Premier League - team by team prospectsComment on this story
London - Team-by-team prospects for the 20 Premier League clubs ahead of the 2014-15 season which starts on Saturday August 16 (last season's position in brackets).
Unusually, Arsenal were active early in the close-season transfer window adding real class with the signing of Chile's Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, France defender Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle United and youngster Calum Chambers from Southampton.
However the key to Arsenal's hopes could rest with the form of German World Cup winner Mesut Ozil who faded badly last season after a bright start in London following a big-money move from Real Madrid.
Blessed with an envious array of attacking talent Arsenal lack strength-in-depth in central defence with Thomas Vermaelen expected to leave the club.
Last season's FA cup winners took just five points from a possible 18 against other teams in the top four and must improve that record if they are to better their fourth place finish.
Aston Villa (15th)
Another season of struggle is expected for Paul Lambert's youthful Villa squad.
They will be without talismanic Belgian forward Christian Benteke until at least October as he continues his return from the Achilles injury he sustained last season.
Lambert has former Manchester United captain Roy Keane as his new assistant but the pair face a difficult start with fixtures against Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City among their opening seven games.
The experience of new signings Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson could be crucial as Villa look to improve.
Burnley (second, Championship)
Premier League survival will be a remarkable achievement for a low-budget team who surprised many by securing promotion from the Championship.
Their hopes will rest on prolific forwards Danny Ings and Sam Vokes who scored 41 goals combined last year.
Manager Sean Dyche has created a strong team spirit and work ethic at Turf Moor which will be crucial if his inexperienced squad are to become established in the top flight.
A host of high-profile close-season signings, including the return of popular striker Didier Drogba, have raised expectations of a first Premier League crown at Stamford Bridge since 2010.
The loss of club legends Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole was offset by the signings of Spanish internationals Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa and Brazilian defender Filipe Luis.
Jose Mourinho continually played down his side's title chances last season - they finished four points behind winners Manchester City - but the Portuguese is more confident of success this time around.
“We are strong. I don't want to speak about the others because obviously the others are strong too. But we are going to be stronger,” the 51-year-old Mourinho said.
Crystal Palace (11th)
For the first time in their history Crystal Palace are preparing for a second successive Premier League campaign after an extraordinary season.
Tony Pulis took over with the club destined for relegation but the former Stoke manager turned Palace into an efficient, organised, dedicated team and led them to a mid-table finish.
The Eagles have bolstered their attack with the arrival of Fraizer Campbell from Cardiff City while experienced Brede Hangeland adds competition to a defence that kept 11 clean sheets after Pulis' arrival.
Their expectations again rest on their performances in front of their vociferous home support at Selhurst Park.
Roberto Martinez conducted some of the most impressive business of the close-season with a club record transfer fee paid to secure striker Romelu Lukaku's permanent switch to Goodison Park, while talented young England midfielder Ross Barkley also committed his future.
Under Martinez Everton finished fifth with a club record 72 points last season and possess all the tools to make another sustained bid for Champions League football this time around.
Experienced midfielder Gareth Barry has also turned his loan move from Manchester City into a permanent deal .
The club have high hopes for combative 21-year-old Bosnian Muhamed Besic midfielder who impressed during three games at the World Cup in Brazil.
Hull City (16th)
The arrivals of wingers Robert Snodgrass and Tom Ince and the permanent sining of Jake Livermore add quality to Steve Bruce's well-organised and underrated team.
A first season in Europe may prove an unwanted distraction for last season's FA Cup runners-up though.
Former captain Robert Koren joined Melbourne City earlier this month but in current skipper Curtis Davies and midfielder Tom Huddlestone the Tigers have a spine of genuine Premier League class.
They must address a lack of goals but a solid defence and an intimidating atmosphere at the KC Stadium, where they beat Liverpool and scored six goals against Fulham last season, means a mid-table finish is achievable.
Leicester City (First, Championship)
Managed by Nigel Pearson, the Thai-owned Midlands club have designs on a long-term stay in the top flight but must first focus on Premier League survival.
They have added former England international Matthew Upson, club-record signing Leonardo Ulloa and Marc Albrighton to an already capable squad at The King Power Stadium.
Argentine Ulloa has the pedigree to shine in the top flight and he will compete for a place along with Jamie Vardy and former England international David Nugent, who combined for 36 goals and 18 assists last season.
However, they face arguably the toughest start of any team with games against Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United inside their first five games.
Liverpool's hopes of improving on last season's second place finish were dealt a hammer blow following the exit of talismanic forward Luis Suarez to Barcelona for a reported 81 million euros ($111 million).
Much of the goal-scoring burden will be shouldered by England international Daniel Sturridge and new acquisition Rickie Lambert, joining former Southampton team mates Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren at Anfield.
Liverpool also brought in Serbia international winger Lazar Markovic and midfielder Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen as they also look forward to a first Champions League campaign since 2009.
Manchester City (champions)
By City's standards, their close-season has been relatively low-key but manager Manuel Pellegrini has astutely added to an already world class squad.
Defender Bacary Sagna and midfielder Fernando have arrived from Arsenal and Porto respectively and the acquisition of former Chelsea star Frank Lampard on loan from New York City is an intriguing move.
City's success will depend on the form and fitness of captain Vincent Kompany, midfielder Yaya Toure and forward Sergio Aguero while talented Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic will feel like a new signing after an injury-hit first campaign.
Their imperious home record last season was the bedrock for their successful title assault but they will need to improve their fortunes away from the Etihad Stadium, particularly against the lesser teams.
Manchester United (Seventh)
New manager Louis van Gaal arrives at Old Trafford hoping to bring back the good times after leading Netherlands to the semi-finals of the World Cup.
After a dismal season culminated in the sacking of Alex Ferguson's successor David Moyes and failure to qualify for the Champions League, Van Gaal faces a tough task to reinvigorate United.
New faces have been in short supply during the close season as Van Gaal continues to assess his squad but Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera and England defender Luke Shaw bring a youthful flavour to Old Trafford.
Dutchman Van Gaal will also hope to reignite the form of compatriot Robin van Persie who scored 12 league goals and looked short of confidence last season.
Newcastle United (10th)
Despite guiding Newcastle to a top 10 finish, manager Alan Pardew came under increasing pressure from the St James' Park faithful after a run of six straight defeats towards the end of the season.
Pardew has strengthened his squad with midfielders Remy Cabella, Siem de Jong and Jack Colback, while Dutch right back Daryl Janmaat comes in to replace Mathieu Debuchy who joined Arsenal.
Newcastle relied heavily upon the goals of on-loan striker Loic Remy but with his return to parent club QPR, Pardew has signed strikers Facundo Ferreyra and Emmanuel Riviere in an attempt to fill the void left by the Frenchman.
Queens Park Rangers (fourth, Championship)
Thanks to Bobby Zamora's last-gasp winner against Derby County in the Championship playoff final, QPR return to the Premier League hoping to establish themselves in England's top flight.
After suffering relegation in 2013, experienced manager Harry Redknapp looks to be building a solid foundation at Loftus Road with the signings of former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and Cardiff City's Steven Caulker.
Charlie Austin top scored last term and his form could prove vital when the west Londoners begin their assault on the Premier League against Hull City.
After finishing last season in eighth place with a record Premier League points tally, there has been major upheaval at St Mary's with the loss of manager Mauricio Pochettino and the departure of crucial players.
Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren joined Liverpool, while Luke Shaw left for Manchester United and Calum Chambers signed for Arsenal, leaving new manager Ronald Koeman to pick up the pieces.
Koeman has signed Feyenoord striker Graziano Pelle and Twente Enschede playmaker Dusan Tadic, while the Dutchman will also put faith in the club's academy players.
Ironically, new-look Southampton will begin the Premier League season against Liverpool.
Stoke City (ninth)
Mark Hughes enjoyed a sterling debut season at the Britannia Stadium and led the club to their first top-half finish in the Premier League.
Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and defender Ryan Shawcross provide a strong spine to the team and Hughes has added the experienced Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell to his squad over the close season.
Having adopted a passing and possession style of play, former Manchester City boss Hughes will hope talented midfielder Marko Arnautovic can supply new strikers Mame Biram Diouf and Bojan Krkic with the service they require.
Having pulled off a 'miracle' to win four of their last five league matches and avoid relegation, manager Gus Poyet will be hoping for an easier ride this season.
Organisation will be crucial to Sunderland's chances of success as Poyet looks to build a side based around keeping possession of the ball.
After a disapointing spell at Manchester City, midfielder Jack Rodwell heads to the Stadium of Light in search of a fresh challenge.
Uruguayan Poyet has also signed City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, while Jordi Gomez, Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt will vie for outfield places.
Swansea City (12th)
Appointed as permanent manager during the close season following a temporary stint in charge, Garry Monk will try to steady the ship at the Liberty Stadium after Michael Laudrup's departure in February.
Monk has been busy in the transfer market with the arrivals of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, Ecuador's World Cup winger Jefferson Montero and Spurs midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis has also signed for the Welsh club, but goalkeeper Michel Vorm and defender Ben Davies have departed to join Tottenham.
Keeping hold of last season's top scorer Wilfried Bony will be vital for Monk when they kick off the Premier League season against Manchester United for the second year running.
Tottenham Hotspur (sixth)
Having lured manager Mauricio Pochettino from Southampton following Tim Sherwood's dismissal, Tottenham have signed Swansea fullback Ben Davies and goalkeeper Michel Vorm plus Sporting's young central defender Eric Dier.
Argentine Pochettino will be tasked with getting the best out of the likes of forwards Roberto Soldado and the club's record signing Erik Lamela, who struggled to make an impact at White Hart Lane last season through poor form and imjury.
More signings are likely before the transfer window closes with Villarreal central defender Mateo Musacchio and PSV Eindhoven's Netherlands winger Memphis Depay linked to the club.
Pochettino has been given a five-year contract and while qualifying for the Champions League remains the club's target chairman Daniel Levy will give the new manager time to build a side capable of challenging for major honours.
West Bromwich Albion (17th)
Manager Alan Irvine's arrival at the Hawthorns was met with scepticism from some fans but the Scot is confident he can turn their fortunes around after narrowly avoiding relegation under Spaniard Pepe Mel.
Irvine has been active in the transfer market, looking to shore-up the West Brom defence with the signings of Joleon Lescott, Chris Baird and Sebastien Pocognoli, while Andre Wisdom has joined on loan from Liverpool.
Nigeria striker Brown Ideye has signed from Dynamo Kiev for a club-record fee but due to a delay processing his visa he has missed most of pre-season and may struggle to be fit for West Brom's opening fixture against Sunderland.
West Ham United (13th)
Booed by fans for his side's performances last term, boss Sam Allardyce will implement a new attacking style of play as he attempts to win-over the Upton Park crowd.
Former England striker Teddy Sheringham has been appointed as an attacking coach and will work alongside new strikers Enner Valencia, who scored three goals for Ecuador at the World Cup, and Argentine Mauro Zarate.
Allardyce has also bolstered his squad with the signings of Aaron Cresswell, Diego Poyet and Cheikhou Kouyate but he will be without striker Andy Carroll who picked up an ankle injury in pre-season. – Reuters