Season Preview: Southampton, Tottenham, Watford, West Ham and Wolves
IT’S BACK! Previews for Southampton, Tottenham, Watford, West Ham and Wolves in part four. You came here to scroll down to your club, so just get on with it…
If they're not in this part, then try:
Part I: Arsenal, Bournemouth, Brighton, Burnley and Cardiff
Part II: Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham and Huddersfield
Part III: Leicester, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Newcastle
Scroll to the bottom for full predicted tables.
Mark Hughes, last season’s ‘saviour on the south coast’, will return this season to try to work his magic on a calmer (and better) squad than the one he took over in crisis five months ago.
Aside from the loss of Dusan Tadic (£10m) to Ajax, Southampton have largely been able to spend a summer building their squad, rather than running around with the polyfiller desperately attempting to plug holes created by high profile departees bound for Liverpool as they have in recent windows.
Instead they’ve been able to bring in tricky winger Mohamed Elyounoussi whose only downside might be selfishness if his ‘moi’ nickname is anything to go by. Then again, given Saints’ struggles in front of goal last season, maybe they need someone to grab things by the scruff of the neck. He’s joined in the guile stakes by £7m former Celtic midfielder Stuart Armstrong.
Perhaps Southampton’s most crucial signing will be 6’6” arachnophobe and also Danish centre-back, Jannik Vestergaard. Angus Gunn’s £10m arrival from Norwich will add to the queue to play in goal for Southampton which might result in more restricted view discount seats at St. Mary’s next season.
The bottom line
Uneventful mid-table mediocrity, which might actually go down well with Saint’s fans. 12th.
Vestergaard mistakes an old photo of Mark Hughes (complete with Mullet) for a giant spider. Mistrust and chaos ensues. Southampton are tragically fated never to have true stability and are relegated.
Manager Maurizio Pochettino has offered up the new stadium (and Brexit) as the reasons for Spurs’ quiet transfer window. But does he need to? Surely the explanation for Spurs’ relatively serene summer is that they have managed to hold on to some of their most prized assets.
Well, no signings. Obviously. But they have held on to what they have. They will still be able to name a line-up including World Cup Golden-boot winner Harry Kane; England’s best World Cup player Keiran Trippier; Alli, Eriksen, World-Cup winner Hugo Lloris, Son, Alderweireld (for four more months at least), Vertonghen, Sánchez, Wanyama and Mousa Dembélé.
The bottom line
They know each other. They know (and crucially seem to quite like) their manager. Their squad is proven in this division. Many of the top 6 contenders can’t even say two of those three things. 3rd.
Keiran Trippier sweeps the individual player awards. Kane grabs the golden boot. Real Madrid regret not taking Poch when they had the chance. Spurs win the league.
Watford took 13 points from their final 14 games following the sacking of Marco Silva last season. That’s form that’ll put you right on the brink of relegation if repeated for an entire season. Add to the mix that the headline departure of Richarlison this summer means they’ve lost their best player, and, well… there’s a Watford shaped gap in the market for a relegation contender.
It seems strange to call the signing of a Spanish international from Barcelona uninspiring. But when that signing is Gerard Delofeu and he has a Premier League return of 6 goals and 11 assists from 69 Premier League appearances – many of which came at Everton where he was around better players than he’ll return to at Vicarage Road. Well then all it does is invite questions about the Spanish national side’s selection policy and the ability of large European clubs to hoard (and loan out) players who have no hope of ever playing in the first team. Oh, and he was on loan at Watford last season anyway. So he’s not even really new.
Better news comes in the form of highly-rated full-back Adam Masina, who joins for £4.5m from Bologna, despite lukewarm Tottenham interest. The Italian side stayed up last season thanks in large part to Masina’s efforts and he’ll face a similar challenge at Watford this season. Meanwhile, surplus-to-requirements Nordin Amrabat and Mauro Zarate have both left the club for pastures new in Saudi Arabia and Argentina respectively.
The bottom line
Remember that relegation form? The teams around them are better now. 18th.
Watford have a great start to the season. Javi Gracia replaces a failed Marco Silva at Everton. Both are relegated.
After West-Ham fans’ righteous anger (as well as corner-flags, coins and a whole host of other items) were directed at the club’s board last season, they do at least appear to have responded. Former Real Madrid, Manchester City and Argentina boss Manuel Pellegrini has been installed at the helm and has been backed to the tune of nearly £100m.
A hefty chunk of that Gold-Sullivan-Brady cash has gone on wingers. Brazilian pace-merchant Felipe Anderson has swelled Lazio’s coffers to the tune of almost £35m. Anderson struggled to settle initially in Italy, but that was 5 years ago and he was just 20 at the time. If he can hit the ground running and replicate his Italian form in claret-and-blue, under fellow South American Pellegrini, then West Ham might have one of the league’s best wingers on their hands.
Meanwhile, Andriy Yarmolenko joins from Borussia Dortmund as a physical winger. Add to that the (free) punt they’ve taken on Jack Wilshere and the even more impressive capture of Arsenal’s Lucas Perez for just a few million quid – a transfer which has left one half of the Foul Throw team claret in the face – and there’s plenty to be excited about in East London.
The bottom line
West Ham’s potential ceiling is very high this season. Unfortunately, just like the London Stadium’s infamously distant pitch, it might be difficult to reach. Still, they should be comfortably better than last season. 9th.
All goes wrong. This time goalposts are used as instruments of protest. Relegated?
Which headline would you like? Portuguese international duo, Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho? Adama Traore? Leander Dendoncker? Offloading Benik Afobe to Stoke for a pretty much immediate two million pound profit?
Yeah. See above really. A complete list of Wolves’ major signings (to add to a squad that walked the Championship last year) is as follows: Adama Traoré (who reportedly generated Chelsea interest), Atletico Madrid winger Diego Jota, Porto’s Willy Boly, João Moutinho, Leo Bonatini, Raul Jiminez, Joonny Castro and Leander Dendoncker.
There’s only one permanently outgoing player who they really rated – Barry Douglas to Leeds - and even he, while a quality Championship player, has been amply replaced and is unlikely to be seriously missed.
The bottom line
It’s their first season in the division for a good while and there are plenty of new faces who will probably need time to bed in, but the future, and indeed the present, look pretty bright at Molineux. 10th.
That last Europa League spot? Or maybe it transpires that Jorge Mendes has been running some sort of long-con pyramid scheme. None of the transfers are legit. Wolves are prosecuted/ docked points/ relegated. (I know, I know, the Football League already cleared everything.)
5. Man Utd
9. West Ham
1. Manchester City
3. Manchester United
7. Leicester City
8. West Ham
15. Crystal Palace