We have a full Premier League Preview for the 2013/14 season – Will Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City or win the league and who will be fourth Tottenham Arsenal or Liverpool FC.
It has been another frustrating summer for Arsenal supporters. They are yet to invest any money into their squad and one must wonder how they can improve unless reinforcements are added before the end of the window. Having maintained their ‘top 4’ status last year after a titanic struggle, they looked as if they may kick on and invest heavily in proven players but nothing has happened in the transfer market as of yet.
Unless they invest between now and the end of August, the best Arsenal can hope for is finishing in the ‘top 4’ again. The development of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and seeing the impact of a fully fit Jack Wilshere will be the two things to watch at the Emirates this season. These are two players of huge potential and if Arsenal are to have any chance of progress, there players must be to the fore.
They flirted heavily with relegation last season and only just hit form at the right time in order to save themselves. Realistically it was the class of Christian Benteke that kept them in the league and keeping him this summer will give them more confidence ahead of the season. Villa really are a club in limbo. Their owner, Randy Lerner, has basically stopped putting money into the club and they seem to be in a decline.
Paul Lambert stuck to his principles last year in blooding young players. Even though they looked completely leaderless at times last season, the young players pulled through in the end. It will be interesting to see if they progress this season or if they will find themselves in another relegation dogfight. I think they will struggle but avoid relegation a bit more comfortably in 2013-2014.
This is a club that will bring a new dimension to the Premier League. There are now two Welsh sides in the league, which will give us a new local derby, but we have seen how tough a place Swansea has been to go to, and Cardiff should be similar. There is a lot of excitement surrounding Cardiff and it will be interesting to see if they can live up to the hype. It’s a place that teams will not look forward to going to.
Their manager Malky Mackay is very highly regarded and he has broken their transfer record three times this summer, which is a statement of intent. Players like Craig Bellamy and Frazier Campbell have Premier League experience and a new signing like Steven Caulker wants to be an international defender so they seem to be a club with ambition. I can see them doing well and finishing around mid-table.
The ‘Special One’ is now the ‘Happy One’ as Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge and there is an obvious air of excitement. He brought success to Chelsea during his first stint in charge but he has a challenge to recreate this success and possibly even maintain for a longer period of time. I don’t know is the return going to be as special as some are predicting.
Mourinho is a winner but Chelsea were starting to move forward. While they remained at the club, the like of John Terry and Frank Lampard were no longer permanent fixtures in the side and it will be interesting to see how Mourinho will use them. Andre Schurlle is the only new addition so far, along with the return of Romelu Lukaku. If they sign Wayne Rooney, they will be favourites for the title but I think they could fall short.
I can imagine that Palace will fins life tough in the Premiership but in Ian Holloway they have a manager who will surely have learned from his time with Blackpool. Blackpool were a breath of fresh air in terms of viewing a few seasons ago but in the end, they were too open. They conceded too many goals and as a result they went straight back to the Championship. It will be interesting to see what approach Holloway will take.
Very few members of their squad have Premier League experience and it’s hard to see how this won’t be a big disadvantage. Saying that, Holloway will allow teams to play with smiles on their faces and the ‘no fear’ approach may work in their favour. It will be interesting to how Marouane Chamakh will perform. He had a good start at Arsenal but fell out of favour very quickly. If he scores goals consistently and they can keep goals out at the other end, they will have a chance of staying up.
It’s a big season for Everton and Roberto Martinez. Like many other clubs, they are entering a new era and it’s very hard to predict how things will work out for them. Martinez is a strange one to judge for me. He started the Swansea project many years ago which now sees them as a Premier League club, and his job at Wigan could be looked at in different ways. There is a lot to admire about him but I have my reservations.
He has a huge act to follow in David Moyes and I think he could struggle. His main signing has been Arouna Kone who is nothing special. It remains unknown as to whether Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini will reamin at the club. If they were to lose one, or both of these players I think Everton could find themselves in the bottom half.
It’s another slightly new regime at Fulham as they enter their first full season under new ownership. They have become a typical mid-table Premier League club, who rarely threaten to qualify for Europe or rarely find themselves in relegation worries. Martin Jol is going about his business without much fuss and their supporters should be relatively satisfied.
Jol made a very shrewd signing towards the end of last summer by signing Dimitar Berbatov, who delivered goals and he may be about to do the same with the signing of Darren Bent. If Bent signs and can deliver the goals he is capable of, I think Fulham could become a top 10 side.
They had two seasons in the Premier League very recently and they made a swift return under Steve Bruce. They have an experienced manager and this could prove very helpful when it comes to staying in the league. They developed a good squad last season with a strong Irish contingent so a lot of people will be interested to see how they will do in this season’s Premier League.
Bruce has signed three decent players in Danny Graham, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore. They are three players with strong experience. Graham could be a very good option up-front, he showed as the main man at Swansea that he can deliver. The Spurs duo in midfield have both played at very high levels. I think Hull can stay up.
They enter every season with hype and expectation and they generally fail to deliver. Having come close to winning the league in 2009 and since then their fall has been rapid. Since then they have gone through four managers and failed to qualify for the Champions League. They still maintain their tradition and ambition but they are becoming a team that are more talk than action.
A lot of their fortunes will depend on Luis Suarez. If he leaves, he will be almost impossible to replace in the current market. If he stays, will he become a problem? He has declared his intention to leave and we all know what a difficult character he can be. They have added players to the squad and it will be interesting to see what kind of impact they will have. Players like Felipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge could have a big bearing on their season. I think they will finish in the top 6.
Going by the squads that are starting the Premier League at the kick-off, City are most people’s tip to win it out. They have done the best business in the transfer window. They have added four quality players to their squad and they have a new manager in Manuel Pelligrini. It will be a fresh start at Eastlands and it would seem that all players will have a spring in their step starting off.
I think Jesus Navas will have a huge season. He will add a new dimension to the side in terms of pace and width. They have some very good options up-front with all players carrying a different type of threat. Vincent Kompany has had a full preseason and should have his injury worries behind him. They just look like the team in the best position to win the league at the moment and it’s hard to look past them.
This season sees a lot of new regime’s and era’s at various clubs but I think it’s fair to say that the new era at Old Trafford will draw a lot more attention than any others. The 26 year legacy of Sir Alex Ferguson is over and David Moyes has massive boots to fill. He is yet to add to his squad despite making his intention clear that the squad needed strengthening and that there was money to spend.
Another problem for Moyes has been that of an unsettled Wayne Rooney. He has continued to reiterate that Rooney is not for sale and will not be sold so it will be interesting to see what the scenario will be as a result. I think it could be a difficult season for United. They will need their defence to remain at its best and they will rely on Robin Van Persie for goals. I think a ‘top 4’ finish would be a good job for Moyes and maybe a domestic cup competition could be the best source of silverware.
This is a huge season for Newcastle. It may have been overachievement in finishing 5th only two seasons ago but they played excellent football and were very close to qualifying for the Champions League. Last season saw a huge change and Newcastle and they were serious relegation trouble. They had a lot of injuries and they lost their leading goal scorer, Demba Ba, but there was no way that a team’s form should have declined in the way Newcastle’s did.
Alan Pardew has been given a chance to redeem himself. They have brought in Joe Kinnear as Director of Football, a move that was highly criticised. It’s seen by many as an attempt to force Pardew to resign and a good start is vital to Newcastle’s season. The acquisition of Loic Remy is a good signing and they will be hoping for Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye to stay fully fit for the whole season. If they get things right, I can see Newcastle being a ‘top 8’ team, but they have a lot of if’s and but’s to get right.
They had a successful season last year and manager Chris Hughton received a lot of credit. They went on a ten game unbeaten run at one stage and while they fell into a slight relegation fight late in the season, they came through fairly comfortably in the end. They have some nice creative players in Wes Hoolahan, Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington and are always liable to create chances.
Their home form was very good last season and they will continue to try and make Carrow Road a difficult place to go. The signing of Gary Hooper could prove to be the bargain of the summer. The top flight in England and Scotland are different but a goal scorer is a goal scorer, as we have seen in the past and we have also seen Hooper deliver on the biggest stage of all, the Champions League. If Hooper can score the goals then Norwich will be fine, if not one might worry for them. I think it could be a difficult season for Norwich.
They were highly admired for their performance following promotion last season. The football they played was a joy to watch and the way at which they attacked the top clubs was very interesting. When they sacked manager Nigel Adkins, many neutrals took a turn against them as they felt it was a very harsh call. Whether it was or not is a different story as Mauricio Pochettino led to team to safety, achieving their main aim.
They will be watched closely this year and the question is whether they will kick on will they catch a dose of the infamous ‘second season syndrome’? Victor Wanyama is a fine addition to the squad but will players like Adam Lallana, Jason Puncheon, Gaston Ramirez and most importantly, Rickie Lambert be able to reach the same heights. I think Southampton are going to be a club that pushes on this season and finishing around ‘mid table’.
There is another new era at Stoke and this is a club in limbo in certain ways. Under Tony Pulis they had established themselves as a Premier League club but fans were becoming frustrated at the style of play and in the end, Pulis departed and a change was opted for. Despite departing after a poor season, the job Pulis had done at Stoke must be given huge credit. He took them from the Championship to the Premiership and he maintained their top flight status with relative ease until last season.
The introduction of Mark Hughes is interesting. While Hughes has done a number of good jobs in the past, his reign at Queens Park Rangers was a disaster. He brought in too many players and the team last all sense of identity. It’s a big challenge for Hughes and I wonder will he learn and not try to change things too quickly. They haven’t added many players to the squad so it will be interesting to see how they approach the season. I think they will be fine but it could be a longer period of transition then some are expecting.
Sunderland are a side that a lot of people will watch with interest this season. Paolo Di Canio will attract interest from all corners with his extravagant antics on the sideline and in the media. He has been highly critical of the conditioning and fitness of his players and preseason showed that his players finished games strongly. He gave the team that short term lift that saw them survive but now he has a huge challenge ahead of a 38 game season.
It will be very interesting to see if Di Canio can maintain his composure and how his players will react if he goes overboard or loses his temper. The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) received complaints from Sunderland players regarding Di Canio last season and in this day and age it’s hard to tell how players will react to his management. I can see Sunderland either having an excellent season, or one where they really struggle. A lot depends on their manager in my opinion.
They survived ‘second season syndrome’ last year when they pushed on from a very good first season in the Premier League. After losing manager Brendan Rogers to Liverpool last summer, a lot of people worried for their future but they pushed on. They had a fine Premier League campaign and they won silverware in the form of the Capital One Cup. They will now play in the Europa League next season. This may prove to be a distraction but I think the novelty of it will inspire the players and the supporters.
They haven’t been overly prominent in the transfer market, but they weren’t either last summer and they definitely had the best signing, value wise, in Michu. The signings of Wifred Bony and Jonjo Shelvey are two fine additions and I think they will have a big impact. Shelvey is a player that I can think could really prosper at a club like Swansea. They have a difficult start but I think they will do well again this season and finish in the top half.
One name still remains on the lips of everybody regarding Spurs and that is Gareth Bale. It seems that the move to Real Madrid will go through eventually but Andre Villas-Boas doesn’t appear to be wasting any time as he pursues replacements. He has added some very good players in Paulinho and Roberto Soldado. They have a strong squad, with high quality competition in all areas. They were very unlucky to miss out on Champions League football for this season but their aim for this year is now very clear.
If Bale stays that I think a ‘top 4’ finish should be Spurs’s minimum aim. If Bale goes, then achieving Champions League football would probably reflect a successful season. I think they definitely have the ability to achieve this and I think they will learn from last season’s mistakes. They started last season slowly and while they caught up, I think they will be prepared more effectively for this season. Their squad is as strong as any in the league and I think they will be right at the top of the table for the most of the season.
West Bromwich Albion
In certain ways, West Brom were the surprise package of last season. They started with a 3-0 win at home to Liverpool and never looked back. Steve Clarke did an excellent job in his first job as a manager. He built a strong defence and there were plenty of goals in the team. He established a good attacking side with a variety of options and there is a challenge to provide more of the same.
They had a variey of attacking options last year with Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie and Romelu Lukaku all providing different threats and scoring goals at different stages of the season. Lukaku has returned to Chlesea and Odemwingie has put himself in exile so a lot of responsibility will fall on Long’s shoulders this season. The signing of Nicolas Anelka could prove to be a massive coup. We know how volatile he can be but for free, it’s definitely worth a go. A player like James Morrison had a great outing last year and they will need him to maintain his form. I think West Brom will do quite well again and finish around mid-table.
West Ham United
Despite doubts over manager Sam Allardyce at the end of last season, he committed himself to Wet Ham and I think his signing was as important as that of any new player. While Allardyce may not play the traditional West Ham football, he is a proven Premier League manager who gets results and keeps teams in the league. He has done a fine job at Upton Park so far and they now look like they can establish themselves again as Premier League club as opposed to the ‘yo-yo club’ they were threatening to become.
They have made the Andy Carroll a permanent part of the squad which is a good move. He was a flop at Liverpool but their style of play and Andy Carroll’s attributes just simply didn’t fit. He needs to be the focal point of a team and West Ham can provide that. I think Stewart Downing is an excellent signing. He is the type of player who could shine at West Ham and I think his style will combine very well with that of Andy Carroll. I can see West Ham finishing in the top half of the table this season.