The 5 Premier League Teams That Will Underachieve This Season
With the level of competition in the Premier League, there are few certainties before the beginning of the season. In years gone by, the top four was a fairly solid arrangement, while relegation often comprised of the teams that had come up the season before.
In the last few campaigns, however, increasing money in the league and the emergence of new forces such as Manchester City has shaken up the establishment and made predicting the league considerably more difficult.
Here are five teams who could well fail to live up to their pre-season expectations.
For Manuel Pellegrini’s team, anything less than retaining their title as Premier League champions will be an underachievement, such has been the investment in the side.
City still have arguably the best squad depth in the league, but with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all strengthening considerably, they will need to improve on last season’s form if they want to remain on top.
While they were missing several key players for the Community Shield final, the manner in which they lost to Arsenal will have set some alarm bells ringing at Eastlands.
Their full-strength side is formidable, but key players—such as Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero—are frequently absent through injury.
Despite their strength in depth, City are also hobbled somewhat by the homegrown player quota, which means they have to keep the likes of Dedryck Boyata in the squad despite his ability falling short of what is required.
Queens Park Rangers
It’s almost a case of "as you were" for QPR on their return to the Premier League after a one-year absence. The team still has a bevy of experienced Premier League players to call upon, and manager Harry Redknapp’s extravagant spending shows little sign of letting up.
The ex-Spurs boss has signed Cardiff pair Steven Caulker and Jordan Mutch for a combined £14 million, as well as Rio Ferdinand on a free. The central defender has reportedly taken a large pay cut, per Sami Mokbel of The Daily Mail, but he will still be earning a perilously high amount should the club find themselves embroiled in a relegation battle.
Rangers struggled with their tag of promotion favourites last season, eventually going up via the play-offs. While on paper they may have the best squad of the three promoted sides, they still lack the cohesion and spirit required to compete in the division.
Despite considerable expectations in their last two campaigns, Spurs have failed to achieve their ultimate goal of breaking into the top four.
With several exciting new recruits—not least manager Mauricio Pochettino—expectations are high once again. However, their rivals for the Champions League spots have all strengthened (with the possible exception of Liverpool). Manchester United in particular look well-equipped to wage an assault on the top four.
Pochettino’s shortcomings as a manager have been masked by his attractive brand of football, and his record in the transfer market leaves much to be desired. Spurs’ season—and the future of the club—could well be shaped by how the new signings perform.
A repeat of Pochettino’s signing of Pablo Osvaldo for Southampton—who appears to have played his last game for the club just six months after joining for a club-record £15 million—would be disastrous.
None of the Argentinian’s signings so far have set the heart racing, yet he has already racked up an impressive bill of £19 million and looks set to add to that before the end of the window.
Spurs’ season depends on Pochettino stepping up to the mark.
After a superb first season in charge, Roberto Martinez has his work cut out to meet the newly inflated expectations at Everton.
Anything less than a Europa League spot—and possibly a couple of good cup runs—will be seen as a disappointment after the Spaniard hit the ground running at Goodison. With several clubs around the Toffees adding to their squads, Martinez faces a much tougher time this term.
That isn’t to say that Everton haven’t performed well in the transfer market—the permanent additions of Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku are both huge captures. What they haven’t done, however, is add to what they had last season in a significant manner.
Undoubtedly one of the main strengths of the team is their chemistry and knowledge of each other—seven of the current squad have played over 100 times for the club.
However, with such longevity in the team comes the downside of age. Several key players—such as Sylvain Distin, who turns 37 this season—are now the wrong side of 30, and their effectiveness wanes with every passing year.
Despite having rarely threatened the Premier League’s elite in the past 10 years, Newcastle are still arguably on track to underachieve given the size and reputation of the club.
While they have the support—and financial backing—to be threatening at least the Europa League spots, their continued failure to do so is down to one thing.
The lack of ambition shown by the club’s ownership has been well-documented, from selling their best players—Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy are two prime examples—to Mike Ashley’s astonishing claim that winning a cup would be a bad thing, per Neil Cameron of The Newcastle Chronicle.
With this sort of leadership, combined with manager Alan Pardew’s shortcomings, the Magpies are in for another season of disappointment.
At the beginning of this year, they found themselves just six points off the Champions League places, but they ultimately finished 30 points behind, ably demonstrating the short-sightedness in selling Cabaye.
For Newcastle, the potential is there, but the management and ownership simply isn’t.