Our writers bring you their team-by-team betting guide to the 2017/18 Premier League season.
All prices are with Sky Bet & all information correct at 1800 BST on 06/08/17.
Manager: Eddie Howe
Last season: Ninth (46 points)
Major ins: Nathan Ake (Chelsea, undisclosed), Asmir Begovic (Chelsea, undisclosed), Jermain Defoe (Sunderland, undisclosed), Connor Mahoney (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed)
Major outs: Lewis Grabban (Sunderland, loan)
Ben Coley's verdict:
Bournemouth strike as a generally positive club, where what will be will be and a good time will be had along the way. After a summer which has seen them capture Jermain Defoe, Asmir Begovic and Nathan Ake, positivity levels will be off the charts as they prepare to begin their third Premier League season away at West Brom.
Bournemouth’s first crack at the big time was impressive enough, but their second was exceptional as they finished ninth, level on points with eighth-placed Southampton and 12 points clear of relegation.
As with all sides in such a position, the gap between ninth and seventh is in fact much greater than the gap between ninth and 18th, and it would probably be unrealistic to expect the Cherries to crack the top half again, but they now look like an outfit who should be confident in their ability to survive with a degree of comfort.
So much of the credit goes to Eddie Howe, without doubt one of the brightest young managers in the Premier League. Howe might have been considered a potential replacement for Arsene Wenger had the Arsenal manager retired, while he must have been part of conversations at the FA before Gareth Southgate was confirmed as England boss, and his future surely does lie away from the south coast.
But while he’s here, Howe will continue to be an asset greater even than Defoe promises to be, and can be fancied to find the required responses to challenges which have to be expected as the jostling for positions takes place just below the league’s midway point.
Defoe’s arrival makes perfect sense. It was here at Bournemouth that his promise was first revealed more than 15 years ago and he’ll be given a hero's welcome on his return. Although 35 in May, Defoe has probably never been in better shape and with a place at next summer’s World Cup firmly on his mind, expected another double-figure return.
Not that goals were too much of a problem for Bournemouth. In fact, their leap from 16th to ninth ties in with their increase in goals scored. But the three lowest-scoring teams in the league last season now find themselves in the Championship, and Howe is right to make his key summer signing an attacking one.
In goal, Begovic is a definite upgrade on Artur Boruc so while it’s been a fairly quiet summer for Bournemouth, that’s no bad thing. The feeling is they’ve strengthened where necessary while recognising that more of the same will leave them in good shape.
That the clubs from eighth to 17th last season all won either 11 or 12 games demonstrates that life in the middle of the Premier League is precarious, but Bournemouth’s combination of youth and experience, which can also be seen in their management, should see them more than make do.
For a bet, Defoe to be their top scorer at 8/11 is a steal. It's a long time to wait, but all this requires is a fairly clean bill of health and he'll romp home by half a dozen or more. Those wanting something bigger might consider backing them to be the top south coast club at 2/1 - Brighton are there for the taking while Southampton look opposable at odds-on.
Best bet: Jermain Defoe to be Bournemouth's top Premier League goalscorer at 8/11 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Last season: Fifth (75 points)
Major ins: Sead Kolasinac (Schalke, free), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon, undisclosed)
Major outs: Takuma Asano (Stuttgart, loan), Dan Crowley (Willem II, undisclosed), Kaylen Hinds (Wolfsburg, undisclosed), Emiliano Martinez (Getafe, loan), Stephy Mavididi (Preston North End, loan), Yaya Sanogo (released), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus, £10million), Chris Willock (Benfica, undisclosed)
Ben Coley's verdict:
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If Einstein was a football pundit, he’d likely tell you that Arsenal would be insane to expect anything beyond the obvious: a prolonged fight to sneak inside the top four following a brief period in which it looks like This Might Be The Year.
As seems to be the case every summer, one step forward has been wiped out by two steps back. This time, in comes a long-term target, Alexandre Lacazette, but out may yet go Alexis Sanchez, among the league’s very best and most influential players. Arsene Wenger stays, which means stability but ensures that some supporters will remain dissatisfied. The atmosphere inside the Emirates has seldom been electric, but Arsenal could at least do without it becoming toxic yet they’re perpetually one bad (February) week away from that.
How, then, do Arsenal realistically expect to make up 18 points on Chelsea, to avoid falling further behind Tottenham and Manchester City, to sneak back in front of Liverpool, to keep Manchester United at bay?
Firstly, they need to defend better. Arsenal conceded 44 goals last season, 18 more than Spurs, and it’s highly unlikely that the arrival of tough left-back Sead Kolasinac will make enough of a difference. In defending better, they might avoid some of the limp defeats which dogged their campaign: Arsenal lost nine times, two more than in each of the previous five seasons. But even seven is at least one, probably two or three too many.
These two issues at least go hand-in-hand, which means solving one means solving the other, and that’s where we get to some degree of hope.
Granit Xhaka began to look like the holding midfielder Arsenal have long needed towards the end of last season. Kolasinac is well-regarded and known for his defending, rather than what he does going forward, and looks a potential step-up on Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal. Should Sanchez stay, an attacking triumvirate of Chile, France and Germany would be up there with the league’s best. Should Olivier Giroud stay, Arsenal would have a back-up option entirely different to their preferred choice, one who does have a handy knack of scoring important goals.
All of a sudden, they are 30 games of Laurent Koscielny alongside Shkodran Mustafi away from looking like a serious side. Maybe Wenger was right to stay. Maybe Theo Walcott is brilliant. Maybe, with key men staying and a good start to the season, This Might Be The Year.
Oh, wait, they have to play in the Europa League on Thursday nights. Forget it.
Best bet: Tottenham to finish above Arsenal at 4/5 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Chris Hughton
Last season: Second in the Sky Bet Championship (93 points)
Major ins: Izzy Brown (Chelsea, loan), Pascal Gross (FC Ingolstadt, undisclosed), Josh Kerr (Celtic, undisclosed), Ales Mateju (Viktoria Plzen, undisclosed), Mathias Normann (FK Bodo/Glimt, undisclosed), Mathew Ryan (Valencia, undisclosed), Markus Suttner (Ingolstadt, undisclosed)
Major outs: Vegard Forren (released), Rob Hunt (Oldham Athletic, undisclosed), Elvis Manu (Genclerbirligi SK, free), Oliver Norwood (Fulham, loan), Chris O'Grady (released), David Stockdale (Birmingham City, free), Christian Walton (Wigan Athletic, loan)
Ben Coley's verdict:
The nature of this collaborative feature is that you may well find disagreement elsewhere, but I believe Brighton should be favourites to finish bottom of the Premier League and therefore rate must-bet material at 9/2.
The squad which threw away the Championship title, handing it instead to an arguably less-deserving Newcastle, remains very much as it was and that means a definite absence of Premier League quality.
Anthony Knockaert – who has missed pre-season and is still struggling for fitness – looks like the type of player to appear something like world-class in the EFL but struggle in the top-flight, and there are many more like him within the Brighton set-up.
Manager Chris Hughton has been in this sort of situation before and his experience may prove valuable, but it just isn’t enough. It will be by some distance the achievement of his career to keep the Seagulls in the Premier League.
Not that it’s all doom and gloom. Brighton are planning for the future and the atmosphere at what’s a well-run club is extremely positive. Should they go down fighting, that could be called a success and the bar of expectation has been set low enough to help free them up to over-achieve.
Whatever happens, owner Tony Bloom will take encouragement from anything but the sort of miserable campaign compiled by Sunderland last year, and you’d hope there’s enough about this set of players to avoid such a scenario.
Hughton has made some interesting signings, but while others have been spraying money around in this madness of a transfer window, he’s been rightly cautious.
Mathew Green, an Australian goalkeeper with European experience, has been the most expensive purchase but whether he can prove as effective and reliable as David Stockdale remains to be seen.
Pascal Gross could be the pick of the lot and it will be hoped that he can create opportunities from the front of a compact midfield, while Markus Suttner’s Bundesliga experience underlines why Hughton was keen to add him soon after Gross.
But these are neither big-name, big-money transfers nor especially shrewd, potential-packed additions. They cannot be expected to help Brighton bridge what is a massive gap from Championship to Premier League. In all probability, this is a one-season stop in the top-flight and that much may be clear as early as Christmas.
Best bet: Brighton to finish bottom of the Premier League at 9/2 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Sean Dyche
Last season: 16th (40 points)
Major ins: Phil Bardsley (Stoke City, undisclosed), Jack Cork (Swansea City, undisclosed), Charlie Taylor (Leeds United, undisclosed), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City, undisclosed)
Major outs: Joey Barton (released), Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Josh Ginnelly (Lincoln City, loan), Chris Long (Northampton Town, loan), Michael Keane (Everton, undisclosed), Michael Kightly (released), Rouwen Hennings (Fortuna Dusseldorf, free), Aiden O'Neill (Fleetwood Town, loan), Alex Whitmore (Bury, loan)
Ben Coley's verdict:
Burnley, one of the success stories of last season in many respects, have a very big problem ahead of the new campaign and it’s one they need to find the answer to: just how do they win games away from home?
Their record at Turf Moor was incredible. Nineteen games, 10 wins, six defeats, just 20 goals conceded: all of these figures are beyond the reach of your ordinary bottom-half sides and that will likely remain the case.
Yet Burnley are a bottom-half side. They scraped to 40 points, eventually finishing 16th, and it took until the last weekend in April for them to win on the road.
It seems certain that their home form will suffer a dip, particularly in light of Michael Keane’s departure to Everton, but it’s far less certain that Sean Dyche will conjure a formula which works on the road and that makes Burnley prime candidates for a season of struggle.
Dyche has at least recruited sensibly, bringing in Premier League experience from Stoke (Phil Bardsley, Jon Walters) and Swansea (Jack Cork), but further defensive reinforcements are definitely needed despite the acquisition of promising full-back Charlie Taylor from Leeds.
Cork’s presence should shore up a midfield which boasts enough creative quality already, but there are concerns also in attack where keeping hold of Andre Gray must be a priority. The striker has a year left on his contract and reports suggesting he could be allowed to leave for 20 million should worry Burnley fans.
It's all very well collecting £25million for Keane and potentially £20million more for Gray, but the money needs to be reinvested quickly and effectively. Dyche’s signings so far add depth and experience but not the game-changing quality which is needed to produce a drastic turnaround on the road. Only Gray and Sam Vokes provided a consistent goal threat last term and should one go, the burden on the other would weigh far too heavily for comfort.
Here’s another concern: that away turnaround might have to wait. The fixture list has cruelly put the worst travelers in the division in line for the following six away games to start the season: Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Everton, Manchester City. Throw in Southampton and it’s the end of November before the Clarets have what looks a realistic opportunity to secure three important away points.
By then, it may already be too late. Back them to be bottom at Christmas and expect them to remain right down there until the end of the campaign.
Best bet: Burnley to be bottom of the Premier League on Christmas Day at 6/1 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Antonio Conte
Last season: Premier League champions (93 points)
Major ins: Ethan Ampadu (Exeter City, undisclosed), Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco, undisclosed), Willy Caballero (Manchester City, free), Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid, undisclosed), Antonio Rudiger (Roma, undisclosed)
Major outs: Tammy Abraham (Swansea City, loan), Ola Aina (Hull City, loan), Nathan Ake (AFC Bournemouth, undisclosed), Mukhtar Ali (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Christian Atsu (Newcastle United, undisclosed), Asmir Begovic (AFC Bournemouth, undisclosed), Jamal Blackman (Sheffield United, loan), Izzy Brown (Brighton and Hove Albion, loan), Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford, undisclosed), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus, undisclosed), Charlie Colkett (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Fankaty Dabo (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Michael Hector (Hull City, loan), Tomas Kalas (Fulham, loan), Todd Kane (Groningen, loan), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace, loan), Nemanja Matic (Manchester United, undisclosed), Matt Miazga (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Mason Mount (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Kasey Palmer (Huddersfield Town, loan), Mario Pasalic (Spartak Moscow, loan), Lucas Piazon (Fulham, loan), Dominic Solanke (Liverpool, transfer tribunal required), John Terry (released), Bertrand Traore (Lyon, £8.8million), Ike Ugbo (Barnsley, loan), Marco van Ginkel (PSV Eindhoven, loan), Bekanty Victorien Angban (Waasland-Beveren, loan), Kurt Zouma (Stoke City, loan)
Andy Schooler's verdict:
Repeating last season’s effort which saw them earn a highly-impressive 93 points looks tough for a host of reasons.
First of all, European football is back at Stamford Bridge and we’ve seen plenty of examples in recent years of how being able to focus solely on domestic matters can help a Premier League club – think Liverpool in 2013/14, Leicester in 2015/16 and Chelsea themselves last term.
Personnel changes also fail to convince me that the Blues will be as strong in 2017/18.
Diego Costa played a key role in both of their title triumphs in the last three seasons and replacing him with Alvaro Morata means at the very least the way the team sets up changes.
Morata may turn out to be a good signing but he does not bring the same skillset as Costa and the team as a whole will have to adapt. Likewise, Nemanja Matic being moved on in favour of Tiemoue Bakayoko is a gamble.
Throw in the fact that their playmaker-in-chief, Eden Hazard, misses the start of the season having broken his ankle in June, I’m not keen on backing the Blues to go well.
One market that looks to have potential is the club top scorer. I’m not convinced Morata should be 4/11 here given the number of players who have struggled in their first season in English football.
Hazard looks a viable alternative at 3/1. He bagged 16 goals last season when he often played further ahead than Costa in terms of average position and in 14/15 he scored 14. A similar figure could win this.
Best bet: Eden Hazard to be Chelsea's top Premier League goalscorer at 3/1 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Frank de Boer
Last season: 14th (41 points)
Major ins: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace, loan), Jairo Riedewald (Ajax, undisclosed)
Major outs: Kwesi Appiah (AFC Wimbledon, free), Fraizer Campbell (released), Mathieu Flamini (released), Ezekiel Fryers (released), Joe Ledley (released), Steve Mandanda (Marseille, undisclosed)
Andy Schooler's verdict:
Even more so than Chelsea, Crystal Palace’s style of play is set for change due to a managerial switch with Sam Allardyce and Frank de Boer looking chalk and cheese.
De Boer is steeped in ‘the Ajax way’ of pass-and-move football and you have to wonder how last season’s top scorer Christian Benteke fits into that.
Palace are not short on attacking talent and they out-scored all the other teams in the bottom half (plus two in the top section).
At the back, not surprisingly things improved under Allardyce and defensive midfielder Luka Milivojevic was one of the Premier League’s best January signings.
The appointment of De Boer is definitely a gamble and it could easily go either way. However, in terms of a bet, finding a way to go low on Benteke goals looks to have legs given the change in philosophy at the helm.
That means Wilfried Zaha becomes a contender at 7/1 in the top Crystal Palace goalscorer market behind heavy odds-on favourite Benteke.
Best bet: Wilfried Zaha to be Crystal Palace's top Premier League goalscorer at 7/1 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Ronald Koeman
Last season: Seventh (61 points)
Major ins: Josh Bowler (QPR, undisclosed), Anton Donkor (Wolfsburg, loan), Michael Keane (Burnley, undisclosed), Davy Klaassen (Ajax, £23.5million), Cuco Martina (Southampton, free), Boris Mathis (Metz, free), Henry Onyekuru (Eupen, undisclosed), Jordan Pickford (Sunderland, £30million), Sandro Ramirez (Malaga, undisclosed), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United, undisclosed)
Major outs: Tyias Browning (Sunderland, loan), Tom Cleverley (Watford, undisclosed), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona, £10.5million), Kieran Dowell (Nottingham Forest, loan), Brendan Galloway (Sunderland, loan), Arouna Kone (released), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United, undisclosed), Conor McAleny (released), Aiden McGeady (Sunderland, undisclosed), Henry Onyekuru (Anderlecht, loan), Matthew Pennington (Leeds United, loan), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers, loan), Joe Williams (Barnsley, loan)
Andy Schooler's verdict:
Romelu Lukaku's departure was probably inevitable given the goal returns he produced in his four seasons at Everton.
The £75million received has allowed Ronald Koeman to add significantly to other areas of the squad with Michael Keane immediately strengthening the defence.
At just 24, he could play a big part in Everton’s long-term future, one which looks bright with so many youngsters coming through and being given chances – think Tom Davies, Mason Holgate and Under-20 World Cup winner Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Losing Lukaku’s goals will certainly be a concern and Koeman may well have to change the shape of his team as a result. However, there still look to goals in the side – just expect them to be shared around between the likes of Sandro Ramirez, Davy Klaassen and soon-to-be new recruit Gylfi Sigurdssson.
The Toffees’ summer business has seen them well backed in some sub-markets such as top-four and top-six but having finished eight points behind sixth-placed Manchester United and 14 behind Arsenal, who were, fifth, last season they have a big gap to bridge and without Lukaku that may prove difficult to do.
They were also 15 points ahead of eighth-placed Southampton come May and another seventh-placed finish looks likely. You can get 6/4 about them without the big six which looks fair enough.
Best bet: Everton to finish top without the 'big six' at 6/4 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: David Wagner
Last season: Fifth in the Sky Bet Championship, play-off winners (81 points)
Major ins: Laurent Delpoitre (FC Porto, undisclosed), Tom Ince (Derby County, undisclosed), Mathias Jorgensen (Copenhagen, undisclosed) Elias Kachunga (FC Ingolstadt, £1.1million), Jonas Lossl (Mainz, loan), Scott Malone (Fulham, undisclosed) Aaron Mooy (Manchester City, £8million that could rise to £10million), Steve Mounie (Montpellier, undisclosed), Kasey Palmer (Chelsea, loan), Danny Williams (Reading, free)
Major outs: Flo Bojaj (released), Harry Bunn (Bury, undisclosed), Kyle Dempsey (Fleetwood Town, undisclosed), Jordy Hiwula (Fleetwood Town, loan), Tareiq Holmes-Dennis (Portsmouth, loan), Joe Murphy (Bury, free), Jack Payne (Oxford United, loan), Rekeil Pyke (Port Vale, loan)
Andy Schooler's verdict:
David Wagner was just ‘Jurgen Klopp’s mate’ this time last year but he’s now established himself as a serious hot property after leading the unfancied Terriers into the big time.
After what happened in 2016/17, you can hardly dismiss Huddersfield’s survival chances, although it’s highly likely they will be in a battle towards the bottom.
A relatively-small budget means Wagner will need to squeeze even more out of many of last season’s heroes. One of them, Aaron Mooy, has signed permanently and there are high hopes for striker Steve Mounie, who scored 14 goals in Ligue 1 last season for Montpellier.
However, other signings such as the ever-wandering Tom Ince hardly get the mouth-watering and the loss of Izzy Brown, now at Brighton, must have come as a blow.
I can’t get away from the fact that last year 22 of Huddersfield’s 25 wins came by a one-goal margin and it’s very easy to see how the higher level of football makes them much more vulnerable.
Defending any leads will be much tougher; ditto scoring goals to get them ahead in the first place.
Last season’s attack was far from free-scoring. A tally of 56 from 46 league games was bettered by all bar one of the Championship’s top-half sides last season, plus several in the bottom half.
With Mounie’s signing a gamble in terms of adapting to the Premier League and quality looking light among their other strikers, 3/1 about Huddersfield being the lowest scorers is worthy of consideration.
Best bet: Huddersfield to be the Premier League's lowest scorers at 3/1 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Craig Shakespeare
Last season: 12th (44 points)
Major ins: Sam Hughes (Chester City, undisclosed), Vicente Iborra (Sevilla, undisclosed), Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City, undisclosed), Eldin Jakupovic (Hull City, undisclosed), Harry Maguire (Hull City, undisclosed)
Major outs: Callum Elder (Wigan Athletic, loan), Bartosz Kapustka (Freiburg, loan), Marcin Wasilewski (released), Ron-Robert Zieler (Stuttgart, undisclosed)
Matt Brocklebank's verdict:
If last season taught us anything then it was confirmation that Leicester’s title-winning success in 2016 was indeed the thing of pure fantasy.
It was suggested after Claudio Ranieri’s heroes broke down the door and re-wrote the Premier League rulebook that anyone could now win it. Any team, with the right balance of quality and belief, plus a pinch of good fortune, could muscle in and make their way to the summit of English football. How wrong they were.
Reality was immediately resumed towards the top end of the table in May with the big six ending eight points adrift of Everton, who in turn were a further 15 clear of eighth-placed Southampton.
Remarkably, Leicester not only survived the ignominy of relegation as champions, having looked doomed for most of the year under Ranieri, but managed to finish last term in the relative comfort of mid-table (12th).
Much of the credit has to go to promoted assistant manager Craig Shakespeare whose no-nonsense approach appeared to galvanise the squad and it was absolutely no surprise to see the powers that be offer him the big job full-time after overseeing a remarkable run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Quite whether he’s the man to take the club forward again remains to be seen but there’s been enough to like about the summer transfer business in that they’ve managed to hold onto Jamie Vardy, and also still have Riyad Mahrez on the books at the time of writing.
That could all change, of course, but money has been spent elsewhere on former Hull defender Harry Maguire, midfielder Vicente Iborra from Sevilla and Kelechi Iheanacho arriving from Manchester City, so it’s not like they’re standing still.
A more settled season would be most welcome at the King Power and that could definitely materialise without the European side-show, for all it was a lot of fun while it lasted.
Over 47.5 points – a four-point improvement last year’s return – looks perfectly achievable if Leicester can rekindle a little bit of magic at home and although recommending a 5/6 chance with such a long wait for pay-day may not appeal to everyone, there’s certainly some value given the summer recruitment and expected improvement.
Best bet: Leicester to win 47.5+ Premier League points at 5/6 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Last season: Fourth (76 points)
Major ins: Andrew Robertson (Hull City, undisclosed), Mohamed Salah (Roma, £34.3million), Dominic Solanke (Chelsea, transfer tribunal required)
Major outs: Pedro Chirivella (Willem II, loan), Alex Manninger (released), Lucas Leiva (Lazio, undisclosed), Connor Randall (Heart of Midlothian, loan), Kevin Stewart (Hull City, undisclosed), Andre Wisdom (Derby County, undisclosed)
Matt Brocklebank's verdict:
It’s not just the increasingly likely sale of Philippe Countinho to Barcelona that has the potential to completely derail Liverpool’s plans, but also the pursuit of one or two long-term targets who continue to appear just out of reach.
Everyone is plainly aware of Liverpool’s weaknesses at the centre of defence and although Jurgen Klopp has publicly backed his current options in that position to take the necessary step up this term, missing out on Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk would come as a hammer blow.
That remains an unclear picture, with several rival clubs also now in for the towering Dutchman, and there’s still time for something to unfold.
The other area in need of some strengthening, especially with the added workload that comes with Champions League football (should they safely negotiate the qualifying round), is midfield where RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita had been identified as the ideal man before the German club dug their heels in despite club-record offers believed to be in the region of £70million.
So Klopp will have to play a patient and slightly risky game when it comes to finalising who comes and who goes before the transfer window closes but what we do know is that those through the door already this summer have made a really positive impact.
Mohamed Salah is the standout in that regard after looking as good as he ever did for Roma – and far better than what he showed in a short spell at Chelsea - during pre-season, while Dominic Solanke has at least hinted that he could be more than the fringe player Klopp had initially insinuated after he joined from Stamford Bridge.
Former Hull left-back Andy Robertson should provide James Milner with some respite and he helps boost the cover overall at full-back along with Alberto Moreno, Joe Gomez and the highly-regarded Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has ably deputised for an injured Nathaniel Clyne on the right side at the Audi Cup.
Competition in the Liverpool front-line is also pretty warm, with ‘forgotten men’ Danny Ings and Daniel Sturridge both showing up well to suggest they should be challenging Coutinho, Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Divock Origi in first-choice plans.
Mane (11/4) represents a spot of value against 5/2 favourite Firmino in the top scorer betting and not having AFCON duties should help him individually on that front and the club as a whole.
Captain Jordan Henderson was badly missed at times last term and in general it looks like everything is in place for Liverpool to improve on last year’s points tally, but there could be a fine line between them holding onto a top-four place and slipping back into the also-rans.
Best Bet: Sadio Mane to be Liverpool's top Premier League goalscorer at 11/4 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Last season: Third (78 points)
Major ins: Danilo (Real Madrid, undisclosed), Ederson (Benfica, £35million), Douglas Luiz (Vasco Da Gama, undisclosed), Benjamin Mendy (Monaco, undisclosed), Bernardo Silva (Monaco, undisclosed), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur, undisclosed)
Major outs: Willy Caballero (released), Bersant Celina (Ipswich Town, loan), Gael Clichy (released), Aleix Garcia (Girona, loan), Fernando (Galatasaray, undisclosed) Angus Gunn (Norwich City, loan), Joe Hart (West Ham United, loan), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, undisclosed), Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma, undisclosed), Douglas Luiz (Girona, loan), Pablo Maffeo (Girona, loan), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town, £8million that could rise to £10million), Marlos Moreno (Girona, loan), Jesus Navas (released), Nolito (Sevilla, undisclosed), Olivier Ntcham (Celtic, undisclosed), Bacary Sagna (released), Ashley Smith-Brown (Hearts, loan), Ruben Sobrino (Alaves, undisclosed), Enes Unal (Villarreal, undisclosed), Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham United, free)
Matt Brocklebank's verdict:
After a couple of years in the relative wilderness of third and fourth in the Premier League title race, snoozing giant Manchester City appears ready to roar back to the top of the table and justify outright favouritism of 15/8.
Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge at the Etihad was not all sweetness and light – far from it – as they failed to secure a trophy of any description and bombed out of the Champions League at the first knockout stage.
A first career blank for the manager will not sit well - with the man himself or success-hungry chairman Khalddon al-Mubarak - and many will point to Guardiola’s apparent blind faith in his own attacking philosophy as the principal reason for failure.
Having once been managed by Kevin Keegan, this is a club well-rehearsed in the mantra of simply scoring one more than the opposition, but it is something that obviously has to be addressed in light of how poorly they defended as a team throughout last term.
A 6-6 away-goals defeat to Monaco in the last-16 of the Champions League, after which Guardiola seemed to blame his forwards for not scoring enough, encapsulates the season in many ways, though the 3-1 home league loss against Chelsea was an even clearer indication of just how vulnerable City can be against a top-class counter-attacking opponent.
But work has been done and, importantly, the majority of City’s main transfer targets were captured in good time for a positive pre-season tour in the States.
Kyle Walker has essentially been a Citizen since the final few weeks of last season, while left-back Benjamin Mendy, goalkeeper Ederson and versatile defender/holding midfielder Danilo have been added for big money to help bolster the defensive unit.
Going forward, the potential for Alexis Sanchez to sign from Arsenal remains a very real one and looks set to run, while Bernardo Silva has already been added to the attacking ranks for just over £40million, representing more competition for David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and the hugely promising Leroy Sane – all battling for places behind Sergio Aguero and/or Gabriel Jesus.
So in a little over a year it’s clear Guardiola has removed plenty of dead wood and attempted to take City to another level (spending at least £362.85million in the process) and there were signs of what’s to come towards the end of last season.
It was too little, too late, but City went unbeaten following a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in early-April and the potent combination of Aguero, Jesus and Sane helped inspire a final flourish of four straight wins.
The centre-back position remains a slight issue, with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi the only realistic options to partner Vincent Kompany but further recruitment is bound to take place and it’s hard to escape the idea that Guardiola will get the balance right after last year’s steep learning curve.
They started extremely strongly this time last year (into 4/7 to win the title at the end of September) and there’s every chance of another bright opening few weeks given how sharp some of City’s key players have looked in pre-season and their reasonable first few fixtures.
Sky Bet make City 5/2 joint-favourites with Man United to be top after five Premier League matches, during which they travel to Brighton, Bournemouth and Watford, and play host to both Merseyside clubs.
Guardiola failed to beat Liverpool or Everton at all last season, drawing both the corresponding home fixtures 1-1, but City have strengthened significantly and will be warm favourites to pick up maximum points.
United start with West Ham (h), Swansea (a), Leicester (h), Stoke (a) and Everton (h) but the layers look to have placed too much emphasis on the fixture list and simply getting the best team on side early doors looks a very sensible option.
Best Bet: Manchester City to be top on September 22 at 5/2 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Last season: Sixth (69 points)
Major ins: Victor Lindelof (Benfica, undisclosed), Romelu Lukaku (Everton, undisclosed), Nemanja Matic (Chelsea, undisclosed)
Major outs: Josh Harrop (Preston North End, undisclosed), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (released), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad, £8million), Sam Johnstone (Aston Villa, loan), Wayne Rooney (Everton, undisclosed)
Matt Brocklebank's verdict:
The shambolic pre-season of last year which saw Manchester United travel all the way to China to play Manchester City, only for the game to be abandoned due to torrential rain, seems like a distant memory.
On top of that, it’s worth noting Jose Mourinho won’t have to spend the first few months of the new campaign playing the part of Alan Partridge in living out of a hotel.
From the outside looking in, at least, it appears things have gone significantly smoother this summer and that perhaps shouldn’t come as a great surprise to anyone considering the manager’s uncanny record with his previous clubs at getting everything oh so right in his second season in charge.
He’s won titles with Porto, Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid ‘second time out’ and although some may consider the former Special One slightly damaged goods these days in light of how things ended in his second spell at Stamford Bridge, he still managed to provide the League Cup and Europa League at the first time of asking at Old Trafford.
United, sixth in the Premier League and a full 24 points adrift of champions Chelsea in May, are now vying for second-favouritism with the Blues and it’s hard to escape the notion that they are simply far too short.
Losing Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic might not seem like such a big deal to many but the latter provided the only real reliable source of goals and obviously the heat will be on Romelu Lukaku right from the outset.
He’s prohibitively short (2/7) to take up the mantle and emerge as United’s leading scorer but the onus has to be on the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to provide more of a goal threat from elsewhere.
Juan Mata chipped in with six goals from midfield but the obvious one to step up now is record-signing Paul Pogba. With Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic signed to bolster the side defensively, the shackles could really come off Pogba, especially as the whole expectations surrounding him will be greatly reduced 12 months on from his introduction.
He should build on his tally of five Premier League goals and odds of 5/2 for him to at least double that return represents a perfectly sound wager and one which will surely give punters a good run for their money.
Best bet: Paul Pogba to score 10 or more Premier League goals at 5/2 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Rafael Benitez
Last season: Sky Bet Championship champions (94 points)
Major ins: Christian Atsu (Chelsea, undisclosed), Florian Lejeune (Eibar, undisclosed), Javier Manquillo (Atletico Madrid, undisclosed), Jacob Murphy (Norwich, undisclosed), Mikel Merino (Borussia Dortmund, loan)
Major outs: Sammy Ameobi (released), Vernon Anita (released), Adam Armstrong (Bolton Wanderers, loan), Alex Gilliead (Bradford City, loan), Yoan Gouffran (Goztepe SK, free), Tom Heardman (Bury, loan), Sean Longstaff (Blackpool, loan), Kevin Mbabu (BSC Young Boys, undisclosed), Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Matz Sels (Anderlecht, loan), Florian Thauvin (Marseille, undisclosed), Ivan Toney (Wigan Athletic, loan), Haris Vuckic (released)
Nick Hext's verdict:
Newcastle are back in the Premier League and the bookies joined the celebrations by putting Rafael Benitez at the head of the ‘sack race’ betting.
It’s unlikely that Benitez will actually be sacked, much more likely he’ll walk, and the rest of the transfer window will be key for the Spaniard’s contentment at St James’ Park after his frustration in trying to strengthen the squad back in January.
There has been a bit of transfer activity from the Magpies to boost a squad that badly needed extra depth added.
Norwich forward Jacob Murphy has made the most headlines but Eibar defender Florian Lejeune looks the pick of the signings after impressing during his time in LaLiga.
More is needed but there is the nucleus of a side that can remain in the top-flight with Jamaal Lascelles, Jonjo Shelvey, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle all more than capable of stepping up.
Benitez though is the key man if Newcastle are to avoid an immediate return to the Sky Bet Championship.
The former Liverpool boss was a calming presence throughout last term’s title-winning campaign and if, and it is only if, he departs it is sure to be a tough task to remain in the Premier League.
The 7/2 for Benitez to go first is too short for me. Unlike other contenders in that market, it will have to be the Spaniard’s decision to move on and the likes of Mark Hughes and Slaven Bilic start the campaign already under plenty of pressure.
I expect Newcastle to just about keep their heads above water but a challenge to end up in the top half looks some way off.
That makes the 4/7 for Bournemouth to finish above the Magpies well worth an interest. It is an odds-on shot but Ben Coley makes a convincing case elsewhere in this preview for the Cherries to impress again and I fully agree.
Bournemouth are a settled Premier League outfit with stability on and off the field. That remains a target at least a couple of seasons away for Newcastle.
Best bet: Bournemouth to finish above Newcastle at 4/7 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Mauricio Pellegrino
Last season: Eighth (46 points)
Major ins: Jan Bednarek (Lech Poznan)
Major outs: Martin Caceres (released), Lloyd Isgrove (released), Harry Lewis (Dundee United, loan), Cuco Martina (released), Jason McCarthy (Barnsley, undisclosed), Harrison Reed (Norwich City, loan), Ryan Seager (MK Dons, loan), Jay Rodriguez (West Bromwich Albion, undisclosed)
Nick Hext's verdict:
Claude Puel is now consigned to be a Pointless answer in the TV quiz show by the same name when a contestant is asked to name someone who has managed in the Premier League.
The Frenchman led Southampton to the EFL Cup final but his tenure at St Mary's was unmemorable other than that Wembley defeat against Manchester United.
Saints fans were certainly glad to see the back of Puel despite surprise from elsewhere in the football community.
Mauricio Pellegrino is the new incarnation from the TARDIS that Southampton managers appear from and he is the 13th boss to take full or joint-caretaker charge of the club in the last decade.
Most of those managers worked at St Mary’s as Saints floundered in the Football League but those days are now long behind them.
Finishes of eighth, sixth, seventh and eighth in the Premier League over the last four seasons have shown admirable consistency. It has to be another campaign in the top half away from a Champions League challenge predicted for Southampton.
Former Liverpool defender Pellegrino arrives after impressing in charge of Spanish outfit Alaves. That included a run to the Copa del Rey final for the first time in the club’s history but Barcelona prevented them lifting the trophy by claiming a 3-1 win.
The 45-year-old from Argentina hasn’t added much to his Southampton squad so far. More new faces are expected but he will also have to contend with the more than likely departure of star defender Virgil van Dijk.
The exit of van Dijk will be a blow but Saints will pocket a massive transfer fee and they coped easily enough without the injured centre half in the second half of last term.
It’s hard to find too much value for Saints, they are odds-on for a place in the top half, but I reckon forward Nathan Redmond is worth backing for a strong season.
The 23-year-old netted seven goals in his debut campaign at St Mary’s and 5/2 for Redmond to slightly boost his tally for 10 leagues goals is appealing.
Best bet: Nathan Redmond to score 10 or more Premier League goals at 5/2 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Mark Hughes
Last season: 13th (44 points)
Major ins: Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion, free), Josh Tymon (Hull City, undisclosed), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea, loan)
Major outs: Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City, undisclosed), Daniel Bachmann (Watford, undisclosed), Phil Bardsley (Burnley, undisclosed), Shay Given (released), Jonathan Walters (Burnley, undisclosed), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City, undisclosed)
Nick Hext's verdict:
Stoke City. Good value for a top half finish. End of preview.
That was the approach to looking at the Potters’ chances over the last four seasons but a run of three top-10 finishes in a row came to an end when the whistle blew on the 2016/17 campaign.
Stoke finished 13th and it’s hard to see a return back up the standings in the months ahead.
Mark Hughes starts the new season sharing favouritism with Newcastle chief Rafael Benitez at 7/2 in the ‘sack race’ and it’s easy to see why the Welshman is under pressure.
Stoke only won two of their final 11 matches last term and they’ve lost who I’d consider to be their main attacking threats since then, Marko Arnautovic to West Ham and Jon Walters to Burnley.
The duo haven’t been replaced so it’s down to Xherdan Shaqiri and Saido Berahino to stand up and be counted for the first time of years. It’s that or 36-year-old Peter Crouch leads the charge.
Crouch is still a decent Premier League performer but it’s a cross against Hughes’ recruitment over the last few years that the former England international remains pivotal to the Potters’ chances.
The 11/2 for Stoke to go down has its takers but action will be taken if they are struggling at the turn of the year and the nucleus of a side is there to stay in mid-table.
New loan acquisition Kurt Zouma and Ryan Shawcross form a strong pairing in the centre of defence and Jack Butland is already a top-class Premier League goalkeeper.
That solidity will see Stoke remain safe but I reckon 11/8 for the Potters to finish bottom of Sky Bet’s Midlands Group (alongside Leicester and West Brom) should be considered.
Leicester will improve after struggles last term and Tony Pulis has West Brom strong enough to disprove their status as favourites to finish last out of this trio.
Best bet: Stoke to finish bottom of the Midlands Group (with Leicester and West Brom) at 11/8 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Paul Clement
Last season: 15th (41 points)
Major ins: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea, loan), Cian Harries (Coventry City, undisclosed), Roque Mesa (Las Palmas, £11million) Erwin Mulder (Heerenveen, free)
Major outs: Jordi Amat (Real Betis, loan), Modou Barrow (Reading, undisclosed), Borja Baston (Malaga, loan), Jack Cork (Burnley, undisclosed), Marvin Emnes (released), Bafetimbi Gomis (Galatasaray, undisclosed), Connor Roberts (Middlesbrough, loan), Franck Tabanou (released), Gerhard Tremmel (released)
Nick Hext's verdict:
I’m writing this preview of Swansea’s season by presuming that Gylfi Sigurdsson will join Everton for a fee of around £50million before the transfer window closes.
My colleague Andy Schooler is of the same view in his preview of the Toffees’ chances and it’s clear that the sale of Sigurdsson would be a big blow to the Swans.
A £50million fee would obviously cushion the blow but the pressure will be on boss Paul Clement and the club’s recruitment department to ensure the Iceland international is replaced quickly.
Swansea only stayed up via a late flourish last time out but a full season under Clement’s management should see safety assured again. Stability is required after Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley both sat in the Liberty Stadium dugout last term prior to the arrival of Clement.
The Sigurdsson saga has managed to overshadow a decent summer of signings for the Swans so far.
Las Palmas midfielder Roque Mesa is a cracking acquisition, he’ll provide extra quality to the midfield, and the loan swoop for Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham is a good piece of business.
The England Under-21 international will get his chance to lead the attack as Fernando Llorente is ruled out after fracturing his arm falling off his bike while on holiday.
Abraham provides my best bet for Swansea’s season. He’s 6/5 to end the campaign as the club’s top goalscorer.
Sigurdsson’s probable departure opens the door for the 19-year-old in these odds and there’s every chance that more speculation begins over Llorente’s future after Chelsea registered an interest.
Abraham netted 26 goals for Sky Bet Championship club Bristol City last season and he’s got enough quality to manage the step up.
Best bet: Tammy Abraham to be Swansea's top Premier League goalscorer at 6/5 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Last season: Second (86 points)
Major ins: None
Major outs: Nabil Bentaleb (Schalke, undisclosed), Federico Fazio (Roma, undisclosed), Luke McGee (Peterborough United, undisclosed), Clinton Njie (Marseille, undisclosed), Connor Ogilvie (Gillingham, loan), Josh Onomah (Aston Villa, loan), Kyle Walker (Manchester City, undisclosed)
David John's verdict:
Tottenham posted their best finish since 1963 last season and are 10/1 chances to go one better.
The pursuit of Chelsea ultimately came up shy but they finished eight points clear of third-placed Manchester City and 10 ahead of Liverpool in fourth while also handing out a handy thrashing to north London neighbours Arsenal back in fifth.
Taking that next step is never easy but expectations have not diminished as they try to balance another strong domestic challenge and the Champions League in a full a season with Wembley as host.
The latter issue is constantly used as a stick with which to beat Maurico Pochettino’s side after a disappointing European campaign in 2016/17.
However, I am sure a team this good can overcome any hang-ups once they start to regularly play in front of the biggest crowds in the country – I see it being nothing but a positive in the long-run.
Tottenham’s starting XI is arguably the best in the country but a reluctance to add depth to the squad has to be a slight concern.
There is a new stadium to be paid for and perhaps Pochettino and chairman Daniel Levy not getting involved as transfer fees spiral even further out of control should be applauded.
It has meant the likes of key figures Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld have developed an extremely tight-knit bond while giving youth projects like Harry Winks a chance will pay dividends down the line.
But an injury or suspension for one or more of the above would leave a decent-sized void to fill and that is when depth in terms of the playing staff will be tested to the full.
So unless Vincent Janssen emerges from his shell on a consistent basis, the addition of another striker would not go amiss while overtures toward Ross Barkley are persistent if a sensible fee can be agreed for the Englishman and he is prepared to play his part as a squad member.
Spurs are second-favourites behind Chelsea in the market to be top London club but I would be tempted to go a step further.
I’m taking a different view to my colleague Matt Brocklebank’s title preview and will Pochettino’s men to finish top as the time for them to take command in England looks to have arrived.
Best bet: Tottenham to win the Premier League at 8/1 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Marco Silva
Last season: 17th (40 points)
Major ins: Daniel Bachmann (Stoke City, undisclosed), Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea, undisclosed), Tom Cleverley (Everton, undisclosed), Kiko Femenia (Alaves, undisclosed), Will Hughes (Derby County, undisclosed)
Major outs: Rene Gilmartin (released), Juan Carlos Paredes (released), Mathias Ranegie (released), Mario Suarez (Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng, undisclosed)
David John's verdict:
Watford are definitely in the argument when it comes to this season’s relegation battle at no bigger than 2/1 as another new era begins under Marco Silva.
Ambitious owner Gino Pozzo won’t listen to any of that sort of talk though and has set his sights on a top-10 finish with the Portuguese hired after Quique Sanchez Flores (13th) and Walter Mazzarri (17th) failed to deliver.
Silva earned plenty of praise after he almost kept Hull City in the top-flight but it worries me how he could not get his previous team to win a match away from home.
I’m also wary of his inability to elicit a performance from Hull down the stretch as their survival bid fizzled out pathetically before total humiliation on the final day in a 7-1 capitulation to Tottenham.
His new employers don’t look much stronger squad-wise so Silva starts from square one with everything thing to prove so survival again is surely the aim – rather at odds with the aspirations of the owner.
Silva has a ‘break clause’ written into his contract after the 2017/18 season and there will be worse 10/1 chances around than him to be the first Premier League manager to exit his post if there aren’t some genuine positive early signs and Pozzo’s notorious trigger finger gets itchy.
Will Hughes, Nathaniel Chalobah and Tom Cleverley have been added to the ranks in permanent deals over the summer but this remains an outfit which hardly sets the pulse racing and comes with a host of additional questions to answer.
Club captain Troy Deeney’s future remains up in the air, striker Roberto Pereyra has plenty to prove after a serious knee injury while I don’t have a great deal of faith in a shaky defence in front of blundering veteran Heurelho Gomes.
The lively but erratic M’Baye Niang – a potential game-changer - made his stance clear by refusing any extended deal in Hertfordshire and simply brushing the memory of six straight defeats to close the campaign under the carpet is easier said than done.
Hope springs eternal at this time of the year for every club but I can see reality setting in very quickly at Vicarage Road for what could be a futile struggle to retain their top-flight status.
Best bet: Watford to be relegated from the Premier League at 15/8 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Tony Pulis
Last season: 10th (45 points)
Major ins: Ahmed Hegazy (Al Ahly, loan), Jay Rodriguez (Southampton, undisclosed), Yuning Zhang (Vitesse Arnhem, undisclosed)
Major outs: Darren Fletcher (Stoke City, free), Craig Gardner (Birmingham City, undisclosed), Sebastien Pocognoli (released), Yuning Zhang (Werder Bremen, two-year loan)
David John's verdict:
The Tony Pulis functional approach to football in the top-flight saw the Baggies improve on a 14th place finish in 2015/16 to claim a pretty creditable 10th last season.
Once the dust had settled, there was a feeling it was still somewhat of an underachievement as heady talk in mid-March following a convincing 3-1 win over Arsenal was of a possible European push or at very least smashing through the 50-point barrier in the Premier League.
Neither happened as they picked up a dreary two points from their final nine matches as Pulis’ artisans completely ran out of steam due to a lack of fresh ideas and options deep in the season.
It will be a ‘survival-first’ policy once more for a team capable of coming up with a shock result or two along the way against the big guns but I wonder how long the natives will stand for another healthy dollop of football lacking regular flair or excitement.
Pulis loves a player with something to prove so his main summer arrival is the oft-injured Jay Rodriguez (£12m) from Southampton while the manager admitted taking a ‘bit of a flier' on Egyptian Ahmed Hegazi.
There should be more to come from the talented Jake Livermore too now he looks the main man in midfield following Darren Fletcher’s free transfer to Stoke but I would tend to agree with the some of the more agitated Baggies fans that there is not a great deal to set the pulse racing.
I don’t see Pulis moving away from his cautious approach anytime soon bearing in mind he probably still considers finishing 17th is a success and a return to the bottom half of the table is extremely likely – no surprise to see they are odds-on to do so.
While Pulis is unlikely to roll the dice, we have that luxury and the Welshman could be worth a punt to be the first Premier League manager out of the door at 12/1.
The club’s Chinese owners are still relatively new so might tire quickly of the same tired old line from a manager who praises his team’s spirit and work ethic but has the excuse of being constantly overmatched.
Throw in a chance he will reel out the one about taking the club as far as he can so that could see him jump before he is pushed.
Best bet: Tony Pulis to be the first Premier League manager to leave this season at 12/1 - back our selection with Sky Bet!
Manager: Slaven Bilic
Last season: 11th (45 points)
Major ins: Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City, undisclosed), Joe Hart (Manchester City, loan), Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen, £16million), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City, free)
Major outs: Alvaro Arbeloa (released), Reece Burke (Bolton Wanderers, loan), Josh Cullen (Bolton Wanderers, loan), George Dobson (Sparta Rotterdam, undisclosed), Havard Nordtveit (Hoffenheim, undisclosed), Reece Oxford (Borussia Monchengladbach, loan), Darren Randolph (West Ham United, undisclosed), Enner Valencia (Tigres UANL, undisclosed), Ashley Fletcher (Middlesbrough, £6.5million)
David John's verdict:
It all went Pete Tong on too many occasions for West Ham in their first season at the London Stadium in Stratford and this summer’s transfer activity aims to be the foundation for a far less stressful campaign.
The Hammers remain in the argument though at around the 10/1 mark for relegation so the layers probably still need a bit more convincing that Slaven Bilic and company have turned the corner.
Therein lies much of the intrigue – this a team that would not be out of place challenging for Europe and the ownership have stumped up the readies to secure some high-profile talent to hopefully achieve that end.
A club-record £23m was splashed out on Marko Anautovic, who has both the technical ability and enough loose screws to make him a real fan-favourite while striker Javier Hernandez, the experienced Pablo Zabaleta and goalkeeper Joe Hart are proven performers at this level.
West Ham’s descent from seventh in 2015/16 to 11th does not sound too shambolic in terms of the bigger picture but a winless spell through February and March put them in considerable danger of playing Championship football at their shiny new home.
However, a run of just one defeat in seven to close out the season that included a morale-boosting win over arch-rivals Tottenham might finally put those home jitters to rest once and for all.
The mercurial Manuel Lanzini has relished his role as creator supreme following the exit of Dimitri Payet and the Argentine’s best football still looks in front of him while a combination between Hernandez and Andy Carroll could be productive if the latter manages to stay fit for more than 10 minutes.
Bilic’s position may have been under serious threat at times last season but I still believe he is one of the best managers around and has every right to feel his team should be looking up rather than down in terms of the league standings.
The London Stadium stages the World Athletics in August which means West Ham start with three away fixtures (the first at Old Trafford) and don’t perform in front of their own fans until September 11.
That’s a pretty tough schedule whichever way you slice it and they may not have many points on the board in those early weeks but it is a situation which can be rectified on the way to a top-half finish.
Best bet: West Ham to finish in the top half of the Premier League at 5/4 - back our selection with Sky Bet!