Who Will Challenge Southampton For Europe?

Southampton’s re-integration into the Premier League has been tremendously successful, proving that a club can change managers on a consistent basis without falling off the edge of the universe.

Ronald Koeman took over from Mauricio Pochettino last summer amidst a mountain of departures including stars such as Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, and replaced them with the likes of Dusan Tadic, Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Ryan Bertrand to propel the Saints into seventh place, moreover securing a Europa League place.

Having lost further stars this summer to bigger clubs, Koeman again displayed his adeptness in the market, succeeding Nathaniel Clyne with Sporting’s Cedric Soares and Morgan Schneiderlin with Feyenoord’s Jordy Clasie. Koeman’s team look the strongest to secure the seventh spot in the Premier League, fifth and sixth spot looking likely to be taken again by Liverpool and Tottenham.

However, with the recent influx of cash for Premier League clubs, there has been some wise spending across the board. Who can challenge Southampton for a place in Europe?

Newcastle United

To say it has been a rocky few years at St James Park would be an insult to the Toon’s fan base, who have suffered through watching football orchestrated by the worst of composers in Joe Kinnear and John Carver, the self-titled “best coach in the league”. Alan Pardew was undoubtedly the club’s steadiest manager, having guided Newcastle to fifth place in 2011-12 at his peak in management.

With Steve McClaren in charge, you cannot blame fans for being dubious. Being worse than Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello as England manager takes some doing, but the amusingly slandered “wolly with a brolly” has done well to rejuvenate his managerial career at Derby County, where they were inches away from the Premier League in 2013-14 only to lose at the last moment to QPR.

Last season, the Rams dropped out of the play-offs on the final day which caused a monumental rift between the Derby board and McClaren, but injuries throughout the campaign, particularly to forward Chris Martin, hindered progress.

McClaren’s intent on the transfer front has impressed fans and critics alike, with some astute moves being made on the back of being handed a none too shabby transfer budget.

Additions:

Two outstanding captures in the shape of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum are at the forefront of reasons as to why Newcastle could finally be in with a shout of a return to Europe.

Signed from Anderlecht for £13.5m, Mitrovic was chased by Premier League champions Chelsea but decided to come to Newcastle on the promise of a regular starting position.

Aerially superior to defenders, he has already proved to be a serious thorn in defenders side on the big stage, having scored against Arsenal in the Champions League, whilst the Serb has no issues in being the instrumental player in a team, having scored 28 % of Anderlecht’s goals in 2014/15.

Wijnaldum was PSV’s captain and the Dutchman was certainly not appointed for no reason. The 24-year-old is a Dutch international and excels in aiding his team with the goals, having scored 64 from midfield for Feyenoord and PSV during his team in the Eredivisie. He already netted this beauty in pre-season against Portland Timbers, and should be exciting in a Newcastle midfield that will contain Siem de Jong and Remy Cabella.

His Dutch compatriot de Jong had the following the say about Wijnaldum.

“He’s a good player; he likes to be on the ball and he’s good offensive, but also strong and can help defensive, so he’s quite a (versatile) player,” De Jong said. “He can play a couple positions, so he can be a good contributor for the team. He’s a good guy. I know him well and he really wants to work hard and he could be good for us.”

The club are also set to sign Mitrovic’s former team-mate Chancel Mbemba for £8.5m, and are rumoured to be leading the chasing pack for £15m rated QPR forward Charlie Austin.

West Ham United

Sam Allardyce’s sacking just seconds after the final whistle blew via the club’ official Twitter account was a harsh move by the Hammers, but his replacement Slaven Bilic has wasted no time in making additions the Croat felt was necessary to progress the club ahead of the proposed move to the Olympic stadium. Bilic has landed on his feet football following a shaky spell at Lokomotiv Moscow before taking the post at Besiktas.

Additions:

Dimitri Payet is one of the signings of the summer in Europe, let alone the Premier League. West Ham paid £10.7m to secure his services and the 28-year-old will, barring a freak season, repay his new team a thousandfold. Payet had the most key passes in Europe last season, and topped the Ligue 1 assists pile with 17, accompanying that with seven goals.

CIbhudQWgAAF8xN (1)

Pedro Obiang’s arrival from Sampdoria will re-introduce a balance into their midfield, whilst the recruitment of Angelo Ogbonna from Juventus should prove to be a stellar signing. With the likes of Diafra Sakho, Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Aaron Cresswell already in the team, West Ham should at least aim for an eighth or ninth placed finish if Europe falls a little short.

Swansea City

Garry Monk is one of the Premier League’s success stories. His opportunity to take his first job in management was born from Michael Laudrup’s departure, but the club legend has never looked back despite a mammoth number of doubters.

Selling Wilfred Bony for an outrageous amount of money will serve the Swans well in the future having not shelled out the entirety of the £28m along with their usual budget. Southampton lost Jack Cork to Swansea for peanuts, and whilst they boast a strong midfield, Cork is the cog that keeps things running smoothly in a Premier League midfield.

An outstanding finish of eighth place in 2014/15 gave Swansea something to build from.

Additions:

Andre Ayew has arrived on a free transfer from Marseille in what was a spectacular coup for the Welsh side. His ten goals for the French club in the season just gone bodes well for his new fans, who are yearning for a new goalscorer since Bony’s departure. Should Ayew need some assistance, he’ll find it from Eder, who has moved from Braga to join Ayew and Franck Tabanou, a winger from Saint Etienne, at the Liberty Stadium.

Goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt has also joined in what can only be a good thing as cover for Lukas Fabianski.

Crystal Palace

Finally, it’s Alan Pardew’s Eagles who have clawed their way into the list. Struggling under Neil Warnock in the relegation zone, Pardew stepped in, escaping a vicious onslaught from the Newcastle United fans who screamed for his departure. At Newcastle, the fans appreciation of Pardew went out the window when new signings such as Siem de Jong were injured or when Remy Cabella failed to perform to the ability he demonstrated at Montpellier.

For his new club, Pardew thrived.

Completely transforming and invigorating Crystal Palace, the club had a sense of freshness about it. Utilising the pace of Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie to great effect, at the same time using the strong backbone supplied by defenders Joel Ward and Scott Dann, Palace found themselves in tenth as the season drew to a close.

Additions:

Pardew has made the fans wait but it was time well spent considering targets. The Eagles could never have hoped in their wildest dreams of seeing their club acquire a player like Yohan Cabaye, but incredibly, they did. The Frenchman was extraordinary at Newcastle, but had  a frustrating time at Paris-Saint-Germain and will be delighted to be able to work with Pardew once again.

A club record fee of approximately £12m convinced the French champions to part with their expensive bit-part player, but he will be instrumental to this Palace side.

Having signed a new three-year deal with Chelsea, Patrick Bamford had a number of suitors following a truly remarkable season with Middlesbrough in which he earned the Championship player of the year award, having scored seventeen goals in a campaign which saw ‘Boro reach the play-off final.

Intelligent on the ball with extreme precision in front of goal, Bamford and Palace will fit around each other perfectly. It gives the 21-year-old a chance to experience regular Premier League football whilst Palace have the opportunity to aid the moulding of one of England’s brightest talents.

It’s going to be another exciting season.