Referencing last season’s final table would suggest Everton could muscle themselves into contention, but their perennially deafening silence in another transfer window, ironically speaks volumes. It is a dignified approach from Bill Kenwright to run his football club correctly, but if he could offer David Moyes just a slither of investment, who knows what this campaign may hold. James Vaughn and Kieran Agard have left Goodison Park but the revolving door has swung just one way. If the Scot can keep Louis Saha fit, help Jack Rodwell take his next logical steps and retain Leighton Baines’ services; then there is a foundation – but ultimately, their biggest obstacle is consistency.
Further south and Aston Villa have had quite the year. From across the city Alex McLeish arrived amidst ill feeling and Villa lost a trio of players who were bywords for consistency. Veteran Brad Freidel, player of the season Stewart Downing and the versatile Ashley Young all left for varying top six horizons. McLeish brought in Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia to appease those departures; but the pressure now on the latter should not be underestimated. Marc Albrighton will need to flourish further as Darren Bent is a clinical old-fashioned striker, who thrives from good box service. For a top-six push, a good start to the season is imperative.
Martin Jol arrived at Craven Cottage with a reputation of playing expansive football, if he can build on a defence that was the tightest outside of the top six last year, then they could be contenders – but two factors could be decisive. Keeping Bobby Zamora fit is pivotal as his absence last season was defining, and any meaningful voyage into the Europa League may be equally hindering. However, Roy Hodgson proved that balancing two demanding campaigns is possible, but this season kicked-off at the end of June, making it 11 months in duration, all this with a relatively thin squad.
Steve Bruce faces a make or break season at the Stadium of Light; eight significant signings confirms such a thought. John O’Shea and Wes Brown will bring their Old Trafford nous and could represent very shrewd business; furthermore, if Bruce’s new-look side gel with haste then Sunderland could yet gatecrash the party. West Brom may also surprise; if Hodgson continues his own personal renaissance and Peter Odemwingie replicates his inaugural Premier League season, then the Baggies shouldn’t be ruled out.
Discussions of which team could drop out of the top six is for another day, saying that, all but one have European commitments, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility. The question then becomes more pertinent, can any of the above take whatever initiative is offered them?