Friday, 16 August 2013

The Season of the Coach

"I thought we had United today so what is young Moyes doing here?"
At the start of this season no fewer than 16 of the Premier League Managers will not have had two seasons with their current clubs. Of those 5 will be taking charge of their new clubs for the first time this weekend and uniquely 3 of the top 4 finishers from the previous campaign start with new men at the helm.
Hence every triumph or failure will be viewed as affirmation or disaffirmation of the decision to appoint Moyes, Pellageni or Mourhnio. Can Moyes fill Sir Alex's shoes? Can Pellagreni succeed in Europe? Will the return of the Special One propel Chelsea to a new golden age? I don't have the answers but I will humbly suggest the four richest clubs in England will have a private battle for the seasons major honours. There is a possibility one of their appointments will derail their club's season to a degree that will let Liverpool or Spurs gate crash the party but wouldn't bet on it.
In terms of financial firepower the biggest clubs are too far ahead of the rest for all but the most disastrous coaching appointment to make much of a difference. At the margin i.e. between the top four it might so Arsenal could view the coming season as an opportunity to finish somewhere other than fourth and let one of the others sweat on fourth in final few weeks of the season.      


Manager Arsene Wenger
Last Year Okay, but not great finished fourth but as with the previous campaign it was only achieved with a late sprint to the line after a fairly indifferent start.

Transfer Activity 
signed Yaya Sanogo (Auxerre, free)

sold / released Andrey Arshavin (released), Denilson (Sao Paulo,) Sebastien Squillaci (released), Martin Angha (Nuremberg), Craig Eastmond (Colchester, free), Conor Henderson (released), Jernade Meade (Swansea), Sanchez Watt (Colchester), Johan Djourou (Hamburg, loan), Vito Mannone (Sunderland ), Francis Coquelin (Freiburg) Marouane Chamakh (Crystal Palace), Ignasi Miquel (Leicester,loan), Gervinho (Roma)

Prospects The summer saw a host a departures many of whom had hardly covered themselves with glory during their time at the Emirates but significantly no high profile departures. It also saw some heavy duty posturing in the market but to date no actual signings of note. The net result is an Arsenal squad that is shallower than last year and one that is need of reinforcement. Whether they recruit the right players remains to be seen and even if they do will they make significant in roads in the gap between themselves and the three teams that finished ahead of them? 

Where they will finish 3rd to 6th

Aston Villa

Manager Paul Lambert
Last Year  Another battle with relegation but Lambert's brave decision to stick with his younger players came good in the end.
Transfer Activity
signed Aleksandar Tonev (Lech Poznan), Jores Okore (Nordsjaelland), Leandro Bacuna (Groningen), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg), Antonio Luna (Sevilla), Jed Steer (Norwich) Liam Prynn (Torquay) Jed Steer (Norwich).
sold / released Richard Dunne (QPR,), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Jean Makoun (Rennes), Andy Marshall (released), Derrick Williams (Bristol City),Courtney Cameron (Torquay), Brett Holman (Al Nasr) Samir Carruthers (MK Dons loan), Graham Burke (Shrewsbury, loan) Stiliyan Petrov (retired)

Prospects This window has seen Villa have been trying to jettison some of the more costly mistakes from previous regimes and Paul Lambert's new model army is starting to take shape. Whilst the youngsters who struggled to retain the club's Premier League status will have learned a great deal from the experience it remains to be seen how far they can move forward. Obviously Benteke's U-turn on his contract is a significant boost however I don't think it is enough to take them off relegation watch altogether.
Where they will finish 12th to 18th

Cardiff City
Manager Malky MacKay
Last Year   Won the Championship at a canter after years of disappointment in the play-offs.
Transfer Activity
signed  Steven Caulker (Tottenham), Andreas Cornelius (FC Copenhagen), John Brayford (Derby County), Simon Moore (Brentford) Gary Medel (Sevilla, £11m)
sold / released Stephen McPhail (released), Heidar Helguson (released), Nat Jarvis (released) Jese Darko (released) Elliot Parish (released) Robert Earnshaw (released)

Prospects No amount of investment will banish the possibility of relegation for a newly promoted club. The board have broken the club's transfer record three times during the window and given MacKay every chance to succeed but the squad really lacks Premier League know-how and could struggle as a consequence.
Where they will finish 15th to 20th


Manager Jose Mourhinio
Last Year business as usual bought some expensive players sacked the coach and won a trophy.  

Transfer Activity
signed Andre Schurrle (Bayer Leverkusen), Marco van Ginkel (Vitesse Arnhem), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham) Cristián Cuevas (O'Higgins) Stipe Perica (NK Zadar).
sold / released Jeffrey Bruma (PSV), Yossi Benayoun (released), Florent Malouda (Trabzonspor), Hilario (released), Ross Turnbull (released), Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, loan), Patrick van Aanholt (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Oriol Romeu (Valencia, loan), Paulo Ferreira (retired) Cristian Cuevas (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Lucas Piazon (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Todd Kane (Blackburn, loan), Marko Marin (Sevilla, loan), Gael Kakuta (Vitesse, loan), Patrick Bamford (MK Dons, loan) Wallace (Inter Milan, Loan)

Prospects Part of the division's elite likely to finish top four almost regardless of which manager comes in through the revolving door. This season it is Mourhinio who will probably win something although it might not be either of the Champions League or Premier League. The squad bristles with talent but is yet moulded into the clinical unit that characterised the Special One's first spell at the Bridge.
Where they will finish 1st to 5th

Crystal Palace

Manager  Ian Holloway
Last Year  Emerged from the Championship mid-table melee as underdogs to win their place in the Premier League via the play-offs.

Transfer Activity
signed Dwight Gayle (Peterborough), Stephen Dobbie (Brighton), Jerome Thomas (West Brom)Kevin Phillips (Blackpool), Elliot Grandin (Blackpool)Jose Campana (Sevilla) Marouane Chamakh (Arsenal)  Neil Alexander (Rangers)
sold / released Jermaine Easter (Millwall), Alex Marrow (Blackburn), Jason Banton (MK Dons, loan) Andre Moritz (Bolton, free), Ryan Inniss (Cheltenham, loan)

Prospects. Bleak, although no worse than Blackpool's who Holloway guided to the Premier League in similar circumstances and was a little unfortunate not to keep in the division. The weakest of the promoted teams and it could be argued that Palace were punching above their weight to finish sixth in the Championship and no amount of reinforcement will give them a realistic chance of beating the drop. 
Where they will finish 17th to 20th



Manager Roberto Martinez
Last Year .Finished sixth without ever really threatening to break into the Champions League spots

Transfer Activity
Signed Arouna Kone (Wigan), Antolin Alcaraz (Wigan), Joel Robles (Atletico Madrid), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona)
Sold / released Thomas Hitzlsperger (released), Jan Mucha (released), Jake Bidwell (Brentford), Phil Neville (retired)

Prospects  After over a decade with Moyes in charge Everton will be adjusting to a new man at the helm who has a very different philosophy to that of his predecessor. Martinez inherits a squad that has talent although it remains to be seen how the players will respond to his more expansive style and whether or not he can retain the defensive solidity that was associated with the Moyes era.
Where they will finish 6th to 10th


Manager Martin Jol
Last Year  Trundled through the season in lower mid-table without ever being in real danger of relegation.

Transfer Activity
signed Sascha Riether (Cologne), Derek Boateng (Dnipro), Fernando Amorebieta (Athletic Bilbao), Maarten Stekelenburg (Roma) Ange-Freddy Plumain (Lens) Derek Boateng (Dnipro), Ange-Freddy Plumain (Lens), Adel Taarabt (QPR).
sold / released Chris Baird (released), Simon Davies (released) Mahamadou Diarra (released), Mladen Petric (released), Mark Schwarzer (Chelsea), Tom Donegan (released), Alex Smith (Swindon, free), Dan Burn (Birmingham, loan)

Prospects There has been quiet transformation going on at  Fulham's this summer and while the signings have not been eye catching they are solid and will add a little bit of steel to a Fulham team that sometimes was a little bit to easy to beat last year. A combination of Taarabt and Berbatov will be enthralling to watch although the other 8 outfield players will have to be prepared to put in a shift. 

Where they will finish 9th to 15th

Hull City Tigers

Manager Steve Bruce
Last Year managed to secure promotion to the premier league as runners up to Cardiff in the most dramatic of fashion.

Transfer Activity
signed George Boyd (Peterborough, free), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan, free), Curtis Davies (Birmingham, undisclosed), Ahmed Elmohamady (Sunderland), Allan McGregor (Besiktas), Steve Harper (Newcastle),Yannick Sagbo (Evian)  Steve Harper (Newcastle United), Jamie Devitt (Chesterfield), Danny Graham (Sunderland, Loan)  Yannick Sagbo (Evian, £3m)
sold / released Sonny Bradley (Portsmouth, free), Danny East (Portsmouth, free), Mark Cullen (Luton, free), Andy Dawson (Scunthorpe, free), Jamie Devitt (released), Paul McKenna (released), Seyi Olofinjana (released), Jay Simpson (released), Jack Hobbs (Nottingham Forest, loan)Tom Cairney (Blackburn, loan)

Prospects It is going to be a tough season for the Tigers. They have added a little bit of quality to last season's squad but it still looks relatively weak. Steve Bruce is an experienced manager and it will take every bit of his nous to keep Hull in the division.
Where they will finish 17th to 20th


Manager Brendan Rodgers
Last Year Consolidated in seventh place under new manager Brendan Rodgers

Transfers Activity
signed Kolo Toure (Manchester City), Luis Alberto (Seville), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Simon Mignolet (Sunderland)
sold/released Andy Carroll (West Ham), Danny Wilson (Hearts), Jamie Carragher (retired), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea), Suso (Almeria, loan) Pepe Riena  (Napoli, loan), Jack Robinson (Blackpool, loan)

Prospects Deprived of their talismanic striker Suarez at least for the first few weeks of the season it remains to be seen whether Liverpool without the distraction of the Europa League can challenge for a top four spot. If they have unearthed some real talent in their transfer dealings this summer then it is possible but too often last season they were let down by a porous defence which the addition of Toure does not significantly improve.

Where they will finish 5th to 10th

Manchester City

Manager Manuel Pellegrini
Last Year Finished 2nd in the league, runners up in the FA Cup failed in the Champions League a dream of a season for most but not for City

Transfers Activity
signed Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk), Jesus Navas (Sevilla) Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina)  Alvaro Negredo (Seville).
sold / released Carlos Tevez (Juventus), Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Wayne Bridge (Reading), Ryan McGivern (Hibernian), Roque Santa Cruz (Malaga), Karim Rekik (PSV, loan), Jeremy Helan (Sheffield Wednesday)Maicon (Roma, free), Reece Wabara (Doncaster, loan)

Prospects A very different team will kick off this season under Pellegrini compared to the one that embarked on last seasons ill fated title defence. The wayward talents of Ballotelli and Tevez have been replaced by players new to the Premier League if they adapt quickly to their new environment then this could be City's year.  
Where they will finish 1 to 4

Manchester United

Manager  David Moyes
Last Year Easily won the league and were unlucky to exit the Champions League at the 1/4 final stage

Transfer Activity
signed Guillermo Varela (Penarol)
sold / released Paul Scholes (retired)  Ryan Tunnicliffe (Ipswich, loan), Frederic Veseli (Ipswich, free), John Cofie (Barnsley, free), Reece Brown (Watford, free), Sean McGinty (Sheffield United, free)

Prospects This is the season when a group of talented youngsters must step up to the plate if United are to have realistic chance of retaining their title. The long running hunt for a new midfield fulcrum to replace Scholes has yet to come to fruition and the Rooney saga remains an unwelcome distraction so on the eve of the season it is difficult to see Moyes landing the title at his first attempt but equally United will be one of the contenders. 
Where they will finish 1st to 4th

Newcastle United

Manager Alan Pardew
Last Year  Dropped down the league to such a degree they managed to get themselves embroiled in the relegation battle.

Transfers Activity
signed Olivier Kemen (Metz) Loïc Rémy (QPR, Loan).
sold / released James Perch (Wigan,), Danny Simpson (QPR), Steve Harper (Hull) Shane Ferguson (Birmingham, Loan)

Prospects  Without a Europa League campaign and given January's signings have had time to settle Newcastle's league form should improve although probably not to the point where they are challenging for a Champions League place. The squad is probably stronger than last season and should be finishing in the top half of the division.
Where they will finish 6th to 12th

Norwich City 

Manager Chris Hughton
Last Year  Started poorly recovered and then slumped back towards the trap door.

Transfers Activity

signed Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Sporting Lisbon), Javier Garrido (Lazio), Nathan Redmond (Birmingham), Martin Olsson (Blackburn, undisclosed), Carlo Nash (Stoke), Leroy Fer (FC Twente) Javier Garrido (Lazio) Gary Hooper (Celtic)
sold / released Grant Holt (Wigan), James Vaughan (Huddersfield,), Jed Steer (Aston Villa), Chris Martin (Derby), Marc Tierney (Bolton), Simeon Jackson (Eintracht Braunschweig), Korey Smith (Oldham), Elliott Ward (Bournemouth), Tom Adeyemi (Birmingham), George Francomb (AFC Wimbledon), Lee Camp (released), Declan Rudd (Preston), Andrew Surman (Bournemouth, loan)

Prospects Following a very mixed campaign last year Norwich have spent heavily this summer to add quality to their squad. A lot will depend on how quickly the new arrivals gel and adopt to life in the Premier League but they still cannot be removed from the relegation watch list.
Where they will finish 10th to 18th


Manager Mauricio Pochettino
Last Year After a dismal start came to terms with the Premier League and stayed up comfortably.

Transfers Activity
signed Dejan Lovren (Lyon), Victor Wanyama (Celtic)
sold / released Vegard Forren (Molde), Frazer Richardson (released), Danny Butterfield (released), Danny Seaborne (released), Ryan Dickson (released), Ben Reeves (MK Dons), Sam Hoskins (Yeovil) Richard Chaplow (Millwall), Steve De Ridder (FC Utrecht,)

Propspects With more expensive signings arriving at St Mary's the club would hope to improve on their previous showing and chase a place in the top half of the division. Again a lot will depend on how quickly players arriving from other leagues adapt to their new surroundings but they should be strong enough to consolidate in the mid to lower reaches of the division
Where they will finish 9th to 16th 

Stoke City

Manager Mark Hughes
Last Year  A desperate second half to the campaign saw Stoke have an anxious last few weeks of the season.

Transfers Activity
signed Erik Pieters (PSV, £3m), Marc Muniesa (Barcelona) Alex Grant (Portsmouth)
sold / released Dean Whitehead (Middlesbrough), Carlo Nash (Norwich), Matthew Upson (Brighton), Rory Delap (Burton Albion), Matthew Lund (Rochdale), Mamady Sidibe (released), Michael Owen (retired)

Prospects New manager Mark Hughes needs to improve a Stoke team that has been on the slide for the last 2 seasons as their hoofball style became to look ever more threadbare. The challenge facing Hughes after a disastrous spell at QPR is to change a deeply engrained style of play without losing the defensive solidity that characterised Stoke under his predecessor.  

Where they will finish 13th to 18th 


Manager Paolo Di Canio
Last Year A desperately poor season which resulted in the club avoiding relegation by one place and 3 points.

Transfers Activity
signed Modibo Diakite (Lazio), Duncan Watmore (Altrincham), Valentin Roberge (Maritimo), Cabral (Basle), David Moberg Karlsson (IFK Gothenburg), Vito Mannone (Arsenal), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), El Hadji Ba (Le Havre), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus)
sold / released Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull), Titus Bramble (released), Matthew Kilgallon (Blackburn), Ryan Noble (released) James McClean (Wigan) Alfred N'Diaye (Eskisehirspor, loan), Danny Graham (Hull, loan)

Prospects New manager Di-Cannio has supervised a mass clear out at Sunderland and has assembled what amounts to a new squad. It is a similar approach to that adopted by Mark Hughes at QPR last year and that didn't end well. Anything could happen at the Stadium of Light this year, well anything that does not involve a top 6 finish.  

Where they will finish 10th to 17th 

Swansea City

Manager Micheal Laudrup
Last Year  Team of the season won the League Cup and finished nineth

Transfers Activity
signed Wilfried Bony (Vitesse Arnhem,), Jose Canas (Real Betis), Jordi Amat (Espanyol), Jonathan De Guzman (Villarreal), Alejandro Pozuelo (Real Betis), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Gregor Zabret (NK Domzale), Alex Gogic (Olympiacos), Jernade Meade (Arsenal)
sold / released Mark Gower (Charlton, free), David Cornell (St Mirren, loan), Kyle Bartley (Birmingham, loan) Alan Tate (Yeovil, loan), Dwight Tiendalli (released)

Prospects Everything in Swansea's world looks serene. They have invested heavily in the squad which in theory makes them an even tougher proposition this year. However they do have the curse of Europa League football and that might disrupt their progress on the domestic front however it should not be enough to drag them into the relegation battle.
Where they will finish 9th to 15th

Tottenham Hotspur

Manager Andre Villas Boas
Last Year Fifth again missed out on Champions League qualification by a couple of points

Transfers Activity
signed Paulinho (Corinthians, £17m)Nacer Chadli (FC Twente), Roberto Soldado (Valencia) Etienne Capoue (Toulouse)
sold/released Steven Caulker (Cardiff), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), William Gallas (released), John Bostock (Royal Antwerp), David Bentley (released), Jake Nicholson (released), Massimo Luongo (Swindon, loan), Adam Smith (Derby, loan), Ryan Mason (Swindon, loan), Bongani Khumalo (Doncaster, loan), Alex Pritchard (Swindon, loan), Ryan Mason (Swindon, loan), Grant Hall (Swindon, loan) Tom Huddlestone (Hull) Jake Livermore (Hull, loan)

Prospects Villa Boas continues to mould a team that should be capable of again challenging for a Champions League spot but again is undermined by the potential sale of one of his star players to Real Madrid. There are very few players that can truly make a difference to a team's season but unfortunately Gareth Bale is one of them with him Spurs have a great chance of breaking into the top 4 less so without. Until the window closes we will not know how Spurs will do.
Where they will finish 3rd to 7th 

West Bromwich Albion

Manager Steve Clarke 
Last Year  Spectacular first half to the season poor second half overall eighth which is the highest the club has finished in 30 years.

Transfers Activity
signed Nicolas Anelka, (free agent) Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan) Matej Vydra (Udinese, Loan)
sold / released Jerome Thomas (Crystal Palace), Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest), Marc-Antoine Fortune (Wigan)
Prospects Now in entering their fourth straight season in the Premier League whilst it is never possible for a club of Albion's stature to completely banish the spectre of relegation it is looks less of a possibility, although Steve Clarke will do well to replicate last years eighth place finish.
Where they will finish 8th to 16th

West Ham United

Manager Sam Alladyce 
Last Year Solid never in any real danger of relegation job done.

Transfer Activity
signed Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk), Adrian (Real Betis), Danny Whitehead (Stockport County) Stewart Downing (Liverpool)
sold / released Rob Hall (Bolton), Carlton Cole (released), Gary O'Neil (released)

Prospects Too hard working to be relegated not good enough to trouble the upper reaches of the division. Alladyce's mission is to keep the Hammers in the Premier League until they move to the Olympic stadium which may provide the revenue to change their long term prospects and he will succeed but it will not always be pretty.

Where they will finish 11th to 16th


Champions Man City if I keep tipping them to do it eventually I will get it right although Chelsea will run them close.

FA Cup It was refreshing to see Wigan win the trophy to break the near monopoly the elite have had over the competition in recent years however normal service will be resumed this year and Chelsea will run out winners in May

League Cup The Cinderella competition the elite hardly take it seriously so the likely winner is a mid table club with a bit of momentum and no European commitments maybe Fulham

Champions League Bayern again they just seem to get stronger each year although if Pep tries to tinker too much with the machine maybe the juggernaut might be stopped short of the final.

Europa League  Maybe the Swansea story has another chapter to add but I don't think they are strong enough to cope the twin rigours of Premier League and Europa League. I would chose one of the bigger Italian or Spanish clubs I reckon Lazio are as good as bet as any.

Relegation Crystal Palace Hull City Tigers and Stoke City. Think Hull and Palace are the two weakest of the promoted sides and Stoke looked poor again last year and I don't think Hughes is the man to turn it round.

Champions League Qualification The usual bun fight between Arsenal & Spurs  for the fourth spot with Chelsea, Man United and Man City taking the other three places. Think I will go with Spurs to edge out their local rivals although Bale's departure and new faces at Arsenal might make that prediction look a little foolish come September

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