With another season about to kick off, SAM WILSON and WILLIAM DAVID WILSON assess the hopes of all 20 teams in England’s top division.
After a promising start, Unai Emery’s first season in charge ended in familiar fashion, with the Gunners falling out of Champions League contention in April before going down 4-1 to Chelsea in the Europa League final the following month to finish without a trophy.
The Spaniard has been busy overhauling his underperforming squad this summer, smashing their transfer record to bring in Ivory Coast winger Nicolas Pepe and signing Spanish midfielder Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid. Fullback Kieran Tierney has been recruited from Celtic, while versatile Brazilian David Luiz arrives from London rivals Chelsea.
However, the same shortcomings that marred the late Wenger era – namely an error-prone defence and a lack of bite in midfield – still linger, and aside from the prolific front pairing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexander Lacazette, Arsenal’s roster lacks the quality and depth of their closest rivals.
As a result, the domestic cups and Europa League appear to be 13-time league champions’ best chance of silverware again this season. A return to the Champions League via a top four spot is not out of the question should Arsenal’s new signings hit the ground running at the Emirates.
Manager: Unai Emery
In: Nicolas Pepe (Lille), Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid, loan), William Saliba (Saint-Etienne), Gabriel Martinelli (Itano Futebol Clube), Kieran Tierney (Celtic), David Luiz (Chelsea)
Out: Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Petr Cech (retired), Danny Welbeck (released), Stephan Lichtsteiner (released), David Ospina (Napoli), William Saliba (Saint-Etienne, loan), Ben Sheaf (Doncaster, loan), Xavier Amaechi (Hamburg), Krystian Bielik (Derby), Laurent Koscielny (Bordeaux), Eddie Nketiah (Leeds, loan), Dominic Thompson (Brentford), Carl Jenkinson (Nottingham Forest)
Last season: 5th
One to watch: The division’s joint top scorer last year with 22 goals, forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is worth his weight in gold.
A 2-1 playoff final victory over Derby County saw Aston Villa return to the top table of English football following a three-year absence. Yet the 2018-19 season was not all plain sailing for the Villains, who at one point looked resigned to spending another year in the Championship.
The sacking of Steve Bruce and appointment of Dean Smith in October proved a masterstroke, with the former Brentford boss leading Villa on a club record 10-match winning streak as they secured a playoff spot. West Brom were pipped on penalties in the semifinals, before Smith’s side won at Wembley in May to secure promotion.
The Premier League have introduced new a Video Assistant Referee system ahead of the new season.
The club has signed no fewer than 12 players as as they look to avoid a swift return to the second tier. Tyrone Mings and Anwar El-Ghazi both agreed permanent deals, while forwards Wesley and Jota have been brought in to fill the void left by Tammy Abraham, who returned to Chelsea. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton adds some top-level knowhow.
Of course bringing in so many new faces is not without risk, as Fulham found out last season, but Villa should have just enough quality and experience to avoid the dreaded drop.
Manager: Dean Smith
In: Tom Heaton (Burnley), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge), Douglas Luiz (Manchester City), Trezeguet (Kasimpasa), Matt Targett (Southampton), Jota (Birmingham City), Anwar El Ghazi (Lille), Wesley (Club Brugge), Ezri Konsa (Brentford), Kortney Hause (Wolves), Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth), Bjorn Engels (Stade Reims)
Out: Ross McCormack, Mile Jedinak, Alan Hutton, Tommy Elphick, Albert Adomah, Glenn Whelan, Ritchie De Laet, Mark Bunn, Micah Richards (released), Harry Mckirdy (Carlisle), Corey Blackett-Taylor (Tranmere), Matija Sarkic (Livingston, loan), Gary Gardner (Birmingham City), Jake Doyle-Hales (Cheltenham, loan), Scott Hogan (Stoke, loan), Birkir Bjarnason (released)
Last season: 5th (Championship)
One to watch: Scottish midfielder John McGinn has reportedly received admiring glances from Manchester United. The 24-year-old playmaker now has an opportunity to prove that he can cut it at the highest level.
It’s a mark of how good a job Eddie Howe has done at Bournemouth that they’ve never really been in relegation trouble since gaining promotion in 2015. Last season was another comfortable campaign of consolidation for the Cherries, who at times played some vibrant football, most notably in a 4-0 demolition of Chelsea in January.
When the likes of Callum Wilson, Joshua King, David Brooks and Ryan Fraser click, Howe’s side are a match for anyone in the division. But the team’s defensive frailties were frequently exposed on the road, where Bournemouth lost 13 out of 19 matches, conceding a joint-high 45 goals with relegated Huddersfield and Fulham.
Howe has sought to address this issue in the transfer market, bringing in defenders Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey from Bristol City and Luton Town respectively, while Philip Billing arrives from Huddersfield to help shore up the midfield.
The South Coast club will need to either improve on their travels or maintain their solid home form if they are to preserve their top flight status for the fifth year in a row.
Manager: Eddie Howe
In: Lloyd Kelly (Bristol City), Jack Stacey (Luton Town), Philip Billing (Huddersfield), Arnaut Danjuma (Club Bruges), Harry Wilson (Liverpool, loan)
Out: Marc Pugh (QPR), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Emerson Hyndman (Atlanta United, loan), Connor Mahoney (Millwall), Mikael Ndjoli (Gillingham, loan), Lys Mousset (Sheffield United), Harry Arter (Fulham, loan, Sam Surridge (Swansea, loan), Brad Smith (Seattle Sounders, loan)
Last season: 14th
One to watch: Dutch defender Nathan Ake has shone since joining from Chelsea in 2017 and brings some solidity to an otherwise leaky backline.
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION
Despite an abject campaign, it was mission accomplished for Brighton as they secured a third season in the top-flight with two games to spare. Having made a solid start, the Seagulls’ form dipped spectacularly in the new year, with just three wins from their last 23 matches. Chris Hughton’s team also won over few neutrals with their dour brand of football.
It was no surprise then that Hughton received his marching orders once Brighton’s top-flight status had been assured, replaced with young and hungry English coach Graham Potter, who worked wonders with second-tier Swansea on a restrictive budget last term.
Potter has been tasked with keeping the club up while introducing a more attractive style of play at the Amex Stadium. Getting the best out of big-money signings Alireza Jahanbakhsh and José Izquierdo will also be high on his to-do list.
Potter has not been shy with his spending in the off-season, splashing out NZ$75 million to bring in striker Neal Maupay and defender Adam Webster, while winger Leandro Trossard arrives from Belgian club Genk. All three of Brighton’s expensive new recruits are unproven at this level, so it’s hard to envisage anything other than a season of struggle.
Manager: Graham Potter
In: Leandro Trossard (Genk), Matt Clarke (Portsmouth), Taylor Richards (Manchester City), Lewis Freestone (Peterborough), Adam Webster (Bristol City), Neal Maupay (Brentford), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield, loan), Romaric Yapi (Paris Saint-Germain)
Out: Anthony Knockaert (Fulham, loan), Christian Walton (Blackburn, loan), Bruno (retired), Jonah Ayunga, Tyler Forbes, Dessie Hutchinson, Reece Meekums, Rian O’Sullivan, David Ajiboye (released), Ben Barclay (Accrington), Jayson Molumby (Millwall, loan), Robert Sanchez (Rochdale, loan), Jan Mlakar (QPR, loan), Alexis MacAllister (Boca Juniors, loan), Ben White (Leeds United, loan), Percy Tau (Club Brugge, loan), Matt Clarke (Fulham, loan), Beram Kayal (Charlton, loan)
Last season: 17th
One to watch: Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh had a dismal first season on the South Coast. Will a new coach and playing style help him rediscover the form that took the Dutch Eredivisie by storm with PSV?
After surprising many pundits by finishing seventh in 2017-18, Burnley endured a more difficult campaign last time round. The Clarets were battling against relegation for a large part of the season until a strong run of form after the turn of the year saw them comfortably survive.
Manager Sean Dyche will be hoping his troops have learned from last season’s struggles as he looks to re-establish the Lancashire club as European contenders. To achieve that feat, he will need to cultivate the team spirit and defensive organisation that have become Burnley’s trademark under him and pray that Ashley Barnes and New Zealand international Chris Wood‘s strike partnership continues to flourish.
As far as recruitment goes, the Clarets have had a relatively quiet off-season, with the most eye-catching signing being the return of forward Jay Rodriguez from West Brom. Veteran striker Peter Crouch has retired, but that shouldn’t blunt Burnley’s noted aerial threat too much.
A return to the Europa League seems like a pipe dream for a club of their means, but Burnley have enough about them to finish comfortably in mid-table in their fourth season back in the top-flight.
Manager: Sean Dyche
In: Jay Rodriguez (West Brom), Joel Senior (Curzon Ashton), Erik Pieters (Stoke), Ryan Cooney (Bury), Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Burnley), Danny Drinkwater (Chelsea, loan)
Out: Tom Heaton (Aston Villa), Stephen Ward, Anders Lindegaard, Mark Howarth (released), Jon Walters, Peter Crouch (retired), Nakhi Wells (QPR, loan)
Last season: 15th
One to watch: All Whites striker Chris Wood found the net 11 times last term to help guide the Clarets to safety. His prolific pre-season form suggests there’s plenty more goals to come from the New Zealander.
Chelsea’s sole campaign under Maurizio Sarri was an eventful one, even by their standards. It ended in triumph as the Blues lifted the Europa League trophy in Baku, but that was a rare high point in an otherwise turbulent season.
They started strongly, going on a long unbeaten run but some poor results – culminating in a 6-0 humiliation at Manchester City – had Sarri fighting for his job by February. When Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted in their League Cup final loss, the Italian’s days appeared numbered.
That sorry episode seemed to galvanise the squad behind their embattled manager, as the Blues rallied to secure a respectable third place finish along with a European trophy, the first of Sarri’s career. It proved to be his last act as Blues boss before he departed for Juventus, paving the way for Chelsea great Frank Lampard’s return to Stamford Bridge.
With a two-window transfer ban in place, Lampard will have to work with what he’s got or turn to the academy for solutions. The loss of their best player Eden Hazard to Real Madrid is a huge blow, tempered slightly by the arrival of Christian Pulisic, signed in January from Borussia Dortmund. Chelsea also took up the option to sign midfielder Mateo Kovacic on a permanent basis.
Lampard was appointed primarily for his knowledge of the club and its young players, but with just one season at Derby under his belt, he may need time to turn them into title challengers. Whether his legendary status as a player affords him that luxury remains to be seen.
Manager: Frank Lampard
In: Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid)
Out: Ethan Ampadu (RB Leipzig, loan), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Nathan Baxter (Ross County, loan), Richard Nartey (Burton, loan), Jay Dasilva (Bristol City), Fankaty Dabo (Coventry), Ola Aina (Torino), Tomas Kalas (Bristol City), Charly Musonda (Vitesse, loan), Luke McCormick (Shrewsbury, loan), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta, loan), Lewis Baker (Fortuna Dusseldorf, loan), Matt Miazga (Reading, loan), Jake Clarke-Salter (Birmingham, loan), Todd Kane (QPR), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Dujon Sterling (Wigan, loan), Kasey Palmer (Bristol City), Conor Gallagher (Charlton, loan), Trevoh Chalobah (Huddersfield, loan), Izzy Brown (Luton Town, loan)
Last season: 3rd
One to watch: United States international Christian Pulisic shone with Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga, but does he have what it takes to fill the large Eden Hazard-shaped hole at Chelsea this season?
In the end, Crystal Palace finished pretty comfortably in mid-table last season, but concerns over their home form and the mindset of wantaway winger Wilfried Zaha suggest they may struggle this time round.
Roy Hodgson’s side found points very hard to come by at Selhurst Park, with their record of five wins, five draws and nine losses amongst the worst in the division. Yet on their travels the Eagles soared, winning nine times and taking the prize scalps of Manchester City and Arsenal.
But it will be a big ask for them to match their sparkling form on the road this season, especially with Zaha’s head seemingly elsewhere. It is hard to think of a player in the division as irreplaceable as the Ivorian is to Palace, and beyond him, there’s not much to frighten other teams.
The Eagles badly needed some new signings to improve the quality of their roster, with deals for goal-shy striker Jordan Ayew, injury-plagued midfielder James McCarthy and veteran defender Gary Cahill not really inspiring confidence. The looming campaign looks like being a stressful one for Hodgson and his team – one that might well end in relegation.
Manager: Roy Hodgson
In: Jordan Ayew (Swansea), Gary Cahill (free), James McCarthy (Everton), Stephen Henderson (free), Victor Camarasa (Real Betis, loan) Victor Camarasa (Real Betis, loan)
Out: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United), Julian Speroni, Jason Puncheon (released), Bakary Sako (Denizlispor, free), Alexander Sorloth (Trabzonspor, loan), Pape Souare (Troyes), Ollie O’Dwyer (Aldershot)
Last season: 12th
One to watch: Former Liverpool centre-back Mamadou Sakho is a rock at the heart of the Palace defence and crucial to their hopes of survival.
There were murmurs of discontent at Goodison Park midway through last season, until a promising run of form towards the end of the campaign – featuring home victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United – eased the pressure on manager Marco Silva.
Everton’s season had begun promisingly enough, with Brazilian forward Richarlison quickly finding his feet in front of goal to silence those who questioned his large transfer fee. But the Toffees hit a sticky patch in December, when defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and Brighton – plus a 6-2 hammering by Tottenham – raised doubts about Silva.
To his credit, Silva stuck to his principles and eventually Everton turned the corner, thrashing Manchester United 4-0 and earning a creditable draw at Spurs on the final day. The club’s close-season business has given supporters even more cause for optimism, with the signings of Moises Kean, Fabian Delph and Alex Iwobi a real statement of intent.
Securing a return to European football via their league position should be the minimum requirement this season. The Toffees will also fancy their chances in the cups as they look to end a near 25-year wait for a trophy.
Manager: Marco Silva
In: Andre Gomes (Barcelona), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (Mainz), Moise Kean (Juventus), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco, loan), Alexi Iwobi (Arsenal)
Out: Idrissa Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain), Nikola Vlasic (CSKA Moscow), Ademola Lookman (RB Leipzig), Ashley Williams (released), Brendan Galloway (Luton), Jonjoe Kenny (Schalke, loan), Kieran Dowell (Derby, loan), Joao Virginia (Reading, loan), Korede Adedoyin (Hamilton, loan), Luke Garbutt (Ipswich, loan), Antonee Robinson (Wigan), Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United), Nathan Broadhead (Burton, loan), Matthew Pennington (Hull City, loan), Muhamed Besic (Sheffield United, loan), James McCarthy (Crystal Palace), Josh Bowler (Hull, loan) Joe Williams (Wigan)
Last season: 8th
One to watch: It will be fascinating to see how well 19-year-old Moises Kean adapts to the Premier League after his shock move from Juventus.
There is growing optimism around the King Power Stadium these days as Leicester City look to gatecrash the top end of the Premier League table once again and potentially make another foray into Europe.
Qualifying for the Europa League is seen as a realistic target in the coming campaign after a promising end to a trying 2018-19 season marred by the tragic death of the club’s beloved Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others in a helicopter crash in October.
Then-manager Claude Puel and his players handled themselves with great dignity in the wake of such a tragedy, but the Frenchman was still relieved of his duties in late February after an alarming slump in form. Leicester brought in Brendan Rodgers to replace him, and the former Liverpool boss quickly turned things around on the pitch to finish ninth.
Rodgers has been working hard to bolster his squad this summer, signing Newcastle forward Ayoze Perez and Belgian midfield duo Youri Tielemans and Dennis Praet. Inspirational defender Harry Maguire has been lost to Manchester United, but his hefty NZ$153 million fee gives the Northern Irishman the funds to mount a serious challenge for a top eight spot.
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
In: Ayoze Perez (Newcastle), James Justin (Luton Town), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Mitchell Clark (free), Dennis Praet (Sampdoria)
Out: Danny Simpson, Shinji Okazaki (released), Daniel Iversen (Rotherham, loan), Elliott Moore (Oxford United), Josh Knight (Peterborough, loan), Ryan Loft (Carlisle, loan), Layton Ndukwu (Southend, loan), Callum Elder (Hull City)
Last season: 9th
One to watch: Belgium international Youri Tielemans made a massive impact on loan from Monaco last season and his permanent signature is a major coup for the Foxes, particularly with several bigger clubs circling.
Liverpool could scarcely have come any closer to ending their 29-year title drought last season, winning 30 games and losing just once as they amassed 97 points. Yet somehow it still wasn’t enough to rein-in Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring Manchester City, who pipped them to the championship by a single point.
Being the most unfortunate runners-up in Premier League history will be scant consolation for manager Jurgen Klopp, who now faces the enviable task of regrouping his players for another attempt at stopping the City juggernaut. But the Reds will head into the new campaign in buoyant mood having captured their sixth European Cup against Tottenham, the first trophy of Klopp’s stint on Merseyside.
With the Reds looking strong in virtually every department, the transfer activity at Anfield has been fairly subdued over the summer. Talented youngsters Harvey Elliott and Sepp Van Der Berg have been recruited with the future in mind, while goalkeeper Adrian comes in to provide cover for Alisson. But there have been no big-money signings at Anfield as Klopp focused on retaining his stars.
Even without high-profile reinforcements, Liverpool look like being City’s closest challengers for the title once again, and with a little luck, maybe this will be their year.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
In: Harvey Elliott (Fulham), Sepp van den Berg (PEC Zwolle), Adrian (West Ham)
Out: Rafael Camacho (Sporting Lisbon), Marko Grujic (Hertha Berlin, loan), Alberto Moreno (released), Daniel Sturridge (released), Adam Bogdan (released), Connor Randall (released), Sheyi Ojo (Rangers, loan), Kamil Grabara (Huddersfield, loan), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Harry Wilson (Bournemouth, loan), George Johnston (Feyenoord), Nathaniel Phillips (Stuttgart, loan), Ovie Ejaria (Reading, loan)
Last season: 2nd
One to watch: Senegal striker Sadio Mane finished joint-top scorer in the Premier League last season, and is every bit as vital to Liverpool’s cause as more celebrated team-mates Virgil Van Dijk and Mo Salah.
Manchester City’s second successive title winning campaign under Pep Guardiola proved much trickier than the first. The Citizens were pushed all the way by a brilliant Liverpool side, but still managed to pip them to the trophy thanks to an unprecedented 14 consecutive league victories.
City’s defence of their crown had appeared in grave danger by December, when a first league defeat away at Chelsea was followed by stunning back-to-back losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester either side of Christmas. Heading into their home clash with Liverpool in January, Guardiola’s men were seven points adrift but a dramatic 2-1 victory saw them close the gap, and they never really looked back.
Every other league game – bar a surprise reverse at Newcastle – was won, and though Liverpool never lost again either, several stalemates ensured the title would be remaining on the blue side of Manchester.
Breaking City’s stranglehold will be even tougher this term with the club recruiting well over the summer. Holding midfielder Rodri arrives from Atletico Madrid, while Portugal right-back Joao Cancelo has been signed from Juventus, with Danilo heading in the opposite direction. These shrewd acquisitions strengthen City’s problem positions and put them on course for a three-peat.
Manager: Pep Guardiola
In: Rodri (Atletico Madrid), Angelino (PSV Eindhoven), Joao Cancelo (Juventus), Scott Carson (Derby, loan)
Out: Vincent Kompany (Anderlecht), Patrick Roberts (Norwich City, loan), Fabian Delph (Everton), Jack Harrison (Leeds United, loan), Aro Muric (Nottingham Forest, loan), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf, loan), Philippe Sandler (Anderlecht, loan), Taylor Richards (Brighton), Tosin Adarabioyo (Blackburn Rovers, loan), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Danilo (Juventus), Luke Bolton (Luton Town, loan), Tom Dele-Bashiru (Watford), Yangel Herrera (Granada, loan)
Last season: 1st
One to watch: England starlet Phil Foden should play an even bigger role in City’s title defence this season, having gained Pep Guardiola’s trust.
The 2018-19 season was one of the most painful in Manchester United’s recent history. Not only did fans have to endure a dismal campaign on the field, they also watched Manchester City complete a clean sweep of England’s domestic trophies and Liverpool lift their sixth European Cup. If you asked a United supporter to write down their nightmare scenario, this wouldn’t be far off.
After two defeats in their opening three games, manager Jose Mourinho was immediately under pressure, and his falling out with star midfielder Paul Pogba made his position untenable. The Portuguese got the boot just before Christmas, with club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought in – initially on a caretaker basis – to salvage their season.
For a few heady months, Solskjaer worked wonders, winning 14 of his first 19 matches to land the job permanently. But United soon reverted to type, turning in a series of lifeless performances against Wolves, Everton and Manchester City to limp to a sixth place finish and miss out on the Champions League.
It simply wasn’t good enough for a club of United’s stature and Solskjaer has spent heavily in order to avoid a repeat. The arrival of Welsh winger Daniel James, Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka and England centre-half Harry Maguire – along with the sale of Romelu Lukaku to Inter – suggests the Norwegian will put his faith in homegrown players rather than highly-paid mercenaries. Time will tell if it’s a winning strategy.
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
In: Daniel James (Swansea), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Leicester City)
Out: Ander Herrera (Paris Saint-Germain), Antonio Valencia (LDU Quito), Matty Willock (Gillingham), Regan Poole (MK Dons), Dean Henderson (Sheffield United, loan), Romelu Lukaku (Inter), James Wilson (released), Kieran O’Hara (Burton Albion, loan)
Last season: 6th
One to watch: England international Harry Maguire has been brought in at a great cost to solve United’s defensive problems. Can he justify his world-record transfer fee and succeed where many others have failed?
It’s been an eventful close season at St James’ Park, with beloved boss Rafa Benitez finally following through on his threats to quit and the club’s long rumoured takeover failing to materialise.
To say Newcastle fans want to see the back of their owner Mike Ashley would be a gross understatement. The retail entrepreneur’s appointment of former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has gone down badly, and even a club record outlay on Brazilian forward Joelinton has failed to appease the disgruntled Geordie nation.
Make no mistake, Benitez’s move to China is a devastating blow, with the Spaniard working minor miracles to steer the Magpies clear of trouble to a 13th place finish last season. His successor Bruce will do well to get as much out of a fairly modest group of players, especially without the services of Spanish striker Ayoze Perez, who top-scored with 12 goals.
Newcastle’s chances of extending their top-flight stay will largely depend on the form and fitness of captain Jamaal Lascelles, midfield duo Jonjo Shelvey and Sean Longstaff and new addition Joelinton. If this quartet can deliver on a consistent basis, then the Magpies should just about keep their heads above water.
Manager: Steve Bruce
In: Joelinton (Hoffenheim), Jetro Willems (Eintracht Frankfurt, loan), Allan Saint-Maximin (Nice), Kyle Scott (Chelsea), Jake Turner (Bolton), Emil Krafth (Amiens), Andy Carroll (free)
Out: Ayoze Perez (Leicester), Joselu (Alaves), Mo Diame (released), Freddie Woodman (Swansea City, loan)
Last season: 13th
One to watch: Brazilian forward Joelinton will bear the brunt of the Magpies’ goalscoring burden this season following the departures of Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon from St James’ Park this summer.
Free-scoring Norwich romped to Premier League promotion last term after finishing five points clear at the top of the Championship. The Canaries were certainly worthy champions, plundering 93 goals and playing some highly entertaining football along the way.
Finnish striker Teemu Pukki – signed on a free transfer from Brondby in Denmark – was a revelation upfront, scoring 26 goals in 37 games as Norwich recovered from two defeats in their first three matches to clinch the title with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa in May.
Highly-rated German coach Daniel Farke has made several significant additions during the off-season, bringing in experienced Swiss striker Josip Drmic from Borussia Monchengladbach, right-back Sam Byram from West Ham and winger Patrick Roberts on loan from Manchester City.
As is the case with most newly promoted teams, Norwich’s main goal is staying up. Farke has assembled an exciting, talented team well equipped to compete at the top level, but their gung-ho style could prove their downfall in a division where defensive lapses rarely go unpunished.
Manager: Daniel Farke
In: Josip Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach), Patrick Roberts (Manchester City, loan), Sam Byram (West Ham), Ralf Fahrmann (Schalke 04, loan)
Out: Carlton Morris (Rotherham, loan), Ivo Pinto (Dinamo Zagreb), Mason Bloomfield (Crawley, loan), Marcel Franke (Hannover 96), Sean Raggett (Portsmouth, loan), Anthony Spyrou (Chesterfield, loan), James Husband (Blackpool, loan), Diallang Jaiyesimi (Swindon, loan), Rocky Bushiri (Blackpool, loan), Aston Oxborough (Wealdstone, loan)
Last season: 1st (Championship)
One to watch: Fullback Max Aarons excelled in the Championship last season and will hope to continue his development in the top-flight.
Sheffield United stunned the football world when they gained promotion to the Premier League last season. It would be an even bigger surprise if they were still a top-flight club come May.
Chris Wilder’s band of journeymen began their Championship campaign with successive defeats to Swansea City and Middlesbrough, but soon picked up and were sitting pretty in fourth by the end of September. Widely tipped to fall out of contention in the new year, the Blades kept on winning and took full advantage of local rivals Leeds United’s late stumble to secure the second automatic spot.
Boyhood United fan Wilder has not been shy about overhauling his squad for the challenges ahead, signing Scotland striker Oli McBurnie for a club record fee, picking up one-time teen prodigy Ravel Morrison on a free and convincing 36-year-old former academy product Phil Jagielka to make an emotional return to Bramall Lane.
The Blades will no doubt relish their underdog status this season and cause teams plenty of problems with their never-say-die approach, but the lack of quality in key areas should see them swiftly return to the second-tier.
Manager: Chris Wilder
In: Lys Mousset (Bournemouth), Dean Henderson (Manchester United, loan), Ben Osborn (Nottingham Forest), Luke Freeman (QPR), Phil Jagielka (free), Callum Robinson (Preston), Ravel Morrison (free), Oli McBurnie (Swansea), Muhamed Besic (Everton, loan)
Out: Paul Coutts (Fleetwood), Martin Crainie (Luton), Conor Washington (Hearts), Daniel Lafferty (released), Caolan Lavery (released), Nathan Thomas (Carlisle, loan), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Rochdale, loan), Jake Eastwood (Scunthorpe, loan), Tyler Smith (Bristol Rovers, loan), Regan Slater (Scunthorpe, loan), Ched Evans (Fleetwood), Caolan Lavery (Walsall), Mark Duffy (Stoke, loan)
Last season: 2nd (Championship)
One to watch: Former Manchester United prospect Ravel Morrison has been handed one last shot at the big time having failed to make the most of his undoubted talents during a nomadic career. Will he finally deliver?
Southampton looked odds on for relegation under Mark Hughes until the South Coast club’s board finally acted in December and replaced him with little-known Ralph Hasenhuttl. The appointment of the ‘Alpine Klopp’ proved a shrewd move, with the Austrian quickly turning the Saints’ fortunes around and introducing an attractive possession-based game.
Hassenhutl’s tenure began with a 1-0 loss at Cardiff, but his first home match at St Mary’s brought a morale boosting 3-2 win over Arsenal, who had been on a 22-game unbeaten streak. In the end, the Saints secured survival with a few games to spare, no mean feat given the predicament they were in when he took over.
During the close-season, Southampton have chiefly focused on improving their attacking options, making the transfer of Danny Ings from Liverpool permanent and signing highly-rated forward Che Adams from second-tier Birmingham. Malian winger Moussa Djenepo arrives from Belgian club Standard Liege, for whom he scored 11 times last year.
With the benefit of a full pre-season under Hasenhuttl, Southampton shouldn’t have any relegation worries, though it’s hard to see them mounting a serious challenge for European football. A lower midtable finish seems like a safe bet.
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl
In: Che Adams (Birmingham City), Moussa Djenepo (Standard Liege), Tommy Scott (Yeovil), Danny Ings (Liverpool)
Out: Matt Targett (Aston Villa), Steven Davis (Rangers), Sam Gallagher (Blackburn), Jordy Clasie (AZ Alkmaar), Harrison Reed (Fulham, loan), Alfie Jones (Gillingham, loan), Jack Rose (Walsall, loan), Josh Sims (New York Red Bulls, loan)
Last season: 16th
One to watch: Saints winger Nathan Redmond was an ever-present last season, and when he’s on song, they look a much more dynamic team.
Last season will live long in the memory for Tottenham fans. Mauricio Pochettino’s side had a fairytale run to the Champions League final, moved into their state-of-the-art new stadium and finished fourth to secure more top-level European football. Ultimately though it was yet another year without a trophy.
Spurs started strongly, chalking up three straight wins – including a 3-0 drubbing of Manchester United at Old Trafford – before suffering their first setback at Watford. They were still in with a shout of the title in February when a 3-1 victory over Leicester left them five points behind Manchester City and Liverpool, but a horror run of one point from the next 15 on offer saw their challenge quickly fade.
The club’s failure to sign any players before the campaign contributed to their mid-season malaise, and supporters will be relieved chairman Daniel Levy has provided Pochettino with ample funds this time round. In come French enforcer Tanguy Ndombele and England under-21 fullback Ryan Sessegnon, with Real Betis’ Giovani lo Celso joining on loan. Kieran Trippier and Vincent Janssen have left, but unsettled playmaker Christian Eriksen remains at the club.
The high-quality additions complement Spurs’ already solid core to give Pochettino the strongest squad he’s had at his disposal since he arrived in North London five years ago. Expect Tottenham to push the top two even harder this time, only to fall frustratingly short again.
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
In: Jack Clarke (Leeds), Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon), Kion Etete (Notts County), Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham), Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis, loan)
Out: Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Vincent Janssen (C.F. Monterrey), Luke Amos (QPR, loan), Connor Ogilvie (Gillingham), Michel Vorm (released), Dylan Duncan (released), Charlie Freeman (released), Tom Glover (released), Jamie Reynolds (released), Jack Clarke (Leeds, loan), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Stoke, loan), Josh Onomah (Fulham)
Last season: 4th
One to watch: Club record signing Tanguy Ndombele arrives with a big reputation following an impressive spell with Lyon in France. The 22-year-old will bring speed, power and guile to Tottenham’s engine room.
Watford’s season ended in rather dispiriting fashion, with the Hornets suffering three straight defeats to slip to 11th on the ladder before a humiliating 6-0 drubbing by Manchester City in the FA Cup final.
But the sour ending should not detract from what was an otherwise encouraging campaign for Javi Gracia’s unfashionable team. Indeed, the Hertfordshire club started the season so impressively – with four straight wins over Brighton, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Tottenham – that they were briefly rubbing shoulders with the big boys at the top of the table.
As expected, it didn’t last, with Watford fading badly in the second-half of the season. But their early form and that memorable run to a first Wembley showpiece since 1984 gave supporters plenty to shout about.
By their recent standards it’s been a quiet close-season at Vicarage Road, but the signings of Senegalese winger Ismaila Sarr for a club record fee and former Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck on a free transfer have got Hornets fans buzzing. Should Welbeck stay fit, his goals can help fire Watford to another mid-table finish.
Manager: Javi Gracia
In: Craig Dawson (West Brom), Danny Welbeck (free), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes)
Out: Obbi Oulare (Standard Liege), Michael Folivi (Wimbledon, loan), Marc Navarro (Leganes, loan), Alex Jakubiak (Gilingham, loan), Ben Wilmot (Swansea, loan), Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha Berlin), Tommie Hoban, Miguel Britos, Ashley Charles, Andrew Eleftheriou, Sam Howes, Tom Leighton, Joy Mukena, Michael Mullings, Kai Sanders, Sam Sesay, Ryan Suckling, Ben Tricker (released), Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha Berlin)
Last season: 11th
One to watch: French midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure has caught the eye of several big clubs after some all-action displays for the Hornets.
WEST HAM UNITED
After losing their opening four games, West Ham recovered strongly and nine points from their final three matches saw the Hammers leapfrog Watford to finish a respectable 10th. Overall, Manuel Pellegrini’s side could be quietly satisfied with a campaign where they showed plenty of promise, along with some familiar defensive failings.
The emergence of defensive midfielder Declan Rice was a major boost, while record signing Felipe Anderson produced some magic moments going forward. But a shaky backline that shipped 55 goals missed the assured presence of injured All Whites skipper Winston Reid, whose looming return will feel like a new signing.
As they look to build on last season’s steady progress, West Ham have been on a recruitment drive, bringing in Spain Under-21 midfielder Pablo Fornals and French forward Sebastien Haller, the latter a replacement for toxic talent Marko Arnautovic.
With the wily Pellegrini at the helm, the Hammers shouldn’t have any relegation worries, but at the same time it is hard to see them making a serious play for the European spots. Another midtable finish beckons.
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
In: Roberto (Espanyol), David Martin (Millwall), Pablo Fornals (Villarreal), Sebastian Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt), Albian Ajeti (FC Basel)
Out: Samir Nasri, Andy Carroll, Adrian (released), Edimilson Fernandes (FSV Mainz), Jordan Hugill (QPR, loan), Lucas Perez (Alaves), Pedro Obiang (Sassuolo), Josh Pask (Coventry), Reece Oxford (Augsburg), Josh Cullen (Charlton, loan), Nathan Trott (Wimbledon, loan)
Last season: 10th
One to watch: The Hammers’ record new signing Sebastien Haller will need to hit the ground running if he is to justify his hefty NZ$68m fee.
Wolves’ return to the top-flight after a six-year absence could hardly have gone any better. The Midlands club finished in a lofty seventh place, sneaking into the Europa League by virtue of Manchester City’s FA Cup victory over Watford.
In truth it wasn’t entirely unexpected, given Wolves’ new-found wealth and astute recruitment. New signings Joao Moutinho and Raul Jiminez took to the Premier League like ducks to water, the latter bagging 17 goals and the former winning the club’s player of the year award. The only major regret was the 3-2 FA Cup semifinal loss to Watford in which Wolves somehow squandered a two-goal lead.
A busy off-season has seen Jiminez and Leander Dendoncker signed permanently and Spanish defender Jose Vallejo arrive on loan from Real Madrid. Italy striker Patrick Cutrone has also been lured from AC Milan in an audacious move.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side seemed to relish the big games last season – taking points off Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham – but oddly struggled against lesser teams (losing twice to Huddersfield). If they can address this issue – and not get distracted by their European adventures – then a top six spot is a real possibility.
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo
In: Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Jesus Vallejo (Real Madrid, loan), Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan), Pedro Neto (Braga), Bruno Jordao (Braga), Renat Dadashov (Estoril), Meritan Shabani (Bayern Munich)
Out: Helder Costa (Leeds, loan), Kevin Berkoe (Oxford), Ethan Ebanks-Landell (Shrewsbury), Ivan Cavaleiro (Fulham, loan), Kortney Hause (Aston Villa), Ryan Giles (Shrewsbury, loan), Christian Herc (Viktoria Plzen, loan), Niall Ennis (Doncaster, loan), Cameron John (Doncaster, loan)
Last season: 7th
One to watch: Club captain Conor Coady is an unsung hero of this Wolves team. Can the classy centre-back earn an England callup?