Premier League team prospects


  • Football
  • Tuesday, 08 Sep 2020

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Manchester United v Sheffield United - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - June 24, 2020 General view of a match ball before the match, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Martin Rickett/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Team-by-team prospects for the 2020-21 Premier League season. Part One (Arsenal to Leicester City).

ARSENAL

Manager: Mikel Arteta. Last season: 8th.

Major signings: Willian (Chelsea), Gabriel Magalhaes (Lille), Cedric Soares (Southampton)

Major Departures: Henrik Mkhitaryan (AS Roma)

There were signs of improvement after Arteta replaced Unai Emery in December and engineered a respectable league finish and an FA Cup final win over Chelsea. The Community Shield season curtain-raiser win over Liverpool on penalties at Wembley has added to the air of optimism around the Emirates Stadium.

Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the league's second-top scorer last season with 22 goals but the Gabon international is in his final year and has yet to agree a new deal. There is also the question of whether Mesut Ozil plays a full part this season or finally ends his disappointing stay with the club.

Arsenal will be hoping for a push towards the top four but it is questionable if there is yet enough quality in Arteta's squad to get back into the Champions League.

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ASTON VILLA

Manager Dean Smith. Last season: 17th

Major Signings: Matty Cash (Nottingham Forest)

Major Departures: Pepe Reina (end of loan from AC Milan)

Villa just avoided relegation on the final day of last season and surely need to make significant moves before the Oct. 5 transfer deadline to avoid another battle against the drop.

Smith will hope to get goalkeeper Tom Heaton back from injury in October and needs striker Wesley to return to fitness. But upgrades are required across the field and a key question is still whether creative midfielder Jack Grealish stays. The goal for Villa will again be simply surviving in the top flight.

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BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

Manager: Graham Potter. Last season: 15th.

Major Signings: Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Joel Veltman (Ajax Amsterdam)

Major Departures: Aaron Mooy (Shanghai SIPG), Glenn Murray (Watford, loan)

Brighton have gradually assembled a large squad including plenty of players with potential and the addition of 32-year-old England international Lallana adds some much-needed experience and craft to the midfield mix.

Key centre-half Lewis Dunk has resisted the temptation of a move away but the pressure is on the front men to deliver, with Neal Maupay, who scored 10 goals last term, the biggest threat.

Since promotion in 2017, Brighton have not finished above 15th and would be happy with any progress this season.

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BURNLEY

Manager Sean Dyche. Last season: 10th

Major Signings: None

Major Departures: Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Joe Hart (Tottenham Hotspur), Ben Gibson (Norwich City loan), Aaron Lennon (Kayserispor).

The Clarets exceeded expectations again last season with a fine second half of the season to secure their second-best finish of the Premier League era but unless they make some moves in the market it could be a tougher task this time.

Keeping hold of talents like England goalkeeper Nick Pope, defender James Tarkowski and winger Dwight McNeil will be key but Dyche badly needs some strength-in-depth, especially in midfield and at the back.

Dyche has expressed concerns about the club's lack of investment, leading to speculation over his future. Without some cash being spent in September, Burnley could be vulnerable on several levels.

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CHELSEA

Manager: Frank Lampard. Last season: 4th.

Major Signings: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig), Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Ben Chilwell (Leicester), Thiago Silva (Paris St Germain).

Major Departures: Willian (Arsenal), Pedro (AS Roma).

The London club have so far been by far the busiest of the 'Big Six' in the transfer window with their impressive recruitment raising hopes of a major leap forward this season.

Germany striker Werner should provide the missing element of a truly top class finisher while Lampard is hoping the 35-year-old Brazilian Thiago Silva can bring some valuable experience and class to the defence.

Last season saw several young players, such as Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic, establish themselves in the first team and, with the added quality brought in from Europe, last season's FA Cup runners-up are, at the very least, expecting to improve on their fourth-place finish.

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CRYSTAL PALACE

Manager: Roy Hodgson. Last season: 14th.

Major Arrivals: Eberechi Eze (QPR), Nathan Ferguson (West Brom)

Major Departures: None

As is traditional at Palace, the close season has been filled with worries over whether winger Wilfried Zaha will leave the club, but with no move as yet on that front, Palace will have a familiar look this season.

Hodgson's solid squad should have done better than 14th place last term, a poor end to the campaign undoing their earlier good work, but the addition of the exciting Eze should give some extra flair to a side which are expected to again be comfortable in mid-table.

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EVERTON

Manager: Carlo Ancelotti. Last season: 12th.

Major Arrivals: Allan (Napoli), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid)

Major Departures: Morgan Schneiderlin (Nice), Leighton Baines (retired).

A disappointing end to the season left Ancelotti with no illusions about how much work is needed to turn Everton into a top-six contender and the Italian's moves in the transfer market should give the side more of the technical quality he wants.

But even without any further major investment, there is enough talent in the Everton squad to be challenging with Tottenham and Arsenal for Europa League spots rather than finishing below Burnley and Southampton.

Ronald Koeman and Marco Silva failed to get winning results from the club's expensively-recruited players and the owners are ready to give Ancelotti the backing he needs but the coach and his team need to give a real indication of progress this season.

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FULHAM

Manager: Scott Parker. Last season: Promoted as Championship playoff winners.

Major Arrivals: None

Major Departures: Alfie Mawson (Bristol City loan)

Two years ago Fulham won promotion to the Premier League and promptly blew 100 million pounds ($131.68 million) on players who failed to gel as the team slumped back to the Championship.

This time Fulham arrive with less spending, lower expectations but perhaps more chance of putting up a decent fight for survival. The odds, however, are against them.

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LEEDS UNITED

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa. Last season: Won Championship.

Major Arrivals: Rodrigo (Valencia), Helder Costa (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Robin Koch (Freiburg)

Major Departures: None.

It has been 16 years since Leeds last appeared in the top flight and while Elland Road has changed little in the meantime, it is a very different club that returns to the Premier League.

There is an international feel to the Yorkshire outfit with Italian owners and an Argentine coach in Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds are counting on their newly acquired Spanish international forward Rodrigo to give them a touch of class in attack.

Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United's success after promotion last term is the path Leeds hope to follow but, after so long outside the elite, fans will settle for survival. With Bielsa in charge, however the season plays out it won't be dull.

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LEICESTER CITY

Manager: Brendan Rodgers. Last Season: 5th.

Major Arrivals: Timothy Castagne (Atalanta)

Major Departures: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea)

The Foxes faded badly at the end of last season, winning just four of their last 17 league matches, and it will be a tough task to improve on fifth this term.

Jamie Vardy was the league's top scorer last season and James Maddison is a confident creator but Rodgers needs to add extra depth to his squad if they are to have the staying power they lacked in the last campaign.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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