With the Premier League season kicking off this 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 continue our preview by looking at the teams that finished 10th to 6th. Click here for Part One. Here for Part Two.
Can Crystal Palace do a repeat of last season’s success? Will Liverpool’s new signings be enough for them to climb the standings and grab a Champions League spot?
Crystal Palace FC (10th, 48 points)
After eight years in the Championship, Crystal Palace made it back to the Premier League for the 2013-14 season. They ended up surprising everyone and finished 11th, a very strong position for a newcomer. But midway through last season, the team was in 18th place and in risk of getting relegated. The Palace board decided to fire manager Neil Warnock, and on Jan. 2, the team announced that Alan Pardew would be taking over the reins at Selhurst Park.
Pardew left Newcastle United, and it was after Pardew’s exit that the team started to falter. Palace, on the other hand, started playing a lot better and inched their way up the table. When it was all said and done, Palace finished 10th, the highest finish for the club in the Premier League era. It was also the first time that the club had managed to stay up for two consecutive seasons in the Premier League.
The Eagles has some interesting players like Wilfried Zaha, Jason Puncheon and James McArthur. Puncheon had a strong season in midfield, scoring six league goals and adding seven assists. Zaha spent part of the season on loan to Palace from Manchester United, but the move was made permanent in February.
During the summer, Palace has brought on Yohan Cabaye from Paris Saint-Germain and Connor Wickham from Sunderland. Cabaye was a force in the Premier League during his time at Newcastle and is a huge signing for Palace.
The 29-year-old Frenchman spent the past season and a half with PSG, but failed to make himself the starting choice for manager Laurent Blanc. Cabaye scored 17 goals in 79 league games for Newcastle, and is a dynamic playmaking midfielder that is great on the ball. Pardew coached Cabaye during his time at Newcastle, so he know how to get the best out of him.
Wickham, 22, has been a promising forward for a long time, but he’s been unable to take that final step in his development. He featured in 36 league games last season for Sunderland, scoring five goals. Palace’s top striker last season was Glenn Murray with seven goals in the league, so there’s definitely room for improvement on that front. The club has also brought in Patrick Bamford on loan from Chelsea.
With a full preseason in charge, Pardew will be looking to take Palace to another mid-table finish and try to make it far in the FA Cup. It’s an interesting team, but fans need to temper expectations as they don’t have the same kind of star power as some of the other teams that finished around team last season.
Stoke City (9th, 54 points)
Stoke were highly inconsistent last season and could mix brilliant performances, like the 1-0 win over Manchester City and the 6-1 win over Liverpool, with extended runs of losing games against much lesser opposition. The up and down nature of the season most likely had many fans pulling their hair out.
The team ended the season strong with wins over Southampton (2-1), Tottenham (3-0) and Liverpool (6-1) and finished ninth. Mame Biram Diouf was the club’s top scorer in the league with 11, as he had a good first season with the Potters since joining from German side Hannover.
Stoke has been pretty active in the transfer market this summer, with the arrival of seven new players. The most notable signings are Ibrahim Afellay, Glen Johnson, and Shay Given.
Afellay is coming over from FC Barcelona. The 29-year-old Dutchman had a very good career in the Dutch league with PSV Eindhoven before leaving for Barcelona in 2010. He failed to establish himself at Nou Camp, and spent last season on loan with Greek side Olympiacos. He will look to rejuvenate his career with Stoke and will join former Barcelona player BojanKrkic in the lineup.
Johnson came over on a free transfer from Liverpool after his contract expired with the Reds. Johnson, 30, has played more than 300 Premier League games for Liverpool, Portsmouth, Chelsea and West Ham during his career. He also has 54 caps for the English national team.
The big loss this offseason was that of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. The 28-year-old Bosnian international has been extremely solid the past couple of years, but will now warm the bench at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea. Jack Butland, 22, will most likely be given the nod as the new starter and Given will come in and be an experienced backup.
It’s tough to place Stoke seeing that they were so inconsistent last season, but another mid-table finish seems likely.
Swansea City AFC (8th, 56 points)
The Welsh side has established itself as a good mid-level team that plays an entertaining brand of soccer since getting promoted in 2011. Last season’s eighth place finish was the highest in the club’s history, and manager Garry Monk will look to build on that success. Monk, 36, who played 10 seasons with Swansea, took over as manager in February last year after the club parted ways with Michael Laudrup.
Monk knows the philosophy of the club and it will be interesting to see what the young manager can do with the squad now that he’s had a full preseason to prepare.
The club has signed four new players this summer in Andre Ayew (Marseille), Franck Tabanou (St Etienne), Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Heerenveen) and Eder (Braga).
Ayew is the biggest name as he’s been a great player for Marseille and the Ghanaian national team for many years. The 25-year-old winger scored 10 goals in 27 league games for Marseille last season and his speed and creativity will mix in well in Swansea. Add his scoring potential, and he could be one of the signings of the season. Ayew has 11 goals in 62 caps for Ghana.
Tabanou, 26, has made just over 200 Ligue 1 appearances for Saint-Etienne and Toulouse. He can be used both as a left back and as a left midfielder. Tabanous also has 12 caps for France at the U-21 level.
Nordfeldt will take up the fight with Lukasz Fabianski in net. The 26-year-old Swedish netminder has several strong seasons behind him in the Dutch league with Heerenveen. Most likely he will start as the backup, but he has the potential to become a starter.
The Swans sold star striker Wilfried Bony to Manchester City last season, and although they brought in Bafetimbi Gomis who did a good job, there’s no doubt they could use some extra firepower. They’ve brought in Portuguese striker Eder from Braga.
The 27-year-old Portuguese international has 26 goals in 60 league games for Braga over the past three seasons. He also has 12 caps for the Portuguese national team. Gomis will still be the first choice, but Eder could make a good substitute that comes in late in games and try to snag a goal.
Swansea should be able to get into the mix for an Europa League spot, the squad is pretty much the same, and Ayew is a great addition.
Southampton FC (7th, 60 points)
Southampton had a huge turnover in the squad prior to the start of last season. The team lost seven players, including team stars Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert. But the team was able to replace these players and manager Ronald Koeman got the team together and they played phenomenal soccer for large parts of the season. The team won eight out of the first 11 games of the season and were in the top three as late as Matchday 24.
The Saints dropped off a bit at the tail end of the season, but finished in seventh place and qualified for the Europa League. The team entered the third qualification round and won the first leg against Dutch side Vitesse 3-0 at home at St. Mary’s Stadium. The return leg is played on Thursday in Arnhem.
Once again, the team has seen a couple of key players leave the club in the offseason, with Nathaniel Clyne joining Liverpool and Morgan Schneiderlin joining Manchester United. The club has bought four new players in Juanmi (Malaga), Cedric Soares (Sporting CP), Cuco Martina (FC Twente), and Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord).
Juanmi, 22, scored eight goals for Malaga in the Spanish La Liga last season and also made his debut for the Spanish national team in a friendly against the Netherlands. Soares, 23, will take over for Clyne on the right-back position. The Portuguese international has played in every level for the Portuguese national team from U-16 to the senior team. Martina, 25 will also battle for that spot on the right side of defense, but the Dutch-born Curacao international will most likely be starting most games on the bench.
Koeman also got a familiar face on Clasie, a player he coached in Feyenoord. The 24-year-old Dutch international will replace Schneiderlin in midfield, but he a much more creative type of player than Schneiderlin. He could become a really good addition to the side.
Koeman has the magic touch and even after the big turnaround in the squad, he was able to take them to a seventh place finish. Expect Southampton to be in the mix again for an Europa League spot as long as the can cope playing on two fronts in the Premier League and the Europa League.
Liverpool (6th, 62 points)
Liverpool is a conundrum. It’s a club with so much history, that still sees itself as one of the big sides in England, but they haven’t won a league title since 1990. They’ve managed to be in the top four a lot and did win the Champions League back in 2005, but they are clearly well behind the top sides in the league. They finished sixth last season, and were never in the top four except after Matchday 1.
With a big shopping spree this summer, they hope to change that and make it back into the top four.
Brazilian international Roberto Firmino, 23, arrives from Germany, where he has spent the last four seasons as one of the best players for Hoffenheim. He can play both as a No. 9 just behind the striker or as a No. 10. The most likely scenario is that he will play behind new striker Christian Benteke that Liverpool bought from Aston Villa for around $50 million. The 24-year-old Belgian international is a good Premier League striker that has scored 42 league goals for Villa in 88 games spread over three seasons.
They also brought in forward Danny Ings, 23, from Burnley. Ings scored 11 league goals for Burnley, but was unable to save them from getting relegated. James Milner arrived on a free transfer from Manchester City and will have to be seen as the replacement for Steven Gerrard who left for the LA Galaxy after spending 17 seasons with the Reds.
Another notable signing is Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton. The 24-year-old right back has a couple of impressive seasons behind him and made his debut for the English national team last year.
They also cashed in big when they sold Raheem Sterling to Manchester City. Sterling is a very talented player, but he wanted a new contract and City offered up $76 million to get him so Liverpool took the cash and ran.
Liverpool are still rumored to be on the hunt for more players, and it will be interesting to see of manager Brendan Rodgers can get all the new players to come together and perform early on in the season. Even with all the new signings, it will have to result in a perfect storm if Liverpool are going to be able to break into the top four.