2015-16 English Premier League Predictions

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Will Richardson, Staff Writer

August marked the start of the 2015-16 English Premier League season, and one of the best times to start following the league is right now. With all 380 Premier League games available to watch stateside this year on Saturday and Sunday mornings, there will be ample opportunities to choose a team to follow and catch their games. The transfer window has slammed shut and the rosters are finalized, so now, with four games in the books, it’s time to predict where all 20 teams will end up come May, with special focus on the top seven teams in the league, who could all qualify for European Tournaments, and at the bottom of the table where, if you finish in one of the last three places, you will go down to the second tier of soccer, the Football League Championship.

  1. Manchester City

City has won four consecutive matches to start the season off and purchased Nicolas Otamendi, Raheem Sterling, and Kevin De Bruyne for a combined $195 million in the offseason. Add a resurgent Vincent Kompany in defense to this equation and a firing Sergio Aguero up front, and City are firm favorites to take the title back to the Eastlands. If Aguero gets injured at some point this season, which is likely since he has missed 23 games in the past three seasons, City will count on Yaya Toure and David Silva to provide creativity and goals, which they are more than capable of doing.

  1. Chelsea

Chelsea is in second place in almost by default; no other team in the PL has looked particularly convincing early on in the season outside of Manchester City. They get the benefit of the doubt, however, because they are the defending champions. They have players to call on such as 2014-15 Player of the Year Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, new addition Pedro Rodriguez, and Cesc Fabregas. Look for Chelsea to get out of their early season slump and add some spice to this year’s title race, but City’s hot start will likely see them ahead of Chelsea come the end of the season.

  1. Manchester United

United have once again spent massive money this offseason, dropping  over $180 million on new players. Most remarkable of these additions is 19-year-old striker Anthony Martial, who is reported to cost around $90 million after wages are factored in at the end of his contract. United’s other significant signings were Winger Memphis Depay, Midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and defender Matteo Darmian. If all these players settle in well, look for United to be up towards the top of the table, spearheaded by captain and talisman Wayne Rooney, who returns to playing striker after being shunted to midfield the past two seasons.

  1. Arsenal

Who else would be here? Arsenal over the past few years have become synonymous with finishing in 4th place, ending the season there 6 times in the last ten years. Though they have enjoyed some success in the domestic tournaments, there is a feeling that Arsenal could be doing much better, especially when you factor in superstars like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. They added goalkeeper Petr Cech from London rivals Chelsea this season as their sole summer acquisition, but despite his talent I am unconvinced in his ability to play with a high defensive line in front of him, which is the system Arsenal uses. It will likely be a tumultuous season for Arsenal, but come the end of the year, they will most likely end up in that all too familiar fourth place.

  1. Liverpool

Liverpool is in an interesting position this season. They are in year two of the post-Luis Suarez era, who is now at Barcelona and banging in the goals alongside Neymar and Messi. They have bought copious amounts of players over the past two years, and yet none of them have come close to producing what Suarez did in his final season at Anfield. This year, however, they look to have found a consistent goalscorer in Christian Benteke, who joined from Aston Villa this summer for nearly $50 million. Their defense is still an issue, as they have not shored up the back and there are still problems with their midfield, despite the signing of James Milner, labeled the ‘Standout Signing of the Summer’ by Bleacher Report’s Jack Lusby. Liverpool will come close to Arsenal this year, but will most likely fall short of fourth place.

  1. Tottenham Hotspur

After finishing fifth last year, just ahead of Liverpool, Spurs moved in the offseason to repair their broken defense, which leaked 53 goals in 38 Premier league games last year, a poor number. They added Toby Alderweireld at center back, who has looked promising so far, along with crossing connoisseur Kieran Trippier at right back. They also brought in Wingers Heung Min Son and Clinton N’Jie to complement striker Harry Kane, last year’s Young Player of the Year. Kane is yet to score this season and doesn’t really have a suitable backup, but Spurs will hope that that doesn’t come back to bite them. Kane, along with goalie Hugo Lloris and “Danish Jesus” Christian Eriksen, form a promising core for Tottenham, but an average midfield will likely lead to another year just on the fringes of their rivals in 5th or 6th place.

  1. Swansea City

Swansea got out to a hot start this season, beating Manchester United and drawing Chelsea in their first few games. They made possibly one of the best signings in their history, snapping up free-agent forward Andre Ayew from French team Marseille. He has been a revelation, scoring three goals in his first four games, and looks to continue his form. Striker Bafetímbi Gomis has scored in every PL game so far, stepping in admirably for former striker Wilfried Bony, now at Manchester City. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jonjo Shelvey provide goals from midfield, and goalie Lukasz Fabianski leads a stern defense. Look for Swansea to come close to qualifying for European competition this year.

  1. Everton

Everton held on to defender John Stones amid interest from Chelsea, and with no European competition to deal with, they should have a resurgent 2014-15, spearheaded by striker Romelu Lukaku, midfielder Ross Barkley, and American hero Tim Howard. Their only concern is their depth behind Stones and club captain and fellow defender Phil Jagielka, but with no Europe to tire out their players, Everton should be excited about this season.

  1. Stoke

They added Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter Milan for 12 million pounds, a club record, and are returning ex-Barca player Bojan from a knee injury that ended his season early. Look for Stoke to dazzle in attack, but their midfield and defense may be lacking in quality, especially after the sale of defensive midfielder Steven N’Zonzi to Sevilla. These limitations will likely keep them out of Europe, but there is a possibility they could sneak in.

  1. Southampton

Southampton once again suffered through a summer exodus, as Morgan Schneiderlin left for United and Nathaniel Clyne bolted to liverpool. Jordy Clasie and Cedric Soares replace the pair, with Saints also bringing in Virgil Van Dijk from Scottish club Celtic as their premier acquisition of the transfer window. Add forwards Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle to that mix and all the pieces are in place for another good year, but I am unconvinced of their ability to replicate last year’s success, where they finished 7th.

  1. Crystal Palace

Alan Pardew’s side had a transfer coup this summer, purchasing Yohan Cabaye from French Champions Paris Saint Germain. Ex Wolverhampton winger Bakary Sako should turn out to be an astute purchase and will form a formidable partnership with fellow winger Yannick Bolasie. Finally, when you consider the fact that Palace just defeated Chelsea in Matchday 4, there is definitely reason for optimism around Palace, and they should have another solid year in the Premier League.

  1. Leicester City

After narrowly avoiding relegation last year, Leicester City started fast this season, counting on attacking players Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy for goals, which they have duly provided. They look like a new team under new manager Claudio Ranieri, and hope to build on last years campaign with another season staying in the Premier league.

  1. West Ham United

Dimitri Payet arrives from Marseille as the Hammer’s big summer acquisition, and he looks very good so far in his limited appearances. They re-signed midfielder Alex Song, who will be pivotal to their success in the middle of the field this season. However, injuries to players such as Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll could limit West Ham’s ability to compete in the league this year.

  1. Aston Villa

After losing Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph this summer, many tipped Aston Villa to finish in the bottom three and drop a league into the Football League Championship. However, Manager Tim Sherwood responded with solid purchases such as defender Jordan Amavi, strikers Rudy Gestede and Jordan Ayew, and winger Adama Traore. Villa should finish comfortably outside the relegation zone after close shaves the past few seasons.

  1. Newcastle United

Newcastle United made some great signings in this past transfer window, with their landmark acquisition being Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum from Dutch league Champions PSV. They also found a new manager in the experienced Steve McClaren, but they had a relatively weak team at the start of the summer, which will limit their progress in year one with McClaren at the helm.

  1. Bournemouth

After winning the Football League Championship last season, Bournemouth enters this season ready to take their first crack at Premier League Soccer. They have striker Callum Wilson to rely on for goals and a solid defense led by captain Tommy Elphick. However, they suffered a massive blow as new player Max Gradel was recently ruled out for 6 months with a knee injury. Despite these concerns, Bournemouth fans should be feeling good. Wilson recently scored a hat trick against West Ham, and if he maintains this goalscoring form, Bournemouth should stay in the Premier League.

  1. West Bromwich Albion

Albion bought forward Salomon Rondon from Russian club Zenit St. Petersberg to partner with Rickie Lambert up front, but a host of problems in midfield and defense will keep West Brom stuck down towards the bottom of the table. They also are the subject of much controversy, as they blocked striker Saido Berahino from leaving for Tottenham this window and are now facing the repercussions as Berahino refuses to play for them.

  1. Norwich City

They have promising players such as winger Nathan Redmond and defender Martin Olsson, but Norwich City arrives in the Premier League with a lack of quality up top. Cameron Jerome has not been a prolific goal scorer in his previous seasons in the top flight. If he cannot reverse this trend, a dearth of goals will likely mean that Norwich ends up back in the Championship. Another thing that could hinder Norwich is that they have an incredibly inexperienced manager in 34-year-old Alex Neil, who is actually younger than some of the players in the league.

  1. Sunderland

Despite big signings such as winger Jeremain Lens from Ukrainian club Dinamo Kiev and defender DeAndre Yedlin on loan from Tottenham, Sunderland suffered through a poor start to this season and does not look like they will improve much. They have a poor midfield and their defense has looked simply abysmal at times early on in the season. Despite the fact that Lens, along with strikers Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini, should provide some firepower, Sunderland looks like their luck has finally run out, as they will likely not dodge dropping into the Championship this season after two consecutive “Great Escapes” in which they narrowly avoided relegation.

  1. Watford

Watford made a host of purchases this summer, but there is an alarming lack of quality in the players they brought in. Troy Deeney could provide a spark up top, but without adequate support from midfield, he will likely be an isolated man as wary defenses will key on him. Watford has been very poor in their past few seasons in the top Flight, getting consistently relegated, and I expect this trend to continue, with Watford finishing dead last in the league and returning to the Championship.