Premier League Preview: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Chelsea and Crystal Palace
With the Premier League set to kick off this weekend, we take a look at all the clubs, their key signings, and their prospects this season. Today, we look at FA Cup winners Arsenal and beaten finalists Aston Villa, newly promoted Bournemouth, reigning champions Chelsea, and Alan Pardew's Crystal Palace.
2014/15 finish: 3rd (FA Cup winners)
The Gunners have been imperious in pre-season and ended on the perfect note with a 1-0 win over Chelsea in the Community Shield, Arsene Wenger's first win over Jose Mourinho in fourteen attempts.
The signing of Petr Cech from the champions has been seen as huge boost, which could turn Wenger's side into genuine title contenders after a decade of top four finishes. Keeping this impressive squad fit will be key to any success Arsenal may have this season, with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil all having lengthy spells out last season.
It's been over a decade since 'the Invincibles' rewrote the history books, and after back to back FA Cup wins, this is seen as the season where Arsenal have to make a sustained challenge in both the Premier League and Champions League.
Key Signing: Petr Cech: the 'keeper remains the only new arrival at the Emirates so far, but bar a signing on the level of Karim Benzema, as has been rumoured, Cech's experience and class will undoubtedly make him a vital player for the Gunners.
Star player: Alexis Sanchez: Will miss the start of the season as he is currently taking a well earned rest after helping Chile to their first Copa America this summer. His explosive performances and tireless attitude will be a major factor of any title challenge.
Expectations: Title contenders
FTD says: At this moment they seem to be Chelsea's biggest threat to them retaining their title, but unless a world class striker is signed, the Gunners may still fall short. A proper title challenge will see them finish just behind Chelsea.
2014/15 finish: 17th
Tim Sherwood's appointment at Villa brought a fresh approach to the club, which ultimately yielded mixed results.
They have been busy in the transfer market, with several signings arriving from France, including Jordan Ayew, as well as Rudy Gestede from Blackburn and Micah Richards on a free. Emmanuel Adebayor also looks set to join his former Spurs boss.
However, they have also lost the spine of their team from last season, with Shay Given moving to Stoke, captain Ron Vlaar leaving on a free, new captain Fabian Delph then making a U-turn on his decision not to join City, and Christian Benteke joining Liverpool for over £30m.
Whether Sherwood's positive attitude and front foot style of play can bring his new-look squad together remains to be seen, as he is still relatively unproven as a manager.
Villa fans will be hoping though that he can get more performances like the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool, and less like their capitulation in the final against Arsenal.
Key signing: Emmanuel Adebayor: As their most proven signing in terms of Premier League experience, and the fact that Sherwood resurrected his career at Spurs when he took over, Adebayor could be an important signing for Villa.
Whilst he has had family problems in recent months and has a habit of dropping off after being with a club for a while, Sherwood will be hoping he can make a big initial impact for him.
Expectations: Top half
FTD Says: One of the perceived 'sleeping giants' of the Premier League, this giant shouldn't be looking to wake up too quickly. A season of consolidation should be on the cards, and steering away from relegation trouble as early as possible. Whilst we don't think they will sweating the trap door at the business end of the season, a bottom half finish and some good performances would be a solid foundation to build on.
2014/15 finish: Championship (winners)
Bournemouth's remarkable rise under their young manager Eddie Howe has been one of the more unlikely success stories of recent times. Winning the Championship last season, and the style in which they did it, has won Howe some admiring glances, but his great relationship with the club is plain for all to see.
Howe's biggest problem this season will be implementing their style of play whilst being aware of the quality of their opposition on a weekly basis. He will be aware that they will the underdogs for the majority of their games, and will be hoping to cause a few upsets with by impressing their style on teams whilst being aware of the threats they pose.
They have certainly gone for a mixture of youth and experience with their summer signings, with older heads like Sylvain Distin and Artur Boruc as well as Championship prospects Joshua King and Tyrone Mings heading to the South coast.
Key Signing: Tyrone Mings: The £8m signing from Birmingham is regarded as one of the best prospects in the country. Bournemouth fought off competition from other clubs to get his signature, and they will be hoping that his potential can be realised at the highest level.
Key Player: Callum Wilson: The striker recently committed his future to the club, and Howe will be hoping the man who fired 20 goals last season can make the step up and score in the Premier League.
2014/15 finish: Champions (League Cup winners)
Jose Mourinho's men won the league at a canter last season, and actually drew criticism for their performances towards the end of the season once the title looked to be in the bag.
With only a couple of first team additions in Radamel Falcao and Asmir Begovic, who replaced the outgoing pair of Didier Drogba and Petr Cech, the 'Special One' is seemingly hoping to try and replicate his side's success from last season with largely the same squad.
The fitness of Diego Costa and the form of Falcao, who had a torrid time at Manchester United last season, could well shape the side's chances of retaining the title, whilst they will be hoping that their rock solid back four can also maintain their fine form.
Key Signing: Radamel Falcao: Who knows whether at the end of this season the loan signing of Falcao will be seen as a masterstroke or a massive mistake from Jose Mourinho. If he can find the kind of form he had before his long term injury troubles, he could dovetail perfectly with Costa.
Star Player: Eden Hazard: Whilst Costa's goals and Fabregas' assists played a huge part in Chelsea's title win last season, it was Hazard, who chipped in with a fair few of both last season, who took the plaudits and was voted the Premier League's Player of the Year. With Mourinho recently claiming he was better that Ronaldo, Hazard will be keen to prove he is worthy of such praise.
Expectations: Title favourites
FTD says: It's hard to look past Chelsea retaining their title this season. Whilst they haven't made many additions, and certain squad members aren't getting any younger, the amount of experience and guile, both in the squad and their manager, should see them top of the pack once more.
2014/15 finish: 10th
Palace still seem to be riding the crest of the wave that came off the back of Alan Pardew's appointment last season. There is definitely a feel good factor around Selhurst Park these days as Palace look to become an established Premier League club.
With signings such as Patrick Bamford and Conor Wickham bolstering the front line, and Yohan Cabaye coming in from PSG, Palace look to be wanting to build on their top half finish last season, but whilst they have bought well, they will need to find more consistency if they are to look higher up the table.
This time last year Palace lost manager Tony Pulis just hours before their opening match, and replacement Neil Warnock departed before Christmas with the side looking certain to go down. Under Pardew's stewardship however, the threat of relegation should only be a distant memory to Palace fans.
Key Signing: Yohan Cabaye: The former Newcastle man has linked up with his former manager, and his arrival shows a real statement of intent by the club. Underused at PSG, Cabaye will be keen to show he still has the kind of creativity and class that got him the move to the French champions in the first place.
Star Player: Yannick Bolasie: The lightning-footed winger left more than one Premier League full back with nightmares last season. His goal threat and blistering pace will only be complemented by the likes of Cabaye and Bamford, Palace just need to be wary of any late bids from bigger clubs, as he would be a huge loss.
Expectations: Bottom half
FTD says: Palace will be among a number of clubs to who relegation is never a real threat, but fall short of breaking into the top eight. They will certainly entertain but might just lack the consistency to improve on last season, mid table or top half finish should be classed a success.