PREMIER LEAGUE 2017-18
Back for its 26th season, Goal takes a look at the 20 elite clubs competing for the coveted Premier League crown
The disappointment of finishing fifth and missing out on a Champions League place was somewhat mitigated by winning the FA Cup last season, but Arsenal will be determined to come back with a vengeance in 2017-18.
While uncertainty surrounds the futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, the fact that both players have reported back with the club ahead of the new campaign is a positive sign.
Arsene Wenger’s future was resolved last term after he signed a new two-year contract and the Frenchman has been busy during the summer, adding much-needed reinforcements in the form of Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac to the club.
ONE TO WATCH: Alexandre Lacazette
With 37 goals in all competitions last season, Alexandre Lacazette was one of the top scorers in European football.
The France international almost single-handedly hauled Lyon into a fourth-place Ligue 1 finish as well as finding the net in the Champions League and Europa League.
Lacazette brings a different dimension to the Gunners attack and has looked impressive in pre-season.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 5th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 5th
Eddie Howe guided Bournemouth to their highest ever league finish last season as they secured a top-half berth in the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.
The Cherries have managed to hold on to their key players as well as add quality in the form of Asmir Begovic and Jermain Defoe, while Nathan Ake returned to the club on permanent deal in a £20m move.
Considering his performance at the helm of the south coast side, there will be added expectation on Howe to deliver yet more forward strides in 2017-18, but the main aim will be to consolidate the progress they have made thus far.
ONE TO WATCH: Joshua King
Norway international Joshua King was Bournemouth’s top goalscorer last season and the forward has come a long way since his time as a youth at Manchester United.
Now 25, King demonstrated tremendous maturity during the 2016-17 campaign and he will look to lead from the front once more in the upcoming season.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 9th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 12th
Chris Hughton’s side were beaten to the Championship title by Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United last season, but there was very little between the teams as they swept to promotion.
As a result, the Seagulls are embarking on their first ever Premier League campaign in 2017-18 and, while there may be a steep learning curve in store, their squad has plenty of experience, as well as a sprinkling of quality.
Hughton has spread his net as far as the Bundesliga and La Liga for reinforcements, with Mathew Ryan joining from Valencia, while Pascal Gross and Mark Suttner arrive from Ingolstadt.
Their main aim will be survival, but they are certainly capable of springing a few upsets along the way. However, with a home game against Manchester City in the first weekend, they are in for a baptism of fire.
ONE TO WATCH: Anthony Knockaert
Former Leicester winger Anthony Knockaert will feel that he has a point to prove in the Premier League, having failed to make his mark in the division with the Foxes.
The 25-year-old was named the Championship Player of the Year for 2016-17 after hitting 15 goals from midfield on the way to promotion and he possesses the kind of star quality that is required at the highest level.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 2nd (Championship, automatic promotion)
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 17th
Having successfully steered Burnley away from relegation last season, Sean Dyche will be expected to repeat that feat this term and perhaps make some improvements, but it will be a difficult task.
The Clarets have lost one of their key men in Michael Keane, who joined Everton during the summer, and their acquisitions this summer have not been particularly exciting.
Nevertheless, additions such as Jon Walters and Jack Cork bring with them much-needed experience in key areas.
While they have not pulled up many trees in pre-season, Burnley have looked like a solid unit and, just like last season, will be a difficult proposition for visiting teams at Turf Moor.
ONE TO WATCH: Robbie Brady
Robbie Brady arrived at Burnley from Norwich City in January last season and the Republic of Ireland international showed glimpses of his quality in 14 league appearances, but his stellar showing in a 1-1 draw against eventual champions Chelsea stands out due to the brilliant free kick he curled past Thibaut Courtois.
The former Manchester United starlet has been scoring in pre-season and can push on to the next level this year to become a key man for Sean Dyche’s side.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 16th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 19th
Antonio Conte pulled off an impressive feat in his first term at Stamford Bridge, pioneering a new tactical approach with Chelsea as they finished seven points clear at the top of the Premier League.
However, it will inevitably be a different story this season as Chelsea add the Champions League to their fixture schedule and prepare to contend with stronger challenges from their rivals, who have all strengthened.
In addition, the loss of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United and the impending departure of Diego Costa will surely see a change in style, which may not necessarily be for the better.
Furthermore, star man Eden Hazard will miss the first few weeks of the season through injury, which does not bode well for their chances.
ONE TO WATCH: Alvaro Morata
Chelsea forked out a cool £70m for the services of Alvaro Morata and plenty will be demanded of the former Real Madrid forward as a result.
A two-time Champions League winner, Morata has already proven himself in both Serie A and La Liga, so Conte will expect him to hit the ground running in the Premier League. The 24-year-old offers versatility in attack and contributes his fair share of assists as well as goals.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 1st
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 3rd
Frank de Boer has taken the reins at Selhurst Park, replacing Sam Allardyce as the Eagles’ boss.
The former Ajax and Inter coach will bring an altogether different philosophy to the club and has added Netherlands international Jairo Riedewald to his squad, as well as bright Chelsea prospect Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Having brought in a highly rated young coach and kept the majority of their squad together, Palace will be optimistic about their chances of improving upon last year’s 14th-place finish.
ONE TO WATCH: Christian Benteke
Belgium international Christian Benteke scored 15 goals in 36 league appearances last season and he will be crucial if the Eagles are to push up the table.
Now 26, the former Liverpool striker is maturing into an accomplished attacker and will be expected to assume greater responsibility this season.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 14th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 15th
Ronald Koeman secured Europa League football in his first season as Everton boss and the Dutch coach will be aiming to go one better in his second term at the helm.
While he lost the goalscoring talents of Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United, Koeman has bolstered his squad with a number of high quality additions, with former Ajax captain Davy Klaassen and ex-Barcelona forward Sandro Ramirez among those to join the ranks during the summer.
The capture of England international Michael Keane, who was reportedly a target for Manchester United, is a sign of the club’s burgeoning ambition as they look to challenge the top four.
ONE TO WATCH: Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney brought an end to a 13-year spell at Manchester United to return to his roots and there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding the man who made his breakthrough as a teen at Goodison Park.
The England captain, who will turn 32 in October, suffered downturn in fortunes in his last two seasons at Old Trafford, but he has been offered a fresh start and will be expected to lead the Toffees to greater heights.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 7th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 7th
Huddersfield are competing in the Premier League for the first time in 2017-18 and they will have to muster every possible resource if they are to stand a chance of remaining in the division.
Manager David Wagner is an energetic presence who boasts plenty of experience as well as tactical nous and he will relish the challenge of keeping the Terriers up.
Laurent Depoitre has joined from Porto, Steve Mounie is their record £11.5m signing from Montpellier, while midfielder Aaron Mooy made a permanent switch from Manchester City and Wagner will hope that all three can play a big part in the club’s survival bid.
ONE TO WATCH: Aaron Mooy
Australia international Aaron Mooy made his stay at Huddersfield permanent during the summer, having spent last season on loan from Manchester City.
The 26-year-old, who was a club-record signing, was a key performer for David Wagner’s side as they earned promotion through the play-offs, scoring four league goals along the way.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 5th (Championship, promoted via play-offs)
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 20th
Leicester’s Premier League title triumph is a distant memory now after the Foxes came crashing down to earth in 2016-17, finishing in the bottom half of the table.
Claudio Ranieri left mid-way through last season as a toxic atmosphere enveloped the club, but Craig Shakespeare managed to revitalise the team somewhat and steer them away from relegation.
While uncertainty remains over the future of star player Riyad Mahrez, Shakespeare has shored up his squad with the signing of three-time Europa League winner Vicente Iborra and Kelechi Iheanacho, who joined from Manchester City.
A renewed assault on the Premier League seems unlikely, but they will be able to perform free from the unrelenting glare that was fixed on them as defending champions last year.
ONE TO WATCH: Kelechi Iheanacho
In Kelechi Iheanacho, Leicester have secured the services of one of the brightest prospects in the Premier League.
The 20-year-old Nigeria international has already shown himself to be clinical in front of goal, scoring 17 goals in all competitions for Manchester City over the course of the last two seasons despite featuring predominantly from the bench.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 12th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 8th
Jurgen Klopp has yet to win a trophy with Liverpool since taking over from Brendan Rodgers in late 2015 and he will be determined to rectify that this season.
The German coach guided the Reds to a fourth-place finish last term and has pulled off some good work in the transfer market by signing Mohamed Salah from Roma.
With Philippe Coutinho set to remain at Anfield for another campaign at least and the Liverpool forward line among the best in the division, there is lots of optimism around the club heading into the new campaign.
Klopp will feel that a top-three finish is well within his side’s capabilities, but he will need some luck on the injury front in order to achieve such aspirations.
ONE TO WATCH: Mohamed Salah
Part of Liverpool’s problem last season was their over-reliance on Coutinho and Sadio Mane; when one or both were out, they struggled badly.
The addition of Mohamed Salah not only adds an extra dimension to the Reds’ attack, it takes the pressure off Coutinho and Mane to haul the team over the line.
Salah scored 34 goals for Roma in the last two seasons and returns to the Premier League with a point to prove having failed to make his mark at Chelsea.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 4th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 6th
Pep Guardiola failed to deliver a Premier League title in his first season at the helm and, after getting to know the lie of the land in England, the Catalan will be even more determined to win the title in 2017-18.
The disappointment of missing out last season has led to a squad overhaul, with the club spending over £200m on new players and a host of established team-members departing.
New signings Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Ederson and Bernardo Silva add strength to key areas and Guardiola will expect them all to make an immediate impact as City challenge for honours on several fronts.
If the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Gabriel Jesus can stay fit, there are few teams who will rival them.
ONE TO WATCH: Gabriel Jesus
Gabriel Jesus scored seven goals in 10 league appearances last season, but his debut campaign was frustratingly disrupted by a foot injury.
The 20-year-old is set to play a major part in Man City’s assault on the Premier League title in 2017-18 and, with a full pre-season under his belt at his new club, he will be a tantalising prospect.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 3rd
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 1st
Jose Mourinho may have guided Manchester United to League Cup, Europa League glory and Champions League football in his first season as manager, but the Portuguese will be far from content with his side’s league finish.
While they boasted one of the best defences in the division, the Red Devils lacked ruthlessness in front of goal and struggled to turn draws into wins.
Mourinho has sought to ameliorate that deficiency by bringing in the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic as he looks to steer the club to their first league title since 2013.
Having enjoyed a successful pre-season United will aim to hit the ground running when they kick things off against West Ham.
ONE TO WATCH: Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba did not live up to expectations following his world-record move to Manchester United last season.
The France international scored nine goals in all competitions, but he did not dictate games in a manner befitting the world’s most expensive player and fans were left somewhat disappointed by his overall contribution.
Now divested of the ‘world’s most expensive player’ tag by Neymar and with Nemanja Matic behind him in the engine room, Pogba will have greater freedom to play his natural game, which bodes well for the Red Devils.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 6th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 2nd
Rafa Benitez ensured that Newcastle bounced straight back from the disappointment of relegation by winning the Championship and the Spanish coach will relish the opportunity to make strides in the Premier League with the Magpies.
Survival will be the main aim, but the Newcastle squad is certainly strong enough to set their sights higher and fans will be hoping to see ambition when they return to the top flight.
Christian Atsu has joined the club permanently from Chelsea having spent the 2016-17 season on loan at St James’ Park and Javier Manquillo signed from Atletico Madrid, giving the Magpies a major boost for 2017-18.
ONE TO WATCH: Ayoze Perez
Ayoze Perez scored nine goals and provided six more in Newcastle’s Championship-winning campaign.
The 24-year-old forward has been a key member of the team since arriving from Tenerife three years ago, scoring his fair share of goals each campaign, and he will be one of the first names on Rafa Benitez’s team-sheet this season.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 1st (Championship, automatic promotion)
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 13th
Mauricio Pellegrino will lead Southampton into the 2017-18 season having replaced Claude Puel as Saints manager during the off-season and there is a sense of intrigue attached to the former Alaves boss, who previously served as assistant to Rafa Benitez at Liverpool and Inter.
Puel’s services were dispensed with even though the Saints reached the final of the EFL Cup and finished a respectable eighth, so there will be pressure on Pellegrino to deliver.
The uncertainty swirling around Virgil van Dijk’s future at St Mary’s makes things somewhat more difficult for the Argentine, but he has a robust core to his squad, to which he has added Polish defender Jan Bednarek.
ONE TO WATCH: Nathan Redmond
Goalscoring winger Nathan Redmond enjoyed an impressive debut season with Southampton last year and will be hoping to raise his game further in 2017-18.
Having previously excelled at Norwich City, the 23-year-old showcased his attacking prowess by scoring seven goals in 37 league appearances for the Saints last term and he can play a central role for the club if given the opportunity.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 8th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 10th
The Stoke squad will have slightly different complexion this season following the departure of a number of established players.
Marko Arnautovic has left for West Ham, while Jon Walters signed for Burnley and Glenn Whelan joined Aston Villa.
However, they have brought in five-time Premier League winner Darren Fletcher from West Brom and the 33-year-old will add a much-needed winning mentality to their midfield.
Having finished ninth for three consecutive seasons, last year’s 13th-place finish was a disappointment and Mark Hughes will have to show the club’s owners an improvement as he enters into his fifth campaign as Potters boss.
ONE TO WATCH: Xherdan Shaqiri
Diminutive midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri is the most talented player in the Stoke squad and he will be key to their hopes of securing a top-half finish.
The Switzerland international, who counts Bayern Munich among his former clubs, possesses tremendous shooting ability, as well as excellent technique, which makes him a handful for opponents.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 13th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 14th
The 2016-17 season was Swansea’s worst-ever Premier League campaign as they finished 15th after managing to pull themselves clear of a relegation battle.
Paul Clement imposed stability on a team that had been in disarray following the tenures of Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley, subsequently overseeing a relative upturn in fortunes.
Star player Gylfi Sigurdsson has attracted attention from admiring Premier League rivals, but the Iceland international remains at the club for now, which is a major boost heading into the new campaign.
As well as keeping Sigurdsson, Clement has strengthened his squad with the addition of Chelsea starlet Tammy Abraham on loan, while Spanish midfielder Roque Mesa joins from La Liga outfit Las Palmas.
ONE TO WATCH: Tammy Abraham
Chelsea youngster Abraham has a bright future ahead of him and the 19-year-old demonstrated his talents in abundance while on loan at Bristol City last season, scoring 23 goals for the Championship club.
A tall and powerful forward, Abraham can add potency to a strike force that managed just 45 league goals last term.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 15th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 18th
Unlike their rivals, Tottenham have not made any new signings ahead of the 2017-18 season and they head into the new campaign ostensibly weakened by the loss of Kyle Walker to Manchester City.
Nevertheless, the north London outfit possess a formidable squad, with players such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son combining to create one of the most effective attacking units in Europe.
In the last two seasons, Mauricio Pochettino’s men were denied Premier League glory by Leicester and Chelsea, so they will be desperate to finally make it over the line to clinch their first title since 1961.
However, they could be hindered by playing games at Wembley rather than White Hart Lane as they prepare to transition to a new stadium in 2018-19.
ONE TO WATCH: Harry Kane
In Harry Kane, Spurs boast the best striker in the Premier League and, needless to say, he will be key to their ambitions of winning the league.
The 24-year-old has claimed the Golden Boot in the last two campaigns and did so last season despite missing a number of weeks with an ankle injury.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 2nd
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 4th
Marco Silva will attempt to steer Watford clear of relegation this season after taking over the reins from Walter Mazzarri.
The Hornets narrowly avoided the drop last year and they have added a number of players in a bid to prevent themselves from being sucked into a relegation battle in 2017-18.
Former Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley has signed from Everton and Spanish right-back Kiko Femenia will add competition in defence, while former England Under-21 midfielder Will Hughes joins from Derby County.
Having managed to keep the core of the squad together, Silva will hope that such acquisitions can help the club push away from the drop-zone.
ONE TO WATCH: Etienne Capoue
Watford possess a combative midfielder in the form of Etienne Capoue and the France international will be central to their fight in the upcoming campaign.
The ex-Tottenham and Toulouse man enjoyed one of his best seasons last term, scoring seven league goals, including a strike in the crucial win over Manchester United.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 17th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 16th
Tony Pulis’ West Brom were performing above all expectations in the first half of last season before allowing their form to dip somewhat in the second stage, losing seven of their final 10 fixtures.
While they still managed to finish in the top half, the Baggies will be aiming to avoid a repeat of that scenario in 2017-18 and Pulis will demand that his players do not take their foot off the pedal as they strive for greater consistency.
The signing of Jay Rodriguez from Southampton will take some pressure off Salomon Rondon in attack and the 28-year-old will hope to add more goals to his game following his successful return from injury.
ONE TO WATCH: Salomon Rondon
Former Zenit attacker Rondon was West Brom’s top goalscorer last season and the Venezuelan will once again be the focal point of the Baggies’ attacks in the upcoming campaign.
The 27-year-old, who played Champions League football during his time in Russia, is a tidy finisher, but he also endeavours to bring his team-mates into the game in his overall play.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 10th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 11th
Slaven Bilic came under a lot of pressure last season and the Croatian will be keen to answer his critics by exceeding expectations in 2017-18.
To that end, he has brought in a clutch of players who can help propel the Hammers on towards a European finish. Joe Hart has arrived on loan from Manchester City, while Pablo Zabaleta also moved south from the Etihad and the club forked out £20m for Austria international Marko Arnautovic from Stoke.
As well as that, Bilic landed former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, whose quality is undoubted. At the age of 29, still has plenty to offer in the Premier League.
ONE TO WATCH: Chicharito
The signing of Hernandez is a shrewd move by Bilic, who has added a proven goalscorer to his ranks.
Hernandez hit double figures in his first three seasons at Man Utd before falling out of favour and he continued to find the back of the net during spells at Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen.
FINAL 2016-17 POSITION: 11th
GOAL'S PREDICTED 2017-18 POSITION: 9th
PREDICTED PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
1st = Manchester City
2nd = Manchester United
3rd = Chelsea
4th = Tottenham
5th = Arsenal
6th = Liverpool
7th = Everton
8th = Leicester City
9th = West Ham United
10th = Southampton
11th = West Bromwich Albion
12th = Bournemouth
13th = Newcastle United
14th = Stoke City
15th = Crystal Palace
16th = Watford
17th = Brighton
18th = Swansea
19th = Burnley
20th = Huddersfield Town