A short paragraph on all twenty Premiership teams covering where they stand going into the first round of fixtures.
Arsenal – Never been outside the top four with Wenger in charge but doubts creeping in over the sale of Robin Van Persie and the imminent departure of Alex Song. Yet, it is not all doom and gloom at the Emirates, the squad looks stronger than it did last season with the signings of Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski. Talent meets experience in this Arsenal squad and the players could have the now infamous mental toughness to see them through an entire season.
Aston Villa – One of my relegation candidates. New manager in Paul Lambert but not much else. El ahmadi and Vlaar signed from Feyenoord will look to add some age to a very youthful Villa team that struggled towards the end of the season. A lack of service and support to Darren Bent has left the striker isolated and ineffective.
Chelsea – A makeover in personnel which is likely to reflect in a more attacking style on the pitch. Concerns over the depth in certain areas and fragilities in defence but creativity is in abundance with new signings Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar looking to settle in alongside the brilliant Juan Mata offset by the departures of Kalou, Bosingwa and Didier Drogba. Di Matteo faces a tougher challenge to retain his job and it could be down to him to make the difference with his tactics.
Everton – The perennial slow starters. The resigning of Steven Pienaar could prove to be crucial to their ambition, the squad once again looks short on depth and the loss of Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell may prove to be costly. Jelavic up front will provide a constant threat and the master of the one touch finish proved he could compete at the highest level.
Fulham – Martin Jol has got himself a very underrated team especially if the club manage to keep hold of Clint Dempsey who along with Dembele are two very bright talents. No real notable losses apart from Danny Murphy but the signings of Petric and Rodallega will add some fire power in front of goal which was lacking on occasions last season.
Liverpool – New boss Brendan Rodgers will look to get his team playing his way. Assaidi, Borini and Allen are all capable of contributing to that. With the latter two having played under Rodgers whilst at Swansea. The team welcomes back Lucas Leiva who missed the majority of last season through injury and could play a big role in his club’s chances but it will invariably rest at the feet of Luis Suarez. You can hate him all you like but there is no doubting the talent the forward possesses. They will want to get back into the top four but it might be case of walk before you can run and a 5th or 6th place finish seeming more likely.
Manchester City – Last season’s champions haven’t done much to strengthen their squad but haven’t let it be weakened. A full season of Carlos Tevez will make a difference and his partnership with Sergio Aguero is likely to be one of the best in the world. The midfield is packed with talent and Jack Rodwell’s signing only enhances the depth available to manager Roberto Mancini. The defence is perhaps where the weakness lies if captain Vincent Kompany was to be unavailable it doesn’t look the strongest unit. It’s tougher to stay at the top then get to it.
Manchester United – it will be what we have all come to expect from a Ferguson team. Title contenders. The signings of Kagawa and Robin Van Persie will make the lethal attack that little bit more potent and the red half of Manchester will hope that it will be the difference in edging out City. The return of Vidic is arguably as big a boost as any across the league but it will be important to see how he fares in his first couple of games. The centre of midfield is the worry for United with not many options and a lack of a true holding midfielder in the ilk of a Roy Keane is still apparent.
Newcastle – Arguably last year’s surprise package but when you look at the players at Alan Pardew’s disposal it wasn’t hard to see why. Vurnon Anita the only notable transfer in or out of the club means they’ve retained their star trio up top with Cisse, Ba and Ben Arfa. Cabaye and Tiote provide as good a central midfield as any in the league along with the finest keepers in Tim Krul and with the confidence gained from last year they will be looking to break into the top four which they narrowly missed out on.
Norwich – Losing Paul Lambert was a big loss. Replacing him with Chris Houghton was as good a replacement as they were likely to get and keeping hold of Grant Holt could make the difference in staying up again. The addition of Snodgrass to provide even better service for Holt is their best signing in my opinion but I don’t think it will be enough to keep them safe.
QPR – Keep the same players and rewind about five years, this time would be a handful and possibly challenging for Europe. The squad is old but with age comes experience and they should feel more comfortable this year in the Premier League than their first year back in the top flight. Mark Hughes has done well in the transfer market and even managed to offload Joey Barton abroad even if it is only for one season it is good news for everyone.
Reading – The first of the new boys and their signing of Pogrebnyak could prove to be a masterstroke but with the foreign investors that came at the end of last season, I think we all expected a little bit more. Brian McDermott has a very good Championship team and it remains to be seen whether the players can cope in the Premiership but he obviously has put a lot of trust in them.
Southampton – Back to back promotions, the last team to do that managed to stay up (Norwich) and with the pending transfer of Gaston Ramirez, Southampton have pulled a rabbit out of the hat. The Uruguayan was considered hot property with interest from other Premiership teams as well as other teams in Italy. It isn’t usual that you see a promoted team splash out the money on one star player and Ramirez’s inconsistency in the past may haunt that decision but he’s potentially a player that can keep them up with the likes of Lallana and goal scoring machine Lambert.
Stoke City – I think if you aren’t playing them on a rainy tuesday night, Stoke are no longer the impregnable side of years past as they seemed shaky at the back last season during certain games. Michael Kightly is a player who fits the system a talented winger that will get balls into the big front men. Correction, Stoke have a big side the whole way through. Their physicality will once again be their biggest strength but at the same time their biggest weakness as more and more creative players join the league to pick holes in their defence.
Sunderland – They looked promising at times last season and in Sessegnon they have a player capable of performing special feats on the pitch. Louis Saha will replace the void left by Nicklas Bendtner. The team with probably the least notable change since last season and expect them to finish roughly in the same position.
Swansea City – Many may think this is a team in decline having lost its highly rated manager and Joe Allen. Look at what they’ve been replaced with… Michael Laudrup, a talented manager in his own right although not quite as good as he was as a footballer, although few would be. Michu and De Guzman come into the midfield and certainly make up for the loss of Allen at a total of only £2million. Michu will provide goals and De Guzman will possibly be the heartbeat of the team.
Tottenham – Fans at White Hart Lane will be hoping that AVB has Porto like success as opposed to his spell at Chelsea. The players are more suitable to his philosophy and they could be dangerous but it will be interesting to see how they cope without arguably their best player and possibly one of the best midfielders in the world. No star striker is another worry but goal scoring midfielders in Van Der Vaart, Bale and new signing Sigurdsson will try to ease the pain. Vertonghen will provide an extra sense of stability at the back but it will be difficult to repeat their top four finish.
West Brom – Losing Roy Hodgson was a big blow. They have a handful of talented players with Odemwingie at the head of that list. Steve Clark will be under pressure to keep the team out of relegation trouble, remember this is a team that sacked Di Matteo when there was no apparent danger to the club’s Premier League status.
West Ham – Probably the team with the most impressive transfer market this summer. The signings of Diame, Maiga, Collins, Diarra and Jaaskelainan are experienced players with plenty of talent still left in them. West Ham arguably had the best squad of the promoted teams but only found their way into the Premiership via the play offs. Expect the hammers to stay up and build a solid foundation from which to work on in the future. They’ve also got one of the best twitter accounts as their manager. (Yes I know it isn’t actually him)
Wigan – The team that start the league in last place, they will hope that isn’t where they finish. Roberto Martinez seems to have an uncanny ability to keep this team up to the disgust of football fans around the country (Rugby city, poor attendance) but they are perhaps the only team that offer something completely different in terms of tactics unless Manchester City adopt the 3 at the back permanently. The signing of Kone was great business and if they manage to hold on to Victor Moses they have two players that can provide great support to any striker, whilst Ramis will no doubt strengthen their back line.