Premier League Preview – 2011/2012 (Part Four)

12 08 2011

Swansea City

Brendan Rogers has been fairly busy strengthening his squad this summer and has spent £10.2million in a bid to survive in the top flight. Rogers has spent that money on players who are more familiar with the Championship than the Premier League, though. Danny Graham has been charged with the responsibility of scoring the goals needed to survive after his £3.4million move from Watford. Wayne Routledge joins Swansea, and club number nine in the process, for a fee of £2.8million, Leroy Lita cost £1.7million from Middlesbrough whilst goalkeepers Michel Vorm (£1.5million) and Jose Moreira (£750k) join from FC Utrecht and Benfica respectively.

Brendan Rogers likes his team to play attacking football and often deploys a 4-3-3 formation. This leads to obvious comparisons to Blackpool last season. I think Swansea will begin life in the Premier League in a similar fashion too. If we look at Hull City and Blackpool, the last two Championship play-off winners before Swansea, the ‘surprise factor’ was often mentioned as a reason for their good starts. Last season I was impressed with Swansea in an attacking sense and their defensive record was the best in the Championship at home which leads me to believe they will get off to a good start this season too. A strong start and getting points on the board early is crucial for newly promoted sides. Failure to do so can lead to a long and rather miserable season.

Key Player: Scott Sinclair

Net Spend: -£10.2million

Prediction: 17th

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham’s quiet summer so far makes it difficult to imagine them challenging for the Champions League places this season. Brad Friedel arrived from Aston Villa and the veteran American goalkeeper signed a two-year-deal at White Hart Lane. The highly-rated Souleymane Coulibaly signed from Siena for an undisclosed fee and Cristian Ceballos joined on a free transfer from Barcelona B. Two senior members of the Spurs squad have departed with the injury-plagued Jonathan Woodgate  joining Stoke City on a free transfer whilst Jamie O’Hara turned his loan move at Wolves into a permanent deal for £3.5million.

The Luka Modric ‘saga’ continues to unfold and Tottenham need that to be resolved one way or the other before the season kicks off. Modric is an outstanding player and would be a great addition to any team. If he doesn’t want to stay at Tottenham, though, it might be best if Harry Redknapp cashes in.

The biggest problem with the Spurs squad is the lack of a top class striker. They have talent in abundance in midfield with Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone, Rafael Van Der Vaart (pictured), Gareth Bale and, of course, Luka Modric all excellent at

Rafael van der Vaart

Image via Wikipedia

fashioning out chances for strikers but there isn’t a striker at the club good enough to lead the line on his own and score goals on a regular basis. Jermain Defoe is still a top quality finisher but Harry Redknapp opted to play one up front for large periods of last season with Rafael Van Der Vaart deployed just behind the lone striker and Defoe isn’t equipped to play the lone role up front. Robbie Keane’s second spell at the club has been a complete disaster and he is coming ever closer to leaving the club. Peter Crouch showed signs last season that his days playing at the top level are coming to an end and Roman Pavlyuchenko has struggled to score regularly since signing from Spartak Moscow  in 2008. Pavlyuchenko’s record at Tottenham is 20 goals in 73 games; a ratio close to a goal every four games.

Tottenham have looked to ease their striker crisis on a number of occasions. Harry Redknapp lodged a bid for Andy Carroll in January before he moved to Liverpool and Fernando Llorente, Hulk and Giuseppe Rossi have all been linked with big-money moves to White Hart Lane this summer. Neither of those three are realistically likely to join Tottenham but there is someone who appears to be close to agreeing a season-long deal to return to north London. That man is Emmanuel Adebayor. Adebayor, whilst not a popular figure among the Tottenham faithful, is the type of player Tottenham need if they are to continue with a 4-2-3-1 formation. He is comfortable leading the line on his own and the service provided from a creative midfield should ensure that he is a success for Tottenham this season.

Tottenham’s rivals have spent considerable amounts of money this summer and unless they bring in reinforcements before the transfer window slams shut on the 1st September, it’s  hard to imagine they will keep up with the rest of the teams aiming to secure Champions League football.

Key Player: Rafael Van Der Vaart

Net Spend: +£3.5million

Prediction: 6th

West Bromwich Albion

Roy Hodgson has done a good job at West Brom since replacing Roberto Di Matteo as manager in February this year. He safely guided The Baggies to 11th place last season and will hope to build on that finish this season. He has added to his squad with the record signing of Shane Long for an initial fee of £4.4million and Ben Foster could turn out to be the bargain of the season after his switch from rivals Birmingham City for just £970k. Boaz Myhill joined Birmingham on loan as part of that deal. Zoltan Gera has returned to the club where he made his name in England, leaving Fulham on a free transfer.

West Brom have a decent squad and one which should have no problems in surviving in the Premier League again this season. There is a worry that West Brom’s defence remains somewhat suspect and there have not been any defensive reinforcements so far. However, the influential Chris Brunt has remained at the club and so have Youssouf Mulumbu, Graham Dorrans and Peter Odemwingie. The retention of these key players coupled with the additions of Foster and Long should inspire belief that West Brom can secure another mid-table finish this season.

Key Player: Chris Brunt

Net Spend: -£3.4million

Prediction: 13th

Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic continue to defy the odds by establishing themselves as a Premier League club, having remained in the top flight since promotion was won in 2005.  They narrowly escaped relegation last season but this summer’s transfer activity points to another season in a relegation battle. Ali Al-Habsi impressed enough on loan last season to earn a permanent deal and Oman’s number 1 joins The Latics for £3.7million. David Jones joins on a free transfer from Wolves and the pair are the only signings made by Roberto Martinez this summer.

Charles N’Zogbia is arguably the biggest reason Wigan are still a Premier League club. His goals and assists proved just enough to lead Wigan to safety and earned him a transfer to Aston Villa as a result. This season, there a two players who need to perform consistently if Wigan are to have any chance of surviving again. These are Hudo Rodallega and James McCarthy. Both have been linked with moves away from the club but as the beginning of the season edges ever closer, Wigan will do everything in their power to keep the two at the club. Without N’Zogbia, though, Wigan’s fight for survival has been made all the more difficult and this could be the season their Premier League journey comes to an end.

Key Player: Hugo Rodallega 

Net Spend: +£5.9million

Prediction: 18th

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves begin their third successive season in the Premier League away to Blackburn Rovers and the moves made by manager Mick McCarthy in the transfer market this summer point to them surviving once more. The acquisition of Roger Johnson for £7million is very good business and Jamie O’Hara will add some much-needed creativity to Wolves’ midfield. O’Hara was on loan at Molineux last season and has made the move permanent for £3.5million. With no high-profile departures, Wolves are in good shape for the coming season.

The defence and midfield have been strengthened this summer so it is vital that key strikers Steven Fletcher and Kevin Doyle remain fit. Both are very good, underrated players and their goals will be key for Wolves this season. The two complement each other very well and should become a good partnership if McCarthy plays two strikers.

Wayne Hennessey has established himself as McCarthy’s number 1 goalkeeper which means there is a strong spine to the team in Hennessey, Johnson, O’Hara, Fletcher and Doyle. If all five remain fit and in form, Wolves should enjoy a successful season.

Key Player: Kevin Doyle

Net Spend: -£9.6million

Prediction: 15th

Predicted Table

1- Manchester United

2- Chelsea

3- Manchester City

4- Liverpool

5- Arsenal

6- Tottenham Hotspur

7- Aston Villa

8- Sunderland

9- Everton

10- Stoke City

11- Bolton Wanderers

12- Fulham

13- West Bromwich Albion

14- Newcastle United

15- Wolverhampton Wanderers

16- Blackburn Rovers

17- Swansea City

18-Wigan Athletic

19- Queens Park Rangers

20- Norwich City

All transfer fees correct according to the excellent TransferMarkt. Don’t believe the exaggerated fees you see in newspapers and on Sky Sports News!

Click here for Part One

Click here for Part Two

Click here for Part Three





Premier League Preview – 2011/2012 (Part Three)

11 08 2011
English football (soccer) player Joey Barton

Image via Wikipedia

Newcastle United

Newcastle United appear to be coming close to turmoil once more under Mike Ashley’s leadership (or lack of). As we all know, on January transfer deadline day Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool for a staggering £35million. With no time to find a replacement, Mike Ashley explained on record in an attempt to appease disgruntled, yet loyal, fans that all the money would be available for Alan Pardew to spend this summer. So far, Newcastle have spent just £7.3million on Yohan Cabaye (£4.4million), which is terrific business considering how impressive he was for Lille last year, and £2.9million on Manchester United flop Gabriel Obertan who has been given a five-year-deal. Pardew has continued his French Revolution by signing Demba Ba (yes, I know he plays for Senegal!) on a free transfer and former Rennes winger Sylvain Marveaux, also on a free transfer.

Incidentally, Newcastle have sold former captain Kevin Nolan to West Ham for £2.9million. Nolan became frustrated at St. James’ Park after he was refused a new and improved five-year-deal, the same length given to boss Alan Pardew and Gabriel Obertan by Mike Ashley. Football’s youngest journeyman Wayne Routledge has joined his ninth professional club in Swansea City for £2.2million and Jose Enrique’s refusal to sign a new contract has led him to also grow disillusioned with life on Tyneside. A £6million move to Liverpool appears to be nearing completion. There’s not much time left remaining for Alan Pardew to spend the Andy Carroll transfer kitty.

Newcastle’s woes have continued as Joey Barton (pictured) joined Jose Enrique by taking to his keyboard and launching a scathing attack on his employers. Subsequently, Barton has been told he can leave the club on a free transfer. The departure of experienced players will do little to help Newcastle improve on last season’s respectable 12th place finish. Their squad is not as good as the one which was relegated in 2009 but it is better than six or seven in the Premier League. As long as Mike Ashley is chairman of Newcastle United, Premier League survival should be the realistic aim for the Toon Army.

Key Player: Yohan Cabaye

Net Spend: -£1.5million

Prediction: 14th

Norwich City

Norwich City’s remarkable rise from League 1 to the Premier League in just two seasons is an outstanding achievement. It is the first time a team has won back-to-back promotions to the top flight since Joe Royle accomplished the same feat with Manchester City in 2000.

Since losing 7-1 at home to Colchester on the opening day of the 2009/2010 League 1 season, Paul Lambert has made himself a hero at Carrow Road and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic with him leading Norwich in the top flight for the first time since 2005.  That said, with optimism should come caution as Norwich have spent just £6.9million on players mainly associated with teams plying their trade outside the top flight. James Vaughan does have Premier League experience with Everton and he joined Norwich this summer for £2million. Wales international Steve Morison has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top flight of his own after spending five years playing non-league football with Bishop’s Stortford and Stevenage Borough before signing for Millwall in 2009. He joins Norwich this summer from Championship side Millwall in a deal worth £2.4million. Bradley Johnson is the last of the permanent signings at Carrow Road and he signed on a free transfer from Leeds United.

Paul Lambert turned his attention to the best of what League 1 had to offer by quickly signing Elliot Bennett from Champions Brighton and Hove Albion for a fraction under £1.5million and Anthony Pilkington for £970k from Huddersfield Town. Pilkington, much like Steve Morison, is also familiar with non-league football after he spent a short time with Atherton Collieries following his release from Blackburn Rovers in 2006. Youngsters Kyle Naughton and Ritchie De Laet have joined The Canaries on season-long loan deals from Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United respectively.

If Norwich can bring in one or two more proven Premier League players they might have a chance of avoiding relegation.  As it stands, it’s difficult to imagine Norwich City as a Premier League side when the 2012/2013 season begins.

Prediction: 20th

Net Spend: -£6.9million

Key Player: Grant Holt

Queens Park Rangers:

QPR have added to their squad with one or two decent signings but it has been a relatively quiet summer at Loftus Road. Neil Warnock has mainly signed unattached players as they prepare to battle for Premier League survival. Jay Bothroyd, Daniel Gabbidon, Kieron Dyer and Brian Murphy have all joined QPR on free transfers whilst DJ Campbell has returned to the club he joined as a six-year-old after completing a £1.7million move from Blackpool. Bothroyd and Campbell should make a decent partnership should Warnock opt to play two strikers.

QPR have so far managed to retain the services of their gifted, but somewhat erratic, captain Adel Taarabt and cultured Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlin which offers hope to Rangers’ fans in an attacking sense.  Defensively, Warnock’s side seems a bit thin in terms of numbers and quality which will make it difficult for them over the course of a season. QPR may attempt to replicate the Blackpool model by aiming to outscore their opposition so expect to see them involved in a number of high-scoring games but, ultimately, their fate will likely be the same as Blackpool’s last season and relegation beckons.

Prediction: 19th

Net Spend: £-1.7million

Key Player: Adel Taarabt

Stoke City

Tony Pulis has yet to spend a penny in transfer fees this summer but he has snapped up released former England defenders Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson. Woodgate joins on a pay-as-you-play deal which could prove to be a masterstroke by Pulis as the former Tottenham defender’s quality is there for all to see. Pulis is reportedly in negotiations with Tottenham over the signing of Honduras grafter Wilson Palacios whilst Peter Crouch is still on his radar.

Stoke have become a team with a reputation for their in-your-face attitude and they are incredibly difficult to beat at the Britannia Stadium. Whilst their style of play isn’t always one for the purists they play to their strengths and that has seen them establish themselves as a Premier League side and they can also look forward to European football this season. Pulis has gradually assembled a squad capable of handling the rigours of playing twice a week.

Europa League qualifiers leave Stoke’s players match fit and in great condition as they prepare to host Chelsea on Sunday. Whilst it’s difficult to imagine Stoke remaining in Europe as the season draws to a close, their fans should be optimistic about enjoying another successful in the Premier League and building on last season’s 13th place finish.

Prediction: 10th

Net Spend: +£250k

Key Player: Ryan Shawcross

Sunderland

Sunderland have had the busiest summer of any Premier League team in terms of comings-and-goings. Steve Bruce has wisely spent the £15.8million fee received for Jordan Henderson by bringing in a blend of experienced players and highly rated youngsters for the future.  John O’Shea (£3.9million) and Wes Brown (£1.3million) should prove to be good signings so Bruce has done very well to acquire the pair for relatively little money. Ahmed Elmohamady impressed enough during his loan spell last season to convince Bruce to sign him permanently in a deal worth £2.2million to his former club Enppi.

Bruce turned his sights to bolstering his midfield by signing two of the most sought after free transfers in the country in Seb Larsson and David Vaughan who impressed for Blackpool last season. Former Coventry goalkeeper Kieran Westwood has also made the move to the Wearside on a free transfer. Craig Gardner will add some creativity to Sunderland’s midfield and his eye for goal convinced Bruce to splash out £5.8million on the man who finished as Birmingham City’s top scorer last season.

Chairman Niall Quinn opened his chequebook again by signing youngster Connor Wickham for an initial fee of £7.9million from Ipswich Town and one-time Reading man Ji Dong-Won joins for £2.1million from K-League side Chunnam Dragons.

The squad overhaul has been completed by moving on six players who featured regularly in the first team last season. Jordan Henderson’s transfer has already been mentioned and John Mensah has joined Lyon on loan, Bolo Zenden has been released at his own request, Cristian Riveros has ended his unhappy spell in England by joining Turkish side Kayserispor,  Steed Malbranque has ended his ten-year spell in the English top flight by signing for France’s most successful club Saint-Étienne and George McCartney has ended his second spell with Sunderland by returning to West Ham United for a second spell.

Asamoah Gyan has remained at the club and he is pivotal to this team. He is the only striker at the club who has proved he belongs in the top flight. The biggest problem Steve Bruce might have will be getting his new signings to gel together as a team. Such overhauls to first teams are rare in football so it will be interesting to see how well Bruce fares. He has spent £23million in a bid to improve Sunderland’s on-pitch fortunes after a disappointing end to the previous campaign.

Key Player: Asamoah Gyan

Net Spend: £-7.8million

Prediction: 8th

All transfer fees correct according to the excellent TransferMarkt. Don’t believe the exaggerated fees you see in newspapers and on Sky Sports News!

Click here for Part One

Click here for Part Two








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