Why your team will let you down in the 2016/17 season: Part Two

Here's why disappointment awaits for Everton, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester City

The Premier League season is just around the corner and optimism for every team has never been, and will never be as high as it is right now.

Before a single ball is kicked and a point is won, fans still believe they can avoid relegation, claim that elusive European spot or even pull a Leicester and get an unlikely title win. Well, there's a time and a place for naïveté and joy, but it ain't when assessing the chances of your team ahead of a Premier League season, so here's a much-needed dose of reality for your team.

Everton

Last year was worse than you remember:

Everton lost more than a third of their Premier League games last season as they finished in 11th place. Roberto Martinez’s side struggled to impose the Spaniard's beliefs, struggling especially in defence. If the defence can improve this season, Everton should finish easily inside the top half of the table.

Manager's biggest problem:

Ronald Koeman’s biggest job this summer is trying to keep Romelu Lukaku. Everton’s record signing continues to impress for The Toffees, despite the fact the team was imploding around him last season. If the Dutch manager can keep the Belgian striker ahead of the transfer window closing, Everton will have a chance.

Player that is guaranteed to break your heart:

Ross Barkley’s breakout season came in 2013/14 and forced his way into England’s World Cup squad that summer. Since then, the 22-year-old has struggled to reach those lofty heights. The fact he has not been linked with any of the bigger clubs this summer is very telling.

One thing that might be OK:

After the chaos of last season under Martinez, new manager Ronald Koeman should bring plenty of stability to the side. One of the best players of his generation, the 53-year-old’s record as a player and manager will force his players and potential signings to respect him.

And now a word from the fans: 

Hull

Last year was worse than you remember:

They have become a bit of a yo-yo club of late but while they were promoted via the playoffs, they were six points off the top three eventually.

Manager’s biggest problem:

He doesn’t exist yet since Steve Bruce resigned.

Player that is guaranteed to break your heart:

If pre-season expectations of automatic relegation prove true then it could be nearly all of them.

One thing that might be OK:

From an Irish perspective, David Meyler is back in the Premier League while young right-back Brian Lenihan is also going to taste Premier League life provided he isn’t loaned out.

And now a word from the fans: 

Leicester City

Last year was worse than you remember:

Last year’s “fairytale” season will surely prove an anomaly come the opening game of the season. For large parts of last season a 'surely not' mentality was developed by pundits and fans alike. Only Leicester City supporters dared to dream, their manager Claudio Ranieri only targeted the title with a handful of games remaining. The Foxes were among the lowest teams in terms of possession and played counter-attacking football. Because they relied on this so heavily last season, many teams will know what their strategy will be and it was clear in the Community Shield against Manchester United that they were prepared to sit back and soak up pressure once again. Commitment to the same plan may give every team in the league a chance to negate them this season.

Manager’s biggest problem:

Two-fold, this one. Hanging onto his best players and getting the best out of them. The Tinkerman didn’t appear to change the game plan against United and it appears he will deploy the same counter attacking play to defend the title. They’ve already lost N’Golo Kante, while Jamie Vardy will stay at the club. Riyad Mahrez will have to get his head right again after admitting he would not be leaving the club in this transfer window, with Arsenal among the suitors to take him away from the champions. Expectation and pressure will be high to see whether he - and Leicester - can replicate that form into the season and should other teams develop plans to stop Leicester specifically, that could prove difficult.

Player that is guaranteed to break your heart:

The temptation is to say Jamie Vardy who burst onto the scene last term and set a new Premier League record with goals scored in consecutive games. However, Wesley Morgan may be the man who struggles to maintain form this year. He was an integral part of the Leicester defence toward the end of the season when they worked so hard to stay on course for Premier League success. This year might prove differently. He turns 33 in January and alongside Robert Huth - 32 on August 18 - and may find his age catching up on him when you factor in Champions League football as well, not to mention cup competitions.

One thing that might be OK:

Undoubtedly, last season was the best that Leicester City could hope for. A repeat would be even more miraculous. The pressure seems to be off the team a little bit and they may actually enjoy the big European occasions, bringing some of Europe’s finest teams to the King Power Stadium. Top-half finish is the only expectation a lot of fans and supporters will have, Ranieri will no doubt make the target 40 points once again.

And now a word from the fans: 

 

Liverpool

Last year was worse than you remember:

After a bad start to the season, Liverpool parted company with Brendan Rodgers and brought in Klopp, as many had speculated they would at the start of the season. That saw a bit of an improvement in results, although not a massive one, as they fought on several fronts eventually making it to two cup finals. However, Klopp proved unable to inspire them to claim either trophy, and they were well beaten by Sevilla in the Europa League. There’s no European football for them this season as they proved maddeningly inconsistent under Klopp last year, and injuries plagued them all over the pitch. Problems at the back persisted, as they conceded 40 goals under Klopp in the league, and the loss of a number of defenders probably won’t improve that stat.

Manager's biggest problem:

Expectations. After reaching those two finals last season, they’re now seen as just a step along the way despite the losses. Getting the transfer business done with minimal fuss for once was a bonus and with a settled squad and a full pre-season under their belt with the German in charge, people are expecting miracles. Also, there are no fit defenders to start the season, which is not great.

Player that is guaranteed to break your heart:

Philippe Coutinho’s performances have been up and down in the absence of a hard running, unpredictable frontman, which curtails his range of passing and creativity. He scores the odd wonder goal himself, and if he could be a bit more accurate with his finishing (or smarter about when he chooses to hit it from 35 yards) then he would be borderline unplayable. However, with Firmino or Saido Mane the main threat up front, the Brazilian looks set to continue to be patchy this season as his form depends so heavily on their production.

One thing that might be OK:

Liverpool have spent the last few summers scouring the transfer market to replace the loss of their biggest player, but this summer they have hung on to their talent for the first time. It was a relatively smooth process throughout the summer leading to a strong pre-season performance. Maybe, just maybe, that means they can start the season on the front foot for the first time in a while.

And now a word from the fans: 

Manchester City

Last year was worse than you remember

The Manchester City players did more checking out than the barcode scanner at Tesco last season under Manuel Pellegrini, and a fair few of them dug their own graves for the new regime while they were at it (hasta luego Samir Nasri). With the spectre of Guardiola looming, few players actually put their hand up for inclusion, and a suspect backline without the perennially injured Vincent Kompany made life hell for the Chilean. They eventually qualified for the Champions League by the skin of their teeth, but few would have blamed Pellegrini for crashing the good ship City into the rocks after they treated him with such little respect.

Manager's biggest problem

Like Jurgen Klopp, it’s expectations. There are a lot of overpaid, underperforming players in the team, but for once there’s a manger who has the power to turf them out if he wants. There are only so many changes a squad can take however, and with big switches in defence and rumours that Guardiola wants to get rid of Joe Hart too, wholesale changes to the spine of a team almost always spell trouble.They certainly could win the league, but Guardiola’s focus will be on establishing the style that they’re supposed to play in first and foremost, which takes time.

Player that is guaranteed to break your heart

Raheem Sterling was signed for big money with plenty of expectations but after a few months, Manchester City fans finally understood what had frustrated Liverpool fans about the prodigiously talented England international: he can’t finish. Guardiola will improve him, but the process isn’t going to happen overnight. You can expect a few more scuffed shots and sitters missed before the season is over.

One thing that might be OK

Guardiola is genuinely a brilliant coach, despite the protestations of Franck Ribery. The Premier League is definitely more of a slog than the German or Spanish Leagues, but the building a style and identity from the ground up won’t happen overnight. Fans at the Etihad can certainly expect that the team will at least be a bit more entertaining however, as they have more than enough talent to dominate possession in the way the Catalan man will want. Throw Leroy Sane into that mix, as well as John Stones' passing ability from the back, and it’s a very exciting attack.

And now, a word from the fans: 

Part One: Arsenal, Bournemouth, Burnley, Chelsea and Crystal Palace

Part Three: Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland

Part Four: Swansea, Tottenham, Watford, West Brom and West Ham