Our second Premier League snapshot explores the makeup of three teams who might surprise a few this season and storm into top-half contention. All have managers with a clear vision for their side and an abundance of young, exciting talent.
Some will argue that the Swans should already be conisdered top half material. Without the hindrance of the Europa League and its barmy scheduling, maybe, but this is a Swansea side entering unknown and exhaustive territory. For large parts of their last campaign they relied solely on the goalscoring exploits of Michu, who would have been their only recognised forward were it not for the fact he's not even a forward, rather an attacking midfielder pushed further up the pitch. This kind of dependence doesn't lend itself well to a newly congested fixture list, and many have tipped Swansea's league form to fall off in the face of such demands. Michael Laudrup, I'm sure, has other ideas, and has carefully expanded his squad in search of further domestic and perhaps even continental progress.
|The start of a devastating partnership?|
|Swansea's increasing depth and diversity.|
The seven-time league champions barely emerged from last season with their top flight status intact, following an arduous and inconsistent campaign, so their inclusion as top ten contenders may come as a surprise. Much has been made of the way Lambert blooded his young squad by keeping faith with them through barren and at times torturous results, but the galvanising potential of that experience became evident towards the end of the season as they hauled themselves to safety, and indeed at the start of this term in their defiant opening-day display at the Emirates. In contrast to Swansea they begin the campaign as reliant as ever on striker Christian Benteke, but with reinforcements arriving all over the pitch and only domestic fixtures to contend with, Lambert will be confident of harnessing his team's resolve to climb the league table and perhaps enjoy another run in the cup competitions.
|Strength and pace, the cornerstones of|
Villa's fluid attacking style.
|Weimann adds precision on the break.|
Premier League prediction: 9th
The Saints' stunning performances against the league's big hitters last season mark them out as probably the most dangerous contenders of the three. Their starting eleven on Premier League opening day was the youngest in the division and Pochettino's looks a squad bursting with potential, with players who will only improve as the games go by. The manager's appointment last season quickly lead to an evolution of Southampton's play - the underpinning pass-and-move philosophy already at the club was married to a relentless pressing game and a faster more fluid approach in the final third. Bigger teams were suffocated and remarkable results earned but frailties still remain against physical, direct opposition, a weakness Pochettino has sought to address this summer. If successful, Southampton could prove too deadly for many teams in the coming season.
|Lovren adds much-needed quality to|
the Saints defence.
|More victories to follow.|
Premier League prediction: 7th