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2017-18 Premier League Preview: The Survivors

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Premier League

The most popular league in the world, the Premier League, is only days away from matchday one. Here is your 2017-18 Premier League guide to what could be the most incredible, amazing, and fantastic season ever—continuing with the clubs who just survived last year.

Swansea City:

Manager: Paul Clement

Squad Value: £122.91 Million

Key Players: Fernando Llorente, Tammy Abraham, Gylfi Sigurdsson

During Bob Bradley’s command of Swansea City for 85 days, the club seemed destined to be relegated. The American ownership had enough, pulled the plug, and plucked Paul Clement off of Bayern Munich’s bench assisting Carlo Ancelotti. No one gave the Swans a chance. But Clement turned a lackluster squad into a resilient bunch that somehow held on to survive another year in the Premier League. It is nowhere close to the great escape that Leicester City pulled off in 2015, but still very impressive. Now, Clement has a summer transfer window and preseason to tinker the squad to be even more impressive than last season.

The biggest summer headline created by the Swans is over the ongoing transfer saga over star player Gylfi Sigurdsson. Everton is keen on the midfielder, but the Swan’s asking price seems a little too steep at the moment. If and when he leaves, since it is very likely he does, Swansea will have to reevaluate.

Maybe, they already thought ahead because Clement has brought in some intriguing players. This included Tammy Abraham on loan from Chelsea, Roque Mesa from Las Palmas for £11 million, and Erwin Mulder on a free transfer. Each player is capable of adding a new dimension to Clement’s philosophy of hard work, shape, and intensity.

Going forward, Clement does not have to worry too much. Frontman Fernando Llorente’s 15 goal haul last season was good enough to even get the attention of Antonio Conte at Chelsea. The additions of Mesa and Abraham are going to make the Swans a little bit more dangerous and fluid, providing Llorente an opportunity to match his output from the previous season. Meanwhile, Jordan Ayew will want to bounce back after a disappointing one goal in 14 appearances last season. But if Sigurdsson leaves for Everton, it will leave a gaping hole in the middle that needs to be patched up. Depending on the ownership, Clement will have some new funds to find a replacement, but it is going to a mad scramble as the transfer window ends in three short weeks.

The biggest concern seems to be the back line. After all, the Swans conceded the second most goals last season. However, that’s misleading. 44 goals were conceded from the first 19 matches. Under Clement’s 18 matches, only 25 conceded goals. Although he turned the club around and tightened things up defensively, there is still a concern. Mike van der Hoorn will want to prove himself after being a disappointing transfer last season, and Clement prefers the partnership of Alfie Mawson and Federico over Van der Hoorn and Jordi Amat. But regardless of who is playing, these centre-backs do not scare forwards. Let’s not forget that the fullbacks are important too. Martin Olsson and Kyle Naughton are most likely to be the regular starters. The success of the club this upcoming season rests on keeping a strong defense.

Under Clement, the Swans picked up 29 points from 19 games. If you span that output to an entire season, that would be a mid-table finish. Clement gets a full season now, what will it result in?

 

Watford:

Manager: Marco Silva

Squad Value: £107.10 Million

Key Players: Roberto Pereyra, Tom Cleverley, Nathaniel Chalobah

Under Italian manager Walter Mazzarri, the Hornets fell apart. With three wins in his final 15 games and ending the season with six defeats, it was time to move on from Mazzarri. In came Portuguese manager Marco Silva from relegated Hull City. The strong and demanding manager was by no means bad with Hull City: 8W, 3D, 11L. Hull City was just so awful in the first half of the season, Silva had to be almost perfect with the club for any chance of survival. Silva is a very bright upcoming manager and even turned down managerial opportunities at Portuguese giants Porto and Premier League regulars Crystal Palace to take charge of Watford.

It has been a good summer transfer window at Vicarage Road. They successfully addressed the issue of not having enough English “homegrown” youngsters, with the signing of Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes. The Hornets also made the permanent signing of Tom Cleverly and took stock into Brazilian youngster Richarlison, although he is currently having work permit issues. On a free transfer from Alaves, Kiko Femenia is will be putting on the Watford shirt this upcoming season. On the way out, M’Baye Niang returned to AC Milan after his six-month unsuccessful loan spell ended, while Mario Suarez is currently chasing the dollars in the Chinese Super League. Interestingly, Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami has been rumored to leave Watford before the window closes but not much been reported lately. Safe to say, nothing significant has left or will leave.

With the attacking options they now have, going forward, they can terrorize league’s best back line. Roberto Pereyra is the cornerstone of the attack. He’s been an utter gem since making the switch to Vicarage Road from Juventus last season. However, he is still recovering from a knee injury that ended his 2016-17 Premier League campaign. It could be a slow start off the line, but once Pereyra kicks it into gear, he will be sure his worth is noticed. Although Silva could end up deploying Pereyra on the flank and make Cleverly the number 10, that all remains to be seen. Troy Deeney will lead the charge, followed by a mixture of  Richarlison, Mauro Zarate, Stefano Okaka, Nordin Amrabat and Isaac Success. Along with Hughes and Cleverly, Silva will be able to mix and match for the best opportunities to attack and create the most scoring chances out of their attack.

Last season, Watford conceded the fourth most goals in the league (68). Silva focused on reshaping the midfield, hoping it can help with the back line. Interestingly enough, they have talented centre-backs too. Sebastian Prodl is a sure starter, but the question of who Silva will pair him up with is still unknown. Younes Kaboul, Miguel Britos, Adrian Mariappa, Craig Cathcart, and Christian Kabasele have all been the same during preseason—no one stuck out. It might be one of those, throw mud against the wall, and see what sticks. 

The Hornets are going to be interesting to watch. Talented and now managed by the high demanding Marco Silva. What type of season are the Hornets going to have in the Premier League?

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Steven Jotterand
Steven Jotterand currently hosts Uncle Sam's Soccer Podcast—an American themed soccer podcast. He also has contributed to smaller soccer outlets.

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