This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
In our final Premier League preview we assess the hopes and dreams of Spurs, Watford, West Brom and West Ham. Can the North London side produce another title tilt? Will the Irons settle into the Olympic Stadium? Will yet another management change burst the Watford bubble? And can West Brom fans honestly survive another 10 months of Tony Pulis football? Thankfully the new Premier League season is here to answer our questions.
Oh, Tottenham, whatever are we going to do with you? The 2015-16 campaign was Spurs' best in decades, yet they still contrived to finish behind Arsenal on the final day. It was a season in which they launched a sustained title bid, played fantastic football, were widely praised for their spirit and determination, and then got battered by an already relegated Newcastle side while their North London rivals crept ahead of them into second place. It was a season in which they had the longest winning streak of any team – a run of six matches in January and February – a league-high goal difference (+36) and a league-low goals conceded (35). Still, they finished one point behind the bloody Arsenal, and a season's worth of hard work was washed away by a tsunami of mockery and pain.
This campaign now represents something of a conundrum. Expectations are higher than ever, but the psychological blow of last season has rocked the club on its heels. As much as Mauricio Pochettino would like to pretend otherwise, their failure to overhaul their rivals will linger in the minds of the players. Meanwhile, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have all strengthened. Whisper it, but there's a nagging feeling that last season was Spurs' big chance.
The lethal combination of expectation and strong competition puts Pochettino in a difficult position, and could see serious pressure mount on the team. Realistically, another top-four finish will represent success for Tottenham this season. With the fans daring to dream of a title last term, anything less is bound to go down like a concrete turd.
You might expect a team who've gone through five managers in under two season to be falling rapidly through the divisions, but Watford are in fact enjoying their most successful period in 30 years.
There's a pattern emerging, too: Slavisa Jokanovic led the Hornets to the Premier League in 2015, but was subsequently given the boot and replaced by Quique Sanchez Flores. The fabulously-bearded Spaniard then took Watford to their highest league finish since 1987, and so obviously he too has gone. In his place comes Walter Mazzarri, whose last job was at Inter Milan – Inter fucking Milan, Watford fans! – who will presumably qualify for Europe and then be chased out of town by pitchfork-wielding locals.
Transfer-wise they've brought in the wonderfully named Isaac Success from Granada, as well as Brice Dja Djedje from Marseille, and Liverpool's Jerome Sinclair. Perhaps more importantly, they've also held on to last year's highly effective strike pairing of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, who bagged 17 goals a piece. If they can recapture that kind of form Watford should be safe once again. Long-serving skipper Deeney also provides stable leadership for a team that seemingly change managers every few months.
Ultimately, the regular shake-ups at the top make Watford hard to predict, but the model brought in by owner Gino Pozzo has worked for the club thus far and there's no reason to doubt it just yet. Their key concern will be getting Deeney and Ighalo into scoring form. Manage that and the Hornets should be safe.
Let's get straight to the point on this one: West Brom are without doubt the most boring side in the Premier League. Their team is the footballing equivalent of soggy Weetabix, a sludgy morass of sticky, bland goop. Watching Jonny Evans, James Morrison and Craig Gardner play on the same team is like pouring lukewarm porridge into your eyes, like filling your every orifice with stale semolina. The closest thing West Brom have to a flair player is Chris Brunt, for fuck's sake. They are atrociously uninteresting and, as such, are almost certain to notch up another stolid season in the mid-table.
Tony Pulis likes his teams to be uninteresting, see. He does not give a single shit about your entertainment, as long as his side can grunt and elbow its way to Premier League safety. He would probably play 6-2-2 with four centre-backs and two holding midfielders, if he thought society would let him get away with it. He would probably initiate a passing system that consisted solely of Craig Dawson lumping it to Rickie Lambert, if he wasn't afraid that the fans would start rioting in their frustration and shame.
The thing is, it's hard not to feel a grudging respect for Pulis. He refuses to bow to media pressure, just as he refuses to listen to the whims of those in the stands. He knows that, first and foremost, clubs like West Brom can't afford to be relegated. He doesn't care if the team has the fluidity of lumpy custard, as long as the players know how to keep their shape, stay compact and put in the odd crunching tackle. Once he's drilled that into them, it's time to sit back, crack open a tinnie and cackle maniacally as everyone else is bored to physical tears.
WEST HAM UNITED
West Ham used to be a likeable middle-sized club, but recent dalliances with a controversial stadium deal, poorly compensated former employees and Conservative Party donations have rather taken the shine off the Irons. Fans of the club might object to this assessment, but they'd do well to adopt the motto of their good friends across the river at Millwall: 'no one likes us, we don't care.'
Football-wise last season was excellent. There were several impressive scalps, qualification for Europe, and the total success of Slaven Bilic's arrival as manager.
In fact, though the club may be less appealing than before, their boss has become a genuine star. The Croatian spent the summer doing a fantastic job as a pundit on ITV's Euro 2016 coverage, but must now return to the humdrum of managing a burgeoning Premier League force. Fortunately he's quite handy at that, too.
This season, however, might not be all that easy. Moving to a new stadium is not simply a matter of reprogramming the Sat Nav: it will take time for the fans and players to bed in at a ground still cursed with a running track, not to mention the ghost of Boris Johnson
In terms of prospects, West Ham must be ambitious – after all, they're rich, have a big stadium and a top boss. But it would be no surprise to see them struggle in the early going, at least on their own patch, while adjusting to life at the Olympic Stadium. Still, the move made financial sense – and isn't that what modern football's all about?