We were spoiled this summer with one of the most exciting World Cups in history, but it’s time to close that book. The English Premier League starts tomorrow. The madness that was the 2013/14 season is about to be intensified. Rebecca Lowe is going to grace our televisions nearly every Saturday and Sunday morning for the next 10 months.
I’m aware that every Tom, Dick, and Harry is doing team previews, so go ahead and add “Kyle” to the list. Now, let’s get in to it!
Manager: Arsene Wenger
2013/14 Finish: 4th
Notable Transfers (In): Calum Chambers (undisclosed fee), Mathieu Debuchy (£12.0m), David Ospina (undisclosed fee), and Alexis Sanchez (£35.0m).
Notable Transfers (Out): Lukasz Fabianski (free to Swansea City), Carl Jenkinson (loan to West Ham United), Bacary Sagna (free to Manchester City), and Thomas Vermaelen (£15.0m to Barcelona).
Overview: Bitten by the injury bug in 2013/14, Arsenal finished fourth in the table. In other news, grass is green and the sky is blue. Seriously though, this team was underrated in 2013/14, and the same is already happening in 2014/15. They dusted off the trophy case back in May, and will be looking to add to it in 2014/15 (although they have already added to it with their Community Shield victory). A healthy Aaron Ramsey, and Alexis Sanchez thrown in to the mix will result in a pretty successful and fun season for Arsenal.
Player to Watch: Alexis Sanchez. He is the missing piece to the Arsenal puzzle. Honorable mention: Aaron Ramsey.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 3rd. Fans and pundits are vastly underrating this Arsenal team. Simply put: they are better than the rest, but don’t have as much depth as Chelsea and Manchester City.
Manager: Paul Lambert
2013/14 Finish: 15th
Notable Transfers (In): Aly Cissokho (undisclosed fee), Joe Cole (free), Kieran Richardson (undisclosed fee), and Philippe Senderos (free).
Notable Transfers (Out): Marc Albrighton (free to Leicester City), Nicklas Helenius (loan to Aalborg BK), and Yacouba Sylla (loan to Erciyesspor).
Overview: The seat is hot for Paul Lambert, or so many think. After the addition of Roy Keane as an assistant, and fighting in the relegation battle for the past couple of seasons, many seem to think that the leash on Lambert is short for this season.
Player to Watch: Christian Benteke. After a breakout 2012/13 season, and missing the World Cup following a knee injury in January 2014, Benteke will be looking to make a statement. If he can take over like he did in 2012/13, Villa may be able to avoid the drop. Honorable mention: Ron Vlaar. See: 2014 World Cup.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 18th. This team just keeps getting closer and closer to the drop, and I think this is the year that it happens. Perhaps Vlaar can keep his World Cup form and Benteke comes back better than ever. Until then, pencil them in for relegation.
Manager: Sean Dyche. Dan (@socceryankdan) taught me that the supporters call him The Ginger Mourinho.
2013/14 Finish: Promoted via a 2nd place finish in the Football League Championship.
Notable Transfers (In): Lukas Jutkiewicz (£1.5m), Michael Kightly (undisclosed fee), Marvin Sordell (undisclosed fee), and Matthew Taylor (undisclosed fee).
Notable Transfers (Out): Chris Baird (free to West Bromwich Albion), David Edgar (free to Birmingham City), and Junior Stanislas (free to Bournemouth).
Overview: The surprise team in the Championship in 2013/14 will be heavy favorites to make the drop in 2014/15. They have one of the best young managers in England, and will rely heavily on their youth to keep them afloat in the Premier League. Any place 17th or above in the table will be considered a success for Dyche’s club this season.
Player to Watch: Michael Kightly. He’s been an average Premier League player throughout his career, and thrived in the Championship. If he can make the step up and become a solid Premier League starter, he could be what keeps Burnley alive this season.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 20th. A lot of youth, and a lot of inexperience. Hopefully they enjoyed the joys of their 2013/14 campaign, because I don’t see much of it this season. If there’s one prediction I hope I’m proven wrong about, it’s this one.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
2013/14 Finish: 3rd
Notable Transfers (In): Diego Costa (£32.0m), Didier Drogba (free), Cesc Fabregas (£30.0m), and Felipe Luis (£20.0m).
Notable Transfers (Out): Demba Ba (£8.0m), Ashley Cole (free to Roma), Samuel Eto’o (expired contract), Frank Lampard (expired contract – signed with New York City FC & loaned to Manchester City), David Luiz (£40.0m to PSG), and Romelu Lukaku (£28.0m to Everton)
Overview: In a year that Mourinho coined as a “transition year,” Chelsea pulled off a successful season with a 3rd place finish in the Premier League and reaching the Champions League semifinals.
Player to Watch: Diego Costa. For the first time since Fernando Torres’ arrival, Chelsea has finally splashed the cash on a striker, and they’re all in with Diego Costa. With Chelsea’s lack of depth at striker, Chelsea will be relying on Costa to stay healthy and stay out of card trouble. Honorable mention: Eden Hazard. He created 92 chances last season, and had no strikers to finish those chances. Look out.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 1st. This team is extremely talented and has superb depth. I’ve had thoughts that their striker problems from 2013/14 will carry over (mainly due to lack of depth) to 2014/15, but have since talked myself out of it. They had the best defense in 2013/14, and improved it with the addition of Felipe Luis. Throw in Cesc Fabregas and an improved Nemanja Matic, and this team does not have a glaring hole in their starting 11.
Manager: Tony Pulis. It appears as though Pulis has left Palace on “mutual terms.”
2013/14 Finish: 11th
Notable Transfers (In): Frazier Campbell (£900k), Scott Dann (undisclosed fee), Brede Hangeland (free), and Martin Kelly (undisclosed fee).
Notable Transfers (Out): Jose Campana (undisclosed fee to Sampdoria), Dean Moxey (free to Bolton), and Johnathan Parr (free to Ipswich Town).
Overview: Well now that Pulis has left, this is going to be slightly different. Pulis led Palace to a rise from the ashes last season when he took over. It seems as though Palace’s front office did not want to spend any money during this transfer window, and it’s pretty apparent, which led to Pulis’ decision to leave the club.
Player to Watch: Mile Jedinak. Palace had the third-least goals scored last season, so Jedinak is going to be the key player in Palace’s stifling defense.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 17th. The Pulis news is not enough to get them relegated, partly because the atmosphere at Selhurst Park has a way of making it really tough for opposing teams to play in. At the same time, I could see a situation where they could face the drop – that situation being their defense not being as good as last season and facing the same goal scoring problems.
Manager: Roberto Martinez
2013/14 Finish: 5th
Notable Transfers (In): Christian Atsu (loan), Gareth Barry (free), Muhamed Besic (undisclosed fee), Brendan Galloway (undisclosed fee), and Romelu Lukaku (£28.0m).
Notable Transfers (Out): Magaye Gueye (released), Mason Springthorpe (released), and tons of youth players out on loan.
Overview: An overachieving club in 2013/14, and they strengthened up slightly in a few spots during the summer. Unfortunately for Everton, many other teams did the same. Martinez changed the way Everton plays, switching them to a more possession-based style of play. It is something that really strengthens the link of Ross Barkely and Lukaku.
Player to Watch: Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku signed for a club record fee, and will be Everton’s go-to guy. Honorable mention: Ross Barkley.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 6th. With the addition of the Europa League in to Everton’s 2014/15 schedule, their lack of depth may come back to haunt them.
Manager: Steve Bruce
2013/14 Finish: 16th
Notable Transfers (In): Tom Ince (undisclosed fee), Jake Livermore (undisclosed fee), Harry McGuire (£2.5m), Andrew Robertson (£2.9m), and Robert Snodgrass (undisclosed fee).
Notable Transfers (Out): Not really any noteworthy outbound transfers.
Overview: Steve Bruce did a great job keeping Los Tigres (don’t call them that) out of the relegation battle in 2013/14. Although they finished just two spots above the drop, Bruce led them to the F.A. Cup final, and will play in the Europa League this season.
Player to Watch: Tom Huddleston. He’s an absolute brut in the midfield, but plays beautifully with the ball at his feet. Honorable mention: Tom Ince.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 12th. With the Europa League added to their schedule, we’ll see how much of a difference Bruce’s additions can make. This 12th place prediction is solely based on my prediction that they won’t make it very far in the Europa League, thus allowing Hull to focus on the Premier League. At the same time, if they make a run in the Europa League, they could be fighting in the relegation battle.
Manager: Ted Lasso Nigel Pearson
2013/14 Finish: Promoted via a 1st place finish in the Football League Championship.
Notable Transfers (In): Marc Albrighton (free), Ben Hamer (free), Leonardo Ulloa (£7.0m), and Matthew Upson (free).
Notable Transfers (Out): Lloyd Dyer (free to Watford).
Overview: Leicester (pronounced “Lester,” not “Lie-chester.”) was quite a powerhouse in the Championship last season, and Nigel Pearson splashed the cash during the summer transfer window to acquire a striker. Under ownership of Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester already has their eyes set for their future in the Premier League. It’ll be interesting to see if they make any other moves before the transfer window shuts.
Player to Watch: Leonardo Ulloa. He was signed for a club record fee, so the Argentine striker will have to impress for Leicester to stay alive.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 15th. This is just a gut feeling. I don’t think they’ll get relegated. A lot of teams will overlook Leicester, and I can see them stealing a few points from the big boys throughout the season.
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
2013/14 Finish: 2nd
Notable Transfers (In): Adam Lallana (£25.0m), Rickie Lambert (£4.0m), Dejan Lovren (£20.0m), and Lazar Markovic (£20.0m).
Notable Transfers (Out): Pepe Reina (undisclosed fee to Bayern) and Luis Suarez (£75.0m).
Overview: By far the most overachieving team in 2013/14. They had no expectations of last season being as magical as it ended up being, but it all slipped away down the stretch. Rodgers returns a very strong side with some helpful additions to the squad. Lovren will add some much-needed help to Liverpool’s glaring weakness in 2013/14, and they will not have much trouble scoring goals despite the loss of Suarez.
Player to Watch: Daniel Sturridge. He has said that he is ready to step up, and here is his time to shine. Was 2013/14 a result of Luis Suarez? Or can Sturridge succeed on his own?
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 4th. My complaint last season was that their success was because of their lack of other competitions outside of the Premier League. They have added depth during the summer window, so I think that balances out the addition of Champions League games.
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
2013/14 Finish: 1st
Notable Transfers (In): Willy Caballero (undisclosed fee), Fernando (undisclosed fee), Eliaquim Mangala (£32.0m), Bacary Sagna (free), and Frank Lampard (loan).
Notable Transfers (Out): Gareth Barry (free to Everton), Joleon Lescott (free to West Brom), and Jack Rodwell (£10.0m to Sunderland).
Overview: Manchester City’s route to the Premier League title last season was somewhat unorthodox. They stayed in the race for all of the season, then pounced on the opportunity when the rest of the competition slipped up. They were pretty quiet during the transfer window aside from adding Mangala to shore up the backline. Many of their players had sub-par World Cup performances, so it’ll be interesting to see how long it will take for them to find their form – not that that completely matters due to their insane squad depth.
Player to Watch: Yaya Toure. After going through the gutting time of his birthday being skipped this year, Toure will be out for blood in 2014/15. Just kidding. Seriously though, he was such a huge part of City’s success last season, and will be vital again in this campaign. Honorable mention: Sergio Aguero. Can he finally stay healthy?
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 2nd. It is so tough to repeat as champions in the Premier League. On top of that, Chelsea matched them in squad depth for the most part (with the exception of strikers). If Mangala cannot adapt to the Premier League, their summer transfer window may be all for naught.
Manager: Louis van Gaal
2013/14 Finish: 7th
Notable Transfers (In): Ander Herrera (£29.0m) and Luke Shaw (£27.0m).
Notable Transfers (Out): Patrice Evra (£1.2m to Juventus), Rio Ferdinand (free to QPR), Ryan Giggs (retired), and Nemanja Vidic (free to Inter Milan).
Overview: The David Moyes experiment was an epic fail. Last season was a season to forget for Manchester United fans, and a season to remember for fans of every other team in the Premier League. The amount of money spent on two players makes up for how quiet the Red Devils have been during this transfer window.
Player to Watch: Wayne Rooney. It was not that long ago that rumors were circulating that Rooney wanted out of Old Trafford. He was just recently named captain. Honorable mention: Their back line. Yikes.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 5th. If van Gaal rolls out his 3-5-2 formation, does he really trust a back three of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Jonny Evans? Teams are going to tear that apart. Also, who is playing alongside Herrera? Fellaini? L-O-L. On the plus side, the trio of Robin van Persie, Rooney, and Juan Mata could shine under van Gaal. If LvG can fix their problem on defense, and maybe find Herrea a partner in the midfield, I can see the Red Devils leapfrogging Liverpool for the 4th spot.
Manager: Alan Pardew
2013/14 Finish: 10th
Notable Transfers (In): Remy Cabella (undisclosed fee), Facundo Ferreyra (loan), Siem de Jong (undisclosed fee), Ayoze Perez (undisclosed fee), and Emmanuel Riviere (undisclosed fee).
Notable Transfers (Out): Mathieu Debuchy (£12.0m to Arsenal).
Overview: Alan Pardew somehow survived 2013/14 without joining the unemployment line. They were extremely bad after Boxing Day (which may be in part to the departure of Yohan Cabaye), and will be hoping to snap out of that form. Newcastle fans wanted a new striker, so Pardew went out and bought four of them. With Debuchy being their only significant outbound transfer, and Daryl Janmaat replacing him, they had a pretty successful transfer window.
Player to Watch: Remy Cabella. With the absence of Cabaye, their lineup lacked creativity. Insert one of Ligue 1’s best creators, and maybe they can re-create Cabaye.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 8th. This team has enough talent to finish in the top 10. Then again, we’re talking about Newcastle. 8 is their ceiling.
Queens Park Rangers
Manager: Harry Redknapp
2013/14 Finish: Promoted via winning the Football League Championship playoff.
Notable Transfers (In): Steven Caulker (£8.0m), Rio Ferdinand (free), Mauricio Isla (loan), and Ravel Morrison (loan).
Notable Transfers (Out): Yossi Benayoun (undisclosed fee), Aaron Hughes (free to Brighton and Hove Albion), and Gary O’Neil (free to Norwich City).
Overview: Harry Redknapp is back in the Premier League, and with a strengthened squad. Don’t forget that they have Loic Remy (for now).
Player to Watch: Loic Remy. Will he stay or will he go? Honorable mention: Joey Barton. Because, well… Joey Barton.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 16th. They strengthened their team significantly. I think they will be in cruise control around the middle of the table – at least until January when Remy goes to Chelsea or Liverpool.
Manager: Ronald Koeman
2013/14 Finish: 8th
Notable Transfers (In): Ryan Bertrand (loan), Fraser Forster (£10.0m), Shane Long (undisclosed fee), and Dusan Tadic (£10.9m).
Notable Transfers (Out): It’d be almost easier to say which players didn’t leave. Calum Chambers (undisclosed fee to Arsenal), Adam Lallana (£25.0m) to Liverpool, Rickie Lambert (£4.0m to Liverpool), Dejan Lovren (£20.0m to Liverpool), and Luke Shaw (£27.0m to Manchester United)
Overview: 2013/14 was a dream season for Southampton and former manager Mauricio Pochettino. This summer’s transfer window could be taken in two ways: a club that has no interest in winning (and only making money), or a club that was looking to sell their players when they feel their transfer values are at their highest. I’m not too sure which side I’m on, though I tend to lean towards the former.
Player to Watch: Morgan Schneiderlin. He has already stated that he wants out. Publicly. On Twitter. He could play a huge role this season if he choses to stay and play. Honorable mention: James Ward-Prowse.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 14th. Despite all of their key players that were sold, Southampton brought in enough talent to keep them above the relegation fight.
Manager: Mark Hughes
2013/14 Finish: 9th
Notable Transfers (In): Bojan (£3.0m), Mame Biram Diouf (free), and Steve Sidwell (free).
Notable Transfers (Out): Michael Kightly (undisclosed fee).
Overview: Aside from the arrival of Bojan, a fairly silent transfer window. This team has a lot of good players to feature (Peter Odemwingie and Asmir Begovic to name a few), but aren’t exactly the most exciting team to watch.
Player to Watch: Bojan. Can Mark Hughes revive his career? Some (namely Men in Blazers) are calling him the Spanish Freddy Adu. He has shined in preseason.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 8th. There’s really no reason to think that they’re going to be any worse than last season.
Manager: Gus Poyet
2013/14 Finish: 14th
Notable Transfers (In): Patrick van Aanholt (undisclosed fee), Jordi Gomez (free), Billy Jones (free), and Jack Rodwell (£10.0m).
Notable Transfers (Out): Phil Bardsley (free to Stoke City), Jack Colback (free to Newcastle United), and Craig Gardner (free to West Brom).
Overview: In Gus Poyet’s first season with Sunderland, they came on strong at the end of the season. They looked like they were heading for relegation, but pulled off some big wins late in the season. Poyet took them to the Capital One Cup finals. This will be Poyet’s first full season with Sunderland, and they are looking like a pretty strong team.
Player to Watch: Connor Wickham. He is refusing to sign a new deal, perhaps in hopes of playing elsewhere. Yup, Sunderland’s player to watch is someone who may not play for them this season.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 11th. Poyet’s transfer moved filled the hole left by Fanio Borini (though Borini may return). If Sunderland can put behind the disaster that was part of last season, they can fare much better in 2014/15.
Manager: Garry Monk
2013/14 Finish: 12th
Notable Transfers (In): Lukasz Fabianski (free), Bafetimbi Gomis (free), and Gylfi Sigurdsson (undisclosed fee).
Notable Transfers (Out): Ben Davies (£10.0m to Spurs), Chico Flores (undisclosed fee), Michu (loan to Napoli), and Michel Vorm (£5.0m to Spurs).
Overview: Swansea has been extremely active in the transfer window after a successful 2013/14 season. Their possession-based style has given them the nickname “Swanselona.”
Player to Watch: Wilifried Bony. He could make or break this team. If he leaves, Swansea will be hurting and Gomis will have a ton of pressure on him to succeed immediately.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 13th. I reserve the right to change this prediction to 17th if Bony leaves. Fabianski was probably the best backup goalkeeper in the Premier League last year, and was phenomenal during Arsenal’s F.A. Cup run. Sigurdsson gives them a good attacking option out of the midfield, and should link up well with Bony.
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
2013/14 Finish: 6th
Notable Transfers (In): Ben Davies (£10.0m), Eric Dier (£4.0m), and Michel Vorm (£5.0m).
Notable Transfers (Out): Jake Livermore (undisclosed fee to Hull City) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (undisclosed fee to Swansea).
Overview: After an odd 2013/14 season, where they somehow finished above Manchester United, they are hoping to rebound in 2014/15 and fight for a top four spot. Manager Mauricio Pochettino was part of the Southampton fire sale, and is hoping to make changes with Tottenham. A big challenge he will face is trying to figure out the big seven that Tottenham brought in before the 2013/14 season, namely Erik Lamela.
Player to Watch: Christian Erikson. Can he become the next Ajax wonderkid? Honorable mention: Jan Vertonghen.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 7th. There are six other teams better than Spurs – plain and simple.
West Bromwich Albion
Manager: Alan Irvine
2013/14 Finish: 17th
Notable Transfers (In): Brown Ideye (£10.0m) and Joleon Lescott (free).
Notable Transfers (Out): Billy Jones (free to Sunderland) and Liam Ridgewell (free to Portland Timbers).
Overview: This hiring of Pepe Mel almost ending in relegation, and the appointment of Alan Irvine is risky as well. This team has been mismanaged for quite some time. Consider them a ticking time bomb.
Player to Watch: Brown Ideye. They opened up their wallets to bring in Ideye from the Ukrainian Premier League, and rightfully so after having trouble getting goals from their attackers.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 19th. Again, they’re a ticking time bomb.
West Ham United
Manager: Sam Allardyce
2013/14 Finish: 13th
Notable Transfers (In): Carl Jenkinson (loan), Cheikhou Kouyate (undisclosed fee), Enner Valencia (£12.0m), and Mauro Zarate (undisclosed fee).
Notable Transfers (Out): No one. Not literally. Unless you want to count Joe Cole, which would’ve been “notable” about seven years ago.
Overview: Despite many people having complaints about West Ham’s Chelsea-esque tactics, Allardyce steered West Ham to a successful season in 2013/14. This team is my dark horse to improve in 2014/15. They spent money, and they spent it in the right places. Enner Valencia recorded 18 goals in 23 games in Liga MX last season, and Zarate should provide a ton of attack as well.
Player to Watch: Enner Valencia. Yeah, I’m excited about this guy.
Predicted 2014/15 Finish: 10th. Like I said: lots of money spent in the right places. Throw in a healthy Winston Reid and Carl Jenkinson on the back line, and West Ham’s defense is looking very solid.
So there it is: your team-by-team previews for the 2014/15 English Premier League season. I even threw in some predictions for you (regardless of how questionable my predictions tend to be).
If last season was any indication, we are in for quite some storylines in 2014/15.