Premier League 2016/17 Preview


The European Championship and Copa America may be currently taking centre stage in the football world, but the release of the fixture list ahead of the 2016/2017 season has reminded everyone that the start of the Premier League is just around the corner. It promises to be one of the most intriguing and exciting seasons in years, with all eyes on Leicester City to see if their fairytale story includes another chapter in which they successfully defend their crown against an inevitable backlash from the big guns.

Claudio Ranieri’s side surpassed all expectations by storming their way towards the title against all the odds, with Leicester enjoying a remarkable rise from relegation contenders to league winners. You cannot take anything away from their remarkable achievement, but with Leicester set to compete on four fronts, it remains to be seen if lightning strikes twice for the Foxes. Coral certainly do not believe that Leicester will defend the title in the latest football betting odds, but if Ranieri is able to bring in top quality players and manage to persuade Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante to stay at the King Power Stadium, then there is no reason to write Leicester off.

High-profile managerial changes in Manchester have made a big difference to their title chances, with City installed as favourites to come back strongly after a rather indifferent campaign under Manuel Pellegrini. Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne were undoubtedly their standout players when Manchester City hit top form, but without captain Vincent Kompany at the back they were defensively vulnerable and conceded a number of poor goals as they failed to find any sort of consistency. Pep Guardiola will certainly look to address their deficiencies on the pitch by bringing his hugely successful brand of football to the Etihad Stadium, and with the board promising to back their new manager with all the funds he needs to put Manchester City back on track, Ilkay Gundogan will certainly not be the last player to arrive through the doors.

There is no question that the Manchester derbies will carry extra spice next season, with Guardiola’s long-term rival, Jose Mourinho, taking over the reins at Old Trafford after Louis Van Gaal failed to convince the board that he could take the club forward. The “Special One” has a big job on his hands to bring attractive football back to a team that were seen as too passive this season, and although his acrimonious departure from Chelsea left a black mark on his reputation as one of the best managers in world football, Manchester United are convinced that Mourinho is the man to achieve success. Getting one over Guardiola next season is merely on a side note to the work that Manchester United have ahead of them to make up for finishing as low as fifth and therefore failing to qualifying for the Champions League, but being rated as second favourites to win next season’s Premier League title with Coral illustrates a growing belief that they can only get better under Mourinho. A more attractive brand of football, combined with more high-profile signings to go alongside the £30 million acquisition of Ivorian defender Eric Bailly, should stand Manchester United in good stead, and with transfer speculation linking them with a host of top quality players, it could be a very interesting summer at Old Trafford.

North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham will also fancy their chances of mounting a serious title challenge after finishing second and third respectively. The latter had put themselves in a wonderful position to finish ahead of Arsenal for the first time since 1995 after pushing Leicester all the way, but a poor end to their campaign saw Mauricio Pochettino’s side slip down to third. Tottenham certainly lit up the Premier League through a fluent, free-flowing style of football that certainly caught the eye, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli among those who played starring roles, but their lack of cover upfront may have cost them a shot at the title.

The same could be said for Arsenal who may be one of the most attractive sides to watch in England, but Arsene Wenger’s stubbornness and reluctance to spend has often proved costly when injuries and suspensions begin to take their toll. The big-money arrival of Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach may suggest a change in emphasis from Wenger, and if Arsenal are willing to loosen the purse strings even further to make necessary improvements to their squad, then the Gunners could be the team to look out for.

Jurgen Klopp has established solid foundations on which he can build upon as he is set to start his first full campaign in charge of Liverpool, with the former Borussia Dortmund manager making a big difference since replacing Brendan Rodgers last October. They, alongside West Ham and Everton, will hope to follow in Leicester and Tottenham’s footsteps by breaking into the top four and separating the big clubs even further, with the latter of the three on the crest of a wave following billionaire Farhad Moshiri’s takeover and the appointment of Ronald Koeman as their new manager. The same level of excitement is also felt at West Ham, with Slaven Bilic’s men moving to the Olympic Stadium as part of their vision to expand the club’s horizon. They will hope to keep hold of prized asset Dimitri Payet who has taken his wonderful form for West Ham onto the international stage with France, with the 29-year-old taking Euro 2016 by storm through fantastic performances and wonderful goals.

The three promoted clubs from the Championship will hope to follow in Bournemouth and Watford’s footsteps by establishing themselves as a top-flight club, with Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull City all returning to the Premier League after respective spells in the lower division. All three certainly have the experience and quality to make a good fist of it, but although promotion has provided them with the considerable riches that come via broadcasting and sponsorship deals, they may have to strengthen in the transfer market. Middlesbrough have already been active in signing Ajax winger Viktor Fischer and Colombian centre-back Bernando Espinosa, and if they continue to add good quality players to their squad, then it may leave the likes of Sunderland, Crystal Palace and West Brom looking over their shoulders if they find themselves near the bottom of the table again.

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