sport news PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW: Sportsmail's Peter Crouch gives his verdict on every ...

The Premier League returns this weekend, as Liverpool begin the defence of their crown following a stunning runaway success last term.

But who will be the teams looking to challenge them for the title, and what else can we expect ahead of the unusually late start to the English domestic season?

Former Premier League striker and Sportsmail's Peter Crouch gives his assessment on every top flight side ahead of the big kick-off. 

Sportsmail's Peter Crouch gives his verdict on each club ahead of the Premier League season

Sportsmail's Peter Crouch gives his verdict on each club ahead of the Premier League season

Liverpool will head into the new Premier League season looking to keep a grip on their title

Liverpool will head into the new Premier League season looking to keep a grip on their title

ARSENAL

Last season: 8th 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: They really impressed me in the Community Shield against Liverpool last month. I like the fact they have managed to get the winning habit, too, as lifting that trophy — not to mention the FA Cup, when they beat Chelsea — will fill the squad with confidence.

Finally there seems to be excitement around the club again and you can see Pep Guardiola’s influence on Mikel Arteta. He’s tactically-shrewd and has made good signings with Willian from Chelsea and Gabriel from Lille.

Add in a striker like and they can beat anyone on their day. They are a coming force and will push for a place in the top four.

MAJOR INS

Gabriel (Lille, £23m)

Willian (Chelsea, Free)

Pablo Mari (Flamengo, £7.2m)

Cedric Soares (Southampton, Free)

Dani Ceballos (, Loan)

MAJOR OUTS

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Roma, free) 

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Mikel Arteta (Premier League win percentage: 45 per cent) 

Masterminded wins over Manchester City and Chelsea to win the FA Cup just months into his managerial career — but must improve league form if Arsenal are to challenge the top four.

KEY PLAYER

Willian

The Brazilian has enjoyed a brilliant career in England, winning pretty much everything at Chelsea. He’s 32 now, but if he can recreate form he showed in west London he will prove an excellent signing.

TITLE ODDS: 33-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 9-4 RELEGATION: 250-1 

Mikel Arteta is on a high heading into his first full season at Arsenal after lifting the FA Cup

Mikel Arteta is on a high heading into his first full season at Arsenal after lifting the FA Cup

ASTON VILLA

Last season: 17th 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: My affection for the club who gave me my Premier League debut will never be diluted but, unfortunately, I fear they are in for another season of struggle. 

So much depends on Jack Grealish playing well and it is vital he continues the form that won him an England cap. 

The big money signing of Ollie Watkins took me by surprise. As much as Watkins impressed me at Brentford, it is a huge fee and it carries huge expectation. Villa spent a lot of money last summer and it only just about paid off. If they stay up again this year, they will have done well.

MAJOR INS

Ollie Watkins (Brentford, £27.7m)

Matty Cash (Nott'm Forest, £14.2m)

Ben Chrisene (Exeter, Undisclosed)

MAJOR OUTS

Ross McCormack (Released)

Borja Baston (Leganes, Free)

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Dean Smith (Premier League win percentage: 23.7 per cent)  

Despite huge spending on new players last summer, Villa struggled before a late rally — and good fortune — kept them up. Smith will be under pressure if Villa get off to a slow start.

KEY PLAYER

Jack Grealish 

Most goals, most assists and most minutes last season highlighted how vital the playmaker was to their great escape.  If he is still at Villa at the end of the transfer window, they should stay up.

TITLE ODDS: 1000-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 80-1 RELEGATION: 7-4 

Aston Villa will turn towards star man Jack Grealish to help keep them in the Premier League

Aston Villa will turn towards star man Jack Grealish to help keep them in the Premier League

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 

Last season: 15th 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: The fact they have defied the odds and remained in the Premier League, when everyone had them down to be relegated straight after winning promotion, is a credit to the people in charge at The Amex Stadium. 

I cannot help but wonder, however, whether this story will run its course over the next nine months. They haven’t spent a lot of money — though Adam Lallana is a shrewd signing — and I worry whether they have enough goals in the team, especially after losing Glenn Murray. 

They will continue to play a nice brand of football but you need more than that to survive. They have something to prove. 

MAJOR INS

Adam Lallana (Liverpool, Free)

Joel Veltman (Ajax, £900,000)

Jensen Weir (Wigan, £500,000)

Lars Dendoncker (Club Brugge, Free)

Zak Emmerson (Oldham, Undisclosed)

MAJOR OUTS

Anthony Knockaert (Fulham, £10.5m)

Aaron Mooy (Shanghai SIPG, £4m)

David Button (West Brom, £990,000)

Glen Murray (Watford, Loan)

 

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Graham Potter (Premier League win percentage: 23.7 per cent) 

Enjoyed an impressive debut season in the Premier League. Beat Arsenal home and away and never looked in danger of the drop after restart.

KEY PLAYER

Lewis Dunk

The England centre back signed a new long-term deal despite interest from bigger clubs and has been a rock at the heart of Brighton’s defence during their rise. 

TITLE ODDS: 750-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 50-1 RELEGATION: 7-2

Brighton enjoyed a solid first season under the management of Graham Potter

Brighton enjoyed a solid first season under the management of Graham Potter

BURNLEY

Last season: 10th 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: I said at the end of last season that Jurgen Klopp could not have got Burnley any higher than where Sean Dyche has taken them. The consistent job he has done has been outstanding and it’s incredible, really, that people now just take it for granted that they are top-flight regulars. 

But to consolidate that status, the club have got to invest. They have lost Jeff Hendrick to Newcastle, they could lose James Tarkowski and with Tom Heaton having gone to Aston Villa 12 months ago, Dyche has been stripped of some big characters.

I don’t see them being in danger at this stage but they need to support their manager and ensure his outstanding work continues. 

MAJOR INS

Will Norris (Wolves, Free)

MAJOR OUTS

Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle, Free)

Joe Hart (Tottenham, Free)

Aaron Lennon (Released)

Ben Gibson (Norwich, Loan)

 

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Sean Dyche (Premier League win percentage: 30.5 per cent) 

Guided Burnley to another top half finish which is no mean feat given the resources of clubs he is competing against. Could this be his last season at Turf Moor? 

KEY PLAYER

Chris Wood

The underrated Kiwi has more to his game than physicality but is always a handful and has formed a formidable strike partnership with Ashley Barnes at Turf Moor. 

TITLE ODDS: 1000-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 80-1 RELEGATION: 11-4

Chris Wood has played a key role in helping Burnley become an established top flight club

Chris Wood has played a key role in helping Burnley become an established top flight club

CHELSEA

Last season: 4th 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: So Frank Lampard is under pressure after spending £200million, is he? I don’t see it that way. There are times when clubs go on splurges and buy six or seven players but they leave you wondering how they will actually improve. 

Not Chelsea, who will easily finish in the top four. Each signing, from Timo Werner and all his promise to Thiago Silva and all his experience, will make this team so much better.

I am excited about how it is all going to work out and would go as far to say as I would buy a ticket to watch them play. I don’t see Chelsea winning the title this year — but that is what they are working towards.

MAJOR INS

Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen, £72m)

Timo Werner (RB Leipzig, £48m)

Hakim Ziyech (Ajax, £36m)

Ben Chilwell (Leicester, £50m)

Thiago Silva (PSG, Free)

Malang Sarr (Nice, Free)

MAJOR OUTS

Willian (Arsenal, Free)

Pedro (Roma, Free)

Mario Pasalic (Atalanta, £13.4m)

Nathan (Atletico Mineiro, £2.7m)

Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace, Loan)

Ethan Ampadu (Sheff Utd, Loan)

Kenedy (Granada, Loan)

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Frank Lampard (Premier League win percentage: 52.6 per cent) 

Impressive first season at the Bridge ended in disappointment with defeat in the FA Cup final. Has spent heavily but intelligently and will be expected to improve on last campaign. 

KEY PLAYER

Thiago Silva 

The veteran Brazilian centre-back can help shore up Lampard’s leaky defence — Chelsea shipped more than any other team in the top half last season. 

TITLE ODDS: 10-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 1-2 RELEGATION: 1500-1

The experienced defender Thiago Silva is one of many new arrivals at Chelsea this summer

The experienced defender Thiago Silva is one of many new arrivals at Chelsea this summer

CRYSTAL PALACE

Last season: 14th 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: Given the way things fizzled out for Palace in the games post lockdown, it has been said to me that they are vulnerable and in danger of being relegated.

True, they might not be the most adventurous side around but that’s not a big deal. When you are organised, hardworking and know what it takes to stay in and around mid-table, that is generally where you will end up.

Roy Hodgson will get the results he needs and I can’t wait to see how Eberechi Eze, who they signed from Queens Park Rangers, links with Wilfried Zaha. The 22-year-old is full of promise and you should watch his progress keenly.

MAJOR INS

Eberechi Eze (QPR, £16m)

Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea, Loan)

Nathan Ferguson (West Brom, Free)

MAJOR OUTS

None

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Roy Hodgson (Premier League win percentage: 34.2 per cent)  

At 73, he is the Premier League’s oldest ever manager and has successfully rebuilt his reputation after THAT England defeat against Iceland. 

KEY PLAYER

Wilfried Zaha 

Didn’t quite reach the levels we expect from him last season but the winger is still Palace’s danger man. If he recaptures his best form, Palace will be clear of trouble. 

TITLE ODDS: 1000-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 80-1 RELEGATION: 9-4

Once again, Crystal Palace will be relying on the form of Wilfried Zaha to keep them out of trouble and away from the Premier League's relegation zone

Once again, Crystal Palace will be relying on the form of Wilfried Zaha to keep them out of trouble and away from the Premier League's relegation zone

EVERTON 

Last season: 12th 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: There is a lot of expectation amongst supporters on the back of the three signings they made this month. You can see the lure of Carlo Ancelotti, as Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez have all come to play for him.

Something tells me that it won’t be straightforward though. I can understand why fans are over the moon to have signed Rodriguez from but I think of my experience at Stoke.

We got Jese from Paris St Germain, who had previously been with Real, and thought he was going to be a worldbeater. He was anything but. I hope it works out for Everton but I see them in mid-table again. 

MAJOR INS

James Rodriguez (, £22.5m)

Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford, £19.9m)

Allan (Napoli, £22.5m)

Niels Nkounkou (Marseille, Free)

MAJOR OUTS

Morgan Schneiderlin (Nice, £2m)

Marten Stekelenburg (Ajax, Free)

Oumar Niasse (Released)

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Carlo Ancelotti (Premier League win percentage: 58.3 per cent) 

The Italian won everything as a player and manager but faces arguably his biggest challenge at Goodison. Will have been concerned how form tailed off at end of the season. 

KEY PLAYER

Richarlison

Arguably the only Everton player who would strengthen their rivals across Stanley Park. The Brazil forward has skill and workrate and is one of the club’s few recent transfer successes 

TITLE ODDS: 250-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 14-1 RELEGATION: 20-1

Richarlison will be relied upon to get Everton's frontline firing at Goodison Park this term

Richarlison will be relied upon to get Everton's frontline firing at Goodison Park this term

FULHAM

Last season: 4th (Championship) 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: One of the results I cheered loudest after lockdown was Fulham’s win over Brentford in the Championship play-off final. Scott Parker is someone I have known for a long, long time right back to the days when we played for England youth teams. 

Scotty has done an incredible job to get Fulham back up at the first time of asking but I don’t think he will be under any illusions about the size of the task in front of him to keep them up.

One thing in his favour is that he has a proven Premier League striker in Aleksandar Mitrovic but it remains to be seen about the rest of the squad. They might surprise the doubters and I hope they do.

MAJOR INS

Anthony Knockaert (Brighton, £10.5m)

Harrison Reed (Southampton, £8.1m)

Kenny Tete (Lyon, £2.9m)

Antonee Robinson (Wigan, £2m)

Alphonse Areola (PSG, Loan)

Mario Lemina (Southampton, Loan)

MAJOR OUTS

Cody Drameh (Leeds, £1m)

Alfie Mawson (Bristol City, Loan)

Steven Sessegnon (Bristol City, Loan)

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Scott Parker (Premier League win percentage: 30 per cent) 

Won play-offs to ensure an immediate return to the top flight for Fulham. Highly thought of but faces a huge test to keep Fulham out of trouble. 

KEY PLAYER

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Hit 26 last season to win promotion but can he score the goals they’ll need to survive? Fulham need their snarling striker to step up and do it in the top flight.

TITLE ODDS: 1000-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 150-1 RELEGATION: 10-11

Scott Parker (centre) took Fulham back into the Premier League after a play-off final triumph

Scott Parker (centre) took Fulham back into the Premier League after a play-off final triumph

LEEDS UNITED

Last season: 1st (Championship) 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT:  My first game out of the Premier League with Stoke in August 2018 was at Elland Road. We turned up thinking we would be fine but ended up being run all over by Leeds in Marcelo Bielsa’s English debut game.

I remember at one point saying to myself: ‘Who the **** are these?!’ They were brilliant, full of energy and intensity. Bielsa is a class act, his name and reputation known the world over.

He has given the people of Leeds the thing they have craved for 16 years and they will be one of the stories of the season. I believe they will comfortably stay up and can see them taking a couple of big scalps. 

MAJOR INS

Rodrigo (Valencia, £27m)

Helder Costa (Wolves, £16m)

Robin Kock (Freiburg, £11.7m)

Illan Meslier (Lorient, £5.85m)

Cody Drameh (Fulham, £1m)

Joel Gelhardt (Wigan, £900,000)

MAJOR OUTS

None

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Marcelo Bielsa (Premier League win percentage: N/A) 

The eccentric Argentinian's breathless style of football will be a welcome addition to the Premier League — but will it work against the big boys? 

KEY PLAYER

Kalvin Phillips

The 24-year-old has flourished under Bielsa and was the Championship’s best midfielder last season. Has since been rewarded with an England call-up.

TITLE ODDS: 150-1 TOP FOUR FINISH: 25-1 RELEGATION: 4-1

Marcelo Bielsa ended Leeds United's 16-year exile from the Premier League by guiding them to the Championship title last season

Marcelo Bielsa ended Leeds United's 16-year exile from the Premier League by guiding them to the Championship title last season

LEICESTER CITY

Last season: 5th 

CROUCHIE'S VERDICT: I could only feel sorry for them at the end of last season. If games had not been stopped for three months, I’m pretty sure they would have got the job done and finished in the Champions League places, where they had been since August. 

Have they missed their big chance? Well, I don’t think they will finish in the top four this season, particularly as all the big guns have strengthened.

They will definitely be in and around the top six or seven and the goals of Jamie Vardy will continue to be critical. My worry concerns the depth of their squad and how they cope with the demands of the Europa League. 

MAJOR INS

Timothy Castagne (Atalanta, £21.6m)

MAJOR OUTS

Ben Chilwell (Chelsea, £50m)

Andy King (Released)

Nampalys Mendy (Released)

George Thomas (QPR, Free)

WHO'S IN CHARGE?

Brendan Rodgers (Premier League win percentage: 47.1 per cent) 

After a brilliant first year at the club, form

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