Big-Name Clubs Set to Disappoint This Season

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

Big-Name Clubs Set to Disappoint This Season

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    It's the same every summer: The fans and the coaches at the game's biggest sides gather their hopes and optimism for the season ahead, wishing for the new campaign to begin, so the plans, signings and objectives for the new season can be put into place.

    Unfortunately, the nature of sport dictates that it doesn't happen for everybody, and some of the big clubs are going to be left very disappointed come the end of 2014-15.

    Here we've taken a look at some of the biggest sides who could be set to disappoint, taking into account the reputation and size of the club, what they achieved last season (and in the recent past), where they generally expect to compete, and their transfer activity so far this summer.

    Of course, improvements in the latter area could make it all change again before the season gets underway.

AC Milan

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    What they did last season

    The Serie A club generally plodded about in mid-table, made signings like Adel Taarabt and hired (and fired) Clarence Seedorf.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    Milan need so much more than just a new manager; they need a structure in place to bring back top players, to allow the current stars to flourish and to develop some consistency.

    At present they are well off the top two, and even a fight for Europa League football looks like it will be a struggle.


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    Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

    What they did last season

    Napoli sold a few players for big money and brought in a lot of new faces. They didn't regress but certainly didn't improve and finished third in Serie A.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    The gap of 24 points between first and third is a steep one to bridge, and Napoli's summer activity doesn't exactly leave too much hope of doing so.

    Rafa Benitez is a proven manager in European competition, but it's hard to see Napoli having any more of an impact at home or abroad this season. They simply haven't progressed.

Tottenham Hotspur

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    What they did last season

    Tottenham fired Andre Villas-Boas for doing a passable job, hired Tim Sherwood, then fired him for doing largely the same things. They finished sixth in the Premier League.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    Fairly slow off the mark in the transfer market, Spurs haven't made great strides since appointing Mauricio Pochettino as manager. Possibly he thinks he can make far better use of the players already there, which is fair.

    Other clubs around them have strengthened, though, and Spurs are not as well-equipped to battle on three fronts. Finishing sixth again would be an achievement this season, but they won't.

Bayer Leverkusen

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    What they did last season

    The Bundesliga club had a great start to the season, suffered a horrendous dip in form around the winter break and then finished strongly to end the campaign in the Champions League spots after changing their manager.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    Sales of key players Emre Can and Sidney Sam left voids that need to be filled, even with arrivals of Hakan Calhanoglu and Josip Drmic.

    Schalke look very strong again, and one or two other sides will compete hard with Bayer for a top-four finish next season. Roger Schmidt, the new boss, has done well in Austria but has no track record in the Bundesliga.


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    What they did last season

    Valencia were consistently inconsistent. They were almost a perfectly mid-table team, winning nearly as many as they lost (13-15) and scoring nearly as many as they conceded (51-53), finishing eighth in La Liga.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    The gamble of appointing Nuno as manager could backfire horrendously, considering his minimal experience and something of a mess of a squad which he has inherited.

    Valencia lack the cutting edge in attack of a Villarreal or last season's Real Sociedad, and they were the same number of points away from relegation (10) as from the team above them in seventh. That's the kind of ground they need to make up.

Real Sociedad

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    What they did last season

    They started slowly, improved, attacked, impressed and challenged for fourth place in La Liga—before falling short and ending seventh.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    Antoine Griezmann's sale to Atletico Madrid should not be underestimated in its importance. He was not just a creator and scorer but the man who shaped La Real's offensive movement with his pace and direct threat.

    Sociedad have rarely managed to put more than a couple of back-to-back seasons together with high finishes, and a fourth and a seventh might be about the shelf life of the team.


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    What they did last season

    Monaco finished second place in Ligue 1 in their first year back in the top flight.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    A lack of investment this summer means they haven't improved their squad in the slightest, while the departure of James Rodriguez naturally creates a big gap in attacking midfield.

    Leonardo Jardim is in place for his first season in management in France, and though he has done well until now with lesser sides, he will be expected to challenge for the title and navigate the Champions League—neither of which this squad can presently do.


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    What they did last season

    Feyenoord swept almost all before them to finish second in the Eredivisie, just four points off the top after losing just twice from December.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    Their squad has been torn asunder by sales.

    Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan de Vrij, Graziano Pelle and Daryl Janmaat have all left. Only Jordy Clasie remains out of those with big links at the start of summer, and perhaps he won't be staying too long, either.

    The big signing of the summer so far is Khalid Boulahrouz on a free transfer from Brondby.


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    What they did last season

    Benfica won the Liga Sagres, won both domestic cups and came within a penalty shootout of winning the Europa League final. 

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    Firstly, it would be difficult enough to match the feats of last season anyway, but Porto in particular have significantly strengthened this summer as they look to bounce back at Benfica.

    Benfica themselves, meanwhile, have had a massive fire sale and managed to offload key first-teamers Jan Oblak, Ezequiel Garay, Lazar Markovic and Andre Gomes, in addition to squad players. Manager Jorge Jesus looks to be building a new side, but almost all the main pillars of the last one are gone.

CSKA Moscow

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    What they did last season

    CSKA Moscow won the Russian Premier League in the final gameweek.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    CSKA won almost by default after Zenit St. Petersburg were awarded a defeat after pitch invasion the previous week.

    True, they managed a great run of form late in the season to aid the challenge, but they went six games only scoring twice during the middle of the campaign as they struggled without their main attackers through injury.

    CSKA haven't strengthened at all, and anything less than a title win is a disappointment, while European success is utterly off the cards.


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    What they did last season

    Celtic walked the Scottish Premier League as usual and finished at the bottom of their Champions League group.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    Celtic should once more easily win their domestic league. That isn't even up for discussion. They have no competition and the best players around.

    New boss Ronny Deila suffered a defeat in Champions League qualifying, though, and their entire season really rests on trying to compete in that tournament. A big comeback is required, by three goals, in the second leg—otherwise it's an unappealing season of trying to win the Scottish treble.

Shakhtar Donetsk

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    What they did last season

    Shakhtar Donetsk won the Ukrainian Premier League by six points, winning 21 of 28 league games.

    Why they'll disappoint this time

    There have been reports, per the Associated Press, via The Guardian, of players being unhappy to return to Ukraine after preseason games due to the conflict going on in the region.

    Coach Mircea Lucescu commented on the situation in the report (h/t Shakhtar's website):

    It is necessary to explain what happened. It is not the players’ desire, it’s their agents’ work. A few hours before the kickoff of the match against Lyonnais, Kia showed up. And after the game, at two in the morning, he took our players away. The very talented ones: Teixeira, Douglas, Fred. The rest are not so important. He wanted to do the same to Adriano, Ilsinho, Marlos and Taison. But they refused. Ferreyra has another agent. But he also expects to capitalise on the situation.

    It was later reported by BBC Sport that Shakhtar will train and play in Lviv, 600 miles away from Donetsk, as a result of the conflict.

    All in all it has been a hugely unsettling time for the side, which hardly makes good preparation for the season ahead. With or without those star players it could be tough for them to match last season's achievements if football matters are not allowed to be focused on.