Premier league: the team-by-team guide

Will City retain their title despite a lack of summer signings? Can Swansea and Norwich survive the loss of managers? Jack Pitt-Brooke assesses the chances of each top-flight team

Arsenal

A relaxing summer?

No. But at least this time Arsène Wenger saw the departure of a key player (Robin van Persie) coming and signed replacements. Three very good players (Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla) have come in, providing Champions League experience but Alex Song could leave with the season underway.

Reasons to be excited?

Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla offer hope if they settle quickly. Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen can be a great partnership in defence. Jack Wilshere's return will be exciting – if it happens.

Reality check

After seven years without a trophy there's a fear this club has forgotten how to win.

Aston Villa

A relaxing summer?

The necessary changes have been made. Alex McLeish went, replaced by the dynamic, ambitious and ruthless Paul Lambert. He has started the clear-out of the tired old names: Emile Heskey, Carlos Cuellar and James Collins. Lambert has brought his own men in, from the Football League and abroad.

Reasons to be excited?

Lambert did a fine job at Norwich. If he can instil the same hunger in a more talented set, they will do well. There are great players at Villa – Stephen Ireland and Charles N'Zogbia for example.

Reality check

Transformation won't happen overnight. Villa have been drifting in the wrong direction for a long time.

Queen's Park Rangers

A relaxing summer?

Mark Hughes and technical director Mike Rigg have worked hard to upgrade a patch-work squad. Park Ji-sung, Rob Green, Ryan Nelsen, Andrew Johnson, Junior Hoillet and Fabio is a good haul of additions, while Joey Barton could be temporarily removed from the premises.

Reasons to be excited?

Hughes has brought in players to play his hard-running, canny, assertive style and has had a pre-season to work with them. Their most accomplished player, Alejandro Faurlin, is back from knee injury.

Reality check.

QPR were saved by their better players last season but at no point did they look like a team.

Reading

A relaxing summer?

After the long wait to have Anton Zingarevich's takeover approved, Reading have started to bring in players more suited to the Premier League. The most noteworthy is Pavel Pogrebnyak, the Russian centre-forward who showed high class at Fulham last year. Danny Guthrie also has top-flight experience.

Reasons to be excited?

Brian McDermott has done an excellent job since becoming manager, creating an open, friendly, trusting atmosphere which has brought the best out of his players.

Reality check.

When team unity is so strong, it is a risk to bring in new players who might disrupt it.

Liverpool

A relaxing summer?

This has been Liverpool's third consecutive summer of upheaval, with Brendan Rodgers eventually appointed as new manager. Attempting to bring his Swansea style to Anfield, he failed to sign Gylfi Sigurdsson but bought ex-Swan Fabio Borini from Roma and Joe Allen. Luis Suarez, crucially, has signed a new contract, too.

Reasons to be excited?

Given Rodgers' success with limited resources at Swansea, if he can teach Liverpool's superior players his game they can thrive. It will not happen overnight but he does have the basic materials.

Reality check

Liverpool have arguably been regressing since spring 2009.

Manchester City

A relaxing summer?

Winning the title proved hard enough and, after no major summer reinforcements, the glow of glory has faded amid squabbling over transfers. Roberto Mancini wanted Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie, as well as additions in defence and midfield, to bolster City's European assault.

Reasons to be excited?

City still have the best squad in the league, including the best striker, Sergio Aguero, and two best midfielders, David Silva and Yaya Touré. Winning the title the way they did will provide a belief that was lacking in the past.

Reality check.

City's rivals have improved this summer and City have not.

Southampton

A relaxing summer?

Southampton acted firmly this summer, adding players to an already skillful squad. Jay Rodgriguez from Burnley will add final-third spark, but Steven Davis and Nathaniel Clyne should also prove astute additions.

Reasons to be excited?

Saints have the most talented squad of the promoted sides. Rickie Lambert could well be the Grant Holt of this season. The players are as good as Norwich or Swansea's last year; they need to be just as fit and focused.

Reality check.

While Nigel Adkins' motivational style has driven Saints upwards, it is not certain to survive the attention and pressure of the Premier League.

Stoke City

A relaxing summer?

Stability is the key at Stoke. Tony Pulis is loyal to his way of playing and there will be no great re-examination of approach. Instead, the important work is the moving on of players who have outlasted their use – so Salif Diao, Ricardo Fuller and Jonathan Woodgate have all gone. Pulis has brought two new midfielders in, Michael Kightly from Wolves and Jamie Ness from Rangers.

Reasons to be excited?

Stoke are rather good at this now. Four seasons in the Premier League, four finishes between 11th and 14th.

Reality check.

Possession football is on the march in the top tier but Stoke show no signs of evolution.

Sunderland

A relaxing summer?

Although the team needs reinforcements, Sunderland have been strangely quiet so far. The only arrivals are Carlos Cuellar, whom Martin O'Neill managed at Aston Villa, and the injury-prone Louis Saha. The sooner they can agree a fee with Wolves for Steven Fletcher the better.

Reasons to be excited?

O'Neill is one of the great motivators in the English game, and if he can do the same again this season, Sunderland should be able to climb the table as Newcastle did last season.

Reality check.

With no real improvement in the playing staff, why should they start this season much better than they ended the last one?

Swansea City

A relaxing summer?

After two successful seasons in charge, Brendan Rodgers left in June for Liverpool. That ended Swans' hopes of keeping Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Joe Allen has followed Rodgers to Anfield. New manager Michael Laudrup has brought three players he knows from La Liga with him: Michu, Chico and Jonathan de Guzman.

Reasons to be excited?

Laudrup's arrival should minimise the teething problems that might be expected from Rodgers' departure. The team will not have a radically new style to learn.

Reality check

Laudrup's track record is mixed, and the task of re-energising the team will demand everything from him.

Tottenham Hotspur

A relaxing summer?

Despite their fourth-placed finish, Harry Redknapp was dismissed at the start of the summer. Andre Villas-Boas, his replacement, is almost the precise opposite – a young, tactical, technical coach who lacks Redknapp's motivational ability. He has overseen the signings of Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Reasons to be excited?

While Villas-Boas struggled at Chelsea, Tottenham is perfect for him. He has a young, flexible squad more likely to adapt to his methods than Chelsea ever were.

Reality check.

With Real Madrid hovering, the Luka Modric saga is threatening again to overshadow the start of the season.

West Bromwich Albion

A relaxing summer?

With Roy Hodgson leaving, West Brom had prior warning of their managerial vacancy and chose Steve Clarke, the well-respected and experienced former assistant manager at Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool.

Reasons to be excited?

Albion are a well-run club, built to survive even if managers leave or fail. So Clarke inherits a strong squad, who strengthened into a 10th place finish last year. New arrivals include the intriguing Claudio Yacob, Markus Rosenberg and Romelu Lukaku.

Reality check

Clarke's reputation suggests a good coach for a bottom-half team but not necessarily an entertainer.

West Ham United

A relaxing summer?

Sam Allardyce has been typically busy. He has stiffened the midfield, with the signings of Mohamed Diamé and Alou Diarra. Premier League veterans James Collins and Jussi Jaaskelainen have joined. Modibo Maiga has arrived to play up front but there is a need for another forward.

Reasons to be excited?

Allardyce is an expert at guiding teams with limited budgets to safety. His work at Bolton and Blackburn suggests that he will be able to secure West Ham's top-flight place.

Reality check

West Ham fans are not enamoured with Allardyce. If the team starts poorly then the atmosphere could curdle quickly.

Wigan Athletic

A relaxing summer?

For the second summer in a row, Roberto Martinez was close to a job at a bigger club but stayed at Wigan. He has so far signed from his two favourite transfer markets, Spain and Scotland: Ivan Ramis has joined from Mallorca, Fraser Fyvie from Aberdeen.

Reasons to be excited?

Wigan were brilliant when it mattered last season, beating Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United, dominating teams with their 3-4-3 formation and scoring excellent goals.

Reality check

Martinez cannot always rely on a resurrection at Easter. His team's poor starts raise serious questions.

Chelsea

A relaxing summer?

Since that famous night in Munich, Chelsea have acted with the confidence of champions, spending more money than they have done in years, rebalancing the squad towards youth and skill. They secured Eden Hazard and signed the very gifted Marko Marin before getting the best of the lot – Brazil's midfielder Oscar.

Reasons to be excited?

Chelsea now have more young, attacking talent than almost any other team in Europe. For a side whose successes are built on muscular experience this is an exciting development.

Reality check

It is far from clear Roberto Di Matteo knows how to win the Premier League.

Everton

A relaxing summer?

One of Everton's best for years. The only high-profile departure, Tim Cahill, was clearly declining last term and the arrival of Steven Naismith from Rangers should be an improvement. More importantly, Steven Pienaar has returned, and Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini have been retained.

Reasons to be excited?

Everton finished excellently last season, unbeaten in their last nine, and there is no reason they cannot start like that.

Reality check

Everton's squad is still much thinner than most of their rivals. And recent FA Cup final and semi-final defeats raise questions about big-game nerves.

Manchester United

A relaxing summer?

Upgrades were certainly required after United failed to win a single trophy and were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage. So Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell came in from Borussia Dortmund and Crewe Alexandra respectively before Robin van Persie's much-heralded arrival this week.

Reasons to be excited?

United have a better set of defenders than anyone in England, and with Nemanja Vidic back from injury they will not concede many.

Reality check.

Until United invest in some steel and authority in the middle of the pitch, they will not win the Premier or Champions League.

Newcastle United

A relaxing summer?

Newcastle have not lost any of their best players. There was speculation over Cheick Tioté, Tim Krul and Demba Ba but they are all still at the club. There has not been much recruitment, with main target Mathieu Debuchy yet to arrive.

Reasons to be excited?

Newcastle have a very well balanced first XI. The midfield pair of Tioté and Yohan Cabaye complement each other perfectly. They have two explosive strikers in Papiss Demba Cissé and Ba. And the league's most gifted player in Hatem Ben Arfa.

Reality check.

There is very little depth to the squad. An injury to Cabaye, Tioté or Ben Arfa would be disastrous.

Fulham

A relaxing summer?

After losing managers in the summers of 2010 and 2011, Fulham are now in a more stable state with the continuation of Martin Jol. The non-playing row with Clint Dempsey is untimely but last season's ninth place can be improved on given the class in their squad.

Reasons to be excited?

Fulham are a more technical, intelligent side than many of the teams around them.

Reality check

Like many comparable sides, Fulham must know that unless they play brilliantly all year their season will drift into relative insignificance, and if it does, it will be harder to keep their best players interested.

Norwich City

A relaxing summer?

Norwich must have known Paul Lambert would eventually leave but it was painful to lose the manager as they did, at the start of this summer to Aston Villa. Chris Hughton's appointment, along with some new arrivals, has provided some late-summer stability.

Reasons to be excited?

Hughton has an excellent track record at Newcastle United and then Birmingham City, displaying astute man-management skills, football nous and budget awareness.

Reality check

Lambert created a squad fiercely loyal to him and with his departure much of that atmosphere will dissipate too.

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