Who are this season’s Premier League dark horses?

Who are this season’s Premier League dark horses?

The 2016-17 Premier League campaign is just weeks away and the summer transfer window is drawing to a close. The top flight welcomes three new teams; Middlesbrough, Hull City and Burnley who all made the jump from the Championship. Leicester City was last season’s fairy tale story but which club will make the headlines this year? Will Jurgen Klopp spur Liverpool on to glory in his first full season in charge or will Jose Mourinho return to the Premier League with a bang and deliver the title to Manchester United? Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola make their bows in England and will be hoping to take the league by storm but can one of the promoted sides push for a place in the top ten?

darkhorse

I’ve taken a look at each of the Premier League squads for the upcoming season and here’s who I think could be the league’s dark horses during 2016-17.

Middlesbrough

On just one occasion has all the promoted sides been relegated in the same season so it’s likely at least one of the sides will stay in the Premier League and out of all of them, Middlesbrough look in the best state to do so. Boro fans are right to be excited for the upcoming season after the club has made a number of shrewd signings throughout the summer. They’ve managed to keep most of their star men from the Championship too and they could cause some of the top sides a few problems this year.

The latest Middlesbrough signing, Brad Guzan, is a great addition and the former Aston Villa keeper will battle it out for the number one shirt alongside new signing and former Barcelona and Manchester United goalie, Victor Valdes and current keeper Tomas Mejias. Both goalkeepers joined on a free and their experience will be vital in helping Boro stay in the top flight.

As well as some shrewd additions from home, Boro have done some great business abroad and have welcomed Antonio Barragan and Viktor Fischer to England for less than £7m from Valencia and Ajax. They’ve also secured the signature of former Manchester City striker, Alvaro Negredo, who’ll certainly add an attacking threat. Boro’s business so far has demonstrated ambition and it’s clear the northern club aren’t going to go back down without a fight.

Not only have they looked to strengthen their squad with some new faces, they’ve already got a handful of quality players within their ranks who’ll be eager to put their mark on the Premier League and become the next Jamie Vardy. Middlesbrough has a great spine to their team, with Daniel Ayala, Adam Clayton and Jordan Rhodes all adding experience and leadership to the side. They have Premier League experience in their ranks too and Stewart Downing and David Nugent, both former England internationals, will be relishing a return to the top flight.

Middlesbrough have already shown they can cause some of the top teams some problems; they took Liverpool and Manchester United to penalties in the FA Cup and Capital One Cup competitions in recent seasons and they’ll be hoping to cause similar problems in the Premier League. A top ten finish may be a bit far off the cards but Boro fans should expect their side to comfortably avoid the drop and they’ll be hoping for another good run in the cup this season.

Manchester United

The Premier League title hasn’t been lifted in Manchester for two seasons now, after Chelsea and Leicester City took the spoils. Manchester City won it in 2013-14 but this year could be Manchester United’s year.

Pep Guardiola’s switch to the Premier League is one of the most highly anticipated appointments but Jose Mourinho’s return to the English top flight could be the one which sparks the fire. The former Chelsea boss has already gone to work throughout the summer transfer window and has made some incredible signings including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Juventus’ Paul Pogba looks set to seal the move shortly too and Manchester United could line-up one of the strongest attacks in Europe when the Premier League campaign kicks off in a few weeks.

Alongside Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Memphis Depay, the Reds new signings could burst to light in the league and after scoring within 3 minutes of his pre-season debut, Ibrahimovic already looks like the star striker. Eric Bailly, another shrewd signing in defence, could bond a strong partnership with Chris Smalling in the centre of United’s back line, whilst Luke Shaw’s return to left-back adds more strength to their squad.

They may have missed out on Champions League football last season but it hasn’t prevented top stars from making the switch to Manchester and Mourinho will expect nothing less than a trophy from his players this season.

Everton

Although Everton have bridged the gap between them and Liverpool in recent years, the blue Merseysiders are often forgotten when European competition is mentioned and that’s because they often fall short of the hurdle. Roberto Martinez struggled to inspire his side last season and despite having Romelu Lukaku in their ranks, they looked shy of attacking options.

However, the arrival of Ronald Koeman as the new manager and Steve Walsh as Director of Football could prove to be two very effective appointments. The former Southampton boss did some fantastic business when he first arrived in England and he inspired the Saints to a record-breaking sixth place finish in the Premier League in his second season – going one step further than his first campaign.

Walsh was crucial in bringing some of Leicester City’s title-winning players to the club when he acted as head scout and assistant manager with the Foxes and he could prove to be invaluable as Everton look to build upon on already strong squad under Koeman. The Blues have managed to keep hold of Lukaku, who looked set to be leaving but may lose centre-back John Stones. However, with Koeman and Walsh at the helm, you can be sure to expect Everton to make some shrewd signings and they could challenge the top clubs for a European place this season.