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VICE Sports Premier League Team by Team Preview Part 2: The Middle Ground

Part two of our Premier League preview features a few clubs with an eye on Europe, others who are looking nervously over their shoulders at the bottom three, and Newcastle, who will manage to do both over the course of the season.
August 6, 2015, 12:19pm
Photo by PA Images

(Ed. note: This week, VICE Sports previews the start of the 2015 Premier League Season. You can find all the stories here. This story originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.)

Part two of our Premier League preview features an eclectic mix of clubs. Some will have an eye on Europe; others will be looking nervously over their shoulders at the bottom three; and Newcastle will manage to do both during the course of the season against a backdrop of fan protests, revolving-door transfers, and non-existent cup runs.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace are becoming somewhat emblematic of the strange forces twisting and writhing beneath the Premier League behemoth, summing up a variety of bizarre trends that are manifesting themselves in the darker corners of the division. Not only did we have the laughably shit 'ultra' displays when they arrived in the league, but they're at the forefront of a general power shift from the north to the south in English football.

It's not just the clubs, either – fancy continental managers will probably always be in vogue, but the old-fashioned motivators who don't give a fig for tactics are fighting back too. Most curiously, this doesn't seem to apply to old Northern warhorses like Sam Allardyce, but rather the return of the cockney wide-o, as Tim Sherwood and Alan Pardew defy all logic to attract great players and be surprisingly good managers. Harry Redknapp may be gone, but his disciples are taking over.

Freed from the prison of Newcastle United, Pards now roams South-East London with impunity | Photo: EPA/Peter Powell

In the midst of all this, Palace have somehow managed to sign Yohan Cabaye and look to be going for the top 10, a strange turn of events since they lost Tony Pulis for being too tight with money. Pardew finally finding a home where he's appreciated may be a beautiful thing, but if there aren't any old shits getting told to shut their noise, who's watching?

Everton

Poor old David Moyes. The man seems to attract revisionists like the late Soviet Union, and the general stampede to decry him as a dinosaur who was actually secretly holding Everton back has helped Roberto Martinez, like Louis van Gaal after him, get away with an avalanche of shite foisted upon his club's fans. For Martinez, the honeymoon period is probably coming to an end, however, and if he doesn't do something good this season, people might start to wonder.

It's strange that after Martinez had been in the Premier League for five years, people looked with surprise at his creation last season and said "Hey! This team plays decent football but isn't clinical and can't defend!" but hindsight is 20/20. To add the requisite steel and know-how to the side, therefore, Martinez has opted for… Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu.

Photo: EPA/Peter Powell

Everton still seem to be under severe financial constraints despite the ludicrous TV money – we won't speculate on where the money is ending up, but it's plainly not the first-team squad. Martinez, of course, did well at a club under similar pressure before, by winning a cup but getting slightly worse every year until they were eventually relegated. There's not much to suggest he won't do the same with Everton, who look set for another year of stagnation.

Newcastle United

Newcastle seem to have maintained their usual transfer model, appointing a manager so happy to be there that he'll take any shite going from the boys upstairs, and signing a load of French and Dutch talent on the cheap. They will have a completely random season, either doing surprisingly well or quite astonishingly badly, or maybe just quietly being there in mid-table all year long. Business as usual.

READ MORE: Steve McLaren is the Perfect Fit For Newcastle Boss

That was fine before when there was the lunacy of Pardew to make things interesting, but it's hard to see Steve McClaren providing the same sort of enjoyment. A certainty to be 2015-16's most forgettable campaign, assuming that Tony Pulis manages to singlehandedly derail yet another Arsenal/Liverpool title bid.

Southampton

Another summer of surprisingly good-looking recruitment from Southampton means they'll probably do a similar job to last season. This is where basic competence gets you – sitting in fifth praying for a cataclysmic injury crisis at United or Arsenal to open up the door to incredible riches. They'll also get to play in the Europa League, but aren't Southampton good enough to take a punt on someone genuinely interesting? I know Jordy Clasie was linked to United and everything, but he even looks like Tom Cleverley.

We are well aware that neither of these men are Jordy Clasie | Photo: EPA/Gerry Penny

Stoke City

Replacing Tony Pulis with Mark Hughes was a pretty clear statement of intent that the club fully intended to go on doing what they always had done – finishing mid-table, signing exciting luxury players but failing to use them correctly, and annoying Arsene Wenger. As a club ethos, it's a pretty solid one that provides enough entertainment for everybody to want them to stick around.

But Hughes has gotten ideas above his station. First it was Bojan, now Ibrahim Afellay – and this is to a team that already had a great luxury player in the Fintry Francesco Totti, Charlie Adam. Stoke just isn't the kind of place for Afellay, an inconsistent, temperamental showpony who's the consecutive winner of the sexiest player in the Netherlands national team, as voted for by GAY.NL, the number one website for all your Dutch homoerotic needs. Him? Under Mark Hughes? In the Potteries?

READ MORE: Farewell Old Stoke, Hello Tiki-Taka-on-Trent

On paper it looks a move in the right direction, but has Mark Hughes learned nothing from Hull, or his former club Fulham? You have a solid straightforward outfit, so you try to jazz it up a bit with a few mavericks. Fine. But then you sign a few more just in case they don't work out, and you get a few injuries, and before you know it you have Bryan Ruiz at left-back and Hatem Ben Arfa in goal and get relegated with the weirdest squad in the league. Stoke are playing a very dangerous game here.

For all Stoke's former Barca imports, Charlie Adam will remain a fixture at the Britannia this term. | Photo by PA Images

Swansea City

"Brilliant work from Swansea to subsidise away tickets! Great to see a proper club taking steps against the avarice that's threatening to destroy the beautiful game", you tweeted. "Who the fuck is Franck Tabanou? Can't you sign someone halfway interesting with all that Bony money you tight Taff shitebags?" you secretly thought.

West Brom

It's refreshing to know that a man like Tony Pulis can still exist in 2015. Sam Allardyce might have eventually torn off his suit to reveal the stained tracksuit bottoms and yelled "Fooled you! We're going to be playing route one football again!" after pretending that he'd changed his ways, but Pulis doesn't need to pretend.

Look at the signings and the team he's building. James McClean and Callum McManaman on the wings, two violent, direct wingers who only turn up in big games. Rickie Lambert, a target man with a bit of skill. Randomly overpaying for an eighth-Welsh centre-back. Pulis has done this so many times that he can turn any team into Stoke in under a year now. Whether he suffers the same cluelessness about what to do afterwards remains to be seen. If he gets Dimitar Berbatov on a free but can't figure out how to use him and drops him for Victor Anichebe we'll have our answer. But for now, no team is more solidly mid-table than this one.

West Brom manager Tony Pulis embarks on what is essentially his 23rd season managing the same club | Photo: EPA/Peter Powell

West Ham

The Premier League's most reliable team when it comes to not going down but having a high risk of an absolute shambles at some point has done it again. Slaven Bilic should be an entertaining manager, and just look at the markets they've been exploiting. Juventus! Sampdoria! Marseille! Al Jazira! Hamilton Academical! As probably the most entertaining rabble of misfits in the league, the entertainment potential is high, but as usual the extreme good and bad points of everything they're doing will likely all balance each other out as they finish 12th, again.