With the Premier League season kicking off next weekend, it’s high time to take a look at the teams and what could be in store for them in the 2015-16 campaign. We’ll start at the bottom of the table from last season and work our way to the top. In part one, we will look at the three newcomers and the teams that placed 16th and 17th.
AFC Bournemouth (New)
Bournemouth has had an extraordinary journey the past couple of seasons and won the Championship last year to win promotion to the Premier League. The team played in League One in 2012/2013 but only needed two season in the English second tier before making it to the big stage. This will be Bournemouth’s first season in the Premier League, and the first time in the club’s 125-year history that they will play in the English top flight.
The Cherries has signed a handful of new players, including goalkeeper Artur Boruc and Norwegian international Joshua King. Boruc came over from Southampton on a free transfer, after spending last season with Bournemouth on loan. The 35-year-old Polish keeper has a solid resume including five years at Celtic and two years with Fiorentina in Serie A before heading to Southampton. Boruc will be seeing a lot of shots, as newcomers in the Premier League tend to be in the lower half of the table.
King, 23, has 17 caps for the Norwegian national team and spent the last two years with Blackburn Rovers in the Championship. The former Manchester United prospect can be played both as a winger and a forward, and hopes are that he can get his goalscoring going after only finding the net once in 16 league appearances last season.
They also added veteran defender Sylvain Distin from Everton. The 37-year-old Frenchman has played over 400 Premier League games in his career for Everton, Portsmouth, Manchester City, and Newcastle United.
It’s always tough to stay up as a newcomer, and without another couple of high-level signings, it will most likely be a one-year stint in the Premier League for Bournemouth.
Watford FC (New)
Watford is back in the Premier League after spending eight years in the Championship. The Hornets has been extremely active on the transfer market to make sure that they will not crash out like they did last time they were up in the Premier League in 2006-07 when the team ended dead last, winning only five games.
So far this summer, the team has added 10 new players, including Matej Vydra, Sebastian Prodl, Valon Behrami, and Jose Holebas. Vydra spent the last season on loan at Watford from Udinese and had a very successful campaign, scoring 16 goals in 42 games. Udinese and Watford are owned by the same family, the Pozzos, and after many years with Udinese being the top dog, it has now shifted towards Watford.
Prodl and Behrami joins the team from the German Bundesliga. Prodl, who has 49 caps for the Austrian national team, spent the last seven years with Werder Bremen and the left back signed a five-year deal with Watford and was the first signing for the club as they started preparing for life in the Premier League.
Behrami, 30, has vast experience from the Serie A from his time with Lazio, Fiorentina, and Napoli. He also has prior experience of the Premier League, representing West Ham United between 2008 – 2011. He also has 59 caps for the Swiss national team.
Watford must surely be hoping that the new players can come into the group and get acclimated as soon as possible. The team opens up the season with games against Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton.
Norwich City FC (New)
The Canaries’ bounced back right away after getting relegated from the Premier League after the 2013/2014 season. Norwich finished in third and won the promotion playoff final against Middlesbrough. The team has made three signings so far this summer, including WBA duo Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu. Dorrans spent the second half of last season on loan at Norwich. In total, Dorrans has played 154 league games for WBA, scoring 21 goals.
Mulumbu, 28, has been a permanent fixture in the WBA lineup for the past five seasons, and has been brought in to shore things up in midfield for Norwich. Mulumbu has 26 caps for DR Congo. The third signing the team has made this summer was winger Robbie Brady. The former Manchester United youth player spent the last four years at Hull City. The Irish international will be running up and down the left flank with Swedish international Martin Olsson. The team has also made a loan deal for Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom.
There are some question marks about striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Despite having one of the best names in soccer, van Wolfswinkel was a real bust for Norwich after coming over for a club record fee in 2013. He only managed to find the back of the net on one occasion in 25 league appearances as Norwich were demoted from the Premier League. He spent last season on loan with Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1, scoring 9 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions. Rumors are that there’s still a place for van Wolfswinkel, but he will have to step up and show the type of goalscoring form he showed in Portugal for Sporting which prompted Norwich to open up the wallet to get him.
Aston Villa (17th, 38 points)
Villa were one of the biggest disappointments of last season, as the classic club barely avoided relegation. The team started to play a lot better when Tim Sherwood took over as manager in mid-February after Paul Lambert got the boot. With some big changes in the squad, Villa will now look to avoid another battle in the bottom of the standings.
Villa has lost some of their best players during the summer, with Christian Benteke leaving for Liverpool and Fabian Delph joining Manchester City. That yielded a lot of money in the coffers, but it has been re-invested in players like Scott Sinclair, Micah Richards, Jordan Ayew, and Idrissa Gueye. Sinclair and Richards comes from Manchester City, and they both have something to prove after disappointing campaigns last season. Ayew is brought in to replace Benteke up front, but he’s more of a poacher as he doesn’t have the same size as Benteke. Gueye will replace Delph in the center of midfield. In all, Villa has signed nine players, with four of them coming from the French Ligue 1.
Villa still has a solid team on paper, and with a full preseason with Sherwood at the helm, I would assume that they will do a lot better this upcoming season.
Sunderland AFC (16th, 38 points)
Sunderland was another big disappointment. Despite having some pretty big names in the squad, the club has failed to finish higher than 10th since getting promoted back to the Premier League back in 2007-08 after one season in the Championship.
With new signings Sebastian Coates, Younes Kaboul, Adam Matthews, and Jeremain Lens, Sunderland will look to start climbing up the standings. Coates joined the team from Liverpool on a permanent deal after spending last season with the team on loan. He played every single minute during the last five games when Sunderland salvaged the season. With Kaboul coming in from Tottenham, they could end up being the starting pair in central defense.
Manager Dick Advocaat decided to stay on after coming in late last season and saving the club from relegation, and it will be interesting to see if he can fire up the team for a whole season like he did during the last five games last season. Swedish midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who was voted Player of the Year by the Sunderland faithful last season, will play a big role once more and is a great weapon on freekicks and corners with his excellent right foot.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the Premier League preview as we take a look at the teams that finished 11th to 15th.