With 6 points separating Southampton in 8th and Watford in 17th after the completion of the 2016/17 Premier League season, the 2017/18 season looks to continue in this compact fashion. The 6-point gap was the closest in the Premier League since the turn of the new millennium, yet surprisingly the previous season saw a considerable 21-point gap between these positions with Liverpool in 8th and Sunderland in 17th respectively.
With the staggering amounts of prize money available to Premier League clubs in todays’ game; which has substantially improved within the last few seasons due to ludicrous TV deals and sponsorship agreements, 90MAAT takes a closer look over two articles at the teams who finished in these positions last season and what they need to do to progress within the league and to not fall into the dreaded relegation scrap.
Southampton have been consistently based around the 6th – 9th spot in the last few Premier League seasons which I am sure many Saints fans will be happy with. A successful Carling Cup campaign last season saw Southampton suffer a 3-2 loss against the Red Devils in the final of the competition and they were undoubtedly unfortunate to not bring the trophy back down south. However, an undetermined Europa League campaign ended abruptly after finishing 3rd in group K which was a huge disappointment to Southampton’s fan base. Yet, with new manager Mauricio Pellegrino on board is he going to provide Southampton a breath of fresh air in the 17/18 season.
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With some impressive creative midfielders on the clubs’ books such as Nathan Redmond, Dusan Tadic alongside Sofiane Boufal its imperative that the Saints find a regular goal scorer at the club. Charlie Austin and Shane Long were hampered with injuries during the season as the Saints struggled for goals, but the introduction of Manolo Gabbiadini who gained 4 goals in 10 Premier League starts shows he has bags of potential within the starting XI for the club. Most importantly for the Saints is holding onto their most important players, for instance: Van Dijk, Ward-Prowse and Cedric Soares, who are essential for Southampton’s success and winning a domestic cup competition would be a suitable aim for them in the upcoming campaign.
The Cherries have had a busy summer so far bringing in Asmir Begovic, Jermain Defoe and Nathan Ake to the club. Ake had a successful loan spell at the club during the 16/17 season which prompted the club to smash their transfer record by bringing in the Dutchman for £20 million. Yet, Jermain Defoe will arguably be the most influential player bought in by Eddie Howe so far and for a free transfer, this could potentially be one of the greatest signings of this transfer window, with Defoe’s evident ability of playing in the Premier League and constant goal threat he is one Bournemouth fans should be excited about.
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Eddie Howe has done a fantastic job at Bournemouth and with only their 2nd season amongst the greatest domestic teams worldwide, guiding the club to a 9th place finish last season, there is complete understanding as to why recent speculation has linked Howe as replacing Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and even being a future England manager. He is of paramount importance to Bournemouth’s success within the coming season and the club are not far off a solid squad to challenge for this 9th position again and to move forward.
West Bromwich Albion
If you want old school football, look no closer than West Bromwich Albion, Tony Pulis has applied the ‘Pulis effect’ effect at West Brom and his methods have worked brilliantly since joining the Baggies in 2015. Pulis has always focused on maintaining a solid core in the team, last season saw Foster, McAuley, Evans, Fletcher and Rondon compose the main core of the West Bromwich team yet with the departure of club captain Fletcher earlier in the window and the future of Jonny Evans in doubt, where does Pulis go this season and what does he need to bring in?
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West Brom failed to score in 15 Premier League games last season. However, with the early captures of strikers Jay Rodriguez from Southampton and Zhang Yuning from Vitesse Arnhem who will work alongside Hal Robson-Kanu and Salomon Rondon this department should be effective enough to provide Pulis with the goals needed, which last season was clearly a problem for the West Midlands side.
With 7 players released already in this window, it’s important West Bromwich begin to build their squad as there is no easy game in the Premier League and squad rotation is of vital importance to these mid-table teams. It’s essential that Fletcher is replaced, as I’m sure his leadership abilities will be deeply missed. Alongside this, with Gareth McCauley sitting at 37, Pulis may have to look towards the youth and provide reliable keeper Ben Foster with the protection he needs.
The move to the London Stadium did not go to plan in the opinion of many West Ham United fans. After their first season away from their beloved Upton Park the Hammers briefly flirted with relegation yet a decent run of form towards the end of the season resulted in Slaven Bilic guiding the club to an 11th place finish. With the club selling out all 52,000 season tickets for the 2017/18 campaign, is their reason for optimism amongst the claret and blues going into the new season.
A huge problem for the East London club last season was the inconsistency of their strikers such as Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Andre Ayew who only managed a pathetic 14 goals between them. When your highest goal-scorer is sitting with 9 goals from midfield, there is a problem! There’s no wonder the club have been linked with Arsenal’s Oliver Giroud, Burnley’s Andre Gray and Leverkusen’s Javier Hernandez who with only a £13million release clause stapled to his contract would be a fantastic addition to the Irons.
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Scoring 28 goals in 54 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen he is a proven Premier League and International striker with 37 goals to his name in 103 appearances while at the red half of Manchester. Whether Giroud, Gray and Hernandez, a striker is essential to West Ham and will put them in good stead to continue their consistency in the Premier League. Alongside this, the signing of experienced right back Pablo Zabeleta, from Manchester City, was a great piece of business and he may just bring the experience and leadership abilities that is needed to sure up West Hams defensive frailties.
After being embarrassingly mocked on Twitter by German side Bayern Munich yesterday on their lack of trophies, maybe domestic cup success would bring back the good old days to West Ham and keep Bayern Munich quiet for a while and this is exactly the aim the Hammers should be striving for.
Fearless Foxes – a phrase used consistently around the East Midlands to describe Leicester City. The impossible dream of the club’s success in the 15/16 Premier League season has not fully sunk in amongst most Leicester fans, who are all dreaming of a day like this once more. But, what’s crucial for the foxes is that they take all their experience from the last two seasons into the 17/18 campaign and use this in order for the club to move forward. Although no Leicester City fan can ever imagine their club lifting the Premier League trophy anytime soon, what they would love to see is success in the FA cup, a competition Leicester have struggled with in recent seasons.
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After the confirmation of the capture of Sevilla captain, Vicente Iborra, the Foxes need to look at acquiring another young centre back in order to work alongside new boy Harry Maguire. Ben Gibson being the perfect candidate for the role or perhaps West Brom’s Johnny Evans who Leicester had a failed bid for earlier in the window. Recent transfer speculation has linked Leicester with Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho which looks like an almost agreed deal with the clubs agreeing a deal in principle.
Leicester have also been linked with Watford’s Troy Deeney, who is a player who has frequently been linked with the club and who would make a great addition to the team, as long as Leicester fans can forgive him for the dreaded championship play off semi-final defeat in 2013 where Deeney himself scored a last-minute winner, after Leicester’s Anthony Knockaert missed a penalty just seconds before.
With positions 8th – 12th analysed in this article, keep a close eye out on our social media platforms and website for the second part of this article where Stoke City, Crystal Palace, Swansea, Burnley and Watford will be assessed.
Written by Eamon Kitching.