odds of 5,000/1 to complete one of the most remarkable title wins of all time! This time last year, Leicester were one of the favourites for the drop, but Claudio Ranieri and his side could not be stopped as they won the Premier League by ten points.

Unfortunately for a club of Leicester's size, success brings interest in players from'bigger' clubs. Jamie Vardy was subject to a bid from Arsenal before the Euros, but has opted to stay in the East Midlands. Influential midfielder N'Golo Kante has departed for Chelsea, and will be a huge loss. Leicester have made a couple of impressive additions to their squad in the form of Nampalys Mendy and Ahmed Musa; both of whom are highly rated.

Looking at pundits' Premier League predictions, it looks as though no-one believes they can repeat last season's incredible achievements, and we agree!

Predicted Finish: 8th

Liverpool

Liverpool fell just short of European football last term, but did reach both the Capital One Cup Final and Europa League Final. Now, after his first pre-season in charge, big things are expected of Jurgen Klopp.

The German has been able to add his own stamp on the squad over the summer, bringing in the likes of Joel Matip, Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum. Perhaps the biggest concern for Liverpool still lies in the striking department. With Christian Benteke out of favour and seeking a move away, there are still fitness doubts over Daniel Sturridge. Roberto Firmino could yet lead the line for Liverpool, like he did for much of last season.

With the influence of Klopp, we expect Liverpool to go slightly better this campaign and force their way back into the top-six.

Predicted Finish: 6th

Manchester City

It was announced that Pep Guardiola would be replacing Manuel Pellegrini midway through last season and the excitement has been growing ever since. Guardiola is arguably the most talented manager in world football currently after implementing his style on Barcelona and Bayern Munich to great effect so far in his career.

The squad at Pep's disposal may not be as talented as some that he is worked with in the past, but with Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne among their ranks he has two players capable of winning matches single-handedly. John Stones and Leroy Sane have both made big money moves to the Etihad and will surely flourish under Guardiola's guidance.

With the attacking talent available and the stewardship of Guardiola, we can't look past the blue side of Manchester for the title this time out.

Predicted Finish: 1st

Manchester United

Despite winning the FA Cup last season, Louis van Gaal was hounded out of the club due to his dull tactics and failure to qualify for the Champions League. Step forward Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese manager suffered a torrid final few months at Chelsea, but the United hierarchy have overlooked that one blemish on Mourinho's CV.

In his first press conference as Red Devils' boss, Mourinho spoke about wanting four new signings, and he has got his men. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba have all joined over the past few weeks, with the latter joining for a reported world record fee of £89m. It will now be up to Mourinho to find which system best suits the personnel available to him.

We expect United to regain their Champions League status, but that's about it. An ageing Ibrahimovic may not find goals as easy to come by as he did in Ligue 1.

Predicted Finish: 4th

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough return to the Premier League following a seven-year exile. Aitor Karanka has instilled a winning mentality at the club again and assembled a disciplined team that earned the North Yorkshire club promotion last term.

Boro's summer transfer business has been impressive, too. Spanish internationals Victor Valdes and Alvaro should add experience to a relatively young squad, as Karanka looks to strike the right balance to keep his side in the division.

We're backing Boro to be the only one of the three promoted sides to avoid the drop; there should be enough goals from the likes of Jordan Rhodes and Negredo.

Predicted Finish: 16th

Southampton

Barely a summer goes by without mass changes at Southampton, and this one has been no different. After another impressive campaign where the Saints finished in sixth, Ronald Koeman was lured to Everton, so the experienced Claude Puel has been brought in to take charge.

The former Lyon boss has seen three key players depart Southampton over the summer in; Victor Wanyama, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle. The Saints have history of recruiting well though, and look to have done so again with young talents Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Hojberg joining.

We don't expect the south-coast side to finish quite as high as last season, but a mid-table finish would be a success'especially with a Europa League campaign to contend with as well.

Predicted Finish: 10th

Stoke City

Stoke City's ninth-place finish last season was their third consecutive year doing so, and that consistency is an achievement in itself.

Mark Hughes has a reliable squad to choose from and has further bolstered that with the capture of Joe Allen, who had an outstanding European Championships with Wales over the summer. The Potters are still desperately trying to get a deal over the line for Saido Berahino; a player who would add some much needed firepower to their ranks.

Unfortunately, we don't see Stoke securing another top-half finish and think they will slip into the bottom half.

Predicted Finish: 9th

Sunderland

As has been the theme of recent seasons, Sunderland scraped survival last season following a mid-season managerial change. This time round, the managerial change has happened at the start of the season after Big Sam was appointed England manager, with David Moyes replacing him on Wearside.

Transfer incomings have been few and far between for the Black Cats. Paddy McNair and Donald  Love have been brought in from Moyes' former club Manchester United ,as well as adding Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea. Lamine Kone has submitted a transfer request, which will concern Sunderland fans. A replacement will be required if the Ivorian makes his expected move to Everton.

With Moyes at the helm, we don't see Sunderland flirting with relegation in the way they have over recent seasons and expect a far more comfortable ride at the Stadium of Light'aided by the goals of Jermain Defoe.

Predicted Finish: 14th

Swansea City

The Swans narrowly avoided relegation after a disappointing season which saw them have three managers. The man who finished the season in charge, Italian Francesco Guidolin, carries on at the helm this season after being handed a two-year deal.

Swansea were dealt a huge blow this week, with Ashley Williams departing for Everton; they will find it hard to replace their captain. Andre Ayew also left in the last week for West Ham, and record signing Borja Baston, as well as Fernando Llorente will need to somehow replace the Ghanaian's goals.

We anticipate another season of struggle for Swansea, but think they will just have enough to avoid the drop!

Predicted Finish: 17th

Tottenham Hotspur

For much of last season, Spurs looked like the team most likely to challenge Leicester for the title, but their challenge fell away rather spectacularly in the last few weekends of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that his young squad will have learnt from the harsh lessons dealt to them last season and come back stronger. The tough Victor Wanyama has been added over the summer, as well as Eredivisie hotshot Victor Janssen, who can hopefully share the goal scoring burden with Harry Kane.

With the strength and depth added to the squads around them, we don't see Spurs faring quite as well as last term, and think they will narrowly miss out on Champions League qualification.

Predicted Finish: 5th

Watford

Watford were impressive throughout the first-half of last season and at one stage looked as though they may compete for the European places. A poor second-half to the season saw Watford drift down the Premier League table, but ultimately survival was the priority.

The Watford board still opted to make a managerial change over the summer and have brought in the former Inter Milan boss Walter Mazzarri. The Hornets' best business over the summer has been to keep hold of star strikers Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo after interest in the pair from several clubs.

Goals did dry up for Deeney and Ighalo in the second-half of last season, which will be a real concern for Watford fans. It's for that reason that we think they will be one of the sides relegated this season.

Predicted Finish: 18th

West Brom

West Brom rather unspectacularly finished mid-table last season, and there were some disgruntled fans bemoaning their style of play under Tony Pulis.

One thing Pulis does guarantee is Premier League safety, and even with the likely departure of Saido Berahino, the Baggies should still have a strong squad. Matt Phillips has been brought in from QPR and Pulis is chasing the signatures of Christian Benteke and Jeffrey Schlupp as the transfer window begins to close.

If those signings can be made, we expect the Baggies to be a difficult opponent over the upcoming season and think they could surprise a few teams.

Predicted Finish: 11th

West Ham

West Ham's final season at Upton Park was largely an enjoyable one. Dmitri Payet quickly became a fans favourite with his spectacular goals and the Hammers managed to finish in seventh-place to secure Europa League qualification.

Slaven Bilic has been busy in the transfer market, with the likes of Andre Ayew and Sofiane Feghouli arriving to add attacking threat to the side. The Hammers are still searching for another striker before the window closes, but Bilic has stated he'd be more than happy with Andy Carroll leading the line at their new home'The Olympic Stadium.

West Ham will be hovering around the same position as they did last season, but we think they will finish slightly lower this time round.

Predicted Finish: 9th

Let us know what you think to our predictions and what your predicted table for the season is! 

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Date Posted: Friday 12th August 2016

Author: George Crewe