Monday 25 July 2016

Manchester United

The Red Devils last won the Premier League title in 2012/13 and, having finished seventh, four and fifth in the past three seasons, new boss Jose Mourinho has revealed that his main target for the season is to win it again.

The ‘Special One’ has already signed Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer from Paris Saint-German, Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a fee in the region of £26 million from Borussia Dortmund and Ivorian centre-back Eric Bailly for a fee that could rise to £40 million from Villareal and continues his pursuit of Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba. Pogba, 23, is reportedly keen to return to Old Trafford, but Juventus are seeking an additional €10 million after United submitted an increased bid of €110 million (£92 million).

Pre-season preparations have hardly gone according to plan, with a 2-0 defeat of Wigan at the DW Stadium followed by a 4-1 thrashing by Borussia Dortmund at the Shanghai Stadium and the cancellation of the game against Manchester City at the Beijing National Stadium after heavy rain made the pitch unplayable. United will fly back to Manchester to continue their preparations for matches with Galatasary in Gothenberg, Sweden on July 30 and Everton at Old Trafford on August 3.

Nevertheless, Mourinho has vowed to the club’s owners that it will take him just one season to win the Premier League title and, at a top-priced 7/2, it would take a brave man to argue with the Portuguese maestro. New signing Eric Bailly has made a promising start, Wayne Rooney has voiced his excitement at the prospect of playing alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the return of Luke Shaw, out for year after suffering a double break of his right leg last September, is excellent news for all concerned.

Monday 18 July 2016

A.F.C. Bournemouth

Bournemouth have never won a major honour, but enjoyed a successful first ever season in the Premier League in 2015/16, eventually finishing in 16th place with 42 points. This time around, Cherries’ manager Eddie Howe will be without former striker Alan Connell, 33, who has retired from playing to pursue a coaching career, and Scottish international midfielder Matt Richie, 26, who rejected a new contract in favour of joining Newcastle United.

However, striker Callum Wilson, 24, who missed more than six months of the 2015/16 campaign because of a serious knee injury, has signed a new four-year contract. Wilson will be joined at Dean Park by England Under-21 winger Jordon Ibe, 20, who has joined the Cherries from Liverpool for a club record £15 million and Football League Young Player of the Year, midfielder Lewis Cook, from Leeds United for an undisclosed fee. Eddie Howe has also signed former Le Havre striker Lys Mousset, 20, in an effort to bolster his attacking options ahead of the new season.

Norwegian international Josh King was the Cherries’ top scorer in the Premier League last season, with just six goals, but fans have reason to be excited about the potent goal threat they now possess. All things are relative, of course, and Eddie Howe’s side are 1,500/1 to win the Premier League in 2016/17 and just 7/2 to be relegated. Anyone who fancies the Cherries to finally pick up some cup silverware can back them at 66/1 for the FA Cup and the same price for the League Cup.

Tuesday 12 July 2016


Burnley lifted the Championship trophy or, at least, an inflatable replica, after beating Charlton Athletic 3-0 at the Valley in the final game of the season, but the Clarets are odds-on favourites to be relegated the Premier League. Manager Sean Dyche described avoiding relegation for the second time in three seasons as “massive challenge” and it remains to be seen if his squad is equal to the task.

Goalkeeper Paul Robinson has signed a one-year contract and 18-year-old former Motherwell midfielder Robbie Leitch has joined the club on free transfer, but Derby County have rejected a £3 million bid for midfielder Jeff Hendrick. Striker Sam Vokes, who scored 15 goals in the Championship last season, of course, scored a towering header to take Wales into the semi-finals of Euro 2016 but, along with strike partner Andre Gray, may struggle to make an impact back in the Premier League.

Burnley didn’t spend much money the last time they were promoted and, while their work-rate was admirable, their lack of ambition in attack ultimately cost them dearly. The Turf Moor faithful will, no doubt, be looking to Sean Dyche to bolster his attacking options sooner rather than later, or might just be a case of history repeating itself. That said, anyone who fancies a season of “Leicester-esque” proportions can back the Clarets at 1,500/1 to win the Premier League.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

West Ham United

The 2015/16 Premier League season may have finished on a low note for West Ham United after a 2-1 defeat by Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on the final day left them in seventh place. However, the Europa League place on offer to FA Cup winners Manchester United – who had already qualified for the Europa League by finishing fifth in the Premier League – was passed down to the Hammers, who will join the competition in the third qualifying round.

The Irons have, of course, vacated the Boleyn Ground, their home for 112 years, for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium on the London 2012 Olympic Park, but that’s not the only thing fans have to look forward to in 2016/17. Former centre back Slaven Bilic was a Hammers’ cult hero even before coming manager last summer and subsequent signings of established European players, such as Dimitri Payet from Marseille, and promising domestic talent, such as Michail Antonio from Nottingham Forest, have done little to diminish his aura.

In fact, as well as securing new deals for Payet and Antonio, along with team-mates Adrian and Cheikhou Kouyate, Bilic has already signed Norwegian midfielder Havard Nordtveit from Borussia Monchengladbach and Algerian winger Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia. Payet was top scorer for West Ham last season, with 12 goals – top scoring striker Andy Carroll managed just 9 goals – and Bilic has reportedly been tracking German striker Mario Gomez during Euro 2016.

It’s been a while since a rare Trevor Brooking header was enough for the Hammers, then in the old Second Division, to beat Arsenal 1-0 in the 1980 FA Cup final, but Bilic’s side are 25/1 to repeat the feat in 2015/16 and 100/1 to lift the Premier League title; notably they’re just 4/1 to finish in the top six in the Premier League.