With barely a two month gap of football this summer, fans of the beautiful game have been spoilt, and none more so than those that watch the Premiership every week for 10 months straight.
Sure, La Liga has taken even more of the best players in the world to play in Spain, but this has only led to the Premiership becoming even more competitive in every area. If the World Cup taught us anything, it is that even a return to order can be enthralling.
Just as in the Premiership as in the World Cup, we seminally know what to expect. Just as we knew we’d see the likes of Brazil and Argentina in and around the final, we can also probably guess at least three of the top four. As we knew the likes of Iran and Australia would struggle, we also know who will be fighting relegation by the season’s end.
For the most part, we know where teams will finish. But what we don’t know is how they’ll get there.
Arsene Wenger has been trying for over 10 years to build a team of sustained dominance, and with two players in the team now worth a combined £75million, he will expect it to be somewhere near completion. Ironically, Liverpool, having just finished above Arsenal for the first time in eight years, sold one player for that same amount. Just what money can get you – and lose you – may just be found out somewhere between where these two finish this season.
Speaking of money… Chelsea and Manchester City.
Jose Mourinho’s machine is somewhere near finished, as he is keen to tell us. Man City have already created theirs, have just added extra power, and now are waiting for it to fully take off.
There are familiar faces back in every way at QPR, Leicester City and Burnley and we shall see most of these faces battling relegation come May. Tottenham and Everton will have belief they can push for a top four place, whilst in between everything is up for grabs.
And let’s not forget Manchester United are coming back rejuvenated, positive about this new era. Who would be shocked to see them climb back towards the top?
No one was overly surprised to see Germany win the World Cup, yet they still managed to shock the world in how the went about winning it. And so it could be with this year’s Premiership. Each team in their own way carry traits similar to those that clashed for the World Cup. Accordingly, so shall the fates of these teams also fall into a similar pattern.
So here is a rough guide to how the Premiership will match what we saw in the World Cup.
Arsenal will be… Colombia
Likely to play exciting football, showcase some of the best talent in the world, but ultimately lose out to a team better at set pieces.
What they need to do well? With the likes of Lukasz Podolski, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mesut Ozil, Joel Campbell, Santi Cazorla and a host of intelligent midfielders to supply them, Arsenal should not lack goals. What they do lack is proper cover for the excellent Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker partnership, so keeping both fit is imperative.
Who will star? Aaron Ramsey should continue his rise as Arsenal’s Frank Lampard, whilst Alexis Sanchez is a world class addition to the Premiership that may make up for the loss of Luis Suarez.
Who will flop? Jack Wilshere. After a summer break spent smoking and boozing, he may actually find he is not a regular in the first XI.
PREDICTION – 2nd ; Arsene Wenger is getting closer to building his perfect machine but it still lacks the steel and experience to win this year.
Aston Villa will be… Russia
Despite a big name managerial addition that will help install discipline, the team lacks the overall quality to do anything but finish below teams that historically they are better than.
What they need to do well? Get Christian Benteke back firing. He can be the difference between a top 10 finish and a relegation battle.
Who will star? Having just had an awesome World Cup – bar missing a crucial penalty in the semi-final shootout – Ron Vlaar should be back at his commanding best. Fabian Delph will also be looking to continue his progress and maybe even get an England call-up.
Who will flop? Despite securing a decent move for himself, Joe Cole does not have much left at this level, whilst new signing Phillipe Senderos never really has.
PREDICTION – 12th; with no real ethos or quality, plus fans in a negative mood, Villa will not do as well as they may hope.
Burnley will be… Cameroon
Although they have been here before, they were probably better equipped last time. Most likely to be the whipping boys.
What they need to do well? Their defence – the best in last year’s Championship – must remain solid and they need some shrewd signings, quickly.
Who will star? Kieran Trippier has been among the best defenders in the Championship for the last two years. It will be a huge step up for the right-back playing against Premiership wingers but he has the ability to make a mark.
Who will flop? Danny Ings. Although he shined so brightly in the Championship, consistently breaching Premiership defences will be beyond him in this team.
PREDICTION – 20th; a lack of experience and quality will leave Burnley struggling.
Chelsea will be… Germany
Solid but with a fluid and dangerous attack, it’s been a while since they’ve done it but it seems their time is now.
What they need to do well? Simply keep cohesion and unity within the squad. No going AWOL from Eden Hazard, no friction between Petr Cech-Thibault Courtouis or Didier Drogba-Fernando Torres and it should all go fine.
Who will star? Cesc Fabregas may be the signing to make this new Chelsea team great. With plenty of Premiership experience the world class midfielder is a perfect to complement those who will play around him. Andre Schurrle will also be returning from the World Cup in top form.
Who will flop? Only once has Diego Costa ever scored more than 10 league goals in a season. Playing as a lone front man in a Jose Mourinho side means he will get more fouls than goals.
PREDICTION – 1st; Mourinho has added proven winners to this talented side with an incredibly strong squad. They are the only side to have massively improved on what they had last year.
Crystal Palace will be… Mexico
You may have been surprised about what they did last time but don’t be surprised when they do it again. It is no fluke.
What they need to do well? Trust in Tony Pulis. The Welshman was arguably manager of the season last year by making Palace a more resilient outfit and getting the best out of good players like Yannick Bolasie, Marouane Chamakh and Jason Puncheon. More of the same should be satisfactory.
Who will star? Joe Ledley is a player with a touch of class. In the prime of his career at 27 he will be looking to make a mark. Frazier Campbell has also shown great talent but due to injury and club turmoil he has never had a chance to show it consistently. Pulis will be looking to get the best out of the pacey striker.
Who will flop? Cameron Jerome may find his time as a Premiership level striker slowly comes to an end now he’s in competition with the likes of Chamakh, Campbell and even the clinical Dwight Gayle.
PREDICTION – 13th; With the confidence of last season’s performances Palace should not struggle but will find it hard to consistently replicate the form Palace carried from the time Pulis came in until the end of last season.
Everton will be… Chile
A proper team that play together and allow their best players to shine. However, they may be just too reliant on only one or two players to really do something special.
What they need to do well? The likes of Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas need to stay fit and on form to provide the cutting edge that made Everton so dangerous last season. Roberto Martinez’s philosophy counts on it.
Who will star? Tim Howard made himself a superstar this summer. The confidence this gives him should maintain his great form. Meanwhile, young John Stones will be looking to continue to impress and break into the England squad.
Who will flop? The emergence of John Stones may see opportunities for Sylvain Distin at 36 years old become limited. A poor World Cup for Leighton Baines may see this the year where the likes of Kieron Gibbs and Luke Shaw overtake him as England’s best left-backs.
PREDICTION – 7th; Gerard Deulofeu going back to Barcelona is the loss of a match-winner who at times gained Everton points all on his own. The team as a whole may benefit from young players improving, but not enough to finish higher than last year’s 5th place finish.
Hull will be… USA
The plucky outfit did well last time but actually may just do even better this time and win even more fans along the way.
What they need to do well? Stick to their system. The 3-5-2 covered gaps and brought out the best in certain players. Steve Bruce should not tinker with this.
Who will star? Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone are 29 and 28 respectively. The talented duo have found themselves as key components in this bright Hull side. Both had good seasons and if they continue, England caps will follow.
Who will flop? Tom Ince. The ultra-talented left-footed winger may find it difficult to find a place in this team that plays a wing-back formation. This may not be his breakout year.
PREDICTION – 15th; Steve Bruce has created a stubborn but effective side that has a couple of quality players too. Safety should not be an issue.
Leicester will be… Croatia
A former neutral’s favourite that have been away for a while are now back. Most likely will show glimpses of quality but ultimately finish well behind the rest.
What they need to do well? Players with Premiership experience need to perform. The likes of David Nugent, Marc Albrighton and Paul Konchesky will need to steady the ship when things get rough.
Who will star? Kasper Schmeichel has been growing in stature ever since Joe Hart was chosen ahead of him at Man City. A commanding goalkeeper and capable of pulling of world class saves, a season in the Premiership will tell us just how good this son of a legend is.
Who will flop? The strikers. David Nugent scored six times in 45 games in the Premiership. Chris Wood scored just once for West Brom in the Premiership. The likes of Jamie Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa have never played at this level before. Goals will be hard to find for Leicester.
PREDICTION – 17th; The side do not have the overall quality to avoid a relegation battle but the steel and resolve installed by Nigel Pearson may just be enough to keep them up.
Liverpool will be… Brazil
In glimpses they will look at their best but without their best player, when the heat is on, expect another dramatic collapse.
What they need to do well? Daniel Sturridge needs to stay fit. There are others that can chip in with goals but no one that would be expected to hit over 15, other than Sturridge.
Who will star? Coutinho will spend most of the season playing in the hole, either in a diamond or 4-2-3-1 formation. With this platform set for him, the little Brazilian has the perfect chance to step up and fulfil his potential. Meanwhile, in defence Dejan Lovren is being singled out to lead the resistance for this classy Liverpool team.
Who will flop? Raheem Sterling benefitted from Luis Suarez arguably more than anyone at Liverpool. Consider that ALL Sterling’s assists in the league only resulted in goals for Suarez, whilst Suarez himself assisted six of Sterling’s nine league goals. Flop may be harsh as Sterling will still terrorise defences, but it is doubtful he will statistically perform better than he did last season.
PREDICTION – 5th; Liverpool will be there or thereabouts until the end, but trying to contest in all the cup competitions with seven new signings in the squad may result in costly lapses this season.
Man City will be… Argentina
The team may not produce the football they once did but the sheer quality of the individuals will see them have enough to push for the title right until the end. They have the best player in the competition (Yaya/Messi), but will he be able to keep rescuing them?
What they need to do well? Keep their best defenders fit. Vincent Kompany is their most important player, whilst the fullbacks – specifically Pablo Zabaleta – allow the side to play a specific way. They have enough quality in depth to replace any of their attackers but defence is a different proposition.
Who will star? After a great end to the season, Samir Nasri was told he would not be joining the France squad for the World Cup. The attacking midfielder will now be looking to prove his worth at club level. The ultra-talented Stevan Jovetic will also be given more time to shine this year and could be City’s secret weapon.
Who will flop? Alvaro Negredo surprised a lot of defenders last season with his technical ability and explosiveness, something which will not be repeated this season. Also, it is extremely rare for any centre-back to come into the Premiership from a foreign country and settle in right away, so it may take a while for Eliaquim Mangala to justify his £32million price tag.
PREDICTION – 3rd; For once, City have not added lots of names to a squad already packed with quality. With a more settled team – barring any rebellions from the likes of Yaya Toure, James Milner or either goalkeeper – City could be as strong as ever. However, pressure from the owners to make a serious run in the Champions League may see them just fall short in the title race.
Manchester United will be… Holland
Historically known for their wingers but now using wingbacks, a decent team bolstered by some genuine world class attackers, Louis Van Gaal’s new side is very similar to the last one he managed, so he will know how to get them challenging again. Like Holland, you can see them going far but you just know they won’t win it.
What they need to do well? United will play a system that requires three centre-backs. United only have three senior centre-backs. There are still question marks about all three of these centre-backs. Therefore, United simply need to add some quality in depth in these positions desperately.
Who will star? Juan Mata. It was only two years ago the little Spaniard was getting 20 goals and 20 assists for Chelsea. Mata and all of United’s forwards will benefit from him being back in his best position.
Who will flop? Contrary to popular belief, Shinji Kagawa has not always been placed on the left-wing for United and has had his time in the number 10 role, without much impact. Now battling with the likes of Mata and Adnan Januzaj for the role, Kagawa may not get more of a chance than he did with either David Moyes or Alex Ferguson.
PREDICITION – 4th; With only domestic games to play this season, the lack of fixtures will be a blessing for a United side adjusting to a new manager and system. The best players at the club should benefit from the new formation and they can carry the club back into the top four.
Newcastle will be… Ivory Coast
A powerful and athletic team with attacking talent but not much overall balance, Newcastle will look good enough to test the big teams but their form against the smaller sides will cost them.
What they need to do well? Find a settled XI. With at least five new signings that will be looking to press for a first-team spot, Alan Pardew needs to get this side gelling – quick, or the Toon Army will be calling for his head.
Who will star? Remy Cabella has looked a real star in the making at Montpellier. Similar to Hatem Ben Arfa, the winger will add pace and skills to the Newcastle attack and become a real crowd favourite.
Who will flop? Papiss Cisse had a good start to his Newcastle career but since the 2012-13 season he has just 10 goals in 60 league games. With Pardew seemingly preferring to play a lone frontman and adding two new strikers to the group, it could be another barren season for the Senegalese forward.
PREDICITION – 9th; Pardew has added goals and depth to the defence this season. Only if the more talented players maintain form will they push up further.
QPR will be… Belgium
A side with a standard of quality that belies their status, QPR may not consistently show this quality but will still do well.
What they need to do well? Not sign too many more players. The squad has enough quality and experience. More signings could disrupt the balance.
Who will star? Steven Caulker is a quality signing that at just 22 has already played nearly 100 Premiership games and will learn from playing first choice alongside the likes of Rio Ferdinand. Loic Remy will also be looking to prove a point after being overlooked so far in this transfer window.
Who will flop? Joey Barton is just an accident waiting to happen. A man that loves the limelight, he will go out of his way to court controversy now he is back in the big leagues. Prodigal talent Adel Taarabt may finally prove he cannot cut it in England with another disappointing season.
PREDICTION – 11th; Along with all the aforementioned, think Rob Green, Junior Hoilett and Niko Kranjcar, not to mention several others with real Premiership experience. This QPR team are wise enough to have a decent season.
Southampton will be… Australia
A team that not so long ago was filled with quality now has a bunch of unknowns taking their place. A few proven players remain but it will be impossible for this team to improve after losing so much class.
What they need to do well? The new signings to hit the ground running, or the squad will not be able to cope with losing arguably five of their best players.
Who will star? Although many of their other youngsters got the plaudits, 23 year old Nathaniel Clyne has been an excellent performer in the last two seasons for the Saints. Most likely assured of the right-back slot now Calum Chambers has left, Clyne may prove himself just as good in the role.
Who will flop? Morgan Schneiderlin has spent most pre-season sulking over a failed move. The Frenchman most certainly benefitted from playing in the Pochettino system with the likes of Lallana around him, so with this loss and combined with his poor attitude, he may find he is not as sought after by the end of the season.
PREDICTION – 14th; It will no doubt be a real struggle and some more signings will be needed but Southampton have enough solid pros alongside yet more talented youngsters to see themselves safe.
Stoke will be… Algeria
A side that will battle until the end against anyone, this Stoke side have enough ability and more importantly ambition to do better than they ever have.
What they need to do well? Keep their discipline. Although Mark Hughes led Stoke to their highest ever Premiership finish, they were second bottom of the Fair Play League last season. Hughes is known for installing his own aggression into his teams but if they are to improve in the league they must improve their discipline.
Who will star? Marko Arnautovic has always shown talent, which is why Inter Milan signed him as a teenager. After building his reputation as a winger of some ability in Germany with Werder Bremen, he actually had a good first year with Stoke last season. Still an unknown quantity, he is 6ft 3, powerful, quick and has a touch of class. At just 25 he could still turn out to be as good as Inter thought he would.
Who will flop? The signings of Mame Diouf and Bojan Krkic show that Hughes is looking for more guile and pace from his forwards. This means Peter Crouch’s time in the Premiership is coming to an end. He has not scored over 10 league goals since 2009 and most likely won’t ever again.
PREDICTION – 8th; Hughes has wisely added Premiership experience and knowhow to this team, along with what could turn out to be a masterstroke in Krkic. The side are still looking to replace or sign Ousmane Assaidi and a player of that nature could help the club have another record breaking season.
Sunderland will be… Switzerland
An improvement in the quality of the squad will show an improvement in the on-pitch performances, but the final finishing position will remain the same.
What they need to do well? Find consistency at the back and the front. Through injury and suspension (three red cards!) Wes Brown missed large chunks of the season, whilst upfront Steven Fletcher, Jozy Altidore and Connor Wickham were each given a third of the season. If they can keep John O’Shea and Wes Brown playing together, as well as finding a number nine they can trust, Sunderland will have a comfortable season.
Who will star? Jack Rodwell is a great signing for the club. Dynamic, intelligent and a leader to top it off, the central midfielder could make a massive difference for Sunderland this year.
Who will flop? Gus Poyet. The manager thinks a lot of himself but may find his decision to ship out solid pros like Phil Bardsley, Jack Colback and Craig Gardner could backfire. If they struggle like they did last year, Poyet won’t last the season.
PREDICTION – 16th; Sunderland simply lack the balance and quality to do well. Other than Adam Johnson, they don’t really possess any genuine attacking threat right now. They should have enough experience and belief to stay out of the bottom three, but not much more than that.
Swansea will be… Spain
Once lauded for their football and finding great success because of it, the side has become stale and may really struggle.
What they need to do well? Score loads and loads of goals. In Wilfried Bony, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bafetimbi Gomis and Jefferson Montero the club have some great attacking quality, and they will need to make up for Swansea having lost three of their first choice back five of last season.
Who will star? As dislikeable as he is (foul-mouthed, permanently scowling and looking like a Harry Potter villain), Jonjo Shelvey has enough ability to become a top midfielder. A good range of passing, tenacious and an eye for goal, now cemented as a first team player he may even find himself in the England squad. Gylfi Sigurdsson showed his best form in England at Swansea and should do so again playing off Bony or Gomis.
Who will flop? The goalkeepers. Michel Vorm has been one of Swansea’s best players for the last three years, both with his ability to fit in with their passing style and his level of goalkeeping. It will be a huge task for potential replacements Lukasz Fabianski and Gerhard Tremmel to step in, considering neither has ever played over 15 league games in a combined 10 years in England.
PREDICTION – 18th; Swansea have been punching above their weight for a long time and it may all finally catch up to them. Last season only the top seven scored more than them, yet summer signings have been all about attack. Without defensive additions the team may bow out of the Premiership.
Tottenham will be… France
This side will blitz some of the minnows and show real quality, but ultimately won’t have enough to get past the big boys.
What they need to do well? Find a formation to bring the best out in their players. Christian Eriksen should not be shoved out on the left, two central midfielders need to be allowed to develop a partnership and the system needs to benefit the striker.
Who will star? The coaching of Mauricio Pochettino saw the likes Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez develop into international calibre players. The Argentinian can do the same for Christian Eriksen and even Erik Lamela, their forgotten man that was once good enough to be picked regularly for the Argentina national side.
Who will flop? There are already rumours they will be sold but the work-rate Pochettino demands of his forwards for the high pressing style he favours may not benefit the likes of Andros Townsend, Aaron Lennon and Nacer Chadli, wingers that won’t be used to this.
PREDICTION – 6th; Pochettino inherited a squad full of players that have barely been at the club for two seasons. It will take a while for him to be able to mould and improve this team. However, the quality is still there and they will be amongst the top four for much of the season.
West Brom will be… England
Led by a rather dour manager, the side have some good players but have not yet found a formation to bring the best out of them.
What they need to do well? Trust in the old guard. Ben Foster (31), Joleon Lescott (31), Jonas Olsson (31), Gareth McAuley (34) and Stephen Sessegnon (30) are all established Premiership players. With them in the line-up more often than not, the club will avoid a struggle.
Who will star? Last season no one at West Brom scored more than five league goals, so mid-season signing Victor Anichebe does not have too much to do to have a comparatively good season. With his formidable strength, he is a handful for any defender, so if he remains injury free this could be the striker’s best season in the Premiership yet.
Who will flop? Saido Berahino started the season looking awesome, as an athletic forward with a sweet left foot. However, as the season progressed his selfish style saw him become less popular both among team-mates and fans. With West Brom investing £10million in striker Brown Ideye, it may be a difficult season for the 21 year old.
PREDICTION – 19th; West Brom badly lacked goals last season and have taken a huge gamble in investing in Ideye. They have enough experience to battle until the end but a lot may depend on how long the board and fans keep faith in Alan Irvine.
West Ham will be…Greece
This team will be a real solid unit but always ready to pounce on mistakes from the opposition. They are a bit of flair away from being a good side.
What they need to do well? Get the fans on their side. Upton Park can be one of the most difficult grounds to visit when the Hammers faithful are buzzing. If Big Sam Allardyce can stick to his word and provide more exciting football – which is all the fans want – then they could find themselves a long way away from the relegation zone.
Who will star? Mauro Zarate is exactly what the fans want. A skilful, pacey attacker with a touch of magic, he is coming off the back of a superb season in Argentina. He also has played in England before so will know what to expect. If Big Sam can find the right role for him, Zarate could be a revelation.
Who will flop? Andy Carroll could be out until December. He is a player that is far from the kind that can hit the ground running. Now battling Enner Valencia for a spot upfront, even though he is just 25, this could be the season that Carroll is officially written off as a potential England number nine.
PREDICTION – 10th; Sam Allardyce is a results driven manager, so that will come first. However, through his career he has also gotten the best out of creative players like Jay-Jay Okocha and Tugay, so we may see the new signings flourish amid the solid West Ham team he has created.
1 – Chelsea
2 – Arsenal
3 – Man City
4 – Man Utd
5 – Liverpool
6 – Tottenham
7 – Everton
8 – Stoke
9 – Newcastle
10 – West Ham
11 – QPR
12 – Aston Villa
13 – Crystal Palace
14 – Southampton
15 – Hull
16 – Sunderland
17 – Leicester
18 – Swansea
19 – West Brom
20 – Burnley
F.A Cup – Manchester United
League Cup – Arsenal
Top Scorer – Wayne Rooney
Player of the Season – Aaron Ramsey
Young Player of the Season – Luke Shaw