Fulham might have gone up through the playoff but they were a different class in the second half of the season and the Cottagers look to be going in the opposite direction of Bournemouth. The Cherries were 12th last season but they were just 6 points ahead of Southampton in 17th and they did not end the season well.
Bournemouth have to improve on their defensive statistics – they kept just six clean sheets last season, the same as Stoke – but have only added of former Leganes left-back Diego Rico to improve the defence. That doesn’t look to be enough of an improvement and they’ll have to be very good again to recover 21 points from losing positions at home once again.
The bulk of Fulham’s squad have shown a standard that is more than good enough for the Premier League and finally nailing down Aleksandar Mitrovic to a permanent contract gives them a focal point up front and in Jean Michael-Seri and Andre Schurrle they have signed top quality midfielders.
Seri was being spoken of as a Barcelona player when he was the heartbeat of an impressive Nice side and to bring him is a real coup whilst Schurrle can still offer much after a stint with Dortmund. Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney ran the playoff semi-final second leg against Derby before dominating the final against Villa and have the technique to go toe to toe with Premier League midfielders and under the tutelage of Slavisa Jokanovic they are a mobile club that is aiming for the top half – even if they don’t get there, they are likely to be close up in a congested division and the 6/4 on them getting the better of Bournemouth looks to be value.
For the same reasons, the 10/11 on them beating Brighton over 38 games also makes a great deal of appeal.
There has been a lot of change for Arsenal under Unai Emery and they ought to improve on their efforts of last season, but they need to if they’re to keep pace with the rest of the Top 6 and Unai Emery might not be able to overturn the North London Gap in his first season.
Tottenham have made no changes to their squad, but they ended up 14 points behind the Lilywhites last season and that was taking into account a slow start as Spurs adjusted to their Wembley home. A World Cup hangover could be an issue but they should improve for being at White Hart Lane in their new stadium and they have finished in the top three for the last three seasons.
Arsenal should improve plenty and Emery has signed well, adding ballast to a side that boasts a large amount of technical skill, but Spurs have no small amount of creativity and on all evidence, Spurs should be backed at 8/11 in a match bet.
The additions that Manuel Pellegrini has made to West Ham suggests that they will be doing better this season than the 42 points they won and they can match the improvement Southampton should make over the coming nine months.
Southampton should be more stable with Mark Hughes, but Pellegrini is an experience and high-class operator who now has Ryan Fredericks Issa Diop Lukasz Fabianski, Jack Wilshere Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson at his disposal and with those signings and a more positive brand of football the London Stadium shouldn’t be such a glum place this season.
3 pts Fulham to finish above Bournemouth (6/4 Skybet)
5 pts Fulham to finish above Brighton (10/11 Sky Bet)
3 pts West Ham to finish above Southampton (4.5 Skybet)
3 pts Tottenham to finish above Arsenal (8/11 Bet365)