As the start of the English Premier League draws ever closer, our football writer Graeme Rankin gives his analysis on how he thinks each team will fare. This league once again promises drama and excitement, with no doubt many twists and turns between now and next May. There will be plenty betting opportunities throughout the season, and we rate Ladbrokes as one of the top bookmakers around when it comes to football betting. If you don't already have a Ladbrokes account, follow this link and take advantage of their sign-up offer which will net you £30 in free bets!
The Gunners managed to hold on to fourth place and a Champions League spot last season much to the delight of long serving manager Arsene Wenger. Wenger has once again said that his side will be aiming for the title, but with a lack of transfer activity to date much to the frustration of Emirates’ faithful, a top-four finish may even be out of Arsenal’s reach. Their pursuit of Liverpool hitman Luis Suarez has stalled recently after the gunners had two bids for the Uruguayan rejected, with Brendan Rogers consistently stating they don’t want to sell Suarez to a Premier League rival. On the other hand, Arsenal look likely to keep a hold of their best players, with little speculation of any key departures from North London.
Best Bet: Arsenal not to finish in the top four – 13/10 with Paddy Power
Villa narrowly managed to stay up last season after a late run of good results saw them stave off relegation and end in 15th place. Manager Paul Lambert endured a tough first season in charge of the Birmingham club, but will be boosted by top goal scorer and talisman Christian Benteke’s decision to sign a new contract and commit himself to the club after earlier handing in a transfer request. Lambert’s policy of youth over experience looks set to continue on the basis of most of Villa’s summer signings. The Scot has signed 6 new players including highly rated Danish defender James Okore from Norsjaelland, as well as in demand young Bulgarian winger Aleksander Tonev. These exciting signings added to Villa’s terrific end of season form may prove to be the turning point for the young guns to flourish at Villa Park.
Best Bet: Aston Villa to finish in the top ten – 9/4 with BetVictor
Newly promoted Cardiff City will be looking to avoid relegation England’s top flight in their maiden season in the Premier League. The Bluebirds stood out from the rest as they finished top off The Championship last season racking up an impressive 87 points. Boss Malky Mackay has brought in Steven Caulker from Spurs for £8m, Danish Striker Andreas Cornelius for £7.5m and Sevilla midfielder Gary Medel for £11m in their highest profile signings. The Glaswegian has also stated that he intends to add to his squad before the transfer window closes much to the delight of the Cardiff fans. However, Mackay and most of his players’ inexperience at Premier League level may just see them go straight back down, but not without a fight.
Best Bet: Cardiff to be relegated – 7/4 with Sky Bet
The return of Jose Mourinho as manager of The Blues again has no doubt delighted Chelsea fans beyond belief. The Portuguese boss has come back to Stamford Bridge after spells at Inter Milan and Real Madrid in between, which saw ‘The Special One’, win eight trophies on his travels abroad after success in his first spell of the West London club. Rafael Benitez guided Chelsea to third place last season after an average start, as well as winning The Europa League but Mourinho will have his sights set on the title after The Blues last won the league in 2009/10. Chelsea have brought in attacker Andre Schurle from Bayer Leverkusen, Marko Van Ginkel from Vitesse as well as recalling midfielder Kevin De Bruyne from Werder Bremen. Mourinho’s fantastic reputation as a manager may well inspire his side to win back The Premier League from reigning holders Manchester United for the first time in four seasons.
Best Bet: Chelsea to win the Premier League – 9/4 with William Hill
Championship play-off winners Crystal Palace will hope to retain Premier League status by the end of the season by avoiding relegation. Ian Holloway’s side beat Watford in the final at Wembley to seal their return to the promised land in May. Their form under Holloway was up and down since he took charge from Dougie Freedman, but managed to steer The Eagles to fifth place. So far Holloway has signed veteran striker Kevin Phillips on a one year deal, forward Dwight Gayle from Peterborough and most interestingly highly rated young Spanish midfielder Jose Campana from Sevilla. Survival may not be reachable however for Palace, as a lack of strength in depth would look likely to see the Selhurst Park side return to the second tier.
Best Bet: Crystal Palace to finish bottom – 13/5 with Coral
New Toffees boys Roberto Martinez has a tough job in trying to replicate Everton’s high Premier League finishes in recent seasons as he takes over from David Moyes, who left for Manchester United. Martinez was praised for his work in keeping Wigan in the top flight in previous years but was unable to avoid relegation last season with the Latics, despite winning the FA cup. Martinez has brought in a few of his Wigan players, including Arouna Kone, Joel Robles and Antolin Alcaraz, with the Spaniard managing so far to hold on to key assets Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines. Everton finished sixth last season under Moyes, which will be difficult to repeat. However, under Martinez a top ten finish is easily achievable.
Best Bet: Everton to finish in the top ten – 3/10 with Betfair
Fulham finished in mid-table last year under Martin Jol, with their away form in particular letting themselves down from finishing higher. The pick of the summer signings included centre-back Fernando Amorebieta on a free from Athletic Bilbao, Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg from Roma and Adel Taarabt on loan from QPR. The Cottagers were in danger of relegation for a period of last year before managing to pull themselves away from the dreaded drop-zone. Much of their form this season will rely on how well striker Dmitar Berbatov performs, with the Bulgarian striker being responsible for most of the London club’s points last season
Best Bet: Fulham to finish in the bottom half – 1/3 with BetVictor
Tigers fans will hope to see their club stay in the Premier League by the end of the season by avoiding relegation. Steve Bruce’s side gained automatic promotion on the final day of last season in The Championship and his summer signings include Scottish Goalkeeper Allan McGregor, Danny Graham on loan from Sunderland and full back Maynor Figueroa from Wigan. Interestingly enough, Bruce has a terrific reputation in keeping clubs in the Premier League against expectations, in which he showed with Birmingham and Wigan. This experience could prove invaluable for the Humberside club who may just stay in the Premier League.
Best Bet : Hull to avoid relegation – 5/4 with BetVictor
Liverpool finished sixth in the Premier League last season in Brendan Rogers’ first year in charge of the reds after a less than impressive start to his reign in the Anfield hotseat. There has been huge speculation surrounding controversial striker Luis Suarez, with Suarez indicating he has no desire to stay while the club are not in The Champions League. If Suarez does indeed leave, Liverpool would find his goals a hard gap to fill. Rogers’ has brought in striker Iago Aspas who impressed at Celta Vigo, as well as forward Luis Alberto from Sevilla and defender Kolo Toure on a free from Manchester City. Despite The Reds’ form picking up significantly, it is difficult to see Liverpool challenging for fourth place, never mind the title should Suarez depart.
Best Bet: Liverpool not to finish in the top four – 2/5 with William Hill
City fans will hope to reclaim the title that they surrendered to their Manchester rivals last season. Roberto Mancini was sacked, and replaced by Chilean Manuel Pellegrini who was brought in from Malaga. The Sky Blues finished runners-up last year and have bought a number of talented players to the club in this window including Fernandinho, Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas and Alberto Negredo with Carlos Tevez is the highest profile name to leave Eastlands. Pelligrini’s highly impressive reputation as a manager will stand him in good stead with the fans at The Etihad, and will be hoping to get off to a good start in City’s quest for Premier League glory.
Best Bet: Man City to finish in the top two – 4/6 with Ladbrokes
New United boss David Moyes has the near impossible job of filling the demanding boots left by fellow Scot Sir Alex Ferguson in the Old Trafford hotseat. Moyes made a good start however by winning The Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday against Wigan. As of yet, Moyes is still to make his first major signing as United boss, with heavy speculation linking want away striker Wayne Rooney with a move away from the club. Many have anticipated United struggling without Fergie, indicating their squad isn’t as strong as Man City or Chelsea. However, with the likes of Premier League top goalscorer Robin Van Persie in their ranks, United will be out to prove their critics wrong.
Best Bet: Man Utd to finish in the top three – 4/9 with Betfair
The Toon Army suffered a difficult season which saw their team just avoid relegation after a superb season the previous year. Furthermore, the introduction of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football seems to have put on added pressure on manager Alan Pardew in the statements he has made. Pardew has signed Loic Remy on loan from QPR, as well as closing in on Lyon forward Bafetimi Gomis in a bid to boost Newcastle’s strike force. The Magpies may struggle again however, as little has been done to improve their dreadful defensive performances of last season.
Best Bet: Newcastle Utd to finish in the bottom half – 4/7 with Paddy Power
Canaries boss Chris Hughton has made a number of shrewd signings in the summer in an attempt to see the Carrow Road club build on last years 11th place finish. Prolific strikers Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper have been purchased from Sporting Lisbon and Celtic respectively, and are joined in East Anglia by highly rated Leroy Fer from FC Twente. Norwich could find themselves enjoying a good year if the new signings find their feet in the Premier League.
Best Bet: Norwich to finish in the top ten – 4/1 with Sky Bet
The Saints have only invested in two new summer signings, in the form of Midfield powerhouse Victor Wanyama from Celtic and Centre Back Dejan Lovren from Lyon. Both players are young and highly rated in the game however, and manager Mauricio Pochettino will hope to see his side progress on last season’s 14th place. Rickie Lambert finished as the highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League last season and although many have tipped the saints to get relegated, Lambert’s goals could again prove the difference to the south coast club staying up.
Best Bet: Southampton to finish in the bottom half – 8/15 with BetVictor
After the departure of Tony Pulis from The Britannia, Mark Hughes was installed as new boss in The Potteries. Stoke finished in 13th place last season and were another team to flirt with relegation. Hughes has so far signed Centre Back Marc Muniesa from Barcelona and Left Back Erik Pieters from PSV as he seeks to abandon Stoke’s well documented direct style of play. Hughes himself however, was an unpopular choice as replacement for fans favourite Pulis, and his disastrous stint in charge of QPR may not reflect well with his new playing squad.
Best Bet: Stoke to be relegated – 10/3 with Betfred
Paolo Di Canio managed to save the Wearside club from relegation after a string of great results at the tail end of last season ensured the black cats would once again be playing in the top flight of English football. New signings include Italian international midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini from Juventus, and USA striker Jozy Altidore, who had a terrific season with AZ Alkmaar. Sunderland’s main problem however will again be to try to grind out enough victories to stay in the premier league, and relegation is a distinct possibility for Sunderland.
Best Bet: Sunderland to be relegated – 5/1 with Paddy Power
The Swans have started this season brilliantly by thumping Malmo 4-0 on aggregate in the Europa League Qualifiers with new £12m striker Wilfried Bony scoring twice at the Liberty Stadium and thoroughly impressing in both games. Spanish attacking midfielder Michu chipped in with an admirable 18 league goals in his first season with the Welsh club, who finished in ninth place. The Swans have signed a total of seven players that also includes Jonjo Shelvey from Liverpool, as well as Jordi Amat from Espanyol. With great business completed by manager Michael Laudrup in the transfer market, its hard to argue against The Swans having another fantastic season.
Best Bet: Swansea to finish in the top ten – 6/4 with Betfred
The one major story surrounding Spurs this summer regards the future of star man and top goalscorer Gareth Bale. The winger has been the subject of two bids from Real Madrid; the second believed to be in the region of a world-record £100m, with the Welsh international reportedly stating his desire to leave White Hart Lane. Boss Andre Villas-Boas has signed some excellent recruits to North London however, including Spanish striker Roberto Soldado, Brazilian midfielder Paulinho and Belgian Winger Nacer Chadli. Spurs took a while to pick up results last season but were extremely unlucky to miss out on Champions League football. With or without Bale, Spurs are a good bet to finish in the top four this season.
Best Bet: Tottenham to finish in the top four – 11/5 with Ladbrokes
Steve Clarke guided The Baggies to a fine eighth place finish in his first season in charge at The Hawthorns last season but has lost striker Romelu Lukaku, who has returned to parent club Chelsea. Clarke has signed Nicolas Anelka as a replacement as well as Diego Lugano, who cost nothing from PSG. Replicating last year’s top half finish will be difficult for Clarke’s men however, as other Premier League rivals have invested more in their squads than The Baggies.
Best Bet: West Brom to finish in the bottom half – 8/15 with BetVictor
West Ham United
The Hammers finished mid-table in their return to the Premier League last season and have completed the signing of striker Andy Carroll from Liverpool for £15m. Carroll was on loan at Upton Park last season and fitted in well to Sam Allardyce’s side. Other new arrivals include Adrian from Real Betis and Romanian full back Razvan Rat from Shakhtar Donetsk. It looks like another season of consolidation for The Hammers’ who will hope to improve their poor away form last season which saw them win only 3 games on their travels.
Best Bet: West Ham to finish in the bottom half – 4/9 with Paddy Power
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