Looking At Contenders, Pretenders As EPL Kicks Off

Chelsea won the title last season. However, defending the trophy would be a tough call going by this summer’s transfer by teams in the Premier League. As the 2015/2016 Premier League season kicks-off today,our Correspondent examines teams that will possibly contend for the title and those that will merely pretend.

Chelsea

Chelsea won the title last season with three league games to spare, as the team racked up 87 points, even as it finished the season unbeaten at home. With the new season kicking off, the Blues will be hoping to replicate such feat in a bid to defending its title and still possess some good number of players that played a major role in that team. Having won two and lost two of its pre-seasons matches couple with a Community Shield defeat to Arsenal, Mourinho knows there is more work to be done to put the team back on track.

But with the departure of Didier Drogba and goalkeeper Petr Cech this summer, it may be said that Chelsea has lost an experienced back up that could have complemented the efforts of Thibaut Courtois who often commit silly errors as witnessed last season.

However, with the arrival of Radamel Falcao, who managed four goals in 19 appearances at Man United and Asmir Begovic from Stoke City, Mourinho was taking a risk that could equally lead the team to another title glory this season.
Verdict: 1st

 

Man City

Regardless of its contrasting preseason results, the 2013/2014 champions will be heading towards this season with the mindset of recapturing the title which the team lost to Chelsea last season with a wide margin separating both teams. City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who narrowly escaped been sacked after failing to win a trophy, knows the pressure that will beon him in terms taking the team back to the summit.

Despite Sergio Aguero’s topping the goal scoring chart with 26 goals, one major factor that affected the team last season was the over-reliance on Yaya Toure in the midfield.

He was missed due to his participation with Cote d’Ivoire at the Africa Cup of Nations, which his country won.

Besides, having fortified the team with players like Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph, Patrick Roberts and Enes Ünal, it is expected that the Citizens will give other Premier League rivals a run for their money this season.
Verdict: 2nd

 

Arsenal
Unbeaten in its preseason matches, the Gunners crowned a wonderful campaign with a Community Shield win over Chelsea last weekend to send a warning signals to its Premier League rivals.
One of the biggest arrivals in the Gunners’ squad this season is goalkeeper Petr Cech, who jumped the train from London rivals Chelsea and has been tipped to fire Arsenal to the top with his reflexes and point blank saves. Known for his low key transfer business in the past, Arsene Wenger has decided to pull the plug by spending big in order to compete with teams like Chelsea, Man City and Man United for the title.
Barring any unforeseen injury which has always decimate the team at the middle part of the season, there is certainty that the Gunners will run riot on EPL teams with its wonderful and dependable Alexis Sanchez and Oliveir Giroud leading the attack.
Verdict: 3rd
Man United
Man United has always been a title contender at every given season in the Premier League during the era of former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who won 13 EPL titles out of 21. However, since his departure, the fortune of the team appears to have lost that fighting spirit which it was known for in the past.
Beating a team like Barcelona 3-1 in the preseason was United’s major highlight even though the team lost 2-0 to PSG in its final warm-up match. Realistically, the Red Devils form appears to be in shape but defensively, the team needs to tighten up.
Having filled some of the loopholes in the team with the acquisition of Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian, Van Gaal appears to have strengthened the team ahead of the task ahead. The depth in the squad would definitely count for them when the chips are down.
Verdict: 4th
Liverpool
The Anfield atmosphere will miss its long serving captain in Steve Gerrard, who joined MLS side LA Galaxy this summer for free and Raheem Sterling who joined Man City this season. However, the team has brought an equally brilliant player such as Christian Benteke, James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings, Joe Gomez and Adam Bogdan to beef up the squad.
Liverpool may struggle in the absence of this duo at the early part of the season but then, it is expected that the team will put its house in order and find a way out in search of success.
Although its qualities may not be compared to its title rivals, however, the Reds must have to avoid been sluggish at the back if the team is to be counted among the best this season.
Verdict: 5th
Tottenham
Still suffering from the sale of Gareth Bale two seasons ago, Spurs attempt to organise the team has failed, despite spending huge money on players in the transfer market.
Team manager, Mauricio Pochettino, who managed to guide his team to Europa berth after finishing 5th last season, knows that there is more to be done than just signing players. The inclusion of Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer shows Pochettino’s determination to improve the team’s performance this season. He has also sent away the likes of Paulinho, Lewis Holtby, Étienne Capoue and Younès Kaboul.
Verdict: 6th 
Everton
Still to match its highest premier League standing where the team came 4th in the 2004/2005 season, Everton will be looking at turning the table around after falling 11th on the table last season going by the array of players in its disposal.
Verdict: 7th.

Southampton
Known for its blistering start at the commencement of the season, Southampton will be hoping to continue its fairy tales despite losing some of its big stars such as Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin this summer. Soton which finished 7th last season having withstood Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United will be banking on Sadio Mané, José Fonte and Graziano Pellè to help maintain the team’s top flight ticket.
Verdict: 8th

Stoke City
The Potters’ ability to take advantage of its height and strength has always propel it to winning matches that you never expect-such as its 1-0 win over Man City away from home last season and 6-1 whitewash of Liverpool. But then, the team has become a notable force when it comes to sitting below the top five teams in the Premier League.
The team can still count on Peter crouch, Mame Biram Diouf and Marko Arnautovi? for goals in order to go beyond its 9th position last season. Except the impossible happens, Stoke City is certain of remaining in the top flight of English football.
Verdict: 9th

 

Swansea City 
Once regarded as the Barcelona of EPL due to its tiki-taka style of football, Swansea City seems not to have improved in its quest to challenging for Europa spot.
Verdict: 10th
West Ham
West Ham seem to be contented hanging below 9th. However, last season the team falter a distance 12th on the table, leading to Sam Alaydyce sack as coach. With a few additions into the squad, the Hammers is poised to change its position.
Verdict: 11th

Crystal Palace

Going by its brilliant form at the tail end of last season under Alan Pardew who turned the fortune of the team around, Palace is expected to cause a few upset this season.
Verdict: 12th

Newcastle
In spite of having a decent crop of players, Toons has failed to meet up with the demand of the fans as the team managed to escape relegation in the final match of the season. Having brought in some talented players to solidify the team, Newcastle could finish better than last season.
Verdict: 13th

Norwich
After been relegated two seasons ago, Norwich made a return to the Premier League with just one season in the championship. The Canaries which is familiar with the terrain of the league stand a chance of avoiding relegation considering the availability of players in the squad.
Verdict: 14th

 

Sunderland
The team will be hoping to better its performance under Dick Advocaat, who helped it escape relegation last season.
Verdict: 15th

Leicester City
A giant Killer last season, Leicester City’s hope of remaining in the top flight of English football this season lies on its ability to take chances of its opportunity.
Verdict: 16th

Watford
One of the three teams that gained promotion to the Premier League this season, Watford will be relying on its talismanic goal scorer, Odion Ighalo, who had a wonderful pre-season campaign to help the team maintain its top flight ticket.
Verdict: 17th

Aston Villa
Last season’s FA Cup runners up could struggle this season after selling Christian Benteke to Liverpool and Fabian Delph to Man City this summer. The Villans will find it difficult to find a player who could fill the void been left behind by Benteke, whose goal scoring instinct save the team from been relegated last season.
Verdict: 18th

West Bromwich 
West Brom’ pre-season form has not been impressive and that could affect the team’s confidence this season. The Baggies will miss the service of Enner Valencia in the early part of the season due to injury. However, the team can bank on Cheikhou Kouyate and co to help change the fortune of the team.
Verdict: 19th
Bournemouth
Despite been champions in the championship last season, Bournemouth would find it difficult to cope with the pressure of remaining in the top flight.
Verdict: 20th

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