So, onto the chunk of the teams in the league, and occupying positions 7-14 are the 8 teams that I believe are incapable of mounting a challenge for top 4 football but will not be drawn into a relegation scrap. Of course, I’m going to get it totally wrong and all these teams will win the league and get relegated and stuff, but it’s worth a guess, right?!
7. West Ham
West Ham have a new stadium and a new dream – Champions League football. they came very close last year, and Dmitri Payet, who they have held on to, seems to be getting better and better. Slaven Bilic is perhaps the most underrated boss in the country, and his signings have been shrewd. Feghouli could have a banging season on the flanks, and Andre Ayew will help plug a lack of goals from up top. They’ll have a great year, but won’t quite challenge the top 6.
Ronald Koeman is a great replacement for the underwhelming Roberto Martinez, and will bring the best out of his squad eventually. The thing is, Everton always seem to be so much better on paper than they actually are in matches. You have to be cautious in giving them high predictions as they often fail to deliver, but if Koeman can do a good job, and get a lot of players like Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley (in my fantasy footy team) – not to mention try and keep hold of Romelu Lukaku – then they can finish in a solid top half place.
Can Stoke City finish 9th for a fourth straight season? I don’t see any reason why not! Their most significant acquisition is Joe Allen, who as a Red I personally wanted Klopp to keep. He will add tenacity to their midfield, which should go well with the athleticism of Gianelli Imbula who I was very impressed with last campaign. Shaqiri and Arnautovic will both be vital – as long as they can ward off the interest in them – but they will remain a low-scoring team unless they succeed in brining in Saido Berahino. Either way, they are a solid team and credit has to go to Mark Hughes who has done a fantastic job at the Brittania.
After their superb season last time out, this year is their ‘reward’ – Champions League football and the status of ‘Champions’. They can’t realistically hope for another finish as good as the one before, and losing Kante is a huge blow – he was the heartbeat of their team, and was irreplaceable like Gerrard was to Liverpool. As long as they keep Mahrez, though, they should remain stable enough, and good signings like Mendy and Musa (plus squad players for depth they need for Europe) should see them into the top half again.
They have arguably sold off their two biggest assets – Ronald Koeman and Sadio Mane. However, they have sold before and remained stable and performed well, and both their academy and recruitment policy seem to unearth players that can do the business. Players like Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Holjberg will add another dimension to the club and should fill gaps left by Mane and Wanyama, and another goalscorer to replace Graziano Pelle aside, they are a settled, fully-formed and good squad.
12. Crystal Palace
This season could go either way for Palace. Pardew has got into a habit of going on a fantastic winning run and then collapsing into a terrible run. I reckon he has the quality in his team to stop that trend and have a solid season with no relegation risk, but at Selhurst Park you can never be certain. They have sold plenty of passengers in their squad and have had a solid window, signing the excellent Steve Mandanda in goal for free, Andros Townsend to add more pace to Bolasie and Zaha (with Dwight Gayle going the other way, to Newcastle) and James Tomkins from West Ham to sure up the defence. I like this side so I reckon they’ll have a good year.
They impressed me last year and have strengthened for life in the top flight, bringing in Marten de Roon at the back, Victor Valdes for some excellent goalkeeping quality and loaned another proven player in, Alvaro Negredo, to grab some goals. As long as Aitor Karanka keeps his head, they will stay up comfortably, playing good football, as the club have shown they have the desire and funding to build a stable Premier League club at the Riverside.
They have invested over £37million on new players that are young and have something to prove, quite like their charming manager Eddie Howe. He, and his squad, are young and have lots of potential, and last season at times were excellent to watch, and the likes of Jordan Ibe, Lewis Cook and Brad Smith will only add to the exciting range of talent that will comfortably lead Bournemouth to a better position than last campaign.
So there you have it! Watch as it goes totally wrong… but that is my prediction for the mid-table places this season, and you can submit your predictions below: