Manchester United’s summer spending spree looks like money well spent and gives them a strong chance of regaining former glories. In a heavyweight championship of top managers, Jose Mourinho is the one with the course and distance form in England, and that might prove to be the difference.
Here are my club-by-club thoughts ahead of the new Premier League season.
Arsenal: They have the quality, but continued failures to deliver make you wonder about the mentality and leadership in the squad. With debate about Arsene Wenger increasing among the club’s fans, the team could find even a top-four spot difficult.
Bournemouth: They defied critics to stay up comfortably and have been busy signing Jordon Ibe from Liverpool, among others. But the defence is a worry, and they will be part of a fierce relegation argument.
Burnley: Their best asset is an excellent manager in Sean Dyche, and even he could not keep them up two years ago. Unless Andre Gray can transfer his scoring form to the top flight, this season could be a similar story.
Chelsea: Antonio Conte’s manic style is exactly what’s needed at Stamford Bridge after last year’s feeble title defence. Expect a vast improvement, especially with N’Golo Kante bolstering the midfield.
Crystal Palace: They faded badly last season. Despite the additions of Andros Townsend, James Tomkins and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, it looks like a bottom-half finish again.
Everton: Ashley Williams is a solid leader and might be one of the best signings anywhere this summer. Ronald Koeman has money to spend and Everton might even challenge the top six.
Hull City: Losing manager Steve Bruce was calamitous. The club is in chaos and they look relegation certainties.
Leicester City: They still have the bulk of their miraculous title-winning team and, although the Champions League is a big distraction, they should go well again.
Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp’s turbo-charged football will threaten the top six but maybe not the top four. They are full of attractive attacking options but is the defence good enough? A left-back is needed urgently.
Manchester City: In time Pep Guardiola may have City looking like his Barcelona and Bayern teams, but it might take a while. I’d like their chances more if they’d managed to sign Leonardo Bonucci as a defensive rock, rather than John Stones, who is still learning.
Manchester United: There wasn’t much wrong with United’s defence last year but they struggled to score. Now with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan the problem should be rectified while Paul Pogba will add dynamism and physical presence in midfield. They could reclaim the crown with Mourinho as ringmaster.
Middlesbrough: Mourinho’s mate Aitor Karanka is in charge and will have them well organised. Alvaro Negredo leads a raft of signings, but his form has dipped in recent times. They will flirt with the drop.
Southampton: They finished sixth last year but have lost manager Koeman, as well as Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle. That might mean trouble for new boss Claude Puel.
Stoke: Ninth for the past three seasons, they are capable of something similar again; though last season’s late collapse was disappointing.
Sunderland: It’s welcome back to David Moyes, whose reputation needs a lick of paint. If Jermaine Defoe can keep scoring, they probably have enough to stay up.
Swansea: The loss of Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew is alarming and the club’s on-off relationship with manager Francesco Guidolin is odd. They might struggle.
Tottenham: They were in the title race and looked good last year but big players like Harry Kane and Dele Alli are coming off a bad summer with England and now must also cope with the Champions League. That said, they’re good enough to be involved again.
Watford: The nonsensical decision to replace Quique Sanchez Flores with Walter Mazzarri, who is the club’s seventh manager in four years, could be expensive. Last season Watford stayed clear of trouble thanks to the goals of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, but can they repeat the trick ?
West Brom: Tony Pulis gets mixed reviews from Baggies fans, but his pragmatic approach is the biggest reason they will stay out of trouble again.
West Ham: Opponents will fancy playing at West Ham’s new stadium more than the intimidating Upton Park. The Hammers’ new signings are nothing stellar and Slaven Bilic’s side might struggle to repeat last season’s seventh place.
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