As the return of the Premier League approaches, a quick look at what has changed and what to expect on the pitch
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Alexis Sánchez is exactly what Arsenal needed – Olivier Giroud plays a useful role, but lacks pace, mobility and clinical finishing. Sánchez provides all three of those qualities, and gives them another dimension. He can play alongside Giroud to offer variety to the attack although will often play instead of him, as a centre-forward.
Paul Lambert will continue to vary his system, and both Kieran Richardson and Joe Cole are versatile players with experience at top clubs. The squad seems marginally more impressive than last year, but it remains to be seen whether Lambert can rediscover the tactical nous that made him so successful at Norwich.
With few big-name arrivals at Turf Moor, Sean Dyche may field a similar side to last season. Burnley are decent team, though: playing out from the back and pressing from the front, which could lead to a few shocks. However, having played 4‑4‑2 throughout last season, Dyche will need more midfield steel.
Last season seemed a transition year for Chelsea. The general idea was obvious, and the attacking midfielders often turned in excellent displays, but José Mourinho’s side lacked raw class in certain positions. Diego Costa, Filipe Luís and Cesc Fábregas should fit into the 4-2-3-1 system perfectly, and the Blues look extremely strong.
Tony Pulis created a well-drilled side last season, and he won’t significantly vary his system. The defence will continue to play very narrow, while a disciplined midfield cordon will work as a unit to prevent the opposition playing penetrative passes, and instead show them out wide. The centre-backs are happy to defend crosses.
Roberto Martínez’s starting XI has not changed, and neither will his default strategy. Expect 4-2-3-1 with a solid ‘square’ of defensive-minded players in the centre, allowing the full-backs to fly forward and the wingers to dart inside. However, Martínez increasingly tried tactical variations at the end of last season, and he may experiment more.
Steve Bruce has concentrated on bolstering his squad for a Europa League campaign although the addition of two wide players, Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass, suggests he could scrap the 3‑5‑2 that proved effective last season and turn to more of a 4-4-2 system.
Nigel Pearson generally played a 4-4-2 system last year, and there is a danger Leicester could be overrun in midfield if playing a similar formation this time round. But the wingers are quick and both strikers are capable of clever finishes, so there is every chance Leicester could play direct football efficiently.
Brendan Rodgers’ tactical tinkering last season was often impressive, with 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and a midfield diamond all used regularly. The arrival of Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Lazar Markovic means Rodgers has more options than last season, so expect plenty of formation switching this time round, too.
If their key attackers stay fit, City will have more firepower than last year: Sergio Agüero missed half of that league campaign and Stevan Jovetic only started twice. Manuel Pellegrini has yet to field them together because of injuries, but theoretically a mobile, pacy duo is perfect for his free-flowing football.
Louis van Gaal’s 3-4-1-2 system means an obvious change at the back, where Manchester United have lost experience – but the main benefit should be up front. This is the ideal formation for playing Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie in their favoured positions, and United’s attacking play should be spectacular.
It is difficult to predict Newcastle’s season because four key attackers are new to English football. Rémy Cabella, Siem de Jong, Facundo Ferreyra and Emmanuel Rivière could go either way, and while Graham Carr has identified some excellent signings in recent years, it is a lot of upheaval in one area.
Three-man defences fared well at the World Cup, and Harry Redknapp is one of a number of Premier League managers set to deploy that system in 2014‑15. Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker provide class at the back while Mauricio Isla is a natural wing-back, so this shape seems to suit the squad nicely.
A complete transformation in terms of playing staff means Southampton’s season is highly unpredictable, especially with more signings to come. Ronald Koeman is a talented coach but neither Graziano Pellè nor Dusan Tadic are guaranteed successes, and it could be a few weeks before Koeman finds the right system.
Once considered the league’s ugliest side, Mark Hughes now has a plethora of talented forwards. Peter Odemwingie, Bojan Krkic, Mame Biram Diouf and Marko Arnautovic will all expect to start, but is it possible to play all four in a 4‑2‑3‑1? Stoke are likely to score more, but might be more exposed at the back.
Despite lots of transfer activity, Gustavo Poyet’s side seem set to play in roughly the same style as last season, in a 4-5-1 with players of roughly the same quality. Some fine counter-attacking kept Sunderland in the division, so expect something similar this season, with the team relying on pace rather than possession.
Garry Monk believes in continuing with Swansea’s philosophy of steady possession play and clever movement in the final third. The defenders will continue to play out from the back, Leon Britton still dictates the passing moves from deep, while Jefferson Montero and Gylfi Sigurdsson provide more attacking quality.
Mauricio Pochettino’s system of energetic pressing proved popular at Southampton and he will hope to have more success than André Villas-Boas with this approach at Spurs. Ultimately it depends on whether he can get Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor on board with the philosophy, and playing to their full potential
Alan Irvine has signed a host of defenders – Joleon Lescott, Andre Wisdom, Sébastien Pocognoli, Chris Baird, Christian Gamboa and Jason Davidson – and has suggested he could switch to a 3-5-2 system, giving wing-backs the licence to get forward and stretch the play. This makes sense with a team lacking genuine class out wide
Some interesting signings give West Ham a more technical edge while also fitting in nicely with Sam Allardyce’s style – Enner Valencia, the Ecuadorian forward with a prodigious leap, is the obvious example. However, there is still a worry that Allardyce’s side will depend too much on crossing, an inefficient method of creating chances