Tensions are growing palpable ahead of the much-awaited 28th season of the English Premier League.
In this penultimate part of our five-chapter 2019/20 EPL season preview, we look at the summer business, outright odds and overall prospects of Crystal Palace, Southampton, Bournemouth and the newly promoted Aston Villa.
Despite squeezing out a cool £50 million from Manchester United for the sale of right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Crystal Palace have remained unfazed by their relative inactivity in the transfer market.
With deadline day drawing closer, however, manager Roy Hodgson has brought in goalkeeper Stephen Henderson and forward Jordan Ayew. Henderson joined from Nottingham Forest on a free transfer, whereas Ayew completed a permanent £2.5 million move having spent last season at the club on loan from Swansea City.
Defender Gary Cahill has also completed a switch to Selhurst Park after being released by Chelsea having made just two Premier League appearances in the last campaign.
Palace fans will be wary that despite generating so much from the sale of Wan-Bissaka, the club hasn’t reinvested much into the squad. And with lingering uncertainty over the future of Wilfried Zaha, plenty could depend on whether the former Manchester United winger leaves or stays put.
Southampton are renowned for nurturing agile and skilful players just as much as they are infamous for selling them to the highest bidder once they are fully groomed. The Saints have lost the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Virgil van Dijk to rival Premier League clubs in recent years, massively diminishing the strength and quality of their squad.
Although Southampton have been embroiled in the relegation catfight over the last two seasons, their performances haven’t necessarily reflected the quality of the side.
Adamant to stay up for yet another season, the club completed the permanent transfer of Danny Ings for a clean £20 million after the forward impressed while on loan from Liverpool. The Englishman scored eight goals last term, second only to Nathan Redmond’s tally of nine.
The Saints have also completed the signing of Che Adams from Birmingham and Moussa Djenepo from Standard Liege for a total of £29 million.
Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who was appointed as damage control after the Saints made an indolent and lethargic start last season, should be able to lead his charges to the safety of a mid-table finish.
Loved as a player from his early days at the club, Eddie Howe has Cherries blood running through his veins. He has struck a chord ever since he began his second managerial stint at Dean Court in 2012, guiding Bournemouth all the way from League One up to the Premier League.
Although Bournemouth performed well enough to contend for a Champions League place in the early stages last season, they lost the plot in a move that saw them spiral all the way to 14th on the ladder.
PART TWO: WHAT NOW FOR ARSENAL AND MAN UNITED?
Howe has brought in midfielder Philip Billing (£15 million) from Huddersfield Town and winger Arnaut Danjuma (£13.5 million) from Club Brugge, with defenders Lloyd Kelly (£13 million) and Jack Stacey (£4 million) joining from Bristol City and Luton Town respectively.
Going by the tight-knit squad at Howe’s disposal, with players such as Callum Wilson and Joshua King able to come up with the goods, Bournemouth could finish higher than they did last season.
Before Manchester United splashed £80 million on Harry Maguire to add onto the £15 million and £50 million they had earlier parted with in exchange of Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka respectively, Aston Villa were the biggest spenders of the current transfer window.
The West Midlands club has re-invested in much of the £170 million they pocketed from winning the Championship playoffs last season, splashing £112 million on transfers this summer.
A huge chunk of that went to defensive reinforcements with the signing of centre backs Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth), Ezri Konsa (Brentford) and Matt Targett (Southampton), who cost the club a total of £53.5 million.
It took just £4 million to lure midfielder Jota from Birmingham City, while Egyptian winger Mahmoud ‘Trezeguet’ Hassan signed from Turkish side Kasımpasa for £8.5m.
Despite spending an additional £22 million on Brazilian striker Wesley Moraes, manager Dean Smith will be acutely aware that spending huge in the transfer market doesn’t necessarily translate to outstanding results – as per Fulham, who were relegated last season after spending around £150 million on new players.