The focus at this time of the season is usually at either the top or the bottom of the table as people talk at length as to who will win the league or who will face the dreaded drop come the end of the season but let’s focus on the middle of the table for once.
Of course not everyone gain earn themselves European football after 38 matches of a Premier League campaign and with a top flight that gets more and more competitive, the fight to earn honours gets tougher with each season that passes.
If teams don’t get off to a good start the next thing they know they could be in the congested mid-table with a long hard slog in front of them. The first few weeks can very much shape a sides season it can also make a managers job status very perilous. Here are three sides that need a good start to the season for different reasons.
The blue half of Merseyside has caught a lot of attention this summer after the arrival of Ronald Koeman as manager and the large amount of transfer funds that he has been given. Add that to the ongoing transfer saga regarding Romelu Lukaku and Everton have had their fair share of column inches since the end of the last campaign.
A campaign which was incredibly disappointing by the Toffees’ standards as they limped home to an 11th place finish, one that saw Roberto Martinez given his marching orders before the season’s end. With Koeman now installed at the helm the expectations will be that Everton are once again challenging for the European places.
With John Stones departing for Manchester City they have plugged that gap with Ashley Williams, Stones will of course be missed but Williams will be more of an able replacement as he finally gets his chance to play for a big club at the age of 31.
If they can keep hold of Romelu Lukaku then that will be a massive boost as his goals were one of the few bright points last season. Koeman led Southampton to two Europa League places finishes he will now hope to continue that run with Everton. If he can spend some of those promised funds before the end of the month then he may well have every chance in doing so.
After the departure of Roy Hodgson as England manager there was much talk of Eddie Howe becoming the next man to take charge of the national side. In fairness to Howe that probably came a bit too soon but he certainly has all the makings of a future England boss.
The reason he was being talked in those circles was due to the fact that he managed to keep Bournemouth up in their maiden Premier League season. Overall on the balance of their season you would have to say it was a job well done but the manner in which it ended will have given Bournemouth fans some cause for concern.
That’s because once safety was assured Howe’s players very much took their foot off the pedals and coasted along to the end with a return of just four points from their final 24. Now it may be harsh on Bournemouth as at least they got themselves into a position to relax after such heroic efforts from their first 30 league games but they certainly can’t afford that run of form at the start of this season.
The key this season for Eddie Howe is too make sure his team don’t suffer from ‘Second Season Syndrome’ they will no longer be the unknown quantity of twelve months ago and life in the top flight will be that little bit harder from week to week. This will now be a real test of Howe’s managerial mettle.
Another new man at the Watford helm as Walter Mazzarri was announced as the man to take over from Quique Sanchez Flores back in May. Watford’s return to the Premier League was very much a season of two halves, one that saw them in the European places in December and then a big slump down the table after the new year.
Sanchez Flores arguably made a rod for his own back by starting the season so well as that then heightened the expectations of both the board and fans alike. If the season was the over away around then the former Atletico Madrid manager would have been heralded as some kind of genius. But unfortunately such is the nature of football that owners and fans have very short memories.
The key thing that was the undoing of Sanchez Flores was the fact that the early season goals from Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo had dried up since the turn of the year and that coincided with their downfall into the bottom half. There was too much of an over reliance on these two and not enough input from the rest of the side that coupled with tactical inflexibility and the writing was soon on the wall for the Spaniard.
New manager Mazzarri will be hoping that with Ighalo putting pen to paper on a five year deal at Vicarage Road and warding off any interest from China that the Nigerian will have once again found where the net is as he looks to he and Deeney to once again score the goals to keep them up. That said there has to be more goals from the supporting cast this time around otherwise they could be in trouble.