Premier League preview: Why Tottenham Hotspur will flop this season
Kieran Beckles runs through his preview of the new Premier League season, which includes Tottenham to flop
Chelsea were wholly unconvincing in their final pre-season friendly on Wednesday night, and their 1-0 loss to Fiorentina mirrored their summer campaign as a whole. While the door has been left slightly ajar for Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United to challenge for the title this season, Chelsea should have just enough to retain their top-flight crown. Jose Mourinho may have added experience to his squad in the shape of Asmir Begovic and Radamel Falcao, his starting XI will remain untouched. Chelsea had the best-balanced line-up last season and their rivals haven’t strengthened enough to match the west London side’s fluidity. The one cause for concern will be Diego Costa and his hamstring, especially with a similarly injury-prone Loic Remy and a confidence-sapped Falcao playing the supporting role.
Chelsea. Arsenal. Manchester United. Liverpool.
Chelsea will easily finish in the top four, and as mentioned above, are rightly favourites for the title. Arsenal supporters could be forgiven for thinking Arsene Wenger has started to take notice of Pier Morgan’s Twitter feed in recent years after the signings of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and this summer, Petr Cech. Will the Arsenal manager add Karim Benzema as Morgan so craves? If he does, Chelsea will be worried but as it stands, Arsenal have enough to challenge and secure second place. Louis van Gaal has bolstered his squad with quality in midfield and flair at full-back in the shape of Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian. Memphis Depay takes over the number seven shirt from PSG signing Angel di Maria. Questions remain in defence, though. Can Van Gaal rely on Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo to improve on last season’s defensive record? And if David De Gea leaves, there will be serious concerns at the back. But Van Gaal should have enough to perhaps challenge and at least secure another top-four finish, which leaves Manchester City and Liverpool to fight it out for fourth. The Reds have gone under the radar, and as the 2013/14 season proved, Liverpool can be a dangerous animal when underdogs, particularly if Christian Benteke and Daniel Sturridge can strike up a partnership.
Watford. Sunderland. Norwich.
Norwich City appear to lack the quality to stay in the Premier League and their signings won’t fill concerned Canaries with confidence. Watford, meanwhile, have rung the chances with a new manager, Quique Sanchez Flores, and a staggering 12 signings. As Queens Park Rangers have proven in recent years, a multitude of arrivals to bulk out a squad doesn’t necessarily guarantee you survival. Finally, Sunderland have flirted with relegation for too long. While Aston Villa are many pundit’s pick for the drop, Dick Advocaat could be left crying again this season, but this time tears of despair.
FA Cup winners
Gordon Strachan came agonisingly close to leading Southampton to FA Cup glory in 2003, but for the genius of Thierry Henry at Millennium Stadium. Ronald Koeman seamlessly oversaw Southampton’s transition last summer after Mauricio Pochettino joined Tottenham and prompted an exodus. The Saints have bought well again this summer, particularly, Dutch midfielder Jordy Claisey. There is no question that Southampton are a match for any of the top sides at St Mary’s, and a favourable FA Cup draw could see the Saints topple a few en route to a Wembley final.
Signing of the season
Resisting the urge to pluck for Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech, James Milner could ultimately prove the signing of the season. The Manchester City midfielder has earned a reputation for a versatile, utility man during his stay at Etihad Stadium. However, Aston Villa supporters will remember Milner’s buccaneering performances under Martin O’Neill, which earned the England midfielder comparisons to Steven Gerrard for a time. Now, he won’t be able to replace the Liverpool skipper and is expected to play a more withdrawn role alongside Jordan Henderson, but he is experienced and reliable, something which Brendan Rodgers needs more of.
Steve McClaren makes his return to Premier League football nine years after he left Middlesbrough. The Magpies manager has assembled a tidy squad with the additions of Chancel Mbemeba, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum. The former PSV Eindhoven is good enough to play for Chelsea, according to Mourinho. If McClaren can cultivate a hard-working squad ethos, the former England manager has the tools to lead Newcastle United to a potential Europa League spot.
Flop of the season
Spurs appear to have taken their eye off the ball this summer. After significant outlays in past transfer windows under former managers, Mauricio Pochettino has added just three names to his squad. Toby Alderweireld is a significant upgrade but Tottenham require a striker to support Harry Kane. Arsenal, Chelsea, City, United and Liverpool have all made improvements and Spurs haven’t made enough to close the gap. They’ll battle with Newcastle, Southampton and Stoke City for Europa League spots.
Most looking forward to…
Having spent the best part of 12 months following Mark Hughes during his doomed spell at Queens Park Rangers, the Welshman is a man determined to prove his managerial credentials. Hughes has struggled to hit his Blackburn Rovers heights during subsequent spells in charge of City, Fulham and QPR. However, he is slowly building his reputation and deserves credit for Stoke’s evolution since Tony Pulis’s departure. Bojan Krkic whetted the appetite last season with his shining talent, and Hughes has landed a number of transfer coups. Marco Van Ginkel has a point to prove to Chelsea after he joined on loan. Meanwhile, Ibrahim Afellay will complement Bojan up front. They have signed experienced heads in the shape of Shay Given and Glen Johnson, too. This Stoke City side look capable of challenging for a top-seven finish.