Friday, 16 August 2013

Premier League Season Preview

Arsenal: Another barren summer, with less reinforcements than many fans would like, and probably not of the quality to kick them back to the big time. Squad has plenty of quality, but not enough steel. Consistency from Wenger will lead to the same trait for the team. That said, if Jack Wilshere can stay fit, there could even be a sniff of success for the Gunners this year. Will be there or there-a-bouts again.

Prediction: 4th

One to watch: Olivier Giroud- The big Frenchman should enjoy a fine season, rich in goals if made the main man of Arsenal's attack.

New blood needed: Steely midfielder with trophy winning experience, balance needed in midfield. (Gustavo, Khedira)

Aston Villa: After narrowly escaping the drop last year, Paul Lambert's young side have stayed together. Most importantly keeping Benteke should ensure goals, while the addition of highly rated Jores Okore could give long suffering Brad Guzan some help at the other end. Last year's tough season will only make this young, talented group stronger.

Prediction: 12th

One to watch: Christian Benteke- The star of this side, should set the premier league alight with his wealth of goalscoring talent.

New blood needed: A real metronomic midfielder to create from the middle or even just tick things over. Bannan had his chance and didn't step up, Delph more of a tough tackler. May well have missed out on Huddlestone. (Faurlin, Barry)

Cardiff City: More famous last season for the changing of club colours than football, the Bluebirds/Red dragons have strengthened in key postions for the upcoming campaign. Arrivals in the form of Medel and Caulker make for a strong spine, but strength in depth will be the issue. Injuries to key players and a busy fixture schedule could derail their season with huge consequences. Cornelius an unknown quantity, but fans will be hoping he can fire them to safety.

Prediction: 19th

One to watch: Steven Caulker- A surprise that Tottenham sold him, but their loss should be Cardiff's gain. A full season in a starting 11 where he will undoubtedly be tested, it gives the young England hopeful a chance to stake a claim for Roy Hodgson's attention.

New blood needed: Premier league experience, a leader to drag them away from the relegation zone using only blood, sweat and tears. (Parker, Hibbert)

Chelsea: The messiah has returned. With the king of Stamford bridge back on his throne, the rest of the Premier League has a right to be worried. Sure to tighten up the defensive issues of last year and with arguably the best attacking midfielders in the league at his disposal, the blues should not find themselves wanting for goals. Probably the most complete team in the league this season.

Prediction: 1st

One to watch: Eden Hazard- showed just how good he is at times last season. Under one of the best coaches on the planet and his own increased experience sure to bring consistency, get ready to be excited and amazed by one of the finest players in the league.

New blood needed: Top quality centre-back. Terry and Ivanovic are ageing, while Cahill isn't convincing at the highest level. (Hummels, Subotic, Bonucci)
Crystal Palace: Undoubtedly to be a fan's favourite by the end of the year. With the ever more endearing Ian Holloway steering the ship, Palace should be guaranteed to play some nice stuff, plus the addition of young Spaniard Jose Campana represents a potentially impressive piece of business for the eagles. Dwight Gayle and Marouane Chamakh may provide less excitement for the fans however and as history sadly tells us- Palace always get relegated.
Out of their depth but won't go down without a fight.

Prediction: 20th

One to watch: Jose Campana- A technically gifted young player in the middle of the park, gives Palace a creative hub which they can work from.

New blood needed: Lots. Premier League experience and quality vital. Old favourites might be able to help (Johnson, Boyce)

Everton: Long term over-achievers, the shoe-string budget should not concern Roberto Martinez, used to fiscal prudence at now relegated Wigan. Seemingly liked for his style over his substance, this could be a season of transition for the toffees, especially if the new boss brings his 3-5-2 into Goodison Park. Imperative that they ward off interest courtesy of their previous boss, as well as bids from Manchester United to prevent loss of key players at any moment. Ending the transfer window with his current squad will be a success. After the FA cup win last season however, anything can happen. Everton fans, give him time, and it could be very rewarding.

Prediction: 8th

One to watch: Kevin Mirallas- Underrated winger who provided plenty of goals and assists last season. Another one of the seemingly endless Belgian talent pool, interesting to see if he'll still be there next year should he kick on this season.

New blood needed: Reliable goalscorer, both Jelavic and Kone tend to blow hot and cold. (Defoe, Jerome)

Fulham: New owners to herald a new era at craven cottage? Not this season. Some shrewd business conducted in Stekelenburg and Boateng, though Fernando Amorebieta's disciplinary record could cost his team if it carries on. Difficult to see where the goals are coming from if Berbatov isn't available, though the mercurial Taraabt could produce some superb performances to lighten up the mediocrity. The trouble is keeping him happy. If Bent arrives, it could be a match made in heaven.

Prediction: 13th

One to watch: Adel Taraabt- fantastic and infuriating in equal measure. One thing is for sure, you won't be bored watching him.

New blood needed: Someone to help out Berbatov and share the load up front. (Defoe, Bent)

Hull City: Steve Bruce's love affair with Premier League management blossoms once again with the return of the Tigers. His top level experience, coupled with that of his squad- evident in the likes of Mcshane, McGregor and Figueroa, may just be enough to keep up a side full of battle. New signing Huddlestone may provide a creative spark if allowed the freedom, but the trouble is who can convert those chances with Danny Graham seemingly uninspiring. Defensive but potentially effective.

Prediction: 18th

One to watch: Huddlestone- if the team play to his strengths then his passing should be a joy to behold this season. Expect 40 yard sprays to Robbie Brady out wide.

New blood needed: Quality in the final third or at least options. Yannick Sagbo will hopefully prove a revelation, as Danny Graham can't be counted on to score all the goals needed to keep them up. (Rodallega, Walters)

Liverpool: For the first time in years, apparently moving forwards. Some great business by Brendan Rogers recently, in not only gaining the likes of Coutinho and highly-rated Aspas, but not being afraid of taking the financial hit to lose Carroll and Downing. Deadwood needed to be shifted and he's done exactly that. Might take flak for making such losses, but a man of principle will regenerate this football club. Expect to see them go from strength to strength under his stewardship. Defence the only worry.

Prediction: 6th

One to watch: Coutinho- Just the kind of attacking midfielder we all love to watch, showed glimpses of real quality last year and an improved team around him, he should flourish further.

New blood needed: Defensive reinforcements, genuine back up to Enrique and someone pacier than Skrtel. (Santon, Shawcross) 
Manchester City: Very fast becoming same old city. If in doubt, throw money at it. This we can see in Negredo, Navas and Fernandinho costing the club an unholy sum of money already this summer. Not that this was money wasted however, with Fernandinho providing a genuinely talented alternative to the ageing Yaya Toure, while Navas offers new man Pellegrini a choice between Milner's work rate, or genuine attacking threat which city lacked from wide at times last year. Negredo should provide Aguero with a suitable forward partner, not shy about scoring himself. Towards the top again with a solid defence this season.

Prediction: 2nd

One to watch: Fernandinho- For around £30 million, City fans will hope he can live up to the hype and his previous displays suggest he should. A direct, forward dribbling central midfielder. A breath of fresh air for the Premier League.

New blood needed: Hard to pick. Quality and depth in all positions, maybe a passing maestro in midfield (De Rossi, Vidal)

Manchester United: Beginning a new era, the fans are skeptical. Despite numerous attempts, Moyes has so far failed to bring in any of his top transfer targets, leaving United with their ever obvious problem in central midfield. With a less than glittering pre-season and the Rooney saga rumbling on, things looked up after the Community Shield win. United fans should feel a whole lot better if this one problem position could be sorted. The key this season is not to expect too much. Even though this side won the league by a considerable distance last year, it would be impossible to not miss Sir Alex Ferguson. With exciting young options emerging out wide, the likes of Lingard may provide fresh blood as opposed to transfers, while Zaha will be hoping for an impressive debut season. Young players need to perform this year. Kagawa, Cleverly and the like may well be given big roles.

Prediction: 3rd

One to watch: Robin Van Persie- Another big season needed from the Dutch Destroyer, as if his goals dry up, Hernandez appears the only go-to-guy at this moment in time.

New blood needed: A midfield creator to take the burden off of Carrick. (Fabregas, Modric, Marchisio)

Newcastle United: A tough time up on Geordie shore at the moment, with a team that have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in two seasons. Having avoided a perilously close drop last year, it can only be expected that the club will improve, provided transfer speculation over their best players stays away. A side whose spine boasts Krul, Coloccini, Cabaye and Cisse should never be scrapping at the bottom of the league. Still yet to recover from the departure of Demba Ba however, it remains to be seen if Loic Remy will share the burden up front.

Prediction: 11th

One to watch: Moussa Sissoko- Now he's settled in, a central midfielder capable of dictating any game through his quality and physicality. Could be half of an incredible midfield partnership with Cabaye.

New blood needed: No real top class wide men of note besides Ben Arfa. Take advantage of great French scouting network (Payet, Griezmann)

Norwich City: This years surprise package. Some great business in the window has seen Hughton add real quality to his squad which should see them make a push up the league. Van Wolfswinkel and Hooper should add goals while Olsson and Bassong should provide the balance between pace and strength in defence.

Prediction: 9th

One to watch: Van Wolfswinkel- Reaches the Premier League with plenty of goals under his belt for Sporting Lisbon. Expect him to make a name for himself as a reliable goalscorer.

New blood needed: Wide men. Nathan Redmond will hopefully perform straightaway, but other summer signings have added quality where needed. (Mcmanaman)
Southampton: A side that always seem to make value for money signings in recent years, this summer is no different. Quality additions in Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren should help drive this side on to a higher finish than last year. Hopefully the much lauded Gaston Ramirez can start producing some more eye-opening performances under Pochettino's eye-pleasing style of play.

Prediction: 10th

One to watch: Gaston Ramirez- With service from Schneiderlin and stability in Wanyama, hopefully he can flourish in a free role behind the striker.

New blood needed: A striker to support Lambert that isn't Rodriguez. Just for variety's sake. (Kane, Crouch, Osvaldo)

Stoke: The team everyone loves to hate. Accused of playing Rugby and route one football, Mark Hughes has a gigantic struggle on his hands to not only improve their fortunes, but change their style of play. Arguably an impossible task in one season, signing both Marc Muniesa from Barcelona and Erik Pieters from PSV may be the right way to go about it. Not to bring in quality ball players in the final third, but to stop the back to front nature of play and pass out from the back. Muniesa is injury prone however, and old habits die hard. Ultimately a season of struggle for the potters.

Prediction: 16th

One to watch: Asmir Begovic- Perhaps unfairly outshone by Simon Mignolet last season, this boy is good. Very good. Unfortunately for Stoke fans, probably destined for bigger and better things.

New blood needed: Back up to N'Zonzi and Adam in central midfield, too many work-hard merchants with little ability. (Collison, Sidwell)

Sunderland: A team all about one man. The boss. Paulo Di Canio has brought in no less than 10 new signings having been vocally unimpressed by the side he inherited towards the back end of last season. While some of these players on their own boast much promise (Giaccherini, Diakite, Altidore), the attempt to create a new team looks akin to 50 shades of QPR. Add to this the human hand grenade that is Di Canio, and Sunderland looks to be a ticking-time bomb this season. The Di Canio experiment could blow up at any moment, most likely when the chips are down.

Prediction: 17th

One to watch: Emmanuel Giaccherini- He brings with him a certain pedigree from Juventus and looked impressive during the Confederations Cup. Should form a interesting three pronged attack with Johnson and Altidore.

New blood needed: Irrelevant. So many players brought in there's no more room. Creative central midfielder would do nicely. Use the Italian connection. (Poli, Marrone)

Swansea City: A good team with a good manager. Easy on the eye, many fans have developed a soft spot for these Welsh Wizards. Wilfried Bony rightly excites supporters off the back of a 30 goal season with Vitesse, while Amat, Canas and Pozuelo add to the Spanish feel of this slick team, ensuring we shall see the same pleasing football, potentially of an even higher quality. Must avoid losing their big players and more importantly, their manager.

Prediction: 7th

One to watch: Michu- After a fantastic debut season, it will be intriguing to see if he can keep it up. The arrival of Bony should allow him to drop into his own 'favoured', position just behind the centre-forward. If this is true, he should have us on the edge of our seats this season.

New blood needed: Hard to say after some great acquisitions. Until the club makes European competition through league standing, it will be hard to attract higher quality in each position for their starting 11.

Tottenham Hotspur: Is there to be a power shift in North London? After being closer than ever, yet managing to miss out again last year, Spurs are bolstering their ranks for yet another assault on the top four. Paulinho, Soldado and Capoue all seem quality additions, but it seems only a mental block stopped spurs last year and with nothing changing in defence, the worry is that it will be the same again. With Walker being better going forward than he is defensively and Spurs' ever malignant left back problem still unsolved, the White Hart Lane faithful can only hope that Danny Rose is ready. Can only realistically expect to get into the promised land of Champions League football if Bale stays.

Prediction: 5th

One to watch: Roberto Soldado- At his age should be in his prime and with his price tag should be getting goals. Certainly has the pedigree with his previous figures and Real Madrid experience, another Spaniard who could Shine in the Premier League.

New blood needed: Recognised left-back. Assou-Ekotto inconsistent and Rose fairly raw. (Coentrao, Baines)

West Bromwich Albion: Last season's over-achievers, the Baggies have been given a huge opportunity to build upon a successful season. Their behaviour in the transfer market suggests different however, with the acquisitions of Anelka (Who should guarantee a decent goal return) and Lugano seeming to offer a quick fix of experience, as opposed to promising players who could begin to build something special at the Hawthorns. Overall too cautious to kick on, and an attempt to stand still will result in regression.

Prediction: 14th

One to watch: Matej Vydra- The Watford loanee finally has a chance to test himself against the best, and he'll be hoping to show why he scored so many last season.

New blood needed: Some genuine pace at the back. Lugano might be a big name, but doesn't solve the problem, could have missed out on Caulker. Re-signing Gera & Popov shows little ambition too. (Tomkins, De Laet, Ayala)

West Ham: Gone are the exciting teams from the Boleyn Ground, now is the age of Allardyce. While effective, a dull combination of knock downs and crosses will provide success for the Hammers, as Carroll provides the focal point for Downing to aim for and Nolan to work off. Some good players among the gloom in Diame, Tomkins and Reid. Will stay up by virtue of a decent defence, but when plan A doesn't work, they'll be found wanting.

Prediction: 15th

One to watch: Jack Collison- A talented player blighted by injuries, still young enough to make a big impact. If he can stay fit, watch performances improve and interest in him increase.

New blood needed: Pacey forward to offer something different to Carroll. (Zapata, Rodallega)

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