The three main challengers for the title this year, start with new managers or at least returning ones which makes it one of the hardest Premier League seasons to predict yet. The Eagles, Bluebirds and Tigers meanwhile will be delighted with a 17th place finish.
A big year for Arsene Wenger, some have said he could be his last if some success cannot be brought to the Emirates. It remains to be seen what reinforcements the Gunners will bring in this summer. They were heavily linked with Higuain but missed out and there is the on going Suarez saga. Money needs to spent for once, in recent years they have only just scraped into the top 4. This season might be a step to far, with Spurs having strengthened and held on to Bale for now. A trophy is needed of some variety. There is even a website counting how long it has been since Arsenal won a trophy. http://www.sincearsenallastwonatrophy.co.uk/ Furthermore after Fergie’s retirement, every club in the top 4 divisions have now changed their manager since that last trophy. Arsenal still have a good squad, but they are a few additions off cementing a top 4 place, and someway off challenging for the title. Big year too for Theo Walcott, time for a consistent season of fulfilling his potential.
Villa had a pretty appalling season last time round with Lambert bringing in a lot of youthful players who showed glimpses of class but also showed weakness. It looked like they would be relegated come May but managed to stave it off. Benteke has signed a new contract despite previously saying he wanted to leave. Hopefully he can repeat his exploits, and it will be needed. Darren Bent seems on his way out, god knows why. One of the best goalscorers in the league who when playing should be pushing for a starting place in the national side. Nicklas Helenius has been brought in from Denmark but this league is much tougher and will surely not replace the goals that Bent could bring. Okore arrives from Nordjaeslland (managed to spell that right first time!), and he looks a good prospect. However a few more foreign arrivals in the shape of Luna, Bacuna and Tonev show perhaps a gamble by Lambert. They will have to adapt quick as the rest of the squad isn’t that strong. Could be another struggle, big performances will be needed by Vlaar, Agbonlahor, and Guzan.
First year in the Premier League for Malky Mackay’s boys and it is unlikely they will replicate the success enjoyed by their Welsh counterparts Swansea. The Champions of the Championship are often most fancied to do the best out of the promoted sides and out of the 3 they definitely do have the strongest squad. If they can keep Craig Bellamy fit then he will be vital for them, a great experienced pro who could be a match winner for them. They have spent a fair bit of cash this summer, breaking their transfer record 3 times. Gary Medel from Sevilla should turn out to be a cracking signing. Lee Cattermole better watch out though as Medel maybe be after his most red cards mantle. (Sent off 7 times in 90 appearances for Sevilla). Cornelius was signed for £7.5 million after a good season in Denmark like Helenius at Villa. Looks a good prospect but I think they should have signed someone with more experience in this league for that price. Le Fondre, Bent, Zamora, Jones could have been persuaded perhaps. Steven Caulker arrives from Spurs, and the England capped Defender is a good signing and will need to be a rock at the heart of the Bluebirds (Redbirds now???) defence.
The Special One returns, and the Premier League trophy will be expected to return too. This management change will perhaps be the smoothest of them all this year, given his past exploits. Mourinho’s Chelsea was an exciting one to watch and they haven’t repeated that standard since he left. It will be hoped that Jose can get the best out of misfiring striker Fernando Torres and hopefully Demba Ba can give him some much needed support too. Lukaku could bag the goals if given the chance. They perhaps lack the quality up front that United and City do, but their creative midfielders more than make up for this. Mata and Hazard both had good campaigns last time round, and along with Lampard and new signing Schurrle there is still plenty of goals in the side. The older heads in the team coupled with Mourinho’s knowhow make Chelsea the favourites with many bookmakers, and its easy to see why. Pellegrini and Moyes may take time to adapt. All the squads can be argued for with undoubted talent amongst them all, but Mourinho has a fantastic home record at all his clubs, and I expect Chelsea to slip up less often than the Manchester sides. A winning return for Jose Mourinho.
Palace secured a rather shock promotion in May after winning the play-off final against Gianfranco Zola’s Watford. Perhaps considered one of the favourites for relegation last year they certainly are this year as their squad remains weak, and nothing about their signing convinces me that they will survive. I am glad Ian Holloway returns to the top flight, as he will make Match of the Day a lot more interesting with his comical interviews. He’ll have some competition for funniest manager from Mourinho and Di Canio though. Dwight Gayle was playing in the 9th tier of English football in 2011, but this summer secured a move to Palace that could rise to £8.5 million! Is Ian Holloway mad? Yes, and this signing could turn out to be crazy too. He looked good for Peterborough last year, but not to illicit that transfer fee and I doubt he will score enough goals to keep Palace up. A last chance saloon for Marouane Chamakh as well, after poor spells at West Ham and Arsenal. Kevin Phillips signs on and I’d probably back him to have more impact than the aforementioned. Whereas Glenn Murray could either fail or replicate Grant Holt and Ricky Lambert’s successes. The pace and creativity of Wilfried Zaha is a big loss but I feel Yannick Bolasie could have a big season and write a few headlines. However I feel this squad wouldn’t even make the top 6 in the Championship this season.
A new era at Goodison Park, and it will be weird to see the smooth Spaniard Roberto Martinez in the dugout rather than fiery Scotsman David Moyes. Martinez showed his talent at Wigan with a nice passing game, and overachieved in all his time there, even relegation was coupled with an FA Cup triumph. He was rightly given a chance at Everton by Bill Kenwright and brings Kone, Joel, and Alcaraz with him. Everton should be able to manage ok after the loss of Moyes as Martinez wont be looking to make any drastic changes, Why fix what ain’t broke? Kone should add needed firepower up front and it will be hoped Jelavic can rediscover his early form. Howard, Jagielka and Osman give Everton a solid spine in the team and will always be a hard team to beat, Moyes’ side was a resilient one though and I’m not sure Martinez possessed that so much with Wigan. Fellaini and Baines remain for now, and with those two Everton will be looking for another top 8 finish.
Mohamed Al Fayed has handed the reins of the club over to Shahid Khan after a hugely successful time in ownership of the club. Matters on the pitch should be able to continue smoothly with not too much disruption being caused. Maarten Stekelenburg has been brought in, and his class is well known to us from his performances for Roma, Ajax, and Holland. Adel Taarabt has joined from on loan from down the road at QPR, and perhaps he can fulfil his potential now that he’s back under the guidance of Jol the man that first brought him to this country. So much was expected of him when QPR were promoted, and he didn’t quite produce but I think he could be used very effectively playing just off Berbatov. With Berbatov in the side, goals will arrive and Fulham should be able to push for a top half finish along with many other sides who seem to be at a similar level. Player of the year Sascha Riether has signed on permanently with Boateng (Dnipro) and Amoriebeta (Bilbao) also arriving. A strengthened squad overall now should ensure they won’t be battling at the wrong end of the table. The imminent arrival of Darren Bent raises my expectations for the Cottagers this year.
Hull City Tigers as they now want to be know secured a return to the Premier League after a 3 year absence. A quicker return than I expected but fair play to Steve Bruce he did a good job. Initially I thought that Hull would struggle on their return and most probably be relegated but after the signings of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore my views have altered slightly. They will definitely have a more sturdy midfield with these two involved. I personally thought Huddlestone would have been able to secure a move to a more established Premier League side. Would be a shame if he ends up playing Championship Football next year. Bruce knows the league well as does Danny Graham, Robert Koren, Curtis Davies and Maynor Figueroa and he will look to these players to be the ones who can share their experience and be influential in the dressing room and on the pitch. They could cause a few shocks and it will be interesting to see how players like Brady, Boyd and Fryatt do in this league. I do like promoted sides to fair well but it’s a tough season ahead for the Tigers. I think it will be tight between Hull and Cardiff for the last relegation place, and after writing this article I think I’m going to favour Hull to stay up and it has a lot to do with the signings from Spurs.
What’s Liverpool’s aim for this year? To win the league? To get into the top 4? Let’s see if manager Brendan Rodgers can clear this up for us: “We never accept second best. The challenge is to get into the Champions League positions, but not just be in it, but try to fight and go as high as we possibly can. That has to be the main target, to arrive in the top four.” Oh well maybe not then. Nevertheless some arrivals have caught the eye Iago Aspas comes in from Celta Vigo and will be looking to make an impact after a good season in La Liga. Toure provides a natural replacement for Carragher and Simon Mignolet proved he is one of the best ‘keepers in this league last year. Shame to see Reina go though, nice guy and a good player, but perhaps they had to move for Mignolet with a potential move on the cards to Barca at the time for ‘Pepe’. A lot has been said about Luis Suarez and I can’t be bothered to say too much more about it because it’s not interesting anymore. If he stays they have a great footballer on their hands if he leaves then they need to spend the money wisely. Top 4 probably out of reach again but should outperform Everton.
Major changes have taken place at City this year, new manager and quite a few big name signings, Fernandinho being the biggest name. Stevan Jovetic seems to be an exciting prospect and I’m looking forward to see him in action. I’m not sure how the aforementioned two and Navas and Negredo will fit into the first 11 but they certainly add a level of depth to the squad. It will be very tight between City, United and Chelsea and I think they will all produce some great performances this year and the battles between themselves will be key, but as I said in my Chelsea review I think they will be the ones who will slip up the least. City messed up a couple of times last year against Sunderland and Southampton for example and they don’t quite have the stature of United and Chelsea yet and because of this more teams will be willing to ‘go for it’ a bit more against them. If Aguero can stay fit throughout and Yaya Toure continues to star as one of the best players in the world then City will be at the top nudging Chelsea and United. My guess is as good as anyones, but I’m going to plump for a 3rd place finish for City missing out on 2nd by goal difference.
First of all I’m delighted for Moyes to be taking over from Sir Alex, good choice. Hopefully not too much is expected of him in his first year, and if he ends up trophyless then so be it. He has inherited a very good team though, a team who will never give up, and a team that possesses some great quality. Robin Van Persie will continue to win points on his own for this side. He could be the difference that puts them above the other title challengers. Whilst a change of manager is unknown to many United fans, at least the personnel on the pitch have stayed the same, and therefore should still be able to perform to the same standards. There’s no reason why not, Moyes is no mug and will be just as scary in the changing room if they aren’t up to scratch. The addition of Phil Neville and Ryan Giggs to his backroom staff is wise, and should allow Moyesy to settle in quicker. Zaha, Lingaard and Januzaj could inject some excitement into an ageing United first team and fans will still be hoping for a marquee signing this summer. Even without they’re still a quality side.
The arrival of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football was not welcomed by the fans or Alan Pardew or Graham Carr I doubt. Newcastle although performing under par in the league last year were getting back to a more realistic level for themselves after a torrid previous few years, but bringing Kinnear back to the club could be a catastrophic move by Mike Ashley. Why is he there? Recruitment had been superb recently, and they don’t need that man to bring bad press to the club will his foul mouthed idiotic rants. Remy remains their only signing but after he turned them down for money at QPR in January I wouldn’t be too excited as a Toon fan. Without the distraction of the Europa League this year the Magpies should push on and Cabaye, Coloccini and Cisse will again be key. More depth is needed in all areas, but if Pardew can last the season then there should be no relegation worries. Matches against Di Canio’s Sunderland will be fascinating and two victories there will be a huge bonus to the season.
The Canaries have made some very good signings this summer and have splashed the cash in doing so. The front line has been strengthened with the signings of Ricky Van Wolfswinkel (Sporting Lisbon) and Gary Hooper (Celtic). Both have impressed in lesser leagues and this is a step up for them. Two signings from the Championship in Martin Olsson (Blackburn) and Nathan Redmond (Birmingham). Both look like good prospects, Olsson has played at this level before and done well whilst Redmond looks like he could be a star for England in the future, quite a coup for Norwich I think. Leroy Fer has joined from FC Twente after being linked with Everton in the past. The standard of players brought in by Norwich seems to signal the intent to move into the top half of the table. Chris Hughton did a superb job last year, and with Ruddy returning from injury and Bassong looking to continue his good form Norwich should be easily safe this season.
After the harsh dismissal of Nigel Adkins last year, Mauricio Pochettino came in and did a decent job despite not having a good grasp of the English language. Money has been spent this summer but just on 2 arrivals. Lovren comes in to strengthen the defence from Lyon and he seems a solid addition as shown with his performances for Croatia. Victor Wanyama moves south of the border joining from Celtic and this man didn’t look out of place playing against Juventus and Barcelona in the Champions League last year so should be a great acquisition for the Saints. Over £20m has been spent on these 2, adding to an already good side including Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Nathaniel Clyne and Luke Shaw, there is a perfect balance of experience and youth at Southampton. Much is expected of Pochettino, fellow managers believe he has what it takes to go far, and he could well go far with Southampton. We have seen high finishes from Swansea, and West Brom recently and even though this is only their second season back in the top flight I think Southampton will have a great season finishing in the top 10.
Tough year ahead for the Potters, and as Mark Hughes takes on his 5th managerial job in the Premier League it could be well his hardest. Although he failed at QPR this is a different matter, trying to move a Stoke side forward which has been moulded by Tony Pulis. A certain side was built by Pulis, a big, strong, physical one and Hughes does not want to play that style of Football. Only 3 signings have been made, Muniesa (Barcelona), Pieters (PSV) and Agudelo (New England Revolution). The Stoke side lacks of lot of creativity, there’s no real players who have a lot of pace or skill, but they are all hard workers. Therefore this will stop them from being dragged into the bottom 3, but it will still be a tough season. Much will be needed from Peter Crouch once more with fairly little support in terms of goals elsewhere in the team. Begovic has been retained which is a huge bonus and therefore Butland could be loaned out for more experience. The leadership of Shawcross and Whelan will help Hughes out in his first season at the Britannia Stadium.
Surprisingly to me Paolo Di Canio steadied a sinking ship at Sunderland last year. After Martin O’Neill was sacked I thought it was a rather crazy move by Ellis Short to bring Di Canio in, the complete polar opposite to O’Neill. However he injected enthusiasm into a struggling side and guided them to safety through some very good results. He will certainly want to make his mark at the club and has brought in a fair few of his own players. Many coming from abroad and I admit to knowing very little about them so it could go either way in terms of the success of his players. However Altidore has come in from AZ Alkmaar and has always looked like he could deliver on the big stage. Emanuele Giaccherini looks like a great bit of business arriving for just £6.5 million. Featuring heavily for Juve’ last year he also impressed for Italy none more so than in the Confederations Cup this summer. Could be a big player for them as he likes to get into box often and make things happen. Mignolet has departed and it remains to be seen who will take over from him, Westwood and Mannone waiting in the wings. Di Canio is an explosive character and who knows what may happen with him in charge, but expect something crazy to happen along the way.
What a revelation the Swans have been since returning to the upper echelons of English Football. First under Rodgers and now Laudrup they have continued to impress with their style of play and exceptional individual performances. Leon Britton remains an unsung hero whilst players like Michu and Willaims receive the bulk of the praise. A Europa League campaign awaits them and whilst it will be exciting for the fans it may take it out of a relatively small squad. Wilfried Bony had a great year in the Eredivisie and convinced Swansea that he was good enough to break their transfer record for. He got off to a great start against Malmo and looks like he will fit into the side well. Jonjo Shelvey has also joined in search of first team Football and at £5 million I feel represents a good piece of business. A few more arrivals have flown over from Spain and there is a very strong Spanish feel to the side now. They did well last year and Laudrup will be hoping the new faces will do just as well. A fascinating season ahead for Swansea City and one that will see the first all Welsh match in the Premier League.
Champions League is a must this year for Spurs having missed out in each of the last seasons, very unfortunately of course in 2011/2012. Obviously their chance are better if Gareth Bale stays and I hope he do because he is a hugely entertaining player and I don’t think he will be appreciated as much at Real Madrid. Tottenham have heavily strengthened this summer and spent a fair bit of money in doing so. Roberto Soldado comes in from Valencia for the pricey sum of £26m a lot of money for a 28 year-old and he will need to hit the ground running. I think they should keep Jermaine Defoe as he still represents one of the best finishers in the league. Paulinho and Etienne Capoue come in from Cornthians and Toulouse respectively and both are highly regarded players. A lot must be expected from them as it has allowed Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore to move to Hull and those two could still have done a good job for Spurs, but it obviously shows the board are backing and believing in AVB to take them into the top 4. They look a lot stronger than Arsenal at the moment and I would be surprised if they finished below the Gunners.
A fantastic year for Steve Clarke in his first job as manager. He obviously picked up a lot in his time working as an assistant at many of the top clubs. Romelu Lukaku was fantastic for them last year and it will be a shame id he isn’t given a chance at Stamford Bridge this season. His performances at the Hawthorns were brilliant, and Nicolas Anelka has come in to try replicate Lukaku’s goal scoring exploits but I’m unsure as to how much game time they will get out of him. Matej Vydra will also take on some of that responsibility coming in on loan from Udinese after a great season at Watford. But if he was that good then surely Udinese would have kept him on. The signing of Diego Lugano from PSG is a superb one. He has always impressed me as a rock in defence, and the captain of Uruguay will shine in the Premier League. Perhaps the Baggies won’t do as well as last season when they finished 8th but I certainly still expect them to be the best team in the Midlands.
This summer has seen the Hammers secure the signings of two Liverpool rejects in desperate need of rediscovering their best form. £15 million spent on Andy Carroll and £5 million on Stewart Downing. The latter could represent a bargain if he can play as well as he did when last in claret and blue at Aston Villa. I think Sam Allardyce could be the one to get the best out of these two. Carroll showed glimpses last season perhaps not enough to grant the reported £100k a week he is on but nevertheless West Ham could be set for a decent campaign. No other major signings really apart from Razvan Rat, the experience Romanian adding both defensive and attacking qualities to the left hand side. The Hammers showed ambition in trying to sign Negredo from Sevilla but with much the same squad as last year it will be another solid season for Big Sam and his boys. A tough team to beat and should be comfortably in mid table.