2015/16 Premier League Predictions: Who will finish in Top 4, Europa League and relegation zone
The 2015/16 Premier League season kicks off on 5 AugustFrom Charlie Adam's spectacle of a strike at Stamford Bridge to Leicester's inconceivable escape from the jaws of relegation, the 2014/15 Premier League season was overloaded with twists and turns. And ahead of this weekend's opening set of fixtures, fans anticipate much the same from the forthcoming campaign. This term sees the arrival of a host of prominent faces to the English game, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, who ended his Bayern Munich tenure to join Manchester United, and Roberto Firmino, the Brazillian revelation eager to make his mark at Liverpool. England's top flight will welcome Norwich City back to the big time after a one-season absence, while Bournemouth will be making their Premier League debut. Clubs will be eager to rectify the errors of last season, and every battle from top to bottom promises to be incredibly tight and competitive. Last season’s title-winning manager himself as claimed that any one of five sides could see their ribbons dress the Premier League trophy in May. And with all of the big clubs strengthening in at least one department, he couldn’t be more right.Whether we witness the tightest campagin to ever grace our screens or a season of complete domination by Mourinho’s Blues, the EPL is back in business, and the next 10 months promise plenty of excitement, desolation and astonishment. So what does the crystal ball say about the likely winners and losers this season?
The impulsive nature of a relegation dogfight can initiate free-fall for the biggest of clubs – take Portsmouth as an example. Last season, QPR, Burnley and perhaps most surprisingly of all, Hull City all faced the plunge, and lessons can be learned from these sides’ dismal fate.
QPR had the attacking potency to challenge for European competition, but a very leaky defence saw them exploited week-after-week. On the other hand, the longevity and intensity of the league season stung Burnley the most. However, Hull City embody just how brutal the Premier League is. Following a good summer’s spending, Steve Bruce’s side started the season poorly and maybe underestimated the threat of relegation as complacency killed off the Tigers.
Against this dreary backdrop of sides in decline, there is a spark of eagerness from the trio of sides promoted to the big time last term – Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City.
Runaway victors in England’s second tier last season, Bournemouth could stay up by the skin of their teeth and be the only one of the promoted sides to keep their heads above water. The enigmatic Callum Wilson and Ipswich-bound Brett Pitman netted just shy of 40 between them in 2014/15, while Matt Ritchie scored 14 himself. Showcasing a brand of attacking, fluid football under the watchful eye of hungry 37-year-old Eddie Howe, the spirit and humility of this Cherries side should carry them over the line comfortably.
Promoted following a faultless display in May’s play-off final against Middlesbrough, Norwich City responded to a slow start with a good second half to the season. But the Premier League could prove too much for Alex Neil’s side this season. Conceding a half-century of goals and averaging less than 80% pass accuracy last campaign, a stable set of players and eager attitude won’t do enough for the East-Anglian club who lack any game-changing players and move the ball too slowly for the EPL’s liking.
Watford’s multitude of summer signings could be their greatest downfall. They may fail to gel quickly, and a poor start from Quique Flores’ men could mean the writing would be on the wall very early. Troy Deeney could play a vital role (if they retain him), but even with their top-scorer last season, the Hornets could have a troublesome time of it this year.
Newcastle, Villa, West Brom, Sunderland and Leicester are not averse to being sucked into the relegation battle themselves; they all pose weaknesses which should be exposed at some stage this season. But Leicester look the most likely to face the drop. They have inferior experience of the league in recent seasons compared to Sunderland and West Brom, and with Pearson gone, Ranieri is raw to the English game and may seriously struggle to adapt.
Relegation Predictions: Leicester (18th), Norwich (19th) and Watford (20th)