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2017-18 Premier League Preview: The Survivors

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Burnley:

Manager: Sean Dyche

Squad Value: £69.49 Million


Key Players: Jonathan Walters, Robbie Brady, Tom Heaton

Burnley FC will be playing Premier League football for a second consecutive season—not bad after many pundits predicted them to be relegated at the beginning of last season. The Clarets do not shine, pop, or scream out to the world to look at them, but to a degree, we should pay attention to them. Led by manager Sean Dyche, Burnley will want to build off their 16th place (40-point) finish from last season.

The Clarets were a hard working squad that made the opponent out work them for the result. They were tough at Turf Moor. Their ten home wins, which was tied for seventh best in the league last season, was the main reason for their success and a 16th place finish. When they are away from Turf Moor, they were tied for the league worst with just one away win. The other two clubs who Burnley was tied with, were relegated (Middlesbrough and Hull City). The Clarets also did not score much and nor did they let many in. Besides for the three who were regulated, they were the worst scoring team, and yet, had one of the better defensive clubs in the bottom half of the table.

Improvement is key to this upcoming season, and one way of the doing that is through the transfer window. Dyche is not the type who is going to bring in a player with personal flash, but someone who is going to buy into the team’s system. It is a rather boring approach, but it can work successfully. The additions of Jack Cork and Jon Walters are perfect examples. Both are going to help solidify the midfield, attack with wisdom, and hammer away every minute. Defender Phil Bardsley and left back Charlie Taylor were also brought in with the same resume: hard worker, veteran, and a team first mentality. The biggest loss of the transfer window was their rock in the back line, Michael Keane, for a whopping £25m from Everton.

The 24-year-old centre-back James Tarkowski was bought 18 months ago from Brentford and will be given the reigns to the back line. Good news for the Clarets, Dyche has done well with improving young defenders. Along with the new signings, Robbie Brady and Andrea Gray’s pure talent will have to elevate and carry the club through the tough times. The player that will be least talked about is Tom Heaton. He managed to get the most saves in the Premier League last season. A repeat performance might just keep Burnley afloat.

Where will that spirit take them this season?

Crystal Palace:

Manager: Frank de Boer

Squad Value: 146.16 Million

Key Players: Christian Benteke, Luka Milivojevic, Wilfried Zaha

This will be Crystal Palace’s fifth year playing top flight football, and it was not an easy one to achieve. Last season, Palace quickly fell into a relegation battle. They ended up sacking Alan Pardew and brought in the savior from getting relegated, Sam Allardyce. With a heavy mid-season investment and a switch in tactics, Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke, Mamadou Sakho, Luka Milivojevic and Andros Townsend were rejuvenated and led Palace. Their success on the pitch resulted in clearing the drop and landing comfortably in 14th.

Allardyce had done it once again.

But Allardyce did not stay, and after a vigorous process, Palace brought in Frank do Boer. The Dutchman endured great success with Ajax, winning four straight Eredivisie titles. His switch to Inter Milan only lasted 85 days. He is going to relish the opportunity to coach in the Premier League and will want to prove that his 85 days in Italy were just a fluke. His style will take some time to adjust to, and with the short leash Premier League managers are given, that could jeopardize his Palace experiment. He will set up Palace in an attacking style, but with a squad that flirted with relegation, the defense is going to be vital—hence, the signing of Jaïro Riedewald and links with Arsenal’s Calum Chambers.

In today’s game, 3-4-3 is the new trend. De Boer also favors this system, but his transfer window has been limited due to the heavy “survival” investment done last winter. Any player acquisition will have to be very calculated. Bringing in Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea on loan is an upgrade and will add more quality to the midfield. Townsend and Zaha will fly up and down the flank providing balls to Benteke or Jason Puncheon, however, they are still a little thin in goal scorers. Jeffrey Schlupp and Patrick Van Aanholt are energetic players who could come off the bench or start. Then there is Yohan Cabaye, who had a subpar year last season. The Frenchman will have a point to prove.

Palace’s defense is their biggest weakness. They lost a goalkeeper, Steve Mandanda—sold to Marseille—and the more worrying move, centre-back Sakho has not been, or will not, be signed back. Without him last season, Palace could have been easily relegated. The addition of Riedewald is significant, but might be unfairly judged against Sakho. De Boer wants to add another body to the back line. The question is who and at what cost.

The Eagles are talented, but with a small summer budget, it could hinder the club and de Boer’s vision. The Frank de Boer experiment has begun in the Premier League. What will it result in?

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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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