Friday, 16 August 2013

PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW 2013/14



ARSENAL

LAST SEASON: 4th
KEY ARRIVALS: Yaya Sanogo - Auxerre (FRA) - Free
KEY DEPARTURES: Andrey Arshavin - Zenit St. Petersburg (RUS) - Released, Denilson - Sao Paulo (BRA) - Released, Vito Mannone - Sunderland - 2.8m

WHAT'S NEW?

Not a lot. Arsenal are sitting on a stack of money they can't spend. Failed with moves for Higuin who went to Napoli and Luis Gustavo who joined Wolfsburg. Key target Luis Suarez looks likely to stay at Liverpool and interest in Wayne Rooney was a fantasy. Another struggle to win the 4th place trophy beckons. Over 3000 days since they last won a trophy.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Liverpool agree to sell Suarez, Arsenal finish 3rd and win the FA Cup.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Spurs end the Arse's 16 year run of Champions League football.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Finding 3 top players in the next 2 weeks.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Arsene Wenger.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 5th
 

ASTON VILLA

LAST SEASON: 15th
KEY ARRIVALS: Aleksandar Tonev - Lech Poznan (POL) - Undisc, Jores Okore - Nordsjaelland (DEN) - Undisc, Nicklas Helenius - Aalborg (DEN) - Undisc
KEY DEPARTURES: Darren Bent - Fulham - Loan, Jean II Makoun - Rennes (FRA) - Undisc, Richard Dunne - QPR – Released

WHAT'S NEW?

A load of players most have never heard of. Villa have abandoned their interest in young British players and gone for young foreign players instead. Holding on to Christian Benteke was crucial and some of the boys who struggled last season should mature but another season in the bottom half is almost certain.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Sneaking into the top half.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Having an excellent Championship side in 2014/15.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Christian Benteke's goals and a much improved defence.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Andreas Wiemann.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 14th


CARDIFF CITY

LAST SEASON: 1st (Championship)
KEY ARRIVALS: Andreas Cornelius - FC Copenhagen (DEN) - 7.5m, Gary Medel - Sevilla (SPA) - 11m, Steven Caulker - Tottenham Hotspur - 8m
KEY DEPARTURES: None.

WHAT'S NEW?

Premier League football is. Cardiff return to the top flight after a 51 year absence and put 3 years of play-off heartache behind them. Stormed, deservedly, to the Championship title last season and have spent big and attracted real quality this summer.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

If everything clicks, they could finish in the top 8.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Upsetting a settled unit with expensive buys on big money could see them return to the Football League quick smart.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Integrating the new players and getting goals from Cornelius.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Gary Medel. Fantastic player. Absolute nutcase.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 15th


CHELSEA

LAST SEASON: 3rd
KEY ARRIVALS: Andre Schurrle - Bayer Leverkusen - 18m, Marco van Ginkel - Vitesse Arnhem (HOL) - 8m
KEY DEPARTURES: None. But half the squad have gone on loan around the world.

WHAT'S NEW?

Chelsea have a 5th new manager in the last 4 years. I can’t remember his name though. The squad has remained settled despite plenty of rumours and must improve having massively underachieved in the Premier League in the past 2 seasons.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Winning the title and having a long run in the Champions League. Nothing else is good enough.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Another lackluster league campaign and not being involved in the CL past February.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Reflecting the managers determination and arrogance on the pitch.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Andrea Shirley. German is the Premier League’s first female pro.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 1st


CRYSTAL PALACE

LAST SEASON: 5th (Championship)
KEY ARRIVALS:  Dwight Gayle - Peterborough United - 6m, Jerome Thomas - WBA – Released,  Jose Campana - Sevilla (SPA) - 1.75m
KEY DEPARTURES: Andre Moritz - Bolton Wanderers – Free

WHAT'S NEW?

Not as much as Ian Holloway would have liked. Aside from taking a massive gamble on Dwight Gayle and what looks a very shrewd signing in Jose Campana, Palace have struggled to recruit proven quality and look by far the weakest squad on paper.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Returning to the Championship with bulging pockets.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Is it still called “Doing a Derby”?

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Either pulling several rabbits out of the transfer hat in the next 2 weeks or cheating 15 penalties out of referees again.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Dwight Gayle.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 20th. Sorry.


EVERTON

LAST SEASON: 6th
KEY ARRIVALS: Antolin Alcaraz - Wigan Athletic – Free, Arouna Kone – Wigan Athletic – 6m, Gerard Deulofeu - Barcelona (SPA) - Loan
KEY DEPARTURES: None.

WHAT'S NEW?

Everton have a new manager, losing David Moyes after 10 years. In comes the well admired Roberto Martinez whose teams play attractive football but can’t defend. He inherits a strong squad with better defenders than he’s had before and some talented forward players. Kone is a super signing while Deulofeu, who is highly thought of in Spain, could be a master stroke.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Martinez attacking principles lead Everton to a top 4 finish.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Martinez defensive flaws lead Everton to a mid-table finish.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Finding the right balance between defence and attack.
MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Marouane Fellaini. Thug.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 8th


FULHAM

LAST SEASON: 12th
KEY ARRIVALS: Adel Taarabt – QPR - Loan, Darren Bent – Aston Villa – Loan, Derek Boateng - Dnipro (UKR) – Free, Maarten Stekelenburg – Roma (ITA) - 3.5m.
KEY DEPARTURES: Mahamadou Diarra – Released, Mark Schwarzer – Released, Mladen Petric – Released

WHAT'S NEW?

Mohammed Al Fayad selling up after 16 years as Fulham’s owner was the big story of the summer. Don’t worry though, the Michael Jackson statue is still in place. Meanwhile Martin Jol has gone quietly about his business this summer with several shrewd but low cost signings.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

A top 8 finish is possible if Fulham click.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Several temperamental personalities in the dressing room mean they could slip into a dog fight when the going gets tough.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Taarabt and Bent helping Berbatov rather than getting in his way.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Adel Taarabt. I hope his Oyster card is topped up.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 12th


HULL CITY

LAST SEASON: 2nd (Championship)
KEY ARRIVALS: Ahmed Elmohamady - Sunderland - 2m, Allan McGregor - Besiktas (TUR) - 1.8m, Curtis Davies - Birmingham City - 2.25m, Danny Graham - Sunderland – Loan, Maynor Figueroa - Wigan Athletic – Free, Tom Huddlestone – Spurs – 5.25m, Yannick Sagbo - Evian (FRA) - 1.6m
KEY DEPARTURES: Corry Evans - Blackburn Rovers - 750k, Jack Hobbs - Nottingham Forest – Loan,  Tom Cairney - Blackburn Rovers - Loan

WHAT'S NEW?

Ten players are new. Steve Bruce got The Tigers promoted against all odds with a squad lacking goalkeepers, having several loan players and severely lacking in top flight experience. He’s done an excellent job of replenishing the team on a tough budget. THERE IS NO CHANGE OF TEAM NAME!

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Massive investment form the Asian market leads to several world class acquisitions in January and City clinch the Premier League title with 2 weeks to spare.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Relegation, obviously.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Keeping the small number of really top quality players fit to play in most of the 38 games.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Danny Graham.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 17th


LIVERPOOL

LAST SEASON: 7th
KEY ARRIVALS: Iago Aspas - Celta Vigo (SPA) - 7m, Kolo Toure - Manchester City – Released, Luis Alberto - Sevilla (SPA) - 6.8m, Simon Mignolet - Sunderland - 9m
KEY DEPARTURES: Andy Carroll - West Ham United - 15.5m, Jonjo Shelvey - Swansea City - 5m, Pepe Reina – Napoli – Loan, Stewart Downing – West Ham United – 6m

WHAT'S NEW?

So far, not a great deal. Liverpool should do better than last season as they were much improved once Sturridge and Coutinho joined in January. They’ve signed good players but not players who’ll make a massive difference. Could still pull out a truly world class signing.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

The North London sides implode and Liverpool sneak into 4th place.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Finishing below Everton. Again.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Keeping Luis Suarez and keeping him happy.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Simon Mignolet. Has big shoes to fill.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 6th


MANCHESTER CITY

LAST SEASON: 2nd
KEY ARRIVALS: Alvaro Negredo - Sevilla (SPA) - 20m, Fernandinho - Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) - 30m, Jesus Navas - Sevilla (SPA) - 14.9m, Stevan Jovetic - Fiorentina (ITA) - 22m
KEY DEPARTURES: Carlos Tevez - Juventus (ITA) - 12m

WHAT'S NEW?

It’s nothing new but City have spent nearly a hundred million quid again. New manager Pellegrini has been provided with several top European performers to add to an already bulging squad. He absolutely must improve on their dire performances in the Champions League which was what truly did for Roberto Mancini.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

A quadruple?

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

More CL misery and United winning the title in spite of Moyes.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Settling quickly and maintaining a settled team. Mancini fiddled too often.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Negredo. He’s still not over the disappointment of missing out on a move to Hull.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd


MANCHESTER UNITED
LAST SEASON: 1st
KEY ARRIVALS: None.
KEY DEPARTURES: None.

WHAT'S NEW?

For the first time in 26 years we’ll see a United team that isn’t managed by Alex Ferguson. I don’t think David Moyes can fill his shoes. His handling of the Wayne Rooney “saga” has been less than authoritative and publicly chasing players who didn’t want to join is not the United way.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

The Championship in his first season would be an excellent achievement for Moyes.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Finishing below City and being exposed in the CL.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Rooney and van Persie.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Moyes.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 2nd


NEWCASTLE UNITED

LAST SEASON: 16th
KEY ARRIVALS: Loic Remy - QPR - Loan
KEY DEPARTURES: None.

WHAT'S NEW?

Not a lot. Newcastle have spent most of the summer providing comedy value for football fans everywhere and not enough time strengthening a squad that was very, very lucky there were 3 sides more useless in the division last season. That said, Newcastle do have quality, most of it French, and if they can get a settled side out, they could be fine.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

If allowed to show their va va voom, they could be top half.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

They are just as likely to fall through the “relegation trap door”.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Remy staying out of prison.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Remy’s defence lawyer.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 18th


NORWICH CITY

LAST SEASON: 11th
KEY ARRIVALS: Gary Hooper - Celtic (SCO) - 5m, Leroy Fer - FC Twente (HOL) – Undisc, Martin Olsson - Blackburn Rovers – Undisc, Nathan Redmond - Birmingham City - 2m, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel - Sporting (POR) - Undisc
KEY DEPARTURES: Grant Holt - Wigan Athletic - 2m

WHAT'S NEW?

Someone at Carrow Road has won the Euromillions. Norwich have gambled big time on improving in the Premier League. There are risks of course but I think they’ve made an excellent job of it. Flirted with the bottom three last season before pulling away at the end. They’ll be safe by Christmas this year.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Is Europa League football unlikely?

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

The club shop run out of W’s.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Getting their expensive acquisitions to work as hard as the players they’ve joined.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Gary Hooper. Waste of money.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 7th


SOUTHAMPTON

LAST SEASON: 14th
KEY ARRIVALS: Victor Wanyama - Celtic (SCO) - 12.5m, Dejan Lovren – Lyon (FRA) – 8.5m
KEY DEPARTURES: None.

WHAT'S NEW?

Saints have added quality in the right areas, albeit at massively inflated prices, to an exciting young squad. Though, ironically it was 31 year old Rickie Lambert who this week became their first England cap in 8 years.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

A top 10 finish is with their capability though the league is going to be ultra-competitive this season.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

I still hate the way they treated Nigel Adkins so I’d quiet like to see them struggle.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

A better start than they made last season.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

The interpreter.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 11th


STOKE CITY

LAST SEASON: 13th
KEY ARRIVALS: Erik Pieters - PSV Eindhoven (HOL) - 3m, Marc Muniesa - Barcelona (SPA) - Free
KEY DEPARTURES: Rory Delap - Burton Albion - Released

WHAT'S NEW?

Higher unemployment in Stoke. I don’t mean Tony Pulis, I mean those poor fellas who carried towels around the pitch. As much as Tony Pulis’s footballing philosophy made the games originators turn in their grave, he enjoyed great success at Stoke. Dispensing him was a brave move and replacing him with Hughes, who flopped at QPR, is even braver. Hughes hasn’t really made his mark on the squad.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

The towel carriers are re-hired to fan Abi Clancy on warm days.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

They will be sucked into the scrap for survival.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Home form. Best atmosphere in the league at the Britannia.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Cameron Jerome. He’d bet on it.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 16th


SUNDERLAND

LAST SEASON: 17th
KEY ARRIVALS: Emanuele Giaccherini - Juventus (ITA) - 6.5m, Jozy Altidore - AZ Alkmaar (HOL) - Undisc.
KEY DEPARTURES: Simon Mignolet - Liverpool - 9m

WHAT'S NEW?

Paulo Di Canio has brought his scouting system from Swindon. It basically involves cracking open the Championship Manager database and searching for players with ability above 150 whose contract is expiring.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

They could do anything this season. The signings are utterly random. In Altidore and Giaccherini they have at least signed a bit of proven quality.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

(R) Sunderland.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Championship Manager’s team of researchers.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Sadly, Vito Mannone.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 19th


SWANSEA CITY

LAST SEASON: 9th
KEY ARRIVALS: Jonjo Shelvey - Liverpool - 5m, Jordi Amat - Espanyol (SPA) - 2.5m, Wilfried Bony - Vitesse Arnhem (HOL) - 12m
KEY DEPARTURES: None.

WHAT'S NEW?

Swansea splashing the cash.  Two seasons of Premier League football maintained on a tight budget and the increase in TV revenue have given Michael Laudrup a bit of wiggle room. The obvious big name signing is Bony who a dozen Premier League clubs have looked at and baulked at the asking price. How to top winning a trophy at Wembley is going to be a big question for Laudrup this season.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Improving a place or two in the league and doing well in Europe.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Losing Laudrup.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Coping with the numerous Thursday-Sunday matches scheduled, especially after Euro trips.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Michu. Second season syndrome.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 10th


 TOTTINGHAM HOTSPURS

LAST SEASON: 5th
KEY ARRIVALS: Ettiene Capoue – Toulouse – 9.3m, Nacer Chadli - Twente (HOL) - 7m, Paulinho - Corinthians (BRA) - 17m,  Roberto Soldado - Valencia (SPA) - 26m
KEY DEPARTURES: Clint Dempsey - Seattle Sounders (USA) - 6m, Steven Caulker - Cardiff City - 8m, Tom Huddlestone – Hull City – 5.25m.

WHAT'S NEW?

Spurs finishing 5th, Daniel Levy playing hard ball over transfers, sound business being done at WHL. None of that is new. A striker though. A proper top class striker, that is certainly a revelation. Spurs have spent big on a guy who should score goals by the bucket load. The excellent Paulinho and lively Capoue look great business too.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Is a title challenge too much to ask? Probably, just.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Soldado is crocked. Liverpool have a stormer. Spurs finish 5th again.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

I’ve avoided mentioning Gareth Bale! Damn, nearly. Anyway – keeping him or selling early enough to replace with quality.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Paulinho. You can never trust a Brazilian.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 4th


WEST BROMWICH ALBION

LAST SEASON: 8th
KEY ARRIVALS: Diego Lugano - Paris SG (FRA) – Free, Goran Popov - Dynamo Kiev (UKR) – Loan, Nicolas Anelka - Juventus (ITA) - Released
KEY DEPARTURES: None.

WHAT'S NEW?

WBA have had a quiet summer. Anelka and Lugano, while big names, aren’t signings that have really caused a ripple. They had a settled squad last season, didn’t ever panic when a result went against them and through a combination of shrewd tactics, team spirit and quality throughout, they finished in a fine eighth place.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

8th again is surely the limit of their capabilities.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Odemwingie holds another circus show on deadline day.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Their discipline, workrate and craft in midfield.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

Anelka. He’ll score goals no doubt but he can be a poisonous influence.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 13th


WEST HAM UNITED

LAST SEASON: 10th
KEY ARRIVALS: Andy Carroll - Liverpool - 15.5m, Razvan Rat - Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) – Free, Stewart Downing – Liverpool – 6m
KEY DEPARTURES: Carlton Cole – Released.

WHAT'S NEW?

West Ham have followed up the mildly successful capture of Andy Carroll by signing the man tasked with providing him at Liverpool, Stewart Downing. That combination didn’t do well on Merseyside but it’s right up Sam Allardyce’s street. The ‘ammers did well on their return to the Premier League last season and have enough quality in every area to do well again.

BEST CASE SCENARIO?

Downing and Carroll hit it off and another top 10 finish is secured.

WORST CASE SCENARIO?

Carroll spends another season picking up niggly injuries and Big Sam rues the day he let Carlton Cole go.

KEY TO SUCCESS?

Kevin Nolan most probably. Right place. Right time.

MOST LIKELY TO FLOP?

I think Downing will do well, so Carroll if anyone.

RICK's PREDICTED FINISH: 9th

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