Six Nations Preview: Ireland

Head Coach: Joe Schmidt

Stadium: Aviva Stadium (Capacity: 51,700)

Captain: Rory Best

IRB World Ranking: 4th

Last Season: 3rd

Prediction: 2nd

Ireland had a fairly average tournament by their high standards last season finishing behind England and Wales.

Ireland had an outstanding autumn which started with a historic victory over the All Blacks in Chicago, and although they were beaten by New Zealand two weeks after that, the result is a significant one.

They also managed a win over Australia and thrashed Canada in their other two internationals over the course of November.

The pack was outstanding, tireless defence with pace and aggression was the foundations for the win in Chicago. The set piece is also a very strong part of the Irish game.

Ireland do look well ahead of many of their opponents with England looking like the only other realistic title contender after strong years for both sides.

In the forwards CJ Stander just keeps improving, his defence is powerful and his attacking runs are extremely important, puncturing holes round the fringes, making the hard yards for his club or country.henshae

Robbie Henshaw is well and truly in control of the Lions midfield as we head towards the Six Nations. The centre is a proper centre, strong on the ball and a distributor able to open up space for his dangerous wide men.

Ireland only have two home games but they have the massive advantage of playing England in Dublin, that is a hugely beneficial result for Ireland. The trips to Cardiff, Edinburgh and Rome should not pose too much of a challenge.

Ireland will feel they can win this tournament and Joe Schmidt will be targeting a Grand Slam, the game against England will likely be a tournament showdown to decide the champion what a wonderful way that would be for Ireland to cap a truly outstanding year. South Africa, defeated, New Zealand defeated, Australia, defeated, England, maybe.

Fixtures

v Scotland, BT Murrayfield, 14:25, Saturday 4th February

v Italy, Stadio Olimpico, 14:25, Saturday 11th February

v France, Aviva Stadium, 16:50, Saturday 25th February

v Wales, Principality Stadium, 20:05, Friday 10th March

v England, Aviva Stadium, 17:00, Saturday 18th March

My Ireland XV

1 Jack McGrath (Leinster) 2 Rory Best (Captain, Ulster) 3 Tadhg Furlong (Leinster) 4 Iain Henderson (Ulster) 5 Devin Toner (Leinster) 6 CJ Stander (Munster) 7 Sean O’Brien (Leinster) 8 Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)

9 Conor Murray (Munster) 10 Jonny Sexton (Leinster) 11 Andrew Trimble (Ulster) 12 Robbie Henshaw (Leinster) 13 Jared Payne (Ulster) 14 Simon Zebo (Munster) 15 Rob Kearney (Leinster)

Six Nations Preview: Scotland

Head Coach: Vern Cotter

Stadium: BT Murrayfield (Capacity: 67,800)

Captain: Greig Laidlaw

IRB World Ranking: 7th

Last Season: 4th

Prediction: 3rd

Scotland are a much changed outfit to the one that used to try and avoid the wooden spoon and that is mainly down to the influence of new head coach and former Clermont Auvergne guru Vern Cotter.

The autumn was another tough one for Scotland once again losing narrowly to Australia, much like the World Cup fiasco and to lose by one point against a team that ran riot against Wales was not a bad effort.

They followed this with a three point victory over Argentina and then they ran riot against Georgia clinching a 43-16 win in their final autumn test. Not a bad November for Scotland.

The pack is strong and does the basics extraordinarily well, the scrum for Scotland is a very positive area and that was shown against Argentina in a formidable performance.

Scotland could mount a serious challenge this year and look the most in form northern hemisphere team bar England and Ireland who are a cut above this season.

Jonny Gray is becoming an all singing, all dancing lock and he is real leader for Scotland on the field. Also a top line out option and providing some ballast at the scrum.hogg

In the backs there is the sensational fullback, Stuart Hogg, a counter attacking nightmare, he tears defences open with his fast feet and agile reflexes. His kicking game is also just one more trick to terrorise the opposition’s backfield cover players.

Scotland have the luxury of three home games this year, they come against Italy, Ireland and Wales. Two of those games should be Scotland’s for the taking. Italy and Wales won’t hold much fear for Scotland. Away trips to Paris and London will always be tough.

Cotter knows how good his team is and the fact they have three home games will breed confidence in the camp. If they play like they know they can that tie against Ireland and the trip to London could be interesting propositions.

Fixtures

v Ireland, BT Murrayfield, 14:25, Saturday 4th February

v France, Stade de France, 15:00, Sunday 12th February

v Wales, BT Murrayfield, 14:25, Saturday 25th February

v England, Twickenham Stadium, 16:00, Saturday 11th March

v Italy, BT Murrayfield, 12:30, Saturday 18th March

My Scotland XV

1 Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh) 2 Ross Ford (Edinburgh) 3 WP Nel (Edinburgh) 4 Richie Gray (Toulouse) 5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow) 6 John Barclay (Scarlets) 7 John Hardie (Edinburgh) 8 Josh Strauss (Glasgow)

9 Greig Laidlaw (Captain, Gloucester) 10 Finn Russell (Glasgow) 11 Sean Maitland (Saracens) 12 Duncan Taylor (Saracens) 13 Huw Jones (Stormers) 14 Tommy Seymour (Glasgow) 15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow)

Six Nations Preview: Italy

Head Coach: Conor O’Shea

Stadium: Stadio Olimpico (Capacity: 70,634)

Captain: Sergio Parisse

IRB World Ranking: 13th

Last Season: 6th

Prediction: 6th

Italy are looking like a huge improvement on the side that got dismantled by Wales, Ireland and England last year.

Italy managed a historic first ever win against the Springboks in November and they will look to carry that form through to the Six Nations, especially with France and Wales not looking the sides they were last year.

They also suffered a narrow loss to Tonga in Padua and a thrashing by New Zealand in Rome. This is another problem for the Italians they struggle to constantly get the numbers to fill their big stadiums with only one of their games being played in Rome over the autumn period.

O’Shea is putting together the team that have for long time been the growing world rugby power but are still yet to materialise as a genuine Six Nations contender.

As always Sergio Parisse looks to be the key man four weeks out from the opening game for the Azzuri.

Italy's captain Sergio Parisse (L) runs

Parisse in action for Italy.

In the backs Exeter centre, Michele Campagnaro is a standout name, his upper body strength and leg power make him a real force going forward in the midfield and with dangerous runners outside him, Italy are a real threat.

Italy have three home games this year and they face arguably two of the weaker teams at home in Wales and France. France always find it tough in Rome and Wales will not be as confident as they have been in recent years. The trips to London and Edinburgh will be tough though and I expect Ireland to beat the Italians comfortably.

O’Shea will believe his team can win games and they can, home ties will be massively important to Italy and should they get at least one win in their opening two games we can expect a big tournament from the Italians.

Fixtures

v Wales, Stadio Olimpico, 14:00, Sunday 5th February

v Ireland, Stadio Olimpico, 14:25, Saturday 11th February

v England, Twickenham Stadium, 15:00, Sunday 26th February

v France, Stadio Olimpico, 13:30, Saturday 11th March

v Scotland, BT Murrayfield, 12:30, Saturday 18th March

My Italy XV

1 Sami Panico (Calvisano) 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Toulouse) 3 Lorenzo Cittadini (Bayonne) 4 Marco Fuser (Treviso) 5 Quintin Geldenhuys (Zebre) 6 Franceso Minto (Treviso) 7 Simone Favaro (Glasgow) 8 Sergio Parisse (Captain, SFP)

9 Edoardo Gori (Treviso) 10 Carlo Canna (Zebre) 11 Giovanbattista Venditti (Newcastle) 12 Luke McLean (Treviso) 13 Michele Campagnaro (Exeter) 14 Giulio Bisegni (Zebre) 15 Edoardo Padovani (Zebre)

Aviva Premiership Preview: Bath Rugby

Director of Rugby/ Head Coach: Todd Blackadder and Tabai Matson

Captain: Guy Mercer

Stadium: The Recreation Ground (Capacity: 13,500)

Last Season: 9th

Prediction: 5th

Bath had an awful season last time out only managing to finish 9th in the Premiership a poor return having made the final in the 2014/15 season.

There is a sizeable number of international stars at the Recreation Ground and the squad looks strong if not that deep. The only worry for Bath is the hole left by the departures of Kyle Eastmond and Ollie Devoto in the midfield leaving Dan Bowden and Jonathan Joseph as the only senior centres in the squad.

JOSEPH

Joseph on the attack for Bath.

The Recreation Ground has become accustomed to an attacking gameplan executed with fluency and pace as we saw the season before last. A devastating three quarters is lethal when given space. The whole operation kick started and led by fly-half, George Ford.

One of the only positives from last season came in defence, despite finishing in 9th Bath was among the best defences in the Premiership when it came to conceding tries. Whilst Bath leaked penalties for the most part teams found it hard to break Bath down.

THREE TO WATCH

George Ford

Position: Fly-Half  Nationality: English  Age: 23  Height: 1.75m  Weight: 84kg

The Bath out half is a real talent and he suffered last year low on confidence and bereft of inspiration the backline faltered. Then in Australia he showed us the player he really is with a pack going forward and with none of the focus on his kicking he flourished.

Ford is the best attacking fly-half in the league without a shadow of a doubt. There were question marks over his defence but the doubters have now been silenced after a string of important defensive display notably the first test in Australia.

Jonathan Joseph

Position: Centre  Nationality: English  Age: 25  Height: 1.83m  Weight: 91kg

Another of Bath’s England contingent. The outside centre has treated us to some moments of sheer brilliance. His dazzling footwork and trademark outside arc make him one of the most devastating strike runners for Bath.

What tends to go unnoticed is his defensive work rate, he doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous jobs. He will be key for Bath this season.

Francois Louw

Position: Flanker  Nationality: South African  Age: 31  Height: 1.90m  Weight: 114kg

This man is amongst the best opensides in the world as he shows time and again for the Springboks. His southern hemisphere mindset of how the breakdown should be controlled is perfect to provide Bath’s backs quick ball.

LOUW.jpg

Francois Louw.

Louw is bound to get his plaudits again this season and when he returns after the November internationals it will feel like a completely different team.

TRANSFERS 

IN (7)

Luke Charteris (Racing 92, FRA)

Harry Davies (Cardiff Blues, WAL)

Taulupe Faletau (Dragons, WAL)

Kahn Fotouali’i (Northampton Saints, ENG)

Elliott Stooke (Gloucester Rugby, ENG)

Michael van Vuuren (Leicester Tigers, ENG)

Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie, ENG)

OUT (15)

Horacio Agulla (Castres Olympique, FRA)

Luke Arscott (Bristol Rugby, ENG)

Dominic Day (Toyota Verblitz, JAP)

Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs, ENG)

Kyle Eastmond (Wasps, ENG)

Jonathan Evans (Llaneli Scarlets, WAL)

Alafoti Fa’osiliva (Worcester Warriors, ENG)

Brett Herron (Ulster, IRE)

Stuart Hooper (Retired, RET)

Leroy Houston (Queensland Reds, AUS)

Amanaki Mafi (NTT Shining Arcs, JAP)

Max Northcote-Green (London Irish, ENG)

Will Spencer (Worcester Warriors, ENG)

Rob Webber (Sale Sharks, ENG)

Tom Woolstencroft (Wasps, ENG)

The capture of Wales duo Faletau and Charteris is a huge coup for Bath further bolstering Bath’s impressive back five of the pack. Samoan international Fotouali’i is a good addition, he has serious pace and can act as another playmaker.

FALETAU.jpg

New recruit, Taulupe Faletau.

The loss of Devoto is huge, he along with Eastmond leave a void for Bath to fill. Losing Houston to Super Rugby is also a shame, the fan favourite was an effective carrier. Hooper ends his career, he will remain at Bath in a coaching capacity.

My Bath Rugby 23

15 Anthony Watson 14 Semesa Rokoduguni 13 Jonathan Joseph 12 Dan Bowden 11 Matt Banahan 10 George Ford 9 Kahn Fotouali’i

1 Nick Auterac 2 Ross Batty 3 Davey Wilson 4 Luke Charteris 5 Dave Attwood 6 David Denton 7 Francois Louw (Captain) 8 Taulupe Faletau

16 Michael van Vuuren 17 Nathan Catt 18 Henry Thomas 19 Charlie Ewels 20 Matt Garvey 21 Chris Cook 22 Rhys Priestland 23 Jeff Williams

Bath definitely have the quality of player and coach needed to succeed at Premiership level but this looks as a season for building and establishing goals for the coming seasons.

Barclays Premier League Previews (SW-WA)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Swansea City

Manager: Francesco Guidolin

Stadium: Liberty Stadium (Capacity: 20,972)

Captain: Ashley Williams

Top Scorer: Andre Ayew (12)

Biggest Signing: Leroy Fer (£4.8 million)

Last Season: 12th

Prediction: Relegated

Swansea have become a shining beacon for Welsh sport over the past few seasons as a rugby heartland has seen their local football team become household names and dominate the back pages.

Swansea City despite not performing the tricks they should have last season managed to pull themselves well clear of the relegation fight that was captivating to the last.

ASHLEY WILLIAMS

Swansea captain, Ashley Williams.

The Welsh club do seem to often bring some attacking verve to their play and they certainly aren’t frightened of hitting teams on the break with the pace some of their midfielders possess to not use that talent would be absurd.

The Swans will have their work cut out this season though, Middlesborough, Hull and Burnley all have strong squads and with teams such as Sunderland strengthening over the summer it could be a tough season at the Liberty Stadium.

Recruitment is in one word, underwhelming. The capture of Fer is a coup for the club but other than that the other names don’t scream quality. No really high profile departures is big plus especially keeping skipper Williams despite interest from Premier League rivals, Everton.

LEROY FER

Leroy Fer in action for Norwich.

IN

Leroy Fer (Queens Park Rangers, £4.8 million)

Mike van der Hoorn (Ajax, Undisclosed)

Mark Birighitti (Unattached, Free)

OUT

Alberto Paloschi (Atalanta, Undisclosed)

Raheem Hanley (Northampton Town, Free)

Kyle Bartley (Leeds United, Loan)

The pursuit of Fernando Llorente is ongoing but other than that business looks to be done at the Liberty Stadium any other outgoings would be a shock with Everton cooling their interest in Ashley Williams.

My Swansea City XI (4-5-1): 1 L.Fabianski; 22 A.Rangel, 5 M.van der Hoorn, 6 A.Williams (Captain), 3 N.Taylor; 23 G.Sigurdsson, 7 L.Britton, 8 L.Fer, 24 J.Cork, 20 J.Montero; 10 A.Ayew

Barclays Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Stadium: White Hart Lane (Capacity: 36,284)

Captain: Hugo Lloris

Top Scorer: Harry Kane (25)

Biggest Signing: Vincent Janssen, Victor Wanyama (Undisclosed)

Last Season: 3rd

Prediction: Champions League

Tottenham would have been the story of the season if it weren’t for Leicester and their unbelievable title win.

Packed full of England stars Dier, Kane, Alli, Walker, Rose they should be match for any team even though many of those players were so under par at this summers Euros.

KANE

Harry Kane was singled out for his poor performances at Euro 2016.

The squad believe they can do it, they know they have the quality and fanbase to win the league, Pochettino is a very capable manager and he has taken the league by storm first at Southampton and now Spurs.

If the big clubs falter again it could be another chance for Tottenham to shock the fans and pundits alike. The top four has to be the aim for this ambitious club and they should look to make this a regular occurrence.

Recruitment has been strong bringing in some talented players whilst not losing any players so far.

Victor Wanyama scores for Southampton against Hull City in the Premier League at the KC Stadium

Wanyama bolsters options in midfield.

IN

Victor Wanyama (Southampton, Undisclosed)

Vincent Janssen (AZ Alkmaar, Undisclosed)

OUT

There are rumours we could yet see both the departures of Fazio to Roma and Alex Pritchard is generating interest from Championship duo Brighton and Norwich. No big names have been linked with moves though.

My Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): 1 H.Lloris (Captain); 2 K.Walker, 4 T.Aldeweireld, 5 J.Vertonghen, 3 D.Rose; 15 E.Dier, NA V.Wanyama; 20 D.Alli, 23 C.Eriksen, 11 E.Lamela; 10 H.Kane

Barclays Premier League Preview: Watford

Manager: Walter Mazzarri

Stadium: Vicarage Road (Capacity: 21,500)

Captain: Troy Deeney

Top Scorer: Odion Ighalo (14)

Biggest Signing:  Isaac Success Ajayi, Jerome Sinclair, Christian Kabsele (Undisclosed)

Last Season: 13th

Prediction: Safety

Watford had a good season last time out and found themselves well above the drop zone and keeping themselves well away from danger.

The Hornets played well and and former manager, Flores gave Watford, led by Deeney and Ighalo up front a distinctive style, a style that saw the side score goals and made them difficult to beat.

DEENEY

Troy Deeney is key to Watford

Teams travelling to Vicarage Road will face a very tough task of breaking down a thoroughly prepared team with a huge amount of desire to prove they have what it takes to succeed in arguably Europe’s most competitive league.

The north London club will look to their new manager and hope for consolidation this season and while I expect Bournemouth a team that came up with Watford to struggle this squad seem a lot more likely to build on last seasons form.

Recruitment wise a few clever signings have been made, they mostly increase depth within the side, not really any stars involved but with 38 games in a Premier League season, depth is key.

IN

Isaac Success Ajayi (Granada, Undisclosed)

Jerome Sinclair (Liverpool, Undisclosed)

Chrisitan Kabsele (Genk, Undisclosed)

OUT

Almen Abdi (Sheffield Wednesday, £4 million)

Gabriele Angella (Udinese, Undisclosed)

Josh Doherty (Leyton Orient, Free)

Joel Ekstrand (Released)

Lille forward Boufal remains a target but it is unlikely a move will be done this summer, transfer business looks like it is done for Watford.

IGHALO

Igahlo celebrates a goal with the mascot.

My Watford XI (4-4-2): 1 H.Gomes; 2 A.Nyom, 6 C.Kabasele, 15 C.Cathcart NA J.Zuniga; 11 N.Amrabat, 8 V.Behrami, 4 M.Suarez; 21 I.Anya; 9 T.Deeney (Captain), 24 O.Ighalo

Barclays Premier League Previews (H-L)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Hull City

Manager: Not Applicable

Stadium: KC Stadium (Capacity: 25.450)

Captain: Michael Dawson

Top Scorer: Abel Hernandez (20)

Biggest Signing: Jonathan Edwards (Free)

Last Season: Promoted (Championship)

Prediction: Relegated

Hull City have recently been rocked by the departure of Steve Bruce but will still fancy themselves to threaten some of the more well established teams in the division.

They have Premier League pedigree and with business still to be done they could yet strengthen an already talented squad.

EDWARDS.jpg

Edwards in action for Peterborough.

Abel Hernandez was lethal last season ending the season with 20 goals in the Championship and a further two in other competitions. In the midfield they also have experienced operators in Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore.

There is plenty of time for Hull to lure Welsh striker Hal Robson-Kanu to the KC Stadium before the end of August.

Due to bouncing straight back up the players that were relegated are much the same and will know just how tough and unforgiving the Premier League can be.

IN

Jonathan Edwards (Peterborough United, Free)

OUT

Sone Aluko (Fulham, Free)

Ryan Taylor (Released)

Hull are still looking for a goalkeeper keeping tabs on both Crystal Palace’s McCarthy and Cardiff’s Marshall. They are also leading the race for Robson-Kanu. They could also see another departure as fellow promoted club Middlesborough are interested in Harry Maguire.

ROBSON-KANU.jpg

Hal Robson-Kanu

My Hull City XI (4-5-1): 1 A.McGregor; 12 H.Maguire, 6 C.Davies, 21 M.Dawson (Captain), 26 A.Robertson; 27 A.Elmohamady, 14 J.Livermore, 8 T.Huddlestone, 10 R.Snodgrass, 11 S.Clucas; 9 A.Hernandez

Barclays Premier League Preview: Leicester City

Manager: Claudio Ranieri

Stadium: King Power Stadium (Capacity: 32,312)

Captain: Wes Morgan

Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy (24)

Biggest Signing: Ahmed Musa (£15 million)

Last Season: Champions

Prediction: Europa League

Leicester City…what a season! What a team! What a manager!

What they did was incredible but now the hard work begins for Ranieri and his squad, the loss of Kanté is a blow but Leicester have a chance this season to become a big club.

It is highly unlikely they will win the league again, they could though realistically achieve a place in the top seven therefore securing some form of European football. it is critical they push on and stick to the gameplan that served them so well last season.

VARDY.jpg

Jamie Vardy is a key player for Leicester.

Leicester are a spirited side and Ranieri will have no problem bringing the team together to try and make Leicester a consistently strong side, this relies on two things, firstly keeping things simple and secondly not thinking about last season too much.

As well as key departures they have made some really big signings, Ahmed Musa is lethal and him partnered with England striker Jamie Vardy and the Foxes should not be short of goals.

IN

Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, £15 million)

Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96, £2.6 million)

Nampalys Mendy (OGC Nice, Undisclosed)

Luis Hernandez (Sporting Gijon, Free)

OUT

N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea, £30 million)

Jonny Maddison (Yeovil Town, Undisclosed)

Joseph Dodoo (Rangers, Undisclosed)

Jacob Blyth (Motherwell, Free)

Paul Konchesky (Gillingham, Released)

Mark Schwarzer (Released)

With Riyad Mahrez still a target for both Chelsea and Arsenal there could yet be dealings to be done in the east Midlands. Leonardo Ulloa is also reported to be seeking a move but Leicester’s squad does seem to be looking close to finalised.

MUSA

New signing Ahmed Musa.

My Leicester City XI (4-4-2): 1 K.Schmiechel; 17 D.Simpson, 5 W.Morgan (Captain), 6 R.Huth, 28 C.Fuchs; 26 R.Mahrez, 4 D.Drinkwater, NA N.Mendy, 11 M.Albrighton; NA A.Musa, 9 J.Vardy

Barclays Premier League Preview: Liverpool

Manager: Jurgen Klopp

Stadium: Anfield (Capacity: 44,742)

Captain: Jordan Henderson

Top Scorer: Roberto Firmino (10)

Biggest Signing: Sadio Mané (£34 million)

Last Season: 8th

Prediction: Europa League

Liverpool one of the most successful English clubs of all time blessed with great players and even greater managers.

Klopp is now the man in charge following the sacking of Brendan Rodgers and with a whole pre-season behind him and his own transfers in the mix can Klopp fix the club?

The squad is littered with internationals and young talent that can ignite the Premier League, this club clearly has ambitions to get back to where they once were as kings of Europe.

KLOPP.jpg

Klopp is having an effect.

Anfield is a wonderful venue and Liverpool need to match that venue with the quality of football and the German is building a squad to do that.

They have recruited well stealing another Southampton player in Mané and also bringing in some cheaper recruits.

IN

Sadio Mané (Southampton, £34 million)

Georginio Wijnaldum (Newcastle United, £25 million)

Loris Karius (FSV Mainz 05, £4.7 million)

Ragnar Klavan (FC Augsburg, Undisclosed)

Joel Matip (Schalke 04, Free)

Alex Manninger (FC Augsburg, Free)

OUT

Jordon Ibe (AFC Bournemouth, £15 million)

Sergi Canos (Norwich City, £2.5 million)

Jerome Sinclair (Watford, Undisclosed)

Martin Skrtel (Fenerbahche, Undisclosed)

Jordan Rossiter (Rangers, Free)

Kolo Toure (Celtic, Released)

Jose Enrique (Released)

A big spending summer sees two goalkeepers and two attacking midfielders arrive to bolster both attack and defence but they lose bright spark Ibe. Max Meyer is still a target for Klopp. Uncertainty still looms over the future of Mario Balotelli, Joe Allen, Brad Smith and Christian Benteke.

MANE.jpg

Mané looks like a key signing.

My Liverpool XI (4-2-3-1): 22 S.Mignolet; 2 N.Clyne, 17 R.Klavan, 32 J.Matip, 18 A.Moreno; 24 J.Allen, 7 J.Milner (Captain); 20 A.Lallana, 19 S.Mané, 10 P.Coutinho; 15 D.Sturridge

 

Barclays Premier League Previews (A-B)

Barclays Premier League Preview: AFC Bournemouth

Manager: Eddie Howe

Stadium: Vitality Stadium (Capacity: 11.469)

Captain: Simon Francis

Top Scorer: Joshua King (6)

Biggest Signing: Jordon Ibe (£15.3 million)

Last Season: 16th

Prediction: Relegated

Bournemouth did a good job last season avoiding the drop under the stewardship of a capable Eddie Howe.

spt_ai_bournemouth_fulham_11.jpg / Football - AFC Bournemouth v Fulham

Eddie Howe, Bournemouth manager.

They have lost two key players in the figure of skipper Tommy Elphick and Scottish international Matt Ritchie who move to the relegated Aston Villa and Newcastle United respectively.

The return of both Callum Wilson and Tyrone Mings from injury does help bolster options in attack and defence.

Home games will be key if the south coast club are to survive another season in England’s top flight. Teams did have the odd slip up last season and there are sure to be a few more this season.

Teams now know what Bournemouth are capable of and should be wary of a squad with some exciting, young talent that has been brought in.

INIBE

Jordon Ibe (Liverpool, £15.3 million)

Lewis Cook (Leeds United, £5.95 million)

Lys Mousset (Le Havre, £5.5 3 million)

Nathan Aké (Chelsea, Loan)

OUT

RITCHIE

Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United, £10.2 million)

Tommy Elphick (Aston Villa, £3.32 million)

Lee Tomlin (Bristol City, £2.98 million)

Jayden Stockley (Aberdeen, Free)

Josh Wakefield (Released)

Stéphane Zubar (Released)

Sylvain Distin (Released)

Josh Carmichael (Relased)

Bournemouth look to have most of their transfer dealings done, a goalkeeper is on the radar but no solid rumours have emerged over the summer.

My Bournemouth XI (4-4-2): 1 A.Boruc; 15 A.Smith, 2 S.Francis (Captain), 3 S.Cook 11 C.Daniels; NA J.Ibe, NA L.Cook 8 H.Arter 10 M.Gradel; 17 J.King 13 C.Wilson

Barclays Premier League Preview: Arsenal

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Stadium: Emirates Stadium (Capacity: 60,260)

Captain: Laurent Koscielny

Top Scorer: Olivier Giroud (16)

Biggest Signing: Granit Xhaka (£38.25 million)

Last Season: 2nd

Prediction: Europa League

Arsenal may have had their golden chance last season for Wenger to break his duck as all title contenders faded away however Arsenal choked.

The tag of serial chokers is one that the Gunners are keen to shake off as they gear up to once again try to launch an assault on the league and try and end the drought.

Wenger has his critics and he knows that only a trophy, and a major one at that can paper over the appearing cracks for the Frenchman.

XHAKA

Xhaka joins after a good season in the Bundesliga.

A few solid signings have been made and it looks as though more could be made over the coming days. Gonzalo Higuain, Julian Draxler, Alexandre Lacazette and Rob Holding.

Higuain looks set to be the most likely of the deals should Arsenal pay the required fee for the striker who became a target after the north London club missed out on Spain and Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata.

INASANO

Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach, £35 million)

Takuma Asano (Sanfrecce Hiroshima, Undisclosed)

OUT

ARTETA

Arteta’s successful career is at an end.

Isaac Hayden (Newcastle United, Undisclosed)

Tomas Rosicky (Released)

Mathieu Flamini (Released)

Mikel Arteta (Retired)

With it looking like there could be a deal done for Giroud to leave and Higuain to join transfer business is not over for Arsenal but most of their summer dealings are now complete.

My Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): 33 P.Cech; 18 N.Monreal, 6 L.Koscielny (Captain), 21 C.Chambers, 24 H.Bellerin; 29 G.Xhaka, 34 F.Coquelin; 11 M.Ozil 16 A.Ramsey 7 A.Sanchez; 23 D.Welbeck

Barclays Premier League Preview: Burnley

Manager: Sean Dyche

Stadium: Turf Moor (Capacity: 21,401)

Captain: Tom Heaton

Top Scorer: Andre Gray (23)

Biggest Signing: Not Applicable

Last Season: Champions (Championship)

Prediction: 16th

Burnley have bounced back to the Premier League and as seasons past have shown us they have Premier League know how.

Turf Moor is a terrific ground and they will play an attractive brand of football, they have some pedigree in their ranks as well names such as Sam Vokes and Tom Heaton look to be the stars this season.

VOKES

Sam Vokes had a good Euro’s.

Last season they had a long, tough ride in the Championship but emerged victorious it will take a lot of hard work to make themselves consistent top flight performers but they should be confident coming into the season.

No real names entering the club alludes to us that business is not finalised by the club as they look to sign some names to consolidate a place in England’s top flight.

A few departures do not look like harming the newly promoted side.

IN

OUT

Joey Barton (Rangers, Free)BARTON

Matt Gilks (Rangers, Free)

Matt Taylor (Released)

Lloyd Dyer (Released)

Michael Duff (Released)

Duff could be a loss and losing as many caps as a player of the calibre of Barton could be a hindrance but it is much the same squad that won the Championship last year.

My Burnley XI (4-4-1-1): 1 T.Heaton; 2 M.Lowton, 5 M.Keane 6 B.Mee 23 T.Darikwa; 11 M.Kightly 37 S.Arfeld 8 D.Marney 21 G.Boyd; 9 S.Vokes; 7 A,Gray