Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

The Big News

This week’s big news is the return of the Champions League and Europa League, as the tournaments begin properly over this week in the Group Stages. This past Tuesday and Wednesday saw the Champions League start, with Chelsea coming out victorious and Arsenal, along with the Manchester clubs, all drawing. It was a good start to the competition, with some suprises such as Inter’s loss at home to Trabzonspor and Barcelona drawing to AC Milan, but I’m certain there will be a few more upsets and dominant performances to come. As for the Europa League, that starts tonight, with Tottenham, Fulham, Stoke and Birmingham City all in action. It’s good to see the European games back, and both competitions are full of top quality sides, and the Premier League sides involved add to the deep pool that is European Football.

Now, on with the review of Week 4 in the Barclay’s Premier League.

Bolton 0-5 Manchester United

In an away game many Manchester United fans were wary of, the Red Devils ran out rampant winners after putting five past Bolton. From the start it looked to be going one way, with Chicarito scoring after five minutes, cutting across England centre-back Gary Cahill and getting there before Jussi Jaaskelainen. Bolton kept good possession during the first 20 minutes, but every attack seemed dangerous, and within that came the second. After good work from Phil Jones, who was superb at right back, he put in a superb ball that Rooney managed to get on the end of between the two Bolton centre backs. Jones continued to threaten down that left, bursting through the midfield and defence with ease and coming ever so close to scoring. Unfortunately for Bolton, Jaaskelainen’s save landed at the feet of Rooney again, who slotted home the third. Come the second half, United kept on pressing for a fourth, which eventually came from a poor strike from Carrick that fell to the feet of Hernandez again, who finished like a traditional poacher. The fifth was Rooney’s hat-trick, after good wor from Giggs down the wing, a pull back to Rooney who stroked the ball into the corner. It was another flowing attacking display from United that, bar the Benfica game, looks to have defences in fear, but Bolton were just not ready for it. Klasnic looks sharp, forcing a few saves from De Gea, and Reo Coker smashed the crossbar, but other than that the only offence came from Davies’ boot, who’s stay on the pitch for longer than 30 minutes seemed to be beyond belief. Man United look imperious, and Bolton need to let this obviously difficult start affect their confidence.

Manchester City 3-0 Wigan Athletic

Two undefeated sides met at the Etihad Stadium, but there was really ever going to be one side in it.  Aguero was on form again and it took him 13 minutes to notch the first goal, after some wonderful work from Silva, Aguero put it through Figueroa’s legs and into the net for 1-0. Then came Tevez’s chance to make himself more endeared to the City fans after his determination to leave in the summer after Aguero was brough down in the box. But, Carlos fluffed his lines and the poor penalty was saved by Al-Habsi. But, City just looked stronger and stronger, as Lescott and Toure hit the post in the same move, then came on Nasri and the second goal came almost instantly afterwards. Almost his first touch put in Aguero, who scored his and City’s second, with Wigan swiftly sinking. And with that, Silva created another glorious chance for Aguero to get his hat-trick, and there was never to be any other outcome. Wigan were simply outclassed in this game, only really had one chance and were always on the back foot. City look great still, but with United it seems to be anything you can do, I can do better at the moment.

Sunderland 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea were not at their best in this game, but they never really had to be. They started well, keeping possesstion and allowing Juan Mata to be the creative influence. They were given a free-kick 18 minutes in, which struck the post from Mata, and after a lovely ball from Strurridge and some hilarious comedy defending, John Terry struck home to put Chelsea in a deserved lead. And they continued to press throughout the game, and got their second when Meireles played a stunning ball in which Sturridge replied with a cheeky backheel past Mignolet to put them two goals to the good. Sunderland were poor, but they did get a concelation through South Korean international Dong-Won Ji in the dying embers, but it wasn’t enough. Phil Bardsley was also lucky to originally escape without punishment for stamping on Mata, but the FA have now charged him with violent conduct and is now suspended for four games. This compounds’ Steve Bruce’s misery, after Asamoah Gyan wandered off for 200k a week on loan to Al-Aid, and they are yet to pick up a win this season. Chelsea are still winning without being outstanding, and their biggest test will be this weekend against Manchester United.

Arsenal 1-0 Swansea City

There was no two ways about it, Arsenal were lucky. They played okay through the game, with Arteta slotting into the squad with ease, but they never had it all their own way. And it took the most outrageous mistake from Michael Vorm to give Arsenal the lead, as he threw the ball into his defender and Arshavin dispatched the chance into the open net. Swansea never looked out of the game, with Sinclair hitting the post and Graham having two great chances to get the Welsh sides first goal of the season, but it wasn’t to be. For Arsenal, Mertesacher looked shaky, Gibbs looked nervous and Koscielny is worryingly poor, and they need to gel as soon as possible. Swansea need to find some goals, or they will quickly be dragged into a relegation battle.

Stoke City 1-0 Liverpool

Stoke continue their unbeaten record with a great three points against Liverpool, who somehow didn’t manage to score. Suarez was on top form again, stretching the Stoke defence at any chance, and he may have had a case for a penalty when Delap handled the ball, but at the speed of play, it would have been incredibly hard to judge. Then, Stoke were ironically given a penalty, rightly, for Carragher having his arms all over Walters, who picked himself up and slid the penalty past Pepe Reina. In the second half, Henderson was put through for Liverpool, and somehow he and Adam couldn’t get past Begovic and his diving-infront-of-bullets defenders. Suarez was then outraged that Liverpool weren’t given a penalty for a Upson handball, but it would have been more than harsh. The Uruguayan had a chance late on to earn a point for the reds, but in the end Stoke held on for the win. Stoke look very good, have made great buys in the summer, and will be difficult for anyone to face this season. Liverpool, again, faltering against a team they should beat, and the main reason no-one will realistically back them in challenging for the title.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Adebayor has scored on his debut for both Arsenal and Manchester City, and in this game he made sure his Tottenham debut would get off to that same great start, as Spurs beat Wolves. It was a decent game, with both sides not afraid of getting forward, but the game lit up after the second half after a great ball from another Tottenham debutant Scott Parker gifted Adebayor his first goal in a Spurs shirt, and from then they didn’t look like losing. Defoe added to the scoreline later on, and Tottenham look much improved with Parker and Adebayor in the side, and with Van Der Vaart to come back yet, they could yet push for Europe. Wolves shouldn’t be too worried, and as long as they pick back up next weekend, they will still be in and around mid table.

Everton 2-2 Aston Villa

In a very good and eventful game, Everton and Villa played out a draw. From the off, Everton looked the better side, even though they were playing with a makeshift strike force. In that front line came the first goal, as Cahill and Osman linked up for the latter to finish off the chance and put the Toffees in front. After the break, Villa got more into the match, and managed to equalise through an absolute stunner of a strike from Stylian Petrov. From what must have bee 30+ yards out, he belted the ball with immense quality as it curled away from Howard’s grasp and into the bottom corner. But almost straight after, Everton gained a penalty and Baines put Everton back into the lead. Alas, it was not to be a victory for Everton as Agbonlahor managed to finish from a great ball by Albrighton, and the points were fairly shared. Both teams look solid going forward, but they need to tighten up a little at the back to turn draws into victories.

Norwich City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

In what was an odd game, West Brom got their first win of their season against an unlucky Norwich. Right at the start of the game, Norwich’s defence fell asleep, allowing Peter Odemwingie to get his first goal of the season. From then on, Norwich seemed the team on the up, again playing their expansive football down both wings, but to no avail. Then, in the second half, a moment of contreversy as Steven Reid fell down under Morrison’s challenge earning West Brom a penalty. It was a ridiculous dive, and he stopped Morrison running through later on in the game, and he is quickly becoming one of my more unfavourable players in the EPL, but justice was served when Declan Rudd saved from Odemwingie. Then came another moment of insanity, as Tamas swung an elbow at Vaughan as a cross came in, unseen by the referee. The amount of pundits that felt it was an “accident” was unbelieveable, and Tamas should have 100% been sent off, and has been now charged by the FA. Norwich really need a win, because the lapses in defence are beggining to cost them points, and that may result in relegation. As for West Brom, they finally got their overdue win, and should be okay from now on.

Fulham 1-1 Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn managed to get out of this game with a point, while Fulham would have been left wondering how they did not win. Fulham were on top from the word go, but Duff had a very poor game and the amount of times he had the ball down the wing and ceased to deliver the final ball was unbelievable. And with that, as always with football, Blackburn got the first goal. Hoilett worked the wing and pulled back for Rochina, who hit a corker of a shot into the top corner. It may have been undeserved, but Steve Kean will take anything at this time. Fulham finally got their breakthrough on the half hour mark, as Bobby Zamora pulled a little space and finished brilliantly. Through the second half, Fulham pressed but couldn’t break the Blackburn barrier. The end of the game was marred due to a unfortunate injury to Hoilett, and Steve Kean’s accusation that Schwarzer should have been sent off for a 50/50 challenge. Both teams really need to improve, but one in this game looks more likely than the other.

QPR 0-0 Newcastle

In a game that I didn’t really see, QPR seem to have improved over the summer. Leon Best had a very good chance in the first half that went wide, and Shaun Wright-Phillips had a very good game down the right wing, passing players with ease and almost scoring himself. Jay Bothroyd probably should have scored in the game, and had been given a gift from SWP that he wasted. But the biggest talking point was Barton, who’s only real involvement in the game was to get put on his arse by Cheik Tiote, much to my delight. QPR looked better in the highlights, and Newcastle seem to be a better side this season without Barton, so both have improved with him moving on.

That’s it for this week, I will be more punctual next week by posting on a tuesday, please subscribe, comment and join me again next week.

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Transfer Window Summer Review

This week, due to the International’s, I will review each team’s activities over the summer, and whether they have gone forwards or backwards. But first, congratulations to Germany, Italy and Spain for reaching the Euro 2012 finals. Now, onto the review (Thanks to BBC Sport for all the transfers):

Arsenal

Players in: Carl Jenkinson (Charlton, £1m*), Gervinho (Lille, £10.7m*), Alex
Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton, initial £12million), Joel Campbell(Deportivo Saprissa, undisclosed), Park Chu-young (Monaco, £3m-5m*), Andre Santos (Fenerbahce, £6.2m*), Per Mertesacker (Werder Bremen, £8m*), Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea, season loan), Mikel Arteta (Everton, £10million).

Players out: Gael Clichy (Manchester City, £7m*), Denilson (Sao Paulo, season loan), Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (Ipswich, £1.5m-£2m*), Kyle Bartley (Rangers, season loan), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, £35m*), Emmanuel Eboue (Galatasaray, £3m*), Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad, season loan), Samir Nasri (Manchester City, £25m*), Armand Traore (QPR, undisclosed), Joel Campbell (Lorient, season loan), Gilles Sunu (Lorient, undisclosed), Henri Lansbury (West Ham, season loan), Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland, season loan).

Review: In all fairness, Arsenal have had probably the busiest and most strenuous transfer window, losing key players at poor times, and having to make a mad dash to put together a squad on the last day. Fabregas, Nasri and, in a way, Clichy are big losses, but there were no tears for Traore, Eboue or Bendtner. With Arteta joining the ranks, they may regain some creativity in midfield, boosted with the loaning of Benayoun also a decent addition to the squad. However, with Mertesacker bringing height and experience but the potential to be out-paced by Heskey, and Alex Santos, from what I have seen, being a very poor man’s left-footed Dani Alves, Arsenal are still worse off than they began the season.

Forwards or Backwards: Backwards, unfortunately.

Aston Villa

Players in: Shay Given (Manchester City, £3.5m*), Charles N’Zogbia (Wigan, £9.5m*), Alan Hutton (Tottenham, undisclosed), Jermaine Jenas (Tottenham, season loan).

Players out: Nigel Reo-Coker (Bolton, free), John Carew (West Ham, free), Robert Pires, Moustapha Salifou, Isaiah Osbourne (all released), Brad Friedel (Tottenham, free), Ashley Young (Manchester United, £16m*), Stewart Downing (Liverpool, £20m*), Luke Young (QPR, undisclosed), Jean Makoun (Olympiacos, season loan).

Review: Villa have been quite shrewd in the market this summer, but have also lost quite a lot. Shay Given at almost £4m is an absolute steal, Hutton and Jenas are both solid players and N’Zogbia can be a terrific player. All this aside, they have lost the likes of Young and Downing, but they haven’t seemed to be too much of a loss, more like big gains to the sides they have joined.

Forwards or Backwards: Stayed relatively in the same position, maybe slightly backwards.

Blackburn Rovers

Players in: David Goodwillie (Dundee United, £2.8m*), Radosav Petrovic (Partizan Belgrade, undisclosed), Simon Vukcevic (Sporting Lisbon, undisclosed), Scott Dann (Birmingham, undisclosed), Yakubu (Everton, undisclosed), Jordan Slew (Sheffield United, £1m)

Players out: Phil Jones (Manchester United, £17m*), Frank Fielding (Derby, £300,000), Jason Brown, Zurab Khizanishvili, Maceo Rigters (all released), Benjani Mwaruwari(Portsmouth, free), Keith Andrews (Ipswich, loan), Nikola Kalinic (Dnipro, undisclosed), Brett Emerton (Sydney FC, free).

Review: Blackburn have made a poor start to the season, and bringing in players is what they needed and what they have done. Scott Dann, chased by Arsenal and Liverpool, is a great piece of business, and would be a superb partner to Samba at the back. Vukcevic, if his head is in the game, can be a great playmaker, Petrovic is a decent midfielder and Yakubu has scored goals wherever he goes. If Goodwillie gets regular starts too, they may steer clear of relegation. Jones is still a huge loss, as is Kalinic, but the Croation was never given the chance to shine.

Forwards or Backwards: Forwards, but barely.

Bolton Wanderers

Players in: Darren Pratley (Swansea, free), Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa, free), Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears (Burnley, joint £3m*), Tuncay Sanli (Wolfsburg, season loan), Dedryck Boyata (Manchester City, loan), Gael Kakuta (Chelsea, loan until January), David Ngog (Liverpool, £4m*).

Players out: Joey O’Brien (West Ham, free), Johan Elmander, Jlloyd Samuel, Tamir Cohen (all released), Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan, £4m*), Matt Taylor (West Ham, £2.2m*), Danny Ward (Huddersfield, £1m*).

Review: Bolton are slowly becoming the tester side for future Premier League stars, but that’s a tag I’m sure they will not mind holding. The signings of Pratley, Reo-Coker, Eagles, Tuncay and Ngog could all be very good, and they were all reasonably priced, so on that note Bolton have done well. Boyata looks like a future centre back star, and a potential softner to the almost certain departure of Cahill in January, and we will see if Kakuta was really worth all that hassle a couple of years ago, but it’s no water off Bolton’s back. In the departures, the only one really of note is Elmander, but Klasnic has already got off to a decent start, and he’s almost already been forgotten.

Forwards or Backwards: Forwards.

Chelsea

Players in: Thibaut Courtois (Genk, £7.9m*), Oriol Romeu (Barcelona, £4.35m*), Romelu Lukaku (Anderlecht, undisclosed), Juan Mata (Valencia, undisclosed), Ulises Davila (Chivas Guadalajara, undisclosed), Raul Meireles (Liverpool, £12m*).

Players out: Michael Mancienne (Hamburg, £3m*), Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, loan), Gokhan Tore (Hamburg, undisclosed), Jeffrey Bruma (Hamburg, season loan), Jack Cork (Southampton, £750,000*), Fabio Borini (Parma, free), Yury Zhirkov (Anzhi Makhachkala, £13.2m*), Slobodan Rajkovic (Hamburg, undisclosed), Ulises Davila (Vitesse Arnham, season loan), Patrick van Aanholt (Wigan, season loan), Gael Kakuta (Bolton, loan), Yossi Benayoun (Arsenal, season loan).

Review: After chasin Modric all summer, they had to settle on deadline day for Raul Meireles. A good player in his own right, but not a huge step in quality that Chelsea look like they really need to challenge with full authority at the title this season. Mata is a superb signing, who will finally give Chelsea more genuine width, Lukaku will be a star for the future, as will Courtois. People were begging Chelsea to bring in some youth, and half of the players they did purchase have gone out on loan. All this might just have been preparing for next season, which is much more of a dissapointment.

Forwards or Backwards: Inched forwards, but not enough.

Everton

Players in: Denis Stracqualursi (Tigre, season loan), Royston Drenthe
(Real Madrid, season loan).

Players out: James Vaughan (Norwich, undisclosed), Iain Turner (released), Shane Duffy (Scunthorpe, loan), Mikel Arteta (Arsenal, £10million), Jermaine
Beckford (Leicester, rising to £4million), Yakubu (Blackburn, undisclosed).

Review: After almost no movement all summer, Everton were attracting flies on deadline day. Arteta, Beckford and Yakubu all left, leaving them with only one striker in Saha. Most fans will say rather Arteta than Fellaini or Cahill or Baines, but it’s still a huge loss in the end. Stracqualursi is a big risk, but if he provides it’ll be a terrific find, and Drenthe is a good winger, but is that enough for a European challenge? I think Everton would rather stick with mid table, rather than have their thin squad into Europe.

Forwards or Backwards: Backwards, no doubt about it.

Fulham

Players in: Csaba Somogyi (unattached), John Arne Riise (Roma, undisclosed),
Marcel Gecov (Slovan Liberec, undisclosed), Pajtim Kasami (Palermo,
undisclosed), Zdenek Grygera (Juventus, free), Orlando Sa (Porto, free), Bryan Ruiz (FC
Twente, £10.6m*).

Players out: Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, £600,000*), Diomansy Kamara (Eskisehirspor, free), Jonathan Greening (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), John Pantsil
(Leicester, free), Zoltan Gera (West Brom, free), David Stockdale (Ipswich, season
loan), Keanu Marsh-Brown (Dundee United, loan).

Review: It’s almost as if Fulham saved up all their pennies over the summer to pay for one big markee signing, and they really pulled it out of the bag. Bryan Ruiz is a terrific player, a brilliant addition to the Fulham squad, and could be that type of player to push them into that next level. Riise is a great addition also, a very adept and experienced left back, and Kasami is one for the future. Link this to not a key player leaving, and Fulham have had a good summer, with the real possibilty of pushing forward.

Forwards or Backwards: By quite a while, forwards.

Liverpool

Players in: Jordan Henderson (Sunderland, £16m*), Charlie Adam (Blackpool, £8.5 million), Alexander Doni (Roma, free), Stewart Downing (Aston Villa, £20m*), Jose
Enrique (Newcastle, £6m*), Sebastian Coates (Nacional, undisclosed), Villyan Bijev (California Odyssey, undisclosed), Craig Bellamy (Manchester City, undisclosed).

Players out: Paul Konchesky (Leicester, £1.5m*), Peter Gulacsi (Hull, season loan), Milan Jovanovic (Anderlecht, undisclosed), Tom Ince (Blackpool, undisclosed), Daniel Ayala (Norwich, £800,000*), Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Wolfsburg, undisclosed), Daniel Pacheco (Atletico Madrid, season loan), Alberto Aquilani (AC Milan, season loan), Emiliano Insua
(Sporting Lisbon, undisclosed), Joe Cole (Lille, loan), Christian Poulsen (Evian, undisclosed), Villyan Bijev (Fortuna Dusseldorf, loan), David Ngog (Bolton, undisclosed), Raul Meireles (Chelsea, £12m*).

Review: This summer, Liverpool spent big, spent British and spent well. Downing, Henderson and Adam have all got off to great starts for the reds, and although they all came with hefty price tags, Dalglish’s side are yet to lose and are beggining to gel. In Jose Enrique they finally have a left back, and in Sebastian Coates they have a young centre back who could be a future star. The only loss of not is Meireles, but it’s not as bigger blow as it may have been last year, and the rest of the outgoings were deadweight.

Forwards or Backwards: Not walking, but running forwards.

Manchester City

Players in: Gael Clichy (Arsenal, £7m*), Stefan Savic (Partizan Belgrade, £6m*), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid, £38million*), Costel Pantilimon (Timisoara, undisclosed), Samir Nasri (Arsenal, £25m*), Owen Hargreaves (unattached).

Players out: Patrick Vieira (retired), Javier Garrido (released), Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich, undisclosed), Ben Mee (Burnley, season loan), Shay Given (Aston Villa, £3.5m), Jo (Internacional, undisclosed), Kieran Trippier (Burnley, season loan), Michael Johnson (Leicester, season loan), Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham, season loan),Dedryck Boyata (Bolton, loan), Roque Santa Cruz (Real Betis, season loan), Vladimir Weiss (Espanyol, season loan), John Guidetti (Feyenoord, season loan), Ahmed Benali
(Rochdale, season loan), Shaun Wright-Phillips (QPR, undisclosed), Craig Bellamy
(Liverpool, undisclosed).

Review: As usual, City have spent big on quality player, but it finally looks like they will be title contenders. Aguero, even though he is the most expensive player of this window in England, he has become already a goalscoring machine, a tricky opponent and is disposing the need for Carlos Tevez. Nasri is a terrific addition, Clichy should be more likely good cover for Kolarov and Savic will become a good defender. They also managed to come up with the biggest surprise of the window, signing former United player Owen Hargreaves, and if he can keep fit would be another magnificent addition to a deep squad pool. They have got rid of any extra baggage, and look to have shifted up an extra gear, worryingly for any potential title contenders.

Forwards or Backwards: One big step forwards.

Manchester United

Players in: Phil Jones (Blackburn, £17 million), Ashley Young (Aston Villa, £16m*), David de Gea (Atletico Madrid, £17.8m*).

Players out: Edwin van der Sar (retired), Paul Scholes (retired), Owen Hargreaves (released), Bebe (Besiktas, season loan), Ritchie de Laet (Norwich, season loan), Nicky Ajose (Peterborough, undisclosed), Wes Brown (Sunderland, £1m*), John O’Shea (Sunderland, £5m*), Corry Evans (Hull, loan), Gabriel Obertan (Newcastle, undisclosed), Oliver Norwood (Scunthorpe, loan).

Review: The champions did their business early and quickly, bringing in De Gea, Jones and Young. Young has been superb, both for United and England, and looks well worth the money, as does Jones who has slotted in well with Vidic’s absence. De Gea has at times struggled, but has also got time on his side, and has shown at times his outstanding shot stopping ability. And with Cleverley and Welbeck returning like two extra signings, United have softened the blow of the retiring Scholes and Van Der Sar. They almost look stronger.

Forwards or Backwards: Worryingly for others, forwards.

Newcastle United

Players in: Yohan Cabaye (Lille, £4.3m*), Demba Ba (West Ham, free), Sylvain Marveaux (Rennes, free), Mehdi Abeid (Lens, undisclosed), Gabriel Obertan
(Manchester United, undisclosed), Davide Santon (Inter Milan, undisclosed), Rob Elliott
(Charlton, undisclosed).

Players out: Sol Campbell, Shefki Kuqi (both released), Kevin Nolan (West Ham, £4m*), Kazenga LuaLua (Brighton, loan), Wayne Routledge (Swansea, undisclosed), Jose Enrique
(Newcastle, £6m*), Joey Barton (QPR, free).

Review: With the loss of Barton, Nolan and Enrique, some may say Newcastle have gone backwards. Sure, they were all good players for the magpies, but they seem to have done more bad than good before they were shown the exit. In came Cabaye, Marveaux, Obertan and Santon, who more than soften the blow. Cabaye could be a magnificent piece of business, as could Marveaux and Santon, and Obertan will feel much more at home with regular football at St James Park. And if Ba can start firing, they may be more than pleased to see the back of players such as Barton.

Forwards or Backwards: Surprisingly, forwards.

Norwich City

Players in: James Vaughan (Everton, £2m*), Steve Morison (Millwall, £2.8m*), Elliott Bennett (Brighton, £2m*), Ritchie de Laet (Manchester United, season loan), Bradley Johnson (Leeds, free), Anthony Pilkington (Huddersfield, £2m*), Kyle Naughton (Tottenham, season loan), Daniel Ayala (Liverpool, £800,000).

Players out: Luke Daley (Plymouth, free), Stephen Hughes (released), Cody McDonald
(Coventry, undisclosed), Anthony McNamee (MK Dons, free).

Review: Norwich did the majority of their dealings early, and the signs are showing that it might not be quite enough. De Laet looks big but error prone, Johnson looks much more like a Championship player, and Vaughan will not score 10 goals a season. However, there are bright lights in Bennett and Pilkington, Naughton looks to be quite decent, but they aren’t quite enough to keep them up.

Forwards or Backwards: From last season, forwards, but not enough for this league.

QPR

Players in: Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff, free), Kieron Dyer (unattached), Danny Gabbidon (unattached), Bruno Perone (unattached), DJ Campbell (Blackpool, £1.2m*),
Brian Murphy (unattached), Joey Barton (Newcastle, free), Luke Young (Aston
Villa, undisclosed), Armand Traore (Arsenal, undisclosed), Tommaso Trani (unattached), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City, undisclosed) Anton Ferdinand (Sunderland, undisclosed)

Players out: Mikele Leigertwood (Reading, undisclosed), Angelo Balanta (MK Dons, five-month loan), Kaspars Gorkss (Reading, undisclosed), Antonio German(released).

Review: QPR were, eventually, the most active team in the transfer market, and they pulled in masses of players. Wright-Phillips is a great buy for the club, with pace and great width, he might be a great assett, as could potentially Joey Barton. Luke Young, Armand Traore and Anton Ferdinand add more bodies and steel to the back line, as do DJ Cambell and Jay Bothroyd to the attack. They really brought in quality at the end of the window, enough to potentially keep them in the league.

Forwards or Backwards: In the end, forwards.

Stoke City

Players in: Jonathan Woodgate (unattached), Matthew Upson (unattached), Wilson Palacios (Tottenham, £6m*), Cameron Jerome (Birmingham, undisclosed), Peter Crouch (Tottenham, £12m).

Players out: Abdoulaye Faye (West Ham, free), Eidur Gudjohnsen (released), Ibrahima Sonko (Ipswich, free), Carl Dickinson (Watford, undisclosed), Andrew Davies (Crystal Palace, loan)

Review: Tony Pulis has really pulled the rabbit out of a hat at Stoke. When they hadn’t spent a penny all summer, bringing in Upson and Woodgate, people thought that was it. Then, on deadline day, he secured the signatures of Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios and Cameron Jerome, in what many have seen as quite a coup. They have real options going forward, a real quality midfielder, and an already packed and solid defense. With no real loss of note, Stoke are going to be difficult to face this season, even in Europe.

Forwards or Backwards: Forwards.

Sunderland

Players in: Ahmed Elmohamady (ENPPI, £2m*), Kieren Westwood (Coventry, free), Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham, free), Conor Wickham (Ipswich, £8million), Ji Dong-won (Chunnam Dragons, £2.1m*), Craig Gardner (Birmingham, £6m*), Wes Brown (Manchester United, £1m*), John O’Shea (Manchester United, £5m*), David Vaughan (unattached), James McClean (Derry City, £350,000), Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal, season loan).

Players out: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool, £16m*), Boudewijn Zenden (released), Cristian Riveros (Kayserispor, season loan), David Healy (Rangers, free), Steed Malbranque (St Etienne, undisclosed), George McCartney (West Ham, season loan).

Review: Sunderland have decided to re-shuffle this season, with plenty of players joining the club. Larsson, Vaughan and Gardner and all good buys, especially the first two on free’s, O’Shea and Brown will bring experience to the defence, and the trio of Wickham, Dong and Bendtner hopefully bringing goals. Sunderland have been poor in the first few games, but they do now have the squad to build on permormances and be a much better side. Losing Henderson was a dissapointment, but they have brought in plenty to compensate.

Forwards or Backwards: On paper, forwards, but potential to go backwards.

Swansea City

Players in: Danny Graham (Watford, £3.5million), Steven Caulker (Tottenham, season loan), Jose Moreira (Benfica, £750,000*), Leroy Lita (Middlesbrough, £1.75m), Wayne Routledge (Newcastle, undisclosed), Michael Vorm (FC Utrecht, £1.5m), Gerhard Tremmel (free), Fede Bessone (Leeds, free), Darnel Situ (Lens, initial £250,000).

Players out: Darren Pratley (Bolton, free), Dorus de Vries (Wolves, free) Gorka
Pintado, Cedric van der Gun, Albert Serran (all released), Ryan Harley (Brighton, undisclosed).

Review: Swansea needed to find extra players to strengthen their squad, and they have tried their best to bring bodies in. Championship top scorer Danny Graham could be a great buy when he scores his first goal and gains confidence, Routledge is another decent player and competition for Sinclair and Dyer, and Michael Vorm looks a steal already for £1.5m. However, the loss of Pratley is a big one, and with Tate out for a while and Monk only just returning, they haven’t brought in enough decent defensive cover, which may worry Swan fans.

Forwards or Backwards: Stayed in neutral.

Tottenham Hotspur

Players in: Brad Friedel (Aston Villa, free), Cristian Ceballos (unattached), Emmanuel
Adebayor (Manchester City, season loan), Yago Falque (Juventus, season loan), Soleymane Coulibaly (Siena, undisclosed), Scott Parker (West Ham, undisclosed).

Players out: Jonathan Woodgate (released), Jamie O’Hara (Wolves, £5million), Robbie Keane(LA Galaxy, £3.5million), Steven Caulker (Swansea, season loan), Paul-Jose M’Poku (Standard Liege, undisclosed), Kyle Naughton (Norwich, season loan), Bongani Khumalo (Reading, season loan), Ryan Mason (Doncaster, season loan), David Bentley
(West Ham, season loan), Callum Tapping (Hearts, nominal), Wilson Palacios
(Stoke, £6m*), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Jermaine Jenas (Aston Villa, season loan), Peter Crouch (Stoke, £12m).

Review: This summer, Harry Redknapp seemed more determined to get the wage bill down more than anything, other than keeping Modric on the books. He managed to do both, while at the same time adding Friedel and Parker to an already good side. It will bring that more experience to the squad, but they need Modric to feel at home again, as that is really the big gain this summer. The losses of Crouch and Keane have left the front line bare, an area they should have stregthened the most, and losing out on Cahill has also left the defence looking a little weak also.

Forwards or Backwards: On everything, most likely backwards.

West Bromwich Albion

Players in: Gareth McAuley (Ipswich, free), Billy Jones (Preston, free), Ben Foster (Birmingham, season loan), Zoltan Gera (unattached), Marton Fulop (Ipswich, free), Shane Long (Reading, undisclosed).

Players out: Abdoulaye Meite (Dijon, free), Giles Barnes, Dean Kiely (both released), Borja Valero (Villarreal, undisclosed) Scott Carson (Bursaspor, £2m*), Gianni
Zuiverloon (Real Mallorca, free), Boaz Myhill (Birmingham, season loan), Chris Wood (Birmingham, loan), Ishmael Miller (Nottingham Forest, £1.2m), James Hurst
(Blackpool, season loan), Marek Cech (Trabzonspor, undisclosed), Pablo Ibanez
(Birmingham, undisclosed).

Review: There wasn’t too much business this season from the Baggies, but what they have done has been significant. Long already has two goals agains Man United and Chelsea, which looks like a great purchase, and getting Ben Foster on loan to replace the error prone Scott Carson was probably the best decision Roy Hodgson has made. Althought Valero has left, unsurprisingly to Villareal, West Brom look a much better outfit than last season, and could be a mainstay in the Premier League.

Forwards or Backwards: Luckily, forwards.

Wigan Athletic

Players in: Ali Al-Habsi (Bolton, £4m*), David Jones (unattached), Nouha Dicko (unattached), Albert Crusat (Almeria, undisclosed), Shaun Maloney
(Celtic, £1m*), Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea, season loan).

Players out: Steven Caldwell, Daniel de Ridder, Jason Koumas, Mike Pollitt (all released), Antonio Amaya (Real Betis, undisclosed), Charles N’Zogbia (Aston Villa, £9.5m*), Mauro Boselli (Estudiantes, loan)

Review: Wigan have lost a lot more than they gained this window. As may be obvious, getting Al-Habsi on a permanent deal is the best business they did this summer, and that says a lot. Maloney is a decent player, but may not replace the giant shoes of N’Zogbia or Cleverley. Van Aanholt is a good loan signing, but they clearly haven’t done enough to stay in the league.

Forwards or Backwards: Backwards, probably more than anyone.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Players in: Dorus de Vries (Swansea, free), Jamie O’Hara (Tottenham, £5m), Roger Johnson (Birmingham,
£7m*).

Players out: Marcus Hahnemann, David Jones (both released), Steven Mouyokolo (Sochaux, season loan), Andy Keogh (Leeds, loan), Greg Halford (Portsmouth, undisclosed), Carl Ikeme (Middlesbrough, loan), Stefan Maierhofer (Red Bull Salzburg, undisclosed).

Review: Even though they haven’t brought in many players, Wolves this season look like a different team. Part of it can come down to Roger Johnson, who has given them something extra at the back, and is a real leader in the side, something they really needed. Jamie O’Hara was impressive on loan, and signing him on a permanant deal was a great piece of business, and settling for him now knowing where his future lies. Only shifting deadweight out of the club, McCarthy may lead this club into mid table mediocrity, but I’m sure the Wolves fans will be more than pleased with that.

Forwards or Backwards: Forwards, to the delight of the fans.

And that’s it for this week, subscribe and comment, and join me again for a more traditional review of the games in the Premier League next week.

 

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The Amazing Disappearing Defence Act

The Big News

The big news this week was Transfer Deadline day, and as usual, it was full of surprise moves, big signings and huge losses. The most unlikely deal was that of Mikel Arteta, who has joined Arsenal from Everton for £10 million pounds, in a deal that could really make or break Arsenal’s season. Is he good enough to have that responsibility anymore? I am not 100 percent sure. Another move that looked unlikely is that of Peter Crouch moving to Stoke from Tottenham, in what is a real coup for the Midland’s side. He may not be a huge goalscorer, but he may get more opportunities to shine at Stoke, and he suits their tall and strong side. But, for me, it was Fulham who pulled off the best transfer, possibly of the whole window, by bringing in Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz from FC Twente. It was a great piece of business, and the sort of player that could push the Cottagers to the next level.

I will have a more in-depth analysis of the whole transfer window over the next week, and there will be no analysis of games due to the international break. But as always, here is a look back at Week 3 of the Barclay’s Premier League.

Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal

We all saw it coming, we just never knew how deep the blade would cut. Even before the game began, Vermalen and Sagna were ruled out, and you could see the storm coming. For a reasonable amount of time, Arsenal kept United at arm’s length, until Jenkinson was caught out of position, a fact he would have had screamed down his ear from Walcott, The resulting corner eventually landed at Anderson’s feet, a deft chip and a flailing defence later, Welbeck nodded home an almost comedy goal. But then, a lifeline, as Walcott was brought down by Evans, but Van Persie hit a dismal penalty that was saved by De Gea. From that, Man United went up the other end, with Ashley Young curling in brilliantly for the second. A foul and yellow card from Jenkinson lead to Rooney scoring the third from the free-kick, and Walcott managed to steal a goal back just before half time, 3-1. But, all that hope was dashed, when Rooney scored a second free kick, which was swiftly followed by a chip from Nani for five, and even Park getting in on the act for six. Van Persie scored a second for Arsenal, but it was less than a concelation, and to make things even worse, Jenkinson pulled down Hernandez for a second yellow, and his marching orders. Rooney finished off his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Walcott brought down Evra, and Young finished them off with a superb strike for eight. Arsenal were more than poor, and their defensive line was more fragile than a sandcastle. Arsene has acted, but he needs them to gel as soon as possible to get their season back on track. Worryingly for most, United can still go up a gear, and they are a real threat going forward.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City

It was very much anything you can do, I can do just as well, as Man City put 5 past Tottenham. It looked like it was coming from the off, as City looked the team on top, with Silva being his usual self and Nasri getting off to a flyer, while Tottenham were still waking up. Then came the first goal, with a great ball from Nasri, Dzeko poked in before Kaboul to give Ctiy just what they had deserved. Then, after another good cross, Dzeko scored an unbelievable header back across goal past Friedel, the control of the header a thing of beauty. And the half time break didn’t help Spurs either, after some more good work from the City players, Dzeko slotted in the hat trick with probably the simplest chance he will have all year. A fourth, lovely link up work between Nasri and Ageuro, and he used his pace to squeeze past Dawson and slot in a great goal. Tottenham got their goal from a decent header from Kaboul, but the damage was already done. A fifth ended any doubt, with a wonderful strike from Dzeko, giving him his fourth in a brilliant display. City are impressive going forward, with Nasri slotting in with ease, and Dzeko is growing into the player everyone knew he could be, and could score many, many more this season. Tottenham, even after two hard games, are yet to wake up. They look like they are still on their holidays, and they really need goals from Adebayor. If they don’t, they could have to settle with Europa League again this season.

Chelsea 3-1 Norwich City

In a game Villas Boas must be glad to put behind him, Chelsea managed somehow to get a 3-1 win against a battling Norwich. It started off so well for Chelsea, with Bosingwa getting them off the mark with an outstanding strike, complementing his brilliant start to the season. But, from then on, Norwich really put Chelsea under pressure, with chances that a bigger team may have capitalised on. In the second half, Norwich finally got their reward, after Hilario went AWOL and Ivanovic couldn’t clear, Holt flicked the ball over his head and into the back of the net, nothing more than Norwich deserved. Unfortunately after that, Ruddy collided with Drogba, knocking the Ivorian out cold, and luckily he escaped serious injury. After a Morrison chance for Norwich that he should have buried, Chelsea brought on Lukaku and Mata and it changed the game for them. Ramires sprinted through late on, only to be brought down by Ruddy, who was sent off due to the goalscoring opportunity, and Lampard dispatched the ensuing penalty. Late on, Mata latched on to the most absurd pass in defensive history, and slotted home his first goal at Chelsea. On this form, at least Chelsea are picking up points when playing poorly, but they do need to up their game for when they face the harder teams in the league. Norwich, however, need to keep playing like this, and they will get the result more often that not.

Liverpool 3-1 Bolton Wanderers

Liverpool are slowly beginning to look very dangerous, as they easily beat a poor Bolton. Liverpool got off to a flyer, attacking at will, and in that came the first goal. After some good work in midfield, the ball fell to Downing, who smashed it against the woodwork, which fell to the lucky feet of Henderson, and after an even more lucky deflection off of Reo-Coker back to his feet, he blasted it into the top corner. After that, Liverpool kept on pressing, and they were rewarded yet again through a header from Skrtel on 52 minutes. Adam then completed the goalscoring for Liverpool, driving his right footed strike into the corner and out of the reach of Jaaskelainen. Bolton did get a goal back through Klasnic, but all in all, they didn’t do much else. On this display, Liverpool could be dangerous to anyone this season, although they do seem to lack concentration at the back, which could be their downfall. Bolton need to give a better account of themselves than this, as the fixtures will just get harder, but they are a much better outfit at home.

Aston Villa 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

The two sides remain unbeaten this season after a game of few chances, and barely any action. There were positives from both sides, as Chris Herd had a good debut for Villa at right back, a good worker at getting forward and back, and reasonably adaptable to both attacking and defending. For Wolves, their defence looks much more confident, with Johnson still being a brick wall, and it seems to have catched the imagination of the rest of his team. A mid table game between mid table sides, both look like they could occasionally trouble teams in and around them, but any hopes of Europe should be very, very small, as both cancelled each other out here.

Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Everton

In one of the more stranger games of Week 3, Everton somehow won this game dominated by penalties. Blackburn looked threatening throughout, much more than their opponents, with Dunn hitting the post after excellent work from N’Zonzi. Then, came the first penalty, as Formica fell over Barkley’s leg in the most theatrical of ways, but that penalty was saved by Howard, although the strike was poor from Hoilett. Everton came back into the game, with Baines looking influential as usual, but Goodwillie came closest to scoring, seeing his effort crash off the bar. Formica again had shown his dancing and falling skills in the box, as he brushed himself down and took Rovers’ second penalty, only to see it bounce off the post. And if you had enough penalties for one game, the referee gave another, in a bizarre “foul” due to Samba climbing, or him and another defender sandwiching, or any other crazy ideal he spotted. And, as football tends to do, Everton stole the points as Arteta tucked away the penalty. Neither side were that impressive, but Blackburn really need to invest in shooting boots, and Everton were lucky to pick up points in another sloppy game at the start of a season.

Newcastle United 2-1 Fulham

Newcastle continue their good start to the season with a win over a slightly hesitant Fulham. In what was really an anonymous first half, it sprung to life as Leon Best slotted home his first of the season. And from that point, Newcastle pushed for more, with good passing and swift movement. Then came the second, a cross field ball from Obertan to Ba, and the new signing punched the ball straight to Best’s feet, and he scored his and Newcastle’s second of the game. Near the end, a free-kick floated in was met by Dempsey, who’s header rised over Tim Krul, who was far off his line, and gave Fulham a glint of hope, that was never realised. Newcastle look good, and they have made some decent signings over the summer, and they are progressing. Fulham seem to have stopped, but the signing of Ruiz should hopefully kick some life back into the London side.

Wigan Athletic 2-0 Queens Park Rangers

Wigan continue undefeated, however only against promoted sides, as they put in a pretty lucky win against QPR. They started off well, with Moses and Rodallega using good movements down the wing. Then, came the lucky boot of Di Santo, as his strike deflected Derry past Kenny into the top corner. After that, QPR looked the more dangerous, with Taarabt finally looking more dangerous, with a great strike that looked certain to go in that hit the post, and a crazy free kick that kicked up and Al-Habsi had to push onto the post. And, as luck has it, Di Santo pulled off another superb yet outrageously fortunate strike. Stealing the ball off Rodallega, much to his annoyance, he went for it again, and this one again deflected flew into the top corner. QPR had enough time to hit the post again with a header from Perone, and that really summed up the whole game. Martinez will be more than delighted to get 5 points away from potential relegation rivals, while QPR will be bemused by how they don’t score, or win, in this game.

West Brom 0-1 Stoke City

In yet another game that really went by without much incident, Stoke somehow stole a win away from what looked for the most part a certain loss. West Brom carried on their work against Man United and Chelsea, probing forward well, with Brunt looking creative and Long looking to snatch any chance that comes his way. With all the pressure they were applying, nothing turned into real goalscoring opportunities, and then in the final few minutes, Stoke stole all three points. Ryan Shotton managed to squeeze between Tamas and Foster, taking the ball and tapping in the easiest of goals. It was within Foster’s hands when Shotton kicks it from his grasp, but the speed of the game you simply couldn’t tell, and the mistake shouldn’t have happened in the first place. West Brom need points and fast, as confidence could plummet, yet Stoke look like they are well adept now and the Premier League, and have really plucked points out of nowhere.

Swansea 0-0 Sunderland

With both sides only scoring one goal between them, it never looked like this was going to be a high scoring thriller. And it was a game of nothing much really happening, Scott Sinclair came close with a couple of efforts, and Gyan should have done better when put through one-on-one, but there was a reason it was near the end of Match of the Day. Both need to find goals, and fast, if they don’t want to slip into the vortex that is a relegation battle. Sunderland look better equipped, but really need to improve and soon. Swansea need to slot a sloppy goal in, and then the goals should hopefully start flowing.

Thanks for reading again, and next week join me for a look at how the Transfer Window favoured the Premier League clubs.

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The Lure of Money

The Big News

The big news this week is Samir Nasri’s imminent departure from Arsenal to Premier League rivals Manchester City. With a year left on his contract and negotiations stalling over wages, Samir has decided to leave for a fee of £25 million pounds, and is expected to sign a contract worth £175k per week. For me, this was a good piece of business by Arsenal. It’s a great fee for only a year left on his contract, it was clear he just wanted more money and it’s good to see a team stick to their guns. Replacements would be in the form of Eden Hazard, former Lille teammate of new Gunner Gervinho, who would provide great speed and creativity from out wide. With Nasri and Cesc Fabregas gone in the space of a week, people are predicting a downfall, but I think if Arsene brings players in, they could be in a better position than before.

Now here is a review of Week 2 in the English Premier League:

Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur

The first home game of the season for the champions ends in a comfortable victory. In what was a very even first 60 minutes, both sides looked comfortable on the ball, solid in defence and both goalkeepers were tested. But after Welbeck’s well taken header, the Red Devils dominated the game. The second coming from a good piece of passing prowess, then a magnificent back-heel from Welbeck and a nicely placed finish from Anderson, and the third from the head of Wayne Rooney, putting gloss on a good victory for United. Welbeck was very impressive, especially after scoring, running with a swagger and belief, and having the audacity to try the bicycle kick and back-heel showed it. Phil Jones was very solid, Smalling could become a right back, and Anderson is growing into a very good central midfielder. As for Tottenham, another day and they would have won. Bale looked strong, Van Der Vaart was dangerous as usual, and Livermore was incredibly impressive, with good pace and judgement. What ruined them was Lennon’s indecision at the byline, and he needs to improve that to keep his place in this talented Spurs side.

Manchester City 3-2 Bolton Wanderers

In another good performance, Manchester City keep up their 100% start to the season with a valuable three points away at Bolton. In the first half, City were in dominance yet again, keeping the ball away from Bolton and creating dangerous chances. And they went in front through some clever passing allowing David Silva to slot home, which was then followed by a second courtesy of a Gareth Barry thunderbolt, which is a sentence I’d never thought I would type. However, straight from the kick off Bolton replied through Klasnic, with a good strike from Petrov’s cross. But after half-time Dzeko restored City’s two goal advantage, holding off Zat Knight with good strength and hitting a strong shot past Jaaskelainen. Bolton had a concelation goal through a Kevin Davies header, but there was really only one likely winner in the game. City looked good going forward again, Silva looking dangerous, Johnson impressive when he came on and Aguero doing almost everything but score. Dzeko was the man of the match for me, he has grown at City and has now settled and showing why he was such a hot property in January. He is bullying defenders again, using his height and power to force defenders to act rashly. What was worrying was the defence conceding twice. Bolton weren’t much of a threat, yet 2 of their 3 shots on target were goals, which should concern Mancini. Bolton will have difficult games ahead against Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal, so will be glad they got that good victory on the opening day, they will still provide trouble at home for any side.

Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool

Arsenal continue to slide after a loss in their first home game against Liverpool. Again, this big clash was fairly equal for 70 minutes, neither really quite having the cutting edge to score, but still looking a dangerous prospect. Carroll had a few chances, Arsenal created occasional opportunities, but neither really looked like opening the deadlock. Until Frimpong went in for a silly challenge of Charlie Adam, earning him a second yellow card and his marching orders. Before that, he had a relatively good game, but his youthful exuberance got the better of him in the end. After that, Liverpool were the only side going to win. An opener came from a freak clearance from Miquel, which rebounded off Ramsey and into the back of the net. The clincher came from good movement and passing between Lucas and Raul Meireles ended in a simple tap in for Suarez. Both looked like they had been offside in the build up, but this was just not to be Arsenal’s day. They need signings, and quickly, and they certainly have the funds to do so. Liverpool are still gelling, but they are a much better team than last season, I think we still have to see how they will turn out.

Chelsea 2-1 West Brom

Somehow, someway Chelsea managed to escape this tricky fixture with three points. From the off, Chelsea looked nervous, the crowd were quiet, and West Brom got off to a flyer. Shane Long pickpocket Alex, who was in his own little world, ran unopposed and slotted confidently past Petr Cech. And it could have been two later on in the half, when Long was free again, but his cross to Tchoyi to slot home was too strong. Then, in the second half, Chelsea got a foothold in the game, and finally began to create chances. With that, came their first goal of the season through Anelka, with West Brom unable to stop him, but the deflection off Olsson keeping it away from Ben Foster’s grasp. And inevitably, in the last 10 minutes Chelsea went ahead through Malouda, which turned out to be the winner. Chelsea did just enough to win this game, but only just. On another day, if West Brom had gone 2-0 up, this could have been a nightmare. Villas Boas has acted by bringing in Mata, which is a good sign, and should mean that Chelsea will put up a better challenge for the title. West Brom have been great in the first two games, but in both have left empty handed.  With Stoke visiting The Hawthorns next weekend, providing they put in the same caliber of performance, West Brom should be picking up their first points.

Sunderland 0-1 Newcastle United

The Tyne-Wear derby was another feisty affair, with Newcastle eventually coming out on top. In the first half, Sunderland were in the ascendancy, with Sessegnon testing Tim Krul from long range regularly, and with the traditional fouling happening from both sides. But the biggest talking point of the first half was Larsson’s magnificent save from Joey Barton, which clearly should have been a penalty. But for all Sunderland’s dominance in the first half, it was punished in the second from a terrific free kick from Ryan Taylor. Although Mignolet was in a bad starting position, the free kick was placed right into the top corner. And then Phil Bardsley had a moment of madness against Coloccini, earning a second yellow and a red card. It was a nitty gritty game to be honest, with a draw probably being a more fair result. For me, Ryan Taylor had already been booked and threw elbows all day, and should have been off the field before the free kick, but again sometimes you just don’t get those decisions. Both will be away from danger, but both need to be a bit more clinical in the final third.

Aston Villa 3-1 Blackburn Rovers

After an indifferent start to the Alex McCleish’s reign at Aston Villa, the fans were treated to a romp against the flat Blackburn Rovers. It all began very quickly, as Villa used their pace to get in behind Blackburn and put them on the back foot. And then came the first goal, with a terrific lofted strike by Gabby Agbonlahor cutting inside from the left. Aston Villa continued to press and through some decent passing and movement came their second from Emile Heskey, of all people. After the interval, Villa took their foot off the gas and allowed Pedersen to score just at the start of the second half, but all doubt of a victory for those in claret and blue were vanished when Darren Bent capitalised in the 67th minute. Villa looked impressive in this game, they had vigor and a desire to go out and win the game, and all three of their strikers scored, which can only be another plus. Blackburn looked poor, are seriously missing Samba, and need another centre back. Whether George Johns be the answer, we will have to see, but Simon Vukcevic will add some creativity in the middle.

Everton 0-1 Queens Park Rangers

After having their opener disrupted by the rioting in London, Everton had their curtain raiser against newcomers QPR. In the first half, Everton were impressive, rushing forward in flowing attacks with Leighton Baines coming very close with a superbly executed free kick. But then, against the run of play, disaster struck. An uncharacteristic mistake from Phil Jagielka allowed Tommy Smith to curl past Tim Howard, scoring QPR’s first goal back in the Premier League. After that, Everton tried their hardest to score a reply but could not quite find the creative spark to earn them a point. A traditionally slow start for the Toffees, but Ross Barkley looks like another talented youngster coming from the scousers ranks, which may help subside the disappointment of no signings over the summer. QPR will be buoyed by the fact they took three points here and with new owners, this could be a stepping stone to them avoiding the trap door this season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 Fulham

In another uplifting display, Wolves grabbed a deserved win against Fulham. The first half was a good game, with both sides looking good on the attack, but looked like we were heading for a 0-0 at half time. How wrong this was, as Kevin Doyle steamed in just before the interval to slot home a goal which lit a fire underneath Wolves. Up they attacked again, and after Johnson was close to scoring, Jarvis finished the rebound and sent them into the break with a two goal lead. In the second half, Fulham tried to apply pressure to the Wolves back line, but were consistently denied. An outstanding block from Ward prevented Fulham from a certain goal, and with that Wolves reached the six point barrier a full two months before they achieved the feat last season. They look a different side this year, with great belief in their attacking flair, and they now have a solid defence with Johnson and Ward looking especially motivated. Fulham don’t quite look the finished article yet, although if they do manage to sign Papiss Demba Cisse from Freiburg, they could become a very difficult prospect indeed.

Norwich City 1-1 Stoke City

In Norwich’s first home game back in the big time, they had to settle with a point against Stoke City. They began brightly, spreading the play well and switching between wings with ease, with Stoke struggling to keep up with the pace. And then came the goal from Richie De Laet, rising ahead of everyone from a deep free kick, heading past Begovic and the stadium erupted. They continued to play well for most of the match, until Stoke were controversially given a penalty, which was clearly outside of the area, and due to being the last man, Leon Barnett was sent off. Although Jon Walters missed the penalty, Stoke pressed for the rest of the game, and finally were rewarded when Kenwyne Jones scored in the very last minute. Norwich were good, but should be disappointed that they couldn’t quite hold on, but will get points if they play like that more. Stoke were poor, they seemed to lack concentration against a team they should hope to be beating, and will need to improve against sides that they should be getting points from.

Swansea 0-0 Wigan

The very first game ever to be held outside of England ended up being a slight dissapointment. Swansea played well during the game, but never really looked like having the goalscoring touch, their players looking like the occasion had got to them. Wigan, on the other hand, never really did much either. Rodallega didn’t start again, Moses did play well but no one else really did anything. There was a penalty mid way through the second half, but Ben Watson’s penalty was saved by the again terrific Michael Vorm. Both still need improvements, and they both need to start beating teams around them to have any chance of staying up. I particularly worry for Wigan, starting with Norwich and Swansea they would have wanted to win both, or at least one, so two points should be very worrying indeed.

That’s it for this week, please feel free to comment, subscirbe, and return to read next week.

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The New Season Begins

The Big News

The biggest news this week is of Arsenal’s sale of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona. After a summer of throwing back the Catalan’s advances, the Gunners finally gave in at £25 million up front, with clauses that could see it rise to £35 million. A lot have speculated that Arsenal could be on a downward spiral, but I think as long as Arsene Wenger goes out and spends money in the 2 weeks left of the transfer window, they should be fine. Who they should buy is a topic that has been discussed, and I have some targets he should be looking at. First of all, a centre back, with the likes of Gary Cahill, Scott Dann and Christopher Samba being linked, and all would be good signings as a commanding force with Thomas Vermalen. Then, they need a defensive midfielder, as Alex Song can be reckless and he has no replacement, and here I would look at Yann M’Vila, who would be at a reasonable price and is a terrific winner and keeper of the ball. And finally, they need to replace Fabregas’ creative ability. They have looked at Jadson, but I think they have better options in Marek Hamsik or even Mario Gotze if they were incredibly ambitious. But a player that could fill the void at a reasonable price is Marvin Martin of Sochaux, who has 17 assists in Ligue 1 last season, and could be cheaper than £10 million. I think he will buy, possibly not the players I’ve highlighted, but I feel as long as they get some creativity and steel, they will still challenge for a Champions League spot.

The Weekend’s Games

West Brom 1 – 2 Manchester United

The champions started the defence of the Premier League title with a tricky trip to The Hawthorns. It started well for United, with the youngest starting eleven in the league this weekend with an average age of 24, with the slick passing we had seen in the Community Shield, and scored through Wayne Rooney early on. However, after the goal West Brom grew into the game, with Tchoyi making a nuisance of himself and Brunt controlling the play. This lead to an equaliser through new signing Shane Long, who may have been handed the goal by De Gea’s poor attempt at saving his tame shot. In the second half, West Brom continued to play well, limiting United’s attempts to break behind them and keeping them at arm’s length. That was until the 83rd minute, where Ashley Young found a way past the back line, crossed in low and the cross was deflected twice and into the back of West Brom’s net. It wasn’t the best of starts for United, but they took the three points. Young, Cleverley and Smalling impressed, as did Tchoyi and Brunt for West Brom, but this was definitely a game to forget for De Gea after his blunder, and Stephen Reid after being tortured by Young all game.

Manchester City 4-0 Swansea City

City, and Kun Aguero, got off to the perfect start at home against Swansea City, as the first game in the Premier League involving the Welsh side ended in a battering. Swansea looked bright to begin with, keeping the ball well and closing down early City play, but City began to take control, hammering shots at impressive goalkeeper Michael Vorm, and somehow the Swans got to half-time 0-0. Then, out came City. They were relentless in the second half, finally getting the breakthrough with Edin Dzeko tap in, and then they took full control. And, just as you feel Swansea could capitulate, on comes Kun Aguero. He was brilliant, having a shot within the first minute of coming on, and then scoring his first goal seven minutes later. He then kept the ball in play to set up David Silva for the third, and a breathtaking strike gave City their fourth and Aguero his perfect start. Mancini said Aguero was 75% fit, and that’s scary. David Silva was massively impressive as usual, Dzeko looks settled and Richards nullified any threat of Scott Sinclair causing any trouble. All in all, an impressive and imperious start for the billionaire club. As for Swansea, I think they will rely on their home form, but if they can play like the first 30 minutes against the teams around them, they will do fine.

Stoke 0-0 Chelsea

In what was a pretty mundane game, Chelsea could not quite get a goal against a tough Stoke. It started very well for Stoke, who looked dangerous on the attack and almost caught Chelsea still on their holidays. However, Chelsea really took control of the game, with Torres looking much more like his former self, even matching up against Woodgate, Shawcross and Huth. In the seond half, there was only really one team in it. There were three penalty shouts, two that were correctly denied and one that should have been a penalty, but it would have been difficult for the referee to judge if Torres was in the box or not. Afterwards, Chelsea hit the bar and rained down many shots on Asmir Begovic, who to his credit kept them all out. A pearl of a strike from Anelka was beautifully saved by the Stoke keeper on to the crossbar, and Stoke stood firm until the final whistle. Chelsea performed well in areas, such as Torres and the suprisingly impressive Bosingwa, but failed on the wings as Malouda and Kalou were dreadful. Stoke played excellent at the back, with Woodgate and Begovic being outstanding, and will be dangerous opposition at the Britannia Stadium again this season.

Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal

A very poor game and a poor first game of the season for the Gunners, as this game was more about fouls than the game itself. The main talking points of the stamp, of which Alex Song should have gone, and the Gervinho dive and then slap, of which both he did and the shameless Joey Barton should have been sent off. The dive, as it was, is difficult to judge. There was definitely contact, but not significant contact to go down like a sack of potatoes. The reaction from Barton was a complete joke, as he took the law into his own hands and then got a gentle stroke on the cheek and fell like he’d been hit by Mike Tyson. It was farcical, and only one went made it more ridiculous. The fact there isn’t much about the game shows you how poor it was, and Arshavin should not be starting if he puts in performances like that. Both teams will improve, but this was a bad way to start the campaign.

Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland

This was the classic “Game of two halves”. First half, Liverpool looked brilliant, with Suarez tormenting the Sunderland defence, earning himself a penalty early on. For me, Richardson has to go, because he is the last man, but I can understand the referee not wanting to ruin the game so early on. Suarez then went on to sky the penalty, but redeem himself by scoring the opening goal with a good header from a superb free-kick by Charlie Adam. Carroll then had a goal dissalowed, rightly in my opinion, and Downing crashed a terrific strike against the bar, and Liverpool headed into half-time with most people wondering how many they would score. Then, they took their foot off the gas and Sunderland started playing football. They took control, and Larsson scored a stunning goal to level things, and that was the way it stayed. If Liverpool can play like that first half in more games and maintain it, they will compete for silverware this season, but if they play like the second half, they will not even make the Europa League. New signings Adam and Downing impressed, whereas Henderson was dissapointing. Sunderland look decent, Brown had a terrific game and looks a steal, Larsson had a good game and they look like they will do well this season.

Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa

In another game that failed to deliver, two familiar managers with different teams got their new reigns underway with a point. In the first half, new Fulham signing John Arne Riise had a great chance to score, but ended up sending his effort into the stands. As the game progressed, Fulham looked the more dangerous side, as Shay Given kept out Bobby Zamora on two different occasions, where he really should have scored. Near the end, Albrighton had a chance to score for Villa but put it wide, and that was basically the story of the game. Neither really put in enough to win, but both managers will like what they saw from their new signings. For me, Villa looked odd, with the selection of Bent, Agbonlahor and Heskey a strange one, with only N’Zogbia as true width to the side. Fulham look similar to the past two seasons, with a few additions, but look as good as they usually do. And from this evidence, neither should worry about flirting with relegation.

QPR 0-4 Bolton Wanderers

What started as a very positive beginning to life in the Premier League quickly turned into a nightmare, as QPR took a beating from Bolton. In the first minute, QPR had a goal correctly dissalowed for offside, but the crowd erupted and put a fire underneath QPR for the first half, who looked like they would eventually get a goal. Until a thunderbolt from Gary Cahill gave Bolton a 1-0 lead going into half time. In the second half, Bolton took complete control, and after the second went in from a Gabbidon own goal, QPR sank their heads into the sand. A third came from a deflection on Klasnic’s shot and good work from Davies, but QPR were being cut through at will. Then came a great fourth from Fabrice Muamba, slicing through the QPR backline like a hot knife through butter, and slotting home a terrific move. On this evidence, Bolton will be a difficult team to beat again this season and could be far away from the relegation trap door. On the other hand, QPR look in trouble already, with Taarabt hardly getting a touch and the defence looking incredibly frail, it could be a long season for them. 

Blackburn 1-2 Wolves

The reverse of the final day fixture last season, both sides wanted to get off to a good start to stay clear of a relegation dogfight this season. Blackburn started off brighter, getting the first goal through some supreme footwork by Jason Roberts setting up Formica for his first goal for the club. But, from then on, Wolves were the better side, and they managed to equalise almost instantly through Steven Fletcher. After a brilliant ball to the back post from Matt Jarvis, Fletcher outjumped Michel Salgado to head into the bottom corner. Then the winner came from a rebound from a poor penalty that the Blackburn defence couldn’t clear until it met the boot of Stephen Ward and flew into the back of the net. Wolves looked good on this performance, with new captain Roger Johnson playing like a man possessed, and they look to have more character this time around. Blackburn, however, could struggle, but with Goodwillie and Petrovic coming into the side, they may improve.    

Wigan 1-1 Norwich

What could already be a six pointer, Norwich managed to get a draw in their first game back. Wigan went ahead after some suicidal defending for Richie De Laet, which lead to Di Santo breaking through to be fowled by the pursuing De Laet. Up stepped Ben Watson to slot away the spot kick, the only one scored in the first weekend. But Norwich piled on what could be described as pressure, and got their reward after Ali Al-Habsi fumbled a cross into the feet on Wes Hoolahan to slot into the back of the net. As for the rest of the game, Moses looked the only attacking threat for Wigan until the introduction of Connor Sammon and Hugo Rodallega, who really should have started. Both looked like they have huge mistakes in defence, they gift the ball to the opposition too easily and will concede more than they score. The future really looks bleak for both sides if they don’t improve at the back.

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The Premier League Preview 2011/2012

Hello and welcome to the first post on this blog, devoted to what most believe to be the best league in the world, the English Premier League. Every Tuesday (after this Wednesday edition) for the next nine months until the trophy is lifted in May, this blog will look into every game, every managerial change, every transfer and every controversy with as unbiased view as possible. To get it out of the way, I am a Manchester United fan, but I will be looking at everything from a different perspective. Hopefully you will find it an interesting and engaging read, please subscribe, follow and feel free to comment.

This first post will focus on the 20 teams competing in the 2011/2012 season of the Barclays Premier League, and how I feel they will finish the season:

Arsenal

 

Key Player: Robin Van Persie

One to Watch: Gervinho

Analysis: Arsenal had a simliar 2010/11 season as they have had for the past 5 or so years. They start off well, keep it going through the hectic Christmas period, and then crumble drastically until they end up somewhere just outside of silverware. And by the look of things, they are only going to weaken the squad, with Fabregas and Nasri expected to leave, and the defence not having been reinforced yet, it could be another year of heartbreak for Arsenal. But, as always, there are glimmers of hope. Gervinho is a very good signing bought from LOSC Lille, and at the back-end of the season it was clear a fit Van Persie is an incredible goalscoring asset. With Chamberlin now bought, and Ramsey fit again, they could be a force in the future. But, for most Arsenal fans, the future is just too far away to content the thirst for silverware.

Prediction: 4th

Aston Villa

Key player: Darren Bent

One to Watch: Charles N’Zogbia

Analysis: After the end of a mixed season for Aston Villa, it was all change. Houillier left, due to his recurring health problems, and star players Ashley Young and Stewart Downing have left for pastures anew. In comes former Birmingham City manager Alex McCleish, in one of the most controversial moves of the summer, and he has attempted to replenish the ranks with the additions of Charles N’Zogbia and Shay Given, replacing Tottenham-bound keeper Brad Friedel. Having Darren Bent for the full campaign this time around, N’Zogbia and the terrific Albrighton supplying from the wings, it could be a more fruitful season for Villa, especially with a manager that certainly knows how to defend. I’m looking at Aston Villa being a tough team to beat this upcoming season, and competing for a Europa League place.

Prediction: 8th

Blackburn Rovers

Key Player: Christopher Samba

One to Watch: David Goodwillie

Analysis: After being on the brink of relegation last season, Blackburn will be looking for a more comfortable campaign this time around. With the Indian millions of the Venky’s backing the club, promises of Vucinic and Ronaldinho have come unfounded. Instead, manager Steve Kean has invested wisely, bringing in highly rated Scottish striker David Goodwillie and Serbian international midfielder Radosav Petrovic. However, with Christopher Samba consistently linked with a move away and losing young starlet Phil Jones to Manchester United, Rovers are increasingly looking weak at the back. But, with attacking options such as David Hoilett and Morten Gamst Pedersen still in their ranks, I think they will keep their heads afloat again. But, it will be another bumpy ride, with Steve Kean likely to be given his marching orders.

Prediction: 16th

Bolton Wanderers

Key Player: Stuart Holden

One to Watch: Chris Eagles

Analysis: Last season was a good one for Owen Coyle. A good campaign, marred at the end by a poor display in the FA Cup semi final. With the loss of Elmander and Sturridge, they may be lacking goals, but the midfield has been reinvigorated. Darren Pratley, Nigel Reo-Coker and Chris Eagles will bolster an already talented midfield with the likes of Stuart Holden, Martin Petrov and Chung-Yong Lee. The only worry is if Gary Cahill was to leave, they may be left short at the back, but the money Coyle would get you would expect for him to invest wisely. So it could be another good season, or a very poor one, which leads me to suspect around mid table.

Prediction: 12th

Chelsea

Key Player: Frank Lampard

One to Watch: Romelu Lukaku

Analysis: Out goes 2009/10 double winner Carlo Ancelotti, in comes Porto’s treble winning manager Andre Villas Boas. He made Porto into a free-flowing side of beauty last season, dominating domestic and european competition, albeit Europa League. Now, he needs to pick up the pieces of the Chelsea squad. With ageing players such as Lampard, Drogba, Cole and Terry, and players lacking confidence, a la Torres, he certainly has a job on his hands. There is no doubt that Chelsea have a terrific team, but I fear they have been arrogant in the fact they haven’t brought anything but youth in. Modric would change my mind on that, but they are trying to negotiate on a figure that will not move. Lukaku could be dangerous, as could Sturridge, if given a chance at all. Have they got enough to challenge again? I think they do. Do they have enough to win? I just can’t see it.

Prediciton: 3rd

Everton

Key Player: Leighton Baines

One to Watch: Jermaine Beckford

Analysis: Everton, the team that doesn’t really have the money to improve, yet still have a good side that continue to stay in the top half of the division. So far this summer, Everton have bought the total of zero players in, but they have kept everyone they wanted to. Baines is still there, Jagielka is linked with a move to Arsenal but for the time being is staying, and no one has prized away any other key players. That, in a sense, is good. Everton are a good side, especially in their first 11, but in there lies the reason they never push further. Because of the lack of money, they can never buy good cover, and although it brings through youth players such as Rodwell and Coleman, when 3 or 4 players are injured they have to look into the youth system for substitutes. I can see them doing decent again, but it could become a slippery slope sooner rather than later.

Prediction: 9th

Fulham

Key Player: Clint Dempsey

One to Watch: John Arne Riise

Analysis: In what seems to be the oddest departure of the summer, Mark Hughes left Fulham, seemingly to walk into another job. That has not materialised, and replacing him is former Ajax and Tottenham manager Martin Jol. Fulham again last season played well, and fair as they entered the Europa League via the Fair Play League, and I expect that to continue. Players such as Dempsey, Hangeland and Zamora performing well, and Jol adding youth in Kasami and Gecov, and probably one of the deals of the summer in bringing in John Arne Riise. Personally, I enjoy watching Fulham play, they perform in a way that is a good example for how strong the Premier League is, and expect them to be a difficult team to come up against again this season

Prediction: 10th

Liverpool

Key Player: Luis Suarez

One to Watch: Jordan Henderson

Analysis: Before I start, yes Steven Gerrard is a key player, but he is getting a little too injury prone to be the key to Liverpool’s success. King Kenny has invested this summer and invested big, bringing in Henderson, Downing and Adam to add to Janury’s spree of Suarez and Carroll. Liverpool certainly look like a dangerous attacking threat this season, investing in width, talent in the middle, danger in the air and across the ground, they will certainly have a plethora of options to score goals this season. However, it’s the defence that could be exposed. With Carragher not getting any younger, Skrtel changing between brilliance and stupidity each week, Agger incredibly injury prone and Kyriakos, well I think that one can explain itself, they need one extra centre back to give that steel. With no real left back, yet a selection of good youthful right backs, they could concede quite a few this season also. Which leads me to seeing Liverpool not as title contenders, but definitely fighting for a Champions League spot, but I can see them just missing out.

Prediction: 5th

Manchester City

Key Player: David Silva

One to Watch: Sergio Aguero

Analysis: Could this be City’s year? After a summer worrying about Tevez’s imminent departure, they bought a younger, possibly better version in the form of Kun Aguero for a staggering £35 million. With the addition of Clichy and Savic, City have some incredible strength in-depth, with very good cover in every position. New captain Kompany will look to build on his outstanding performances last season, playmaker Silva out to prove just how good of a player he is, and Yaya Toure showcasing why he is on so much a week, City look like a team that will more than compete for the league this  season. Dzeko will want to prove his worth to the team, as will Adam Johnson to the national selectors, with all this determination they will be the side to look out for this season. Is the blue moon rising? definitely, but they may just miss out this season. And by just, I mean barely.

Prediction: 2nd

Manchester United

Key Player: Wayne Rooney

One to Watch: David De Gea

Analysis: The Champions wasted no time this summer in recruiting three new players to the squad, in the form of Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David De Gea. With a good squad already, Sir Alex has strengthened again with extra width, to avoid a similar situation to when Antonio Valencia was injured last season, another young English centre back after the success of Chris Smalling, and Van Der Sar’s young replacement in the form of 20-year-old David De Gea, who has a massive weight on his shoulders. With Cleverly and Welbeck returning from experience-gaining loans, and after both put on good displays in the Community Shield, United look to have gained an extra two signings for free. And if the possible nightmare for everyone else situation arises and Sneijder joins the United ranks, they may be unstoppable. But even then, they will still be run close by Chelsea and Manchester City. They look like champions yet again this season.

Prediction: 1st

Newcastle United

Key Player: Cheik Tiote

One to Watch: Yohan Cabaye

Analysis: Joey Barton may be staying now after his outbursts on Twitter and then being placed on the transfer list, but he may be looking at being part of a rotating midfield. Pardew has brought in Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Gabriel Obertan to bolster his attacking options. Cabaye, in my opinion, is a terrific signing and could seriously be a huge player this season for Newcastle, as could Demba Ba if he can prove his goalscoring prowess he earned at Hoffenheim. The defence is the only place that looks shaky, with the expected departure of Jose Enrique, but the possible replacement in Erik Pieters would more than soften the blow. Newcastle do look good this season, but so do others, so I expect them to reach another acceptable mid-table finish.

Prediction: 11th

Norwich City

Key Player: Wes Hoolahan

One to Watch: Steve Morrison

Analysis: Norwich were the surprise package in the Championship last season, earning a second straight promotion, and manager Paul Lambert is not going to sit on his laurels and not improve his squad. So in came Steve Morrison, James Vaughan, Elliot Bennett, Richie De Laet, Andrew Pilkington, Bradley Johnson and Kyle Naughton, aiming to keep Norwich in the division. My worry for them is that they have been surprising in coming up, and did concede 58 goals last season, which could be more than hazardous in the Premier League. Also, most of the buys are from low Championship/high League 1 clubs, and whether they can make the massive step up is a huge risk. Unfortunately, to me, the players Lambert has bought looks more like adapting to a life back in the Championship next season than giving it a real go.

Prediction: 19th

Queens Park Rangers

Key Player: Adel Taarabt

One to Watch: DJ Cambell

Analysis: After storming to the Championship title, QPR have returned to the Premier League after a 15-year absence. With owners with pockets deeper than the Grand Canyon, we expected a splash of cash to keep them in the top English league. Instead, Neil Warnock was told to save, and mainly free transfers have resupplied the squad. Bothroyd and Dyer join after finishing their contracts at previous clubs, as does DJ Cambell for a £1.25 million fee. Cambell was the second highest English scorer last season, and looks like a great piece of business. However, QPR’s season rests more on want away starlet, Adel Taarabt. A majestic player, but never away from controversy, he courted with leaving for the French side PSG until they went for Javier Pastore. If Taarabt plays well, and Warnock can spend in January, they will stay up. But, I fear the opposite.

Prediction: 18th

Stoke City

Key Player: Robert Huth

One to Watch: Jonathan Woodgate

Analysis: Tony Pulis has slowly been building a good squad at Stoke City. Reaching the FA Cup Final, competing in the Europa League this season, it’s been quite a ride for Stoke. They have added as well, gaining two former England international defenders in Woodgate and Upson, and looking to add Spurs pair Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios. The first two signings seem to indicate he is resignated to losing one of his younger centre backs sooner rather than later, but he has bought in suitable replacements and cover for the time being. Stoke look like a side that could again cause problems to teams, especially at home, but their away form may just scupper any chance of a mid table finish. They will be a tough team to face, not challenging for anything major, but steering well away from the trap door.

Prediction: 13th

Sunderland

Key Player: Asamoah Gyan

One to Watch: Connor Wickham

Analysis: Steve Bruce has been the most active manager in the transfer market so far, signing 10 players to the Sunderland squad. Players such as O’Shea, Brown, Vaughan, Gardner, Larsson and Wickham have greatly improved the quality and depth that Sunderland have to choose from, something that was a factor last season when they were hit by an injury crisis. With both experience and youth joining the club, Sunderland look to be a force not only this season, but to sustain it into the next couple of years. Gyan will be looking to be their main striking force, Cattermole will have hopefully learned from his insane undisciplined season and Gordon will want an injury free season. I can see these being the surprise package this season, but just as easily it could implode.

Prediction: 7th

Swansea City

Key Player: Scott Sinclair

One to Watch: Danny Graham

Analysis: Promoted through the lottery that is the Play-offs, although they did finish 3rd, Swansea are the first Welsh club in the Premier League, and they want to make their stay longer than a season. With quality already out wide with Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer, Brendan Rodgers has bought in Wayne Routledge to give Swansea that extra danger from out wide. The signing of Championship top scorer Danny Graham looks like good business also if he can continue his form, and with a solid midfield in Allen, Britton and Dobbie, the Welsh outfit look good. There are question marks over the defence, and their lack of a goalkeeper, but to me I think Swansea might just stay up, as long as they can continue their impressive home form they showed last season.

Prediction: 17th

Tottenham Hotspur

Key Player: Rafael Van Der Vaart

One to Watch: Kyle Walker

Analysis: With the possible sale of Modric to Chelsea still up in the air, it looks as if Tottenham have stayed still. They have kept Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart, but with Jermaine Defoe not setting the world alight, Crouch not a goalscoring machine, Keane wanting out and Pavlyuchenko only having sporadic appearances, they are in desperate need of a top draw goalscorer to challenge the Champions League again. And with the constant injuries to defender such as Corluka and King, and Gallas on his last legs, Spurs really need defensive cover, and hope that Danny Rose and Kyle Walker can make the step up. I simply feel that Tottenham don’t quite have the quality of the title contenders, or even Champions League contenders, and they have hardly brought anyone into the team, so they may have to simply contend with the Europa League again.

Prediction: 6th

West Bromwich Albion

Key Player: Chris Brunt

One to Watch: Shane Long

Analysis: When Roy Hodgson replaced Roberto Di Mattea, many people asked why he needed to be removed. But the decision was inspired, after West Brom looked like they were going to be sucked into the vortex or relegation yet again, they finished well clear. After a summer of bringing in new faces, such as Ben Foster and Shane Long, to old ones such as Zoltan Gera. Peter Odemwinge was inspired last season, and his goals will be crucial once again to keep West Brom away from the drop, as will the continued performances of club captain Chris Brunt all over the midfield. With that in mind, I think West Brom have enough strength in depth to not worry too much about relegation, but should fear how far the teams are pulling away above them.

Prediction: 14th

Wigan Athletic

Key Player: Ali Al-Habsi

One to Watch: James McCarthy

Analysis: After scraping safety last season, Wigan have gone backwards. Gone is saviour Charles N’Zogbia, who would have been in the last year of his contract and would have gone for free, and gone is Tom Cleverly, back to his possibly big future at Manchester United. So how have Wigan attempted to solve these big gaps in their team? Well, simply put, they haven’t. They have signed superstar keeper from last year Ali Al-Habsi, but not much else. They will look to young James McCarthy to create some craft from the centre, and to the pair of Hugo Rodallega and Connor Sammon to finally find the goals they need. But I can’t see that being enough, which is why I really fear for Wigan this season. I think their luck has, after 6 seasons in the top flight, is finally up. But then again, they might just stay in, somehow, yet again.

Prediction: 20th

Wolverhampton Wanderers

 Key Player: Matt Jarvis

One to Watch: Roger Johnson

Analysis: After staring relegation right in the face and running away last season, Wolves will want to stay well clear this season. And to that end, Mick McCarthy has fixed up his defence by purchasing Birmingham City star Roger Johnson and adding loanee last season Jamie O’Hara on a permanent basis. He has also kept Matt Jarvis, and will hope that players such as Stephen Hunt and Kevin Doyle can keep fit throughout the campaign. I thought Wolves would be safe last season, and I was proven wrong, and I fear that this could be the same case this season. Look for Wolves being impressive at the beginning, but fading dramatically, and therefore having to save themselves yet again.

Prediction: 15th

Please leave a comment below, and watch the start of the Premier League, hopefully, this weekend, as it promises to be another magnificent season.

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