Premier League preview part two: Leicester will be rivalling West Ham not the title challengers, and Hull look doomed to be whipping boys

 
Trevor Steven
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Scunthorpe United v Hull City - Pre-Season Friendly
Steve Bruce walked out on Hull, leaving Mike Phelan (above) in charge, just weeks before the season's start (Source: Getty)

The Premier League has stepped up a level this year and the beauty of it is that the extra broadcast millions have helped raise the standard from the bottom up.

There are still divides though, and I see the top-flight as three mini-leagues: the top six, teams just behind them with an eye on snatching fifth or sixth, and those fighting relegation.

They surprised everyone last term but I think Leicester will be among a pack of four sides chasing the leading sides. They are like a machine in terms of teamwork and have kept most of the title-winning squad together, while adding to it, but I expect opponents to be wiser to them and the novelty of Champions League football to pose unfamiliar challenges. I don’t think Jamie Vardy will be as prolific and I’ll be surprised if they are in the top four after 10 games. I’d put West Ham, Everton and Stoke in the same group as the Foxes.

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That leaves 10 teams battling the drop. I think Crystal Palace have bought well and will be all right, while in David Moyes Sunderland have a manager whose knowledge of the division should spare them. The same goes for West Brom and Tony Pulis.

Bournemouth had a great season last time. Eddie Howe has bought quality and they might stay out of the scrap.

Middlesbrough are on a shaky peg, and I still can’t believe Watford let manager Quique Sanchez Flores leave. A club like that needs to grow; a new coach and new ideas could be more destructive than constructive.

The teams in most trouble, though, look to be Hull, Burnley and Swansea. Tigers boss Steve Bruce knew they’d get embarrassed this year if they didn’t strengthen. The necessary investment hasn’t happened – that’s why he quit and I do fear for them. They could be whipping boys.

Burnley struggled to score goals last time in the top tier and can I see that costing them again. Swansea, meanwhile, have been on borrowed time for a while and have sold some key players in Ashley Williams and Andre Ayew. If I was Gylfi Sigurdsson I’d be having second thoughts about that new contract I’d just signed.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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