Manager Brendan Rodgers hasn’t been afraid to splash the cash ahead of the 2014/15 season. It has been necessary considering the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona for a cool £75m and with Liverpool returning to the holy grail of Champions League football for this coming season, the squad needed some serious strength in-depth.
Rodgers has seemingly targeted the defence as a source for improvement with the acquisitions of Dejan Lovren from Southampton and Atlético Madrid right-back Javier Manquillo providing competition for Glen Johnson, with Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno on the brink of joining a new-look backline. Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert, further recruits from Southampton, provide a sense of continuity and are proven Premier League level.
The signing of Emre Can however could prove a shrewd signing by Rodgers as he embarks on his first European season as Liverpool manager.
Rickie Lambert (£4m, Southampton), Adam Lallana (£25m, Southampton), Dejan Lovren (£20m, Southampton), Emre Can (£9.75m, Bayer Leverkusen), Lazar Markovic (£19.8m, Benfica), Javier Manquillo (loan, Atlético Madrid)
Luis Suarez (£75m, Barcelona), Pepe Reina (£2m, Bayern Munich)
How do you see Liverpool's 2014/15 season shaping up?
Another title run would always be nice, but the realistic hope and expectation for most Liverpool fans is securing another top four finish. Easier said than done, perhaps, with Luis Suarez heading to Barcelona, Manchester United widely expected to be back in the running, and Tottenham fans hoping Mauricio Pochettino will be the man to put all their talented but under-performing pieces together.
Still, even without Suarez, Liverpool would have been the league's third top scorers last season. This year, with hopes for a more solid defence led by new signing Dejan Lovren and a few extra goals from the likes of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, and Adam Lallana, the expectation will be that even if the club take a step back, it won't be nearly as big a step as some might think.
Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?
Last season, Roberto Martinez proved he was the real deal with Everton. This summer, they've used the windfall that is the Premier League's new television deal to tie down the second striker Chelsea will end up kicking themselves for losing. With David Moyes' United failures showing that perhaps he was holding them back rather than propping them up, it might be time to start expecting more from Everton.
When it comes to the other end of the table, it's hard to see too far past the usual suspects that are this season and last's promoted sides. Looking a little further afield, though, with Tony Pulis' success with Crystal Palace it might be tempting to look towards Stoke and ask if their attempts to find success with more pleasing style of play under Mark Hughes could instead lead to their downfall.
Who within the Liverpool squad do you think could be one to look out for?
With Luis Suarez' departure, youngsters Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho are either going to take the next step in their development and become true global stars or stumble now that they will be the targets for opposition defences. They have the chance to show that for as much as Suarez helped Liverpool, the quality of the players around him helped Suarez. It's a tough task, but in pre-season the signs have been promising.
City are entering the new season as champions and with new signings strengthening supposed weak spots within the squad, City are well placed to defend their title in 2014/15.
The signing of Bacary Sagna from Arsenal provides City with proven quality and experience in the right-back area but it also sheds doubt over Micah Richards future at the club. The burden on Pablo Zabaleta in recent seasons has been heavy and the arrival of Sagna on a free transfer looks an inspired squad-strengthening move, whilst also weakening a title rival.
Fernando’s eventual arrival from Porto offers the Blues a solid midfield base, if Pellegrini decides that a midfield three of Fernando, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure be required for some of the tougher fixtures. Although Javi Garcia improved during his time at the Etihad, there is the sense that the Spaniard never truly settled, with the arrival of Fernando and youngster Bruno Zuculini paving the way for the former Benfica man’s exit.
The centre of the City defence has also been strengthened with the acquisition of France international Eliaquim Mangala from Porto. Although Martin Demichelis proved the doubters wrong over the second half of the season, playing an integral part in the Citizen’s title win, his age meant that finding a long-term partner for Vincent Kompany was one of the Club’s top priorities.
Joe Hart faces real competition in the form of Wily Caballero after the City manager returned to his former club to pick up the goalkeeper for £6 million.
Frank Lampard will be plying his trade in a lighter shade of blue this season, joining MCFC on loan for five months before his eventual transfer to sister club New York City FC. Contrary to Arsene Wenger’s belief, it is unlikely that the New York club was founded in order for the Manchester Blues to sign a 36-year-old midfielder on a short-term loan. How much Lampard plays for the champions remains to be seen, but such is the strength of the squad it would not be surprising if the former Chelsea man sees his playing time limited to a few cameos and cup appearances.
Bacary Sagna (free, Arsenal), Fernando (£12m, Porto), Eliaquim Mangala (£32m, Porto), Frank Lampard (loan, New York City FC), Wily Caballero (£6m, Malaga)
Joleon Lescott (free, West Bromwich Albion), Gareth Barry (£2m, Everton), Costel Pantillimon (free, Sunderland), Jack Rodwell (£10m, Sunderland), Javi Garcia (£12m)
How do you see City's 2014/15 season shaping up?
It will be a tough fight for the title with multiple contenders. City have gone about their business quietly and efficiently and will be there or thereabouts and I think Chelsea will be the strongest threat, as they have certainly strengthened their squad over the summer, though if Costa gets injured they are still light up front. Arsenal are certainly strong enough now to challenge also and whilst United are weaker they do not have the distraction of a European campaign and have the confidence of not having an inept manager anymore. I can't see Liverpool being quite as strong again but all the teams mentioned will be expecting a top four finish so something has to give.
But for City, they have great squad strength now, as strong as it has ever been and have cover in every position. The main concern right now is that we will start the season with certain players lacking match-fitness and with a fairly tough opening set of fixtures, City could spend much of the season playing catch-up again. You should definitely avoid playing cath up with this Guts bonus sports. Almost guaranteed to make your betting life easier.
Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?
I don't think my tips are really surprises. I expect the teams already mentioned to fight for the title and I expect Spurs and Everton to be in the pack below. I don't really see anyone breaking that top 7, as Southampton's new-look team will take time to gel. At the other end of the table, I have a hunch Leicester will do quite well (although I thought the same of Norwich last season) and I fear for Aston Villa & West Brom. And Burnley. And QPR.
Who within the City squad do you think could be one to look out for?
Well he isn't new or low-profile but I pray for an injury-free season for Stevan Jovetic - he was the signing I was most excited about last summer and I think he will be a star if he stays fit. If.
The good thing about the squad is that we have kept all the star players and it will be a case of the existing squad carrying on where they left off. I think Caballero is not inferior to Hart so the battle between those two should be interesting as will the effect on formations that playing Fernando has, and how it effects Yaya and Fernandinho. The big one to look out for is Mangala of course -a protracted transfer saga and a hefty fee means all eyes will be on him. He is an athletic, powerful and composed player but is also known to have his off-days so I hope the likes of Kompany can help him develop further as a player.
There is a new-found optimism at Old Trafford following the appointment of Louis van Gaal as manager. The disastrous reign of David Moyes was quickly consigned to history once he was shown the door in April following defeat to his former club Everton at Goodison Park.
Now, many of the United faithful see the 2014/15 season as the season that should have been following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. The signings of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw bring optimism as well as vibrancy to a team that looked to be lacking so much energy at vital times last season.
Of course, Louis van Gaal may prove to be the most important signing of the summer, as his will to win and world-class pedigree were things that also were abundantly missing last season. The pre-season couldn’t have gone any better for van Gaal with six victories out of six and a 3-1 win over Liverpool to boot. Even Fellaini scored a stoppage time winner.
However, but as his United squad, the fans and van Gaal himself will well know, it’ll count for nothing if United don’t turn it on against Swansea on the 16th August.
Ander Herrera (£29m, Athletic Bilbao), Luke Shaw (£27m, Southampton)
Rio Ferdinand (free, QPR), Nemanja Vidic (free, Inter Milan), Alexander Buttner (£4.4m, Dynamo Moscow), Patrice Evra (£1.2m, Juventus)
1.) How do you see United's 2014/15 season shaping up?
I'd be delighted if we finished in the top 3, but that might well not happen.
Van Gaal is undoubtedly a world-class manager, and it's barely believable how quickly he's been able to change the style of United's play, but right now there are still worrying weaknesses in the squad and a startling lack of experience at the back.
If we do make any major signings before the end of the window, it could take them a while to settle. If we don't, that could mean opportunities for some of the younger players; ultimately, that could be the best thing for the club, but it could make for a turbulent first season under Van Gaal.
We also know that he values good performances over good results - this commitment to his philosophy should pay dividends in the long term, but, again, the first season might not be such an easy ride, with modern fans and the media notoriously short on patience. Having said that, the complaint of most supporters last season wasn't the results, but the lack of entertainment, and the absence of any clear philosophy or vision from Moyes. As long as we're fun to watch again, and there's a sense of a masterplan unfolding, however gradually, that will be enough for me.
Quite frankly, though, we couldn't have asked for a much easier opening 6 games - if we take advantage of that and keep the momentum going, who knows where we might end up!
2.) Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?
I don't know how surprising it would be, given the excellent progress they made last year, but I certainly think Everton could challenge for a top-4 finish. Martinez is a great young manager, and the Lukaku signing was a powerful statement of intent.
In terms of relegation, I think Newcastle have made some potentially decent signings, but I'm not sure Pardew is the man to get the best out of them. I can see them imploding spectacularly, but I've also got Janmaat and Cabella in my Fantasy Football team, so I hope I'm completely wrong.
3.) Who within the United squad do you think could be one to look out for this season?
I think the obvious answer is Januzaj. He was a revelation in the first half of the 2013/14 campaign, but was then used far more sparingly in the latter stages of the season. Comparisons have been made with Sterling, who made a massive leap forward last year. I'm really excited to watch Adnan develop.
I'm also keeping an eye on James Wilson, and I think Darren Fletcher could be a big player for us this season, especially if we don't sign another CM - would be great to see him back to his best!
Newcastle will be looking for a relatively stress free season, without incident and without boardroom shenanigans. However, with Newcastle and in particular, Mike Ashley, that is never certain. As we all know, Ashley is no stranger to controversy and he does like to rub the Newcastle faithful up the wrong way from time-to-time.
However, it does seem that Pardew has bought wisely in the summer transfer window and a successful pre-season is all that the Newcastle fans could have asked for before the start of the season. The Toon have a tough opening match though at home to champions Manchester City which may not be ideal with so many new faces hoping to hit the ground running.
With his buys, Pardew has bought youth as well as creativity and his has added firepower up front in the form of Dutchman Siem de Jong, Frenchman Emmanuel Riviere and Spaniard Ayoze Perez from Tenerife.
Remy Cabella represents a significant purchase as his pace and creativity was very much lacking at times last season but Pardew will look to take Newcastle to the next level this season, especially in the cup competitions as these represent Newcastle’s best chance of silverware.
Jack Colback (free, Sunderland), Remy Cabella (£12m, Montpellier), Emmanuel Riviere (£6m, Montpellier), Daryl Janmaat (£5m, Feyenoord), Siem de Jong (£6m, Ajax)
Dan Gosling (free, Bournemouth), Shola Ameobi (free, Gaziantep B.B.), Mathieu Debuchy (£12m, Arsenal)
How do you think Newcastle's 2014/15 will shape up?
We have done some great preparation for the new season and so we should be comfortably in the top ten.
Is there one player within your current squad who you think will be one to watch out for throughout the season?
Cabella is one that could stand out for me but I have a feeling that Siem de Jong could be the star performer.
Do you think Alan Pardew can replicate the team's fortunes in 2014/15?
Pardew should be fine achieving what he did last season as long as key players aren’t sold with any replacements in place.
With regards to the rest of the PL, who do you think the surprise package will be in the race for the top 4 and the relegation battle come May?
The surprise package could be QPR. Harry is a top manager. I have a feeling the top 4 will be Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Man United, in that order! The relegation battle is a little trickier to call but I would go for any 3 out of Southampton, Villa, Leicester and Burnley.Categories: Premier League