Premier League Preview: Watford F.C.

TJ Lovenduski

2015/16 Finish: 13

Last season was definitely a success for Watford. They avoided relegation and surprised many by finishing 13th. Their core of Ighalo and Cathcart both played great soccer and were huge reasons for their success. They’ll need to at least match those performances this season.

Transfers In: Isaac Success (RW), Christian Kabasele (CB), Brice Dja Djedje (RB), Jerome Sinclair (CF), Camilo Zuniga (FB)

It’s clear that Watford has looked to add more attacking threats in this window. Isaac Success is just twenty and scored 6 goals in 30 appearances for Granada last season. He should definitely be able to provide Deeney with more support. Sinclair adds another attacking threat and Zuniga brings in some needed experience. Ultimately, Watford has added much needed depth to their squad with some young talent that has potential to do some damage.

Transfers Out: Almen Abdi (AM), Steven Berghuis (RW), Gabriele Angella (CB), Daniel Pudil (LB), Joel Ekstrand (CB), Josh Doherty (FB), George Byers (MF), Jose Manuel Jurado (AM)

Almen Abdi will be the biggest loss felt by Watford this upcoming season. He appeared in 32 Premier League games last season, as an attacking midfielder. Jose Manuel Jurado, is another attacking midfielder that’s left this season after appearing in 27 games last season. It’ll be interesting to see how the loss of two attacking midfielders impacts them this season. It may be something that they look to address before the window closes.

Key Player(s): Troy Deeney and Craig Cathcart

Troy Deeney is without a key figure of this Watford side. He’s a strong striker who netted 13 goals in 38 appearances last season. He’s the captain and needs to lead his side. But, fortunately,  Deeney isn’t alone. Craig Cathcart has also emerged as a leader and a vital member of their defense. Both players will need to have good seasons in 2016/17.

Predicted 2016/17 Finish: 16

Unfortunately for Watford, we see them regressing this season. The league was undoubtedly weak last season and we don’t see them having the same luck this year. Other teams have made better moves and just look to be in a better position to improve. That being said, Watford has the potential to pull out some upsets this season. Ighalo and Deeney are both proven goal scorers and should be able to pounce on mistakes made by other teams, likely stealing them a few points.

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Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion F.C.

Eric Toth

2015/2016 Finish: 14

In typical Tony Pulis fashion, West Brom finished 14th last season. They were difficult to break down defensively, fielding up to five center halfs at once during the majority of the season, and the only club to score fewer goals was Aston Villa, who were abysmal all year. The side led by Tony Pulis promises much of the same in the upcoming campaign, though with other clubs strengthening, WBA may struggle to maintain their league position and their premier league status may be in jeopardy.

Transfers In: Matt Phillips (RW)

Phillips arrived at the club from Queens Park Rangers after QPR failed to earn promotion. Phillips will fit the counter-attacking style of Pulis and will offer a pacey option to play off of Rondon. The winger played 44 matches for QPR last season tallying 8 goals and 5 assists.

Transfers Out: Anichebe (FW), Sessegnon (AMC), and Lindegaard (GK) (Released).

The three men who were released from the club did not feature very prominently last season. Anichebe took part in only 10 unproductive games, managing 13 shots and no goals or assists. Stephane Sessegnon played a slightly larger role, playing 1761 minutes, scoring two and setting up two more. Meanwhile, Lindegaard only registered 1 appearance for West Brom, spending most of the season out on loan to Preston.

Key Player(s): Salomon Rondon and the curious case of Saido Berahino

Rondon came to the Hawthornes at the beginning of the 2015/16 campaign from Zenit St. Petersburg. The striker’s size and aerial prowess made him a perfect fit for Tony Pulis’ system. Rondon notched 9 goals and 2 assists in 30 games in his first season at the club. The Venezuelan international will be expected to continue, if not improve on, his goal scoring rate last campaign in a side that struggles to create many goal scoring opportunities. Rondon’s goals and hold up play are crucial components of West Brom’s success going forward.

Saido was used as a sub in 14 or his 31 appearances last season and only scored four goals. In the previous year, however; the young, English striker scored 14 goals and started 32 of 38 matches. Berahino’s head seemed to have been turned by the advances of Tottenham in the summer of 2015, when WBA’s chairman Jeremy Peace demanded and extortionate amount for the young Englishman, which scuppered the potential deal. If the club can salvage their relationship with Berahino, the promising striker could prove valuable once again in their attempts to progress up the table. Unfortunately, I think it is too far gone and Berahino may be on his way out of the West Midlands.

Predicted 2016/17 Finish: 17

Tony Pulis is notorious for putting out resolute, defensively sound teams that are consistent, if nothing else. Pulis has never earned many plaudits for his style of football, but it is tough to argue against it being effective. As effective as Tony Pulis’ style is, it has its limitations and drawbacks. As strong as they are defensively, the current squad at the Hawthornes is thin up top and lacking in creativity, in the end, this may lead to a relegation battle for the club. Pulis has managed finishes between 11th and 14th for 8 straight seasons in the Premiership, but due to the rest of the league strengthening and West Brom remaining relatively stagnant, just staying up may be a more difficult task, but I believe they will escape the drop and land in 17th.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland A.F.C.

TJ Lovenduski

2015/16 Finish: 17

Last season Sunderland escaped relegation by 2 points. We should expect to see them in another relegation battle this season. A huge part of that fight came down to manager Sam Allardyce. Hired in October he helped bring a more organized tactical approach, but now he’s gone and it’s hard to believe that Sunderland has the means to survive another season in the Premier League.

Transfers In: None

Sunderland has been anything but active this transfer. Their biggest move was bringing David Moyes back to the Premier League as their manager. It’s going to be an interesting year for Sunderland.

Transfers Out: Emanuele Giaccherini (CM), Santiago Vergini (CB), Danny Graham (CF), Mikael Mandron (CF), Steven Fletcher (CF), Valentin Roberge (CB), Adam Matthews (RB), Steve Harper (GK), Wes Brown (CB), Ola Toivonen (CF), Yann M’Vila (DM), Dame N’Doye (CF)

Sunderland is losing a large amount of players this upcoming season, and has yet to make any moves to replenish the squad. The most notable name is Yann M’Vila whose presence will definitely be felt. He’s a top player and was a huge part in their fight to avoid relegation. Also, not surprising is the departure of Emanuele Giaccherini who was loaned out all of last season, but had a great run of form in the Euro 2016. He will now be playing for Napoli in Serie A.

What They Need/How to Improve:

If Sunderland hopes to stay in England’s top flight, they’ll need to improve defensively. They gave up 62 goals last season, and were lucky to not be relegated. Moyes should actually prove to be helpful when it comes to their defensive organization. That being said they should invest in an outside back. They should also consider investing in an extra attacker for the upcoming season.

Key Player(s): Jan Kirchoff (CB, DM)

Kirchoff turned out to be a huge player in Sunderland’s relegation battle last season. This year, they’re going to need to lean on him again. Able to play as both a center back and defensive midfielder, his tackling and passing are going to be vital if Sunderland is to see success this season.

2016/17 Predicted Finish: 18

Last season Sunderland was able to survive the relegation, but I don’t see them having the same luck this season. They’ve lost some players and had a managerial change, as previously mentioned. They’ve also failed to bring in any players as of yet, leaving huge doubts around their season. As a result, I don’t see them being surviving another relegation battle.

Premier League Preview: Hull City A.F.C.

Eric Toth

2015/16 Finish: Promoted via playoffs

Hull are back, but not without their problems… Steve Bruce, the boss that brought the club back into the English top flight, has left the club without a manager just three weeks before the new season kicks off. Rumors are swirling that the Tigers are in for Gianfranco Zola as a replacement for Bruce. Appointing Zola would fit the trend of being woefully disappointing as everything has been at Hull since winning promotion.

 

Transfers In: Will Mannion (Tribunal)

With McGregor, Odubajo, Bruce all out for six months, and Michael Dawson, who is out for three months, you’d expect Hull to look to strengthen, but they’ve not done that…as a matter of fact, they haven’t done much of anything.

The sole signing, Will Mannion, joined the club from AFC Wimbledon and will join up with the youth squad.

Transfers Out: Sone Aluko and Ryan Taylor (Released) 

Aluko made 31 appearences for Hull last campaign, contributing 3 goals. Ryan Taylor rarely featured for the club last year, only managing 12 appearences in all competitions. While the duo weren’t vital in the Championship, they did provide another option off the bench and cover for injuries, something that the club is severely lacking at the moment.

Key Player(s): Andrew Robertson

I had an entire write up of how vital Mo Diame was for the squad and how his ever-so timely goals, one of which won Hull promotion last season, will be crucial to Hull’s success, but it seems he’s off to Newcastle! Now with Diame gone, Andrew Robertson is one of the few shining lights left at Hull and provides the club with a bit of an x-factor. Robertson joined the club in 2014 from Dundee United and since then has been linked an array of big clubs, among them rivals Liverpool and Manchester United. The left back was ever-present in Hull’s squad last season, starting 45 of 46 league matches. In a newly-promoted club that is currently manager-less, depth-less and, at the risk of sounding harsh, hopeless, Robertson provides consistency in his play and will no doubt be key to any success that Hull may find.

Predicted 2016/17 Finish: 19th

After a successful campaign in the English Championship, Hull City AFC are back in the Premier League … for now. Hull will face an uphill battle to stay in the English top flight this year, but thus far, they haven’t shown much in the summer window to prove that they are up for the fight. As things stand, it looks very bleak for Hull, no manager, no additions to the first team, an injury list that keeps growing and the, what seems to be, inevitable loss of their key man, Diame. With the loss of their manager and star man, Hull will almost certainly be relegated.

Premier League Preview: Burnley F.C.

TJ Lovenduski

2015/16 Finish: Promoted via winning Championship

Transfers In: Nick Pope (GK), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (RW)

Burnley added some depth between the sticks by bringing in Nick Pope who has shown potential, continuing to move up the soccer ladder. Gudmundsson is a name people should recognize from the EURO 2016. He started every game for a surprise Iceland squad. He will definitely give Burnley an attacking threat down the right side of the field this season.

Transfers Out: Matt Gilks (GK), Joey Barton (CM), Matthew Taylor (LM), Lloyd Dyer (LM), Michael Duff (CB)

This offseason also saw a number of aging players exit the side on free transfer. The most notable name in this list is Joey Barton. He was named to the Championship PFA Team of the Year last season and has notable experience in the Premier League. His loss will be felt in the middle of the field.

What They Need/How to Improve:

The loss of Joey Barton leaves a hole in the midfield for Burnley. That’s something they’ll definitely need to address if they hope to stay in the Premier League. If they’re unable to find a competent replacement, they’ll likely find themselves back in the Championship come years end.

Key Player(s): Andre Gray (FW)

The big question for Burnley this season is going to be if they’re good enough to break down defenses in the premier league. In the 2014/15 season they had a huge problem scoring goals. It’s likely they could face similar issues this season. If that’s the case Gray is going to have to be on form. He’s going to have to convert his chances when he gets them. That’s going to be vital if they hope to see any success this season.

2016/17 Predicted Finish: 20

Last season saw Burnley return to the Premier League after being relegated the season before. They played great football ending the season with the highest goal differential in the Championship. That gives them a little momentum and confidence moving forward in their efforts to secure another season in England’s top flight.