GMS Academy member Jon vine guides you through the final few teams in his comprehensive Premier League preview.
Last Season Finish: 9th
New Arrivals: Wilfried Bony, Jonjo Shelvey, Jordi Amat, Jose Canas, Jonathan De Guzman, Alejandro Pozuelo.
Key Departures: Mark Gower, Kyle Bartley, Kemy Agustien.
Last season was one of the best in the history of Swansea City. Despite losing manager Brendan Rodgers in the summer, Michael Laudrup came in and guided the Swan’s to a very impressive 9th place finish and Capital One cup glory in the process.
To help build on last season’s success and to help bolster the squad for the rigours of Europa League, Laudrup has been given the green light to bring in a lot of players this summer and he has done just that.
Defensive midfielder Jose Canas and tricky winger Alejandro Pozuelo have come in on free transfers from Real Betis. Young centre back Jordi Amat, has also joined the club to provide cover for Chico and Williams.
Jonathan De Guzman, one of Swansea’s stand out players last term, has rejoined the club on another season long loan and Jonjo Shelvey has come in from Liverpool to add some drive and tenacity to the midfield, but the best signing of all has to be Wilfried Bony.
After scoring 31 goals in 30 games in the Dutch Eredivisie last season, Bony was linked with a lot of Europe’s top clubs, in the end it was Swansea who signed him for a club record fee of £12 million pounds from Vitesse.
His powerful, clinical style and fun filled goal celebrations made him an instant favourite with Vitesse’s fans. His style suits the English game perfectly so I have no doubt that the Swansea faithful will take to him just the same.
His arrival is also good news for Swansea’s star player, Michu. The Spaniard was at his best last season when playing in behind a proper striker, towards the end of the season he was playing alone up front and he wasn’t nearly as effective.
If Michu and Bony can link up together well and the likes of Pablo Hernandez and Nathan Dyer can support them from wide positions, then entire Premier League will have to watch out because they will be lethal.
There is no question that Swansea are a top half team, but next season all depends on how well they can cope with European football.
This will be their first crack at the Europa League, so squad management and rotation will be vital if they are to remain successful domestically.
Hopefully they can progress well in both competitions, as with the players they have and the style of football they play, they really suit European football. A top 6 finish in the league would ensure that for next season and that is definitely not out of reach.
Last Season Finish: 5th
New Arrivals: Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Nabil Chadli, Etienne Capoue.
Key Departures: Clint Dempsey, Steven Caulker, Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Scott Parker, David Bentley, William Gallas, John Bostock.
Tottenham’s pre-season has been over shadowed by the Gareth Bale saga. Will he or won’t he leave? I’m sure all Spurs fans are a little tired of all the rumours by now and just want to see it sorted.
From a neutral point of view, you can see positives from both possible outcomes.
If he stays, Tottenham keep arguably the best player in the league at the moment and with the players already brought in, they would have a good chance of securing Champions League football next season.
If he leaves, they will rake in a lot of money. This could be spent on 3 top quality players and with the players already brought in, they would have a good chance of securing Champions League football next season.
Aside from the Gareth Bale drama, Spurs have had an overhaul in playing staff this summer.
Clint Dempsey has returned to the MLS, an aging and injury plagued Scott Parker has dropped down into the Championship and Tom Huddlestone, along with Jake Livermore on loan, has joined Hull in the pursuit of first team football.
With central midfield and centre defence looking a little bare, Spurs have spent some good money. Brazilian midfielder Paulinho’s £17 million pound move was a club record fee, until Roberto Soldado came in from Valencia for £26 million.
Spurs really lacked a top quality striker last season and after scoring 24 goals last season, Soldado looks like an excellent addition.
French defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue has also come in. He is quick and powerful and he can play both as a midfielder and as a centre back.
But with question marks over the fitness of Dawson, Kaboul and Vertonghen coming into the new season, Andre Villas-Boas has a problem.
This makes the sale of Steven Caulker even more baffling.
When Caulker played in the first team last season, he looked good. He’s tall, quick and good technically, surely a future England centre back. Yet he’s been shipped off to Cardiff for £8 million.
I really don’t understand this and Villas-Boas could come to regret this decision.
One player that I’m excited to see back this season is Sandro. He was injured for the majority of the last campaign and his energy, drive and aggression was sorely missed in the Spurs midfield. He and Paulinho could form a strong partnership in midfield, allowing the brilliant Mousa Dembele to get further up the pitch and cause havoc in the opposition penalty area.
Regardless of whether Bale stays or not, Spurs have one of the best midfields in Europe. If they can restore their key defenders to full fitness and Soldado and Defoe score a lot of goals, then they will have a very good chance of claiming fourth place.
West Bromwich Albion
Last Seasons Finish: 8th
New Arrivals: Nicholas Anelka, Diego Lugano, Matej Vydra, Goran Popov.
Key Departures: Romelu Lukaku, Marc Antoine-Fortune, Jerome Thomas, Gonzalo Jara.
West Brom were probably the surprise package in last season’s Premier League. Roy Hodgson had departed to take over with England and Steve Clarke was given his first opportunity as a manager. This appointment could have backfired and his lack of managerial experience could have hindered the clubs survival chances, but Albion performed consistently well all season and recorded their best ever finish.
The loan signing of Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea was one of the signings of the season. He really gave West Brom a bit of extra quality up front, his strength and pace frightened the life out of defenders and he went on to score 17 goal.
Albion had hoped to keep hold of him for another season, but with Jose Mourinho’s return and Chelsea being a little light in the striking department, he looks set to feature in their first team.
To cover this loss, Clarke has brought Nicolas Anelka back to English football. The French journeyman is 34 now, so he may not have the lighting pace that made him one of the most dangerous strikers in Europe in the mid 2000’s, but he has an awful lot of experience, which at a club like West Brom could prove invaluable.
His predatory instincts are still fully intact, after scoring for fun in pre-season, this could prove to be a very shrewd piece of business.
As could the loan signing of Matej Vydra from Udinese. The young Czech forward won Championship player of the year last season, while on loan at Watford, so he has earned this step up to the top division. Clarke will be hoping he can use his skill and trickery to make the same kind of impact this campaign.
Although The Baggies did defend very well last season, Gareth McAuley especially performed brilliantly alongside Captain Jonas Olsson, they could do with another good quality defender.
Olsson and McAuley are both into their 30’s now and although Clarke has brought in Uruguayan centre back Diego Lugano, he too is the wrong side of 30 and his form for club and country has been questionable over the last few years.
Craig Dawson looks like a very good prospect for the future and Billy Jones is a very good, versatile defender, but a really good left back would be welcome at the Hawthorns.
Ipswich’s Aaron Cresswell won a lot of admirers last season and many think he is ready for a crack at the Premier League, he would be a good option for Albion.
They could also do with another striker. Even though Anelka and Vydra have come in, the only other striker’s they have are Shane Long and Markus Rosenberg.
Lukaku’s physical presence gave the team a lot of outballs and attacking options last season, so another powerful striker would be ideal.
Watford’s Troy Deeney has had a great start to the season, he would fit the bill perfectly.
West Brom’s biggest problem though is the lack of funds available to the club. Their own chairman referred to The Baggies as “A mid table Championship club”, so they clearly do not have the same financial backing as the other clubs around them.
And with such little money available, you can’t help feeling that they are in danger of being overtaken by many of their rivals.
I would be incredibly surprised if they managed another 8th place finish this season. If they can play some good football, stay clear of the relegation zone and record a solid mid to lower table finish, I don’t think the Baggies faithful will have much to complain about come the end of the season.
West Ham United
Last Seasons Finish: 10th
New Arrivals: Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Razvan Rat, Adrian.
Key Departures: Carlton Cole, Gary O’Neil, Robert Hall.
West Ham had a very successful return to the Premier League last season. A 10th place finish was more than most could have hoped for and their home form was up there with the best in the League.
Sam Allardyce was given money to spend and did some great business, the loan signing of Andy Carroll was exceptionally good. Although the big Geordie was injured quite a lot, when he played they looked like a different team.
Mohammed Diame on a free transfer from Wigan was one of the signings of the season in my opinion. He is the ideal Premier League central midfielder. Strong, aggressive, hard working and technically very good, I’m surprised some of the bigger clubs in the league haven’t made a move for him this summer.
The Hammer’s have made a few signings this summer too. Andy Carroll has been signed up permanently, as well as his Liverpool team mate Stewart Downing. With him down the left and Matt Jarvis down the right, Carroll could score a lot of goals this campaign.
Romanian defender Razvan Rat adds some depth and experience to the Hammers back line and Spanish goalkeeper Adrian has come in to provide a bit of competition for Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Both arrive on free transfers, from Shakthar and Betis respectively.
It is rumoured that Sam still has some money to spend and is looking at bringing in more attacking reinforces, I think getting his key players back to full fitness should be his main priority.
Andy Carroll is fantastic when in full flow, but he is very susceptible to injury. Kevin Nolan is very dependable too, but he needs the likes of Diame and Mark Noble to be fully fit and performing around him.
Jack Collison has been a very promising player for a number of years now, but is very injury prone. Going forward, he could become a very good player so I would love to see him back to full fitness and playing in the Premier League.
If they want to build on last season’s finish though, Big Sam must figure out how to be more competitive on their travels.
The Hammers only recorded three away victories all season, which for the squad they have, is pretty poor.
If they want to push for a European place they will have to be better away from home, as they are too reliant on the crowd getting behind them at Upton Park, but if they do improve then they could go onto bigger and better things this season.
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