The bottom half of the Premier League table is arguably tighter than the sharp end, with the gap between eleventh and seventieth split by just five points last season and is strewn of young teams, young managers and sides scrapping for league survival. Here is part two of the Hitting the Field Premier League preview.
Remember, this preview has been comprised before the end of the transfer window and before a ball was kicked in competitive action.
2016-17 finish: 12th
Projected finish: 11thEmbed from Getty Images
It seems like a distant memory that minnows Leicester City won the Premier League title despite 5000/1 odds and cemented their place in football history. The Fixes struggled mightily at the start of last season and needed to fire championship manager Claudio Ranieri to change its form. Leicester will improve from last season, but not by much as it would prefer. Signing Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City is a boost for the team and Vicente Iborra has proven pedigree in Sevilla, but if the team loses Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez to Roma or another suitor will be a blow as his assists and playmaking will be missed.
2016-17 finish: 9th
Projected finish: 12th
Bournemouth are the little team that could. The Cherries survived bankruptcy and climbed the English football pyramid in meteoric fashion by playing an attractive, high-pressing style managed by former player Eddie Howe. The team signed England National Team striker Jermain Defoe on a free transfer after carrying Sunderland for the past two seasons. His 15 goals will certainly back up Josh King and Benik Afobe and Nathan Ake looks to be a promising full-back. Expect a fun, but mid-table performance.
2016-17 finish: Promoted
Projected finish: 13thEmbed from Getty Images
A once mighty giant of the Premier League has returned to the league after a year plying in the EFL Championship. Newcastle United are champions of England’s second division and have a squad full of Premier League talent. Players such as Matt Richie, Dwight Gayle, Mohamed Diamé, Ayoze Perez and United States National Team right-back Deandre Yedlin have league experience and under former Champions League winning coach Rafa Benítez expect the Toon Army to be solid, sturdy, but unspectacular.
2016-17 finish: 13th
Projected finish: 14thEmbed from Getty Images
The cliché that states “if you can do it on a wet, windy night in Stoke, you can do it anywhere,” applied to far too many rivals last season for The Potters. Stoke City lost its defensive identity at its home fortress and struggled scoring goals. The team sold attackers Marko Arnautovic and Jon Walters to fellow mid-table teams, which firmly hands the team over to the wide shoulders of Xherdan Shaqiri. Shaqiri must provide more than four goals this campaign to assure a better finish. It will be interesting to see how Chelsea loan player Kurt Zouma does returning from a nasty ACL injury. Adding Darren Fletcher and Bruno Martins Indi cannot hurt in the defense alongside USMNT star Geoff Cameron.
2016-17 finish: 17th
Projected finish: 15th
Watford fell far short of expectations last season, but with young manager Marco Silva at the helm results should improve. Silva almost saved Hull City last season and has a remarkable record of transforming lackluster teams. Watford once again used creative and bold transfer strategies to sign young England players Tom Cleverly, Natahaniel Chabolah, Will Hughes and Andre Gray in addition to Brazil U-20 starlet Richarlison. Watford have the capability to play attractive soccer, but often struggle with cohesion with so many diverse cultures and languages in the team.
2016-17 finish: 16th
Projected finish: 16th
Manager Sean Dyche does not get the credit he deserves in England despite continually doing the most with the less and reintroducing the high-press several years ago. A small club with a small budget, the Clarets have massive heart and battle for every loose ball. This season may be the most difficult yet after selling Andre Gray and his nine goals to Watford. Striker Sam Vokes proves to be tough for defenders to mark and between the posts Tom Heaton has proven to be one of the best English goalkeepers with numerous national team call ups over the past 18 months.
2016-17 finish: Promoted
Projected finish: 17thEmbed from Getty Images
German-American manager David Wagner has already defied expectations by getting tiny Huddersfield Town to the heights of the Premier League, but has the ability and squad to remain in the league for several seasons. Huddersfield play a high-pressing system much like Burnley and Bournemouth, which has worked for the past couple of seasons. The Terriers also spent good money on proven veterans like Laurent Depoitre from Porto and Aaron Mooy from Manchester City to pair with exciting youngsters Steve Mounie and USMNT player Danny Williams. Expect this team to give you a warm feeling inside when they are successful.
Relegation Zone: Each season three teams are relegated into the EFL Championship.
2016-17 finish: 15th
Projected finish: 18thEmbed from Getty Images
Swansea City survived three managers and a relegation scrap last season, but its luck may have run out. After being the model of how to climb, survive and thrive in the Premier League, The Swans have lost its way in recent seasons. Icelandic star Gylfi Sigurdsson is ready to compete for a big club with teams like Everton interested in his services. If he leaves, assists at Swansea will be in short supply. Sigurdsson supplied 13 assists and nine goals in 37 appearances. The only Welsh team in the league bought Roque Mesa from Las Palmas but haven’t had the best success signing players from Spain outside of club legend, Michu.
Brighton & Hove Albion
2016-17 finish: Promoted
Projected finish: 19th
Brighton & Hove Albion are another story of bouncing back from adversity. Just nine years ago the team played in a dilapidated athletics stadium until significant investment in a youth system and a new stadium changed the team’s fortunes. Manager Chris Hughton defied the odds and got a team full of outcasts and ragamuffins to the Premier League. Australian goalkeeper Matthew Ryan may be a busy man this season, but displayed talent at Valencia. In attack Tomer Hemed and Anthony Knockaert are adept at crossing and should provide service to the strikers. Lack of a consistent goal scorer may be a focal point.
2016-17 finish: 14th
Projected finish: 20th
The lack of transfer activity from a sub-par Crystal Palace side does not scream optimism around South London. Bringing in Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu-Mensah in on loan deals is good for their experience, but Palace need strong, veteran signings to complement Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye. New manager Franck de Boer underwhelmed in a massive fashion at Inter Milan last season and is projected to struggle in the Premier League without a deep squad.