2016-17 Barclays Premier League Team by Team Guide and Predictions

The 2016-17 Premier League season is about to return. Are you ready? Not without The Mastermind‘s 2016-17 Barclays Premier League Team by Team Guide and Predictions you aren’t. With loads of new managers and a heap of exciting new players, an exhilarating season is on it’s way. Here is the guide to every single team and what you need to know going into the 2016-17 season.

Arsenal Arsenal

Predicted Finish: 4th 

Arsenal will likely struggle to accomplish anything spectacular again under the influence of Arsene Wenger in 2016-17. Although they finished 2nd in the table in 2015-16 they had a very disappointing season and basically lucked into their 2nd place position with Tottenham’s end of season collapse. Giroud is fantastic but isn’t a Premier League title winning striker and his guaranteed spot in the XI won’t do Arsenal a world of good next season. Meanwhile, Xhaka is the only noteworthy signing that the Gunners have made during the transfer window and isn’t exactly the type of signing that brings optimism around the club that this could be their year. Instead of raising the Premier League title again once and for all, Arsene Wenger’s team are likely to have to settle for another fourth place finish.

Predicted Starting XI

arsenal-predicted-starting-xi

The only major change to their 2nd place lineup from last season will be Granit Xhaka coming into the midfield and likely stealing a spot away from French midfielder Francis Coquelin. Gabriel Paulista played in 21 matches last season for Arsenal, just two less than Per Mertesacker and could take away the German veteran’s spot in the team this season on a permanent basis. Players like Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez are coming off of excellent displays at summer tournaments for their national sides and are going to need to carry that form over to the Premier League if Arsenal are going to have any shot at winning the title. Cazorla could also come back into the side after spending a lengthy time out injured during the 2015-16 season but he’ll have to fight for his spot in the team against the aforementioned Francis Coquelin and Egyptian midfielder Mohammed Elneny.

Key Player: Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil 3

Mesut Ozil was Arsenal’s Player of the Year last season scoring 6 goals with 19 assists in 35 matches and will need to be on top of his game again in 2016-17. Although Alexis Sanchez is also absolutely crucial to the side, it’s Mesut Ozil who typically has more influence on their success. When he’s playing well, Arsenal play well, and when he goes missing in games, Arsenal struggle. So creative and so comfortable and inventive on the ball, the German World Cup winner will be Arsenal’s most crucial player this season and will likely be the top assist provider not only for the team but for the entire league as well.

Breakthrough Player: Alex Iwobi

Alex Iwobi

If Arsenal’s injury troubles continue in 2016-17, Alex Iwobi may get a very good shot to play a number of games for the Gunners this season. The midfielder came to life for the club towards the end of the 2015-16 season, scoring 2 goals with 2 assists in 13 matches at only the age of 19. Now a year older with more experience under his belt, he could be a dangerous weapon for the Gunners to use more often this season.

Transfer Talk

Granit Xhaka 2

Granit Xhaka (pictured above) is the only signing at Arsenal that is worth talking about and is likely to slot right into the team without any difficulty. Arsenal were linked with moves for a number of players over the summer as they always are, but didn’t end up making any noteworthy signings apart from the Swiss midfielder. Mahrez, Vardy and Lacazette were all likely to leave their clubs and join Arsenal if one is to believe the masquerade that English newspapers present to us on a daily basis, but the Gunners instead have decided to stick with the squad they have in their attempt to win the title. Sorry Arsene Wenger, but it’s not going to work.

Other Predictions

Arsene Wenger boooo

  • Arsene Wenger will be sacked at the end of the season.
  • Olivier Giroud will be heavily criticized despite being Arsenal’s top scorer once again.
  • Arsenal will make it to the semi-final of the FA Cup.

Bournemouth Bournemouth

Predicted Finish: 17th

Bournemouth had an excellent first ever season in the Premier League in 2015-16 as they survived relegation by 5 points. Now they enter the 2016-17 season with a new look and new players but still with the same goal in mind, to stay in the Premier League. Bournemouth should survive relegation again in 2016-17, especially after taking the time to improve their squad during the off-season. However, finishing higher than their 16th place finish last season will be a tough task and they may just have to settle for near survival in the form of 17th place.

Predicted Starting XI

bournemouth-predicted-xi-change

Eddie Howe has a lot of tactical flexibility with his formations so his lineup could be subject to change game by game. However, these 11 players could be the one’s that feature the most for the Cherries this season. Jordan Ibe and Brad Smith should come straight into the side after arriving from Liverpool, while Callum Wilson could also feature prominently this season after returning from injury. Adam Smith (no relation to Brad Smith) and Nathan Ake could also come into the back four if injuries occur while Dan Gosling, Junior Stanislas, Lys Mousset and Benfik Afobe are all going to be other attacking options for Howe to use when he wants to change things up. The fact that there is a lot of competition for places in this side is a very good problem for Eddie Howe to have and shows just how far Bournemouth have come since their League 2 days.

Key Player: Simon Francis

Simon Francis

Not only is Simon Francis one of Bournemouth’s best players, but he’s also a fantastic leader. With a lengthy injury to Tommy Elphick last season, Francis featured several times as the captain of the side and led his team brilliantly to safety. Now with Elphick out of the picture, Francis won’t only be the club’s most important player but will also be their captain on a permanent basis. The English defender’s versatility will also come in handy for the Cherries this season as last season he played in all 38 matches, 20 of those were at centre back and 18 of those were at right back. Francis also assisted four goals last season and made more tackles and clearances than any other Bournemouth player. AFC Bournemouth have loads of good attacking options, but it’s a defender in Simon Francis that will be their most important player as they look to survive another year in the league.

Breakthrough Player: Jordan Ibe

Jordan Ibe

Jordan Ibe was an easy selection for Bournemouth’s breakthrough player of the season as he arrived from Liverpool during the off-season for 15 million pounds. Ibe is a fantastic dribbler, has loads of pace and a good eye for goal. He’ll serve as the perfect replacement for Matt Ritchie in the side and he’ll be even more important to the Cherries than Ritchie ever was. The 20 year old will likely be the source of all of Bournemouth’s attacks and could be their leading goal scorer next season. Jordan Ibe will certainly be on a mission to show Liverpool and Klopp what they’re missing out on as he looks to fulfill his full potential at his new club.

Transfer Talk

Nathan Ake

AFC Bournemouth have been busier than most in the summer transfer window as they have made several new signings in an attempt to strengthen their squad and ensure safety again in 2016-17. 20-year old English winger Jordan Ibe is the most notable player to enter the frame as he arrives from Liverpool for £15 million, while his Liverpool teammate, Brad Smith has also made moves to the Cherries for £3 million. Nathan Ake has also arrived on loan from Chelsea but is unlikely to feature quite as heavily for the Cherries as he did for Watford last season, while 20 year old French forward Lys Mousset and 19 year old midfielder Lewis Cook have also made moves to the club as Bournemouth look to strengthen their squad not only for the present but for the future as well. In terms of noteworthy departures, last season’s captain Tommy Elphick has been picked up by Aston Villa, Lee Tomlin has gone to Bristol City and Matt Ritchie has made a massive move to Newcastle United for £12 million.

Other Predictions

Football - Barclays Premier League - WBA v Bournemouth

  • Eddie Howe will be one of the favourites to take over the England job after Sam Allardyce flames out.
  • No Bournemouth player will net more than 10 goals.
  • Charlie Daniels will be one of the highest assisting defenders in the league.

Burnley Burnley

Predicted Finish: 19th 

Although they managed to bounce straight back up after being relegated in 2014-15, Burnley are likely to go right back down in 2016-17. Sean Dyche is still an excellent manager who could oversee a top club some day, while Andre Gray is a promising young striker who could lead Burnley to safety, but other than that Burnley really don’t have anything spectacular that could keep them safe this season. The side is probably only slightly better than it was back when they were relegated in 2014-15 and they enter the season as one of the clear favourites to be relegated once again. Burnley are certainly set for a difficult season ahead.

Predicted Starting XI

burnley-predicted-xi (2)

Burnley are likely to lineup in a pretty similar fashion to how they did in 2015-16. Joey Barton’s departure means that Johann Berg Gudmundsson is likely to play a role after having a very successful Euro 2016 campaign with Iceland, and Jon Flanagan could come straight into the side after a loan from Liverpool, but other than that it’s pretty much the same 11 that earned them promotion back in 2015-16. Defenders Stephen Ward, Tendayi Darikwa and Michael Duff could come into the side, however Sean Dyche might not change his side a whole awful lot. Elsewhere in the side, one of England’s three Euro 2016 goalkeepers, Tom Heaton, lines up in goal, Michael Keane, George Boyd and Matthew Lowton provide a lot of Premier League experience between them and Andre Gray is likely to be Burnley’s star man up top after leading the English Championship in goals last season.

Key Player: Tom Heaton

Tom Heaton.jpg

There are without a doubt going to be several good attack-minded players for Burnley this season, most notably George Boyd, Sam Vokes and Andre Gray but their most important player in their bid to remain safe this season is going to be their goalkeeper Tom Heaton. Heaton had an excellent season last year in the Championship, keeping 20 clean sheets in 46 matches to earn himself a spot on England’s Euro 2016 squad ahead of Ben Foster and is going to have another fantastic season this time around if Burnley are going to have any chance of staying up.

Breakthrough Player: Andre Gray

Burnley's Andre Gray during the Sky Bet League match between Derby County and Burnley played at The iPRO Stadium

Andre Gray won’t have a breakthrough year in the sense that he’s one of the league’s top goalscorers, nor will he have a breakthrough season in the sense that he’ll establish himself as a top striker in the league, however, I do expect Gray to catch the eye in a similar fashion to Danny Ings did back in 2014-15, where he scores enough goals and being relatively young, impresses enough to earn himself a big move away. Gray scored 23 goals with 8 assists last season in 41 Championship matches and could be set for a good scoring run in the Premier League in 2016-17 as well.

Transfer Talk

Johann Berg Gudmundsson

Since the start of the summer transfer window, Burnley have only made 3 new signings and have not worked tirelessly to try and stay in this league next season. 24 year old goalkeeper, Nick Pope has come in as a backup for Tom Heaton, fairly experienced but still young defender Jon Flanagan has arrived on loan from Liverpool, while Icelandic midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson has also arrived from Charlton Athletic and could be an important player to the team this season. Joey Barton meanwhile has been allowed to leave for Scottish club Rangers despite making the PFA Championship Team of the Year last season.

Other Predictions

  • Sean Dyche will not be sacked.
  • George Boyd will run the most kilometers in the league.

Chelsea Chelsea

Predicted Finish: 2nd

With the tactical genius coming in that is Antonio Conte, Chelsea should be alright to challenge for the Premier League title again in 2016-17. Additionally, if Eden Hazard’s form at Euro 2016 is anything to go by then he is back to his old self and won’t have any problem leading the charge for the title this season. The addition of N’Golo Kante to the side will also certainly prove to be an excellent signing and will allow Cesc Fabregas to get forward more, bringing the most out of his game. Conte is very good at keeping clean sheets and instilling a defensive mindset in his teams and if he can bring that same kind of mindset over to Chelsea, the Blues will not only challenge for the Premier League title but will also have a good shot at winning it.

Predicted Starting XI

chelsea-predicted-starting-xi

Although a new man with new philosophies is coming into the club, the starting 11 is likely to stay pretty much the same with Cahill coming in for Terry and Kante coming in to central midfield being the two main changes that Chelsea are likely to see this season. Kante’s addition allows Fabregas to get forward more but under Conte don’t be fooled into thinking that frees him up from any defensive duties. Kante will also bring the most out of both Matic and Eden Hazard as the Belgian winger could have to do less defending and be given more of a free role under Antonio Conte. Michy Batshuayi may have an important role to play coming off the bench, especially when Costa’s hamstring starts acting up but will likely be one for the future rather than for this immediate season. A switch-up to a 3-5-2 or a horrible spell of games for Branislav Ivanovic could also see Abdul Baba-Rahman or even Juan Cuadrado come into the side and give Chelsea a very different look. With the tactical flexibility that Antonio Conte has, Chelsea’s lineup will be one of the most interesting to keep an eye on all season.

Key Player: Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard Chelsea legend

Although N’Golo Kante will be extroadinarily key to Chelsea’s quest for the Premier League title, it’s the former Player of the Year Eden Hazard who will be Chelsea’s most important player of all. Hazard struggled last season, playing through a hip injury and not scoring a single goal all season until April. As a result, Chelsea also struggled. If Eden Hazard is on top of his game, Chelsea will succeed and likely will challenge for the title. But if Hazard isn’t up to his old tricks again this season, Chelsea very well may find and hard to score and create goals and may be in for another difficult season.

Breakthrough Player: Michy Batshuayi

Michy Batshuayi

With Diego Costa’s injury troubles season after season, Michy Batshuayi could be set for a major role at Chelsea in 2016-17. The Belgian striker showed his stuff in Belgium’s Round of 16 match against Hungary at Euro 2016 and could be ready to take his game to the next level with Chelsea in the Premier Leauge next season. The 22-year old scored 17 goals with 9 assists last season in Ligue 1 for Marseille and even though I expect Costa to be the Blues’ main striker, Batshuayi could be prepared to set the Premier Leauge on fire as well.

Transfer Talk

N'Golo Kante TOTS

N’Golo Kante has stunned everyone by leaving the Premier League title holders to join the side who finished in 10th last season. He will almost certainly come straight into the side no matter what formation Conte plays with and could prove to be the signing of the summer. Kante could be the driving force behind everything good for Chelsea this season and could help them win the title. Michy Batshuayi has also arrived from Marseille for a hefty price of £33 million but will likely be more of a backup option and one to showcase his talents in future years rather than in 2016-17. Going the other way, Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah has signed with Roma on a permanent basis for a fee of around £12.5 million. Chelsea have also been very busy finding various clubs to send their youngsters on loan for the season and most notably is Abdul Baba Rahman who has been sent over to Schalke 04, Bertrand Traore who will get a chance to play for Ajax in the Dutch top flight and Nathan Ake who has arrived at AFC Bournemouth.

Other Predictions

Antonio Conte Euro 2

  • Antonio Conte will try out the 3-5-2 formation but won’t rely on it for the entire season. He will also only narrowly lose the Manager of the Year award to Pep Guardiola.
  • Conte will also be the most theatrical manager on the sidelines and will be constantly screaming at his players all game long, even when they’re winning 4-0. He will lose his voice at least twice.
  • N’Golo Kante will lead the league in tackles and will make more interceptions in league play than any other player in Europe.
  • Thibaut Courtois will finish with the second-most amount of clean sheets in the league, while Eden Hazard will complete the second-most amount of dribbles.

Crystal Palace Crystal Palace

Predicted Finish: 12th

After a disappointing second half of the 2015-16 season, Alan Pardew is looking to have a much improved 2016-17 campaign after rebuilding his squad in the off-season. With exciting wingers like Yannick Bolasie, Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend in the side, as well as players who could play for pretty much any Premier League side they’d want in Scott Dann and Yohan Cabaye, Crystal Palace could be an impressive outfit in 2016-17. However, they still probably don’t have quite enough quality to finish in the top ten and their squad as a whole is far too inconsistent. That being said, a 12th place finish in the table will certainly be one that Pardew’s side looks back upon fondly as their main goal in the league is just to survive relegation.

Predicted Starting XI

crystal-predicted-xi

Crystal Palace’s lineup isn’t likely to change too much from last season but with three fantastic new signings, they won’t exactly have the same look about them either. Steve Mandanda was a surprise signing from Marseille and is likely to come in as first choice goalkeeper instead of Wayne Hennessey, James Tomkins could also come straight into the side after a 10 million pound move from West Ham United and replace Damien Delaney, while Andros Townsend’s £13 million move from Newcastle could mean Bolasie gets pushed inside as a ‘number ten’. Mile Jedinak had a superb ending to his 2015-16 campaign and could feature in defensive midfield instead of James McArthur, while his partner Yohan Cabaye will need to have a much improved 2016-17 season if Crystal Palace are to succeed this season.

Key Player: Scott Dann

Crystal Palace v West Bromwich Albion - Barclays Premier League

With Crystal Palace’s stunning lack of goals last season, Scott Dann was actually the club’s joint highest scorer in the league despite being a defender and scoring just 5 goals! Dann had an excellent season in the Premier League last year and was just about their only player that lived up to expectations and consistently played well the entire season. With his ability in both boxes he could be the most important player for the Eagles once again in 2016-17.

Breakthrough Player: Andros Towsend

Andros Townsend

Andros Townsend nearly helped Newcastle stay up last season and his fantastic displays with the Magpies earned him a surprise move to Crystal Palace. He’s always been a player with fantastic ability and if Alan Pardew can accommodate the English midfielder and fit him into his system, the 25-year old could be one of the Eagles’ most important players and establish himself as one of the most lethal wingers in the league. Everyone knows Townsend has fantastic ability, now he just needs to show he can do it on a consistent basis.

Transfer Talk

Steve Mandanda

As previously mentioned, James Tomkins and Andros Towsend have both come in for fairly hefty fees and are likely to come straight into the side. Steve Mandanda meanwhile is a bargain of a signing at just 1.5 million pounds. Emmanuel AdebayorAdrian Mariappa and Marouane Chamakh were all unsurprisingly released by the club, but one surprising sale was that of Dwight Gayle who left for Newcastle United on a 10 million pound deal. Alan Pardew and the Eagles were also linked with Christian Benteke and Moussa Sissoko during the summer off-season but in the end couldn’t get a deal over the line for either player.

Other Predictions

  • Not a single player will score or assist more than 10 goals for the club in the league.
  • Scott Dann won’t be one of Crystal Palace’s top scorers this season but will be one of the highest scoring defenders in the league.

Everton Everton

Predicted Finish: 9th 

With Ronald Koeman at the club, Everton should be set to finish higher than they did in the previous two seasons under Roberto Martinez. Recently the signings have started to come in and now they look better equipped to compete in the league. The addition of Ronald to the Toffees is the most important factor of all though as he is a man who knows how to win and get a club into Europe. Koeman is one of the best managers in this league but even with his quality from the sidelines it’s up to the players in the end to win the team matches and Everton only have one proven match winner that is good enough to be play for any team in the world in Romelu Lukaku. 9th might not be their ultimate goal this season but it would be a very fine finish for Koeman in his first season at the club.

Predicted Starting XI

everton

Ashley Williams will come straight into the Everton back four to give Koeman that natural fantastic leader and player at the back while Idrissa Gueye might have to bide his time from the sidelines. A lack of new signings otherwise also means that the team stays relatively the same from last year. Maarten Stekelenburg is a noticeable change in goal, as he comes in for club-legend Tim Howard who moved back to his home nation to play for the Colorado Rapids. Everton were seemingly trying desperately to sign Axel Witsel in the summer to provide some midfield stability but the midfielder never seemed particularly interested in the move so McCarthy and Barry are likely to retain their places in the XI again. After a solid 2015-16 campaign, Ross Barkley could be set for an even better 2016-17 campaign and could be another bright shine of light for Everton this season along side Romelu Lukaku. As a whole though, while other teams have improved their squads, the Toffees have only improved their manager and that might not be enough to finish higher up the table.

Key Player: Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku 4

Romelu Lukaku is one of the best goal-scorers in the league and will need to be absolutely on top of his game if Everton are going to succeed in 2016-17. The Belgian forward scored 18 goals with 6 assists last season and if the players around him like Deulofeu and Barkley can improve again as well, Lukaku should be set to score even more in 2016-17. He’s still only 23 and has a massively bright future ahead of him but in terms of this season he has to continue to score goals if he’s to seal a move to a bigger club one day.

Breakthrough Player: Mason Holdgate

Mason Holgate

Back in 2015, Mason Holdgate (left) was signed from Barnsley to be the next John Stones at Everton. But ever since arriving from the third tier side, he hasn’t made a single appearance for the club! But now with Ronald Koeman coming into the mix and the real John Stones departing for Manchester City, this could be the year that this young English defender breaks into the Everton 11.

Transfer Talk

FBL-EURO-2016-MATCH22-BEL-IRL

Everton tried desperately to sign Axel Witsel in the summer, even putting in a £25 million bid for the midfielder, but in the end they couldn’t convince him to join. Everton aren’t as attractive of a side as they once were and as a result they’ve really struggled in this off season to sign new players. They did manage to land Aston Villa midfielder Idrissa Gueye for £7.1 million when a deal for Witsel failed but the Senegalese midfielder is nowhere near as good as the Belgian international. Other than Gueye and besides a couple of youngsters, goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is the only noteworthy signing for the Toffees and even he isn’t that great and is just a player that Koeman knows very well from being compatriots and working together at Ajax and Southampton. As if this poor transfer window couldn’t get any worse for Everton, they also lost one of their most promising youngsters ever, John Stones who joins Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. But on the other hand, they were quick and decisive in replacing him with an even better player in Swansea’s Ashley Williams. Long-time players Leon Osman and Tim Howard also departed in this frustrating summer transfer window for Everton.

Other Predictions

  • Everton will make it to at least one cup semi-final.
  • Romelu Lukaku will be one of the top five goalscorers in the league.

Hull City Hull

Predicted Finish: 20th 

With Steve Bruce leaving the club just weeks before the start of the season, Hull City’s future in the Premier League looks very uncertain. The Tigers were only narrowly promoted to the Prem last season after winning the English Championship Playoff final against Sheffield Wednesday by a score of 1-0. Now they enter the 2016-17 campaign as the clear favourites to go straight back down to the Championship. Hull have several players with Premier League experience but not a single star that could lead them to safety this season. As a result they are probably set for another difficult season and are probably going to get relegated from the league once again, just like they did two seasons ago.

Predicted Starting XI

hull-city-predicted-xi

Hull City have been absolutely silent in the summer transfer window so far but as soon as a new manager arrives, new signings are likely to follow. However as things stand, their lineup looks pretty similar to the one that earned them promotion to the league last year. Odubajo and Elmohamady could switch positions while a new player is going to be needed soon to replace Mohammed Diame who has recently left for Newcastle United. Up top, Abel Hernandez will lead the line but won’t be able to score enough goals to lead Hull to safety.

Key Player: Curtis Davies 

Curtis Davies

Curtis Davies is probably the one Hull City player that is definitely good enough to play in the Premier League. He has great defensive awareness, is very good in the air and is also good in possession of the ball. However, the fact that Curtis Davies is probably Hull’s best player and probably going to be their key player in 2016-17 tells you a little bit about how well they are likely to do next season.

Breakthrough Player: Moses Odubajo

Moses Odubajo

Being at the age of only 22 and being a versatile wide player who can play both right back and right midfield, Moses Odubajo could catch the attention of several other Premier League clubs next season with some good performances. The Englishman played more minutes than any other outfield player at Hull last season and was one of their most key figures in their battle for promotion. He could still grow into a fantastic defender playing at a top level club one day and a solid 2016-17 campaign will bring him one step closer to that dream.

Transfer Talk

Momo Diame

Hull City have not signed a single player. Shockingly, on top of that, they have also sold the man who scored the winning goal to earn them promotion to the Premier League in Mohammed Diame (pictured above), as he leaves for Newcastle United! Once a new manager comes in, whoever it may be, that man will surely try to put a stamp on this side in an attempt to turn the club into something great, but it might be too little too late for the Tigers.

Other Predictions

  • No Hull City player will score more than five goals in the league.

Leicester City Leicester

Predicted Finish: 7th

Many don’t expect Leicester to be quite as strong as they were last year, but they could still qualify for Europe again and challenge for the top four. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel are all top class players and some of the best in the world at their positions. Danny Drinkwater, Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs meanwhile will also help lead them to a 7th place finish. However, the Foxes may struggle with the added pressure of playing midweek European football and might not be able to play the exact same 11 almost every single game like they did last season. The only team that Leicester lost both of their matches against last season was Arsenal. They even beat Tottenham Hotspur twice and I expect them to finish ahead of the Spurs again this season. A 7th place finish will not be disappointing by any means for the Foxes.

Predicted Starting XI

leicester-city-predicted-xi

Only one change will be made to Leicester City’s side from last year as N’Golo Kante’s decision to join 10th place Chelsea means he will be replaced by new signing Namapalys Mendy. Mendy isn’t exactly the tough-tackling defensive midfielder that N’Golo Kante is, but he’s very good on the ball and an excellent passer, which could bring out even more goals from Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki. Ahmed Musa may come in to the side for either Albrighton or Okazaki but it’s the men who did so well in helping the Foxes win the Premier League title last season that are likeliest to retain their places in the side.

Key Player: Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez TOTS

After brushing off the rumours surrounding him and a possible move away throughout the off-season, Riyad Mahrez will be Leicester City’s most important player yet again in 2016-17. The Algerian midfielder scored 17 goals with 11 assists last season and if his form in pre-season is anything to go by, he may do even better than those numbers in 2016-17. Mahrez is so tricky on the ball and has such a lethal left-foot, but he can also glide past defenders with a quick change of pace and also strike the ball excellently well with his right. The one thing that Leicester have in their favour in their quest to finish in the top four again is Riyad Mahrez.

Breakthrough Player: Demarai Gray

Demarai Gray

Demarai Gray wasn’t given a proper opportunity to showcase his talent in 2015-16 as Leicester were doing everything they could to win the title, but with the added games coming in to their 2016-17 season, Gray will likely be given that opportunity to shine. Actually, the young ex-Birmingham player will definitely be given more of a chance to show what he’s made of in 2016-17. With a high amount of skill on the ball and great pace and acceleration, he’ll definitely be a dangerous weapon for Leicester City to have in their back pocket.

Transfer Talk

Nampalys Mendy

After winning the league last season, Leicester City earned a lot of money that they could go on and spend in the off-season to help strengthen their squad even further. They used some of that money to buy OGC Nice midfielder Nampalys Mendy, CSKA Moscow attacker Ahmed Musa, Sporting Gijon defender Lucas Hernandez, 19-year old Polish winger Bartosz Kaputska who featured at Euro 2016 and German international goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler. Most of these players are more likely to feature in UEFA Champions League games than in the Premier League but they could all be important players to come into the side if injuries start to hit. The bad news for Leicester City is that one of their most important players last season, N’Golo Kante departed for Chelsea to work with Antonio Conte. However, the good news for the Foxes is that they managed to keep hold of all their other stars and go into this season as a relatively unchanged side.

Other Predictions

  • Both Vardy and Mahrez will finish in the top five for goal scoring. Mahrez will also finish in the top five for assists and dribbles.
  • Christian Fuchs will be the highest assisting defender in the league while Kasper Schmeichel will be within the top five for clean sheets.
  • Leicester City will make it to the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League.

Liverpool Liverpool

Predicted Finish: 6th

This is the season that Jurgen Klopp really puts a stamp on Liverpool, signs the players that he wants, plays the players he wants and gets the results that he wants. Liverpool have been fantastic in this summer off-season and as a result there is a huge amount of optimism about the club’s chances to succeed this year. I think that Liverpool will have a fantastic season but I have two worries for them this season. My first worry for Liverpool is that they don’t have a real Golden Boot contender. Daniel Sturridge is always injured while Roberto Firmino is more of a playmaker than a clinical finisher. The goals may still come from all over the pitch, but having a golden boot contender in your squad is often what is needed to take your side to the next level. My other worry for Liverpool is their weak defense. Yes they’ve strengthened by adding Ragnar Klavan and Joel Matip but I still am not convinced that’s what they need to finish top four, especially with Alberto Moreno still the first choice left back. Having said that, Liverpool look an exciting team this year and could be dark horses to finish top four.

Predicted Starting XI

liverpool-predicted-starting-xi

Jurgen Klopp has made his best possible attempt to make this squad his own over the course of the summer and with the additions of Wijnaldum, Mane and Karius things could seriously improve. But despite all the reinforcements in midfield it’s Milner and Henderson who are still likely to dictate the tempo of their play. Also, despite being heavily criticized in the Europa League final last season, Alberto Moreno is likely to keep his place in the side, while Emre Can, Georginio Wijaldum and Adam Lallana will all feature prominently throughout the season and get their chance to shine in the starting XI as well. Ragnar Klavan and/or Joel Matip could steal spots away from Sakho and Lovren but at least one of the two will probably stay in Klopp’s lineup if not both. Lucas Leiva and Divock Origi will also be good options for Klopp to bring on from the bench while Brazilian pairing Firmino and Coutinho will likely be Liverpool’s key performers.

Key Player: Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho 3

It’s probably pretty obvious but Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool’s best player and will be their key to success in 2016-17. This is the reason however that Liverpool won’t finish in the top five this season, as their best player is only Coutinho, compared to Chelsea who have Hazard, Arsenal who have Ozil, Manchester City who have Aguero and Manchester United who now have Ibrahimovic. Coutinho’s goal and assist tallies have been getting better every single season though and this season that trend is likely to continue as the 24-year old comes off an impressive showing at Copa America.

Breakthrough Player: Loris Karius

Loris Karius

There have been calls around the league for Simon Mignolet to be dropped from the starting 11 at Liverpool for years and finally that looks like it’s going to be the case this season as Jurgen Klopp has bought a familiar face to him in Loris Karius who he played against many times as Dortmund manager. Loris Karius has been one of the best goalkeepers in the German Bundesliga over the past few years and his big move to Liverpool could establish himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. However, the German goalkeeper recently broke his hand and could be forced to wait on the sidelines for a little while longer.

Transfer Talk

FBL-ENG-PR-SOUTHAMPTON-TOTTENHAM

Jurgen Klopp has had an excellent summer transfer window so far and it might not even be over yet. Joel Matip was the first of the summer signings coming in from Schalke 04 for free. Then Klopp finally found his man to replace Mignolet in the side in Loris Karius and next came flashy signings like Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum. Along with all the new signings, Klopp has also sold long-time Premier League defender Martin Skrtel who spent 8 years at the club, Welsh midfielder Joe Allen who starred for his nation at Euro 2016 and promising young winger Jordan Ibe. The trio join Fenerbahce, Stoke City and Bournemouth respectively. The depth to Liverpool’s 2016-17 squad is immense and with all those reinforcements coming in without Europa League or Champions League football to have to worry about, Liverpool may have the upper-hand against other teams who have to compete in an extra game every single week.

Other Predictions

  • Liverpool will make it to the semi-finals in the Capital One Cup
  • Jurgen Klopp will break another pair of spectacles from celebrating a late goal way too hard.

Manchester City Manchester City

Predicted Finish: 1st

With the arrival of Pep Guardiola and proven match winners like Ilkay Gundogan and Nolito, Manchester City are the likeliest side in the league to take home the title. If Vincent Kompany, Sergio Augero and Kevin de Bruyne can stay fit the whole season they’re pretty much guaranteed to succeed. City’s side looks seriously impressive next season and despite tough competition in Mourinho at Manchester United and Conte at Chelsea it should be Pep Guardiola who comes out on top.

Predicted Starting XI

manchester-city-predicted-xi

Listen, this probably won’t be Manchester City’s starting lineup in the majority of their games next season. Manchester City probably won’t even have a set starting lineup next season as Gaurdiola changes things game by game, minute by minute. The Spanish coach has so many different formations that it’s impossible to know which one he’s going to deploy game by game. Guardiola might play a 3-1-4-1 one game and then revert to a 4-1-4-1 the next game. Heck he might even try out a normal formation like a 4-2-3-1 every once in a while. Various things will likely stay the same in the lineup all season however. Sergio Aguero, Nolito, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva will probably always be the first choice attack minded players for Guardiola while Kompany, Hart and new summer signing lkay Gundogan will always be in the side when fit and will play a massive role in City’s success. Moreover, if Guardiola decides to go with a back three and wing backs, Mangala, Zabaleta and Kolarov could all feature prominently. The depth to City’s squad will also play a massive role in their quest for the title as Fernando, Iheanacho, Navas, Bony and Sterling will all be available from the bench.

Key Player: Vincent Kompany

Vincent Kompany 4

Sergio Aguero will always score goals, Kevin de Bruyne will always create goals, but if Vincent Kompany isn’t fit and isn’t playing well, Manchester City won’t be the same team. The Belgian defender organizes and leads his back-line so well and even has a knack for scoring crucial goals at crucial moments. The last two times that Manchester City has won the Premier League, Kompany has been fit almost the entire time. The last two times they have failed miserably, the 30-year old defender spent a large section of the season out injured. This proves that when Vincent Kompany is fit for the entire season, Manchester City have a much higher chance of winning the title.

Breakthrough Player: Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho

Other than Raheem Sterling, Kelechi Iheanacho is the only young player even in Manchester City’s senior squad. So even though he had his breakthrough season last year, Iheanacho was the only choice for this spot. He likely will have to resort to playing games off of the bench as Guardiola likes playing with only one central striker which is always going to be Aguero. However, if Sergio Aguero gets injured, the 19-year old striker will likely be Guardiola’s first choice to replace the Argentine striker and will be able to fill the void perfectly. If he’s given the chance to play, he will improve upon his tally of 8 goals in the league last season.

Transfer Talk

Ilkay Gundogan

Pep Guardiola hasn’t made as many changes to City’s squad as one might have imagined but he has now made six very good summer signings and has managed to keep hold of every single player that was at the club the season before. Nolito will likely replace a player who was never good enough to play for Manchester City in the first place in Jesus Navas and Ilkay Gundogan will become City’s most important central midfielder, replacing an aging Yaya Toure. There was over a month between those two deals and Guardiola’s third signing of the summer, but City finally landed their man in the end, breaking the bank to sign 20 year old Leroy Sane for £37 million. Sane is more likely to play a part for Manchester City down the road than in the immediate term but he could be an exciting option for the Spanish manager to bring on from the bench this season. On the same day that the Blue side of Manchester signed Sane, they also signed a 19-year old Brazilian, Gabriel Jesus for £27 million, an incredibly high fee for a player still relatively unknown. Gabriel has been immediately loaned back to his club Palmeiras but could have a massive impact on City’s future as well. Colombian attacker Marlos Moreno also joined the club from Atletico Nacional and has immediately been loaned out to Deportivo in Spain. Finally, after long speculation, Everton defender John Stones finally made a move to the club with just days before the start of the season. Not only has Guardiola been excellent in bringing in three fantastic players, he’s also managed to retain every single member of his squad, as one can imagine that experienced players like Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta attracted a lot of interest this summer.

Other Predictions

Pep Guardiola 2

  • Pep Guardiola will win Manager of the Year, narrowly beating Antonio Conte to the honour.
  • Sergio Aguero will lead the league in goals even despite spending a couple of weeks or more out injured.
  • Ilkay Gundogan will be a surprise Team of the Year selectee.
  • Manchester City will also win the Capital One Cup and make it to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

Manchester United Manchester United logo

Predicted Finish: 3rd

Jose Mourinho’s summer spending spree will pay off for Manchester United and earn them a massively improved 2nd place finish in the table. United look a very impressive outfit with all of these new signings and young kids coming through at the same time and are now beginning to look like one of the favourites to win it all. The Red Devils will be in the hunt, challenging for the title all season but ultimately the tactical genius that is Pep Guardiola will surpass him as the season comes to a close. All four of Manchester United’s new signings will shine and young players like Martial, Shaw and Rashford will all be able to improve in 2016-17 under the guidance of Mourinho. Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic could lead Mourinho’s side to glory in 2016-17, but the more likely scenario is that 2017-18 could be their year.

Predicted Starting XI

manchester-united-predicted-xi

The positioning of Henrikh Mkhitaryan can change several things about this side. The ex-Borussia Dortmund midfielder can play anywhere in midfield and depending on where he plays, a number of different players could play in a number of different positions around him. This isn’t to say that Jose Mourinho will build the side around Mkhitaryan, but it’s to say that he should. If he wants to play him as a “number 10”, Lingard or Mata can come into the side, if he wants to deploy him on the left, Martial could be pushed further forward or Rashford could be given his chance to shine as well. Meanwhile if Mourinho wants to deploy the Armenian midfielder alongside Pogba as more of a Fabregas styled defensive midfielder, most of the names mentioned above can fit into the team all at once. Elsewhere in the starting eleven, Blind will hopefully slot back into his natural defensive midfield position, Valencia actually looks to be the favourite to win the spot at right back instead of Darmian and Luke Shaw comes back into the side after spending most of 2015-16 out with a broken leg. All four of Manchester United’s new signings will slot right into the team immediately but youth in Rashford and Lingard might not be given the same chance to shine in the side as they were under Louis Van Gaal.

Key Player: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a bundle of energy and a bundle of joy to watch. He’s likely to be right up their with Riyad Mahrez to be one of the most exciting players in the league in 2016-17. The fantastic play-maker creates so many chances for his teammates and always manages to chip in with a high number of goals himself as well. The Armenian midfielder is also so hard to stop when he gets the ball as he glides past anyone who gets in his way. David De Gea has been Manchester United’s Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons now but Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be Manchester United’s main provider in attack and will need to be absolutely on top of his game if Manchester United are to succeed in winning the title this season. I’ll seriously worry for Jose Mourinho’s sanity if he leaves Mkhitaryan on the bench like he did to Kevin de Bruyne at Chelsea but if he plays, he’ll be an instant hit.

Breakthrough Player: Eric Bailly

Eric Bailly 4

Although Marcus Rashford could be difficult to handle for most sides, it’s Manchester United’s new defender, Eric Bailly who is the most likely to be their breakthrough/surprising star of the season. The ex-Villarreal defender is likely to slot right into central defense alongside Chris Smalling right from the very first whistle but even if he doesn’t start, he’ll still be a bright shining light at the back for United as he’s tough, strong, tall, not prone to errors and only 22-years old. After having a breakthrough season in 2015-16 with Villarreal, the Cote d’Ivoire defender is likely to have another breakthrough season in 2016-17 only this time in the Premier League with Manchester United. 

Transfer Talk

PogBack

Manchester United have had a better 2016 Summer Transfer Window than any other team in the world. Not only did they manage to keep hold of all of their best players, but they also managed to bring in three of the world’s very best players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the biggest name to arrive at Manchester United this season, but it’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is without a doubt going to be the Red Devils’ star man this year. Paul Pogba meanwhile, who signed for a world record 104 million pound fee, will play a massive role in United’s quest to win the league title this season and could be another driving force to give Mourinho that title in his first season at the club. 22-year old defender Eric Bailly has also arrived from Villarreal as Mourinho looks to reinforce a fairly shaky defense. All of the signings that Mourinho has made so far will come right into the team with ease and will certainly play a play a monumental role in their quest to win the Premier League title this season.

Other Predictions

Jose Mourinho lol

  • Henrikh Mkhitaryan will complete more dribbles in the league than any other player.
  • David De Gea will keep the most clean sheets in the league.
  • Mourinho will win more games against teams in the top five than any other manager in 2016-17.

Middlesbrough Middlesbrough

Predicted Finish: 15th 

Middlesborough could be set for a difficult season in the Premier League after recently earning their way back into the top flight via the English Championship, but they may have enough tools to survive. Players like Alvaro Negredo, Victor Valdes and Antonio Barragan have all had a very good time playing in La Liga and will now try their luck together in England with Boro.

Predicted Starting XI

middlesborough-starting-xi-prediction (1)

Middlesbrough’s starting lineup is likely to resemble the one that got them promoted to the league in first place fairly closely. George Friend, Adam Clayton and Daniel Ayala all made the PFA Championship Team of the Year last season, while players like Albert Adomah, Stewart Downing, Gaston Ramirez and Grant Leadbitter also played a very key role in helping Boro earn promotion to the league. At right back, Antonio Barragan is likely to earn a place in the XI ahead of Emilio Nsue while Victor Valdes is likely to come in at goalkeeper despite Dimitrios Konstantopolous keeping more clean sheets than any other in the English Championship last season. David Nugent is another player who is likely to lose his place in the starting 11 as Alvaro Negredo makes a return to the Premier League after disappointing spells in Spain with Valencia and England with Manchester City.

Key Player: George Friend

George Friend smile

Middlesbrough’s vice-captain George Friend will be their key to success in 2016-17. The left-back is good in both attack and defense and was one of Boro’s most important players in their league title winning season last year as he made the PFA Championship Team of the Season. He’s been thought of for many years by people who watch the English Championship closely to be good enough to play in the Premier League and now he’ll finally be given that opportunity. Friend scored a goal with 2 assists last season as he featured in 40 Championship matches and he’ll be looking for an even better tally in the Premier League in 2016-17.

Breakthrough Player: Ben Gibson

Ben Gibson

Picking a breakthrough player for Middlesbrough is tough because they have a real lack of young players in their squad and even the young players that the club is bringing in during the summer transfer window are not necessarily expected to start. Ben Gibson won’t have a breakthrough season in Middlesbrough in the sense that he’ll become an established part of the side, he’s been an established part of the side ever since 2013! However, it could be a breakthrough season for the English defender in the sense that many other Premier League clubs start to take interest in him and he starts to develop a reputation as a possible future England international. The 23-year old defender nearly missed out on the PFA Championship Team of the Year last season and he could be set for an even better Premier League campaign in 2016-17.

Transfer Talk

Victor Valdes

Middlesbrough have been one of the busier teams in the transfer market, making sure to add strength in depth to their squad as they look to survive this 2016-17 season. Ex-Barcelona goalkeeper and Champions League Winner, Victor Valdes comes in after barely kicking a ball at Manchester United, Alvaro Negredo and Antonio Barragan arrive at the club after a disappointing 2015-16 campaign with Valencia and midfielders Marten de Roon and Viktor Fischer have also come in from the Dutch top flight to try and add some flair. Ex Manchester United defender Fabio da Silva has also arrived in an attempt to make something of himself in the Premier League while despite a poor season with Aston Villa and Middlesbrough’s embarrassment of riches at goalkeeper, Brad Guzan has recently joined the club on a two-year deal causing even more confusion over who is to start at goalkeeper this season for the club.

Other Predictions

  • No Boro player will score more than 10 goals.
  • The team will also concede one of the highest tallies of goals in the league.

Southampton Southampton

Predicted Finish: 11th 

After losing Ronald Koeman, Southampton will struggle to cope in the Premier League with the added number of games in their schedule from the Europa League. However with all those talented players still at the club they will still manage to bounce back towards the end of the season and finish a reasonable 10th. Season after season, Southampton lose their best players and then recruit excellently well, replacing those players with reasonable ease. It will be more of the same this season but without a splash of Koeman magic, the Saints won’t be as strong going forward. Their fantastic back-five will definitely help them keep a number of clean sheets this season though and they’ll still be nowhere near relegation.

Predicted Starting XI

southampton-starting-xi-prediction (1)

Despite losing a couple of their best players, Southampton’s squad looks relatively unchanged. Jordy Clasie and new-signing Pierre-Emile Højbjerg will battle for a spot in central midfield alongside Steven Davis while Graziano Pelle’s exit to China frees up a place for Charlie Austin in the side. Nathan Redmond will also likely come in as Sadio Mane’s replacement as Cedric Soares comes off of a very good Euro 2016 campaign with Portugal to retain a spot in the starting 11. Shane Long will need to be on fire if Southampton are to score a bundle of goals this season but their steady defense will easily keep them afloat.

Key Player: Fraser Forster

Fraser Forster

Southampton’s defense will be their key to success in 2016-17 and their most important defensive player of all will be their goalkeeper Fraser Forster. Forster is an excellent shot stopper who always keeps a high number of clean sheets. After spending the entire first half of the 2015-16 season out injured, the 28-year old returned to keep six clean sheets in his first six matches after returning from injury, including a stunning ten save performance against Arsenal. He’s a hell of a goalkeeper and will certainly be Southampton’s most important player in 2016-17.

Breakthrough Player: Shane Long

Shane Long

After the departures of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane this summer, Shane Long will need to be Southampton’s key man up top and will need to be a constant threat going forward. The Irish striker scored 10 goals with 4 assists in just 28 matches last season, so if he manages to play all 38 games this season those numbers are definitely going to rise. With all the other big name players out of the way, Shane Long will be Southampton’s key man going forward and will have an excellent perhaps even breakthrough 2016-17 campaign.

Transfer Talk

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

It’s been a typical summer transfer window for the Saints in 2016. They’ve lost thee of their best players but have recruited well and replaced them with very good signings. Southampton were quick to replace Sadio Mane with Norwich’s Nathan Redmond and found a Victor Wanyama replacement in Bayern Munich midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (pictured above). Graziano Pelle has also left the club in a big money move that sees him become China’s latest entity and perhaps the only reason why a new striker hasn’t come in already to replace him is because Claude Puel already has two natural replacements already at the club in Charlie Austin and Shane Long. The Saints have also recently landed French fullback Jeremy Pied from Nice for free and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy from Crystal Palace as backup for Fraser Forster.   

Other Predictions

Jay Rodriguez

  • Jay Rodriguez will have a fantastic season after his horror injury in 2014 finally appears to be resolved.
  • Players like Virgil Van Dijk and Cedric Soares will play so well this season that they’ll attract the interest of teams around the league and be on their way out come the end of the season.
  • The Saints will struggle at the start of the season with the added pressure of the Europa League but will bounce back well and finish the season strong.

Stoke City Stoke

Predicted Finish: 10th 

After three successive ninth place finishes and improvements coming in during the summer transfer window, Stoke City should be set to finish in and around the exact same position they have done so well to finish in the last three seasons. I actually have them one lower though in 10th due to the way that Koeman has strengthened his side. Stoke’s style of football has changed drastically ever since Mark Hughes’ arrival in 2013 and it’s changed for the better with new signings like Arnautovic, Shaqiri and Bojan coming in and giving Stoke an exciting look going forward. Now with the singing of Joe Allen in midfield, they should be able to dominate games a lot more and keep possession of the ball like never before. On paper a tenth place finish doesn’t look improved, but in reality Stoke are a massively improved side and are going to have another fantastic Premier League campaign in 2016-17.

Predicted Starting XI

stoke-city-predicted-xi

Stoke City’s lineup won’t change too much from their 9th place finish in 2015-16 with Joe Allen coming straight into the lineup being the main change to Mark Hughes’ side. Bojan will likely play as a false nine with the three in behind swapping positions not only game by game but within each and every game as well. Gianelli Imbula will be a likely partner for Joe Allen while Jack Butland will come straight back into the side after spending the second half of the 2015-16 season out with a knee injury while Joselu and Jonathan Walters will be other striking options from the bench should Stoke decide to go back into their old playbook of route 1 styled football.

Key Player: Marko Arnautovic

Marko Arnautovic

Stoke’s entire squad is important to their success and when one piece to the puzzle is missing, the unit is simply not the same. However if there’s one name on the team sheet that can rise above the rest and offer them something out of nothing, it’s Marko Arnautovic. Jack Butland will be key in goal, while Xherdan Shaqiri is another flair player that can provide them something out of nothing, but Marko Arnautovic is the man that all good things come through and will be their leader in both goals and assists yet again. Consistency has been an issue for this Austrian attacker in the past but last season he had his best season ever, scoring 11 goals with 6 assists in 34 matches. 2016-17 could be even better.

Breakthrough Player: Joe Allen

Joe Allen Liverpool

With regular football, this could be the season Joe Allen establishes himself as one of the very best midfielders in the league. He’s so good on the ball, an excellent passer, has incredible vision and can dominate games in the middle of the field. Allen had an excellent Euro 2016 campaign with Wales, helping them make it to the semi finals and now after a 13 million pound move he’s set to be one of Stoke’s most important players in 2016-17.

Transfer Talk

If there’s one thing in particular that Mark Hughes can be praised for since arriving at Stoke City it’s changing the style of football for the better. Stoke have had three consecutive 9th place finishes since his arrival and have completely changed their style around. In recent years Hughes has brought in flair players like Marko Arnautovic, Bojan Krkic and Xherdan Shaqiri and now this season he’s brought in the ‘Welsh Xavi’, pass master, Joe Allen who enjoyed a very good campaign with Wales at Euro 2016. Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi has also arrived at the club and may be an important piece to their puzzle in future years while Saido Berahino is also reportedly interested in a move to the Potters. Stoke have been very good in the transfer market in recent years and their 2016 summer signings indicate their intent to finish even higher than they ever have before.

Other Predictions

  • Xherdan Shaqiri will have a much improved season in 2016-17 and will nearly double the figures he achieved last season in goals and assists.
  • Stoke City will be one of the best defensive units in the league and will score more goals than they concede.

Sunderland Sunderland

Predicted Finish: 18th 

Initially, I thought that with Sam Allardyce as manager that Sunderland would be able to survive another year and avoid relegation again. However, after Allardyce departed to England I now have less faith that David Moyes can have quite the same affect at Sunderland as his predecessor. Sunderland do still have enough good players that they could survive the drop, but without the experience of a manager who knows how to survive relegation and has been there so many times before they may struggle to finish outside of the bottom three.

Predicted Starting XI

sunderland-predicted-xi

Over the past few seasons, Sunderland have been a team that change their starting 11 game by game. However, with a lack of new signings and David Moyes coming in as manager there may actually be a sense of consistency about Sunderland’s side this year. The new manager will probably want to put a stamp on his new club with a couple of quick-fire signings before the transfer window comes to a close, but as things stand Sunderland’s starting 11 looks pretty much as it did last year. Even if Moyes did try to put a stamp on this side, it’s hard to see exactly where they need improving. The squad as a whole is good and apart from maybe Kaboul or Rodwell there isn’t really a weak-link in the side. However, there’s no superstars and Jermain Defoe is the only player Sunderland have that that can bail them out of danger when needed. Jan Kirchhoff is likely to play an important role as the anchor of the midfield in front of the back four, while Jack Rodwell is set for a reunion with his old manager and is likely to play a prominent role in the side.

Key Player: Jermain Defoe

Jermain Defoe

If Sunderland are going to have any chance of staying up this season, Jermain Defoe will need to be on top of his game, and score a goal every other game at least like he nearly managed last season when he netted 15 times in 33 matches. Kirchhoff will be key in defensive midfield and Lamine Kone will need to be a leader and enforcer at the back, but Defoe will remain Sunderland’s key man again and their best hope of staying out of the danger zone.

Breakthrough Player: Duncan Watmore

Duncan Watmore

He’ll probably still be a player on the periphery of the team, but Duncan Watmore has gotten better and better every single year and this may finally be his year to get some regular playing time in the side. The 22-year old scored 3 goals with 1 assist last season in his limited amount of games and after lighting up pre-season he could be set for a catastrophic improve on those numbers under David Moyes.

Transfer Talk

Emanuele Giaccherini

Despite having a very good Euro 2016 campaign with Italy, Sunderland didn’t try desperately hard to keep hold of Emanuele Giaccherini as he moved back to Italy to play for Napoli. Ex-Manchester United defender Wes Brown and former Championship leading goal scorer Danny Graham also left the club. Sunderland haven’t made much of an attempt to try and improve upon their 17th place finish last season and as of a week before the season began, Papy Dijolobodji was the only signing the Black Cats had made, arriving from Chelsea for £8 million. Just two days before the start of the season, Moyes signed Manchester United duo Donald Love and Paddy McNair for a combined 5.5 million pounds and just 1 day before the start of the season, Adnan Januzaj was reunited with his old manager and arrived on a season long loan from Manchester United.

Other Predictions

David Moyes

  • David Moyes will not be sacked as manager unless Sunderland go down.
  • Not a single Sunderland player will achieve more than 5 assists.
  • Jermain Defoe will score twice as many goals as any other Sunderland player.

Swansea City Swansea

Predicted Finish: 16th 

In 2015-16, despite being dangerously close to relegation all season, the Swans finished strong to secure a 12th place finish. Since they arrived in the Premier League in 2011-12, Swansea have finished as high as 8th and never below 12th. However, Swansea may struggle to finish as high as that this season and may be set for their lowest ever finish in a Premier League season, especially after the massive losses of Andre Ayew, Bafetimbi Gomis and their captain Ashley Williams. Still though, with a good manager in Francesco Guidolin who has a lot of top-flight experience and players like the four pictured above, they should be set to stay away from the relegation zone and play without any fear of being relegated.

Predicted Starting XI

swans (1)

Surely with their two biggest signings both being forwards, Swansea won’t stay with their traditional 4-2-3-1 lineup in 2016-17. Borja Baston and Fernando Llorente are both fantastic Spanish strikers and could lead the club to glory if they can get their feet off the ground and running straight away. Federico Fernandez and Mike van der Hoorn will lineup at the back after the departure of Welsh captain Ashley Williams, while Kyle Naughton will also have to compete for a spot in the back four against Angel Rangel. Leon Britton could come into the midfield instead of Ki Sung-Yeung while the addition of a new striker in Fernando Llorente will mean that they finally have a decent replacement for Wilfried Bony. Andre Ayew has recently departed the club which means that Wayne Routledge could replace him if the club stay with 4-2-3-1 and Modou Barrow will also have to compete for his spot against Nathan Dyer and Jefferson Montero. All and all, Swansea City are starting to look like a very different outfit from the side that finished mid-table last seasonand as a result might find themselves in danger this season.

Key Player: Ashley Williams

Ashley Williams Swans

Swansea have good attack-minded players like Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdsson but their most important player of all has to be their captain, Ashley Williams. Williams has been the face of Swansea ever since arriving in 2008 and will be their best hope of survivng relegation again in 2016-17. No other team anywhere around them in the table have a defender as experienced, as vocal, as intelligent and as talented as Ashley Williams. He leads his back-line and his entire team so well and he even gets forward to try and score the odd goal. Ashley Williams is a fantastic defender and will be Swansea’s most important player in 2016-17.

Breakthrough Player: Modou Barrow

Swansea City Under 21s v Cardiff City Under 21s

Francesco Guidolin did seem to be a fan of Modou Barrow’s after taking charge of Swansea last season and particularly towards the end of the season, Barrow played a very important role in helping the club climb back up the table. The Gambian midfielder could now be set for a more prominent role in the side and could take that opportunity to show everyone what he is truly capable of. With a lightning quick change of pace and a good left-foot, Barrow is very dangerous and will need to be a player that all Premier League clubs need to watch out for.

Transfer Talk

Mike van der Hoorn

Swansea have delved into the transfer market to try and improve upon their 12th place finish, but the signings probably won’t be enough to take them to that next level. Mike Van der Hoorn (pictured above) is a very good defender who had an excellent season with Ajax in the Eredivisie last season while Leroy Fer has also arrived from Queens Park Rangers and has experience playing top flight football with QPR, Norwich and the Swans themselves. The signings of Van der Hoorn and Fer were good but Swansea fans were hoping for far better players to arrive this summer and perhaps Fernando Llorente arriving from Sevilla and Borja Baston arriving from Atletico Madrid was more of what they were asking for. The worst thing for Swansea City this summer offseason though has been the loss of Ghanian midfielder, Andre Ayew who has departed for West Ham United for 20.5 million pounds. Other  notable players leaving the club include Portugal’s winning goal scorer at Euro 2016, Eder, who has moved for 3.4 million to LOSC Lille in Ligue 1 and French striker Bafetimbi Gomis, who had a very bright start to the 2015-16 Premier League season, has been sent out on loan to Marseille.

Other Predictions

  • Gylfi Sigurdsson will be the club’s leading goalscorer.
  • Not a single Swansea player will achieve more than 5 assists in the league.
  • Francesco Guidolin will be sacked.

Tottenham HotspurTottenham

Predicted Finish: 5th

Despite a third place finish in 2015-16 and a young, improving squad, Tottenham are set for a far more difficult 2016-17 campaign and may struggle to finish inside the top four this season. The Spurs will struggle to cope with the improvements that other teams have made and will once again finish behind their arch-rivals Arsenal and behind last season’s Champions Leicester City. Despite finishing in 6th place Tottenham will still win the vast majority of their games, but their struggles will come when they have to face-off against the other teams battling for those European places with them. Tottenham were so close to winning the title last season but were still so far away and will fall even further away from the race in 2016-17.

Predicted Starting XI

tottenham-predicted-xi

Despite the additions of Vincent Janssen and Victor Wanyama, I expect Tottenham to field the exact same team that led them to a third-place finish last season. They may in fact be the most likely side to field an unchanged starting 11 in the entire league. Heung-Min Son is the likeliest to sneak into the side and could steal a place away from Erik Lamela after having time to adjust to the Premier League, but the Argentine winger is the more likely choice in the side. If Pochettino wants to bring in Vincent Janssen to the side, Spurs will likely revert to a 4-4-2 rather than playing him as a lone striker. Meanwhile if Dele Alli doesn’t perform to the same level that he did last season, he could find himself on the bench.

Key Player: Toby Alderweireld

Toby Alderweireld 3

Toby Alderweireld was the best defender in the league last season and since his move from Southampton has made Tottenham a much more solid unit defensively. The Belgian defender helped Spurs keep 13 clean sheets last season as they also conceded the least amount of goals in the league until the the final day of the season when they were beaten 5-1 by Newcastle and were surpassed by the champions. Alderweireld was also good in attack though chipping in with 4 goals and 2 assists. Without Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham probably would have been nowhere near that title charge last season and his influence on the side will be absolutely crucial again in 2016-17.

Breakthrough Player: Erik Lamela

Erik Lamela

Choosing a breakthrough player for Spurs’ 2016-17 season is incredibly difficult. Players like Eric Dier and Dele Alli had breakthrough seasons last year, while pretty much every other Spurs player had their best ever season at the club. That being said, this could be the season that Erik Lamela finally shows the same sort of quality that he showed in his Roma days and establishes himself as one of the league’s best creators and play-makers. If Lamela can keep Heung-Min Son out of the side, he should be set to shine again in 2016-17. 

Transfer Talk

vINCENT JANSSEN

After a very good 2015-16 campaign, Tottenham haven’t exactly broken the bank to try and win the league in 2016-17. Dutch striker Vincent Janssen (pictured above) was Pochettino’s best singing of the summer, costing £17 million pounds after scoring 27 goals in 34 matches for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie last season. The Argentine manager also brought in Southampton’s Victor Wanyama for £11 million and is scouring the market for more. His best piece of business during the off-season though may have been warding off Bayern Munich’s attempts to sign the crucial anchor to his team, Eric Dier.

Other Predictions

Eric Dier 2

  • Eric Dier will establish himself as one of the world’s best defensive midfielders.
  • Harry Kane will score the second highest amount of goals in the league, behind only Sergio Aguero.
  • Tottenham will suffer an unlucky draw in the UEFA Champions League and may end up having to be demoted back down to the Europa League where they’ll make it to the quarter finals.

Watford Watford

Predicted Finish: 14th 

Watford have had an excellent off-season with a heap of new signings. However, with so many new signings coming in all at once, the question becomes: will they gel together or will they lack chemistry and fade out of the league like QPR did two seasons ago? On top of already having Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, the Hornets have also brought in Abdoulaye Doucoure, Isaac Success, Christian Kabasele, Brice Dja Djedje and Juan Zuniga to try and strengthen their squad ahead of the new season. On top of all else, after not being particularly happy with Watford’s 13th place finish last season (which was very decent for a newly promoted side), the boardroom decided to sack Quique Sanchez Flores and hire ex-Inter Milan manager Walter Mazzari who could make a great impact on this squad. Watford could be very exciting next season, but they still might not have what it takes to survive comfortably next season and may just limp to a 15th place finish.

Predicted Starting XI

watford-predicted-xi

After much debate, this is the team I have decided to select as Watford’s potential starting XI. The main problem when selecting a team for Watford is after the departure of Almen Abdi, they now have no left midfielder or left winger, so a natural 4-4-2 was made to be very difficult. Italian managers typically like a 3-5-2 formation and Walter Mazzarri was one who deployed this formation fairly frequently in his time at Inter Milan. Christian Kabasele is likely to come straight into the side after arriving from KRC Genk while Brice Dja Djedje and Juan Zuniga could be likely choices to play as wing-backs for Mazzarri’s team. Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney are almost certainly going to be Watford’s main men up top like they were last season but Isaac Success coming into the mix could offer even more firepower for the Hornets up top.

Key Player: Troy Deeney

Watford v Leeds United - The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round

Captain, leader, natural goal scorer and a stand up guy. Troy Deeney has it all and although not the most technically gifted, he may be one of the hardest workers of all in the Premier Leauge. Deeney scored 13 goals with 7 assists last season to help lead Watford to a 13th place finish in the table. The English striker also netted 2 goals in 5 FA Cup matches as Watford made it to the semi finals! Deeney will without a doubt be Watford’s most important player and with him in the side, they should be able to avoid relegation, maybe even comfortably.

Breakthrough Player: Christian Kabasele

Christian Kabasele

After a fantastic 2015-16 campaign with KRC Genk in the Belgian Pro League, Christian Kabasele has earned himself an impressive move to the English Premier Leauge with Watford FC. Kabasele played 42 matches last season, scored 4 goals and helped lead Genk to a 4th place finish. Now he joins Watford after a 5.8 million pound move and could be a very important player for Walter Mazzarri’s side. With his natural physical strength, prowess in the air and an eye for goal, Kabasele could be a fantastic player for Watford this season and could catch the eye of many other clubs in the league.

Transfer Talk

Woking v Watford - Pre-Season Friendly - Kingfield Stadium

As mentioned above, Christian Kabasele is possibly Mazzarri’s best signing of the summer transfer window, coming in from Genk for £5.8 million pounds. Isaac Success (pictured above) has also arrived from Granada for a club record £12.5 million fee, while Abdoulaye Doucoure who arrived in the January transfer window has returned from a loan spell at Granada and could be set to make an impact for Mazzari’s side in 2016-17. Odion Ighalo has attracted interest from China but the Hornets have done well to hang on to their star goal scorer while Almen Abdi who was an important player for Watford in the Quique Sanchez Flores era has been allowed to leave for Sheffield Wednesday. Recently, two fullbacks have also arrived as a 3-5-2 formation looks even more increasingly likely at Watford next season in Napoli’s Juan Zuniga and Marseille’s Brice Dja Djedje while another fullback, talented Mexican Miguel Layun has been signed on a permanent deal by FC Porto.

Other Predictions

  • Walter Mazzari will be sacked at some point during the season.
  • 3-5-2 will not work as well in the Premier League as it did for Mazzarri in Serie A.
  • Ighalo will be the club’s leading goal scorer and may earn a big money move away from the club come the end of the season.

West Bromwich Albion West Bromwich Albion

Predicted Finish: 13th 

Tony Pulis knows how to keep a team in the Premier League and survive relegation comfortably. The former Stoke City manager has never been relegated from the Premier League and it’s in large part due to his tactical brilliance and the defensive attitude he instills in every single one of his players. Tony Pulis has no superstars, but just a very solid group of players who do exactly what their manager asks of them. Despite playing a relatively unattractive style of football, conceding a ton of goals and only really being dangerous from set-pieces, West Bromwich Albion will survive comfortably this season and may even have what it takes to make a push for the top twelve.

Predicted Starting XI

west-bromwich-albion-predicted-xi

West Bromwich’s lineup stays pretty much the same from their 2015-16 XI that helped them achieve a 14th place finish in the table. Matty Phillips is the only major change after arriving from QPR for 5.5 million pounds. Albion’s leading goal scorer last season, Jose Solomon Rondon leads the line with Saido Berahino who will be looking to have a better 2016-17 season after only netting 4 goals in 2015-16 league season while Jonny Evans will also likely play as an unorthodox left-back as he did for Northern Ireland at Euro 2016 until Chris Brunt returns from injury. Jonas Olsson could easily lose his place in the team to James Chester who had a fantastic campaign with Wales at Euro 2016. Ben Foster will also retain his place in the side ahead of Boaz Myhill after an injury ridden 2015-16 campaign.

Key Player: Darren Fletcher

Darren Fletcher

The ex-Manchester United midfielder is so key to West Bromwich Albion and Tony Pulis’ set up that despite just playing half of season with WBA prior to last season, the British manager decided to give him the captain’s armband. Fletcher played in all 38 matches last season and was one of only two Albion players to do so. He also scored 1 goal and achieved 3 assists, while also netting 2 goals in 3 FA Cup matches. Darren Fletcher is a great leader of West Bromwich’s team and helps keep everyone in check and following the managers orders. With Tony Pulis and Darren Fletcher at West Bromwich Albion, they will never be relegated.

Breakthrough Player: Saido Berahino

Saido Berahino

Saido Berahino had his breakthrough season at West Bromwich Albion back in 2014-15, but was so poor in 2015-16 that he has almost been completely forgotten about. The English forward was brilliant in 2014-15, scoring 14 goals in 38 league matches despite being just 20 years old at the time. However, the following season (2015-16) he faded away and netted just 4 times in 31 appearances. As a result, the now 22-year old is in need of another breakthrough season at West Brom if he’s ever to going to get a move to a bigger club like he so strongly desires.

Transfer Talk

Queens Park Rangers V Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet Championship

The Baggies have brought in just one player so far in the off-season, Matty Phillips (pictured above), from Queens Park Rangers for 5.5 million pounds. Pulis isn’t one that really likes to splash the cash on new players during the transfer window and usually only seems to make about one change to his side per year. Rondon was the big signing of last season and Phillips is the big signing of this season. The manager has also released a couple of players who enjoyed some good times at the club when at their very best in Stephane Sessegnon and Victor Anichebe. Since the signing of Phillips though, West Brom have barely even been linked with another player, let alone been close to signing one.

Other Predictions

  • Saido Berahino will be the team’s leading goal scorer but will be lucky if he bags more than 10 goals.
  • West Brom will accumulate the most red cards in the league. Claudio Yacob will be one of those to be sent off at least once.

West Ham United West Ham

Predicted Finish: 8th 

Despite all the new-signings and the talent of players like Dimitri Payet and Andy Carroll, West Ham United will finish one place worse than they did last year as they have another excellent season and finish in 8th place. West Ham do have an excellent team with a lot of rising stars, but they still won’t have the experience to challenge for the top four and will fall just short of the European places.

Predicted Starting XI

west-ham-united-predicted-xi-3

West Ham United’s team are another one that is likely going to stay relatively the same in 2016-17 and not change too much from their excellent 2015-16 campaign. However, the club have made some fantastic new signings and look better set to balance the pressure of playing Sunday-Thursday every single week with the addition of the Europa League to their schedule. Record signing Andre Ayew will definitely feature heavily for the club this season and will reunite in attack with his old Marseille teammate, Dimitri Payet. Arthur Masuaku meanwhile comes into the side for the first half of the season as Aaron Creswell sits on the sidelines with a knee injury and the addition of Havard Nordtveit means that Pedro Obiang won’t play quite as many games as he did last season. The sale of James Tomkins to Crystal Palace means that Michail Antonio will probably play as a right-back for the majority of the season but the dynamic winger could also play further up the right side if Slavan Bilic is trying to shake things up and grab a goal late on in a match. In addition to all the fantastic signings, Bilic must be overjoyed that he’s managed to keep the spine of his team still intact. Noble, Kouyate, Reid, Ogbonna, Adrian, Payet and Carroll will all play a crucial role at the club again in 2016-17.

Key Player: Dimitri Payet

Dimitri Payet 3

After a stunning campaign at Euro 2016 with France in which he scored 3 goals with 2 assists in 7 matches and was one of the tournament’s best players, Dimitri Payet looks set to shine for West Ham United again in 2016-17. The French midfielder scored 9 goals with 12 assists in 30 matches last season but will certainly improve on those numbers again in 2016-17 if he can stay fit for the entire season. He creates chance after chance all game long and dangles his way through even the best defenders in the world. If Andy Caroll can stay fit, Payet could be feeding the English striker all season long and the two of them could form a formidable partnership that could see Payet finish as one of the league’s top providers.

Breakthrough Player: Michail Antonio

Michail Antonio

Michail Antonio certainly had a breakthrough season for West Ham last year, but his form will be so good in 2016-17, that he’ll become a household name around the league and even earn himself a selection for Sam Allardyce’s new England team once or twice. With the dynamic winger being as versatile as he is, he’ll be one of the first names on the team sheet every single game and so not only will he play more games, but he’ll also score and assist more goals.

Transfer Talk

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-BERLIN-MOENCHENGLADBACH

West Ham United and Slavan Bilic have been very busy in this summer’s transfer market and have signed a heap of players from all across the globe. Andre Ayew and Arthur Masuaku are the club’s latest signings and both were very surprising one’s. Ayew arrived from Swansea City for 20.5 million pounds, the most the Hammers have ever spent on a transfer. Left-back Arthur Masuaku meanwhile arrived from Olympiacos in order to fill the void that was left by Aaron Cresswell and his injury. Havard Nortdveit (pictured above) is also likely starter after completing a free transfer from Borussia Monchengladbach, while Manuel Lanzini is another possible starter after making a massive impression on loan at the club last season and sealing a permanent move to the club this summer. Other additions include Turkish winger Gokhan Tore who was part of the Besiktas team that won the Turkish Super Lig last season, Argentine forward Jonathan Calleri, Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli and young Manchester United forward Ashley Fletcher. The Hammers have also sold their long-time defender James Tomkins who spent 8 years at the club to Crystal Palace for £10 million and are also interested in a move for Colombian forward Carlos Bacca as they look to make a push for the top four.

Other Predictions

Andy Carroll,

  • West Ham will make it to the Round of 16 in the Europa League.
  • Andy Carroll will play at least half the season injury free but will be forced to spend a lot of time on the sidelines as well and as a result the Hammers won’t be as powerful during that time.
  • Dimtri Payet will score the most goals from free kicks in the league and will make the PFA Team of the Year after being one of the league’s leading assist-men.

Predictions In Full

League Table

1st Manchester City
2nd Manchester United
3rd Chelsea
4th Arsenal
5th Liverpool
6th Tottenham Hotspur
7th Leicester City
8th West Ham United
9th Everton
10th Stoke City
11th Southampton
12th Crystal Palace
13th West Bromwich Albion
14th Watford
15th Middlesbrough
16th Swansea City
17th Bournemouth
18th Sunderland
19th Burnley
20th Hull City

Scoring Leaders 

1st Sergio Aguero
2nd Harry Kane
3rd Jamie Vardy
4th Zlatan Ibrahimovic
5th Romelu Lukaku
6th Riyad Mahrez
7th Olivier Giroud
8th Diego Costa
9th Alexis Sanchez
10th Jermain Defoe

Assist Leaders

1st Mesut Ozil
2nd Cesc Faregas
3rd Henrikh Mkhitaryan
4th Dimitri Payet
5th Kevin de Bruyne
6th Riyad Mahrez
7th David Silva
8th Christian Eriksen
9th Alexis Sanchez
10th Dusan Tadic

Clean Sheets 

1st David De Gea
2nd Thibaut Courtois
3rd Hugo Lloris
4th Joe Hart
5th Petr Cech

PFA Team of the Year

Predicted PFA Team of the Year

So there it is! The Mastermind’s Full Premier League Guide and Predictions for the 2016-17 season. I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to seeing you for Team of the Week, Fantasy Tips, articles and more as the 2016-17 Premier League Season progresses!

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