Premier League 13/14 Season Preview (Part 3 of 3)

Southampton – The hugely controversial decision to sack the popular Nigel Adkins and replace him with Mauricio Pochettino was starting to pay off towards the end of last season, with an identifiable high pressing style of football which saw them dismantle Manchester City 3-1 late in the season. This style of play restricts the time the opposition midfield have on the ball so they can enjoy the majority of possession. This style left them with the highest number of tackles and interceptions in the league last year. A combined total of £20 million has been spent on the highly-rated Kenyan Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren from Lyon who had been sought after by some of the bigger clubs in Europe.

  • Key Player – Gaston Ramirez, he’s player who performed in patches last season, however he has immense talent and will provide the creative spark that’s needed to take Southampton to the next level. His good performances have seen interest from Italian giants Inter Milan this summer.
  • Prediction – 11th, if they carry on where they left of from last season and turn some of their 14 draws into wins then they’ll be around the mid-table mark come the end of the season.

Stoke City – Fitness, power and good organisation has helped Stoke finish around 13th place for the last 5 seasons. However there has been a big change at the Britannia this season, as long-serving manager Tony Pulis has been ousted for former Wales and QPR boss Mark Hughes. Many people are left bewildered by this choice based on his spell at QPR, however he has finished in the top half of the league in 7 of his 9 premier league seasons, a very impressive return. He will be looking to slightly change the playing style, however he’ll want to keep the defensive elements in-tact as it’ll make them typically hard to beat.

  • Key Player – Ryan Shawcross, the Stoke skipper has been on the fringes of the England team for the last couple of years and another impressive season could see him keep his team in the league, and snatch a place on the plane to Rio.
  • Prediction – 17th, due to not really improving their squad in the transfer window, I see them falling behind their rivals and into another relegation scrap, this time coming closer to the drop, however I think their solid defence will be enough to save them.

Sunderland – Eyebrows were raised after the appointment of the hot-headed Paolo Di Canio who was given the task of keeping troubled Sunderland in the Premier League. After a great start in the job which saw his side beat local rivals Newcastle 3-0, the wheels started to come of at the end of last season and they managed to survive by the skin of their teeth. No matter what anybody says about Paolo, he managed to meet his big target which was to keep Sunderland in the promise land. He’ll be looking to push on this season and finish in a safer mid-table position, he’s shown his intent by bringing in 9 players this summer.

  • Key Player – Adam Johnson, he was out of sorts for large parts last season, however he has the quality and creativity that will be needed to fire Sunderland up the league, he can win points on his own when he’s on form.
  • Prediction – 15th, a slightly safer finish than last season if Paolo gets his players to believe in his rules and philosophy. I feel he will, however if they don’t respond well to his unorthodox style of management, they could be in for a long, hard season.

Swansea City – When Michael Laudrup took over last season from Brendan Rodgers, many thought they’d struggle to replicate the good football and results of the previous year. However, he finished in the top-half and had them playing a very attractive and effective style of football. Michu was undoubtedly their star man last season and bagged 18 league goals for the Swans, but at times he was carrying the team on his back. They’ve signed Wilfried Bony from Vitesse to easy the workload on the Spaniard and the Ivorians power and ability to score goals could help them battle for European and Domestic glory. They’ve again raided the Spainsh market, the stand-out signing of those being Jordi Amat from Espanyol who is tipped to be one of Spain’s finest defenders in years to come. Keeping hold of Jonathan de Guzman for another year who was hugely impressive in the heart of the Swansea midfield was another boost for the side that looks set to be challenging for a Europa League spot through the league.

  • Key Player – Michu, the top scorer from last season may not score as many goals this year with him probably being dropped into his favoured position in behind the striker, but he the classy Spaniard will be key to Swansea’s challenge in Europe and in the league due to his goals and assists.
  • Prediction – 7th, a much improved squad should see them finish around this spot for me, the only problem may come with the European campaign and how much that takes out of them. They should have the squad to deal with that now though.

Tottenham Hotspur – They achieved their best points tally for 28 years last term and they still missed out on the top 4. This has sparked an injection of cash from Daniel Levy and they’ve used that wisely to bring in Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and most recently, Etienne Capoue from Toulouse. The signing of Soldado has filled their major gap from last season with a lack of fire-power from the strikers being very evident, seen as a natural goalscorer, Soldado should help Spurs get over the line and qualify for the Champions League. A lot of their season now depends on the future of Gareth Bale, a player who won 24 points by himself last season, and picked up all possible player awards for his scintillating form last year. Strong interest from Real Madrid seems to be fading, however it looks as if Bale now wants out and that may force Spurs to sell their most prized asset.

  • Key Player – Gareth Bale, the Premier League’s finest footballer and the most sought after player in World football had to be my choice. His future could make or break Spurs’ season, however if he stays, he’ll be sure to have another great season.
  • Prediction – 4th, having bought very good players so far this window I see Spurs ahead of Arsenal in the race for 4th, a good striker and a top quality central midfielder have been signed and without any spending from Arsenal, I see Spurs finishing above them this season.

West Bromwich Albion – They were very impressive last season and an 8th place finish was probably higher than what Steve Clarke could ever have imagined in his first year in management. Romelu Lukaku played a big hand in that success last season, and without him this year will make it much tougher for them to emulate that success. They have signed the experienced French striker Nicolas Anelka and last seasons Championship player of the year, Matej Vydra to provide good competition for Shane Long. I am a big fan of the Mulumbu and Yacob combination deep in the West Brom midfield which makes them extremely hard to break down and after they win the ball they pass it off to start off attacks, they’re the heart of the team. Goals may be a problem next season and I don’t see them finishing as highly as last season, however I feel they won’t be worried about relegation for at least another year.

  • Key Player – Jonas Olsson, despite help from Mulumbu and Yacob in front of him, he does a great job in organising the back four and they only had to make one last-man tackle last season, the best out of any Premier League side. He can score a goal too!
  • Prediction – 14th, I feel they will struggle to get close to their finish last season due to a lack of investment in the window which leaves them with a pretty small squad to be able to challenge at the top-half again.

West Ham United – A 10th place finish was a great start to life back in the Premier League for Sam Allardyce’s men and their mixture of power and good football made them a tough team to match up against as they can beat you in many ways. The signing of Stewart Downing should really excite the fans as he is an excellent crosser of the ball, and with Matt Jarvis on the other side, Andy Carroll won’t be short of chances and I fancy him to add to his tally of 7 last season. A solid midfield three of Nolan, Noble and Diame was key to their success last season and they each provided goals and steel to guide them to a top-half finish, Big Sam will be looking for the same from them again. Winston Reid impressed me immensely  last season and I felt his exceptional defensive abilities coupled with his leadership qualities made him one of the stand-out central defenders from last season.

  • Key Player – Andy Carroll, the big man will be hoping to avoid injuries this season and profit from the service expected from Jarvis and Downing, he could have a big season.
  • Prediction – 10th, I feel that there are many more strong teams in the league than last season, and West Ham are another. I see them finishing in 10th position again, which I think would represent another successful season for the Hammers.

 

Thank you for reading and for more football chat and opinions follow me on twitter @thecityopinion.

Daniel May.

 

 

 

 

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Premier League 13/14 Season Preview (Part 2 of 3)

  • Hull City – As well as Crystal Palace, Hull weren’t among the main favourites to secure promotion to the Premier League last season. However due to a solid defence and a good understanding of the 3-5-2 system they employed throughout the season, they managed to go up on the final day. They’re a good solid team, however they lack a goalscorer which was proven by the fact that midfielder Robert Koren was their top scorer last season, with 9 league goals. They’ve signed Yannick Sagbo and Danny Graham to provide the fire-power they require and the signings of Maynor Figueroa and Tom Huddlestone should put them in good stead for the new season.
  • Key Player – Robbie Brady, the tricky Irish winger chipped in with 13 league assists last term and a similar tally this season will be needed to give Hull any chance of survival.
  • Prediction – 19th, promotion may have come too soon for Hull and I feel their lack of fire-power will leave them facing relegation straight back down to the Championship.

Liverpool Liverpool’s inability to convert  good performances into positive results was a big problem for them last season and left them well short of the top 4. With that being said, they improved greatly in the second half of the season with January signings Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge providing the spark they had been lacking for large parts of the season. With this and the new signings that have been brought in over the summer, their squad now has more depth and striker Iago Aspas’s movement will sure to be a nuisance for defences this coming season.

  • Key Player – Philippe Coutinho, the classy Brazilian has the ability to unlock Premier League defences at will and he’ll be ready to pick up from where he left off last season.
  • Prediction – 6th, a top 4 finish may be a tall order this season, however if they can begin to win games by the odd goal regularly they’ll be there or thereabouts.

Manchester City – Last seasons runners-up will be looking to regain the title they won back in 2012 and have not wasted any time in recruiting new players, spending £90 million on Stevan Jovetic, Fernandinho and former Sevilla pair Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas. The signing of Jesus Navas should give City an extra dimension as they were too predictable at times last season, with a tendency to force the ball through the middle of the park too often. They arguably had the strongest squad in the league last season and they’ve made more improvements than any of their title contenders this year, they’re certainly my favourites at this moment.

  • Key Player – Vincent Kompany, a born leader. His world-class defensive abilities and leadership qualities makes the City skipper their most important player next season as they’ll need to be tight at the back again if they want to win the league. 
  • Prediction – 1st, the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini should bring back some of the team chemistry that was lacking last season. This element mixed with the quality of the squad should see them end the season with the Premier League title once again.

Manchester United – The departure of Sir Alex Ferguson will be sure to leave a huge hole at United and the pressure is on the new boss David Moyes to pick up from where he left off. It will be difficult for him though, with Wilfried Zaha being their only major signings to date, their squad may not be at the level required to win the league, despite winning at a canter last year. Keeping hold of Wayne Rooney will be key, as will signing a top quality central midfielder to play alongside Michael Carrick at the heart of the United midfield.

  • Key Player – Robin Van Persie, the Dutch hit-man will again be crucial for United this season and will be looking to improve further on his 26 league goals from last year.
  • Prediction – 3rd, with Chelsea and City having spent money already, I feel Moyes’ men will be left behind and fall just short.

Newcastle United – The arrival of Joe Kinnear has brought a lot of negativity back to the club, and that may lead to another tough season for the Magpies. They still have some good players in Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko but with time left in the window yet, they’ll be looking to keep hold of their best players and improve on last seasons disappointments. Their lack of transfer activity comes a surprise to me as I felt they needed to strengthen heavily again to avoid a repeat of last year. However the signing of Loic Remy does present them with a genuine goal threat and a direct rival to Papiss Cisse, which they lacked last season.

  • Key Player – Yohan Cabaye, the creative French midfielder will be looking to stay clear of injuries this year and spearhead Newcastle into a top half finish. If he’s at his best, they should have a relatively stress-free season.
  • Prediction – 12th, off-field distractions will ensure another tricky season, however they still have some very good players in their ranks and if they don’t let the off-field antics get to them, they could find themselves in the top of the league.

Norwich City – They may have finished 11th last term, however it was far from comfortable for the Canaries and they only managed to secure their Premier League status in the closing weeks of the season. They have addressed the lack of goals from last season and bought in Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper who were linked with bigger clubs over the summer, which is sure to make a difference and they may be looking ahead instead of over their shoulders. The signing of Leroy Fer from FC Twente is somewhat of a coup as he looked to be heading to Everton for double the price in January, if it had not been for a failed medical. Young England winger Nathan Redmond has also been signed to inject some well needed flair into the Norwich team to propel them up the league table.

Key Player – Sebastien Bassong, the team captain will be looking to emulate his good form from last season and help guide Norwich to another good league finish

Prediction – 9th, I see this Norwich side as a dark-horse for this season given the good business they’ve done so far in the window. They have addressed the lack of goals and brought in players to bolster the squad and make them a more solid outfit.

Premier League 13/14 Season Preview (Part 1 of 3)

Arsenal – “This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time – the escalation in our financial fire power.” This bold statement from Arsenal Chief Exec Ivan Gazidis prior to the start of the transfer window signalled a change in stance for Arsenal and that they were now willing and capable of spending big on new players. This excited Arsenal fans no-end, however it’s now August 14th and they have only signed a 20-year-old French striker in Yaya Sanogo who has only played 21 games in three seasons at Ligue 2 club Auxerre…on a free! However the possible arrival of Bayern anchor-man Luis Gustavo will give the Gunners that well needed protection in front of the back four which they have been missing for some time now. However this signing is still far from complete with Napoli also thinking of making a bid for the player. Another striker, defender and goalkeeper are still needed in my opinion for Arsenal to challenge at the top of the table once again.

  • Key Player – Theo Walcott, only Gareth Bale, Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez contributed to more goals than the English forward last season, and he will only improve this following year.
  • Prediction – 5th as the window is currently, they haven’t improved the squad that only pipped Spurs to 4th last year and I feel they may lose their grip on that 4th spot unless they spend big before September 3rd.

Aston Villa The biggest signing for Villa this summer without a doubt has been keeping hold of Belgian giant Christian Benteke. He proved his worth to the team last season by scoring 19 league goals for the Villans and contributed to 49% of the team’s goals last season. They have done more business still, signing no fewer than 6 players including talented Danish duo Jores Okore and Nicklas Helenius. A big challenge for Villa’s young stars this season will be keeping their heads up as they face a gruelling first three games against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea which they may struggle to pick many points up in.

  • Key Player – Christian Benteke, as stated above he almost single-handedly kept Villa up last season and if he performs anywhere close to what he did last season, he’ll be delighted.
  • Prediction – 13th, I feel Villa will be much more comfortable than they were last season and should stay clear of any intense relegation battle this year with a far bigger squad to choose from if important players do get injured during the season. The strong end to last season may also make the team more united and they should be well clear of the drop.

Cardiff City – Cardiff’s Championship winning success was based on having a solid defence and being able to win ugly, they won 17 games by 1 goal last season. They have also added defender John Brayford and England international Steven Caulker to the solid defence that won them the league last year which will only help them to be prepared for the Premier League. A club record fee of £11 million has seen Gary Medel sign from Sevilla who is known as the “Pitbull” due to his tenacious style of play in the midfield, it’s safe to say Cardiff City won’t roll-over easily this season. Despite Fraizer Campbell’s good form towards the end of last season, Cardiff spent £7.5 million on Danish wonderkid Andreas Cornelius who they’ll hope will provide a greater attacking threat, something they lacked last season.

  • Key Player – Mark Hudson, the highly influential skipper is the rock of the team which managed to keep 18 clean sheets last season. Good leadership and defending will be needed from him to guide Cardiff to safety.
  • Prediction – 16th, defensive solidity and good home form will be the two main ingredients to keep Cardiff City in the Premier League and with a good attacking threat, they could finish higher than my prediction into a more solid mid-table position.

Chelsea – Jose is back. The hugely popular manager has returned to the Bridge with the side ready to fight for the title again, and with him back would you bet against them? As he did in his first spell, he will make sure the defence is solid and break quickly on the counter-attack when the ball is won. However with no Claude Makelele, Chelsea lack that world-class defensive midfielder to protect the defence which he had last time. Instead, I believe he will adopt the 4-2-3-1 which he used at Madrid with Oscar, Schurrle, Hazard and Mata vying for those three attacking midfield positions. Chelsea look very well set but I feel they lack a certain goalscorer which may put too much pressure on the midfield to score the bulk of their goals, which they did last season. I believe if they sign Wayne Rooney they are a clear favourites for the title as he will link well with the supporting mid-fielders and will score goals as he has for United over the years.

  • Key Player – Eden Hazard, Juan Mata was arguably Chelsea outstanding performer from last season but after a fine first season, Eden Hazard will be ready to take the league by storm with his immense balance and speed which will give premier league defences nightmares.
  • Prediction – 2nd, as their squad is currently I feel they will just fall short due to a lack of goals from the front-men, however as I said earlier, the signing of Wayne Rooney would make them my favourites. The productivity of Frank Lampard and John Terry will be interesting as Mourinho will try to balance experience will young exciting players. Romelu Lukaku could be the man Chelsea need, however at just 20 years of age, he may struggle with the expectations of being the front-man for a club like Chelsea.

Crystal Palace – Out of all the teams to come up, I fear for Palace the most. Having already lost their star man, without the resources to bring in a worthy replacement they will struggle create as many chances as they did last season.  Marouane Chamakh  may prove to be a inspired signing as given a run of games he can find the back of the net and provide Palace with an outlet with his height to get other involved. They have also signed highly-rated Spanish midfielder Jose Campana from Sevilla who is tipped to be a great player for the future. The team does not lack in confidence and with exciting players in Jon Williams and Yannick Bolasie they can go and attack teams and cause problems.

  • Key Player – Mile Jedinak, the solid Australian picked up Palace’s player of the year award last season and will be key to their survival chances this season as he will provide Palace with a solid midfield presence to compete with other teams down towards the bottom of the table.
  • Prediction – 20th, teams may not want to go to Selhurst park because of the atmosphere and tight pitch, however due to the departure of Wilfried Zaha and with Glenn Murray injured,  a lack of goals may prove their Achilles heel and they’re my tip to go down.

Everton – Last season, Everton played with a counter-attacking style, however with Martinez in charge a more free-flowing possession style of football may be more prominent. It’s still unknown whether he will play with the 3-5-2 that he used at Wigan or keep the same system that proved successful for previous Manager, David Moyes. Everton needed more goals than last seasons 55, only eight more than Martinez’s old side Wigan Athletic. With a mis-firing Nikica Jelavic, new signing Arouna Kone may be the Toffees main front-man, a player Martinez took to Wigan from Levante just last summer. Since taking over, Martinez has took 3 of his Wigan players with him and bolstered the squad which seemed necessary with David Moyes’s reluctance to rotate his team due to the lack of depth. Keeping hold of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini will be Martinez’s main target from now until the end of the window.

  • Key Player – Kevin Mirallas, the exciting Belgian forward enjoyed a good first season in the premier league, using his pace to drift in from the right wing and chipped in with 6 league goals. He’ll be looking to improve on that tally this season, and should be a vital player for Everton this year.
  • Prediction – 8th, with the main players still at the club, they should enjoy another good season. Martinez’s philosophy may take time to take effect but they should be comfortably in the top half with the players at his disposal.

Fulham – Fulham are a strange team for me, impressive league finishes in the last 5 seasons have not been supplemented with good business in the transfer window. Their over-reliance on Dimitar Berbatov last season may be a problem this year and if he was to get injured, they would be left in a bad spot.  The squad is ageing and having signed Amorebieta from Atheltic Bilbao it offers a good partner for Brede Hangeland. However the Venezuelan has been sent off 13 times during his time at Bilbao which shows him to be liable for a team that will need their defenders to be disciplined to be safe in the division. The loan signing of Adel Taarabt is an interesting one because they already have two similar style players in Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz and if they all start together, their defence will be in for a busy game with the lack of work rate from each of them. Alex Kacaniklic may provide the spark for them to be safe this season, however I believe this season will prove to be a big struggle for the team by the river.

  • Key Player – Sascha Riether, one of the outstanding full-backs in the premier league last season provides good support down the right-hand side and is a solid defender going the other way. If he performs to the standard that he did last year, he may help Fulham to stay clear of a relegation dog-fight.
  • Prediction – 18th, this may be seen as a shock pick to many but I feel this is a team without a real identity and also a team that lacks a quality central midfield player which is crucial to surviving in this league. Their form towards the back-end of last season was shocking with some fans calling for Martin Jol’s head, I fear that the wheels may come of this season and they may find themselves facing a shock relegation.