Why your team will let you down in the 2016/17 season: Part Three

Here's why disappointment awaits for Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland

The Premier League season is just around the corner and optimism for every team has never been, and will never be as high as it is right now.

Before a single ball is kicked and a point is won, fans still believe they can avoid relegation, claim that elusive European spot or even pull a Leicester and get an unlikely title win. Well, there's a time and a place for naïveté and joy, but it ain't when assessing the chances of your team ahead of a Premier League season, so here's a much-needed dose of reality for your team.

Manchester United

Last year was worse than you thought:

Manchester United finished the end of Louis van Gaal’s first season in charge on a relative high. Champions League football was back at Old Trafford and the "warchest" was raided to bring in so-called "top players".
Last year’s campaign, however, is one that most United fans will want to forget. Turgid, unexciting football saw the 20-time champions of England drop out of the top four once again and be dumped out of Europe by archrivals Liverpool. Jose Mourinho will have to make do with the Europa League.

Manager’s Biggest Problem:

Finding his best team and fast. A disastrous preseason which featured trips around the globe and a cancelled friendly against Manchester City proved to be a massive waste of time. Wigan told them very little, while a chastening defeat to Borussia Dortmund will remind Mourinho the size of the job he has to do over the coming weeks. Victory against Leicester in the Community Shield is a start, but the Portuguese will need his side to hit the ground running.

Player that is guaranteed to break your heart:

One would pray that the answer to this question is not Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Mourinho is seen as the man who can get the most out of the big Swede, but an uninspiring European Championship campaign didn’t exactly set United fans’ hearts racing. Is he up to the pace of the Premier League week in, week out? Will he be put into the squad perhaps at the expense of young Marcus Rashford, one of the very few shining of last year? He offers something United fans didn’t have last year in a strong, experienced and powerful striker. But on the other hand, so did Radamel Falcao - minus injuries of course.

One thing that might be OK:

The football. Because, let’s be honest, anything is better than last season. 1-0 wins, 0-0 draws and generally boring football to win. Mourinho is a winner and will throw van Gaal’s philosophy out the window. This season, if nothing else, will see the return of swashbuckling football back to Old Trafford. The arrival of some top signings - none more so than world-record signature Paul Pogba - is sure to bring the excitement back to the Theatre of Dreams.

And now a word from the fans: 

Middlesbrough

Last year was worse than you remember:

While Middlesbrough were promoted automatically by the narrow margin of goal difference, four draws in the final four games of last season’s Championship almost cost them what appeared to be - and ultimately proved - assured progression to the Premier League.

Manager’s biggest problem:

In March, it seemed he was on the brink of walking out after leaving the training ground following an argument.
Karanka did return but watch this space.

Karanka and new striker Negredo

Players that is guaranteed to break your heart

Liverpool fans will have fond memories of Stewart Downing… if fond means not fond.

He’s back at his hometown club but while he has done little wrong at ‘Boro, Karanka had appeared to be critical of the winger at one point last season, saying: "I don’t want to say he is doing really well because everyone is expecting more from him. His numbers are not the numbers everyone was expecting but he is one of the members of the team and anybody knows that the team is the most important thing."

One thing that might be OK:

They still have a good academy as they did when they were last in the Premier League. Centre back Ben Gibson is one such jewel from the academy in the current first team.

And now a word from the fans: 

Southampton

Last year was worse than you remember:

Southampton finished in sixth place last season, but it could have been so much better. They only finished three points outside the top-four despite an awful spell during the middle of the season. Throughout the second half of November and all of December, the team only earned four points dropping from eighth to twelfth.

Manager's biggest problem:

Claude Puel was a one-club man as a player, with AS Monaco, and as a manager he has never taken charge of a club outside France until this summer. Southampton’s two previous managerial appointments in Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, have been exceptional, but Puel’s adjustment to the English game could cause issues.

Player that is guaranteed to break your heart:

Charlie Austin joined Southampton from Queens Park Rangers last January. He will go into this season as the team’s main attacking threat, along with Shane Long. In five games last season for Southampton, Austin only scored once. A bargain at £4 million compared to other signings in 2016, the pressure could prove to be too much for the 27-year-old.

One thing that might be OK:

Puel has made some astute signings that will help the team, while only losing Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich could be one of the best signings in the league this summer. Southampton are one of the best teams, just below the top level of sides. That shouldn’t change.

And now a word from the fans: 

Stoke

Last year was worse than you thought:

There were some high points but for the third season in succession, they had to settle for ninth which means no discernible progress in the table.

Manager’s biggest problem:

Defensive training might be an issue if this response from Ireland’s Marc Wilson in a Twitter Q&A is indicative of anything. 


Player that is guaranteed to break your heart:

Stephen Ireland has become a fringe player at Stoke, partly due to injury.

One thing that might be OK:

They now have Joe Allen. And Marko Arnautovic has signed a new deal and coupled with the presence of Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan, they still have enough slick talent to succeed.

And now a word from the fans (or a player):  

 
Sunderland

Last year was worse than you remember:

Sunderland have turned into perennial relegation survivors in recent years. Last season was no different as the team under Sam Allardyce finished in 17th place. Previous seasons saw the team finish in 16th, 14th, 17th and 13th. Sunderland are the recent experts in Premier League crapness.

Manager's biggest problem: 

New manager David Moyes’ biggest problem may be himself. The former Everton and Manchester United manager returns to the English game for the first time since being sacked by the Old Trafford club. He may want to try too hard to impress on his return, much to the detriment of his team.

Player that is guaranteed to break your heart:

Fabio Borini is a player that continues to stress many fans. Formerly of Liverpool, the striker is a player that does not want to be at Sunderland, having joined the team on a permanent basis. His game:goal should be annoyingly low.

One thing that might be OK: 

Moyes should help the team defensively. The loss of Sam Allardyce will be badly felt, but chairman Ellis Short finally has the manager he wants in Moyes. The era of near-relegation misses should be over now under Moyes’ watch.

And now a word from the fans: 

Part One: Arsenal, Bournemouth, Burnley, Chelsea and Crystal Palace

Part Two: Everton, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester City

Part Four: Swansea, Tottenham, Watford, West Brom and West Ham