Premier League: Team-by-team
Our team of writers bring you their team-by-team guide to the new Premier League season.
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Manager: Arsene Wenger
Last season: Fourth
Major ins: Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina, Alexis Sanchez.
Major outs: Nicklas Bendtner, Thomas Eisfeld, Lukasz Fabianski, Carl Jenkinson, Park-chu Young, Bacary Sagna, Carlos Vela, Thomas Vermaelen.
Ben Coley's verdict:
In finishing fourth last season, it's easy to conclude that Arsenal's suspension between those challenging for the title and those fighting it out for a Europa League spot continued.
But there were very definite steps - and big ones, too - in the direction of once again becoming genuine title contenders.
First and foremost was the signing of Mesut Ozil. Although the German international never quite produced the performances which had marked him out as one of the world's best midfielders, he unquestionably shifted the mood within the club and I've no doubt that Aaron Ramsey's incredible form had something to do with Ozil's arrival.
Alongside that, Arsenal at last managed to keep hold of their star names. You might argue that they'd just about all gone in previous seasons, but the fact is they were not weakened as they had been when Robin van Persie left for Manchester United and when Cesc Fabregas returned to Barcelona. Players left because Arsene Wenger no longer needed them and not because there was a better offer elsewhere.
All this helped Arsenal contend to a point and while there are extenuating circumstances - the top three all stumbling being the most significant - the Gunners were only seven points off top spot come the end of the 2013/14 season. That they were seven points clear of fifth confirms the progress which has been made and had Ramsey and Theo Walcott not missed large chunks of the season, who knows what might have happened?
Outside of the league, Arsenal are winners again. Their FA Cup triumph over Hull - and the manner in which it was achieved - could well provide the platform for them to kick on and be in there pitching come May, which they haven't been since 2008.
What's more, this summer has followed the path laid out by the last. In comes Alexis Sanchez, a truly world-class import from one of the best sides in Europe and one who offers options in all attacking areas. The Chilean is one of the best players now plying their trade in England and he looks the type to adapt quickly to the particular demands of the Premier League.
It's early days, but Calum Chambers looks a star in the making and will eventually justify the fee paid for him, while Mathieu Debuchy effectively replaces Bacary Sagna at right-back and that too looks an improvement. Certainly, Didier Deschamps sees it that way and Sagna's best form is a distant memory.
Even more significant could be the capture of David Ospina. The Colombian stopper looked world class at the World Cup and will surely go straight into the Arsenal side at the expense of Wojciech Szczesny, an important part of the squad off the field but a player who needs to raise his game a level if he's to really justify his place on it.
Without question, Arsenal improved last season and have bought in players who should help them to improve again. Yes, a holding midfielder is probably still needed but I suspect Wenger is far from finished yet as he finally reaps the rewards of the patience he's had to show throughout a difficult decade.
They've even taken steps to limit the damage they've endured through long-term injuries to star players. Shad Forsythe, the fitness coach who helped Germany to become the first European side to win a World Cup in South America, has been brought in to condition this squad in a way that's been missing for far too long.
The problem Arsenal face is that, time and time again, they do not perform in the big games. Sanchez, Ospina and Forsythe will all help, but are they really ready to compete with Manchester City and Chelsea on a tactical and mental level? That's a question I find very difficult to answer.
Perhaps being a World Cup winner will help Ozil and defensive lynchpin Per Mertesacker, even if he worked his way out of the Germany starting line-up in Brazil. Perhaps Jack Wilshere will finally deliver and drag his side through to victory in big games and perhaps Arsenal will even have better luck with the fitness of their key players.
For once, it's all possible. Arsenal are genuine contenders for the title at this point in time and single-figure quotes are justified. Do I think they can bridge that seven-point gap? Yes. Do I think they will? No.
As for a bet, it's hard to believe but nevertheless true that some punters were able to snap up 6/5 about Arsenal securing a top-four finish but quotes closer to 1/2 are now accurate and the best market I can find is top assists.
Here, Ozil and Sanchez are rightly popular but try chancing Olivier Giroud at 40s. The French striker managed eight assists last year and that despite being robbed of Walcott and Ramsey for large chunks of the campaign. If he can find three or four more than makes him a huge player and the place part of the bet is great value.
Best bet: Olivier Giroud to provide the most Premier League assists at 40/1 (Boylesports 1/4 1,2,3,4)
Manager: Paul Lambert
Last season: 15th
Major ins: Aly Cissokho, Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson, Philippe Senderos
Major outs: Marc Albrighton, Jordan Bowery, Samir Carruthers, Nathan Delfouneso, Nicklas Helenius, Antonio Luna, Jed Steer, Yacouba Sylla
David John's verdict:
Paul Lambert's side avoided the drop last season but there is every reason to feel they will battling to stem the tide once more and time could well run out.
By far their most interesting signing of the summer has been taking on Roy Keane to be Lambert's assistant. It looks to me a real boom-or bust appointment - will the Irishman be able to motivate the players to achieve the highest standards possible or could his abrasive, no-nonsense approach have an adverse effect?
Keane will certainly be box office at press conferences and his arrival is a deal more exciting than the talent on the pitch with Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson and Philippe Senderos no more than solid citizens these days.
A lack of funds has been a problem for Lambert over an extended period of time and has left him to persevere with players like Darren Bent, Charles N'Zogbia and Alan Hutton, who have never really seemed to fit into the manager's plan despite being expensive acquisitions.
Crown jewel Christian Benteke will be sidelined until October at the earliest, according to reports, as he recovers from an Achilles injury suffered in the spring.
His goals have been vital over the past couple of years in terms of keeping Villa in the top flight and even if he does come back somewhere near schedule fit and firing, he remains one of the most sought-after strikers around and a reasonable bid could see him on his bike anyway.
Andreas Weimann and Fabian Delph offer some hope but this is a team that overall has shown little in the way of progress over the last three years and the bottom line is that very little looks like changing.
I get the feeling they had better hit the ground running with three games against Stoke, Newcastle and Hull as a five-game streak from mid-September sees them take on Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and then Everton.
They will be pretty big outsiders in all of those games and if the doomsday scenario does occur with little or nothing to show from that month-long spell then Lambert and Villa could find themselves in a real pickle.
Most of the 7/2 on Villa for the drop has already been hoovered up but they still look a sporting punt at 13/4 to find themselves in the second tier next season.
Best bet: Aston Villa to be relegated at 13/4 (888sport)
Manager: Sean Dyche
Last Season: Sky Bet Championship runners-up
Major Ins: Matt Gilks, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Michael Kightly, Steven Reid, Marvin Sordell, Matt Taylor.
Major outs: Chris Baird, David Edgar, Nick Liversedge, Jospeh Mills, Junior Stanislas, Brian Stock, Keith Treacy
Chris Hammer’s Verdict:
Considering Burnley were big outsiders to launch a realistic promotion bid last season due to a shoestring budget and one of the smallest squads in the Sky Bet Championship, it was an incredible achievement for them just to have earned a spot in the top flight.
But to have done it so comfortably behind runaway leaders Leicester was a staggering feat and firmly underlined what a terrific job Sean Dyche has done at Turf Moor.
However, despite the pot of gold which comes with Premier League status, Dyche has made it clear the club won’t be risking their long-term future by recklessly splashing the cash this summer and, as a result, he’s finding it difficult to attract players of high enough calibre to bolster his squad for what’s widely expected to be a long hard-fought battle for survival.
So far the Clarets have added goalkeeper Matt Gilks, midfielders Steven Reid, Matt Taylor and Michael Kightly and forwards Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell, who will help fill the void left by Sam Vokes as he continues his recovery from a cruciate knee injury which could keep him out until Christmas at least.
Reid and Taylor have a wealth of Premier League experience between them while Kightly spent the lion’s share of last season on loan at Burnley so he’ll feel at home already and be eager to pick up where he left off.
Jutkiewicz impressed during his loan spell at Bolton so much that Trotters fans were desperately hoping their club would sign him on a permanent basis from Middlesbrough but the lure of the top flight meant a switch to their Lancashire rivals was a no brainer.
The 25-year-old, who netted seven goals for the Wanderers in 20 games, has a strong physical presence up front and is excellent at holding the ball up and linking up play – but there’s certainly room for improvement which a superb man manager like Dyche can get out of him.
Sordell on the other hand failed to make his presence felt at Bolton since his multi-million pound move to the Reebok from Watford back in January 2012 but his loan season at Charlton allowed him to show glimpses of his talent which I’m sure the Clarets boss can also help to harness.
Also as important as new signings, Burnley have so far managed to hold onto £5million-rated defender Kieran Trippier and last season’s star man Danny Ings, who has been linked with a summer move following his 26-goal campaign, and the striker’s recent quotes suggest he’s more than happy to stay.
Overall, it’s completely understandable why the Clarets are hot favourites to make an instant return to the Championship and the only side available at odds-against prices to stay up.
Nevertheless, we know the gulf between the top of the second tier and the bottom half of the Premier League is hardly visible – as Hull and Crystal Palace both proved by comfortably staying up last season – and in Dyche, Burnley have a manager who has instilled real character, confidence and spirit within his squad which counts for a lot more in my book than a couple of big-money signings that can potentially upset the bond at smaller clubs.
If they can get a couple more bodies in before the transfer window closes then I’m going to give them a fighting chance of upsetting the odds and avoiding the drop.
Best Bet: Lukas Jutkiewicz to be top league goalscorer for Burnley at 7/1 (Sky Bet)
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Last season: 3rd
Major ins: Diego Costa, Didier Drogba, Cesc Fabregas, Felipe Luis, Mario Pasalic
Major outs: Demba Ba, Ryan Bertrand, Ashley Cole, Samuel Eto'o, Henrique Hilario, Sam Hutchinson, Tomas Kalas, Gael Kakuta, Frank Lampard, David Luiz, Romelu Lukaku, Mario Pasalic, Lucas Piazon, Oriol Romeu, John Swift, Bertrand Traore, Patrick van Aanholt, Wallace
David John's verdict:
Cast your mind back 12 months and Jose Mourinho's honest assessment of his Chelsea team was that they were at least a season away from reclaiming the Premier League title.
The fact they were still in there pitching inside the final furlong is testament to Mourinho's skill in his first campaign back in charge at Stamford Bridge but a third-place finish behind Manchester City and Liverpool will have left a bitter taste in the mouth of one of the game's fiercest competitors.
Plain and simple, Mourinho's new brief will be to win the title domestically while keeping up a strong challenge on the cup front and in Europe - nothing new then for the Special One.
You will have to play at under 2/1 for Chelsea to be crowned champions as the layers make them market leaders ahead of the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Arsenal, as once again everyone outside the big five have all but been dismissed.
There are some new and extremely exciting names who will be pulling on the blue shirt as they attempt to justify their favourite's tag which now means a depth of squad for Mourinho to call upon that has every chance of making up the four points they were beaten by Manchester City in the final reckoning.
Stalwarts like Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole have moved on while the reported £50million paid by PSG is more than generous compensation for erratic Brazilian David Luiz. The maxim that you won't miss what you have never had means Mourinho was happy to rake in another £28million for Romelu Lukaku.
The arrivals, as mentioned, set the pulse racing. Diego Costa may have not had the World Cup he wanted with Spain as he battled a niggling hamstring problem picked up at the end of a triumphant journey to La Liga glory with Atletico Madrid but he now looks ready to take the English Premier League by storm.
He has everything in his game to thrive with a marvellous technical ability matched by a willing attitude to work for his team ; Mourinho is already purring about what he has seen this summer.
Some sages say you should never go back, but picking up the talismanic Didier Drogba adds another dimension up front and although his best days may have gone, the deal provides a fascinating emotional angle.
Additional craft and guile are provided by the mercurial Cesc Fabregas, who makes a welcome return to this country following a mixed spell in Spain with Barcelona. A midfield that flows through him, Eden Hazard and Oscar is a tantalising prospect.
Willian made good late progress in his first season with Chelsea and can only get better, Andre Schurrle had a superb summer at the World Cup which makes him potentially one of the most exciting prospects anywhere this year.
Nemanja Matic warmed to his task as well as he went about some of the dirty work in the engine room in a quietly efficient manner and it all means Mourihno has a wealth of riches to pick from in what looks the strongest squad around.
Even at somewhat prohibitive odds, Chelsea look the team to beat and are where my cash has gone for the title. Mourinho retains the ability to grind out the results against his title rivals so it seemingly looks a case of eradicating the odd aberration against some of the lesser names to put them back on top of the pile.
At more rewarding odds, if you can get on Schurrle each-way for top Chelsea scorer, the outstanding German should improve on last year's tally of eight as he represents far more than just an impact performer from off the bench.
Best bet: Andre Schurrle to be Chelsea's top league goalscorer at 20/1 (William Hill)
Manager: Tony Pulis
Last season: 11th
Major ins: Fraizer Campbell, Brede Hangeland, Chris Kettings
Major outs: Neil Alexander, Jose Campana, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Stephen Dobbie, Danny Gabbidon, Jack Hunt, Dean Moxey, Jonathan Parr, Aaron Wilbraham, Alex Wynter
Matt Brocklebank’s verdict:
Crystal Palace head into the new campaign following a quite remarkable season that saw them sitting bottom of the table in November and finish up in a club-record high of 11th place.
Much of the credit, of course, goes to Tony Pulis, who arrived from Stoke after the departure of Ian Holloway and transformed the team’s fortunes.
The experienced boss instilled the sort of defensive solidity his Stoke sides became renowned for and they only lost 10 of the 26 matches for which he was in charge.
However, the transformation wasn’t all about blood and thunder, as the likes of Jason Puncheon and Dwight Gayle thrived under Pulis and provided seven league goals apiece to finish joint-top of the Palace scoring chart.
Marouane Chamakh also proved a few doubters wrong, playing most of the season as a lone striker for the Eagles, and it will be a relief to many close to the club that he has committed to the club for another two years.
The trouble with finishing where they did, however, is that the expectations ahead of this year are consequently unreasonably high and it’s easy enough to resist the best price of 9/2 for Palace to go at least one better and claim a top-10 finish.
It is, after all, the first time in the club’s history that they are going to be competing in back-to-back Premier League seasons.
On the other hand, the addition of vastly experienced centre-back Brede Hangeland on a free from relegated Fulham looks a brilliant piece of business and he should slot nicely into Pulis’ plans.
The other new name on the books to catch the eye is Fraizer Campbell, who joins from Cardiff for an undisclosed fee after scoring six times in the top flight for the Bluebirds last term.
He’s had a nasty habit of picking up injuries throughout his career but should make an impression provided he stays fit and offers another proven option up front.
Campbell has gone in as the 5/2 market leader to be Palace’s top league goalscorer, though he doesn’t look guaranteed the amount of game time as Puncheon.
The latter’s goals tend to come in spurts but he was really impressive at times last season, should still have improvement in him, and looks good value at a standout 8/1 with Sky Bet to repeat last season’s efforts and emerge on top.
A trip to the Emirates first up looks a daunting task but it could serve as a sharp reminder that it must be considered a positive achievement if Pulis can keep Crystal Palace clear of relegation.
They are 11/4 for the drop but there’s very little to suggest that is a price worth taking at this stage.
Best bet: Jason Puncheon to be Crystal Palace’s top league goalscorer at 8/1 (Sky Bet)
Manager: Roberto Martinez
Last season: Fifth
Major ins: Gareth Barry, Muhamed Besic, Brendan Galloway, Romelu Lukaku
Major outs: Magaye Gueye, John Lundstram, Apostolos Vellios
Andy Schooler's verdict:
A negative way of looking at Everton's summer would be to say they've stood still. Both Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry are strong signings but both where at Goodison Park last season on loan with the only other notable signing thus far being Bosnian Muhamed Besic, who would appear to be more of a squad player at this stage, something definitely needed with a minimum of six Europa League games in store.
However, to reel out the 'like a new signing' cliche, it's worth mentioning that both Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone will be back to bolster Everton this season having barely played a game between them in 2013/14 due to serious injuries. Gibson in particular will be welcomed back and he'll provide plenty of opportunities for holding midfielders Barry and James McCarthy to get a rest - something they didn't get last term which attributed to Everton's stutter in the final straight when a Champions League spot was within their grasp.
With that in mind, the squad has a stronger feel to it and it was already looking pretty good. Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines are attacking full-backs who would make it into almost any team in the league, while Phil Jagielka remains Mr Reliable in a blue shirt despite his critics at international level. He'll get able support in central defence from the evergreen Sylvain Distin and rising star John Stones. Everton conceded only 39 goals last season - the third-best record in the league.
In midfield it's 20-year-old Ross Barkley who will enter the season with heavy expectation on his shoulders but Everton will not sink or swim solely based on how he performs with plenty of creativity elsewhere from the likes of Kevin Mirallas, Stven Pienaar and Aidan McGeady, who should get more game time this season.
Up front would probably be their area of most concern - If Lukaku gets injured they could be a little light, although having said that Steven Naismith came on significantly last season and Kone had a decent record in a poor Wigan team before his injury.
In any case, Lukaku's injury record is a good one and as the 21-year-old continues to develop he should have a good chance of at least matching his goal tallies of the past two seasons (17 - for West Brom - and 15).
All in all, Everton can be expected to finish in the area they usually do - between fifth and eighth.
Cracking the top four seems rather optimistic - both Manchester United and Spurs should improve this season, while European duties have been added to the Toffees' schedule.
They managed the extra workload well in the past during David Moyes' reign and I see no reason to expect a drastic slump because of it this time either. They may just sneak into the top six again.
Best bet: Romelu Lukaku to score more than 12.5 league goals at 5/6 (BetVictor)
Manager: Steve Bruce
Last season: 16th
Major ins: Tom Ince, Jake Livermore, Harry Maguire, Andrew Robertson, Robert Snodgrass
Major outs: Abdoulaye Faye, Matty Fryatt, Robert Koren, Mark Oxley, Nick Proschwitz, Cameron Stewart, Conor Townsend
Andy Schooler's verdict:
A lot of people have been talking about how Hull's season will suffer for Europa League involvement but that theory places plenty of emphasis on the Tigers qualifying for the group stage.
I think that's far from certain with a play-off against Lokeren looming after an unconvincing win over Slovakian outfit Trencin in the last round.
Essentially events before the end of this month could have a significant effect on the club's expectations. Make the group stage and extra games will surely have an impact on domestic form - it certainly hurt Swansea last season - while new recruits may also be necessary and a dip into the transfer market required.
Of those already added, Robert Snodgrass looks a good acquisition from Norwich, for whom he scored six times in each of the past two Premier League seasons, while if boss Steve Bruce can get the best out of Tom Ince then he too should impress.
Up front, Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic showed early signs of getting a good partnership going after their January moves but they petered out towards the end of the season, admittedly not helped by not being eligible for Hull's run to the FA Cup final.
If those two can get on a roll, Hull should have the firepower to find at least three teams worse than them. They were solid at the back last season with Curtis Davies a standout performer and Bruce will again look to keep things tight in that department.
Still, I go back to that Europa League issue and struggle to make a decision about how Hull will perform until I know what exactly lies ahead for them.
If pushed, I'd say they will finish in the same area they did last season - just outside the drop zone.
However, in terms of having a bet now, it surely makes sense to go for a long shot given the uncertainty we're facing.
With this in mind, Steve Bruce to be the first manager to leave his post looks rather big.
A busy autumn schedule could easily result in a poor start in the league. If that's the case, are the bookies really sure that owner Assem Allam will stand by his man?
Allam and Bruce have known only good times together so far. Bruce led them to promotion in his first season at the KC Stadium while last season saw an impressive first half of their Premier League return, while the second half of the campaign was all about a dream run in the Cup.
But such is the nature of 21st Century football that only a fool would suggest that lot will be enough to keep Bruce in his job for a long period.
The former defender is only on an one-year rolling contract so a sacking would not be expensive so I don't really see why he's at the price he is.
Best bet: Steve Bruce to be the first Premier League manager to leave his post at 50/1 (Ladbrokes)
Manager: Nigel Pearson
Last season: First (in the Championship)
Major ins: Marc Albrighton, Jack Barmby, Ben Hamer, Louis Rowley, Leonardo Ulla, Matthew Upson
Major outs: Neil Danns, Lloyd Dyer, Ben Frempah, Marko Futacs, Paul Gallagher, Sean St Ledger, Kevin Phillips, George Taft, Martyn Waghorn, Zak Whitbread
Ian Ogg's verdict:
Leicester waltzed to victory in the Sky Bet Championship with 102 points, scoring 83 goals - a tally only bettered (by one) by Derby County - with David Nugent leading the way with 20.
The former England striker has a relatively modest strike rate in the Premier League but he is a more experienced player now and Pearson will be hoping that Leonardo Ulloa can successfully make the step-up from the Championship after scoring 25 goals in 52 appearances for Brighton.
The attacking third of the field is where promoted sides so often struggle and the addition of Marc Albrighton, whose career stalled after a bright start, is a further boost to the options available to the Foxes who do look a little short up front with 16-goal Jamie Vardy also having to prove that he can cut the mustard at this higher level.
There should be no such problems for Pearson’s side at the back with Kasper Schmeichel a safe pair of hands behind a solid and experienced back four featuring plenty of Premier League experience which has been added to by the recruitment of Matthew Upson.
Life will not be easy for them but they have been building (and spending) towards a return to the top-flight for a few seasons now and have a squad which should make a decent fist of retaining their Premier League status.
Former Manchester United youngster Danny Drinkwater was last year’s player of the season and will be hoping to pull the strings in midfield where January signing Riyad Mahrez added some pace and trickery with his performances earning him a trip to Brazil with Algeria.
Opportunities to shine will be fewer than in the second tier but an outlet going forwards is important and, in Ulloa, the Foxes now have an aerial presence and a striker who can hold the ball up which is something that they were, perhaps, previously lacking.
Any injuries to key players will clearly have a detrimental effect on the weaker squads but, granted a clear run, Leicester look to have enough about them to stay up and they’re worth backing at a general 11/10 to fare best of the three promoted sides.
Best bet: Leicester to be top promoted team 11/10 (General).
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Last season: Second
Major ins: Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Javier Manquillo, Lazar Markovic, Divock Origi
Major outs: Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Conor Coady, Divock Origi, Pepe Reina, Luis, Suarez, Andre Wisdom
Ben Linfoot's verdict:
How will Liverpool cope without Luis Suarez?
That’s the major question for punters as they assess the Anfield side’s chances for the upcoming campaign.
No £30million striker has come in (yet) to replace the controversial Uruguayan, but Rodgers has strengthened his squad in key areas, with former Southampton defender Dejan Lovren potentially the shrewdest signing of the lot.
Liverpool’s Achilles' heel last season was their leaky defence and their lack of a leader at the back since the retirement of Jamie Carragher was apparent at crucial points of the campaign (Crystal Palace away springs to mind).
But Lovren looks every inch a top-class centre half and if he can strike up a partnership with either Martin Skrtel or Mamadou Sakho then a solid defensive platform will be set for Liverpool’s still exciting attacking force.
The plethora of centre-backs at Rodgers’ disposal also gives him the option of playing three central defenders and two wing-backs - a system that could suit given his new personnel.
Suarez may have moved on but Liverpool retain Daniel Sturridge who was brilliant last season and revelled as the main man when his strike partner was serving a ban.
With Raheem Sterling, Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Philip Coutinho buzzing around him, his chances look unlikely to decrease and as we saw last season he’s a prolific marksman in this team.
Second top-scorer both at Liverpool and in the league with 21, he’ll be hoping to kick on from that total now an extra burden of responsibility rests on his shoulders.
As well as the above playmakers Liverpool can create chances from deeper. Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson are all capable of providing incisive through balls from deep and new signing Emre Can could be as accomplished as his team-mates in that area too.
There are plenty of positives for Liverpool, but the question remains. How will they cope without Suarez?
My feeling is a slight drop-off looks inevitable considering the extreme quality that Suarez brought to the side, but, for once with Liverpool, perhaps not as much as the layers expect.
Another title charge looks unlikely but odds-against prices for a top-four finish are more than fair. There seems to be a presumption that Manchester United will reclaim their place among the Premier League’s elite under Louis van Gaal but he’s got a tougher job than the odds suggest in my eyes.
Much has been made of Liverpool’s lack of a replacement for Suarez, but at least they’ve reinforced in other areas and a quality striker, although not in Suarez’s mould (who is?), still looks likely to arrive before the transfer window shuts.
Manchester United need new players at the back, some more zip up front, and, most crucially of all, a top-class central midfielder. That area has been a problem for years and was most apparent during last year’s annus horribilis.
They could well plug that gap, but filling in all of them before the transfer window shuts looks extremely unlikely and Liverpool look much better prepared for the season ahead.
An admittedly good pre-season has seen confidence in United strengthen, but I consider such a factor almost irrelevant and odds-against Liverpool finishing above their fierce rivals again is too big to resist.
Best bet: Liverpool to finish above Manchester United at 7/5 (Ladbrokes, bwin)
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Last season: Champions
Major ins: Willy Caballero, Fernando, Frank Lampard, Bacary Sagna, Bruno Zuculini
Major outs: Gareth Barry, Emyr Huws, Joleon Lescott, Costel Pantilimon, Jack Rodwell
Nick Hext's verdict:
Manuel Pellegrini prepares for his second season in charge of Manchester City with nothing but unequivocal backing from the club's fans.
The Chilean ended his debut campaign at the Etihad Stadium with the Premier League title and Capital One Cup trophy in the bank, plus making progress from the Champions League group stage for the first time needs to be recognised as a positive.
Much of the credit for last term's success should go to Pellegrini. He pulled a squad together that appeared fractured at the end of Roberto Mancini's reign and kept his cool when all the hype was about Liverpool in the final run-in.
City were crowned champions and the top prize was exactly what they deserved. Now the focus is on the future!
New signings have arrived over the summer but City haven't made the same headlines as Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United with their recruitment drive.
That isn't a bad thing but there's no doubt that Chelsea’s stellar array of new arrivals makes them the main concern for the defending champions.
Jose Mourinho's men go off as the title favourites but you can't rule out a City side that has finished first, second, first over the last three seasons.
I would certainly be very surprised if the Etihad club finished lower than second at the end of the 2014/15 offering.
It's easy to see why Chelsea are fancied by so many people and a tight season between the charges of Mourinho and Pellegrini is what I expect to see.
More should be expected from City in the Champions League. It might be that a run deeper into that competition will have a detrimental effect on their domestic form and that would be a new question for the club to answer.
Fernando is the most interesting new arrival. The centre of midfield is an area City needed to strengthen and Pellegrini has added to his numbers with the Brazilian from Porto and the surprise loan swoop for Frank Lampard, who will stay at the club until January.
One thing not in question is the quality of the spine of City's side. Joe Hart-Vincent Kompany-Yaya Toure-Sergio Aguero makes for a better core than any other team in the Premier League - that's a view Ed Chamberlin revealed Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville both share in his column last week.
I also think Samir Nasri will enjoy a great season. The Frenchman was a key figure for City at the end of last term and starts fresh after missing out on a place in France's World Cup squad.
He can make a big impact on the Premier League once again and I have to recommend the 10/1 with Boylesports on the midfielder being named as part of the PFA Team of the Year.
I also wouldn't put anyone off having a look at the 50/1 for Nasri to pick up the PFA Player of the Year award. It's a long shot but a small stake might just get big profits.
Best bet: Samir Nasri to be named in the PFA Team of the Year at 10/1 (Boylesports).
Manager: Louis van Gaal
Last season: Seventh
Major ins: Ander Herrera, Vanja Milinkovic, Luke Shaw.
Major outs: Jack Barmby, Bebe, Alexander Buttner, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Federico Macheda, Nemanja Vidic
Ben Coley's verdict:
It's been another summer of change at Manchester United but rather than the fear of 2013, there's now genuine optimism following the appointment of Louis van Gaal.
And so there should be.
Fresh from taking the Netherlands to the World Cup semi-finals, van Gaal is a no-nonsense, top-class operator who brings with him successful Champions League experience and a reputation that demands immediate respect.
He'll need it, because turning this side into title challengers again is a mammoth task. That they didn't even qualify for the Europa League last term is both a blessing and a reminder that United were so far off the pace, to the extent that winning the 2014/15 title would go down as the finest achievement of van Gaal's glittered career.
The key problem looks to be that United do not have a single top-class, proven centre-back in their squad now that Nemanja Vidic has left the club. Chelsea, City and even Arsenal boast better options and surely a new defender is required because at this stage, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling aren't ready to provide the backbone for a title challenge and Jonny Evans is no Vincent Kompany.
In midfield, Ander Herrera looks a real talent but it's Arturo Vidal who they really need to bring a bit of steel and energy, so how that particular transfer saga plays out will be key to United's prospects this season. Without reinforcements, it's hard to see how they compete with those who finished above them in the big games.
I would certainly expect van Gaal to get the very best out of whoever is at his disposal but it'll be a radical change on and off the field for everyone in the squad and with that in mind it may be that this season is needed before the Red Devils can truly count themselves as contenders.
For that reason, I'm put off the 5/1 about them winning the title. At first glance it was a price which tempted me, simply because United were 9/4 under David Moyes and that just doesn't make sense. I do, however, think they'll come up short and I can't see how they should really be more than two points shorter than Arsenal and less than half the price of Liverpool at the moment.
What United do have in their favour is an extremely kind fixture list up until October, and at 5/2 they're tempting to be top on September 2 - Swansea (h), Sunderland (a) and Burnley (a) provide the opportunity for nine points and plenty of goals.
However, at a bigger price the advice is a small-stakes play on Danny Welbeck to be the first Premier League player to score 10 goals at a massive 66/1.
It's speculative, especially as Welbeck is neither prolific nor a certain starter, but with Robin van Persie set to miss the Swansea game he could get an early opportunity in a 3-4-2-1 system and at five-times the price of Wayne Rooney, he's worth a dabble.
Best bet: Danny Welbeck to be the first Premier League player to score 10 goals at 66/1 (Paddy Power)
Manager: Alan Pardew
Last season: 10th
Major ins: Remy Cabella, Jack Colback, Karl Darlow, Siem de Jong, Facundo Ferreyra, Daryl Janmaat, Jamaal Lascelles, Ayoze Perez, Emmanuel Riviere
Major outs: Shola Ameobi, Dan Gosling, Mathieu Debuchy, Sylvain Marveaux, Conor Newton, James Tavernier
Simon Crawford’s verdict:
Newcastle United … or should that be Jekyll and Hyde United?
When they are good they are pushing for a European spot, but when they are bad they are truly awful and could easily be fighting off relegation.
Last season sums up the frustrating Geordies to a tee.
They won 10 of 18 league games played up to Boxing Day - including notable victories over Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United - and there was a real chance of a top-seven finish.
But after that they won just five of the last 20 and had they not got points on the board early then they could easily have been sucked into the relegation dogfight.
The sale of influential French midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris-Saint Germain in the January transfer window seemed to rip the heart out of the club - and it showed on the pitch.
However, for me the biggest problem is that Newcastle are a club who have gone stale and are in desperate need of fresh ideas and input.
But with manager Alan Pardew having signed an eight-year contract extension in September 2012 making that change at the top would come at a high price in the form of compensation and owner Mike Ashley seems unwilling to sanction it.
So for now at least Pardew is going to be allowed to carry on and at the time of writing his new recruits will not fill Toon fans with bags of optimism. It could be a long and frustrating season ahead - especially if they get off to a poor start.
So which Newcastle are we likely to see this season?
Well, I think they are going to struggle, not bottom-three struggle, but I don’t see them having sufficient fight and drive needed to finish in the top half. There has been plenty of talk of foreign cliques in the club before and it's easy to see why some would suggest that lacking an English 'core' could work against them.
So I’m prepared to take them on and my best bet surrounding the Magpies is essentially a lay. I’m going to back Sunderland to finish the season as the North East’s top club, above Newcastle (for the reason above) and Hull as I think the Tigers will be distracted by the Europa League and have a cluster to new signings to settle in.
Best bet: Sunderland to finish as the North East’s top club at 5/2 (Sky Bet, bet365 and Ladbrokes)
Manager: Harry Redknapp
Last season: Fourth (in the Championship)
Major ins: Steven Caulker, Rio Ferdinand, Mauricio Isla, Jordon Mutch
Major outs: Yossi Benayoun, Esteban Granero, Tom Hitchcock, Aaron Hughes, Andrew Johnson, Stephane Mbia, Gary O'Neil, Luke Young
Ben Linfoot's verdict:
QPR achieved their goal of bouncing straight back up to the Premier League, even if it wasn’t via the automatic promotion route.
Bobby Zamora stole the play-off final with a late winner and for a squad that struggled to get out of the Championship, Redknapp has been slow to reinforce what looks on paper a sub-standard bunch of players.
Loic Remy is the obvious exception, but questions remain over his future following the collapse of his proposed transfer to Liverpool. He remains a fairly short price to be playing his football away from Loftus Road.
The players Redknapp has signed are, in the main, experienced defenders (Steven Caulker and Rio Ferdinand) and the back four is an excellent place to start building a Premier League team, but their midfield and attacking areas need improving hugely if they are to stay in the top division.
Of course, Redknapp still has time to strike a few deals. He’ll still have time when he’s giving Sky Sports News an interview through his car window at 9pm on deadline day. But he’s going to have to add four or five players of Premier League quality to his squad if they are to have a chance of survival.
When looking at the relegation odds of a particular team the sensible question to ask yourself is ‘are there three worse teams than XXX in the division?’
When I look at QPR and ask that question I struggle to name a trio. Leicester and Burnley were better than them last season, while Midlands strugglers West Brom and Aston Villa are at least on a par. At least Hull have the Europa League distraction that might cost them dear.
However, it’s very hard to see QPR staying in the league with their current squad and 2/1 about them going down looks fair.
Best bet: QPR to be relegated at 2/1 (General)
Manager: Ronald Koeman
Last Season: Eighth
Major Ins: Ryan Bertrand, Fraser Forster, Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic, Saphir Taider
Major outs: Lee Barnard, Calum Chambers, Guly do Prado, Jonathan Forte, Danny Fox, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Dani Osvaldo, Andy Robinson, Luke Shaw
Chris Hammer’s Verdict:
To say Ronald Koeman isn’t inheriting a squad which impressed so much on their way to an eighth-place finish last season would be something of an understatement.
It didn’t take long after previous boss Mauricio Pochettino and his staff left for Tottenham at the end of May for the alarming exodus at St Mary's to begin, with Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers all moving on to bigger clubs.
These certainly aren’t the only departures at Southampton as the lengthy ‘major outs’ list above shows but the other names are much easier to replace than the heart of last season’s team, which finished 11 points clear of the bottom half of the table and 23 ahead of third-bottom Norwich.
With their coffers swelling, Koeman still has time before the transfer window closes to bring in decent enough players to prevent this season turning into a messy relegation battle but another key priority will be to stop Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez leaving the club.
The arrival of Algerian World Cup star Saphir Taider on a season-long loan from Inter Milan - with Dani Osvaldo going in the other direction on the same terms – may not appease too many of the club’s fans still mourning the sales of their major outfield players while the pressure will also be on fellow new signings Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle and Ryan Bertrand to impress.
In Fraser Forster, who joined from Celtic for a fee in the region of £10million, they have an England international goalkeeper who will compete with Artur Boruc for the number one jersey so you'd like to think that's at least one area they can be considered very strong.
Nevertheless, it’s hardly surprising to see the Saints no bigger than 11/2 for relegation but I wouldn’t advise backing them in this market given they still have a good chunk of money remaining to make a couple more good signings.
On the flip side I certainly wouldn’t be taking the 7/4 available on them earning another top-10 finish given the circumstances as it’s likely to be a tough campaign whether they stay up or not.
Best Bet: Southampton to get fewer than 44.5 points at even money (Sky Bet)
Manager: Mark Hughes
Last season: Ninth
Major ins: Phil Bardsley, Mame Biram Diouf, Bojan Krkic, Steve Sidwell, Dionatan Teixeira
Major outs: Matthew Etherington, Michael Kightly
Nick Hext’s verdict:
Stoke finished last season in ninth and I expect them to go well once again with an even stronger squad now in place.
Mark Hughes made his summer signings early and wisely. Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell are both proven Premier League performers who will need no time to adjust.
Plenty has been written about the arrival of former Barcelona wonderkid Bojan Krkic but Mame Biram Diouf catches my eye as the most exciting attacking addition.
The former Manchester United forward made a big impact at Hannover during two-and-a-half years in the German Bundesliga and can use that experience to make his mark in the Premier League.
The crucial good news for Hughes is that the star duo of Asmir Begovic and Ryan Shawcross remain at the Britannia Stadium.
I'm continually amazed that a club in the Champions League hasn't swooped for Begovic over the last couple of seasons.
Hughes made sure there wasn't any hangover after the end of the successful Tony Pulis era at the Potters and he's evolved the club's style of play rather than rashly bin the physical approach that has made them so effective.
Stoke shouldn't be written off as just a team full of muscle. There are some stylish players within Hughes' squad and they can't just lump the ball forward to Bojan and expect results!
The 7/4 for Stoke to finish in the top half of the table again is a cracking price. They finished five points clear of Crystal Palace in 11th last term and they look to have made improvements since then.
There's certainly no need for any relegation worries at the Britainnia and the Potters might be a decent bet for a run in one of the cups in a few months.
Best bet: Stoke to finish in the top half at 7/4 (Betfred, totesport)
Manager: Gus Poyet
Last season: 14th
Major ins: Jordi Gomez, Billy Jones, Costel Pantilimon, Jack Rodwell, Patrick van Aanholt, Santiago Vergini
Major outs: El-Hadji Ba, Phil Bardsley, Jack Colback, Carlos Cuellar, Andrea Dossena, Craig Gardner, Billy Knott, Louis Laing, Jordan Pickford, Ignacio Scocco, Oscar Ustari, Keiren Westwood
Matt Brocklebank’s verdict:
Just about every season the Barclays Premier League serves up a ‘Great Escape’ and in 2013/14 that tag without question belonged to Sunderland.
Seven points from safety after a 5-1 hammering at White Hart Lane at the start of April, manager Gus Poyet conceded his side needed "a miracle", only to lose at Everton the very next game before a brilliant fightback which included a draw at Manchester City and memorable wins over Chelsea and Manchester United.
Last season couldn’t have got off to a much worse start for the Black Cats, with Paolo di Canio sacked after seven games after claiming just one point.
It was a real mixed bag from that point, before the end-of-season recovery, but the Sunderland fans were treated to a trip to Wembley for the Capital One Cup final in March, in which they led Man City 1-0 at half-time before succumbing 3-1.
There’s no denying it could be another tough season at the Stadium of Light and odds of 5/1 for them to end their longest run in the top-flight since 1958 by dropping into the Sky Bet Championship will lure in plenty of punters.
I certainly won’t be recommending anyone steam into the general 1/6 for Sunderland to stay up.
The summer signings so far look reasonably encouraging, with Costel Pantilimon brought in to vie with Vito Mannone between the sticks and Billy Jones snapped up from West Brom to replace the off-loaded Phil Bardsley at right-back.
The addition of Jordi Gomez from Wigan is an interesting signing and while it’s no surprise to see him as big as 25/1 to be Sunderland’s leading marksman, he’s capable of flashes of brilliance and should have the home fans out of their seats at times.
Steven Fletcher tops the betting in the above market at a best priced 9/4 and that could prove to be a snip if he’s in tops shape and Connor Wickham moves on to pastures new.
The Scotland striker only managed to find the net three times in the league after an injury-plagued season last time but he was into double-figures the three preceding campaigns and it’s hard to see Adam Johnson or Jozy Altidore matching that.
After such a dramatic conclusion to the last campaign, Sunderland fans would no doubt bite your hand off for a bit of solidarity, although I’m yet to be convinced that is what Poyet will provide.
There’s no doubt he’s a talented coach but he strikes as the sort of personality who loves a rollercoaster ride and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see him enter the 'sack race' at some stage along the way.
Sunderland have West Brom, Queens Park Rangers and Burnley among their first five opponents but they are all away from home and Manchester United and Tottenham are the visitors in amongst those fixtures.
A disappointing start will see Poyet’s odds slashed to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post and it’s worth a small interest at 25/1.
The other eyecatching price is Sunderland to be bottom at Christmas, as they were last season, which can be backed at 14/1 with Paddy Power, but they should be able to avoid that providing Fletcher can remain fit.
Best bet: Gus Poyet to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post at 25/1 (General)
Manager: Garry Monk
Last season: 12th
Major ins: Marvin Emnes, Lukasz Fabianski, Bafetimbi Gomis, Stephen Kingsley, Jefferson Montero, Gylfi Sigurdsson
Major outs: Daniel Affei, Ben Davies, Gwion Edwards, Leroy Lita, Michu, David Ngog, Alejandro Pozuelo, Michel Vorm
Dave Tickner's verdict:
Since taking the League One title in 2007/8, Swansea had been on an upward curve every season until the last; from eighth in the Championship to seventh and then third before finishing 11th and ninth in their first two Premier League seasons.
Last year, with the exertions of a Europa League place, they slipped back and replaced Michael Laudrup with club stalwart Garry Monk.
The question is whether that marks the start of a decline or merely the inevitable plateau of a club that has climbed as high as it realistically can, albeit at a startling pace.
It looks like the latter.
While Monk may be a novice, which is always a concern, Swansea look well placed to further consolidate their place in mid-table without last season’s flirtation with the bottom three.
The Swans’ transfer activity has been something of a mixed bag, with Ben Davies, Michel Vorm and Michu all significant losses.
But, crucially, the club have so far resisted the vultures circling over Wilfried Bony, while the addition of Bafetimbi Gomis is eye-catching and Gylfi Sigurdsson was a hit in his first spell at the club and possesses plenty of quality.
Sigurdsson joins the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Lukasz Fabianski in a squad of players just slightly short of top-six quality but clearly capable of mixing it at Premier League level.
That may seem like a back-handed compliment, but isn’t meant as such. Outside what looks like a well-established top seven, the overall quality of the Premier League is not great but Swansea - certainly in their first XI - look better than most of the other 13 in the division.
A back four of Taylor, Williams, Chico and Rangel is solid enough, while the likes of Shelvey, Britton, Routledge and Sigurdsson offer a nice balance to the midfield. If Bony stays, Swansea should certainly be looking up rather than down from last season’s 12th-place finish.
Best bet: Swansea to finish in the top half at 11/4 (Sky Bet, bet365, betway)
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Last season: Sixth
Major ins: Ben Davies, Michel Vorm, Eric Dier
Major outs: Shaquille Coulthirst, Iago Falque, Heurelho Gomes, Grant Hall, Jake Livermore, Alex Pritchard, Gylfi Sigurdsson
Dave Tickner's verdict:
In keeping with their policy of permanently being a club in transition, Tottenham enter this season as a club in transition.
The Daniel Levy Wheel of Management Fortune has landed once again on ‘up-and-coming foreigner’ with Pochettino coming in after winning plenty of admirers for his Southampton side in the last couple of seasons.
For most clubs, the start of a new season under a new manager would represent a seismic shift. It says much about Tottenham that this feels like a quiet summer and relatively settled situation.
Pochettino came in early in the summer so has had a full pre-season to assess his squad and should be happy with what he found.
The final judgement last season after Spurs ‘sold Elvis and bought the Beatles’ was that the staggering Gareth Bale windfall had been squandered on a Drab Seven rather than Fab Four. But it may be that the error was not in the players they bought, but in buying them all at once, all from outside the Premier League and thinking it would be anyhting other than a painful transition.
Of the seven, only Christian Eriksen was a clear success in his first season and was the club’s standout outfield player with Hugo Lloris the only rival to the Denmark schemer in the club’s player of the year stakes.
But Pochettino could benefit from players who are clearly not without ability and who all have a year’s worth of experience in this country and (to a greater or lesser extent) this division to fall back on.
While hugely encouraging pre-season form from previously struggling foreigners sets off a bright neon flashing sign marked 'Giovani Dos Santos' in the minds of all Spurs fans, there’s no doubt that the two biggest flops of the seven arrivals of 12 months ago - Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela - look far more content under the new regime.
Either or both could still struggle but both have undoubted quality and their poor first seasons in England mean Spurs could slip under the radar rather.
Certainly, Spurs should be no weaker than last season. With Lloris signing a new deal and Jan Vertonghen set to follow, it seems no key first-team squad member will be leaving the club, even if arrivals have been (perhaps reassuringly) thin on the ground.
And for all Tottenham’s constant upheaval the results are remarkably consistent. Spurs have finished between fourth and sixth in each of the last five seasons.
Their points totals in those campaigns (most recent first) are 69, 72, 69, 62 and 70. The 62-point season coming in 2010/11 when the club embarked on a run to the Champions League quarter-finals in their first and only year in that competition.
At time of writing, it looks Spurs’ squad will be broadly the same as last season’s. If anything it will be stronger, with plenty of scope for plenty of those big-name flops to improve on their first season in the Premier League.
And there’s nothing to convince me that the bottom 13 of the Premier League - against whom most of last season’s tally were picked up-– have improved significantly. Spurs, along with the rest of the top seven, should again feel confident of racking up plenty of points against the division’s lesser lights.
Therefore it’s perhaps a touch generous to see Spurs’ season points line set at 5/6 either side of 64.5 with Sky Bet.
Best bet: Tottenham to get over 64.5 points at 5/6 (Sky Bet).
Manager: Alan Irvine
Last season: 17th
Major ins: Chris Baird, Jason Davidson, Christian Gamboa, Craig Gardner, Brown Ideye, Joleon Lescott, Sebastien Pocognoli, Andre Wisdom
Major outs: Scott Allen, Zoltan Gera, Billy Jones, Diego Lugano, Steven Reid, Liam Ridgewell, George Thorne
Simon Crawford’s verdict:
Stability must surely be the keyword for West Brom in the coming months after the rollercoaster ride that was last season.
Three managers came and went amidst a nervous fight against relegation, during which striker Shane Long was sold and fellow frontman Nicolas Anelka had to be sacked for making a "quenelle" gesture.
Albion won just seven games - the worst record in the Premier League apart from bottom side Cardiff - and drew 15 which was the most in the top flight - yet somehow they still managed to save themselves.
Alan Irvine, the former Preston, Sheffield Wednesday and Everton academy manager, has now taken the reins and perhaps many would consider him a left-field appointment.
At the time of writing his recruitment had been solid enough with Joleon Lescott arriving from Manchester City and Craig Gardner from Sunderland to give Albion some experience.
The board have shown their faith in the new manager by allowing him to bring in Belgium international defender Sebastien Pocognoli from Hannover and then break the club’s transfer record to land Nigeria striker Brown Ideye from Dynamo Kiev.
There will be much pressure on him to deliver in front of goal, along with Victor Anichebe and Stephane Sessegnon, if they want to avoid another campaign of anxiously looking over their shoulders.
However, my view is that West Brom seriously underachieved last season amid all the off-field turmoil and things can only get better, especially as I think there will be plenty of other sides who will struggle far more than the Baggies.
With this in mind, I like the look of Sky Bet’s Premier League Group D betting which puts Albion in a mini-league alongside Crystal Palace, Hull, Leicester, QPR and Burnley and they are 7/2 to top it.
Best bet: West Brom to finish ahead of Palace, Hull, Leicester, QPR and Burnley at 7/2 (Sky Bet)
Manager: Sam Allardyce
Last season: 13th
Major ins: Aaron Cresswell, Carl Jenkinson, Cheikhou Kouyate, Diego Poyet, Enner Valencia, Mauro Zarate
Major outs: Joe Cole, Jack Collison, Alou Diarra, Stephen Henderson, George McCartney, Matt Taylor
Ian Ogg’s verdict:
The fractious relationship between the fans and the club’s manager is unlikely to heal anytime soon and the board would appear to have thought long and hard before opting to retain the services of Allardyce whose promises to honour the 'West Ham way of playing football' upon his appointment have yet to be realised.
Allardyce has reportedly been told to adopt a more attacking style of football and Teddy Sheringham has been added to the backroom staff in an attempt to assist the transition, but it’s hard to envisage this side erring too far from a familiar path.
The Dudley-born boss has a tried-and-tested method of putting sides together and, while it may not be pretty, it is effective with the Irons comfortably avoiding relegation last season with a mid-table position and 40 points.
Yet again, they will have to do without marquee signing Andy Carroll for a large chunk of the season while Enner Valencia is reported not to be fit enough for the season’s opener.
That really is a headache that Allardyce could do without with his options limited in the final third and it seems highly unlikely that the undoubtedly talented Ravel Morrison, who earned plaudits for his performances early last season, will feature in his plans this time around.
Kevin Nolan top-scored last season with just seven goals despite a mid-season ‘slump’ that saw him pick up two red cards in four games and the experienced 32-year-old will once again be crucial to the fortunes of his side.
It’s difficult to envisage anything other than another season of struggle for West Ham and the Boleyn faithful and it’s no surprise to see Allardyce installed as the red-hot favourite for the ‘sack race’. However, he should be able to guide them over the finishing line once again if those in the stands and the boardroom keep the faith.
Whether that is enough remains to be seen but pragmatism should prevail with top-flight football of paramount importance ahead of a move to a new stadium and it’s hard to see Messrs Sullivan and Gold wanting to rock the boat.
None of the new signings is proven in the Premier League arena but Allardyce’s pedigree suggests that they are more likely than not to succeed.
The Hammers a very short price to stay up, something which they should achieve, and for those wanting to side with them then the season-long match bets probably offer the best medium.
The odds-on about finishing above QPR will appeal to many but it’s worth taking a chance with the even money (Coral) that they fare better than Swansea. Just two points separated the sides in the last campaign and the Welsh side have lost some key players and Garry Monk will face some stiff challenges in his first full season in charge.
Best bet: West Ham to finish above Swansea at evens (Coral)
Posted 0935 BST on 11/08/2014