Key player: Alexis Sanchez // Key signing: Petr Cech // Predicted finish: Could push the champions, but will probably settle for Champions League qualification // Inside scoop: Performances toward the end of last season, coupled with the arrival of Petr Cech mean this probably is the strongest squad Arsenal has had in a decade and, for once, there has been no threat of losing anybody over the summer. The squad still seems unbalanced, though, short of cover for the back four and in holding midfield, and laden with gifted attacking midfielders. There are also question marks over whether Olivier Giroud really is clinical enough to lead the line for genuine title challengers (although there is the intriguing possibility of a fully fit Theo Walcott, who has always insisted his best position is through the middle).
Getty ImagesDavid Rogers
Key player: Jack Grealish // Key signing: Micah Richards // Predicted finish: Struggling against relegation// Inside scoop: Tim Sherwood is an ebullient figure and there is no doubt he had an immediate impact both at Tottenham and Villa. The question is: What else has he got? Two of Villa’s key performers of last season, Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, have both been sold, and the new arrivals fall into the category of solid, rather than inspiring. Scott Sinclair and Micah Richards are both players looking to rebuild their careers after long spells on the bench at Man City (and then Fiorentina in Richards’ case), while Jordan Amavi and Idrissa Gueye have prospered in France. Ghanaian forward Jordan Ayew has been picked up for £12m, but he is a player who frustrates more than he dazzles.
Aston Villa FC via Getty ImagesNeville Williams
Key player: Callum Wilson // Key signing: Sylvain Distin // Predicted finish: Struggling against relegation // Inside scoop: To some, they’re just another club owned by an extremely rich Russian. True, without Maxim Demin’s support, the club would be nowhere near the EPL. But merely crediting Demin’s investment seems a willfully curmudgeonly way of looking things. When Eddie Howe, then 31, was appointed as manager in 2008-2009, Bournemouth was adrift. Although he had an unsuccessful season away at Burnley, he has led them from the brink of the abyss to the Premier League in six years, an astounding achievement. The only player bought for a fee so far is left-back Tyrone Mings, from Ipswich. There have been some intriguing free transfers and loans, among them two wingers – Christian Atsu (Chelsea, loan), and Joshua King (Blackburn).
Getty ImagesStu Forster
Key player: Nemanja Matic // Key signing (probable): John Stones //Predicted finish: Second // Inside scoop: Chelsea dominated the league last season and, even when Man City closed in with a fine run in December, Jose Mourinho’s side looked in control from the moment it won its opening game. But Mou’s third season often brings conflict, a by-product of the intensity that makes him such an effective coach. He seems a mellower figure these days, but that doubt remains. There must also be some doubts about the depth of the squad. Chelsea looked exhausted by spring last year and with no additions in midfield the worry must be that the same scenario recurs. The loan signing of Falcao to replace Didier Drogba as a back-up striker is a strange one. If Diego Costa’s hamstrings play up again, Chelsea may find itself short of striking cover.
Getty ImagesMatt King
Key player: Yannick Bolasie // Key signing: Yohan Cabaye // Predicted finish: Comfortable mid-table // Inside scoop: Since Alan Pardew’s appointment in January, Palace’s improvement has been staggering: At the moment he has a win percentage of 57 percent, higher than any other Place manager in history. The signing of Yohan Cabaye from PSG suggests a club with increasing ambitions. The only slight worry must be Pardew’s history. He has a record of starting well at a club but then being unable to arrest a slide once results begun to go against him. It may not play the prettiest football in the world, but there is something undeniably thrilling about the pace and directness of Yannick Bolasie and Wilfred Zaha on the flanks. Patrick Bamford, on loan from Chelsea, adds class to the center.
Getty ImagesTom Dulat
Key player: Leighton Baines // Key signing: Gerard Deulofeu // Predicted finish: Upper mid-table // Inside scoop: Everton is a perpetual example of the problems of the economics of modern football. It keeps on threatening to qualify for the Champions League, just missing out, then spending a season struggling to juggle the competing demands of Europa and EPL with a squad that doesn’t really have the depth to fight on two fronts. With no Europa League distraction/excuse, there’ll be an expectation of an improvement this season. The signings so far have been unspectacular: Tom Cleverley has arrived on a free from Man U and Gerard Deulofeu, who had a productive season on loan at Goodison, picked up for £4.2million from Barcelona. But perhaps the biggest plus of the window so far is that Everton has managed to hold on to Seamus Coleman.
Getty ImagesMark Runnacles
Key player: Wes Morgan // Key signing: Shinji Okazaki // Predicted finish: Relegation // Inside scoop: The problem when teams stage remarkable escapes is that you’re never quite sure which is the real team. Was it the side that took 22 points from its final nine games of the season, or was it the side that took 17 points from the first 29? Two major departures, anyway, mean comparisons with last season are not exactly valid. Esteban Cambiasso decided at age 34 not to extend his contract, but even more significant is the loss of the manager Nigel Pearson, sacked by the club’s owners after their relationship became “no longer viable.” He was an irascible and at times unpleasant figure last year, but his effectiveness in those final months of the season cannot be doubted. His replacement, Claudio Ranieri, was dismissed by Greece last year.
Key player: Philippe Coutinho // Key signing: James Milner // Predicted finish: Europa League qualification // Inside scoop: For Liverpool, last season fell into three sections. There was the first third, when Liverpool sputtered along without bothering the top of the table. There was the middle, when it went 14 league games unbeaten. Then, there was the dreadful drift toward the end of the season that left nobody at the club any the wiser as to exactly where it stands. The club’s owners clearly weren’t impressed, the result being the dismissal of two of Rodgers’s senior coaches being offloaded. Another star player, Raheem Sterling, has gone, and there’s been the familiar blizzard of arrivals, including forwards Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke. The question is whether Rodgers can find a way of playing that gets the best out them.
Liverpool FC via Getty ImagesNick Taylor/Liverpool FC
Key player: Yaya Toure // Key signing: Raheem Sterling // Predicted finish: Top four // Inside scoop: The pattern over the past four years has been clear: City wins the league, then dozes for a season, then it comes back and wins the league, then it dozes again. So is this another “on” season? Manuel Pellegrini remains and there hasn’t been much of a shake-up of the playing personnel, either. James Milner has left and Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling have arrived, but essentially this is the same squad and manager who were so underwhelming last season. Perhaps they will be able to refocus, but with rumors continuing to circulate that Pep Guardiola is being lined up to take over as manager next summer, this feels an awful lot like a season of drift. When players are convinced a manager is leaving, it necessarily undermines his authority.
Getty ImagesBradley Kanaris
Key player: Wayne Rooney // Key signing: Morgan Schneiderlin // Predicted finish: Champions // Inside scoop: No more deferments; it’s time for Louis Van Gaal to deliver. His squad has had a year to get used to his methods and he and the chief executive Ed Woodward have had a full summer, with no interference from the World Cup, to pursue transfer targets. United had a highly impressive preseason last year as well, so nobody will read too much into what happens during the summer tour, but it seems significant that Van Gaal has fielded the same outfield 10 in each of the three games of the International Champions Cup so far. One that suggests Marouane Fellaini will be a far less significant figure this season than last. David De Gea may yet be sold, and there is talk of further signings both in central defense and at center-forward.
Getty ImagesStephen Lam
Key player: Jack Colback // Key signing: Aleksandar Mitrovic // Predicted finish: Mid-table // Inside scoop: There is never any mood other than turbulence at Newcastle. Fan discontent with owner Mike Ashley, a brutal disregard for Cup competitions, a privileging of the balance-book over the pursuit of glory, eventually led to Alan Pardew leaving the club last January, after which the coach John Carver, promoted embarrassingly out of his depth, almost led Newcastle to relegation. The appointment of the former England manager Steve McClaren has calmed tensions to an extent, but they fester just below the surface and a run of bad results could reawaken them. McClaren’s first job is to dispel the disillusionment and reignited a sense of purpose among players and fans.
Getty ImagesMark Runnacles
Key player: Sebastien Bassong // Key signing: Youssouf Mulumbu // Predicted finish: Struggling to stay up // Inside scoop: If Norwich are to stay up this season, much will depend on their 34-year-old manager, Alex Neil. A central midfielder with Airdrie, Barnsley and Mansfield, he moved to Hamilton Academical in 2005 and became player-manager there eight years later. Several players remain from the team that was relegated the season before last, the new signings give an indication of Norwich’s budget and ambitions. Neil has brought French midfielder Tony Andreu from Hamilton, and Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu have been picked up from West Brom but, while all three are tidy enough players -- and give an idea of the passing style Neil prefers -- none are exactly superstars.
AFP/Getty ImagesGLYN KIRK
Key player: Graziano Pelle // Key signing: Jordy Clasie // Predicted finish: Mid-table, but lower than last season // Inside scoop: A year ago, after the sale of a series of big-name players, there were general predictions of doom for Southampton. Yet the new signings settled quickly and the club improved. There have been further major departures this summer but the expectation seems to be that Southampton can handle it. The model of promoting players from the academy and blending them with relatively inexpensive players scouted overseas seems to work. The major question this season is how Southampton can cope with the demands of playing in the Europa League as well as the Premier League. Clubs in the past have found it exhausting to fight on two fronts and at some point a decision must be taken by the Saints.
Getty ImagesChristof Koepsel
Key player: Ryan Shawcross // Key signing: Marco van Ginkel // Predicted finish: Mid-table // Inside scoop: Stoke is another of those sides that seems rapidly to have established itself in the top flight. Parting company with Tony Pulis in 2013 was a risk, but the appointment of Mark Hughes has been an undoubted success. The team has retained its reputation for organization and aggression, but has also added a level of finesse. Bojan Krkić is perhaps as far from a stereotypical Stoke player, but he was a revelation last season until his knee injury. Stoke has brought in seven players this summer, Joselu, Glenn Johnson and Marco van Ginkel on loan. The suggestion is of a continuing evolution of style towards a more possession-based technical approach, but no Hughes side will ever lack fight. Avoiding relegation shouldn’t be an issue.
Getty ImagesLionel Ng
Key player: Lee Cattermole // Key signing: Sebastian Coates // Predicted finish: Struggling against relegation // Inside Scoop: This will be Sunderland’s ninth straight season in the top flight, its best run since being relegated in 1958. In those past eight years, Sunderland has finished above 13th only once and has three times been in the bottom five. This looks like being another season of toil and, eventually, its luck is going to run out. If there is a reason for optimism, it is Dick Advocaat, the 67-year-old Dutch manager who arrived last season to inspire the late escape. He at least got the team organized and a run of five games helping the Black Cats secure safety. That at least is a base to work from, although Sunderland’s recent problem has been scoring goals -- it was the second lowest scorer in the 2014-15 season.
AFP/Getty ImagesBEN STANSALL
Key player: Ashley Williams // Key signing: Andre Ayew // Predicted finish: Solid mid-table // Inside Scoop: What do Swansea do next? In the 13 years since the club narrowly escaped bankruptcy and was sold for £1, the trajectory has been up and up. Promotion followed promotion until the Premier League was attained in 2011, since when Swansea has emerged as the model for all similarly sized clubs to follow. It has a clearly defined style of play and that has made it possible to line up replacements for players that, it accepts, will eventually be sold, and to keep a permanent shortlist of possible replacement managers. Garry Monk last season dismissed doubts about his lack of experience by leading Swansea to its highest ever points tally in the top flight. The question now is whether there are any more heights to be attained.
AFP/Getty ImagesGEOFF CADDICK
Key player: Harry Kane // Key signing: Toby Alderweireld // Predicted finish: Europa League qualification // Inside Scoop: It would be nice if this was the season when Tottenham could stop thinking about Gareth Bale, but you suspect his shadow will continue to lie long over White Hart Lane. Bale's transfer to Real Madrid allowed Spurts to spend $124 million on a new squad. Perhaps, though, some sense if finally dawning with the north London club. The only signings have been three defenders -- Tony Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer and Kieran Trippier -- and, while there is a clear need for a forward to back up Kane, the sense is of a club rationalizing, trying to develop a solid core. As a result, Mauricio Pochettino looks as secure as any Spurs manager in years and for once there is a welcome sense of stability about the club.
Getty ImagesMark Kolbe
Key player: Troy Deeney // Key signing: Etienne Capoue //Predicted finish: Relegated // Inside Scoop: It’s always a struggle for promoted sides to survive in the Premier League but Watford perhaps has more reasons to worry than most. It was exceptional last season at beating sides in mid-table and below in the Championship, but it struggled against the teams nearer the top of the table. In 14 games against the other teams who finished in the top eight, Watford won just three, picking up 13 of a possible 42 points. Not surprisingly, that seems to have led the club’s hierarchy to decide that major changes were needed to compete at a higher level. Quique Sanchez Flores comes in as manager with 10 new signings. Upgrades were essential, but history suggests that making too many changes at once can be counter-productive.
Getty ImagesJoachim Sielski
West Bromwich Albion
Key player: Chris Brunt // Key signing: James McClean // Predicted finish: Lower mid-table // Inside Scoop: The “Tony Pulis Effect” is a remarkable phenomenon. He arrives at a club and, as soon as he does, he becomes the dominant figure. The style of football becomes Pulis-ized; the back four plays narrow, the midfield is often by-passed, the ball played long. There are no fripperies or indulgences, just simple, practical, functional football. And it works. There are those who see little beauty in Pulis’ football, but for a team on a limited budget his capacity to squeeze the best results possible out of his players is invaluable. If West Brom can keep Saido Berahino for another season, watch out.
Getty ImagesMatthew Ashton - AMA
West Ham United
Key player: Diafra Sakho. // Key signing: Dimitri Payet. // Predicted finish: Lower midtable. // Inside Scoop: This is a vital season for West Ham, one that could shape the whole future of the club. This is its last season at Upton Park as the club moves moves to a repurposed Olympic Stadium next summer, which will have a capacity of 54,000. Given its London location -- the most recent Deloitte report into football finance listed West Ham as the 21st richest club in the world -- that could be the springboard to far greater things. What it must do, above all else, is to ensure that it goes into the Olympic Stadium as a Premier League club. Relegation, this season of all seasons, is not an option. New manager Slaven Bilic is intelligent and charming, but will have his work cut out for him this season.