Chelsea’s demise was almost as unexpected as Leicester City’s rise. This time last year few would have expected it could have gone so horribly wrong for the 2014-15 champions.
Jose Mourinho was gone by Christmas and, while Guus Hiddink settled the ship and prevented it from sinking, he was unable to deliver anything more than a tenth place finish.
So far the Blues have resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to their squad but clearly new manager Antonio Conte will ring the changes soon enough if he doesn’t see more from them this term.
Reasons to be cheerful:
Former Juventus boss Conte has a great record and did his reputation no harm as Italy produced a better than expected showing at Euro 2016.
N'Golo Kanté’s arrival from Leicester City will give the Blues more power in central midfield and provide the base for the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard to operate from.
The lack of European football should allow the club to focus on the Premier League.
Reasons to be fearful:
Batshuayi and Kante’s arrival aside this remains the same squad that finished mid-table last season.
A number of players have been linked with moves away with Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois both thought to be keen on a return to Spain.
Michy Batshuayi – a £33.2million signing from Marseille is still unproven at the highest level and it is unclear how quickly he will be able to make an impact in the Premier League.
Michy Batshuayi (Marseille, £33.2m), N'Golo Kante (Leicester city, £32m).
Out the door:
Mohamed Salah (Roma, £12m), Stipe Perica (Udinese, £3.2m), Charly Musonda (Real Betis, loan), Nathan (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Lewis Baker (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Mitchell Beeney (Crawley, loan), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth, loan), Jeremie Boga (Granada, loan), Tomas Kalas (Fulham, loan), Alex Kiwomya (Crewe Alexandra, loan), Reece Mitchell (Chesterfield, free), John Swift (Reading, free), Marco Amelia (released), Tika Musonda (released), Kevin Wright (released), Baba Rahman (Schalke, loan)
Eden Hazard – when he plays Chelsea play. The Belgian was at his imperious best as the Blues won the title but his dip in form coincided with the side’s struggles last term. Conte will need to get him back on song.
One to watch:
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – the youngster has been around Chelsea’s first team for a few seasons now but will need to establish himself in the side sooner rather than later if he is going to become the player many believe he will.
First five games:
West Ham (H), Watford (A), Burnley (H), Swansea (A), Liverpool (H).
Click on your favourite club's name below for BT Sport's full preview:
Arsenal, Bournemouth, Burnley, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Hull City, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United.