After going through my predictions for the top half of the Premier League table, it’s now time to look at the teams I fear may struggle in the 2017/18 season.
11th – Southampton
With Virgil Van Dijk set to leave the Saints, Mauricio Pellegrino’s side don’t look as strong as they did last season. Yet we say that every year about Southampton and somehow they find a way to finish in the top half of the table.
However, this time I think they will just miss out. Pellegrino’s CV doesn’t look fantastic, a good season with Alavés aside, and I think it will take him time to adjust to English football. They’ve also been very quiet in the transfer window, and whilst no doubt there will be some talented youngsters breaking through as always, it won’t be enough to stop them slipping back this time around.
12th – Watford
Marco Silva is a superb appointment by Watford, and one which will allow them to survive comfortably this season.
Watford are extremely well-run. Yes their turnovers of managers is high, but they’ve already established themselves as a solid mid-table Premier League club because of it. Signings this summer have a decidedly English flair to them, with a whole load of midfield talent arriving in the form of Tom Cleverley, Will Hughes and Nathaniel Chalobah.
Watford have top half potential this year, but I think they’ll miss out by easing off once they have reached the 40 point mark. If they don’t however, look for them to push the likes of West Ham, Everton and Leicester.
13th – Swansea City
Whilst Swansea are likely to lose the services of brilliant playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson, their form under manager Paul Clement has been excellent since he came in to rescue the club from relegation midway through last season. 26 points from his 18 games in charge was top half of the table form and bodes well ahead of his first full season at the club.
Swansea’s biggest problem will be the loss of the influential Sigurdsson. Tammy Abraham has come in on loan as a natural goalscorer, but he’ll need service, and it’s unlikely that the more defensive-minded new midfield signing Roque Mesa will be the one to provide it. Unless Swansea find some more creativity, they’re not going to challenge the top ten.
14th – Stoke City
Stoke’s side appears to be considerably weaker than it was just a couple of years ago. Marko Arnautovic is the latest key player to leave, having moved to West Ham, and replacements don’t seem to be at the same standard.
Mark Hughes suffered at the hands of some Stoke fans last season, who felt that the club were due a managerial change. Kurt Zouma is a good loan signing in defence, but Hughes is going to find it tough to hold on to his job at this rate.
I predict that Hughes will go, and Stoke will battle their way to a mediocre finish.
15th – Newcastle United
Newcastle are another side suffering from an underwhelming transfer window, but fortunately they have a Champions League winning manager in Rafa Benitez to fall back on.
The club were somewhat fortunate to win the Championship last season, but the fact they did, under intense pressure to steamroll the league, says a lot about Benitez’s ability.
It won’t be spectacular, but Newcastle will stay up this season, though with the pressure on Mike Ashley as high as ever.
16th – West Bromwich Albion
Tony Pulis – The expert at keeping mediocre teams in the Premier League. West Brom were making a legitmate push for Europe in the first half of last season but faded badly near the end as the players decided to take an early summer holiday.
Pulis has made it clear that he feels more signings are needed if West Brom are going to be competitive this season and I agree. If those signings come, then West Brom could well push for the top half. Without them, Pulis will have to work his magic to keep the Birmingham club up again.
17th – Burnley
Burnley did a great job staying up on a budget last season, using defensive grit and fantastic home form to get over the line. The loss of Michael Keane to Everton is a huge blow to that squad, and staying up again this season will be even tougher.
Sean Dyche has added to his workmanlike squad with the additions of Jack Cork and Jon Walters, with Charlie Taylor and Phil Bardsley also arriving and I think this’ll be enough to keep them up, albeit by the narrowest of margins.
18th – Crystal Palace
On paper, Crystal Palace’s squad should be more than good enough to stay up this season. But I can see their season being a complete disaster.
Frank De Boer has arrived as the new manager from Ajax and wants his side to play an attractive style of football. Now contrast that to the squad built by Pulis, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce in previous years and it is completely unsuited to that style of play.
Christian Benteke is an asset, but not with the ball to feet. And asking Scott Dann to play out the back is asking for trouble. Palace were close to going down last season and needed Allardyce to rescue them. This time, they won’t be so lucky.
19th – Huddersfield Town
It wouldn’t surprise if David Wagner managed to keep Huddersfield in the Premier League. I mean they were never expected to even be here in the first place. In fact most tipped Huddersfield to be in the relegation battle last season so it would be silly to underestimate them this time around.
That being said though, I just don’t see them scoring enough to pull off a miraculous survival. Whilst strikers have been brought in, including Steve Mounié for £11 million, it’s important to remember Huddersfield had a negative goal difference last season. They scored six less goals than a nearly-relegated Nottingham Forest!
Never say never, but I think this is a step too far for Huddersfield
20th – Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton remind me a lot of Burnley from a couple of seasons ago. They have a very talented Championship squad, echoed by how comfortably they were promoted last season.
However, most of their team doesn’t scream Premier League quality to me. Transfers as a whole look fairly lacklustre and it doesn’t look like Brighton have enough “game changers” who can step up and score a late winner.
Chris Hughton is a talented manager. Be patient with him this season, and perhaps adapt the Burnley model of going down, using parachute payments to rebuild and come straight back up and then establishing yourselves in the Premier League.