NU-MAD Premier League Preview Pt 2

Last updated : 12 August 2013 By Footy Mad - Editor


gManager: David Moyes

Last season: Champions

Major ins: Guillermo Varela (Penarol, undisclosed).

Major outs: Reece Brown (Watford, free), John Cofie (Barnsley, free), Paul Scholes (retired), Ryan Tunnicliffe (Ipswich, loan).

Champions last season by 11 points after easing up once the title was in the bag, Manchester United are a similar price to win the league this time around as they were at the same time last year at 13/5. But I don't think they will get into the top two!

Of course, the reason being is the change of manager. How do you replace a man like Sir Alex Ferguson? The simple answer is you cannot, and David Moyes has a near-impossible task. simply because he hasn't won a thing in his entire career!

OK, there was the Charity Shield on Sunday, but he hardly deserved it ... Fergie got the team to Wembley.

It's just so hard to envisage Moyes accumulating anywhere near the same number of points from a similar bunch of players that Fergie did, and, given improvement is expected from Manchester City and Chelsea, it's very difficult to think the Red Devils can retain their title.

The genius of Sir Alex Ferguson, with a little help from Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, papered over some cracks in the Old Trafford squad and the lack of a dominant midfielder is likely to be in evidence this term.

They should still batter their inferiors. Robin van Persie has only just turned 30 and he looks capable of being the best striker in the division once again, which will of course help United's cause.

And you sense Moyes wants to make a statement in the transfer market with at least one big signing. If he pulls off something spectacular, who knows, United might just hold off the charge from City and Chelsea ... but I very much doubt it.

At the time of writing, with Wayne Rooney's future up in the air, Moyes' men look likely to drop more points and, this season at least, they may have to settle for third or dare I say it ... even fourth.



hManager: Alan Pardew

Last season: 16th

Major ins: Olivier Kemen (Metz, undisclosed), Loic Remy (QPR, loan).

Major outs: Mehdi Abeid (Panathinaikos, loan), Shane Ferguson (Birmingham, loan), Steve Harper (Hull, free), James Perch (Wigan, undisclosed), Danny Simpson (QPR, free).

In a summer of transfer sagas, Joe Kinnear's arrival at Newcastle as director of football and his subsequent 'Yohan Kebab' interview was one of the off-season's most bizarre stories.

The Armageddon predicted by some fans has Alan Pardew favourite in the 'next boss to go' market.

More tales of internal strife in the North East may not be that far away with the only player Kinnear has brought in so far being Loic Remy, undoubtedly a talented player but also one due to answer police bail about a rape allegation just a few weeks into the season.

There appears to have been something of an assumption among the bookies that the Magpies will be fine but Newcastle fans see the Mackems down the road spending £30m and Mike Ashley keeping his hands in his pocket at a time we MUST buy.

We were a lot closer to relegation than 16th place suggests, and failing to bring in anyone of note is a culture shock to most who don't know the workings of Mike Ashley's strange brain. United is his "little toy" and some wonder - having a fortune of £2.5 BILLION - if he gives a jot if the team stay up or go down. For the last fixture of the season he offered a bonus if Newcastle beat Arsenal ... because it meant his beloved Tottenham would get into the Champions League! How bizarre is that?

Goals were in short supply with Papiss Cisse leading the way with eight in the league from 35 starts, while keeping them out was a major issue too. Fabricio Coloccini wanted out at one stage - is he really fully committed now? January additions Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko showed glimpses of adding real quality to the squad, they also came amid talk of cliques in the squad.

It all adds up to a situation that's hardly conducive to success, and although I want to say something positive about Newcastle, I hope Pardew gets the push very early on in the season and someone of note is drafted in. Sadly half of that will come true - and Joe Kinnear will get Pardew's hot seat - and then we really WILL be under pressure!



gManager: Chris Hughton

Last season: 11th

Major ins: Leroy Fer (FC Twente, undisclosed), Javier Garrido (Lazio, undisclosed), Gary Hooper (Norwich, undisclosed), Carlo Nash (Stoke, free), Martin Olsson (Blackburn, undisclosed), Nathan Redmond (Birmingham, undisclosed), Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Sporting Lisbon, undisclosed).

Major outs: Tom Adeyemi (Birmingham, free), Leon Barnett (Wigan, undisclosed), Lee Camp (released), George Francomb (AFC Wimbledon, free), Simeon Jackson (Eintracht Braunschweig, free), Chris Martin (Derby, free), Declan Rudd (Preston, loan), Korey Smith (Oldham, free), Jed Steer (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Andrew Surman (AFC Bouremouth, loan), Marc Tierney (Bolton, free), Elliott Ward (AFC Bournemouth, free), James Vaughan (Huddersfield, undisclosed).

There's an understandable feeling of optimism among the Norwich faithful heading into what should be an enjoyable stress-free season for the Canaries.

Chris Hughton's men never really found themselves in real danger of the drop during the previous campaign despite a slow start and a mid-season wobble but nevertheless a run of three victories in their last five games was needed to end any lingering fears and lift them up to a highly-creditable 11th-place finish.

This was an improvement of one place on their first season back in the top flight under previous boss Paul Lambert and although they actually accrued three fewer points it can be regarded as another big step towards becoming a well-established Premier League club.

Of course it's crucial to set greater targets and show some ambition rather than be content to stand still in mid-table and I feel that's exactly what Hughton has in mind based on his summer transfer dealings.

Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who joined from Sporting Lisbon, has previously been linked with bigger clubs and looks set to become an instant hit with the Norwich fans, while Gary Hooper will be eager to prove he can be just as prolific in the Premier League as he was up in Scotland at Celtic.

Holland international midfielder Leroy Fer is also tipped to make a positive impact having earned rave reviews from his time in the Eredivisie, while Swedish star Martin Olsson and England Under-21 winger Nathan Redmond are also impressive signings.

With all this in mind I can only see another season of steady development for Norwich.



gManager: Mauricio Pochettino

Last season: 14th

Major ins: Dejan Lovren (Lyon, undisclosed), Victor Wanyama (Celtic, undisclosed).

Major outs: Danny Butterfield (released), Richard Chaplow (Millwall, free), Steve de Ridder (FC Utrecht, free), Ryan Dickson (Colchester, free), Vegard Forren (Molde, undisclosed), Frazer Richardson (Middlesbrough, free), Daniel Seaborne (Yeovil, free).

Plenty of observers were left scratching their heads last season after the Saints' decided to dispense with the services of Nigel Adkins and replace him with the untested Mauricio Pochettino.

But the gamble paid off as they comfortably survived their first season in the top-flight playing an attractive brand of high intensity, pressing football and at times showed some real potential for the future with eye-catching wins over Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool at St Mary's.

The major issue now will be to avoid a sophomore slump and the bookmakers tend to think they will remain safe as they are a best price of 10/1 to go down.

Pochettino has bolstered his squad with the addition of Croatia international defender Dejan Lovren and the exciting Victor Wanyama from Celtic - the latter was a new club transfer record of £12.5million to beat the money spent last year on Gaston Ramirez.

The Uruguayan has been a potential target for Inter Milan so Southampton will likely be keen to try to boost their attacking options with last season's goalscorer Rickie Lambert having turned 31.

However, there could be a chance though for Jay Rodriguez to play a more prominent role. He started to thrive in the second half of last season under Pochettino and is fancied improve on his tally of nine goals from 37 appearances.

Lambert is even-money to be the leading goalscorer again but the gifted Rodriguez can provide a stern challenge for that mantle.

A skilful player who has shown a real eye for a goal both here and at Burnley, Rodriguez can only improve at the age of 24 under the watchful eye of his promising manager.



hManager: Mark Hughes

Last season: 13th

Major ins: Marc Muniesa (Barcelona, free), Erik Pieters (PSV, undisclosed).

Major outs: Rory Delap (Burton, free), Matthew Lund (Rochdale, free), Carlo Nash (Norwich, free), Michael Owen (retired), Mamady Sidibe (released), Matthew Upson (Brighton, free), Dean Whitehead (Middlesbrough, free).

For so far in 2013 they've won just three Premier League games and two of the sides they beat are now trying to find their way back to the Promised Land via the Championship. As far as form goes, Stoke's is awful.

The problems lie in both defence and attack, too. Stoke haven't scored three goals in a game so far in 2013 - bar an FA Cup tie with Crystal Palace - but that never used to matter as one tended to be enough.

However, they managed just three clean sheets in the second half of the season compared to nine in the first, and it's all of these downturns which eventually led to Tony Pulis' tenure coming to an end.

In comes Mark Hughes, a manager whose record is perhaps stronger than public perception would have you believe. He worked wonders on a limited budget at Blackburn and will have to do the same here, although he has splashed out on defender Erik Pieters for £3million.

Pieters has Champions League experience and should help drag that clean sheet record back to what we'd expect, and while not what all fans wanted, my feeling is that Hughes represents close to a perfect successor to Pulis even if attacking reinforcements may well be necessary.

This isn't to say I'm expecting Stoke to flourish - Pulis did such an incredible job that following his success will be close to impossible. I reckon they will struggle but could stay up - partly due to the lack of strength at the bottom of the division this year.



jManager: Paolo Di Canio

Last season: 17th

Major ins: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, undisclosed), El-Hadji Ba (Le Havre, free), Cabral (Basel, free), Ondrej Celustka (Trabzonspor, loan), Modibo Diakite (Lazio, free), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus, £6.5million), David Moberg Karlsson (Gothenburg, undisclosed), Vito Mannone (Arsenal, undisclosed), Valentin Roberge (Maritimo, free), Duncan Watmore (Altrincham, undisclosed).

Major outs: Titus Bramble (released), Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull, undisclosed), Danny Graham (Hull, loan), Matt Kilgallon (Blackburn, free), James McClean (Wigan, undisclosed), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool, undisclosed), Alfred N'Diaye (Eskisehirspor, loan).

Sunderland stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season and how much credit you give Paolo Di Canio for keeping them in the division goes some way to determining how you think they'll go this campaign.

I have to say, I thought Di Canio's appointment was bizarre at the time and looking at how things transpired at the bottom I don't think Martin O'Neill would have achieved the goal that was safety.

We'll never know, but we do know Sunderland will have to improve this season if they are to stay up and, looking at their signings, whether they can do such a thing is debatable.

Newcastle don't have a true signing to their name (only a loan deal), but they do have a settled side ... and bringing in TEN new players is a massive gamble. There is no backbone to work off, and how many of those ten know the demands of the Premier League - the greatest league in the world?

At least Steven Fletcher leads their attack and Sunderland's final position in the table will largely depend on the form of the talented forward.

Injured for the final two months of last season after picking up an injury when on international duty, you would think he's capable of scoring around 15 goals and such a tally would go a long way to seeing Sunderland to safety.

However, their squad looks brittle, In Simon Mignolet they have lost an excellent goalkeeper and if the likes of Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon do get injured you would have to fear for the Black Cats.

One thing I would say is they won't go down without a fight. When the going got tough at the business end of last season, Di Canio fired up his team and the result was three red cards in their last seven games.

A season of struggle is a real worry for the Black Cats.



hManager: Michael Laudrup

Last season: Ninth

Major ins: Jordi Amat (Espanyol, £2.5million), Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem, £12million), Jose Canas (Real Betis, free), Jonathan de Guzman (Villareal, loan), Jernade Meade (Arsenal, free), Alejandro Pozuelo (Real Betis, undisclosed), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool, £5million).

Major outs: Kemy Agustien (Brighton, free), Kyle Bartley (Birmingham, loan), David Cornell (St Mirren, loan), Mark Gower (Charlton, free), Alan Tate (Yeovil, loan).

This will be a fantastic season to be a Swansea fan but how long will they hold onto the manager?

The extra burden - and a welcome one at that - of the Europa League is sure to take its toll domestically as the months tick by and we've seen from Newcastle's example last term that Premier League form can suffer when a squad is stretched.

That is one thing Michael Laudrup has been acutely aware of and a busy summer so far has seen the Swans chief perform wonders in the transfer market to acquire the likes of Wilfried Bony, Jonjo Shelvey and, once again, Jonathan de Guzman on a season-long loan.

Bony in particular is a very exciting addition and his superb display in the first leg of the Europa League qualifier against Malmo gives a glimpse of what to expect over the new campaign.

I reckon Swansea can surprise quite a few sides in Europe and it would be a massive surprise to me if they aren't still competing on the continent after Christmas.

That means they might have to accept a slight slide in the mid-table ranks as priorities have to be juggled, especially if another run in a domestic cup is forthcoming.

Swansea fans shouldn't be worried by that prediction in any way. A season ticket at the Liberty Stadium is something to be treasured and that has been the case for a number of seasons now.

But that could all change if Laudrup flies the roost!



hManager: Andre Villas-Boas

Last season: Fifth

Major ins: Nacer Chadli (FC Twente, £7million), Paulinho (Corinthians, undisclosed), Roberto Soldado (Valencia, undisclosed).

Major outs: David Bentley (released), John Bostock (Royal Antwerp, free), Nathan Byrne (Swindon, undisclosed), Steven Caulker (Cardiff, undisclosed), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders, undisclosed), William Gallas (released), Grant Hall (Swindon, loan), Bongani Khumalo (Doncaster, loan), Massimo Luongo (Swindon, loan), Ryan Mason (Swindon, loan), Alex Pritchard (Swindon, loan), Adam Smith (Derby, loan).

It certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist - or more accurately a seasoned football pundit - to tell you that much of Spurs' hopes this season rest on the future of Gareth Bale.

At the time of writing the Welsh wizard, who scooped both the PFA Players' Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year as well as the Football Writers' gong thanks to his consistent world-class displays during the last campaign, is still at White Hart Lane despite Real Madrid's strong interest in bringing him to the Bernabeu.

Every Spurs supporter will doubtless be keeping everything crossed that it stays that way.

If Tottenham do end up selling - for a fee which could reach £100million - it would be easy to flippantly assume that their quest of finishing in the top four this season is over before it's even begun.

However, while losing Bale is obviously a massive loss, Andre Villas-Boas will at least have the cash to splash (if the deal is done quickly enough) on a handful of top quality reinforcements which would potentially put them right back in the hunt for a Champions League spot.

Already they've brought in Roberto Soldado, who scored 30 goals in 46 games for Valencia last season, for around £26million, Brazilian midfielder Paulinho for a reported fee of £17million and £7million Belgium international Nacer Chadli - so they've certainly showed signs of preparing for Bale's potential exit.

There are surely more targets in mind, such as Toulouse's £10million-rated midfielder Etienne Capoue, but if they stopped buying now and actually managed to keep their star man then missing out on the top four again would have to go down as a huge - and extremely costly - failure.

This Bale saga might run until the very end of the transfer window, so it would make perfect sense to wait until September 3 before wading into any season-long specials about Tottenham but one bet worth considering now is Soldado to be the club's top scorer.

At 28, the Spain international is at his peak and on the back of another prolific season in La Liga and the Champions League, he should be confident of hitting the ground running in new surroundings. If Bale leaves then his price will inevitably shorten and in any case, the Welshman will find it tough to score quite as many as last season's astounding tally of 21.



gManager: Steve Clarke

Last season: Eighth

Major ins: Nicolas Anelka (Shanghai Shenhua, free), Diego Lugano (PSG, free), Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan).

Major outs: Scott Allan (Birmingham, loan), Marc-Antoine Fortune (Wigan, free), Zoltan Gera (released), Gonzalo Jara Reyes (Nottingham Forest, free), Jerome Thomas (Crystal Palace, free).

Steve Clarke's men started last season well but it was that start, not to mention the general lack of quality in the Premier League, that was responsible for their eighth-placed finish because in the second half of the campaign they picked up just 16 points, losing 11 of their 19 matches.

The Peter Odemwingie affair hardly helped matters but it should be remembered that his goals helped West Brom into their strong position in November and if, as expected, he moves on then those goals will be missed, particularly given last season's top scorer, Romelu Lukaku, is also now gone.

The pair bagged 22 league goals between them and that's a lot to replace. It would appear Steve Clarke is looking to Nicola Anelka to fill much of that void. However, it should be remembered this is a 34-year-old who left Chelsea for Shanghai Shenhua not so long ago, one who played just three games for Juventus after signing for them in January. OK, he's scored a few in pre-season but I need more convincing than any hat-trick against Cork City can do.

At the other end, experienced Uruguayan defender Diego Lugano looks a decent addition but I still think that the 8/1 that's left about West Brom going down is not the worst price in the world when you consider that there is rarely a great deal between the sides in mid-table and the one that occupies 18th place at the end of the season. Indeed the gap between West Brom and Wigan last term may have been 10 places but in points terms it was just 13.

While there are definitely more likely relegation candidates, but a bet at decent odds is worthy of consideration.



gManager: Sam Allardyce

Last season: 10th

Major ins: Adrian (Real Betis, free), Andy Carroll (Liverpool, undisclosed), Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk, free), Danny Whitehead (Stockport, undisclosed).

Major outs: Carlton Cole (released), Rob Hall (Bolton, undisclosed), Gary O'Neil (released).

I never thought I would ever say this ... but Sam Allardyce has put together a hell of a squad of players.

West Ham fans should remember that as taking a side that won the Championship play-offs to a finish of 10th in their first season back in the Premier League is not a bad effort at all.

It will be more of the same for the Hammers this term with Upton Park continuing to prove tough for anyone to visit and even a slight improvement in away form will see an improved placing.

Only QPR and Reading picked up less on the road last season and just four more points would have seen Allardyce's men end the campaign up in eighth.

That position, putting pressure on the Merseyside duo of Liverpool and Everton, is well within sight and is a realistic target for the Hammers.

The absolutely crucial news from the summer is the retention of Andy Carroll on a six-year deal from Liverpool.

Carroll definitely has his critics but his presence at the centre of the attack fits perfectly with Big Sam's style of play and that is far from a bad thing if more goals come his way.