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