In the final of a four part epic, Sports Editor James Beeson tells Exeposé Sport who he expects will struggle to stay in England’s top division this season…
16th – Southampton
Manager: Ronald Koeman
Key arrival: Fraser Forster
Key departure: Adam Lallana
Rarely has a single team been so decimated by departures in a single transfer window as Southampton have this summer. Following an excellent campaign in which the South coast club finished 8th in the league, the squad has been effectively mauled, losing four first teamers, with another two seemingly destined to follow. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has also departed, leaving incoming boss Ronald Koeman with a seemingly impossible task of repairing the damage.
The warning signs were evident from an early stage for the Saints this summer, with Pochettino joining Tottenham on the 27th May. This blow was soon followed up by the departures of journeyman Rickie Lambert, who completed a dream move to boy-hood club Liverpool, and teenage sensation Luke Shaw, who signed for Manchester United in a deal thought to be worth around £27million. Things then got even worse for Saints fans, as Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren both signed for Liverpool. New manager Ronald Koeman has insisted no more players will leave St Mary’s this summer, but Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez are both reportedly keen on moves to White Hart Lane, and could still depart.
To put it bluntly, Southampton are in dire need of signings. They kick off their campaign against Liverpool this weekend, and unless they make some signings soon, then they could find themselves on the wrong side of a whipping from some of their former players. Goalkeeper Fraser Forster is a good signing from Celtic, as is Ryan Betrand on loan from Chelsea, but the Saints desperately need players in other positions, and I have my doubts about the ability of winger Dusan Tadic and Inter Milan loanee Saphir Taider to adapt to the Premier League. Southampton are in for a long season, but should, unless they lose even more players, just about still have the necessary quality to stay up.
17th – Aston Villa
Manager: Paul Lambert
Key arrival: Roy Keane (assistant coach)
Key departure: Marc Albrighton
It has been another depressing summer for midlands club Aston Villa, as owner Randy Lerner has tried (and failed) to sell the Premier League club, whilst major rivals have received heavy financial investment. Villa finished just five points clear of the relegation zone last season, and fans appeared to be losing faith with manager Paul Lambert, who looked tired and devoid of ideas as his team limped to Premier League safety.
Coming into the new campaign, there has been little to smile about for Villa fans, although the arrival of Roy Keane as assistant manager could help motivate some of the more disillusioned members of Lambert’s squad. Their transfer policy has been somewhat bizarre; signing a group of experienced players after having spent the previous two seasons lowering the average age of the squad. Joe Cole, Phillipe Senderos and Kieran Richardson are hardly marquee signings, but they do boast a vast quantity of Premier League experience, which could prove vital if Villa are mired in another relegation scrap this season. Aly Cissokho is a mysterious signing from Valencia following a poor loan spell at Liverpool, whilst the likes of Marc Albrighton and Nathan Delfouneso have left the midlands club, having never fulfilled their potential in a Villa shirt.
I find it hard to be optimistic about Villa’s prospects this season. I cant imagine they will challenge in the cup competitions, and Premier League survival will be a challenge in itself. I’m backing them to escape the drop, but purely on the basis of the experience Roy Keane & their new signings will bring to the side.
18th – West Bromwich Albion
Manager: Alan Irvine
Key arrival: Joleon Lescott
Key departure: N/A
I’m not sure there has ever been a managerial appointment quite as uninspiring as that of Alan Irvine in the history of the Premier League. West Brom should never have sacked Steve Clarke last season, and they were lucky to escape relegation last season under the charge of Pepe Mel, who has since departed the club.
In terms of new signings, West Brom haven’t exactly set the world on fire. Joleon Lescott has fallen a long way since being England’s first choice centre-half less than two years ago, but remains a good acquisition on a free transfer. Craig Gardner and Chris Baird are uninspiring signings but should be successes at the Hawthorns. Nigerian striker Brown Ideye failed to make the cut in a poor World Cup squad, and will have a lot to prove following his £10million move from Dynamo Kiev. There have been few big name departures from the club, although Zoltan Gera and Liam Ridgewell have moved on to pastures new.
It would be difficult to call Alan Irvine’s managerial career to this point a success, with his only two previous positions at Championship sides Preston and Sheffield Wednesday ending in the sack. A lack of top flight managerial experience, coupled with an unimpressive squad mean that West Brom will be lucky to avoid relegation this season, something which I think they will fail to do.
19th – Leicester City
Manager: Nigel Pearson
Key arrival: Leo Ulloa
Key departure: N/A
Last year’s Championship winners Leicester City will arrive in the Premier League full of optimism following their promotion, and in Nigel Pearson possess a manager who knows how to get the best out of a squad at his disposal. The problem, however, is that Leicester’s squad just simply aren’t good enough to make the cut against the very top sides in this division.
Pearson has a group of dedicated and strong-minded individuals such as Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Drinkwater and Wes Morgan, who will give their all to ensure that Leicester don’t go down without a fight. However, transfers play a huge part in adapting to the Premier League, and Marc Albrighton and Matthew Upson are unlikely to set hearts racing at the King Power stadium this season. Much will be expected of £8million signing Leo Ulloa, and it is absolutely essential that he hits the ground running for his new club if Leicester are to stand a chance of survival in the top flight. Departures have been minimal, but more recruits are essential if Pearson is to last the season. Leicester’s owners may have given the former Hull boss time to implement his ideas in the Championship, but the stakes are much higher this time around, and if results don’t go their way, he may find himself out of a job before Christmas.
The Foxes may surprise us all and flourish in the top flight, but right now the only place I see them finishing is in the lower echelons of the Premier League next may.
Manager: Sean Dyche
Key arrival: Michael Kightly
Key departure: Chris Baird
It would be unkind to doom Burnely to Premier League relegation before a ball has even been kicked this season, but in all honesty, if manager Sean Dyche can steer his plucky claret and blue side clear of the drop this season then he deserves no less than a knighthood for his efforts.
The Clarets possess the smallest wage bill and the smallest transfer budget in the division by some way. Their most expensive signing this season, Lukas Jutkiewicz of Middlesbrough, cost just £1.5million; whilst the rest of their summer’s transfer dealings have been a combination of loans, free transfers and nominal fees. Competing against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea will undoubtedly be a dream come true for many of Burnley’s team, but it will be a dream that is short lived baring some minor miracle. Despite this, however, no credit should be taken away from Dyche, who has done incredibly well to get Burnley promoted in the first place, and should in no circumstances find himself or his job under pressure this season.
If, and this is a big if, Burnley do survive relegation this season, then the likes of Michael Kightly, Marvin Sordell and Danny Igns will need to be in the form of their lives. With luck on their side, they could upset the established order and survive. It’s unlikely, but should be entertaining to watch nonetheless.
So there you have it, these are our Premier League Predictions for this season. We hope that you enjoyed them, and that they have sparked some debate. We can’t wait for the new season, and will continue to post analysis, opinions and debates throughout, so please do continue to check the Eexposé Sport website regularly.