x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Premier League preview – from Manchester United to West Ham

Final installment of Richard Jolly's two-part A-Z breakdown of the Premier League teams and their prospects for the upcoming season.

Swansea City broke a club record in signing Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony. Koen Van Weel / EPA
Swansea City broke a club record in signing Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony. Koen Van Weel / EPA

MANCHESTER UNITED

Last Season: Led from the front to win a 20th title with Robin van Persie exerting a huge influence after his move from Arsenal. Then Sir Alex Ferguson retired, David Moyes was appointed and life at Old Trafford changed.

Strengths: Van Persie, the most reliable and classy goalscorer in the country. A deep and determined squad. The winning mentality and never-say-die spirit of a team who are often damned with faint praise. Won away at their major rivals, Chelsea and City, last season.

Weaknesses: There is no Ferguson to galvanise them and intimidate anyone else. Wayne Rooney wants to leave and while Moyes has plenty of money, he has not attracted his premier targets. City and Chelsea seem to have stronger starting XIs.

Key signing: Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, £15 million) – The precocious winger’s move was arranged by Ferguson in January but he arrived this summer. Moyes had hoped to have a bigger buy – Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale or Cesc Fabregas – by now but to no avail.

Other signings: Guillermo Varela.

Major departure: Paul Scholes (retired) – Gone for a second time and Moyes quest to sign a playmaker has been unsuccessful so far.

Other departures: Ryan Tunnicliffe (Ipswich Town, loan).

NEWCASTLE

Last Season: Decent in Europe, disappointing in England. Dropped from fifth to 16th in 12 months. Then hired Joe Kinnear as director of football …

Strengths: A fine starting XI, courtesy of excellent recruitment in France. Talents like Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa.

Weaknesses: Were inconsistent and injury-prone last season. Too many players underperformed. Have struggled in the transfer market this summer. Oh, and Kinnear …

Key signing: Loic Remy (QPR, loan) – The striker who turned Newcastle down in January has eventually arrived.

Other signings: Olivier Kemen

Major departure: James Perch (Wigan, £750,000) – The versatile cult hero will be missed.

Other departures: Steve Harper, Danny Simpson.

NORWICH CITY

Last Season: A brilliant spell of 10 games that produced 22 points. Otherwise, a grind to safety.

Strengths: Hard to beat at home. Sebastien Bassong made them solid at the back. Bought well last year and spent heavily now.

Weaknesses: Really poor away record. Had too few goals from the strikers – explaining their business …

Key signing: Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Sporting Lisbon, £8.5m) – A pedigree addition to the attack.

Other signings: Leroy Fer, Gary Hooper, Martin Olsson, Nathan Redmond, Javier Garrido.

Major departure: Grant Holt – A talisman but not in Van Wolfswinkel’s class.

Other departures: James Vaughan, Leon Barnett, Simeon Jackson, Chris Martin, Marc Tierney, Elliott Ward.

SOUTHAMPTON

Last Season: Controversially changed managers mid-season but beat the drop anyway, despite an awful start.

Strengths: Mauricio Pochettino’s high-speed passing, pressing game. Dangerous going forward and have plenty of young talent, particularly Luke Shaw and Morgan Schneiderlin.

Weaknesses: Poor defensively, especially in the first 10 games. May need a more reliable goalkeeper than Artur Boruc.

Key signing: Dejan Lovren (Lyon, £8.5m) – The centre-back has been brought in to improve a porous back four.

Other signings: Victor Wanyama.

Major departure: Vegard Forren – Defender who came and went without playing.

Other departures: Richard Chaplow, Danny Butterfield, Frazer Richardson, Dan Seaborne.

STOKE CITY

Last Season: First half good, second half bad. Their slump didn’t result in relegation but did lead to Tony Pulis sacking and Mark Hughes appointment.

Strengths: Resilient at the back, particularly goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and the centre-backs. Few opponents win at the Britannia.

Weaknesses: Poor ball retention, chance creation and goalscoring record – three reasons why Pulis is no longer employed.

Key signing: Marc Muniesa (Barcelona, free) – Gone from one extreme to the other by swapping Barcelona for Stoke.

Other signings: Erik Pieters, Juan Agudelo.

Major departure: Rory Delap – Hardly played last year but the long-throw expert defined an era.

Other departures: Michael Owen, Matthew Upson, Mamady Sidibe, Dean Whitehead.

SUNDERLAND

Last Season: Sterile under Martin O’Neill, revived by Paolo di Canio. Just stayed up.

Strengths: Should be fitter and brighter. Have talented players Di Canio ought to re-energise.

Weaknesses: Uninventive last year – only Steven Fletcher scored regularly – and lost key men Simon Mignolet and Danny Rose.

Key signing: Emmanuele Giaccherini (Juventus, £6.5m) – A real coup to get the classy Italy international.

Other signings: Jozy Altidore, Vito Mannone, Cabral, David Moberg Karlsson, El-Hadji Ba, Modibo Diakite, Valentin Roberge, Ondrej Celustka (Trabzonspor, loan).

Major departure: Simon Mignolet – The much-improved goalkeeper joined Liverpool.

Other departures: Danny Graham (Swansea City, loan), Alfred N’Diaye (Eskisehirspar loan), Ahmed Elmohamady, Matt Kilgallon, Titus Bramble, James McClean.

SWANSEA CITY

Last Season: Got even better. Won the Capital One Cup, cruised to ninth place and Michu couldn’t stop scoring.

Strengths: A passing side added penetration with Michu. Michael Laudrup bought brilliantly.

Weaknesses: Can they cope with the demands of European football? Drew too many home games last year.

Key signing: Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem, £12m) – Club record buy who was signed to end the search for a striker.

Other signings: Jonjo Shelvey, Jordi Amat, Jose Canas, Jonathan de Guzman (Villarreal, loan).

Major departure: Alan Tate – A link with their lower-league past, but no longer gets in the team.

Other departures: Kemy Agustien, Mark Gower.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Last Season: Groundhog Season. Frantic trading at the end of the transfer window and were pipped by Arsenal for that elusive Champions League spot. However, there were signs of real progress under Andre Villas-Boas.

Strengths: Gareth Bale, the best player in the league, and Hugo Lloris, perhaps the finest keeper. The strong central midfield axis of Sandro and Mousa Dembele. Spent heavily and early for once this summer and Roberto Soldado and Brazil international Paulinho are blue-chip recruits. Have improved tactically since Villas-Boas replaced Harry Redknapp.

Weaknesses: Bale seems determined to leave, depriving them of their premier match-winner and perhaps requiring a new gameplan from Villas-Boas. Have had too few goals from the specialist strikers and were the lowest scorers of the top eight at home. A lopsided squad needs another centre-back. Still to prove they are not nearly men.

Key signing: Roberto Soldado (Valencia, £26m) – The club record buy should be an upgrade on the one-dimensional Jermain Defoe and the enigmatic Emmanuel Adebayor in attack.

Other signings: Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue.

Major departure: Steven Caulker (Cardiff, £8.5m) – The England defender was surprisingly allowed to go.

Other departures: Clint Dempsey, David Bentley, Tom Huddlestone, William Gallas, Adam Smith (Derby, loan), Bongani Khumalo (Doncaster, loan).

WETS BROMWICH ALBION

Last Season: Started brilliantly and recorded their highest league finish for three decades.

Strengths: The midfield of Youssouf Mulumbu, Claudio Yacob and James Morrison. Good defensively until last four games.

Weaknesses: Only won four of last 19 league games and lost top scorer Romelu Lukaku, who returned to Chelsea after his loan spell.

Key signing: Nicolas Anelka (Shanghai Shenhua, free) – The great enigma has to replace Lukaku. He is an unusual signing for astute Albion.

Other signings: Diego Lugano, Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan).

Major departure: Marc-Antoine Fortune – Hard working striker did not score enough goals .

Other departures: Jerome Thomas, Gonzalo Reyes.

WEST HAM UNITED

Last Season: Ignored criticisms of their style of play to finish in the top half, a year after promotion.

Strengths: Physically powerful, strong and well organised by Sam Allardyce. Only the top six lost fewer home games.

Weaknesses: Not the most creative, overly direct and didn’t have great full-backs. Struggled to score or win away.

Key signing: Andy Carroll (Liverpool, £15m) – The target man is the club record buy after a successful loan spell.

Other signings: Stewart Downing, Adrian, Razvan Rat.

Major departure: Carlton Cole – Was Carroll’s deputy but wasn’t prolific enough.

Other departures: Gary O’Neil.

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