Premier League: 2017/18 Season Preview

Last season recap

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Chelsea climbed to first place in gameweek 11 and never looked back, leading for the rest of the season and winning their 5th Premier League title. Arsenal finished below Tottenham and outside the Champions League spots for the first time in ages, and the previous champions, Leicester City, only managed 12th place. Harry Kane won the Golden Boot with 29 goals, followed by Romelu Lukaku with 25 and Alexis Sánchez with 24. Kevin De Bruyne had the most assists with 18, and Thibaut Courtois had the most clean sheets with 16. N’Golo Kanté’s efforts in Chelsea’s midfield saw him sweep all the individual awards he was eligible for, with Dele Alli winning Young Player of the Year.

This was the team of the season (Chelsea [4], Tottenham [4], Everton [1], Liverpool [1], Manchester United [1]):

David De Gea

Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Danny Rose

Eden Hazard, Dele Alli, N’Golo Kante, Sadio Mané

Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku

Most expensive arrivals (so far)

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  1. Romelu Lukaku [Manchester United, €84.7m]
  2. Álvaro Morata [Chelsea, €65m]
  3. Benjamin Mendy [Manchester City, €57.5m]
  4. Alexandre Lacazette [Arsenal, €53m]
  5. Kyle Walker [Manchester City, €51m]
  6. Bernardo Silva [Manchester City, €50m]
  7. Nemanja Matic [Manchester United, €44.7m]
  8. Mohamed Salah [Liverpool, €42m]
  9. Tiemoué Bakayoko [Chelsea, €40m]
  10. Ederson [Manchester City, €40m]

The reigning champions

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CHELSEA

Last season saw Chelsea record 93 points, the second-most in Premier League history. That was in part thanks to Diego Costa, who recorded 20 goals and 7 assists over 35 games. The Spaniard is all but officially gone though, and he has been replaced by fellow countryman Álvaro Morata. The 24-year old scored 15 league goals for Real Madrid last season, but we’re yet to see how he will settle in the Premier League with his new teammates. Another big part of Chelsea’s success was Eden Hazard, who remains at Stamford Bridge but will not be available for the start of the season with an injury. Another big arrival is that of central midfielder Tiemoué Bakayoko, who seems to be a direct replacement for the outgoing Nemanja Matic. The center of the park, while full of talent, is pretty short on players, following the sale of Nathaniel Chalobah and the loans of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mario Pasalic. Another midfielder may be needed before the end of the transfer window. German centre-back Antonio Rüdiger has been brought to improve an already stellar defense, meanwhile Willy Caballero will now serve as the backup goalkeeper following the sale of Asmir Begovic. Antonio Conte will probably continue the use of his wildly successful 3-4-3 formation, but there will be questions about the quality of rotation players, with the Blues playing Champions League football too this season.

STAR PLAYER: Eden Hazard (26, LW)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Andreas Christensen (21, CB)

POTENTIAL XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Rüdiger, Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard.

The title challengers

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MANCHESTER CITY

Pep Guardiola’s first season in England was far from ideal, as City finished 3rd in the league and lost to Monaco in the round of 16 in the Champions League. Despite that, there were flashes of brilliance in the team, often sparked by the individual brilliance of the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sané. Pep’s side will have to be much more consistent this season, though, as they get ready to compete in all fronts again. City have already spent over €200 million this season, and every day a new rumor comes out about them spending on yet another player. Guardiola is clearly focusing on improving defensively, bringing in goalkeeper Ederson from Benfica, as well as almost €140 million worth of fullbacks. Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker, and Danilo have all arrived at Etihad, and they’re expected to compete for minutes among themselves, with all of last season’s fullbacks having left. The other big signing is Bernardo Silva, who should compete in the wings with Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling, two players that showed a lot of promise last season. Heavy rotation is expected from Guardiola, who has more than one quality player for almost every position. The defensive midfield position seems the least crowded, with the aging Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, as well Ilkay Gündogan, the only options. Pep will know that anything but the Premier League title and a deep run in the Champions League will be considered a failure, and having spent so much money, the pressure is really on.

STAR PLAYER: Kevin de Bruyne (26, AM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Gabriel Jesus (20, ST)

POTENTIAL XI (3-5-2): Ederson; Stones, Kompany, Otamendi; Walker, de Bruyne, Fernandinho, D. Silva, Mendy; Agüero, Jesus.

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MANCHESTER UNITED

Jose Mourinho’s side was called all sorts of things last year, with ‘boring’ probably the most used term, but they still managed to win the EFL Cup and the Europa League. The latter trophy also granted them a spot in the Champions League for this season. The Red Devils only conceded 29 goals last season – only Tottenham managed to concede less – but they weren’t very creative and only scored 54 goals, the least in the Top 7. Romelu Lukaku, who scored 25 goals for Everton last season, has been brought in for almost €85 million to solve that problem. Meanwhile, club legend Wayne Rooney has returned to Everton, and last year’s United top scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, has not renewed his contract. Mourinho’s other signings are of a defensive nature: Victor Lindelöf has come from Benfica to compete for a centre-back spot with the likes of Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, and Phil Jones (assuming Eric Bailly is a guaranteed starter), and Nemanja Matic will form a rock-hard wall in midfield alongside Ander Herrera, which should allow Paul Pogba to get creative going forward. The French star, who until recently was the most expensive signing in history, should have a big season following what many fans considered an underwhelming one. Like Guardiola, Mourinho is also expected to rotate his team quite a bit, especially when the schedule gets too hectic with cup and European games in the horizon.

STAR PLAYER: Paul Pogba (24, CM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Marcus Rashford (19, ST)

POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Lindelöf, Blind; Pogba, Matic, Herrera; Mkhitaryan, Lukaku, Rashford.

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TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Tottenham have been flirting with the idea of a title for a while now, but the past two seasons have started making that idea seem pretty realistic. They are full of quality in every single position, and it seems that Pochettino is bringing the best out of every player. However, he and his team may be overrating themselves a bit. It doesn’t make much sense to believe that you’ve got what it takes to win the title with the same team you didn’t win the title with last year, while everyone around you is improving. Tottenham are the only team that are yet to make a signing, not only in the Premier League, but in Europe’s Top 5 leagues. Instead, they’ve lost a key player to a direct rival, as Kyle Walker has made the move to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. While Tottenham’s starting 11 is definitely one of the best in the Premier League, it is easy to notice the lack of depth in the team, especially considering that they will also be competing in the Champions League and domestic cups. Walker’s transfer means Kieran Trippier is the only experienced right-back in the team, and it seems that an injury to either Victor Wanyama or Moussa Dembele would leave the center of the park pretty vulnerable as well. But the transfer window isn’t over yet, and if a couple of signings are made, Tottenham should be in title contention once again.

STAR PLAYER: Harry Kane (24, ST)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Harry Winks (21, CM)

POTENTIAL XI (3-4-3): Lloris; Alderweireld, Dier, Vertonghen; Trippier, Wanyama, Dembele, Rose; Eriksen, Kane, Alli.

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ARSENAL

After years of sneaking into the top 4, Arsene Wenger’s men finally fell short last season, finishing in 5th place and missing out on Champions League football. Initially, this seemed like a blessing in disguise: they made two early signings in the form of left-back Sead Kolasinac for free, and the highly-rated centre-forward Alexandre Lacazette, who has scored 129 goals in the French top division. Since then, they haven’t signed anyone else, which may see them fall short of a title challenge yet again. They have, however, somewhat surprisingly held on to all of their important players, including their creative duo of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez, as well as Hector Bellerin. Arsenal’s change to a 4-3-3 near the end of last season saw them go on a very successful run of games, including a win in the FA Cup final against Chelsea. It seems that Wenger will stick to this formation, which brought out the best in players like Rob Holding and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Despite the formation change and the keeping of their star players, it still feels like something is missing for them to be a title contender. Perhaps the arrival of a Ligue 1 star like Thomas Lemar or Michaël Seri can change that.

STAR PLAYER: Alexis Sánchez (28, LW)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rob Holding (21, CB)

POTENTIAL XI (3-4-3): Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Özil, Lacazette, Sánchez.

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LIVERPOOL

Liverpool haven’t made a whole lot of changes this summer, and that might be a good thing. They often looked like title contenders last season, especially when playing against the top sides. But they somehow managed to drop a lot of points against weaker opposition, which they will need to fix in order to put up a fight this season. They have started extremely well this season, winning 7 of their preseason games and drawing their other 2. New signings Mohamed Salah and Dominic Solanke have started their Liverpool careers on fire, with the Egyptian scoring 4 times in preseason and the young English striker contributing to 5 goals (3 goals, 2 assists). Brazilians Coutinho and Firmino have also been doing well, in an attack that also features Senegalese winger Sadio Mané, who was in last year’s Team of the Season. Andrew Robertson from Hull is the only new arrival in defense, which should be a worrying sign for Liverpool if they don’t manage to sign Virgin van Dijk from Southampton or someone else of his quality. The goalkeeper spot might be another worry for Jurgen Klopp’s team, with Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius often failing to live up to expectations. The bottom line is that while Liverpool’s attack is definitely filled with title-winning quality (especially if Coutinho stays), the defense still raises questions.

STAR PLAYER: Sadio Mané (25, LW)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Dominic Solanke (19, ST)

POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Coutinho; Salah, Firmino, Mané.

The Europe-seekers

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EVERTON

Romelu Lukaku was always going to be tough to replace, but everyone knew it was a matter of time before he moved on to a bigger team. Everton did get a good amount of money for the Belgian though, and they’ve been using it wisely this summer. Sandro Ramirez, the 21-year old Spanish forward who scored 14 La Liga goals last season, seems to be the direct replacement for Lukaku. He’s not really like Lukaku in terms of style, though, as he often drifts wide and is comfortable playing in the wings, should Everton invest in another forward. Wayne Rooney has also come back to Everton, and he’s looked very good in preseason, playing in a variety of positions across the front 3. The last attacking player to come in is Davy Klaassen, who can also play a variety of positions, but will most likely be tasked with replacing Ross Barkley, who seems to be on the way out. The most expensive arrivals have come in defense though, with centre-back Michael Keane and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford costing them a combined €57 million. Pickford should take up the goalkeeper position without a doubt, while Keane will form a partnership with either Ashley Williams, Ramiro Funes Mori, or both of them, depending on the formation. While this Everton team does seem one of their best in recent history, it’s still too early to tell if they have what it takes for a Top 4 finish.

STAR PLAYER: Morgan Schneiderlin (27, DM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tom Davis (19, CM)

POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Coleman, Williams, Keane, Baines; Gueye, Schneiderlin; Klaassen, Rooney, Bolasie; Sandro.

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SOUTHAMPTON

Southampton finished 8th last season, a finish that really doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure, an 8th place finish isn’t bad at all, but they were actually closer to 17th place (only 6 points) than 7th (15 points). In fact, they were closer to getting relegated than to a European finish. Defensively, they were quite good, but that was in large thanks to Virgil van Dijk, who seems to be on his way out. Centre-back Jan Bednarek has been brought in, and will compete for minutes with Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida if another centre-back isn’t signed before the end of the transfer window. While their defensive efforts were plausible, the same cannot be said about their attacking efforts. The Saints only scored 41 goals; only the bottom 5 scored less than them. Despite that, and the fact that their top-scorer was winger Nathan Redmond with 7 goals, a striker has not been signed yet. This should see Manolo Gabbiadini as their main man up front. The Italian striker joined last January and started really well, but cooled off pretty fast, and only scored 4 league goals. Their only other arrival is that of Juventus midfielder Mario Lemina, who will compete in a highly competitive midfield with the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Jordy Clasie, Steven Davis, and Oriol Romeu. Despite van Dijk’s imminent departure, Southampton’s biggest problem seems to be scoring goals. If they solve that problem, they can very well compete for a finish in the Top 7.

STAR PLAYER: Dusan Tadic (28, AM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jan Bednarek (21, CB)

POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Forster; Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Lemina; Boufal, Gabbiadini, Tadic.

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LEICESTER CITY

The magic of Leicester’s title-winning 16/17 season almost entirely wore off last season, as a spot in the relegation battle saw coach Claudio Ranieri fired in February. The hole N’Golo Kante left was never properly filled, and Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy never quite hit the heights they hit the previous season. On top of that, they also had to deal with a pretty deep run in the Champions League, as they reached the quarterfinals. Leicester conceded 63 goals last season, 27 more than during their title-winning campaign. Vicente Iborra has joined from Sevilla; he and Wilfred Ndidi should be capable of filling the Kante-sized hole that was in their midfield last season. Harry Maguire has also joined from Hull City, and should take over Robert Huth’s spot to partner Wes Morgan. The big signing has come in attack though, with Kelechi Iheanacho joining from Manchester City. The Nigerian forward never got a chance to really prove himself over in Manchester, but he should get a starting spot next to Jamie Vardy in attack. The competition up top is quite interesting though, with Islam Slimani, Ahmed Musa, and Shinji Okazaki all vying for minutes as well. While it’s hard to see Leicester fighting for the title again in the near future (as if that matters to them), it’s not impossible to see them fighting for European spots this season.

STAR PLAYER: Riyad Mahrez (26, RW)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Demarai Gray (21, LW)

POTENTIAL XI (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs; Mahrez, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Gray; Vardy, Iheanacho.

The mid-table?

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WEST HAM

On paper, West Ham have a team capable of challenging for Europe, but for some reason, it’s hard to have a lot of faith in them. Maybe it’s their ever-leaking defense. They conceded 64 goals last season, and no matter how you look at it, that’s way too many for a team of their ambitions. They’ve brought in Joe Hart as an upgrade for the goalkeeping spot, as well as Pablo Zabaleta on a free, but the center of defense is still the same, with Winston Reid a guaranteed starter and Angelo Ogbonna and Jose Fonte fighting for the other spot. That’s not to say they haven’t spent some money though. Former Manchester United striker Javier Hernández has been bought for €18 million, and he is expected to be the lone striker up front. The other big signing is Marko Arnautovic, who was one of Stoke’s best players last season. Arnautovic should start on the wings alongside André Ayew, with Robert Snodgrass and Sofiane Feghouli also hopeful of a spot in the starting lineup. It will be interesting to see if Slaven Bilic sticks to the 3-4-3 he started using late last season, or if he’ll sacrifice a centre-back for an extra midfielder. Whatever the case, there’s no excuses for him and his team to not be comfortable in mid-table throughout the season.

STAR PLAYER: Manuel Lanzini (24, AM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Edimilson Fernandes (21, CM)

POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Hart; Zabaleta, Ried, Ogbonna, Masuaku; Noble, Kouyaté, Lanzini; Arnautovic, Hernández, Ayew.

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WEST BROM

West Brom are becoming THE mid-table team in the Premier League. Never doing anything too spectacular, the Baggies have been fairly consistent since 2010, with the only exception being a 17th place finish in 2014. Manager Tony Pulis has built a solid defensive team, that usually doesn’t offer much going forward. Last season, they were in 8th place from December to May, before slipping to 10th after 3 losses in the last 3 games. Not too much has changed ahead of this season. The only big signing is that of Jay Rodriguez from Southampton, who should add some excitement going forward. Meanwhile, central midfielders Darren Fletcher (who played every game last season) and Craig Gardner have left, which has left the centre of the park a little emptier than it should be, with English international Jake Livermore the only guaranteed starter there. The team is also short on fullbacks, with Craig Dawson and Allan Nyom the only options on each flank. It seems like a no-brainer to purchase a few more players, even if they’re only backups for spots that are already filled. Assuming that some more depth is added, West Brom should have enough quality to stay clear of the relegation zone, and fight for a spot in the top half of the table.

STAR PLAYER: Jake Livermore (27, DM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Sam Field (19, CM)

POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Livermore, Yacob; Chadli, Rodriguez, Phillips; Rondon.

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BOURNEMOUTH

Eddie Howe’s men were one of the most exciting teams to watch last season, scoring the 7th most goals in the league, but also conceding more goals than all but 4 other teams. They’ve been doing some work in the transfer market to improve defensively, bringing goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and centre-back Nathan Aké over from Chelsea. Another big arrival is that of centre-forward Jermain Defoe, who scored 15 goals in a struggling Sunderland side last season. Defoe joins an already stacked front line – Joshua King scored 16 goals last season, and Benik Afobe has been putting them away for fun in preseason. Callum Wilson is also an option, perhaps the best one, but he is currently injured. There’s also plenty of young talents in Bournemouth’s ranks, with 20-year old central midfielder Lewis Cook being billed as one of the most exciting youngsters in the league, and the likes of Jordon Ibe and Lys Mousset hoping to prove themselves after underwhelming first seasons. Overall, Bournemouth’s attack should have enough in it to guarantee another season in the top flight, but their defense will have to do better for a finish in the top half of the table.

STAR PLAYER: Joshua King (25, AM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Lewis Cook (20, CM)

POTENTIAL XI (4-4-1-1): Begovic; Smith, Aké, S. Cook, Daniels; Ibe, L. Cook, Gosling, Gradel; King; Afobe.

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SWANSEA CITY

At the end of 2016, Swansea found themselves in the last place in the table, after winning only 3 of 19 games. Then, Paul Clement was hired as head coach, and everything changed. Swansea won 9 of their games in the second half of the season, including 4 of their last 5, which was enough to see them avoid relegation and finish 15th. Now that Paul Clement has had a full preseason with his players, the form they hit in the second half of last season should be a more regular thing. Transfers have been somewhat of a rare occurrence this summer, with Roque Mesa coming from Las Palmas and serving as a replacement (and an upgrade) for the outgoing Jack Cork. Meanwhile, youngster Tammy Abraham has arrived on loan to compete for the striker position with Fernando Llorente. While Swansea’s preseason has been promising, it seems that a lot of their success in 2017/18 will depend on the future of Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelandic international has been heavily linked with a move to Everton; a move which would probably prompt Clement to spend some more money this summer. If Sigurdsson does leave and another creator does not join, it’s expected that former Tottenham midfielder Tom Carroll will be the go-to man. If Clement’s first season at Swansea is anything to go by, the Swans should be relatively comfortable in mid-table this season.

STAR PLAYER: Gylfi Sigurdsson (27, AM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tammy Abraham (19, ST)

POTENTIAL XI (4-3-2-1): Fabianski; Naughton, Mawson, Fernandez, Olsson; Mesa, Fer, Carroll; Sigurdsson, Ayew; Abraham.

The relegation avoiders

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STOKE CITY

Stoke have made the mid-table theirs, finishing between 9th and 14th every year since their promotion in 2008. Last season, they finished in 13th place, only winning 11 games. Summer has been one to forget for Stoke fans. They are yet to spend any money, with their only signings being Darren Fletcher, Josh Tymon, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for free, and Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea. These signings are just simply not enough, especially when their relegation rivals are spending big on improving their teams in hopes of survival. To make matters worse, Marko Arnautovic (6 goals, 5 assists last season) has left for West Ham, and Joselu, who’s been great in preseason, has been linked with Newcastle. Preseason has come with mixed results for the The Potters, who conceded 4 goals in games against Monaco and St. Pauli, but defeated RB Leipzig and Amiens. Both Joselu and Mame Diouf have shown that they can find the back of the net though, and with the likes of Saido Berahino and Peter Crouch also in the conversation, the centre-forward position looks like the most competitive one. While their current team may be just good enough to stay up, Stoke will have to spend if they don’t want another season of misery near the bottom of the table.

STAR PLAYER: Xherdan Shaqiri (25, RW)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ramadan Sobhi (20, LW)

POTENTIAL XI (3-4-3): Butland; Zouma, Shawcross, Cameron; Diouf, Imbula, Allen, Pieters; Shaqiri, Berahino, Bojan.

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CRYSTAL PALACE

Crystal Palace has essentially the same team they ended last season with, which may be concerning, considering they finished 14th. Holding on to Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha will make their fans hopeful of a decent season though. The pair combined for 22 goals last season, only 2 less than the rest of the team combined. Joe Ledley and Mathieu Flamini have been released, but loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek should be more than enough to replace them. Serbian international Luka Milivojevic has been a key player since he joined in January, in a midfield that also boasts former PSG midfielder Yohan Cabaye and Scottish international James McArthur. The defense has been boasted by the arrival of Jairo Riedewald from Ajax, while another January arrival, Patrick van Aanholt, is also expected to play a big role in the team. The biggest arrival though, is that of manager Frank De Boer. The Dutch manager may not have been at his best at Inter Milan, but he has seen success with Ajax, and is expected to lift this Crystal Palace team to a new level. The lack of signings in the transfer window may prove to be a big mistake for De Boer and Palace, but let’s first give the Dutch manager a chance to try his 3-4-3 and see what the team still needs come January.

STAR PLAYER: Wilfried Zaha (24, RW)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jairo Riedewald (20, CB)

POTENTIAL XI (3-4-3): Hennessey; Milivojevic, Dann, Riedewald; Puncheon, Cabaye, Loftus-Cheek, Van Aanholt; Zaha, Benteke, Townsend.

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BURNLEY

Last season, it seemed like Burnley’s plan was simple: defend hard and hope for the best going forward. This worked wonders for them at home, as they ranked 9th in home games, but 19th in away games. It doesn’t seem like Sean Dyche plans on changing much, with a quiet transfer window so far. In fact, the biggest news coming from Burnley was that of a departure, as highly rated centre-back Michael Keane, who played in 35 games last season, made his move to Everton. This could very well prove to be Burnley’s downfall, as they are yet to sign a worthy replacement for the young Englishman. They’ve also lost their biggest goalscoring threat, Andre Gray, to another relegation candidate, Watford. They are yet to replace him as well. Burnley’s biggest arrival this summer has been Jack Cork, who should provide good cover in the middle of the park. Cork joins an already promising midfield that boasts Irishmen Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick, as well as Belgian international Steven Defour. Their other transfers have been underwhelming: two rotation players from Stoke, both on the wrong side of 30, and Charlie Taylor on a free from Leeds United. It’s difficult to see Burnley improve on last season’s 16th place finish, especially if they don’t sign a replacement for Keane, and even moreso if they can’t find a way to win some points away from home.

STAR PLAYER: Robbie Brady (25, LM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Charlie Taylor (23, LB)

POTENTIAL XI (4-4-2): Heaton; Lowton, Mee, Tarkowski, Ward; Gudmundsson, Defour, Hendrick, Brady; Vokes, Walters.

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WATFORD

Watford dropped to 17th place with 6 losses in their final 6 games, but before that, they had a decent season in 16/17. Troy Deeney was left with too much responsibility in attack after Odion Ighalo made his move to China, but that shouldn’t be a problem this season, with the arrivals of Richarlison from Brazil and Andre Gray from relegation rivals Burnley. There have also been reinforcements in midfield, with Tom Cleverley making his move permanent, and Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes joining as well. The biggest arrival though, is that of Marco Silva. The Portuguese coach almost pulled a miracle with Hull at the end of last season, but ultimately didn’t have the players to survive relegation. Silva has been playing with only one striker during preseason, but the assumption is that Andre Gray was brought in as Deeney’s partner up front, rather than his backup. Étienne Capoue has continued his scoring ways in preseason, and is expected to play a key role in midfield, alongside more technical players like Hughes and Roberto Pereyra. While Marco Silva might bring high expectations with him, it’s difficult to see Watford in the top half of the table at the end of the season.

STAR PLAYER: Roberto Pereyra (26, AM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Richarlison (20, ST)

POTENTIAL XI (3-5-2): Gomes; Kabasele, Prödl, Cathcart; Janmaat, Hughes, Capoue, Pereyra, Amrabat; Deeney, Gray.

The newcomers

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NEWCASTLE UNITED

Unlike Brighton and Huddersfield, Newcastle are hardly a newcomer to the Premier League. They got relegated in the 15/16 season, but it always seemed like a temporary setback rather than something to be worried about. They dominated the Championship last season, staying in the Top 2 since gameweek 12, and tipping Brighton to the title in the last week. Rafa Benitez has built quite a decent team, and added to the talent pool this summer, with the arrival of Norwich winger Jacob Murphy and the permanent deal for last season loanee Christian Atsu. The other signings have been of a more defensive nature, with Eibar centre-back Florian Lejeune, Atlético Madrid full-back Javier Manquillo, and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mikel Merino all joining. Newcastle have also held onto all their key players from last season. Dwight Gayle, who scored 23 goals last season, is expected to lead the line again this time around, with the jury still out on him in terms of Premier League performances. Matt Ritchie also settled in nicely into the team, contributing with 12 goals and 7 assists in his first season at St. James Park. While there is still room for a transfer or two, Newcastle’s current team should be good enough to avoid the relegation battle, and fight for a spot in the top half of the table instead.

STAR PLAYER: Matt Ritchie (27, RM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Mikel Merino (21, DM)

POTENTIAL XI (4-4-1-1): Elliot; Yedlin, Lejeune, Clark, Dummett; Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden, Murphy; Perez; Gayle.

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BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

Brighton had been flirting with promotion for awhile, losing in the playoffs in 2013, 2014, and 2016, before finally securing direct promotion last season. Now that they’re officially a Premier League club for the first time in its 25-year existence, they’re doing all they can to make sure their stay is a long one. Defensively, they’ve brought in Matt Ryan in between the posts, as well as Markus Suttner and Ales Mateju to reinforce the full back positions. Their most exciting transfers, though, have come in the middle of the park. Dutch international Davy Pröpper became their record signing two days ago, while former Ingolstadt star Pascal Groß has already settled in with 3 goals in preseason. One thing that is still missing at the Amex Stadium is a Premier League quality goalscorer. Glenn Murray did score 23 goals last season, but it may prove difficult for the 33-year old to pull similar numbers against Premier League defenders. If a new striker does arrive, he can expect the support of Anthony Knockaert, who scored 15 goals and created another 8 last season. Regardless of who leads their line come September, it seems that Brighton have enough to stay up.

STAR PLAYER: Anthony Knockaert (25, RW)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Isaiah Brown (20, AM)

POTENTIAL XI (4-3-3): Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner; Pröpper, Stephens, Groß; Knockaert, Murray, Brown.

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HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Three-time champions in the 1920s, Huddersfield return to England’s top tier for the first time in 45 years. Their promotion campaign was far from perfect: they finished 5th with a negative goal difference, before beating Sheffield Wednesday in away goals and Reading in penalties in the promotion playoffs. Manager David Wagner knows that staying up will be difficult with a record like that, and the amount of transfers they’ve already made in this window shows that. First, they made sure to hold on to two of their best players from last season. Top scorer Elias Kachunga and midfielder Aaron Mooy made their loan moves permanent, and will both be expected to play key roles in the team’s survival bid. It was obvious that the defense had to be improved. Huddersfield conceded 58 league goals last season; for reference, 13th placed Aston Villa conceded 10 less, and relegated Wigan conceded ‘only’ 57. Goalkeeper Jonas Lössl joined from Mainz, followed by centre-back Zanka from the Danish league, as well as Scott Malone and Danny Williams from the Championship. However, the most exciting additions came in attack. Steve Mounié (14 goals in Ligue 1 last season) and Tom Ince (14 goals in the Championship last season) joined for a combined €22 million, and they will both hope to hit the double digits again this season. Both Mounié and Ince have started well, scoring 4 goals each in preseason. While many fans have already billed Huddersfield as the new whipping boy, they may have a surprise in them.

STAR PLAYER: Aaron Mooy (26, CM)

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kasey Palmer (20, AM)

POTENTIAL XI (4-2-3-1): Lössl; Smith, Zanka, Schindler, Löwe; Williams, Mooy; Kachunga, Ince, Van la Parra; Mounié.

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