Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Premier League Preview 2013/14


Arsenal

If ever a season Arsene Wenger had to deliver it's now. The other top sides have changed their manager, he has the experience, they have the cash, debt free so what will Arsenal do this year? Not a lot I think. As of writing they don’t have Suarez they missed out on Higuian and have done nothing but get players out. If they do bring in a big name striker they could be knocking on the door of the title from a distance but I see another empty season for the Gunners & Wenger's reign could be done and dusted, like their trophy cabinet.

Key Man - Santi Cazorla - He started last year pretty well, even some comparing him to Mata, some Gunners even thought he was better. He isn’t but he is a very creative player and if Arsenal do anything this year I imagine he will pull the strings.

Aston Villa

The Villa stayed up with ease in the end, it did look very ropey at times but Benteke's goals virtually kept them in the Premier League. Lambert took the gamble with the kids and it worked, he will do the same again this year. They will be more confident as they managed to stay up last year and they should have enough again.

Key Man – Christian Benteke – Now the Premier League know what they will get from the Belgium, he’s strong, skilful and can find the net. In a World Cup year he will want to impress so he makes sure he is on the plane to Brazil.

Cardiff City

The new boys to the Premier League have the advantage of rich owners; the problem is luring players to this part of Wales. They have lost out to a few players but their season with be defined by their home form. Clubs won’t like travel here especially if the fans create a hostile atmosphere. If the come out weak they will get walked over with ease. Cardiff’s best bet is be nasty, scrap and fight for Premier League survival.

Key Man – Andreas Cornelius - The big money signing from Denmark will have his work cut out as the strikers around him are not quite top level quality and Bellamy won't start every week.

Chelsea

The special one has returned and the Premier League is a better place. Since he went away Chelsea have continued to win trophies, including the holy grail of the Champions League. The first thing I think he would want to bring back is the league title. He delivered their first in 50 years in his first year and they have a fantastic chance with probably the best set of midfielders in the league. Chelsea tend to start seasons well, they will be the pace setters but will they last?

Key Man – Eden Hazard – Hard to pick as they have so many. He seems to be a Jose type player, he has skills but will also works hard and has a fiery side, (ask the Swansea ball boy). He did have a good first year at Chelsea and when he was on the pitch they were much more creative.

Crystal Palace

The play-off winners are playing catch up on brining in players and of course they have lost Zaha to Man United and Murray is out for a very long time injured. Who will score their goals? Phillips won’t start many games and Gayle is unproven at this level. Holloway is a character and they will cause a few shocks but they will struggle if they don’t improve the squad and fast.

Key Man - Yannick Bolasie the 24 year-old was a star last year for Palace and could make the step up. In central midfield he can test his talents against the best in the world; I think he will carry himself.

Everton

A fresh face at Goodison Park and Roberto Martinez will look to play it on the floor, pass and move tactics like he has done previously, but now with a better team. He has taken a few of his Wigan players with him and could go back for more if more of Everton’s better players depart.

Key Man – Kevin Mirrallas - Another Belgium in my list, he will have a key role for the Toffees this season. He will probably link up with Kone and with Fellaini’s future still up in the air he will have to step up. 

Fulham 

They did enough like normal again to survive, but had a poor run towards the end of the season which would be worrying. Now with the NFL boss Shahid Khan taking over from Mohamed Al Fayed it’s and exciting time for the many Fulham fans at the Cottage. However with Ruiz, Berbatov and Taarabt in the same team a few sulks will be inevitable.  

Key Man – Dimitar Berbatov showed his class last year and was a real transfer coup by Martin Jol. You know what you get from him, he won’t graft or run around a lot but his football brain is one of the best in the league.

Hull City

Hull did try to mess up promotion on the last day against Cardiff in sensational fashion, but Bruce’s men are back with the big boys. In defence Bruce has Davies, Figueroa, McShane & Chester so its not awful but they will have their work cut out. It’s the none existent midfield that’s the massive problem he will have to deal with.

Key Man - Danny Graham the only real ‘striker’ at the club. How interested he is will be a massive factor. At Swansea he did well until Michu overtook him, at Sunderland he was lost. How will he do in Hull? Not much of a party life so he can’t be too distracted. 

Liverpool

Rodgers will have his work cut out this year if Suarez leaves he gave the talk last season but Liverpool really did nothing special. The youngsters did OK and one more year under their belt they should progress, I say they have more chance in the cup competitions then a top 6 finish. No European football should help them be more consistent in the league. 

Key Man – Philippe Coutinho He came in at January and did shine, he will have to link up with Sturridge which looks exciting and he has been impressive during pre season.

Manchester City

A lot of new faces at the Eithad Stadium who gets the nod to play up front will be interesting. Augero didn't have his best of seasons but should be a starter, Jovetic would be next in line but Dzeko has been good in pre season. They have collected a side that will challenge for the title and I think Pellegrini will be up for the challenge. 

Key Man – Vincent Kompany – He is the rock of their defence when out injured he was truly missed. City also conceded way to many silly goals last term something they will want to knock on the head.

Manchester United 

A new man in the hardest job in English football, how will Moyes cope? Will he attract the names? It’s a harsh start for the new man with Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City all in the first 5 games how he does here will determine if the media will give him any leeway. United are still good enough to finish top 3 but will need a bit of luck to be champions again, and United are still crying out for a centre midfielder.

Key Man – Robin Van Persie Came to United to win things which he did, he scored important goals (City Away, Arsenal Home & Away) and some great goals (Villa Home). More of the same from the Dutchman who is number one man no matter who it upsets. 

Newcastle United

Just about stayed up last year but now adding Joe Kinnear in the mix could be a very bad move. Pardew could get fed up quite quickly if he does not get his way. It seems like Mike Ashley finds different ways to annoy Newcastle fans every summer. Pap Cisse seems like he wants to stay for now, but for Newcastle it will either go very well, or very bad, fast.

Key Man – Loic Remy, they missed out on him last year as he went QPR, but they have him now on a season long loan. He scored 6 times in his short time at QPR in a struggling team. I expect him to hit double figures and be one of the best finishers in the league next year. 

Norwich

With Holt gone Houghton has freshened up his strike force, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel is their big money buy how will he cope in English football? Gary Hooper can find the net but it’s a big jump as SPL defences are below average. Fer will add something different to a set of midfielder's who like to play for set pieces or whip the ball into the box to the target man.

Key Man – Ricky Van Wolfswinkel with a big price tag over his head he has scored goals in Holland & Portugal a lot lies on his head.

Southampton

Saints were never in real danger of going down last year, they even changed their manager which worked out for the better. They finished 14th in the end and beat Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea at St Mary's which shows they can mix it with the big boys. They need to strengthen the defence as they conceded to many sloppy goals.

Key Man – Gaston Ramirez had a decent first season in England netting 5 goals, but was rotated quite a bit. I think this year he will feature much more in Pochettino’s plans.

Stoke

Mark Hughes is looking to show his disastrous time at QPR was a one off. Stoke have no pace, no creativity and no frequent goals corer, so Hughes has his work cut out to change this Stoke side. Their style of play has been found out now so Sparky has to do something to mix it up.

Key Man – Jon Walters – Probably the most consistent player at Stoke and gets the majority of their goals, without him they will struggle.

Sunderland

Di Canio came to Sunderland in a blaze of glory; his derby win has made him an instant hero. He has brought in a lot and how quickly they gel will determine how successful they are. However it does have the potential to explode at any-time.

Key Man – Emanuele Giaccherini comes from Italian giants Juventus this is a real coup for the black cats. I think he will be one of the better signings of the summer. 

Swansea City

The Capital One Cup success was well deserved after 2 entertaining years in the Premier League. They have European football now which is the next step how they deal with the Thursday/Sunday schedule will be interesting but the purchase of Bony shows their intent. The Swans also got Shelvey who I don’t rate but maybe Liverpool was to big for him. You would expect the fans will demand 6 points off Cardiff too this year.

Key Man – Michu – After an impressive first season teams will know what they get from him now. I feel the Europa League will be a stage where he could shine also expect him to hit double figures will league goals again.

Tottenham

Spurs where so close last year to get into the top four but lost out to Arsenal in the end. AVB has spent but it looks like Bale could be out the door. Everything good Spurs did last year came or involved him, I can’t see them matching that standard. Top 4 without Bale will be very difficult, I see Spurs doing better in the Cups this year.

Key Man – Paulinho – depending on Bale leaving he could become a stand out player. Already a full team international he can score goals.

West Brom

A very good season for the Baggies last time out, many expected them to struggle with new boss Steve Clark but West Brom came 8th. They had the advantage of Lukaku last year who was brilliant for them. The acquisition of Anelka could be a stroke of genius by Clark.

Key Man – Nicolas Anelka in what feels like his 20th club Anelka could have the Berbatov factor like at Fulham. He still is a quality player and you know what you get from him, he won’t do much running but has been firing them in during pre-season.

West Ham

The Hammers last year relied on their solid home form to secure Premier League safety. Big Sam has got his man Andy Carroll on a permanent deal but it was the likes of Diame and Nolan that were excellent in midfield which was the basic of their success. They have added to the defence but maybe one more winger will be on Sam’s mind before the window shuts.

Key Man - Andy Carroll another big season for Carroll could see him back in the England set up.

My Picks:
Premier League Top 4

1. Chelsea
2. Man United
3. Man City
4. Arsenal

Relegation

Hull City
Stoke City
Crystal Palace 

FA Cup - Manchester United
League Cup - Chelsea
Champions League - Real Madrid

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Football League 2013-14 Preview and Picks


Championship


In one of the toughest leagues in the world to get out of, it looks like a burial ground of ex Premier League clubs. 18 of the 24 sides have played in the top flight and will be looking to get back to the promise land. The favourites, the richest and the ones that will be looking for an instant jump back is QPR. After gambling on the big names, big money deals and wages Rangers 2 year stay in the top flight ended in humiliating fashion last year. They need to go up first time of asking, as a lot of players are on silly money with years to go on their contracts. They can’t get them all out so promotion is the number one target for the west London money bags, no matter what the chairman says. They have done well to shift some of them out the door but a lot of players who let QPR down last year will still be around come kick off. A strong start will be vital so they can sake off the negative energy of last season.


I expect Reading to be up near the top of the table, there in a much better state then the rest of the teams who went down, with a good manager in charge I think they will challenge. I feel Leeds will finally challenge properly this season, if they get a good start the fans will flock in and come those cold winter months Elland Road could be a very difficult place to go. Their transfer budget is tight but with a group of decent Championship level strikers they should be near the top. Watford look to have collected most of the loan stars from last season on permanent deals, it will be interesting if they have such a big impact this time around. 

As you know with the Championship it can be very random and anyone could pop up with a challenge the surprise package could be Nottingham Forest with fan favourite Billy Davies in charge they do have a few good players at this level and could break into the top 6. Mick McCarthy has the experience for getting teams up from this league, Ipswich ended last year well and have a chance of reaching the play-offs. Blackburn Rovers could also have a good season, Jordan Rhodes is the best finisher in the league so if the other Rovers players get their act together they could be near the play off zone.

Winners:   Reading
Runners Up:   QPR
Play-Offs Winners: Leeds  

Relegation: 

Barnsley 
Huddersfield
Yeovil

League One

Wolves are the heavy favourites for League One and rightly so. After bombing through the Championship in one year there the big fish in the League One pond. They should win the league with ease, however if you look at Sheffield United how have been messing around in this league for way to long, if they don't do it straight away  it could be a long road ahead. They have the stadium and fan power to dominate this league, automatic promotion is the minimum. 

The way Brentford sensational blew the chance of promotion TWICE says to me they will really want to avenge those mistakes. However is it the case of they blew the best chance they will ever get? Peterborough are the case of too good for this league, not good enough for the Championship they will be near the top. MK Dons could be ones to watch out for having just missed out on the play-off last season also relegated Bristol City should be around the top 6. 

Winners:   Wolves
Runner Up:   Peterborough 
Play-Off Winner:  MK Dons

Relegation: 

Colchester
Oldham
Coventry
Walsall

 
League Two 

Similar to League One with Wolves, Portmouth are heavy favourites to win this league. Their fall from FA Cup winners has been epic, I don't see them winning the league. Cheltenham and Northampton missed out in the play-offs last year and they could make it one step further and grab an automatic promotion place. Southend also have a good season with experienced manager Phil Brown in charge. 

Winner:   Northampton
Promoted: Portsmouth, Cheltenham
Play-Off Winners: Southend

Relegation 

Torquay 
Plymouth