With the Premier League finally ready to get underway after what seems like an eternity (it was only three months ago that we said goodbye to the 2012/13 Premier League), we take a look at how each shapes up to tackle the new season.
Will this be the year? It might be the season Arsenal spend serious money, but it not the one they win the title. Even the first ambition is proving problematic though retaining Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere at least breaks the selling trend. There’s quality in Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Laurent Koscielny while Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud will be better for last years’ experience here. Yet there are doubts about the goalkeeping and Wilshere’s ability to stay fit while the pursuit of Luis Suarez underlines the absence of a title-winning forward.
MANAGER: Arsene Wenger
KEY SIGNINGS: Yaya Sanogo (Auxerre, free)
KILLER STAT: Arsenal have won the joint-most Premier League points in 2013 - 40, along with Manchester United.
LAST SEASON: 4th
Christian Benteke scored 40 per cent of Villa’s goal last season so keeping him is as important as any signing though Paul Lambert will hope this year’s recruits include an equally spectacular discovery. Villa’s survival was welcome after Lambert put his faith in young talent rather than lavishly-paid veterans and all concerned will be stronger for the experience. It is a shame Villa have shopped overseas this season and not in the Championship, but they are hardly unique in that. Need a good campaign at the back from Ron Vlaar.
MANAGER: Paul Lambert
KEY SIGNINGS: Jores Okore (Nordsjaelland, £4m), Leandro Bacuna (Groningen, £3m), Aleksandar Tonev (Lech Poznan, £2.5m), Antonio Luna (Seville, £2m), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg, £1.2m), Jed Steer (Norwich, free).
KILLER STAT: Conceded more league goals last season (69) than in any since 1986/87.
LAST SEASON: 15th
Cruised to the Football League title after a series of near misses, a consistency that augurs well, and since broken their transfer record three times strengthening the team’s spine. Questions remain, however, about squad depth and the popular Malky Mackay may need to call in a favour or two in the loan market. Mackay needs Craig Bellamy to stay fit and bring his experience to bear. Survival, and beating Swansea, will be success but, with Hull now Tigers, will owner Vincent Tan go ahead and rebrand this City as Dragons?
MANAGER: Malky Mackay
KEY SIGNINGS: Gary Medel (Seville, £11m), Steven Caulker (Tottenham, £8m), Andreas Cornelius (Copenhagen, £7.5m), John Brayford (Derby, £1.5m).
KILLER STAT: Set a new club record for points in a season – 87 last season.
LAST SEASON: 1st (Championship)
Jose Mourinho’s back, slightly older and greyer, more mature (possibly), and still special. Chelsea had the strongest squad in the league last season and will do again this campaign even if Wayne Rooney doesn’t sign. With new men at both Manchester clubs Chelsea start favourites; the only issue is how long it takes Mourinho to impose his philosophy on a squad that has changed playing style too often in recent years and now has several players who look a bit lightweight for his approach.
MANAGER: Jose Mourinho
KEY SIGNINGS: Andre Schürrle (Bayer Leverkusen, £18m), Marco van Ginkel (Vitesse Arnhem, £9m), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham, free).
KILLER STAT: Played 69 games in all competitions last season - a record number of games played in a season for any club in the Premier League era.
LAST SEASON: 3rd
Palace’s fifth attempt at the Premier League: the last four all ended in immediate relegation and there are few reasons to think this will be any different. With Wilfried Zaha at Old Trafford and Glenn Murray injured the squad looks weaker than last year. The window is not shut yet but Ian Holloway is finding recruitment difficult. Julian Speroni is a good ‘keeper in, there is promise in Jonny Williams and solidity in Mile Jedinak, but Ollie needs Dwight Gayle to show he’s worth £6m and Jose Campana to shine.
MANAGER: Ian Holloway
KEY SIGNINGS: Dwight Gayle (Peterborough, £5m), Jose Campana (Sevilla, £1.75m), Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal, free), Kevin Phillips (Blackpool, free)
KILLER STAT: Were awarded 19 penalties in all competitions - the most in English football.
LAST SEASON: 5th (Championship)
An intriguing culture shift has taken place at Goodison Park after a decade under David Moyes with Roberto Martinez bringing a Latin accent to a team previously noted for its Anglo-Saxon values. Much may depend on whether Martinez holds on to Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines – or, if they go, how much cash he can re-invest, and how well he does it. Gerard Deulofeu offers real class but may take time to settle – one hopes the Spaniard’s arrival does not impede Ross Barkley’s progress.
MANAGER: Roberto Martinez
KEY SIGNINGS: Arouna Koné (Wigan, £6m), Joel Robles (Atletico Madrid, £2m), Antolin Alcaraz (Wigan, free), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona, loan).)
KILLER STAT: Became first team in PL history to score AND concede in 16 consecutive games.
LAST SEASON: 6th
Chairman Mo has departed leaving Fulham at heights barely imagined when he bought. Mohamed Al Fayed’s last season was a strange campaign under Martin Jol with Fulham falling away after a bright start. Goals were a problem and the transfer dealings don’t look to have rectified that yet though Maarten Stekelenburg is a good acquisition in goal. If both Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt play in away games the midfield will be working hard. They will be worth watching on the good days though.
MANAGER: Martin Jol
KEY SIGNINGS: Maarten Stekelenburg (Roma, £4.76m), Sascha Riether (Cologne, £1.27m), Fernando Amorebieta (Athletic Bilbao, free), Derek Boateng (Dnipro, free), Adel Taarabt (QPR, loan).
KILLER STAT: Were the only side to fail to win a single game when conceding first.
LAST SEASON: 12th
Hull City AFC
Will the Tigers roar, or prove toothless? The name-changing furore has overshadowed a pre-season in which Steve Bruce has bought sensibly rather than extravagantly adding depth and quality to a squad that limped over the promotion line aided by loanees. More recruits will be required if a swift return is to be avoided but Bruce has experience and nous and it will be interesting to see if he pursues the ploy of playing a back three. A goalscoring start for Danny Graham would help hugely
MANAGER: Steve Bruce
KEY SIGNINGS: Tom Huddlestone (Tottenham, £5m), Curtis Davies (Birmingham, £2.25m), Ahmed Elmohamady (Sunderland, £2m), Allan McGregor (Besiktas, £1.8m), Yannick Sagbo (Evian, £1.5m), George Boyd (Peterborough, free), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan, free), Jake Livermore (Tottenham, loan).
KILLER STAT: Eighteen of Hull’s 24 Championship wins were by a one-goal margin.
LAST SEASON: 2nd (Championship)
It has been a difficult build-up for Brendan Rodgers’ remodelling of the once-dominant reds. The Luis Suarez affair could prove a damaging interruption whether he stays or goes and the manager may now have use his powers of persuasion on Daniel Agger as well. Rodgers is trying to bring an Iberian flavor to the play and with Roberto Martinez doing the same across Stanley Park will the Mersey derbies be stylish rather than spiky? Kolo Toure is a curious signing, he has looked well off the pace for two years.
MANAGER: Brendan Rodgers
KEY SIGNINGS: Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo, £9m), Simon Mignolet (Sunderland, £9m), Luis Alberto (Seville, £6.8m), Kolo Touré (Manchester City, free)
KILLER STAT: Scored 38 away goals - their highest amount in the top-flight since the 1989/90 season.
LAST SEASON: 7th
Bought well and early (albeit expensively) and can expect to push Chelsea all the way at home, but to the Gulf ownership an overdue European challenge is just as imperative. Much will depend on the Champions League draw, which could again be tough with City likely to be in the third seeding pot, but Manuel Pellegrini knows the territory well. With Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Roberto Mancini all departed the Etihad seems a happier place but the new signings may squeeze out every Englishman bar Joe Hart.
MANAGER: Manuel Pellegrini
KEY SIGNINGS: Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk, £30m), Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina, £22m), Jesus Navas (Seville, £17m), Alvaro Negredo (Seville, £16.4m)
KILLER STAT: Kept the most clean sheets last season, with 18.
LAST SEASON: 2nd
Awarding David Moyes a six-year contract was recognition of the initial difficulties he faces taking over a team that looks weaker than Manchester City and Chelsea despite winning the title. A frustrating summer in the transfer market (with David Gill perhaps missed as much as Sir Alex Ferguson) has been compounded by the Wayne Rooney saga and it could be a year of settling in. Moyes will come good, as long as the Glazers are as patient as their predecessors were with Ferguson. May end up targeting the FA Cup – last won in 2004.
MANAGER: David Moyes
KEY SIGNINGS: Guillermo Varela (Penarol, £2.4m)
KILLER STAT: Had twenty different scorers in the Premier League last season - a new record.
LAST SEASON: 1st
Less than three years into the job and Alan Pardew is the second-longest serving manager in the top flight. After last season’s slump, and Joe Kinnear’s arrival, he is also favourite to be the first sacked. Recruitment has not gone as planned with only two Frenchmen arriving, barely enough to eat into the croissant mountain Mike Ashley must be trying to shift, but at least Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye remain, so far. Europa League the target, despite the fixture problems it brings, but oh, for a cup.
MANAGER: Alan Pardew
KEY SIGNINGS: Olivier Kemen (Metz, undisclosed), Loic Remy (QPR, loan).
KILLER STAT: Used nine different French players in the Premier League last season - the most from one overseas country in a single campaign.
LAST SEASON: 16th
The new £13.5m strike-force is recognition that the Canaries needed freshening up in attack and for once the answer was not to be found at Elland Road, not in Luciano Becchio anyway. Gary Hooper could make a bid for England recognition, Leroy Fer looks a shrewd purchase and Nathan Redmond has potential but City could still do with a new centre-half. This is now as much Chris Hughton’s team as Paul Lambert’s and he will be judged as such, but the unflappable manager need not fear that.
MANAGER: Chris Hughton
KEY SIGNINGS: Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Sporting, £8.5m), Leroy Fer (FC Twente, £7m), Gary Hooper (Celtic, £5m), Nathan Redmond (Birmingham, £2.2m), Martin Olsson (Blackburn, £2.5m)
KILLER STAT: Finish of 11th last seasonwas Norwich’s highest top flight league finish for 20 years.
LAST SEASON: 11th
Ambition simmers at St Mary’s with more than £50m spent since they returned to the top flight last year and more investment planned. As significant as the new recruits – of which Victor Wanyama looks the best - has been the ability to persuade Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse not to follow the exit path once taken by Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Europe is the target and if this season may be too early for that a top-half finish is more likely than relegation.
MANAGER: Mauricio Pochettino
KEY SIGNINGS: Victor Wanyama (Celtic, £12.5m), Dejan Lovren (Lyons, £8.5m)
KILLER STAT: Lost 29 points from winning positions in the Premier League last season - the most in the top-flight.
LAST SEASON: 14th
As at Old Trafford and Goodison Park, there is a change of regime after a long period of settled management. Mark Hughes’ job is as hard as that facing David Moyes and Roberto Martinez for Stoke were on the slide last season as Tony Pulis attempted, with mixed results, to evolve a previously successful style. Hughes has himself much to prove after the QPR fiasco but arrives just as the money tap is being turned off without any sign of academy graduates filling the void.
MANAGER: Mark Hughes
KEY SIGNINGS: Erik Pieters (PSV Eindhoven, £3m), Alex Grant (Portsmouth, free), Marc Muniesa (Barcelona, free).
KILLER STAT: Jon Walters has played in the last 91 Premier League games - the longest current run of consecutive appearances by a PL outfield player.
LAST SEASON: 13th
This could be a thrilling season of triumph, a rare-top-half finish with the passionate and demanding manager proving an inspirational force as he blends his ten (to date) new signings. Or it could end in tears with Paolo Di Canio either sacked or walking out as a fractured dressing room implodes. Either way it will certainly be lively on Wearside. Di Canio needs Adam Johnson to finally deliver a consistent season and either Keiren Westwood or Vito Mannone to step up to replace the superb Simon Mignolet.
MANAGER: Paolo Di Canio
KEY SIGNINGS: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, £6.5m), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus, £6.5m), Vito Mannone (Arsenal, £1.5m), David Moberg Karlsson (IFK Gothenburg, £1.5m)
KILLER STAT: Home fans saw just 39 goals at the Stadium of Light last season - the fewest in the Premier League.
LAST SEASON: 17th
The Swans’ dream threatened to turn sour during the summer as Michael Laudrup’s agent fell out with the club amid rumours that the Dane had ambitions elsewere. Then the board coughed up for Wilfried Bony and the Ivorian began with a bang in the Europa League. Suffered second-seasonitis when last in the top flight 30 years ago, but need not fear a repeat even with the added complication of the Europa League. Jonjo Shelvey has to seize the chance to show he can do his talking with his feet.
MANAGER: Michael Laudrup
KEY SIGNINGS: Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem, £12m), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool, £5m), Jordi Amat (Espanyol, £2.5m).
KILLER STAT: Would have been relegated without Michu’s 18 league goals last season - which won them an extra 10 points.
LAST SEASON: 9th
At times the task of overhauling Arsenal to reach the Champions League appears a Sisyphusian task, one not helped by Daniel Levy’s fondness for last-minute transfer window brinkmanship. The chairman has, though, backed Andre Villas-Boas handsomely in the transfer market allowing the Portuguese to bring in goals (Roberto Soldado), creativity (Nacer Chadli) and bite (Etienne Capoue), plus in Paulinho a player who combines all three qualities. Much, though, depends on the conclusion of the Gareth Bale saga. Has AVB already spent half the fee?
MANAGER: Andre Villas-Boas
KEY SIGNINGS: Roberto Soldado (Valencia, £26m), Paulinho (Corinthians, £17m), Etienne Capoue (Toulouse, £8.6m), Nacer Chadli (FC Twente, £7m).
KILLER STAT: One of two teams not to be awarded a Premier League penalty last season.
LAST SEASON: 5th
Fell away last season after an excellent first few months and are now without the goals and power of Romelu Lukaku. Nicolas Anelka might provide the first but he will need good service to feet. With Diego Lugano also hired Steve Clarke has gone for experience to steady the Baggies. More new arrivals are expected – and required – to ensure no relegation worries surface. Not lost any of last season’s main players – though Clarke would surely be happy to move on the frustrated and frustrating Peter Odemwingie.
MANAGER: Steve Clarke
KEY SIGNINGS: Nicolas Anelka (Shanghai Shenhua, free), Diego Lugano (Paris St-Germain, free) Zoltan Gera (unattached), Matej Vydra (Udinese, loan), Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan).
KILLER STAT: Finish of eighth in the Premier League last season was their highest league finish in 32 years.
LAST SEASON: 8th
West Ham United
Still not everyone’s ‘cup of Rosy’ in east London but Sam Allardyce has overseen promotion followed by a top-ten top-flight finish so he must be doing quite a lot right. Signing Andy Carroll on a permanent basis, and adding Stewart Downing, gives a strong clue as to how the Hammers will play this year, but it is not all direct football by any means. Need to keep Carroll fit and Mohamed Diame interested as they count down to the Olympic Stadium. Could be the breakthrough year for Ravel Morrison.
MANAGER: Sam Allardyce
KEY SIGNINGS: Andy Carroll (Liverpool, £15m), Stewart Downing (Liverpool, £5m), Adrian (Real Betis, free), Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk, free).
KILLER STAT: Scored the fewest away goals in the Premier League last season, with just 11.
LAST SEASON: 10th
Sky kicks off its biggest ever Premier League season with live coverage of Swansea v Man United on Sky Sports 1, Sky 2 and Pick TV tomorrow. www.skysports.com/football