Premier League Preview: Swansea, Tottenham, Watford, West Brom, West Ham
The Premier League kicks off tomorrow and we conclude our preview by looking at Swansea, Tottenham, newly promoted Watford, West Brom and West Ham.
2014/15 finish: 8th
Since they first came into the Premier League the Welsh side have never looked out of place in the top flight, with Swansea now synonymous with a passing style that entertains.
Gary Monk has certainly kept up that tradition in his first full season in charge, with the former captain guiding the side to an 8th place finish, despite losing top scorer Wilfred Bony to Manchester City in January.
Monk has been shrewd in adding to his squad so far this summer, with perhaps their most high profile signing, Andre Ayew, joining on a free. With Bony's natural replacement Gomis also set to stay put this year, Swansea look more than capable of continuing their great progress at what is undoubtedly a very well run club.
Key Transfer: Andre Ayew- A regular for Marseille for the last five seasons, the forward certainly has enough pedigree to add some dynamism to Gary Monk's side, and could provide the perfect foil for Gomis up top.
Star Player: Ashley Williams- Captain for club and country, Williams has again drawn admiring glances from other clubs for his assured performances at the back for the Swans last season. Committed, loyal, and most importantly, a real leader on the pitch, he gives his side an assurance every time he plays.
Season Expectations: Mid table/Top half Finish
FTD Says: There is absolutely no reason why Swansea can't finish in the top half of the table once again. Under Gary Monk, the side looks to getting better and better and they will be among a group of teams for who relegation is never an issue, but a top six finish is just out of their reach
2014/15 finish: 5th
It's easy to forget that Spurs finished as high as they did last season, given that their performances at times were below par. It was a season of transition for Mauricio Pochettino as he looked to introduce his pressing style of play at White Hart Lane to a squad that was not really his.
After clearing the decks with the likes of Paulinho, Stambouli and Capoue moving on, Spurs have added some defensive reinforcement with the likes of Toby Alderweireld and Kieran Trippier, whilst young prospect Dele Alli joins the first team squad following his January signing from MK Dons.
So much rests on the shoudlers of England striker Harry Kane however, who had an outstanding last season, and with Adebayor looking set to leave, another striker seems vital to Spurs making progress this season.
Key Transfer: Toby Alderweireld- Snatched from Southampton who had loaned the defender from Athletico Madrid last season, he showed his class as part of a solid defense at St Marys, and Pochettino will be hoping he can bring the same stability for him this season.
Star Player: Harry Kane- All eyes will be on the striker this season, to see whether he can replicate his stellar form for a second season. He will be getting extra attention from opposition defenses this time round however, and will have to cope to with the added pressure if he is to flourish again this season.
Season Expectations: Europa League/ Champions League Qualification
FTD Says: Another striker to support Kane is vital. It looks like Daniel Levy is willing to give Pochettino the time he hasn't previously afforded other managers, and another top six finish, along with some improved performances, should be enough as they continue to build. Whilst they will be looking at the top four, they are still someway behind their rivals in that respect.
2014/15 season: Championship (runners up)
Watford were the exception to the rule that stability is the key to success last season, as they gained promotion despite having four different managers in less than a year.
Having changed managers again since getting to the Premier League, with Quique Sanchez Flores arriving from Spain, Watford have also made 10 signings so far this summer, with more expected.
Whilst they have added Premier League experience with the likes of Ettiene Capoue from Spurs, the majority of their signings have come from abroad, and with a new manager also settling in, they will need to make a quick start to the Premier League season if they are to avoid the drop.
Key Transfer: Jose Manuel Jurado- a tough call given the volume of signings, but Jurado, and former Athletico Madrid player, could add creativity to Watford's midfield, as well as chipping in with a goal or two.
Star Player: Troy Deeney- Despite the constant changes around him, the striker has managed to consistently find the back of the net for the past few seasons, with his 21 goals last season key to Watford's promotion. If he can make the step up, he could well be the difference between them staying up
Season Expectations: Relegation battle
FTD Says: Despite the club's owners having big ambitions, avoiding relegation is the only priority for Watford this season. Whether they do or not is difficult to judge, with so many signings and a new manager to boot, the likelihood is that they won't be able to get it together in time to avoid the drop, and if Flores is still manager come the end of the season, it would be surprising.
2014/15 finish: 13th
There aren't many bigger assurances of Premier League survival than having Tony Pulis in charge of your club. Pulis came in last season after the failure of Alan Irvine, who wasn't fancied by many in the first place, and the Baggies were pretty much safe form then on in.
Pulis has never been relegated as a manager, and with his side seemingly settled, and a couple of astute signings in James Chester, James McClean and Rickie Lambert, you wouldn't bank on this season being his first.
As with all Pulis sides, West Brom will be oganised, tough to beat, and direct in their attacking approach, and if they can keep hold of Saido Berahino or another year, they will be in for a good season.
Key Transfers: Rickie Lambert- Never really given the chance to succeed at Liverpool, the frontman still has a lot to offer in the Premier League, and could prove to be a very good signing for West Brom.
Star Player: Saido Berahino- as long as he's stays at the Hawthorns that is. He showed his capability to score consistently in the Premier League this season, and with Pulis watching over him, not many would argue against him continuing to develop in the Midlands for another season before moving on to bigger things.
Season Expectations: Mid table finish
FTD Says: Safety is all but guaranteed for the Baggies, so it more a question of how high up the table they can get. Theiy will always be tough to beat at the Hawthorns, and if they can keep their home form tight and pick up points away, they could make a potential charge into the top half of the table. They will be another team in the mid-table mini league.
2014/15 finish: 13th
In the top four at Christmas, West Ham's formed declined in the second half of last season and they ended it in mid table obscurity, and said goodbye to Big Sam.
With former player Slaven Bilic being brought in, and Europa League qualification through fair play (they have since been knocked in the qualifying stages), the final season at Upton Park before their move to the Olympic Stadium could be an intriguing one.
The Hammers have been very active in the transfer market, resigning Carl Jenkinson on loan from Arsenal, as well as adding the likes of Nene, Angelo Ogbonna and Dimitri Payet to the ranks. With a couple of strikers out injured however, another frontman still looks to be on the cards.
Key Transfer: Dimitri Payet- with 21 assists for Marseille last season, the midfielder has certainly been brought in to add some creativity to West Ham's play, and provided they get their strikers fit and firing, he could provide the ammunition they need.
Star Player: Diafra SAkho- Showed glimpses of his goal scoring prowess last season, but the Hammers faithful will be hoping he can kick on this season and reach double figures in the Premier League.
Season Expectations: Top Half/ Mid table
FTD Says: They haven't looked great so far in their Europa League games, their elimination evidence of that, but that could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Bilic as he can focus fully on the Premier League.
Whilst the sky's the limit seemingly for West Ham after their stadium move, this season their only aim should be survival, and provided Bilic can get the kind of form they showed the start of last season they should be fine. If Bilic is a success then a top ten finish could happen, but more likely they will find themselves around the same position as last season