Minimum Requirement for All 20 Premier League Managers
As the new Premier League season draws ever closer, fans and clubs' staff alike will be dreaming of the possibilities of a successful season—but also acutely aware of what they absolutely must achieve as a basic objective before looking at making a satisfactory season a great one.
For some, it's simple: survive relegation and live to fight another campaign.
Other teams will have far loftier ambitions, but thanks to the increasingly competitive nature of the top of the league, those ambitions are very difficult to attain.
Here we take a look at each of the 20 clubs and what their managers must ensure happens between now and May.
Arsenal: Top 4
Arsenal's remit is the same every year and is pretty widely known.
Yes, they will attempt to challenge for the league title itself and other domestic trophies, but the basic aim is simple, repetitive and attainable: stay in the top four.
It will be fiercely contested this season and someone will be disappointed, but Arsenal once again just about managed to find themselves there last time around.
Aston Villa: Safety
It's just as simple for some of the teams at the bottom: stay out of that bottom three.
Aston Villa are clearly in a state of flux that isn't going to end any time soon, even if they are taken over. They need on-pitch stability and for some of their senior players to really step up, as well as the new signings to keep fit and play a positive role in Paul Lambert's team.
Lambert knows he needs to paddle furiously to tread water above the dotted line in the league table, but he hasn't failed Villa in that regard yet.
Burnley: Stay in Touch with Safety
Burnley will naturally aim for survival, but while some established sides will demand to stay above the bottom three, it's obvious that someone has to be in there. Three someones, in fact.
The Clarets and the two other promoted sides will perhaps accept being in the relegation zone during the season, as long as they are within touching distance of the sides on the right side of the line.
Of course, as the season goes on that gap has to incrementally decrease or the trigger finger of the club's decision-maker could begin to twitch.
Chelsea: Top 2
It's easy to say Chelsea have to win the league this year—and, to be fair, that would be a realistic expectation, given the squad at their disposal and the sums spent on key positions.
However, at the very end of the season, marginal decisions and differences are all-important and fine lines can be drawn between first and second, as last season and Manchester City's first Premier League title-winning season both showed.
A top-two finish shows Chelsea can go toe to toe with the best, which has got to be the minimum requirement.
Crystal Palace: Lower Mid-Table
Crystal Palace would probably have happily settled for back-to-back 17th-place finishes if offered to them one year ago, but improvements do funny things to expectations.
Tony Pulis helped Palace recover from a relegation battle so well that they very nearly finished in the top half come the end of the season.
It might not be as clear an upward trajectory once the new campaign begins, but he'll certainly be expected to continue the progression, and a finish of 14th or above should ensure that they are out of the group fighting against relegation and in the next group of mid-table teams.
Everton: Top 7
Everton had an extraordinary campaign last season and have looked to build on that by signing two of their loan stars from 2013-14 to permanent deals, including club-record signing Romelu Lukaku.
Even so, they will find it even more difficult to match those achievements this season, with the clubs competing around them also improving, making the top seven a very tight-looking affair right now.
Being in that group of clubs will be the aim, not slipping down into the upper-mid-table, which last year included the likes of Stoke, Southampton and Newcastle.
Hull City: Lower Mid-Table
Hull City had a relatively good campaign that was spoiled by a rotten final two or three months in the league.
Given that they reached the FA Cup final, the club were probably willing to overlook that league run a little more than they otherwise might have done, but it will need a more consistent performance from Steve Bruce and his men this time around.
Bruce will probably be needing to look a position or two higher than the 16th-place finish of last season as his minimum requirement for the coming campaign, pushing toward a mid-table finish for a "good" season.
Leicester City: Safety
Leicester are newly promoted, but Nigel Pearson's squad has received heavy investment over the past few seasons.
They are an ambitious club who have waited quite some time to get back in the Premier League, and fans can be sure that they intend to stay there. Whether they can this season, though, remains to be seen.
Pearson's remit will be clear this year: keep Leicester above the bottom three at all costs.
Liverpool: Top 4
Liverpool almost won the league last year with a thin squad and an all-out attack style of play, aided by no major cup runs and the magnificence of Luis Suarez.
The latter has now gone and the potential cup runs have been increased, by way of the Champions League. On the flip side, they have spent a lot of money and have a deeper squad, though it surely isn't finalised just yet.
The absolute minimum for the club this season has to be the top four again, guaranteeing a second Champions League campaign for next year, when the prize money will really skyrocket. The club dare not get left behind again just as they are on the rebound. Higher is achievable, but top four is the minimum.
Manchester City: Top 2
Chelsea and Manchester City are pretty much in the same boat: big squads stacked full of internationals with big price tags and managers who have won the league title at the helm.
With Manuel Pellegrini having won the league last season, he'll already have a bit of good grace stacked up in his favour, but City's chiefs will want continued success in one shape or another.
Top two in the Premier League is the minimum requirement, retaining the trophy is the aim.
Manchester United: Top 4
Manchester United's dismal season from last year can't be repeated, that much is obvious, but it's also pretty clear that it was an aberration that likely won't be seen again.
There is more than enough in place for Louis van Gaal to work with and achieve a more respectable finish, while a centre-back signing could be significant.
Top four has to be the aim to ensure they don't go another season without Champions League football.
Newcastle United: Top Half
Newcastle were good in the first half of last season and utterly dreadful in the second half, culminating in a 10th-place finish.
The minimum ambition therefore has to be to not fall any lower than that, especially given their summer activity and the relative strength of the teams who finished below them.
Newcastle will be looking to climb, so the top half is the minimum requirement.
Queens Park Rangers: Safety
Harry Redknapp might be experienced and QPR willing to spend, but they are still a promoted side who will almost certainly have a tough job getting points in the Premier League.
The aim has to be realistic, respectful and attainable—and that means to simply survive.
If they reach the 36-point marker with games still to play, then they can probably look up the table and see what else they can achieve, but first and foremost, don't be in the bottom three come May.
Southampton: Lower Mid-Table
Southampton finished eighth last season, but the club is barely recognisable from this time a year ago.
Players, the manager and chief executive have all departed, with a host of new faces coming in over the past few months in their place.
Ronald Koeman will be able to build his own team, but with that comes the expectation that he can successfully manage them, even if they are suddenly thrown together in one summer. Being in the teams grouped between 11th and 14th will be the minimum requirement, though they'll hope more is achievable if the players gel.
Stoke City: Lower Mid-Table
Stoke City performed extremely well over the second half of the previous campaign, showing improvements tactically and technically.
Mark Hughes will be asked to continue that progression. However, the middle of the Premier League table is constantly changing and the board will likely understand that.
While top half is a realistic ultimate ambition, being in the group of teams between 11th and 14th will be the minimum expectancy.
Sunderland just about survived last season and haven't pushed on tremendously with summer signings, so it's looking as though survival will be the aim again at present.
They might think—especially with an attacking signing and a new centre-back perhaps—that the mid-table is within their grasp, but first and foremost they cannot repeat the mess of last season.
Making sure the Black Cats are not in the bottom three or four teams as the season takes shape will be Poyet's base objective.
Swansea City: Safety
Garry Monk is about to embark on his first full season as a manager and will be quickly appreciating that it is no easy task.
Coming through his first summer and dealing with transfers, in and out of the club, he'll be aware that a level of quality is needed throughout the squad if they are to play the impressive and effective style they did under Brendan Rodgers and, initially at least, Michael Laudrup.
Last season saw a drop off, though, and Swansea simply have to make sure that battling for points toward the bottom doesn't become the norm. Avoiding the drop is the minimum requirement for Monk's team.
Tottenham Hotspur: Top 6
Tottenham are very much in the group of the top-seven teams who will vie for Champions League places, but there is a small sense of people expecting too much from the side.
They were 10 points off the top four last summer and haven't really recruited to the extreme that they have closed the gap in the market alone—so the coaching and tactical methods of Mauricio Pochettino will be expected to bridge the divide.
They'll certainly be looking for at least a top-six finish, though that wasn't enough to save two managers' jobs last season.
West Bromwich Albion: Safety
Alan Irvine has a great coaching background, but managing in the Premier League is a different animal.
He'll be expected to provide solidity and organisation to a team who look a little light in key positions at times and certainly don't have the funds to spend big every transfer window.
The Baggies barely survived last season and doing so again will be the initial aim.
West Ham United: Lower Mid-Table, by Way of Playing Attacking Football
West Ham have made it clear and everybody knows it: last season's 13th-place finish was fine, but the style of football was not.
Sam Allardyce will have to find a way to alter his methods to achieve a similar tally of points, but by way of playing the game in a manner more appealing to the West Ham fans and owners.
Again, they'll be looking between 11th and 14th as their minimum target—but style counts too.
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