Premier League 2017 preview part 1: Arsenal to Liverpool

The Premier League gets underway this weekend, so we here at FOX Sports Asia have decided to have look at the prospects of all 20 teams.

Will Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side be able to avoid a “Mourinho season” and defend their title, or will Arsenal and Liverpool find a solution to their relative frailties to challenge for honours?

And who out of the Premier League new boys will be able to survive after making the step up?

Check out Part 1 of our Ultimate Guide to all 20 teams.

ARSENAL

SIGNINGS: Alexandre Lacazette’s arrival from Lyon has been a boost for Arsene Wenger, as he was able to lure a big name despite dropping out of the top four. The Frenchman brings a clinical eye for goal to challenge Olivier Giroud’s physicality. Should Alexis Sanchez stay, then Wenger will have a full range of attacking options: the speed of Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck to the artistry of Mesut Ozil, the finishing of Lacazette, power of Giroud, and the world class of Sanchez. Sead Kolasinac also looks like he could be a good signing following his debut goal on Sunday against Chelsea.

THE GAFFER: Can Wenger do it on a cold Thursday night in the Europa League? That, along with the quest to return to a title challenge, is the next frontier for Wenger after he survived last season’s dogged “Wenger Out” campaign. He looks like he’ll use a back three, showing a willingness to experiment. But, how will he manage a season sure to be played with a backdrop of Sanchez and Ozil speculation.
FIRST SIX GAMES: Leicester (h), Stoke (a), Liverpool (a), Bournemouth (h), Chelsea (a), West Brom (h)
A GOOD SEASON IS … Arsenal back in contention for the Premier League, maintaining a challenge for the whole of the season while showing a stronger mentality than last term.
A BAD SEASON IS … Missing out on the Champions League.

OVERALL: Arsenal are in decent shape heading into the new season, and on paper, should contend. Sead Kolasinac – a potential crowd favourite – plus Hector Bellerin, and, potentially Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain present Wenger with good options to complement his new system. Of more importance is whether the Gunners can thrive in the middle of the park: it’s time to see the best of Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, particularly given Santi Cazorla’s return is not imminent. The attacking riches are there: is the stability, concentration, mentality and defensive fortitude? Having the worst defence in the top six last term, Wenger has tweaked his tactics to try and accommodate that.

BOURNEMOUTH
SIGNINGS:
Nathan Ake was so influential on loan for the first half of last season, Bournemouth have gone and splashed the cash to sign him from Chelsea. Also arriving from the Bridge was Asmir Begovic, who should also prove a safe pair of hands

THE GAFFER: At 39, Eddie Howe is still the baby of the EPL managers but has been impressive in his first two campaigns in the top flight. He guided the club to their first ever top half finish playing easy on the eye football. Can he do it again?

FIRST SIX GAMES: West Brom (a), Watford (h), Man City (h), Arsenal (a), Brighton (h), Everton (a)
A GOOD SEASON IS … a Europa spot or run deep in Cup competitions while maintaining a top half finish.
A BAD SEASON IS … the Cherries fail to keep punching above their weight and end up in the Championship.

OVERALL: Three major ins (Begovic, Ake, and Jermain Defoe) means Bournemouth have strengthened after their best ever Premier League finish. There have been some big spending clubs who will vie for top half finishes, but with an astute manager, Bournemouth will be hoping to consolidate after last season.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
SIGNINGS: Mat Ryan joined from Valencia to start between the sticks for the EPL new boys, while they have just dropped £6 million on PSV’s Davy Propper.

THE GAFFER: Chris Hughton had a stint in charge of Newcastle and Norwich in the Premier League before guiding Brighton to the top flight.
FIRST SIX GAMES: Man City (h), Leicester (a), Watford (a), West Brom (h), Bournemouth (a), Newcastle (h)
A GOOD SEASON IS … the underdogs escaping from the relegation scrap heap.
A BAD SEASON IS … going straight back where they came from.

OVERALL: Propper aside, the Seagulls have brought in Pascal Gross and Markus Suttner from relegated Bundesliga club Ingolstadt, a youngster from Celtic and a Chelsea loanee. Add the arrival of Ryan in goal and Brighton may have a chance, although goals could be a struggle. They’re hoping for stability to see one of the true fairy tale promotion stories continue, but they’re up against it.

BURNLEY
SIGNINGS:
A versatile midfielder in his prime with vast Premier League experience, Jack Cork is a sound signing from Swansea for $17m. Jonathan Walters and Phil Bardsley from Stoke also add experience to the equation.

THE GAFFER: Sean Dyche has delivered two promotions and a 40 percent win record over five years as boss of Burnley and earned a reputation for overachieving with the EPL minnows.

FIRST SIX GAMES: Chelsea (a), West Brom (h), Spurs (a), Palace (h), Liverpool (a), Huddersfield (h)
A GOOD SEASON IS … picking up a few wins on the road to add to their solid home form
A BAD SEASON IS … they go back to the Championship to continue their yo-yo recent record.

OVERALL: With one away win in 19 attempts last season, and just seven points on the road, Burnley fans will be gulping at the sight of games against Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool to start the season. The Clarets escaped the drop by four points and will do well to escape again.

CHELSEA
SIGNINGS:
Alvaro Morata links with former Juventus boss Conte in an £60 million deal and the Italian needs his Spanish marksman to step up, quickly, given Chelsea are 20 goals down on last season thanks to the ruthless treatment dished out to Diego Costa. Nemanja Matic’s exit to Manchester United makes the signing of Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko even more vital. Antonio Rudiger will also provide more options at centre back.

THE GAFFER: Success comes naturally to Conte, who returned Chelsea to the summit last year on the back of his 3-4-3 formation. Being the hunted presents its challenges this season, and you get the sense the former Juventus and Italy manager is acutely aware of them.
FIRST SIX GAMES: Burnley (h), Tottenham (a) Everton (h), Leicester (a), Arsenal (h), Stoke (a)
A GOOD SEASON IS … another title tilt, balanced with a good Champions League run.
A BAD SEASON IS … history repeats – even to a lesser extent – and Chelsea’s failure to replenish a title winning squad ends in a poor Premier League defence.

OVERALL: Chelsea’s Community Shield side was much like their PL title team minus Costa, while Eden Hazard will miss the start of the campaign recovering from injury. The first XI is strong; but what about the options off the bench? Also, it’s a big ask for Moses and Marcos Alonso to replicate their 2016-17 campaigns, where they enjoyed the seasons of the lives. Conte’s desperately trying to lure further wingbacks; if not as upgrades, then at worst, contingencies. Chelsea’s defence was actually bailed out over the last few months of the season by the free flowing scoring; there were signs at the International Champions Cup that there are still a few flaws to iron out yet. Rudiger could be the answer. With the jury still out on Michy Batshuayi, it wouldn’t surprise to see another striker added to the squad.

CRYSTAL PALACE
SIGNING:
Jairo Riedewald is just 20 but has already played more than 90 first team games for Dutch giants Ajax. Last season he was a big part of their Europa League run and can play in multiple positions.

THE GAFFER: A Dutch legend, Frank De Boer’s success in charge of Ajax saw Inter Milan come knocking. Just 14 games later he was gone but his appointment will be a coup for Palace if he can replicate his record in the Eredivisie.
FIRST SIX GAMES: Huddersfield (h), Liverpool (a), Swansea (h), Burnley (a), Southampton (h), Man City (a)
A GOOD SEASON IS … a top half finish after two seasons of struggle.
A BAD SEASON IS … a fourth manager in two seasons will surely be the worst case scenario.

OVERALL: Palace had the third worst home record in the Premier League and have only brought in two new players. You can expect De Boer to promote possession style football but that is a big shift from Sam Allardyce so it could take time to bed in. Getting the money together to sign Mamadou Sakho could prove crucial.

EVERTON
SIGNINGS:
Wayne Rooney’s return may have got the football world talking, but Sandro Ramirez is one to keep an eye out for. A goal every two games for Malaga and an impressive run in the U21 Euros means he could make an impact.

THE GAFFER: Ronald Koeman has spent big this off season and he acted early. He lead the Toffees to seventh place last campaign and will be expected to better that.
FIRST SIX GAMES: Stoke (h), Man City (a), Chelsea (a), Spurs (h), Man United (a), Bournemouth (h)
A GOOD SEASON IS … some big wins to start the season and set the tone for another Europa League spot – or to go even better and bridge the gap and shock the top six by knocking a big gun out.
A BAD SEASON IS … four losses from the first six start the alarm bells ringing in a horror kick-off.

OVERALL: Everton spent 24 weeks in seventh place last season. They were a long way behind Manchester United and even further away from Southampton below them. But despite splashing big bucks on 10 new signings, there is a huge gulf between Everton and the big dogs. Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane will help bolster the defence, but there’s still the fear that Romelu Lukaku hasn’t been adequately replaced so it will be up to Rooney and Ramirez to prove the doubters wrong. The arrival of 26-year-old Dutch midfielder Jordy Clasie also augurs well for building on Koeman’s first season. Continuing their formidable Goodison Park form is also a key.

HUDDERSFIELD
SIGNINGS:
Huddersfield’s player of the year and Socceroo Aaron Mooy has signed permanently from Manchester City for £8m.

THE GAFFER: David Wagner was tipped to be leading a relegation contender last season. Instead he earned promotion with Huddersfield. Charismatic like his good friend Jurgen Klopp, the former Dortmund reserve coach has wowed with his fast paced, pressing style.
FIRST SIX GAMES: Palace (a), Newcastle (h), Southampton (h), West Ham (a), Leicester (h), Burnley (a)
A GOOD SEASON IS … stay up, no matter how convincing or otherwise.
A BAD SEASON IS … embarrassment and straight back to where they came from.

OVERALL: It won’t be easy for Huddersfield despite their flurry of off-season activity. They have next to no top flight experience in their squad and that could prove costly. Wagner’s role will be critical; but can they adapt their high octane pressing style with the step up in quality from the Championship to the Premier League – or – will they be able to find the balance between that energy and something more shrewd to survive the various challenges that come their way this term?

LEICESTER
SIGNINGS:
Kelechi Iheanacho scored a goal every 90 minutes last season for Manchester City. Just 20, that record is scary good and he has the potential to complement Jamie Vardy, playing in behind him. The recruitment of Hull defender Harry Maguire could also strengthen the defence as Wes Morgan and Robert Huth struggled somewhat last term.

THE GAFFER: He was there for Nigel Pearson and then for Claudio Ranieri. Now it’s Craig Shakespeare’s turn in charge after signing a permanent contract at the end of last season. Shakespeare steadied the Foxes after some squad unrest in Ranieri’s title defence season.
FIRST SIX GAMES: Arsenal (a), Brighton (h), Man United (a), Chelsea (h), Huddersfield (a), Liverpool (h)
A GOOD SEASON IS … a return to the top half of the Premier League.
A BAD SEASON IS … the players get tired of the coach, again, and get drawn into a bottom half scrap. Leicester only know drama – be it up, or down. Foxes fans might actually hope for something in between this season. One pre-season win against Luton, MK Dons, Wolverhampton and Burton Albion doesn’t augur too well.

OVERALL: Leicester dropped back to mid-table mediocrity after the fairytale of 2015-16. They aren’t helped this season with four games against the top six to start the new campaign and with Riyad Mahrez pushing for an exit (while Danny Drinkwater is still being linked with Chelsea) you can’t see the Foxes having the x-factor to cause too many upsets. Demarai Gray is at least a straight replacement for the Algerian but his mercurial skill is vital to any potential success.

LIVERPOOL
SIGNINGS:
Mohamed Salah has joined in a club record deal and made a real impact in pre-season, scoring four goals. He adds pace and directness to an already threatening front line and should form a potent attack, and take the burden off, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and co. The signing of wantaway Saint Virgil van Dijk would make it a productive summer for Klopp, despite his insistence that his defence in at full strength.

THE GAFFER: Jurgen Klopp delivered Champions League football in his first full season in charge but a trophy and another top four finish is needed for a club that hasn’t won silverware since 2012.
FIRST SIX GAMES: Watford (a), Palace (h), Arsenal (h), Man City (a), Burnley (h), Leicester (a)
A GOOD SEASON IS … a title run, especially after the Reds started last season so strongly but weren’t able to overcome the festive period fixture hump.
A BAD SEASON IS … missing out on Champions League football, with depth in the centre of midfield and defence exposed, particularly with Adam Lallana out to start the season.

OVERALL: Liverpool have so far managed to retain Philippe Coutinho from the grasp of Barcelona, recruited smartly and have gone undefeated (after 90 minutes) in pre-season. But despite this, without the arrival of van Dijk Klopp’s defence once again looks shaky. With Lallana out, Jordan Henderson cannot afford another stint absent this season if Liverpool want to play at their desired tempo, and feed the attacking riches up top – particularly when opponents sit back and try and frustrate the Reds, as happened last term at times. Beating those lesser teams holds the key to the Reds building on last season’s finish.

Click here for part two

A version of this story originally appeared on FOX Sports Australia.

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