mehstg's 2011-12 season preview

ahead of tottenham's opening league game, wyart lane looks at the other clubs who are all looking to stay
in the premier league ... Sorry, I mean challenge to win the most competitive league in the world.

A winning mentality has been something missing from Arsenal's locker room since the backroom wrangling ended with Stan Kroenke buying a majority share in the club.  With the manager not knowing a quarter decent centre-back or net-minder when he sees one, the only way is attack for the Gooners, but the mis-firing of their forwards over the last couple of seasons has left them trailing behind the top few.

Not much has been done to remedy the problems and Wenger's intransigence threatens to drag the side down even further, as the Fabregas and Samri situations roll on and on.  The later these issues are sorted out, the less time he will have to bring players in and his obsession with signing young boys is wearing thin with the Highbury faithful who want some old heads to stiffen up the side.

Another season chasing silverware might be Wenger's epitaph at the club, as with the cyclical nature of football we are now seeing Arsenal as a team in decline.

Predicted Finish : -   4th
Predicted Highpoint
A League Cup final ... but a losing one again.
Predicted Lowpoint
When a journalist asks Arsene Wenger some off the wall questions, he includes one about Chemistry and wonders if the Frenchman knows what the symbol Au stands for.  "Gold," he replies.  Following up with "What about Ag ?", the journalist was leapt upon and beaten senseless with a water bottle by the Arsenal boss.

Gervinho (11m, Lille)
Jon Toral (Undisclosed, Barcelona)
Hector Bellerin (Undisclosed, Barcelona)
Carl Jenkinson (Undisclosed, Charlton Athletic)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (12m, Southampton)
Joel Campbell (Undisclosed, Deportivo Saprissa [Costa Rica)



Gael Clichy (7m, Manchester City)
Mark Randall (Free, Chesterfield)
Roarie Deacon (Free, Sunderland)
Samuel Galindo (loan, Giminastic De Tarragona [Spain])
James Shea (loan, Dagenham & Redbridge)
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (1.1m, Ipswich Town)
Denilson (loan, Sao Paolo [Brazil])
Emmaneul Eboue (3m, Galatasaray [Turkey])




Aston Villa
Selling your best players might be the way to survive financially in the Premier League, but sometimes the on-field results hold more sway with the fans and the league table then those on the balance sheet.  There is no doubt that the business done at Villa Park this close season has been good, but the money will be burning a hole in the fans pockets, as they see where the team needs to be strengthened.

Losing Ashley Young and Stewart Downing cuts off the supply lines to Darren Bent, who must have thought he had run over a number of black cats rather than to have merely played for them.  Charles N'Zogbia is no doubt a fine player, but he can't do two players' work and Marc Albrighton is a bright young player, but again, he is still learning his trade.  Without Agbonlahor or Delfouneso firing up front and with Carew leaving, Villa may find goal-scoring a problem, as they have done in previous years. 

Signing Shay Given goes without saying that it is a good move and he will be s good replacement for Brad Friedel, but their defence needed upgrading, with Cuellar on his way out and the full backs not being totally convincing.  Alex McLeish will know what a good defender is made of and will be looking to spend some of the funds raised, but it might prove harder to attract them.  Some might have played for him at Birmingham, so that will probably rule them out.

Much of their success in the coming season will place a heavy burden of responsibility on their younger squad members.  Fabian Delph will be fit again, so will add some effort and guile in midfield, but some of the others, such as Bannan, Gardner and Clark will have to make rapid strides to step up to being Premier League regulars.

Predicted Finish : -    10th
Predicted Highpoint

Draw against one of the top four and finishing with a record of 10 wins, 18 draws, 10 defeats and a goal difference of 0.

Predicted Lowpoint

This week's manager, who replaced Alex McLeish, is the subject of protests from the Villa fans and is under pressure before he even starts, as he used to manage the Kitts Green Under-7s.


Shay Given (3.5m, Manchester City)
Charles N'Zogbia (9.5m, Wigan Athletic)







Ashley Young (20m, Manchester United)
Stuart Downing (20m, Liverpool)
Nigel Reo-Coker (Free, Bolton Wanderers)
Brad Friedel (Free, Tottenham Hotspur)
Calum Flanagan (released)
John Carew (released)
Durrell Berry (released)
Isaiah Osbourne (released)
Ellis Deeney (released)
Moustapha Salifou (released)
Harry Forester (released)
Arsenio Halfhuid (released)
Robert Pires (released)




Blackburn Rovers
Rovers have been one of the clubs stuck in the bottom half of the table over the last few years, without setting the league alight, but they thought that might change when the chicken millionaires strutted into town with promises of riches being plucked from their bank accounts to build a great team at Ewood Park.

Unfortunately, manager Steve Kean has not been able to compete with Manchester City for the bet players in the world.  In fact, he has not been able to compete with many of the top teams in the Premier League for transfer targets, attracting only a couple of players to the North-West side who only stayed up on the last day of the season. 

His own pedigree does not set the pulses of foreign imports and the side have been workman-like rather than sparking, with Morten Gamst Pedersen being the outstanding player on their books for a while.  Whether Goodwillie will make an inch of difference to Rovers' position remains to be seen, as he has to adapt to the English game.  The loss of Phil Jones to Manchester United and the potential departure of Samba will leave their defence light and even Paul Robinson in goal might be hard pushed to keep them out of a battle at the bottom of the table.

Predicted Finish : -  17th
Predicted Highpoint
Being voted as having the Best pie in the Premier League sees Venky's pick up the promised silverware for the Ewood Park club for the first time in years.
Predicted Lowpoint
Losing to West Bromwich Albion in the battle of the Balti.

David Goodwillie (Undisclosed, Dundee United)





Phil Jones (16.5m, Manchester United)
Jason Brown (Free, Aberdeen)
Frank Fielding (Undisclosed, Derby County)
Benjani Mwaruwari (Free, Portsmouth)
Jordan Bowen (released)
Maceo Rigters (released)
Zurab Khizanishvili (released)
Michael Potts (released)




Bolton Wanderers
Owen Coyle has got Bolton playing a bit of football compared to their up and under days, but Kevin Davies is still using his elbows at the sharp end of the field to remind us of how the Trotters used to be.

They still have a better balanced squad than in previous years, with the mix of willing workers and the talented player, but injuries to Lee and Mears have robbed them of two players before the season starts.  The loss of keeper Al Habsi will leave them a little short of cover for Jaaskaleinen, while Elmander's goals and improving play up will be missed up front.  The hope is that Swansea's Pratley and Reo-Coker will add fight and creativity in midfield, while Eagles' delivery should provide chances for the strikers.

With Daniel Sturridge being a  boon for Coyle's side last season, they might miss his direct hunger for goals and the defence will be sound enough as long as they can hang onto Gary Cahill.

Predicted Finish : -   9th
Predicted Highpoint
With the recession hitting the North-West hard, the Trotters are in big demand.  Unfortunately, it is only pigs feet that are a must have for boiling up rather than interest in the football team.
Predicted Lowpoint
Prolonged cup runs to the Third round of both domestic cups hits Bolton's league form.

Darren Pratley (Free, Swansea City)
Nigel Reo-Coker (Free, Aston Villa)
Chris Eagles (Undisclosed, Burnley)
Tyrone Mears (Undisclosed, Burnley)






Ali Al Habsi (4m, Wigan Athletic)
Matt Taylor (Undisclosed, West Ham United)
Joey O'Brien (Free, West Ham United)
Danny Ward (Undisclosed, Huddersfield Town)
Johan Elmander (Free, Galatasaray [Turkey])
Sam Sheridan (Free, Stockport County)
Andrew Brown (Free, Bradford City)
Jlloyd Samuel (Released)
Tamir Cohen (Released)
Maison McGeechan (Released)
Tom Eckersley (Released)




The buying and selling of players seems to have bored Roman Abramovich and he now deals exclusively in managers.  Andre Villas Boas becomes the sixth in as many years at the Bridge and how long he stands there will depend a lot on the captain and the crew's allegiance to him.  A strong dressing room might oust the new boss, but the youthful appearance might make it hard for some of the grizzly old brigade there to take instruction.

With the money available to Abramovich, new managers with new shopping lists do not put a dent in his overall wealth, but the prices he is being quoted now come in comparison to those willing to be paid by Manchester City.  Chelsea are no longer the only show in town and despite their second place last season, will be pushed for that slot by the Abu Dhabi funded City side.

There is still enough ability in the team, but the age of some players will make them vulnerable come the last third of the season and their ability to recover form injury might mean that the depth of the squad might be tested.  Leaving the domestic cups for their younger players, the Premier and Champions Leagues will be their main targets.

Predicted Finish : -   3rd
Predicted Highpoint
Roman Abramovich gets his dream of European success, when Chelsea beat Arsenal in the final of the Europa League after both clubs drop down from the Champions League
Predicted Lowpoint
With all of Roman Abramovich's pocket money going into the Russian 2018 World Cup campaign, Chelsea are scrabbling around for 20 million players

Oriel Romeu (4.35m, Barcelona [Spain])
Romelu Lukaku (19m, Anderlecht [Belgium])
Thibaut Courtois (Undisclosed, Genk [Belgium])
Juan Mata (23.5m, Valencia [Spain])




Michael Mancienne (3m, Hamburg [Germany])
Jeffrey Bruma (Undisclosed, Hamburg [Germany])
Jacopo Sala (Undisclosed, Hamburg [Germany])
Gokhan Tore (Undisclosed, Hamburg [Germany])
Jack Cork (750,000, Southampton)
Danny Philliskirk (Free, Sheffield United)
Sam Walker (Loan, Northampton Town)
Milan Lalkovic (Loan, Doncaster Rovers)
Bobby Devyne (Released)
Sam Hutchinson (Released)
Michael Woods (Released)
Ben Sampayo (Released)
Carl Magnay (Released)
Anton Rodgers (Released)
Jan Sebek (Released)




With limited resources, David Moyes has done remarkably well over a long period of time at Goodison Park, but with little movement into the club, can he engender the belief in a team to make a charge into the top six ?   That is unlikely, but they always end up in the top half, usually after a poor start.

But with a string of young players coming to the fore, Moyes hasn't needed to spend big.  The likes of Coleman, Rodwell and Barkley all appear to be pushing into the first team, but injury, being out of favour and being introduced into the team are all issues that affect the three respectively.  In addition, the older squad members and those with ambitions higher than finishing in the top half might rob them of players come January.  Arteta already has said he would like to return to Spain to play and Phil Neville might not be too far his brother in retiring.

But the biggest issue for Everton is up front, where they lack a regular goal-scorer.  With Arteta contributing from dead ball situations and Coleman getting forward to score on the overlap, the forwards - Saha, Beckford and Anichebe - need to start hitting the target more prolifically to help the Toffees get stuck into the upper echelons of the league table.

Predicted Finish : -   11th
Predicted Highpoint
When the Euro is devalued, the joy from seeing Liverpool's purchases suddenly becoming even more hugely over-priced.
Predicted Lowpoint
Only headline all season concerns the haircut of Marouane Fellaini

Eric Dier (Loan, Sporting Lisbon [Portugal])






James Vaughan (2.5m, Norwich City)
Iain Turner (Free, Preston North End)
Kieran Agard (Free, Yeovil Town)
Hope Akpan (Free, Crawley Town)
John Nolan (Free, Stockport County)
Lee McArdle (released)
Gerard Kinsella (released)
Daniel Murphy (released)
Craig Nathan (released)






The return of BMJ sees the Premier League perhaps become a brighter place.  The former Spurs boss takes over at Fulham, but the team more famed for their regular draws, might experience differing emotions this season as Martin takes them on the same roller-coaster ride he rode at Spurs a few years back.

Unfairly dismissed from White Hart Lane, he returns to England a wiser man, having spent spells with Hamburg and Ajax, but he will still try and play football with his teams, albeit with limited resources this time.  So far, his signings have been a mix of talented youngsters for the future and John Arne Riise.  Not a transfer policy to ensure that the Cottagers make the move into the top half, but with players he knew from Tottenham - Simon Davies, Stephen Kelly and Bobby Zamora - as well as defender Brede Hangeland, the American striker Clint Dempsey and midfielder Steve Sidwell, he has the making of a bit of a spine to the team.

While the team have already played a few games in the Europa League, it will be those they play in the domestic league that will assess how much Jol has learned while he has been away.  It may take him a couple of seasons to get the team the way he wants ... if he is allowed that much time.

Predicted Finish : -   12th
Predicted Highpoint
Martin Jol signs Edgar Davids, Thimothee Atouba, Steed Malbranque, Teemu Tainio and Noureddine Naybet.
Predicted Lowpoint
Martin Jol suspended for eight games after clumping Arsene Wenger one when the Arsenal manager throws a water bottle down and it bounces up to hit the Fulham boss.

Marcel Gecov (Undisclosed, Slovan Liberec [Czech Republic])
John Arne Riise (Undisclosed, AS Roma [Italy])
Pajtim Kasami (Undisclosed, Palermo [Italy])
Dan Burn (Undisclosed, Darlington)
Csaba Somogyi (Undisclosed, Rakospalotai [Hungary])



Jonathan Greening (Undisclosed, Nottingham Forest)
Kagisho Dikgacoi (Undisclosed, Crystal Palace)
John Pantsil (Free, Leicester City)
Diomansy Kamara (Free, Eskiehirspor [Turkey])
David Stockdale (Loan, Ipswich Town)
Carlos Salcido (Season long loan, Tigres [Mexico])
Eddie Johnson (released)
Zoltan Gera (released)
Matthew Reece (released)
Matthew Saunders (released)





So, the return of King Kenny to Anfield has been over-shadowed by the Harry Redknapp style transfer dealings that have gone on this summer, spending huge amounts on players who may not warrant it and moving others out through the Shankly gates in a severe make-over of his squad for the new season.

Fringe players have been shipped out with their replacements being more likely to add something to the squad, but it will be interesting to see how Stewart Downing fares, with Carroll to aim for, but his play hasn't always impressed me.  Charlie Adam was a target for Spurs in January, but after his performance at the Lane, my opinion of him went down and Jordan Henderson ahs to go a way before he can be regarded as a hardened Premier League regular.

With Jamie Carragher on his last legs, but hopefully still able enough to score for us, as he often does and Steven Gerrard's prolonged groin trouble, the old spine of the team might be bending to a new tune, with Luis Suarez the cutting edge Dalglish hopes will step the Reds up the table.  They might make that progress, but not to the Champions League this time around.

Predicted Finish : -   6th
Predicted Highpoint
A narrow 1-0 win over Manchester United in the early rounds of the League Cup.
Predicted Lowpoint
Finding out that they bought shrewdly, but only to qualify for the Europa League, which their American owners thought was a better thing than a League just for Champions.

Alexander Doni (Free, AS Roma [Italy])
Stewart Downing (20m, Aston Villa)
Charlie Adam (9m, Blackpool)
Jordan Henderson (20m, Sunderland)
Jose Enrique (6m, Newcastle United)







Paul Konchesky (Undisclosed, Leicester City)
Chris Mavinga (Undisclosed, Rennes [France])
Thomas Ince (Undisclosed, Blackpool)
Gerardo Bruna (Undisclosed, Blackpool)
Daniel Ayala (Undisclosed, Norwich City)
Peter Gulacsi (Loan, Hull City)
Stephen Darby (Loan, Rochdale)
Martin Hansen (Loan, Bradford City)
Sean Highdale (released)
Nikola Saric (released)
Jason Banton (released)
Steven Irwin (released)
Deale Chamberlain (released)
Alex Cooper (released)




Manchester City
How much money buys you the Premier League ?  Differing amounts for different clubs, but Manchester City are throwing money at it like there is no tomorrow and with oil coming out of their owners' ears, it is not something they have to worry about ... until the UEFA Fair Play Officials start to examine their sponsorship deals.  Not quite an insider trading situation, but with friends in rich places able to be called upon, it leaves everyone else chasing their cast-offs.  And the cost of wages even puts teams off taking them unless City help fund the deal.

However, the players they have brought in will address the problems they had.  If Tevez does go, then Aguero is a class finisher, who will do well with or without his Argentine team-mate.  Clichy is better than they had and if Nasri arrives, he could replace the leaden footed Gareth Barry to form an attacking midfield duo with David Silva.

Having tons of money does not guarantee success and I don't think it will bring in the league title this year, but it might not be long in coming.

Predicted Finish : -   2nd
Predicted Highpoint
Seeing the match day pies contain Abu Dhabian delicacies, as the catering receives a 400 million boost in a new deal from a Middle East bakers.
Predicted Lowpoint
Finding out that money doesn't buy you everything.

Sergio Aguero (38m, Atletico Madrid [Spain])
Costel Pantilimon (Undisclosed, Poli TImisoara [Romania])
Gael Clichy (7m, Arsenal)
Stefan Savic (7m, Partizan Belgrade [Serbia])







Jerome Boateng (17m to Bayern Munich [Germany])
Shaleum Logan (Free, Brentford)
Shay Given (3.5m, Aston Villa)
Michael Johnson (Loan, Leicester City)
Kieran Trippier (Loan, Burnley)
Ben Mee (Loan, Burnley)
Scott Kay (Free, Macclesfield Town)
Donal McDermott (Free, Huddersfield Town)
Ryan McGivern (Loan, Crystal Palace)
Andrew Tutte (Free, Rochdale)
Jo (Undisclosed, Internacional [Brazil])
James Wood (released)
James Poole (released)
Javan Vidal (released)
Patrick Vieira (released)





Manchester United

It was a little bit of a struggle, but a good run-in saw the Premier League title return to Gold Trafford.  And they were probably worthy winners, as everyone else didn't seem to want to win it. 

With Alex Ferguson having been in the game long enough to know how to do things, he signed up most of his players early in the summer and gelled the team away in the USA, when they had time together.  With a few retirements, the old guard are almost gone at United and the new faces are taking centre-stage, with some very talented youngsters wearing the red shirts.

Phil Jones is a very capable centre-half, who can play a bit, so alongside Ferdinand or Vidic, he will develop well and Hernandez up front is a Solskjaer type striker who will get many goals.  If Rooney recaptures his form and De Gea can get over his early United jitters, they should go on to retain their title despite the fuss caused by their noisy neighbours.

Predicted Finish : -   1st
New signing David De Gea wins hunkiest new signing in the Pink Paper.
Predicted Lowpoint
Alex Ferguson has to call the Council in to deal with the noisy neighbours.

Phil Jones (16m, Blackburn Rovers)
Ashley Young (20m, Aston Villa)
David De Gea (20m, Atletico Madrid [Spain])
Pierluigi Gollini (Free, Fiorentina [Italy])







Gabriel Obertan (3m, Newcastle United)
Nicky Ajose (Undisclosed, Peterborough United)
John O'Shea (Undisclosed, Sunderland)
Wes Brown (Undisclosed, Sunderland)
Scott Wootton (Loan, Peterborough United)
Ryan Tunnicilffe (Loan, Peterborough United)
Joe Dudgeon (Undisclosed, Hull City)
Bebe (Loan, Besiktas [Turkey])
Robbie Brady (Loan, Hull City)
Owen Hargreaves (Released)
Conor Devlin (Released)
Edwin van der Sar (Retired)
Gary Neville (Retired)
Paul Scholes (Retired)
Oliver Gill (Retired)




Newcastle United
Sacking Chris Hughton after the manager had got them to the Premier League was perhaps one of the harshest dismissals of last season.  One of the Cockney mafia, Chrissy was replaced by another - Alan Pardew and he managed a few thrilling games for the club in keeping them in the Prem, while managing to lose Andy Carroll (that was careless) and now he announces that the club cannot challenge for the top players because of finances.

That leaves him scrabbling around for players who might fit their finances, but with the option of selling to buy, but that might mean losing some of their better players.  Looking light up front and with the troubled and troublesome Joey Barton in midfield, the future does not look great for the Toon.

They should have enough experience to survive this season, but a few bad results might see them struggle near the bottom of the table.

Predicted Finish : -   15th
Will have the upper hand in the North-East, as their fans will know most of their team, as they haven't been able to buy anyone.
Predicted Lowpoint
Riots break out on Tyneside and looting takes place St. James' Park.  The club reported that most of the players were training there at the time and were left untouched as the only things of value taken were the light bulbs.

Demba Ba (Undisclosed, West Ham United)
Mehdi Abeid (Undisclosed, Lens [France])
Sylvain Marveaux (Free, Rennes [France])
Yohan Cabaye (4.8m, Lille [France])
Gabriel Obertan (3m, Manchester United)





Kevin Nolan (2m, West Ham United)
Jose Enrique (6m, Liverpool)
Wayne Routledge (2.3m, Swansea City)
Ben Tozer (Free, Northampton Town)
Daniel Leadbitter (Free, Torquay United)
Patrick McLaughlin (Free, York City)
Kazenga Lualua (Loan, Brighton & Hove Albion)
Sol Campbell (released)
Shefki Kuqi (released)
Andy Mogwo (released)
Nathan Evans (released)




Norwich City
There is little doubt that Paul Lambert will be a successful Premier League manager, but the only question hanging over his head is will it be with Norwich ?  Having taken the Canaries to two successive promotions, the Norfolk side will need all the manager's tactical skill and preparation to get the necessary points to stay up this campaign.

And of all the teams who came up, you feel that it is his influence on the side that might make that difference.  While Warnock rants and Brendan Rogers talks a good game, Lambert gets on with it in his dour Glasgow way.  The only deciding factor will be how his players adapt to the extra quality they will face in the top flight, as many of them have little experience there and while they might have some surprise value, it could be that they are swept away by more established Premier clubs on occasion.

The important results will be the ones where they play clubs in a similar situation and any wins there could be vital to their survival.

Predicted Finish : -   16th
The Canaries will fly high on a reputation of good, attacking football.
Predicted Lowpoint
They may suffer from the same issues that plagued Blackpool, with problems at the back and the depth and quality of the squad being exposed in the last third of the season.  So turning out in a hastily arranged change kit of tangerine sees the Canaries hit new lows.

James Vaughan (2.5m, Everton)
Steve Morrison (2.8m, Millwall)
Kyle Naughton (Season long loan, Tottenham Hotspur)
Anthony Pilkington (2m, Huddersfield Town)
Elliott Bennett (1.5m, Brighton & Hove Albion)
Bradley Johnson (Free, Leeds United)
Daniel Ayala (800,000, Liverpool)
Ritchie De Lait (Season long loan, Manchester United)


Luke Daley (Undisclosed, Plymouth Argyle)
Jed Steer (Loan, Yeovil Town)
Jens Berthel Askou (released)
Ryan Oakley (released)
Matt Gill (Free, Bristool Rovers)
Sam Habergham (Free, Tamworth)
Owain Tudur Jones (Free, Inverness Caledonian Thistle)




Neil Warnock is one of those managers.  The media love him because he is always willing with a sound-bite and his record for promoting clubs is rapidly being caught up with his record for being relegated with them.

However, he does not hold the same approbation with fans and his rants at referees, other players and anyone who dares to do or say anything against his precious side tends to be fair game for him.

So, had the owners at QPR stayed the same and not changed a week into the season, he may have found his time in charge more difficult than it might be now with a new owner, who will fund his side and accede to his requests.  But Rangers had been picking up free transfers and low price buys until F1 owner Fernandes came in and the squad is filled with journey-man, end of their career types, such as Shaun Derry, Clint Hill, Daniel Gabbidon, Tommy Smith, Heidar Helguson, Kieron Dyer (for goodness sake).  Maybe the one player they got in (on a free) who might be useful was Jay Bothroyd and his partnership with DJ Campbell who scored goals in the Premiership for Blackpool last season, could be one that develops.

With the mercurial ex-Spurs midfielder Adel Taarabt in the midfield, you are always guaranteed entertainment, but what his end product will be against quality sides, we will have to wait to see.

Unfortunately, though QPR took the Championship title last season with ease, they will be returning there with a bump as they find that the leap in quality up a division is something they should have looked at before they made that change.

Predicted Finish : -   20th
Predicted Highpoint
Wins over Man U, Liverpool and Chelsea
Predicted Lowpoint
Being mistaken for West Ham

Jay Bothroyd (Free, Cardiff City)
Kieron Dyer (Free, West Ham United)
Daniel Gabbidon (Free, West Ham United)
DJ Campbell (Undisclosed, Blackpool)
Bruno Perone (Free agent)
Brian Murphy (Free, Ipswich Town)



Lee Brown (Free, Bristol Rovers)
Angelo Balanta (Loan, MK Dons)
Joe Oastler (released)
Gavin Mahon (released)
Niki-Lee Bulmer (released)
Romone Rose (released)
Josh Parker (released)
Pascal Chimbonda (released)
Georgias Tofas (released)
Elliott Cox (released)
Michael Doughty (Loan, Crawley Town)
Leon Clarke (Free, Swindon Town)
Peter Ramage (Loan, Crystal Palace)
Bagasan Graham (Free, Cheltenham Town)





Stoke City
Stoke must be saving their money for a big, late splurge in the transfer window, as so far they are 500,000 up on player trading and have spent nothing on Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson.  but manager Tony Pulis is ready to make seven new signings before the transfer deadline arrives, so he will have to move fast.  Two players mentioned as having attracted Stoke's gaze are Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios, but the fee seems a little beyond Stoke and they may have to look elsewhere.

But Pulis has the side playing a bit more football than when they first came up and looked to establish themselves in the top flight.  With wide men attacking with pace and big men in the middle, his tactics are fairly straightforward, but last season, their defensive qualities let them down, which is strange for a Pulis side.

Woodgate and Upson have been brought in to bring experience and stability to the back four, but with their injury records, he may not get a full season out of each, although he will probably be happy to pick up what points he can while they are in the team.  Difficult to see if they can improve on last season, finishing 8th and reaching the FA Cup final, so a similar league placing this season would be my prediction.

Predicted Finish : -   7th
Predicted Highpoint
Reach Christmas with only two players having been suspended.
Predicted Lowpoint
Dumped out of the FA Cup by losing to Manchester City, this time in the Third Round.  No disgrace normally, but they did lose 14-1.

Jonathan Woodgate (Free, Tottenham Hotspur)
Matthew Upson (Free, West Ham United)







Carl Dickinson (500,000 to Watford)
Abdoulaye Faye (Free, West Ham United)
Eidur Gudjohnsen (Free, AEK Athens [Greece])
Ibrahima Sonko (Free, Reading)
Matthew Lund (Loan, Oldham Atheltic)
Andrew Davies (Loan, Crystal Palace)
Alexander Hedley (released)
Latom Wint (released)
Cameron Mitchell (released)
Zack Foster (released)
David Parton (released)
Jack Foster (released)
Louis Moult (Loan, Accrington Stanley)
Ben Marshall (Loan, Sheffield Wednesday)




And they call Harry Redknapp a wheeler-dealer !!  With ten players in and 14 out so far, Steve Bruce made a revolving door a priority signing at the start of the transfer window.  With almost a new first team arriving, although some will be for the future, the Black Cats will need some luck in gelling quickly after a slow first three quarters of the season.

They have held onto Asamoah Gyan, who is a good goal-scorer and may team new signing Connor Wickham with him to make a physical duo in attack, but the former Ipswich youngster might be eased in as one for the future. 

Bruce is not one to settle with a starting eleven and will chop and change as results dictate, but having invested a lot of money this summer, the American owner will be looking for a return on that expenditure, so, while the defence looks a little more solid than previously, the midfield and forwards will have to click into gear quickly.  While there might be a slight improvement on their 14th place finish last season, I can't see them rising much further than just into the top half.

Predicted Finish : -   8th
Predicted Highpoint
Success for Sunderland this season is the players learning each others' names by Christmas
Predicted Lowpoint
Steve Bruce being lined up as new Manchester United manager by the Press, after trying to build the Reds side at the Stadium of Light with their ex-players.

Connor Wickham (8m, Ipswich Town)
Craig Gardner (6m, Birmingham City)
Wes Brown (Undisclosed, Manchester United)
John O'Shea (Undisclosed, Manchester United)
Sebastian Larsson (Free, Birmingham City)
Kieran Westwood (Free, Coventry City)
David Vaughan (Free, Blackpool)
Roarie Deacon (Free, Arsenal)
Wong-Don Ji  (2m, Chunnam Dragons [South Korea])
Ahmed El Mohamady (2 million, ENPPI [Egypt])




Jordan Henderson (20m, Liverpool)
Steed Malbranque (Undisclosed, St. Etienne [France])
Robbie Weir (Free, Tranmere Rovers)
Michael Kay (Free, Tranmere Rovers)
Jean-Yves M'Voto (Free, Oldham Athletic)
Nathan Luscombe (Free, Hartlepool United) 
Cristian Riveros (Loan, Kayserispor [Turkey])
Liam Noble (Loan, Carlisle United)
Dan Madden (released)
Nathan Wilson (released)
Andrew Harrison (released)
Boudewijn Zenden (released)
David Brown (released)
Michael Lamb(released)




Swansea City
A rapid rise to the Premier League from out of nowhere was a big achievement for the Swans and should be applauded, as they didn't spend their way to success, but with the rapid rise could come a rapid fall.  The club have form in that department, falling from the old Division one to Division Four in successive seasons in the 80s, as in eight years, they had returned from the starting place of their rise. 

However, these are different times, but as Blackpool found out last season, being a good attacking side is not enough in the Premier League, so Brendan Rogers will have to make the most of his reputation as an astute coach to maintain their Welsh club's pace in the top flight.

He has bolstered the attacking side of the team, brining in goal-scorers from the Championship, while only signing one defender - our own Steven Caulker on loan for the season.  The manager must feel that he ahs enough in defence and midfield to cope, but with players of greater quality laying in wait, I am not sure that I agree.

While they play good football, it takes a bit of nous to keep your team in the Premier League and while Rogers has been at Chelsea, Watford and Reading, he might need to up his own game to up that of the team.  I think that the lack of investment might cost Swansea come May.

Predicted Finish : -    19th
Predicted Highpoint
A big win over one of the top four at home.
Predicted Lowpoint
Finding the Premier League is no Championship and ending up fighting to stay out of the bottom three.

Stephen Caulker (Season long loan, Tottenham Hotspur)
Danny Graham (3.5m from Coventry City)
Jose Moreira (undisclosed, Benfica [Portugal])
Leroy Lita (5m, Middlesbrough)
Wayne Routledge (1.5m, Newcastle United)





Darren Pratley (Free, Bolton Wanderers)
Dorus de Vries (Free, Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Gorka Pintado (released)
Matthew Whatley (released)
Jordan Prosser (released)
Thomas Butler (released)
Charles Kasler (released)
Jamie Grimes (released)
Albert Serran (released)
Cedric van der Gun (released)
Sam Rose-Miles (released)




Tottenham Hotspur
The taster of Champions League football has upped the expectation at White Hart Lane, both in the stands and in the manager's office.  Realistically, the best we might hope for is another Europa League campaign, as the horse trading in the transfer window seems to be left until later and later in the time available and not much money has been laid out on the side as yet.  Perhaps the time to invest was last year, when we have Champions League football, as bringing in players with the temptation of Europa League is not quite as attractive.

But we still have a good enough squad to make the top five and with Liverpool likely to replace Arsenal as one of those, it is still feasible to achieve a top four, if all goes well.

It hasn't started that way, with the first game called off because of the riots and with the upcoming second and third against the two Manchester clubs, who will be in the top three come the end of the season.  The keys to Tottenham's finishing position are Luka Modric and goals.  The former is still being hunted by Chelsea and whether Daniel Levy decides that 0 million for him to allow team building is a reasonable deal, then the little Croatian will be at Spurs for one more season, with a probable exit (unless we get CL) next summer.  The goals dried up last year, with Bale and van der Vaart topping the goal-scoring chart. If Pav can get some consistency, but that might difficult as Harry doesn't fancy him and if Defoe can recapture the form he showed the season before (and so far, it looks like he might), things could go well.

But this is Spurs we are talking about and already a midfield injury crisis is threatening to disrupt early season form, so perhaps it might be a season of relative disappointment, but there could be a good cup run to a semi or final.

Predicted Finish : -   5th
Predicted Highpoint
Peter Crouch
Predicted Lowpoint
Aaron Lennon

Brad Friedel (Free, Aston Villa)
Souleymane Coulibaly (Undisclosed, AC Siena [Italy])
Cristian Ceballos (Free, Barcelona [Spain])






Jamie O'Hara (5 million, Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Robbie Keane (3.5m, LA Galaxy [USA])
Paul-Jose M'Poku (Undisclosed, Standard Liege [Belgium])
Ryan Mason (Season long loan to Doncaster Rovers)
Jonathan Obika (5 month loan to Yeovil Town)
Steven Caulker (Season long loan to Swansea City)
Bongani Khumalo (Season long loan to Reading)
Nathan Byrne (Season long loan to Bournemouth)
Kyle Naughton (Season long loan to Norwich City)
Jonathan Woodgate (Free, Stoke City)
Olumide Durojaiye (released)




West Ham United
Oh ... sorry, they're not in it anymore are they.



West Bromwich Albion
Roy Hodgson is making a name for himself with the Baggies after an unhappy short stay at Anfield.  His time at Liverpool might have served him well, as he is gathering a team in the mould of Fulham, where the former Internazionale boss had such a successful time.

Not signing big stars, Hodgson is making the team a solid unit, with a spine to the team - Foster, McAuley, Dorrans, Odemwingie - and the rest working hard to get in team's faces.  They pass the ball well and in Odemwingie have a finisher of very good quality, so they will be nobody's fools.

While Albion might not set the Premier League alight, they will have a solid season and as Hodgson proved with them last season, they will be able to take points off the top sides, but need to knuckle down against their close neighbours in the table.

Predicted Finish : -   13th
Predicted Highpoint
Already happened ... got rid of Scott Carson.
Predicted Lowpoint
Depth of bank debt

Gareth McAuley (free, Ipswich Town)
Billy Jones (free, Preston North End)
Ben Foster (loan, Birmingham City)




Borja Valero (undisclosed, Villarreall [Spain])
Scott Carson (undisclosed, Bursaspor [Turkey])
Gianni Zuiverloon (free, Real Mallorca [Spain])
Boaz Myhill (loan, Birmingham City)
Abdoulaye Meite (released)
Giles Barnes (released)
Marcus Haber (released)




Wigan Athletic
A late survival run kept Wigan afloat for another year, but with money too tight to mention it leaves Roberto Martinez struggling to find replacements for those who have left in this season's battle to maintain their Premier League status.

Dave Whelan does well to keep pumping money into the club, but small crowds hinder their progress.  That is why they are a selling club, as they try to survive with the big boys, with bigger turnovers and bigger grounds and bigger name players, but that does not worry Martinez, as he does things his way.  Turning down a move to a bigger club, he stayed loyal to the man who brought him to England as a player and he is a shrewd analyst of other teams' play.

With N'Zogbia gone and Rodallega a favourite to follow, it might rip the heart out of the side, with it being difficult to attract top stars to a side reliant on snapping up talented players for reasonable sums, only to sell them on later.

James McCarthy is one who looks like he might fit the bill for the above, but he is there this season and may make the team some chances, if there is anyone to take them.

Predicted Finish : -   18th
Predicted Highpoint
They hold onto manager Roberto Martinez at the end of the season (again)
Predicted Lowpoint
Pitch criticised when Swansea defender Ashley Williams disappears in a muddy spot and only reappears two days later.

Ali Al-Habsi (4m, Bolton Wanderers)
David Jones (Free, Wolverhampton Wanderers)



Charles N'Zogbia (9.5m to Manchester United)
Steven Caldwell (Free, Birmingham City)
Daniel de Ridder (released)
Thomas Oakes (released)
Daniel Lambert (released)
Jason Koumas (released)
Mike Pollitt (released)
Callum Williams (released)
Abian Serrano (released)




Wolverhampton Wanderers
Mick McCarthy was nervously watching the countdown to the final game of last season, but Tottenham's goal against Birmingham City saved his Wolves team, who lost to Blackburn Rovers on the day.  So his few summer dealings have brought in Jamie O'Hara permanently from Spurs in midfield and also strengthened the difference, with Roger Johnson from across the City of Birmingham. 

These two captures will add more Premier League experience and make the team better in two positions, but the players who will fill in around them need to up their level of play to ensure the Old Gold is not in threat on the final day.  There are plenty of solid performers, but the Premier League demands the best from your men at all times and while they have a sound home record, away from home, they seem to lack the conviction they demonstrate at Molineux.

McCarthy will want top form from O'Hara, Kevin Doyle, Michael Kightly and Matthew Jarvis if they are to steer clear of the bottom three.  I think they will make it but not by too much

Predicted Finish : -   14th
Predicted Highpoint
A good home record will see them get some notable victories at the Food Mixer.
Predicted Lowpoint
Mick McCarthy will try and get them knocking at the door, but he might find the Wolves closer to the trap door again.

Jamie O'Hara (5m, Tottenham Hotspur)
Roger Johnson (7m, Birmingham City)
Dorus de Vries (Free, Swansea City)


Greg Halford (1m, Portsmouth)
Marcus Hahnemann (Released)
Andy Keogh (Loan, Leeds United)



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