FourFourTwo's Premier League power rankings 2016/17: where will your team finish?
It’s difficult to see how the Tigers can survive the drop given that they’ve done very little to help themselves since defeating Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship play-off final in May
No manager in place, only one summer signing – 18-year-old goalkeeper Will Mannion from AFC Wimbledon – and an owner actively looking to sell: Hull’s preparation for the 2016/17 campaign has been far from ideal.
It’s difficult to see how the Tigers can survive the drop given that they’ve done very little to help themselves since defeating Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship play-off final in May, especially as the squad isn’t exactly bursting with proven Premier League talent. Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone and Abel Hernandez will be key but Hull will have their work cut out in trying to avoid an immediate return to the second tier.
Burnley’s problem during their last stint in the Premier League in 2014/15, when they were relegated just 12 months after achieving promotion from the second tier, was a lack of top-level quality; two years on and the same issue could send them straight back to the Championship at the end of this season too. Sean Dyche is a shrewd operator and Burnley’s team spirit and togetherness means they won’t be disgraced, but it’s hard to see how the Clarets can stay up unless some notable newcomers arrive at Turf Moor in the next few weeks.
Mazzarri, a devotee to the 3-5-2 formation, has plenty to prove after his sacking at Inter two years ago, but the Hornets might suffer from second-season syndrome
Watford’s downturn in the second half of last season led to Quique Sanchez Flores’ departure, with former Napoli and Inter boss Walter Mazzarri his successor at Vicarage Road. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo were heavily relied upon for goals in 2015/16 and will have to demonstrate a clinical touch in front of goal once more, but Watford could be in trouble if one or both are unable to fire. Mazzarri, a devotee to the 3-5-2 formation, has plenty to prove after his sacking at Inter two years ago, but the Hornets might suffer from second-season syndrome.
Francesco Guidolin guided Swansea to safety rather impressively in 2015/16 but will likely face a tougher time of it this year. There is not a single centre-forward on the club’s books as the start of the season looms, while Ashley Williams will be a huge loss if he signs for Everton in a £10 million deal as expected. Holding onto Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andre Ayew – the former has signed a new deal but the latter continues to be linked with West Ham – will be essential, but Swansea’s small squad could be severely tested if they’re forced to endure an injury crisis.
Eddie Howe was rewarded for sticking with his principles last season as the 38-year-old led Bournemouth to safety in their first ever top-flight campaign, and more of the same can be expected this year.
The squad has been added to intelligently, and although concerns remain about the south coast outfit’s defensive sturdiness, Bournemouth should have enough goals in them to stay out of the bottom three. If they’re able to do that, Howe – already seen as one of the most gifted young coaches in Europe – will see his stock rise further.
England’s appointment of Sam Allardyce was an inconvenient spanner in the works of Sunderland’s pre-season preparations, but the club reacted well by quickly installing David Moyes in his place. Another slow start could be in store as the ex-Everton and Manchester United boss belatedly gets his ideas across, but Sunderland should ultimately steer clear of danger yet again. If Jermain Defoe can repeat his goalscoring exploits of 2015/16, the Black Cats will be confident of another year in the top flight.
No Premier League team has acquired more players than Middlesbrough at the time of writing, with Alvaro Negredo, Bernardo Espinosa, Viktor Fischer, Victor Valdes, Brad Guzan, Antonio Barragan, Marten de Roon and Jordan McGhee all relocating to the Riverside, while Gaston Ramirez has made his loan move permanent. Boro’s investment should bring the desired return of Premier League survival, particularly if last season’s fine defensive record – their backline was breached on only 31 occasions in 46 Championship matches – is replicated in the top division.
13. West Brom
12th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 13th, 11th, 13th, 14th: Tony Pulis certainly knows how to finish a Premier League season above the dreaded dotted line
12th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 13th, 11th, 13th, 14th: Tony Pulis certainly knows how to finish a Premier League season above the dreaded dotted line, and there’s nothing to suggest the Welshman won’t guide West Brom to safety again this term. Matt Phillips and Diafra Sakho are astute additions and Pulis’ side will be typically solid and resolute, although it will be interesting to see whether the club’s fans grow dissatisfied if the drab style of football remains and excitement is sacrificed for efficiency to the same extent as last year.
12. Crystal Palace
Palace have strengthened well so far this summer with the acquisitions of Steve Mandanda, Andros Townsend and James Tomkins, while Yannick Bolasie, Yohan Cabaye and new captain Scott Dann all look set to stay at Selhurst Park.
Alan Pardew’s charges fell away dramatically in the second half of last season but have enough quality to secure a more comfortable mid-table finish this time around, although a place in the top 10 will probably be beyond them unless a clinical striker is added before the window closes – Cabaye, Dann, Bolasie and Connor Wickham were Palace’s joint top scorers in the league last term with a measly five goals apiece.
Joe Allen will add passing ability to the centre of midfield, while teenage winger Ramadan Sobhi is an exciting purchase further forward
Stoke have become the archetypal mid-table Premier League side and that shouldn’t change this year, even though Mark Hughes may have to settle for a final position other than ninth for the first time since taking charge of the Potters in 2013. The Welshman has created a neat balance between solidity and flair at the Britannia Stadium, with Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan providing the flashes of inspiration that were largely absent in the Tony Pulis days. Joe Allen will add passing ability to the centre of midfield, while teenage winger Ramadan Sobhi is an exciting purchase further forward.
This has been a surprisingly low-key summer for Everton, who haven’t splashed the cash in the way that would be expected of a club recently taken over by a billionaire businessman. Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it could take new manager Ronald Koeman a year or so to get the Merseysiders challenging for Europe again, particularly if Romelu Lukaku and John Stones are sold before the end of August. Koeman can add the dash of pragmatism that Everton lacked under Roberto Martinez while still encouraging football that’s easy on the eye; after last season, that alone would be a step in the right direction.
Southampton have a knack of seamlessly transitioning from one manager to the next – a useful trait in the modern era – and should be able to absorb the loss of Ronald Koeman without too much bother. Claude Puel arrives at St Mary’s with a solid reputation for his work in France, and while Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama will be missed, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Nathan Redmond are excellent acquisitions. A fourth consecutive top-half finish looks to be on the cards for Southampton, but a repeat of last season’s sixth spot is a big ask.
Unlike most other teams in the division, it’s not immediately obvious what Leicester’s target is this year. The champions will surely not pull off another miracle by retaining their crown but it’s also hard to envisage them languishing in the bottom half, so perhaps a challenge for the Europa League spots is most likely. While N’Golo Kante is patently a big loss, the Foxes have done well to retain most members of their squad up to now, with Jamie Vardy’s decision to reject the overtures of Arsenal and sign a new deal at the King Power a huge boost.
7. West Ham
West Ham, led by the wonderful Dimitri Payet, were an extremely fun side to watch in 2015/16 and should continue in the same vein this year. Payet will again be essential to their chances of European qualification, and the club’s fans – who will be watching on from inside the Olympic Stadium rather than Upton Park – will be hoping that fellow forwards Gokhan Tore and Sofiane Feghouli can have a similar impact in their debut campaigns. Another top-seven finish would mark a successful season for the Hammers, who are again likely to take the scalps of a few big clubs along the way.
Klopp is the perfect boss for Liverpool but both manager and club may have to be patient as the German attempts to restore the Reds to their former glories
Liverpool tailed off at the end of last term as they turned their attention towards the latter stages of the Europa League, and Jurgen Klopp will be expecting an improvement on their eighth-place finish. Sadio Mane, Joel Matip, Loris Karius, Georginio Wijnaldum, Ragnar Klavan and Alex Manninger have been brought in as the Reds embark upon a challenge for the top four, with Daniel Sturridge’s fitness likely to play a big part in whether they succeed in that regard. Klopp is the perfect boss for Liverpool but both manager and club may have to be patient as the German attempts to restore the Reds to their former glories.
Tottenham have bought intelligently as they seek to build on last season’s third-place finish, with defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama and centre-forward Vincent Janssen adding depth to two areas that were in need of strengthening. Spurs will have the Champions League to contend with this year though, and could just miss out on the top four because of their rivals’ improvement, particularly if their collapse in the final few weeks of 2015/16 causes a hangover at the start of this campaign.
Wenger always delivers Champions League football but Arsenal supporters should not expect much more
Last season felt like a major missed opportunity for Arsenal at the time, a feeling which has only intensified since. Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are all much stronger this term and should overtake the Gunners, which would leave Arsene Wenger fighting for fourth in what could be his final year in north London.
Granit Xhaka is a smart signing but Arsenal still require fresh blood up top and in the heart of the backline, while British trio Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain potentially face make-or-break campaigns. Wenger always delivers Champions League football but Arsenal supporters should not expect much more.
2015/16 was a season to forget for Chelsea, but Antonio Conte should restore the Blues to the Champions League places. The lack of European football this year will allow the Italian to put all his eggs in the Premier League basket, and the additions of Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo Kante add important competition down the spine of the team. If Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Cesc Fabregas can rediscover their best form after disappointing campaigns last time out, Chelsea have what it takes to fight for the title.
2. Manchester United
After a season of disaster under David Moyes and two years of treading water with Louis van Gaal in charge, Manchester United look ready to compete at the top of the Premier League once more.
New boss Jose Mourinho has brought Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with him to Old Trafford and will have designs on the championship in his first campaign at the helm. United were excellent defensively last term and should be again this time around, with their increased firepower and change of manager set to make the difference between a top-four and title challenge.
1. Manchester City
Finishing fourth last term was a massive underachievement for Manchester City, who had the strongest squad in the Premier League to call upon. Their ranks have only been bolstered further in the last few weeks, with Ilkay Gundogan, Nolito, Leroy Sane and Oleksandr Zinchenko joining the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Aguero at the Etihad Stadium, while there’s also been an upgrade in the dugout, with Pep Guardiola replacing Manuel Pellegrini.
Defensive issues have not yet been resolved in terms of new personnel, but Guardiola should be able to create a unit that is at least equal to the sum of its parts – and that will probably be enough for City to scoop the title.