Thursday, August 11, 2011

Preview- 2011/12 English Premier League

In truth, the start of the English Premier League is arguably the most anticipated sports event on the calendar. It has all the colour and passion of the English game and then the play is characterised by such skill and intensity. That keeps fans on the edge of their seats until the last games of the season. Whether your Team is one of the elite, the middle rung or the struggling, you know that whatever season you are having. That all your senses will be tantalised by the dramatic theatre.


So lets hope your senses are touched in a joyous manner, rather than the frustration that accompanies  a disappointing campaign for your Team 


ARSENAL



Last season: Fourth (68pts)


Manager: Arsene Wenger.


Coming: Gervinho (Lille, £10.7m), Carl Jenkinson (Charlton, £1m), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton, £12m)

Gone: Gael Clichy (Manchester City).

Money Reserves: They have cash, but Wenger seems to be saving it for a rainy day

Go And Get Before August 31: The Gunners desperately need someone in the central of their defence to have an imposing presence. Maybe Phil Jagielka or Chris Samba, but can't believe they didn't tap up Matthew Upson

Season Prospects:

The Gunners are always the prettiest Team in the League with their dazzling passing and majestic goals as a result. Though like in life, in football it is better to be good than be pretty. This is not to diminish Arsenal in any way, for they are a fantastically talented side that challenges at the top every year. Though since they lost Patrick Veira, they haven't had that down and dirty player, that gets in with those crucial tackles. That gives substance to their beauty, so they can win.

It's likely the Cesc Fabregas will depart, but though this is a loss, in young Jack Wilshere they have a precocious talent who is capable of filling the Spaniards big boots.

Crucially before the season starts, Arsenal needs to shore up a defence that is sound, but lacks that intimidating nature of the EPL's elite clubs


Predicted Finish: 5th: Very pretty side, but lack that steel in the midfield. Then has a questionable defence too


ASTON VILLA


Last season: Ninth (48pts)


Manager: Alex McLeish.


Coming: Shay Given (Manchester City), Charles N'Zogbia (Wigan).

Gone: Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Brad Friedel (Spurs).

Money Reserves: The Villa have money, but the owner Randy Lerner seems to have moths in his pockets and rarely lets it become available

Go and Get Before August 31: The signing of Scott Parker would be a beaut of a signing.

Season Prospects:

Its tough being a lifelong Villa fan hearing every year that we are a big club. Only to see all our best players leave every year. Then worse, this year is the lack of understanding of the owner Randy Lerner of English football culture. In regards to hiring an ex Manager in Alex McLeish from the hated Small Heath to be out Gaffer.

Good way to alienate most of the supporter base Randy!

Credit where credit is due though. The signing of Shay Given and Charles N'Zogbia looks like some very shrewd business by the Scot

On the field Villa are a maybe side. For on paper they have the makings of a side that could challenge for the top 6. In regards having a very solid central defensive pair in Collins and Dunne- if they can kiss and make up their differences from last year. Then in the midfield you have the precociously talented Stephen Ireland, who could be anything- just depends where his head is at. Also up front you have a proven striker in Darren Bent.

Then Villa have some very useful youngsters ready to make a mark, like Ciaran Clarke, Fabian Delph, Mark Albrighton and Gary Gardner.

So if they all click, I might not feel the need to bin my Season ticket before the Winter chill arrives 


Predicted Finish: 8th: Have some very talented players, but a few with question marks over them. Then it will take time for the squad to get used to Alex McCleish


BLACKBURN ROVERS



Last season: 15th (43pts)


Manager: Steve Kean (First full season).


Coming: David Goodwillie (Dundee United), Myles Anderson (Aberdeen) Radosav Petrovic (Serbia)

Gone: Phil Jones (Manchester United).

Money Reserves: Raised some good coin through the sale of Jones to Manchester United. So hopefully funds are available to re invest.

Go And Get Before August 31: A midfielder with an eye for a pass would be a good pick up for Rovers

Season Prospects


How Rovers fans must miss the Walker days when they were a top the Premier League mountain. Last year they were perilously close to the dreaded drop and this year might come down to whether they can keep their man mountain Centre Back in Chris Samba. Having lost the brilliant young defender Phil Jones

A lot will depend on David Dunn to have a brilliant season too. A brilliant midfield player, but sadly one that is on the treatment table all too often

The Scottish striker Goodwillie is an interesting acquisition and will be expected to fill the old onion bag on a few occasions to support Rovers anaemic attack


Predicted Finish 18th: Sadly Relegation looks likely


BOLTON WANDERERS

Last season: 14th (46pts)


Manager: Owen Coyle (Third season)

Coming: Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa), Chris Eagles (Burnley), Tyrone Mears (Burnley).


Gone: Johan Elmander (Galatasaray), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea, end of loan), Matthew Taylor (West Ham).

Money Reserves: Very little- so more a wheeler dealer club

Go And Get Before August 31: No Signings- just a bit of fortune in the wake of two broken legs to promising players in the pre season.

Season Prospects:

The Irish lad Owen Coyle is a brilliant young Manager, but I fear he will have to be at his best this year to keep Bolton safe. The loss of strikers Sturridge and Elmander is like a dagger through the clubs heart. Then worse, the injuries to potential key players in Chung-yong Lee and Tyronne Mears. Made you think that fate isn't going to be kind to Coyle


On the plus side, I think Reo Coker will be a brilliant signing for Bolton. A midfielder that loves to get in the coal face of games, snapping in tough tackles and running between box to box all day long

I can see Bolton flirting with the drop because of an inability to score easily, but the Team is too well Managed and has too much heart to go down


Predicted Finish: 15th: Not bad enough to go down, but not strong enough to be in the top half



CHELSEA

Last season: Second (71pts)

Manager: Andres Villas-Boas (First season)


Coming: Oriol Romeu (Barcelona), Daniel Sturridge (Bolton, end of loan).


Gone: Nil.

Money Reserves: More money that there is Tea in China!

Go Get Before August 31: A creative play maker like Luka Modric would be brilliant, and also a good wide man on the right.



Season prospects:


The fact that Chelsea have squllions in the bank means that they will always challenge, but they just lack that pizazz of the Mourinho days. Hence I think they with just fall short again.


That is unless they can maybe prize Modric from Spurs. The little Croatian schemer that would add that little bit of magic to the Team that Chelsea currently lack.


All the talk is about Torres and his goal scoring drought, mainly because he had such a huge transfer tag. Though you can't doubt his pedigree, and with the strength of Chelsea's midfield. You can't help that think, that young 'El Nino' will rock the Premier league defences again. Also in young Dean Sturridge, they have a fabulously talented young striker. Who if given an opportunity will score plenty.


They have missed the great days when the likes of Claude Makele and Michael Essien in their midfield holding roles were such prominent figures. Though, I have a lot of time for John Obi Mikel in that role, and as such can see him being a central figure this year


Predicted Finish: 3rd: Will be there or thereabouts, but not on same level as the Manchester clubs


EVERTON


Last season: Seventh (54pts)


Manager: David Moyes (10th season)



Coming: Nil.


Gone: Nil.


Money Reserves: For such a big club with a brilliant Manager. Its disappointing that Moyes is never afforded  the chance to spend


Go Get Before August 31: A winning ticket in a 100 nillion quid Lotto to spend on players


Season prospects: 


Everton are a Club that has it's hands tied by having no money to spend, so they can't progress to the point where the talents of David Moyes would allow them. Though, they are strong enough to not be a feeder Club, who constantly lose their best players every season.

Success this year will be dependent on how some starlets like Jack Rodwell and Ross Barkley adapt to the big time. In support of established key men like Leighton Baines, Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill.



Also how Marouane Fellaini recovers from a long term injury and his ability to hit in some goals will be crucial in a side that might struggle in front of goals. Relying on Louis Saha to keep off the treatment table and Jermaine Beckford to establish himself as an EPL striker. To maintain the attack 



Predicted Finish: 12th: The lack of spending means they might drop into the bottom half


FULHAM



Last season: Eighth (49pts)



Manager: Martin Jol (First season)



Coming: John Arne Riise (Roma).


Gone: Jonathan Greening
(Nottingham Forest).


Money Reserves: Fulham is more a tightly run Club, than one that will spend to the hilt


Go Get Before August 31: A return to goal scoring form for Andy Johnson


Seasons Prospects:

Fulham are an interesting Club. They have the keys to be a side capable of challenging for the top 6 facilitated by the very fine central pairing of Haangeland and Senderos. Then two very good full backs in Hughes and potentially Risse. Making a team with a very strong defence, that success in the EPL is built on.

The key to how far they go will be whether their midfield can keep being the combative unit they have been for a few years now. Then whether Bobby Zamora can recapture his star billing in front of goal.


Add  a return to past glories of a goal poacher like Andy Johnson, and there could be joyous times along the Thames this Season


Predicted Finish: 9th: Talented side that could challenge for Europe, but might just miss out



LIVERPOOL

Last season: Sixth (58pts)

Manager: Kenny Dalglish (First full season, second stint)

Coming: Stewart Downing (Aston Villa), Charlie Adam (Blackpool), Jordan Henderson (Sunderland), Alexander Doni (Roma).

Gone: Milan Jovanovic (Anderlecht).

Cash Reserves
: Seems like the money tree is in full bloom in Kenny Dalgliesh's office with plenty of quid to splurge.



Go Get Before August 31: Liverpool have stocked up on midfield talent, but seem to have forget the importance of defence. Especially for a Team that has an ageing and very suspect defence


Season Prospects:


You can rest assured that Liverpool will play some very sexy football, and rack up a very healthy goals aggregate. Especially if Andy Carroll, a typical old style English Centre Forward with a few modern day tricks starts banging them in.


This will present nightmares for the lesser Teams, but the bigger boys will just match them in their strengths. Then exploit their shaky defence.


So unless they invest in some quality defenders before the end of the transfer window. I can't see them being able to break into the top 4. Let alone challenge for the title


Predicted Finish: 6th: At time of writing, the side still has a very suspect defence. That will undermine thoughts of the Top 4 and Europe



MANCHESTER CITY

Last season: Third (71pts)

Manager: Roberto Mancini (Third season)


Coming: Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Gael Clichy (Arsenal), Stefan Savic (Partizan Belgrade).

Gone: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Shay Given (Aston Villa), Patrick Vieira (retired).

Cash Reserves: LOL!- you have to laugh at the mere thought of how much cash City have

Go Get Before August 31: A Plane ticket for Mario Balaotelli to a place far far away. So he doesn't derail the potential of the team with his childish antics

Season prospects:

They have a Team that can win the title- no doubt at all

In regards to having all areas covered, and a Manager in Mancini, that brings a real Italian mindset to the Team, especially away from home. In the defensive mindset, he has instilled in all the players.

His defense, which is rock solid and strengthened by the inclusion of Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic could be the key for the title.

For his midfield and attack, to be frank is scarey, and with gossip about Sami Nasri and Wesley Sniejder joining the ranks

Ive no doubt that the title will come from one side of Manchester


Predicted Finish: 2nd: Heads City, Tails United- thats how close I think it will be


MANCHESTER UNITED

Last season
: Champion (80pts)



Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson (26th season)


Coming: Ashley Young (Aston Villa), David de Gea (Atletico Madrid), Phil Jones (Blackburn).


Gone: Wes Brown (Sunderland), John O'Shea (Sunderland), Paul Scholes (retired).


Money Reserves: Lots of pots of gold in both sides of Manchester


Go Get Before August 31: In truth United have everything, but if they added a genius like Wesley Sniejder. He could be the Dutch version of Eric Cantona to the United faithful


Season Prospects:


Legends like Paul Scholes and Edwin Van Der Saar aren't easy to replace. Especially Van Der Saar, in what is the most crucial position on the field in goal. Though in David De Gea, they have one of the most talented young keepers in Europe.


Then as for Scholes, there are young precocious midfielders like Tom Cleverley and Ravel Morrison. Who are quite capable to assume his position.


Though like every year United is the team to beat. This year is no different with Wayne Rooney looking like he has a point to prove and Nani looking as though he has improved. 


Then the acquisitions of Ashley Young and Phil Jones, add two of Englands brightest stars. Couple this  with the potential acquisition of one of the Worlds super stars in Wesley Sniejder, touted to be deciding which side of Manchester he prefers.


Things look great for United!


Predicted Finish: 1: Will win, but by the skin of their teeth


NEWCASTLE UNITED



Last season: 12th (46pts)



Manager: Alan Pardew (First full season)



Coming: Sylvain Marveaux (Rennes), Demba Ba (West Ham).


Gone: Kevin Nolan (West Ham), Wayne Routledge (Swansea).



Cash Reserves: There is some cash for the Geordies, but not a vault full like others


Go Get Before August 31: Some sedatives and feel good things for Joey Barton to keep him sane of mind and at the club


Season prospects:


Things don't look good for Newcastle after losing Andy Carroll last year and them inexplicably letting the heart of their Club in Kevin Nolan go. Thus putting a bad vibe through the rest of the players who had such respect for Nolan. As well as the fans.


Joey Barton, a player of immense talent, but quite frankly a nutjob needs to stay at the Club or else they might slip into a season of trying to avoid the drop. Even full back Enrique wants to get as far away from the Toon as he can.


It doesn't augur well for the season, a Team with such a bad vibe already before a ball has even been kicked.


So sadly, it might mean whatever quality is at the Club will be undermined by the attitude infesting the place.


Then with it sadly relegation


Predicted Finish: 19th: Sadly the Toon will feel the drop


NORWICH CITY



Last season: Promoted (Second, 84pts)



Manager: Paul Lambert (Third season)



Main men: Grant Holt, Russell Martin, Andrew Crofts.



Coming: Kyle Naughton (Spurs), Steve Morison (Millwall), Bradley Johnson (Leeds).


Gone: Nil.


Cash Reserves- Very little by Premier League standards

Go Get Before August 31
: Some steel in defence be nice




Season Prospects:


In Phil Lambert, Norwich has arguably one of the best Managers in Europe at present and I have no doubt that he will land a job at a big club sooner rather than later. Then excel in that role.


He seems to have that if you score 3, we will score 4 during his consecutive promotions in recent seasons. Though as Blackpool found out last year, that style will get you fans, but end you getting relegated too.


So with this in mind Norwich need to tighten up to remain in the top flight, and with Lambert's pedigree in the transfer market. Im sure he will ensure this is achieved and with it premier League survival


Predicted Finish: 16th: The skill of their Manager will keep them up


QUEENS PARK RANGERS



Last season: Promoted (Champions, 88 pts)



Manager: Neil Warnock (Third season)



Coming: DJ Campbell (Blackpool), Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff), Danny Gabbidon (West Ham), Kieron Dyer (West Ham).



Gone: Nil.


Cash Reserves: Little by EPL standards


Got Get Before August 31: Tickets if your a fan, for one of the hottest derbys traditionally in Englaish Football. In QPR versus Chelsea


Season prospects:


Staying up will be the desire, but in the experience in the squad and the pedigree of Neil Warnock as a Manager. This should be achieved, albeit with a few frights along the way.


I think D J Campbell is a fantastic young player and will lead the attack well, like he did with Blackpool last year.


In Adel Taraabt and Jay Boothroyd, you have two of the brightest stars from the Championship last year. So it will be intriguing to see how they deal with the added class in the top flight.


I think Taraabt could be the Charlie Adam of this term


All in all, QPR have a Team that can put the frighteners on some of the big knobs and be good enough to stay up


Predicted Finish: 13th: Will be the best performing of the promoted bunch, and might surprise a few


STOKE CITY



Last season: 13th (46pts)



Manager: Tony Pulis (Sixth season, second stint)



Coming: Jonathan Woodgate (Spurs). Matthew Upson



Gone: Abdoulaye Faye (West Ham).



Cash Reserves: Stoke has enough in the bank to wheel and deal


Go Get Before August 31: A big John Fashanau type striker to suit the Stoke style of Football, that imitates the Wimbledon crazy gang style


Season prospects:


Stoke are a tough resilient Tean and in Pulis has one hell of a fine Manager.


The signings of Jonathon Woodgate and Matthew Upson could be master strokes. Both ex England men and central defenders of the highest calibre.


Admittedly, they need a striker to make the Team capable of challenging for Europe, but you can bet that Pulis will sign one before August turns into September,


Matthew Etheringham and Jermain Pennant are class players, and again will determine how Stoke finish the season


Predicted Finish: 11th: Tough organised Team that will finish mid table


SUNDERLAND



Last season: 10th (47pts)



Manager: Steve Bruce (Fourth season)



Main men: Phil Bardsley, John O'Shea, Wes Brown.



Coming: John O'Shea (Manchester United), Wes Brown (Manchester United), David Vaughan (Blackpool), Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham), Craig Gardner (Birmingham),
Connor Wickham (Ipswich).



Gone: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Steed Malbranque (St Etienne).



Cash Reserves: Money there to spend in spades

Go Get Before August 31: Spent well in the pre season, so just hope fortune is kind in terms of injuries. Though a player with a nice left foot would complete the Team nicely


Season Prospects:


Steve Bruce has spent very well in the off season adding experience, class and improving all areas.


The Manchester United duo of Wes Browne and John O'Shea will provide a winners edge to the squad. Which will be crucial to provide that mindset of glory is to be sought.


Then in Craig Gardner and Seb Larsson, two very adaptable and exceptional midfield players have been added to the Team. Another left sided midfielder would complete the side nicely.


There are a few worries over the attack, but I think this is misplaced and the goals will come.


The only question is whether they can be consistent enough for Europe- I think there might be a few smiles on Mackem faces come May in this regard


Predicted Finish: 7th: Will be right in the hunt for Europe


SWANSEA


Last season: Promoted (Won playoff, 80pts)


Manager: Brendan Rogers (Third season)


Coming: Wayne Routledge (Newcastle), Leroy Lita (Middlesbrough), Danny Graham (Watford).

Gone: Darren Pratley (Bolton), Dorus De Vries (Wolves).

Cash Reserves: Swansea haven't got many reserves.

Go Get Before August 31: A Season ticket to enjoy the best ride there is as the first Welsh side in the premier League.

Season Prospects:

Everyone has Swansea relegated before a ball has even been kicked, but I think it might be a bit premature

They have the makings of a very decent defence with young stars like Centre Half Ashley Williams and left back Neil Taylor.

Then in Scott Sinclair and Wayne Routledge, they have two very fine wide men that could run amok. Especially Sinclair, who looks a star on the rise.

There might be a question over a cutting edge up front with the rise in class from the Championship, but Danny Graham has been a real prolific scorer in the lower Leagues. So if he can translate that into the big time. 

Swansea might have cause for celebration with survival


Predicted Finish:17th: They will have just enough to stay up


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR


Last season: Fifth (62pts)


Manager: Harry Redknapp (Fourth season)


Main men: Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale.


Coming: Brad Friedel (Aston Villa).


Gone: Jonathan Woodgate (Stoke).


Cash Reserves: Spurs have enough cash to compete with most, except the mega rich


Go Get Before August 31: They need a proven class striker to provide that finishing cutting edge to an all round great side.

Season Prospects:

Spurs have one of the best Managers in the league in Redknapp (in my mind only behind Ferguson) and the key for them has been keeping their stars. For which at time of writing they have.

In Modric, Bale and Van Der Vaart, they have three of the most gifted players in the League. That if they all fire on all cylinders can propel Spurs back into the top 4

Their strike force have many names, but none fill the breach to the level that will allow the Team to compete for real honours. So if they could a striker of proven pedigree, they have the potential to challenge with honours in the League and in Europe

Predicted Finish: 4th:
Have a brilliant Manager and a very balanced side. If they could sign a big name striker id be certain of the top 4. Even without, can still see them finishing 4th


WEST BROMWICH ALBION



Last season: 11th (47pts)


Manager: Roy Hodgson (First full season)


Main men: Peter Odemwingie, Chris Brunt, Youssuf Mulumbu.


Coming: Ben Foster (Birmingham), Martin Fulop (Ipswich), Zoltan Gera (Fulham).


Gone: Scott Carson (Bursaspor).

Cash Reserves: West Bromwich are more a small market Team, that might occasionally splurge for a big spend in the region of 5 million

Go Get Before August 31:
A big bruising defender would cap off a WBA squad that could surprise a few this year.

Season Prospects:


Ray Hodgson is one of the best Managers in Europe and in his time at WBA, he has instilled in them a real togetherness and belief that they can compete.


He still has a finger in a few transfer pies as I write this, but names such as Owen Hargeaves and Stephen Long amongst others would make the Team one that could challenge for Europe.


Zoltan Gera is one of those crusty old veterans that can unlock defences with his eye for a killer pass


Then they have some very fine young players in Ben Dorrans and Peter Odemwingie, who was scoring goals like they were going out of fashion last year.


Which will mean he is marked tighter this year, but on his skill last year, you can still see him bulging the onion bag a few more times this term.


Watch for them, for I expect them to surprise!


Predicted Finish: 10th: At present id say 10th, but if they sign some more names can see them challenging for Europe



WIGAN ATHLETIC







Last season: 16th (42pts)


Manager: Roberto Martinez (Third season)


Main men: Hugo Rodallega, Maynor Figueroa, Mohamed Diame.


Coming: David Jones (Wolves).


Gone: Charles N'Zogbia (Aston Villa), Steven Caldwell (Birmingham), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United, end of loan).


Cash Reserves: Sadly for Roberto Martinez, there is little in the transfer kitty


Go Get Before August 31: A Belief in miracles


Season Prospects:


Indeed it doesn't look good for Wigan having lost it's two best players from last year in Tom Cleverley and Charles N'Zogbia. Then having no real players of quality to replace them


Whichever way you look at it, the only conclusion you can make over Wigan is that the Championship will be their home. This time next year



Predicted Finish: 20th: Sadly Relegation for Wigan


WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS


Last season: 17th (40pts)


Manager: Mick McCarthy (Sixth season)


Coming: Roger Johnson (Birmingham), Dorus De Vries (Swansea).


Gone: David Jones (Wigan).



Cash Reserves: Not bad for a struggling Team from the Black Country

Go Get Before August 31: A fast track to mid table. Which Mick McCartney's hard work over the years deserves

Season Prospects:



Wolves are perennially in relegation dog fights, which this term wont be acceptable for a Team on paper that looks good enough for the mid table.


They have some very fine talents in Matt Jarvis, who was pushing for England recognition. The their squad has been solidified by the acquisition of the veteran defender Roger Johnson.


Also Stephen Fletcher, after struggling initially in the wake of a huge transfer fee for Wolves. Started to look the good knocking in some crucial goals to keep Wolves up. If he can continue on with that forn, the Teams in for a good year



Predicted Finish: 14th: A Team that could break into the top half, but i think will just miss this time


Please Note


My predictions are of Teams at present, and of course could change if some of the Clubs add players they need to strengthen areas in their Team that is lacking. Though as it stands now with how the Squads are. That is how I see the League finishing

















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