In the latest part of our series previewing the 2017/18 Premier League season, we assess the chances of Newcastle United, Southampton, Stoke City and Swansea.
Can Rafa Benitez keep Newcastle in the Premier League this season? Can Stoke cope with the loss of Marko Arnautovic? Will Southampton stop selling all their best players to Liverpool?
We try to answer these and more.
The Magpies are back in the big time at the first time of asking, pipping Brighton at the post to win the Championship led by the Spanish mastermind, Rafa Benitez.
Unlike fellow new boys Brighton and Huddersfield, Newcastle have some star quality throughout the squad. Their biggest asset though is their manager who is building a strong and competitive squad at St James’ Park.
They are not exactly serial winners in this league, they tend to struggle and they have also not recruited quite as many players as Benitez was hoping but how much of that is down to him is questionable.
There is only one man here: Dwight Gayle. He ripped through the Championship scoring at will at times. The former Crystal Palace striker will be Newcastle’s key goal-scorer this season and he will be deadly given the chance.
Ironically this man helped them to the Championship but the signing was only made permanent this summer. Christian Atsu knows the culture and he slots right into the team alongside Matt Ritchie and new man Jacob Murphy. Quick and skilful, a really useful winger.
They will finish higher than their compatriots from the Championship and will probably avoid relegation comfortably but don’t expect miracles, a solid finish.
Last Season: Champions (Championship)
It was a disappointing season for the Saints as Claude Puel could not help Southampton endure a difficult run especially post-Christmas. The trip to Wembley in the Capital One Cup probably kept him in the job longer than he should have been.
They have a squad capable of winning games and a big game temperament to mix it with the best of them. They also have some very interesting and exciting youngsters hungry for action.
Lack of certainty of Virgil van Dijk’s future will hurt and they may not have had the most fruitful dealings with a lack of incoming names this summer.
Manolo Gabbiadini was a revelation after joining halfway through last season, a deadly finisher who gets himself in the right areas at the right times. Expect the Italian to kick on this season, forming a strong partnership with former Swindon man Charlie Austin.
Not many to choose from but Mario Lemina sticks out as he arrives from Juventus for just over £15 million. His experience with a successful European giant is beneficial and he will be a key component for Southampton.
Southampton are a good side and will be competitive for a lot of games this season but will still struggle against the best sides. They could face some really tough away days. Similar finish to last season would be the most likely result.
Last Season: 8th
Stoke have some very gifted players and last season there were glimpses of what they are capable of as a team. A respectable finish but not high enough.
Some uniquely talented individuals make this team a very exciting proposition. They will open holes and exploit space.
They have lost one of the stars of last season Marko Arnautovic to London club, West Ham United. Stoke also are yet to put a consistent run of games together, they fail to find a formula that can be put together game after game.
There is one man there who wouldn’t look out of place with a top European side. That is, of course, Xherdan Shaqiri who is capable of the sublime. He has pace and can score the mercurial with his rather cultured feet. The Swiss magician can take Stoke from average to very good when he hits top gear.
Loanee, Kurt Zouma is a worthy addition, he can lift the defence. A surprise to be loaned out by champions Chelsea but the 22-year-old is good on the ball and not bad tackling either, a clever move for Stoke.
With the addition of a few experienced faces and a run of consistency there is a chance they could make the top half but they won’t be troubling the European places.
Last Season: 13th
At times last season Swansea did play well and they stayed out of the relegation scrap they had a rather quiet season though and finished in the bottom half.
A team comfortable in the Premier League now, they have Premier League know-how and have somehow established themselves in the top tier of English football.
A poor transfer window and they could lose their Icelandic star Gylfi Sigurdsson which would make the Swans vulnerable.
Iceland international Sigurdsson is key to Swansea but his talent is clear to see, he makes a difference with his terrific passing game and great vision.
Another loan signing, Tammy Abraham arrives after a strong season with Bristol City, the England under-21 international is a very prolific scorer watch him thrive in the Premier League.
This could be the season they finally lose the plot, not enough strengthening done and every other team is getting stronger could be a long season for fans at the Liberty Stadium.
Last Season: 15th
Fred Blagden, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The Mixer, Pundit Arena’s Irish football podcast where we spoke with Jillian Godsil, former media officer at Bray Wanderers.
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