2012-13 Premier League Club By Club Guide
The Premier League returns this weekend and it promises to be an intriguing season at both ends of the league, as Manchester City look to follow up their first top flight success since 1968 and Southampton, Reading & West Ham look to build on their promotions last season. From next Thursday I will blogging on the weeks events and making predictions for the weekend’s fixtures. To kick things off here’s my club by club guide of the league and predictions for the season ahead.
Transfers In: Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla
Last Season: 3rd
Key Man: Mikel Arteta – Arteta took little time in adjusting to his new surroundings at Arsenal, and whilst his contribution to the side was eclipsed by the brilliance of Van Persie, he firmly cemented his place in Arsenal’s midfield. With Van Persie leaving, Arteta will be anticipated to be more of a focal point of Arsenal’s attacking game plan.
Season’s Prospects: The loss of Robin Van Persie will be a massive blow to Arsenal, in truth I don’t think this will affect their final position in the league as I do think they still are behind the two Manchester sides despite their promising signings during the summer. They are realistically playing for 3rd this season but looked best placed of the chasing pack to take advantage if one or both of the Manchester club’s slip up. Final Position Prediction – 3rd
Transfers In: Ron Vlaar, Matthew Lowton, Karim El Ahmadi, Brett Holman
Last Season: 16th
Key Man: Darren Bent – Bent scored 9 goals in an injury shortened season last year and when you consider Villa scored just 37 goals, it’s a decent contribution. He will be particularly keen an advertising his claims for regular place in Roy Hodgson’s plans for England as well aiming to impress his new manager.
Season’s Prospects: It is likely to be a season of transition but not struggle for Villa, Lambert has a decent record in his clubs to punch above their weight and Villa’s fans will be hopeful of this being repeated for them. It is a given that Lambert will be given an easier ride than McLeish but I do fear that expectations at Villa need tempering with the reality that they lack any real quality to get more than a mid-table finish. Final Position Prediction – 11th
Transfers In: Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Oscar, Marko Marin.
Last Season: 6th
Key Man: Fernando Torres – With Drogba now out of the way, it would be a brave man to make an assessment about whether Torres can fill his boots or not. What is certain is that the success of Torres or not will be key Chelsea’s prospects this season, he scored in the Community Shield and looked sharp and hungry. If the team is built around Torres then he will have no excuses if he fails to perform.
Season’s Prospects: Chelsea have spent big but not deep this season, the bulk of their spending going on Eden Hazard and Oscar. Chelsea are banking on potential with both players rather than proven quality at the top level and given the dubious record of South American players in the Premier League, it is a big gamble on both counts. Chelsea look likely to improve on last season’s finish of 6th but I think they will fall out of the top 4 this season, Final Position Prediction – 5th
Transfers In: Steven Pienaar, Steven Naismith
Last Season: 7th
Key Man: Nikica Jelavic – Signed from Rangers in January, Jelavic scored 9 goals in his 13 Premier League appearances and belied concerns that he might struggle with the move from the SPL. He looks as dangerous as he did in Scotland and he will be confident in adding substantially to his 9 goal’s for Everton last season.
Season’s Prospects: Everton have finished inside the top 8 in 8 of the 11 seasons that David Moyes has been in charge and it is likely they will achieve at least a top 8 finish again this season, The signing of Naismith and return of Pienaar will further strengthen their squad and hopes will be high that they can finish higher than their city rivals, Final Position Prediction – 7th
Transfers In: Hugo Rodallega, Mladen Petric, George Williams, Sascha Rietner (Loan)
Last Season: 9th
Key Man: Mladen Petric – Signed from Jol’s former club Hamburg, Petric has been prolific in pre-season and looks an ideal replacement for Zamora. Even without Clint Dempsey, who looks likely to depart, there will be still be plenty of chances sent Petric’s way. He is vastly experienced with 44 caps for Croatia so shouldn’t have any issues adapting to the Premier League.
Seasons Prospects: After several seasons of a consistent squad, there have been many comings and goings during the January transfer window and the likely departure of Dempsey will be blow but Jol has still got a decent squad at his disposal and the finish of 9th last season should at least matched by a hungry and youthful squad. Final Position Prediction – 8th
Transfers In: Joe Allen, Fabio Borini
Last Season: 8th
Key Man: Luis Suarez – Love him or hate him, Suarez was a constant threat for Liverpool when he played and it is likely he will enjoy playing alongside Fabio Borini. If he can keep himself away from any disciplinary problems he looks certain to better his tally of 11 goals last term and Rodgers looks more likely to reign his temperament in than Dalgish was willing to.
Seasons Prospects: Hope always springs eternal for Liverpool fans and this season will be no different, the appointment of Rodgers ended a bit of saga over Dalgish’s replacement. Liverpool will have set a minimum expectation of improving there 8th place finish of 8th, but with a season of transition and change ahead it will be unlikely they will be challenging for more than a top 6th finish. Rodgers will employ a style of football that will please the fan base but they will need to be patient with a definite work in progress. Final Position Prediction – 7th
Transfers In: Jack Rodwell.
Last Season: 1st
Key Man: Carlos Tevez – Having missed the majority of last season due to problems with Roberto Mancini, Tevez will seem like a new signing for City this season and looks to have put his issues with Mancini to one side. He looked very sharp in the Community Shield alongside Aguero and together they will form an intimidating partnership, with Tevez the likely talisman.
Seasons Prospects: Having won the title with their last attack of the season, City will be confident of winning their second Premier League title and who would bet against that, not me. Despite minimal transfer activity, City still have a powerful squad and the way their brushed Chelsea aside in the space of 12 minutes in the Community Shield was mightily impressive, they will be the team to beat and anyone who finishes above them will win the league. Final Position Prediction – 1st
Transfers In: Robin Van Persie, Shinjji Kagawa, Nick Powell.
Last Season: 2nd
Key Man: Nemenja Vidic – The absence of Vidic during last season caused big problems for United’s defence, so his fitness and presence in the team will be key for United this season. The few times he played last season, Vidic provided a rock stability to United’s defence lines and as well helping United to clean sheets, he was a danger from set pieces, if he stays fit the majority of the league will struggle to break United down.
Seasons Prospect: They are the biggest challengers to Manchester City this season without doubt, this was the case before the purchase of Robin Van Persie so his arrival only strengthens their case. If Cleverly can avoid injuries that plagued him last season he will add a consistency to United’s central midfield that was lacking last season, that said they will likely find themselves points behind City this season rather than goal difference despite their strengthening. Final Position Prediction – 2nd
Transfers In: Curtis Good, Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigirimana, Romain Amalfitano.
Last Season: 5th
Key Man: Yohan Cabaye – Cabaye really delivered on his first season at Newcastle and his box to box style was a crucial component in Newcastle’s play. He looked very sharp in Euro 2012 and outshone some of his higher profile colleagues, a repetition of that will give Newcastle a great chance of defying expectations again.
Seasons Prospects: Newcastle defied expectations with a 5th place finish last year and will do extremely well to match that finish this season. Their biggest problem is their depth in key positions and injuries to the likes of Ba, Cabaye or Taylor would cause problems for them, the expectation of Newcastle’s fans could well prove a heavy burden for them. Whilst I feel Newcastle will finish lower down the league than last season, they should be satisfied with any top half finish. Final Position Prediction – 9th
Transfer In: Robert Snodgrass, Michael Turner, Jacob Butterfield, Steven Whittaker.
Last Season: 12th
Key Man: John Ruddy – Buoyed by his first England cap, Ruddy will be looking to make a big statement this season as to why he should be the main understudy to Joe Hart. Keeping clean sheets was Norwich’s biggest problem last season, but with additions to their defensive line Ruddy will be confident of better assistance this season and his shot stopping ability is without question.
Seasons Prospects: Norwich exceeded their expectations in the last 2 seasons and with Chris Hughton in charge they will hope to a more solid outfit defensively this term. A good start will be crucial as Hughton could be vulnerable to sections of the Norwich fan base if they get off to a poor start, that said they should have enough quality to keep themselves away from any relegation problems. Final Position Prediction – 12th
Queens Park Rangers
Transfers In: Samba Diakite, Park Ji-Sung, Junior Hoilett, Robert Green, Andrew Johnson, Ryan Nelson, Jose Bosignwa (TBC) Fabio Da Silva (Loan)
Last Season: 17th
Key Man: Bobby Zamora – There is a wealth of competition in QPR’s striking division, particularly with the arrival of Zomora’s former Fulham colleague Andrew Johnson. Zamora has never been a prolific scorer which is hard to believe considering his reputation with England’s current and previous managers, his move to QPR could represent an opportunity to change that.
Seasons Prospects: If Barton departs, as is widely expected, QPR will be hoping that marks the start of a season free from off-field distractions. After surviving by the narrowest of margins, QPR have made further investments in their squad and will be hoping that is reflected in an improvement in their league position, they do look better equipped than the 8 or so other clubs considered to be at risk of relegation and safety I feel will be achieved with relative ease. Final Position Prediction – 14th
Transfers In: Chris Gunter, Nicky Shorey, Adrian Mariappa, Pierce Sweeney, Gavin McCleary, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Guthrie
Last Season: 1st (Championship)
Key Man: Jason Roberts – His experience of Premier League football will be vital in a forward line that boosts just 12 Premier League appearances without him. His contribution will likely be seen in all round play rather than goals, he has the physical presence to be an out ball for Reading when they look to build attacks, he can be a supply line for the more natural goal scoring threats that Reading possess.
Seasons Prospects: Even with the arrival of a new wealthy owner expectations are not high for Reading, with that low expectation though there is a grounded attitude at Reading that should hold them in good stead. The way they played last season after a sluggish first 3 months means they will be a unit full of confidence and while they will be in the lower reaches of the league for much of the season. Final Position Prediction – 17th
Transfers In: Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Nathaniel Clyne, Paulo Gazzaniga, Gaston Ramirez (TBC)
Last Season: 2nd (Championship)
Key Man: Adam Lallana – 24 year old Lallana has been over looked amongst Southampton’s young players with higher profiles given to Walcott and Chamberlain, he his however an extremely talented player who is arguably better than the levels he has played at so far in his career. He has improved season on season at Southampton, and should take the move up to the Premier League in his stride and I feel his performances will be good enough to cement his place as a Premier League player either with Southampton or elsewhere/
Seasons Prospects: Southampton have ambitious plans for their future, if you ask me slightly too ambitious and they would be better advised to stay more grounded and accept that survival is not a given and Premier League experience is normally more important than a flashy purchase. For those reasons I think Southampton will go down, they clearly have a grand plans but I do see how the current squad can achieve those. Final Position Prediction: 18th
Transfers In: Michael Kightly, Jamie Ness
Last Season: 14th
Key Man: Peter Crouch – It could be argued that Crouch is on the decline after drifting out of the reckoning for a squad place at Euro 2012 but he was definitely the talisman at Stoke last season, scoring 10 goals in a low scoring squad. Stoke’s direct style of play lends itself to Crouch as a forward and he will be hoping to increase his goal tally this season with a more clinical mindset than last season.
Seasons Prospects: While the style of football is much derided, it can’t be argued that Pulis gets results for Stoke and they are quickly becoming a mainstay in the Premier League, they are a very tough side to beat at home and their style irritates many of the big clubs. I don’t see any issues for them to stay up despite predictions of relegation in some quarters, put simply there will be other teams who are easier to beat than Stoke. Final Position Prediction – 13th
Transfers In: Carlos Cueller
Last Season: 13th
Key Man: Sebastian Laarson – Seb has a proven record in the Premier League and he continued last season for Sunderland, he contributed with 7 goals from midfield and very much pulling the strings in the midfield, He provides solidity for midfield and he will create enough chances for Sunderland’s faltering strike force, it will be down to them to convert them.
Seasons Prospects: A lot rides on Sunderland’s strike force clicking into gear, it was an area they struggled with last season, but Frazier Campbell could provide the solution to that after fully regaining fitness following his return earlier this year. The have a midfield capable of creating plenty of chances and contributing with goals and if one of their strike force gets hot they could surprise a few. Final Position Prediction – 10th
Transfers In: Jose Manuel Flores, Michu, Jonathan de Guzman.
Last Season: 11th
Key Man: Scott Sinclair – He will disappointed not to have been more widely used in Team GB’s Olympic campaign, but he will strip fitter for his participation and can hit the ground running for Swansea. The departures of Allen and Sigurdsson mean that the onus will be on Sinclair to improve on his performances of last season. He looks capable of doing and whilst it may well be prove to be in a losing cause for much of the season, he could give himself a great chance of retaining Premier League football for himself.
Seasons Prospects: Losing Allen & Rodgers as well failing to sign Sigurdsoon are potentially killer blows for Swansea, Laudrup is no slouch as a replacement to Rodgers but he looks to has his work cut out for him. I do worry there will be a hangover for last season and with a manager adapting to the Premier League, Swansea look likely to struggle not only to match their final position of last season but also to retain their Premier League status. Final Position Prediction: 19th
Transfers In: Jan Veronghen, Gylfi Sigurdsson
Last Season: 4th
Key Man: Gareth Bale – His decision to sign a new contract has been the high point of an eventful summer for Spurs fans, there is no doubt he is genuinely world class and has the ability to change a game in an instant. As it stands, Spurs look light on striking options and consequently Bale will be expected to contribute highly with goals as well as assist whilst that remains the case.
Season Prospects: Spurs, even prior to Harry’s tenure, have been late movers in the transfer window so Spurs fans shouldn’t be too concerned about their striking situation at the moment. Adebayor will eventually make his way to White Hart Lane and others look certain to follow. I think Spurs have sufficient quality to match their finish of last season. Final Position Prediction – 4th
Transfers In: Ben Foster, Markus Rosenberg, Claudio Yacob, Yassine El Ghanassy (Loan), Romelu Lukaku (Loan)
Last Season: 10th
Key Man: Shane Long – Following his move from Reading, Long adapted to his new surroundings well, scoring 8 league goals and providing the midfield with an obvious out ball as well partnering up well with Odemwingie. He is an obvious goal scoring threat and his all round earned him plaudits, picking up the men of the match award against Wolves when he didn’t score.
Seasons Prospects: West Bromwich have a got a combination of factors that cause to worry about a team, firstly, Steve Clarke is following Roy Hodgson who did an excellent job for The Baggies. Secondly, they have brought in Steve Clarke for his first managerial role who despite an extensive coaching career will find management very much a learning experience. I think it will be a tough season for West Brom, Hodgson got the best out of the squad and Steve Clarke will struggle to do the same nor does he strike me as a natural manager. Final Season Prediction – 20th
Transfers In: Modibo Maiga, James Collins, Alou Diarra, George McCartney, Raphael Speigel, Mohamed Diame, Stephen Henderson, Jussi Jaaskelainen
Last Season – 3rd (Championship)
Key Man: Kevin Nolan – Nolan was one of the star performers for West Ham during Championship campaign last season, scoring 12 goals and adding an extra tough dimension to their midfield. His move to West Ham raised a few eyebrows as there was a general consensus that he was still of Premier League quality, a year on I have no doubt that it remains that way. With Nolan in the midfield, West Ham are certain to provide a tough test for opposition midfields.
Seasons Prospects: The play off success last season owed more to individual quality rather than unified team successes. West Ham will struggle to repeat that this season and nagging doubts about the team play and their home form mean that while they will survive I think it will be a close run thing. Final Position Prediction – 16th
Last Season: 15th
Key Man: Jordi Gomez: He brings a touch of class to Wigan’s midfield, he showed on a number of occasions that he a very confident player on the ball and has a great passing range, Martinez will be hoping for more contribution from him in terms of goals given that they are fairly light up front.
Seasons Prospect: Having defied the drop in the last three seasons, pundits are lining up to give the last rights to their Premier League status yet again, I don’t see it that way, they showed enough in the last dozen games last season to show that they can better their finish from last season. Final Position Prediction – 15th.
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