Premier League 2007-08 Preview
The sixteenth season of top flight English football begins the next weekend, the 11th of August 2007, when the English premier league kicks off one of the most interesting seasons of premiership. Its been a big spending transfer season, and teams like Manchester United and Liverpool have now started to match Chelsea in the spending department. Chelsea interestingly didn’t do much on the big money deals but still managed to get some quality players in free transfers. But it was United and Liverpool who grabbed the limelight with big deals involving some big names like Torres, Nani, Anderson, Hargreaves and that much controversial deal of Tevez . Defending Champions Manchester United will be fighting to win the tenth Premier League title, with Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal trying to stop that from happening.
The pre season is always an exiting time for any club, new players coming in, some going out, new kits, new sponsors, lots of new things. Clubs have high hopes from a new season, the new players bring that fresh feeling, and then you always feel that this is your season to do and improve over last season. Not every club is able to do that, some fail, some succeed and some just about does it to satisfy the board and the fans. Lets see then whom do we feel will succeed and who will not.
We being in order of the last season’s table in our team by team preview, with Manchester United first in our microscope.
2006-07 league position: 1st, Champions
In: Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich, £17m), Anderson (Porto, undisclosed), Nani (Sporting Lisbon, undisclosed), Tomasz Kuszczak (West Brom, undisclosed), Carlos Tevez.
Out: Kieran Richardson (Sunderland, £5.5m, Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal, undisclosed), Alan Smith (Newcastle, £6m).
It was a dream season for Manchester United in 2006-07. They won the premier league, were the semi-finalists of the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup finalists. Although they missed out the cup competitions, but winning the premier league was a fantastic achievement for the club. They did it all in such a convincing fashion, that a football fan would agree that Manchester United were the deserving winners of the Premier League. Now this season retaining the league title isofcourse their main priority, but they would want to get more than one silverware this season. The UEFA Champions League, which has eluded them since that treble in 1999, would be the next target for Sir Alex’s team. United had a good time shopping in the transfer window. They brought in some young talent to develop for the long run. Nani and Anderson (read our article on them here) are what Manchester United will hope to keep United going strong over the years. They both will be the important factors for United in the crunch period in the hectic December month, and United can then rest players like Giggs, Scholes for the important Champions League or important Premier League games. Nani is a winger, who is said to be a Cristiano Ronaldo in the making. If he matches his Portuguese counterpart, I’m sure great times are ahead, most importantly as United will then find their proper replacement for Ryan Giggs. Anderson on the other hand will be the ideal man to replace Paul Scholes . He has an outstanding pace and superb finishing skills, and can prove to be handy in initiating counter-attacks. United will be much more flexible in formations and can try out different things. Sir Alex believes its Rooney’s season finally. And I won’t disagree here. Rooney has been in good form in the later part of the season, and has been firing on all cylinders in the pre season. He will finally have more movement in the box with players like Anderson and Nani coming in, and ofcourse the PFA player of the season, Cristiano Ronaldo. Rooney can and should have a great season and I do hope that he manages to be the top scorer in the league this season. Ronaldo will continue where he left off last season, he will continue to torment the defenders, will still win controversial penalties, and will continue to score goals.Tevez will only help United’s cause now that he knows the premiership business. Having spent one year with West Ham, Tevez will be a better player and he should have a great partnership with Wayne Rooney. Louis Saha, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Dong Fangzhuo are the only other strikers United have, and even with Saha and Solskjær injured right now, United still has a squad capable of scoring goals. With Hargreaves in the squad, Ronaldo and Carrick can move forward much more than they could last season, that means more goal scoring opportunities. Owen Hargreaves finally joins OldTrafford after that long waiting period at Bayern Munich, but to his and United’s relief he has arrived, and he will be among the most important players in the United squad. Like Carrick was in his first season last year, Hargreaves will be the all important player in the midfield. The United defense line is among the best in the premiership now, and Hargreaves is only going to make things stronger. He can act as a shield before the defensive back line and try to make sure that the opposition’s attack doesn’t cause much trouble. Giggs and Scholes will always make sure that United has that experience needed in the big games. Then they have utility players like O’Shea and Fletcher filling in when needed, so they have a potent squad which should let them retain the premiership trophy and make it a good Champions League season. They should really improve their European form this season. FA Cup and Carling Cups are just the added bonuses United might want to win, but I believe the main targets are going to be theEPL and UCL for United. They will have a fight at their hands again with Chelsea, and only injuries or absense of key players in crucial games can cause some troubles, and thats what might separate the two sides.
2006-07 league position: 2nd
In: Florent Malouda (Lyon, £13.5m), Tal Ben Haim (Bolton, free), Steve Sidwell (Reading, free), Claudio Pizarro (Bayern Munich, free), Jacob Mellis (Sheffield United, £1.3m), Danny Philliskirk (Oldham, undisclosed).
Out: Geremi (Newcastle, free) Yves Ma-Kalambay (Hibernian, free), Nuno Morais (Apoel Nicosia, undisclosed), Khalid Boulahrouz (Sevilla, season loan), Jimmy Smith (Norwich, season loan).
Chelsea had a not so good second half and that crucial ending part of the season, which ultimately let United win the title. They haven’t been so extravagant this season on the transfers. But still managed to bring in some good players like Malouda, Tal Ben Haim, Claudio Pizarro, Steve Sidwell, Danny Philliskirk. Chelsea will ofcourse want to win the premiership, but its not going to be easy, they will need to match Manchester United the whole season to win it.José Mourinho will be quieter this season and wont be in the news for the bad reasons, now I’m not sure about that. Buy yeah he has matured as a manager and this is his ultimate test for him to take the fight till the end against United. Chelsea has a very strong midfield with players likeLampard, Ballack, Makélélé, Essien, Joe Cole, Arjen Robben and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Steve Sidwell and Florent Malouda are useful additions to the squad, and Chelsea shouldn’t find any problems in here. Attack wise they have got Pizarro joining in to partner the last season’s top scorerDidier Drogba and Andriy Shevchenko, who is definitely on a prove himself mission this year and would want to show that he didn’t do a mistake by joining the Stamford Bridge outfit. He had a miserable season last year. His improvement can only help Chelsea. But the point of concern might be their defense. With only 7 defenders in the side, Chelsea has to be strong in this department, any injuries can cause them a lot of problems, like it did last season. Theydon’t have many options here. Ashley Cole, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry are their first team choices and Wayne Bridge, Paulo Ferreira, Glen Johnson and new joining Tal Ben Haim will be the other options they have. They cannot afford to draw games and need to pick up maximum points from games. They drew a lot of games last season including 4-5 consecutive draws last season. So the defense has to be up to the mark or rather fit, to let Chelsea do something about United.
2006-07 League position: 3rd
In: Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid, undisclosed), Lucas Leiva (Gremio, undisclosed), Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao, £270,000), Nikolay Mihaylov (Levski Sofia, undisclosed), Krisztian Nemeth (MTK Budapest, undisclosed), Andras Simon (MTK Budapest, undisclosed), Andriy Voronin (Bayer Leverkusen, free), Dani Pacheco (Barcelona, £350,000), Alex Kacaniklic (Helsingborg, undisclosed), Marvin Purie (Borussia Dortmund, undisclosed), Gary Mackay Stevens (Ross County, undisclosed), Yossi Benayoun (West Ham, £5m), Ryan Babel (Ajax, £11.5m).
Out: Djibril Cisse (Marseille, £6m), Craig Bellamy (West Ham, £7.5m), Luis Garcia (Atletico Madrid, undisclosed), Florent Sinama Pongolle (Recreativo Huelva, £2m), Danny Guthrie (Bolton, loan), Robbie Fowler, Jerzy Dudek (released), Boudewijn Zenden (Marseille, free), Mark Gonzalez (Real Betis, undisclosed).
Liverpool had a very busy transfer window, lots of players coming and going. Many players left the Anfield outfit, Robbie Fowler, Florent Sinama Pongolle, Luis Garcia, Craig Bellamy, Djibril Cisse, Jerzy Dudek to name the prominent ones. The team’s fans have as bright as hope as their kit color and so Liverpool has to perform well this season and be in the frame to fight for the league. Fernando Torres’s arrival is a big pressure for them to perform and take the fight to United and Chelsea. They need to be consistent the entire season. They have a huge squad to help the cause. SteveFinnan, Sami Hyypiä, Daniel Agger, John Arne Riise, Jamie Carragher will be the first team choice in the defense and all are proven defenders. Harry Kewell, Steven Gerrard, Yossi Benayoun, Xabi Alonso, Jermaine Pennant, Javier Mascherano, Mohamed Sissoko will be the midfielders Liverpool will field on most of the games. Fernando Torres, Peter Crouch, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel will be taking the striking duties for the team. So they have a decent squad and should do well to ensure they finish third, but their target will be to win the premiership and its really a difficult task at hands. Even with Torres coming in I don’t see Liverpool overhauling Manchester United or even Chelsea. I’m not writing them off already. But then I don’t see things which can ensure some level of consistency. Their last season was out of gas in the initial part itself. They had a nightmarish start to the season and even RafaelBenítez had to worry about his place as the manager, but somehow the team held itself and managed to play well in the later part of the season and eventually finished third. The first part of the season will be very crucial for them, if they manage to get as much points as they can from the first part of the season, only then can they fight for the title. They should be at times be quite a force to reckon with and only consistent results can make it a good season for Liverpool. They lost European final to AC Milan, and would want to make amends to that, but I believe they wouldn’t wanna do that. To be realistic they can only concentrate either onEPL or the Europe. Whatever they think, its a tough season for Liverpool.
2006-07 League position: 4th
In: Eduardo da Silva (Dinamo Zagreb, undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski (Legia Warsaw, undisclosed), Bacary Sagna (Auxerre, undisclosed).
Out: Thierry Henry (Barcelona, £16.1m), Jeremie Aliadiere (Middlesbrough, £2m), Fabrice Muamba (Birmingham, £2m), Arturo Lupoli (Fiorentina, undisclosed), Mart Poom (Watford, free), Freddie Ljungberg (West Ham, £3m), Jose Antonio Reyes (Atletico Madrid, undisclosed), Kerrea Gilbert (Southend, loan), Ryan Garry (Bournemouth, free).
Arsenal…now where should I start about them. I think Thierry Henry. Arsenal has lost two influential skippers over the years, but the latter will be one hard or nearly impossible to replace. And Freddie Ljungberg’s exit makes Arsenal a very young and somewhat inexperienced side led by a very experienced manager, Arsène Wenger. Wenger loves the youth players, and he would love to manage this young side. Anyways back to Henry, many people would expect Arsenal to hit rock bottom form without Henry. But mind you Arsenal isn’t a side which can have such a huge impact of their captain’s departure. WhenViera left Arsenal they had an influential skipper in Henry, and they did have some affect of Viera’s absense but still they did cope up with it, now Henry’s departure might have a greater impact than that of Viera , but still whoever gets the captain’s armband will be having a relatively easy time. Arsenal still has some quality players in the side. MidfieldersCesc Fàbregas, Tomáš Rosický, Denílson, Mathieu Flamini and Gilberto Silva are the midfielders who will be the most important factors this season at The Emirates. They will have to fill in to fill the void left by Henry. They will have to move forward to lead the attack along with the forwards. Eduardoda Silva, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and the inexperienced Theo Walcott is all what Arsenal have to lead the attack. I think Henry’s in-availability last season when he was injured was a crucial time for the team, they learnt at lot last season itself, and that all important win at OldTrafford against Manchester United with many of their important players missing, thought some things, Arsenal will not miss Henry much, contrary to popular belief.
2006-07 League position: 5th
In: Gareth Bale (Southampton, £5m), Adel Taarabt (Lens, undisclosed), Yuri Berchiche (Athletic Bilbao, undisclosed), Darren Bent (Charlton £16.5m), Younes Kaboul (Auxerre, £8m), Danny Rose (Leeds, undisclosed), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Hertha Berlin, undisclosed).
Out: Emil Hallfredsson (Lyn-Oslo, undisclosed), Reto Ziegler (Sampdoria, undisclosed), Mark Yeates (Colchester, undisclosed).
Spurs finished best after the top 4 last season. A great season in my reckoning. First league victory over Chelsea in 16 years, Club and British record amount of consecutive wins in Europe, with 8 wins, Second successive European qualification via the league for the first time in over 20 years. I mean it has been really a fantastic season for them, they finished fifth in the previous to previous season too in 2005-06. So people would expect them toatleast make it third 5th position in a row. Martin Jol is already among the most successful managers Tottenham ever had, and he has got a fine squad with him now. Even he had a busy transfer season, he got some good players, including the record £16.5 million signing of Darren Bent. He also got 17 year old left back Gareth Bale, and extended the deal of Robbie Keane until 2012. So he is building a nice squad, and investing in the stability of the team. Which is a good thing and that’s what gonna help Spurs in maintaining the 5th position next season. Dimitar Berbatov had a brilliant spell, and he should be able to pick up the form this season too, and with Darren Bent coming in, Spurs will be sharper in attack. Add in Robbie Keane,Mido and Jermain Defoe, Spurs have a potent attacking force. Midfield features Zokora, Tainio, Jenas, Malbranque, Huddlestone, Lennon and the new signing Boateng. Defense lineup is Chimbonda, Lee Young-Pyo, Ledley King and Gardner with Younes Kaboul joining in, who should really make Spurs a difficult defense to break. So its a decent squad Martin Jol has and its quite capable of repeating the previous two season’s performance. They lost out to Cup holders Sevilla in the UEFA Cup last time, but this time its definitely their aim along with maintaining their 5th league position, which I believe will happen.
2006-07 League position: 6th
In: Lukas Jutkiewicz (Swindon, undisclosed), Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United, £4m), Steven Pienaar (Borussia Dortmund, loan)
Out: Richard Wright (West Ham, free), Alessandro Pistone (released), Gary Naysmith (Sheffield United, £1m), James Beattie (Sheffield United, £4m)
Without much action on the transfer window, David Moyes’s side is pretty much the same as it was last season. Which is a bit of a surprise to me really. I thought Everton would really want to strengthen their squad and do better this season. Anyways, they still have quality players, which nearly gave Manchester United a shocking defeat near the end of the season in the match atGoodison Park. Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Stubbs, Jagielka, Valente and Boyle in defense, Arteta, van der Meyde, Tim Cahill, Phil Neville and Osman in midfield and Andrew Johnson, James Beattie, McFadden and James Vaughan are the players with goal scoring duties. So they have some quality players and with a UEFA Cup spot they would have more games to play, and the quality in midfield and forwards will certainly help. They need to maintain their position in the league and they face stiff competition from the other mid table teams this season. So its a difficult season forEverton, and they will need to play like they did last season. A European qualification and should finish between 5-10.
2006-07 League position: 7th
In: Gavin McCann (Aston Villa, £1m), Jlloyd Samuel (Aston Villa, free), Zoltan Harsanyi (FC Senec, undisclosed), Blerim Dzemaili (Zurich, undisclosed), Gerald Cid (Bordeaux, undisclosed), Danny Guthrie (Liverpool, season loan), Heidar Helguson (Fulham, undisclosed), Mikel Alonso (Real Sociedad, loan), Christian Wilhelmsson (Nantes, loan).
Out: Tal Ben Haim (Chelsea, free), Idan Tal (Betar Jerusalem, undisclosed), Chris Howarth (Carlisle, free), Henrik Pedersen, Quinton Fortune, David Thompson, Cesar Martin (all released).
Bolton had an interesting preseason, and will have an equally interesting first match against Newcastle. Now whats so special with Newcastle? SamAllardyce , who left the Reebok Stadium outfit to join Newcastle United will return to Reebok in-charge of the Magpies in their season opening fixture. Bolton had a lot of in and out transfers, and without Sam, Bolton might be a different team. Sammy Lee, the new coach, who also was assistant-manager to SamAllardyce previously, is a known face at Bolton but managing it full time is his real test. He has a good squad left by Allardyce. Kevin Nolan, Gary Speed, Giannakopoulos, Campo, Wilhelmsson, Mikel Alonso, McCann in defense and Helguson, Kevin Davies, Vaz Té, El-Hadji Diouf, Nicolas Anelka , James Sinclair the forwards form a good squad for Bolton. They qualified for Europe so they will have a busy season. And with their big squad they shouldn’t have much problem in resting some players. Now repeating last season’s performance and again qualify for Europe will be a difficult task for them, and it will take consistent results to achieve that goal.
2006-07 League position: 8th
In: Khalifa Cisse (Boavista, £650,000), Emerse Fae (Nantes, £2.5m).
Out: Steve Sidwell (Chelsea, free), Greg Halford (Sunderland, £2.5m), Curtis Ujah (Yeovil, free), Jonathan Hayes (MK Dons, loan).
Reading had a dream first season in the premiership. Finishing 8th in the league above the likes of Portsmouth, Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Manchester City and West Ham United, Reading pulled off nearly a miraculous first premiership season. They had some great opening games last season. They came from 2 goals behind to beatMiddlesbrough in their first game, and drew with Manchester United to mark their arrival in the Premiership. Steve Coppell for once has proved that you don’t need superstars to perform and impress in the premiership. But now it will be asked of him to repeat that kind of a performance and earn qualification for Europe, a spot which they missed last season. So now lets take a look at the squad atMadejski Stadium. Murty, Shorey, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Sodje are in the Reading defensive lineup, Gunnarsson, Little, Stephen Hunt, Oster, James Harper, Bobby Convey, Seol Ki-Hyeon and Faé feature in the midfield, which is impressive. Leroy Lita, Kevin Doyle and Kitson are the forwards in the squad. The only sore point was the departure of Steve Sidwell, who has moved to Chelsea. It was a bit of a shock for Reading fans over Sidwell’s departure. He was really an important player in he squad, instrumental in earning Reading their promotion to the premier league and finishing 8th last season. Now with no proper replacement coming in the transfer window, Reading have to fill in the space left by him and perform at their best. SteveCoppell will want to keep the fans happy, and I think it will be a very difficult task this time to stay in the top 10. Which if they do, will again be a big feat from SteveCoppell and his men.
2006-07 League position: 9th
In: David Nugent (Preston, undisclosed), John Utaka (Rennes, undisclosed), Sylvain Distin (Manchester City, free), Hermann Hreidarsson (Charlton, free), Sulley Muntari (Udinese, undisclosed), Martin Cranie (Southampton, undisclosed), Arnold Mvuemba (Rennes, undisclosed), Callum Reynolds (Rushden & Diamonds, undisclosed).
Out: Svetoslav Todorov (Charlton, free), Daryl Fordyce (released), Andy Griffin (Derby, free), Collins Mbesuma (Bursaspor, undisclosed).
Pompey made a strong start to the 2006-07 Premiership campaign without conceding any goals in their first five games, but somehow in the mid season they had some bad results and they eventually finished 9th, still their best ever premiership finish. They have got some pretty good players in the transfer window. David Nugent, the England international, joined the Fratton Park team, and will partner the forwards Andrew Cole, Mwaruwari, LuaLua and another new arrival Utaka. They might not have an impressive midfield, but they have bolstered their defense with the arrival of Sylvain Distin. And with players like Primus, Stefanovic, Lauren, Traoré, Hreiðarsson, Matthew Taylor, Sol Campbell and Andy O’Brien, Portsmouth have probably among the best defense in the premiership. Harry Redknapp’s return to Fratton Park certainly changed the team’s fortunes dramatically in 05-06, and which eventually saw them having their best ever premiership season in 06-07. They had a good start to thepre season, beating Liverpool by penalties to win the Asia Trophy. Pompey has to qualify for Europe this season and Redknapp will need to make sure that they stay in the top 10 atleast, but an improvement over last season and getting a UEFA Cup spot would certainly a result they would hope for and should achieve. A team to watch I think.
2006-07 League position: 10th
In: Gunnar Nielsen (BK Frem Copenhagen, undisclosed), Maceo Rigters (NAC Breda, undisclosed), Roque Santa Cruz (Bayern Munich, undisclosed).
Out: Andy Todd (Derby, undisclosed), Michael Gray (Wolves, released).
Blackburn Rovers will be a team to watch, and I won’t be surprised to see them give some shocks this season. Although not much activity in the transfer window atEwood Park, with just Roque Santa Cruz the important signing for them. Mark Hughes has a vast squad at his disposal, and Santa Cruz will add strength to the attacking lineup of Benni McCarthy, Francis Jeffers, Paul Gallagher and Matt Derbyshire. Robbie Savage, David Bentley, Gamst Pedersen, Steven Reid and Dunn in the midfield will provide enough support to the strikers. Benni McCarthy in particular had a great season in 2006-07, where he was the second highest goalscorer, 2 behind the leaderDidier Drogba and one more than Cristiano Ronaldo . So Santa Cruz’s arrival is definitely good news for Rovers. FA Cup semifinalists last season, Rovers would aim to improve their premiership standings over last season. Europe might have to wait for a season, because this year they need to improve on their standings to justify of being called the only club other than the top 4 to win a premiership title
2006-07 League position: 11th
In: Nigel Reo-Coker (West Ham, £8.5m), Marlon Harewood (West Ham, undisclosed), Harry Forrester (Watford, undisclosed), Eric Lichaj (unattached, free)
Out: Aaron Hughes (Fulham, £1m), Jlloyd Samuel (Bolton, free), Steven Davis (Fulham, undisclosed), Gavin McCann (Bolton, £1m), Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls, free), Stephen Henderson (Bristol City, free), Lee Hendrie (Sheffield United, free), Robert Olejnik (Falkirk, free), Chris Sutton (released).
Martin O’Neill’s side had the longest unbeaten start of any Premiership side in 2006-07 (9 games), not losing a league game until 28 October. Testimonial of his managerial abilities and side’s quality. But the Villa Park based team had a bad mid-season and couldn’t finish in the top ten. Not a vast squad he has, with a lot of players leaving the side during the transfer window, Juan Pablo Angel being one of them, O’Neill brought in a couple of good players to make up for it, Nigel Reo-Coker & Marlon Harewood both joining from West Ham. Mellberg, Gareth Barry, ex-Celtic duo Stiliyan Petrov & Shaun Maloney, Agbonlahor, Ashley Young are the other famous names at Villa Park. Not a big squad and not many match winners in the squad, Villa needed some more players to lead them in the new season, which is surprising, that even after a takeover, the club didn’t spend lavishly to bring in some more quality players. I really hope that we will see some players coming in before the window is closed. So Villa will be lucky to break into the top 6, and any injuries will mean trouble for their side. A Europe place is still a realistic aim for them.
2006-07 League position: 12th
In: Tuncay Sanli (Fenerbahce, free), Jeremie Aliadiere (Arsenal, £2m), Jonathan Woodgate (Real Madrid, £7m), Luke Young (Charlton, £2.5m).
Out: Mark Viduka (Newcastle, free), Stuart Parnaby (Birmingham, free), Abel Xavier (LA Galaxy, free), Malcolm Christie (released), Danny Graham (released), Jason Kennedy (Livingston, loan).
Boro has had the reputation of the giant killers in the premiership for some recent years, and has been giving all the big clubs some problems on the pitch, but this year that reputation is under danger.Boro saw two important players leaving the Riverside Stadium, Mark Viduka & Abel Xavier. They signed Luke Young from Charlton and made the loan move of Jonathan Woodgate from Real Madrid permanent for £7m. But it won’t be enough for Gareth Southgate to make a mark and have a decent season. He has a big squad, but not many players who can help Boro to be strong enough to make it into a top 10.
2006-07 League position: 13th
In: Mark Viduka (Middlesbrough, free), Joey Barton (Man City, £5.8m), David Rozehnal (Paris St Germain, £2.9m), Geremi (Chelsea, free), Alan Smith (Manchester United, £6m), Claudio Cacapa (Lyon, free), Jose Enrique (Villarreal, £6.3m).
Out: Scott Parker (West Ham, £7m), Titus Bramble (Wigan, free), Antoine Sibierski (Wigan, free), Craig Moore (released), Olivier Bernard (released), Alan O’Brien (undisclosed).
Another team to watch this season, The Magpies will be definitely a team which will impress many a times. Some good things have happened at St James’ Park. The takeover last season, and the appointment of Sam Allardyce is definitely good news for the Toons. Big Sam is a good manager, and he will improve Newcastle’s fortunes a lot this season. And with the new signings he has done, Newcastle looks set for a good season in 07-08. They saw some players leaving the side, Scott Parker, Titus Bramble, Antoine Sibierski to name a few, but signed a few good players like Mark Viduka, Joey Barton, David Rozehnal, Geremi and Alan Smith. Newcastle has a good forward lineup now, Obafemi Martins, Michael Owen, Alan Smith, Albert Luque, Shola Ameobi and Mark Viduka are all going to score often. Emre, Joey Barton, Damien Duff, Solano, Milner Nicky Butt are the midfielders, and Stephen Carr, Rozehnal, Geremi, Peter Ramage, Taylor, David Edgar and Babayaro doing the defensive duties. Newcastle may well have a close fight with Tottenham & Portsmouth for that fifth spot in the table. And I’m sure Newcastle has the European qualification in their targets for the season. Big Sam is a proven guy and wont let Newcastle down. He has a good squad, and he shouldn’t find any problems, in short, good times finally looks like coming to St James’ Park.
2006-07 League position: 14th
In: Geovanni (Cruzeiro, free), Rolando Bianchi (Reggina, £8.8m), Gelson Fernandes (FC Sion, undisclosed), Martin Petrov (Atletico Madrid, £4.7m), Javier Garrido (Real Sociedad, £1.5m), Vedran Corluka (Dinamo Zagreb, undisclosed), Elano (Shakhtar Donetsk, £8m), Valeri Bojinov (Fiorentina, undisclosed).
Out: Sylvain Distin (Portsmouth, free), Trevor Sinclair (released), Stephen Jordan (Burnley, free), Hatem Trabelsi (released), Joey Barton (Newcastle, £5.8m), Nicky Weaver (Charlton, free).
Sven-Göran Eriksson’s appointment as the new manager of City surprised quite a few people, including me. And the recent takeover has brought mixed feelings with City fans. They let go of some players in the transfers. Sylvain Distin, Trevor Sinclair, Hatem Trabelsi & Joey Barton were the notable ones who left City of Manchester Stadium. But its what the new signings are where City is having their hopes on. Geovanni , Rolando Bianchi, Gelson Fernandes, Martin Petrov, Javier Garrido, Vedran Corluka, Elano and the recent signing of Valeri Bojinov. The Bulgarian striker will be a player to watch. Mpenza, Bianchi, Vassell, Dickov, Samaras and Corradi are prime strikers at City. Thats a decent attack. Midfield features Ousmane Dabo, Michael Johnson, Stephen Ireland, Geovanni, Martin Petrov, Hamann and Micah Richards, Michael Ball, Nedum Onuoha, Sun Jihai, Dunne in defense. Now even I have mixed feelings as to what sort of performance can we expect from Manchester City under Sven-Göran Eriksson. I’m not sure if they can break into the top 10, but yeah the Manchester derby will be interesting to watch. Its always is, but this time it has a topping, which should make it a nice dish.
West Ham United
2006-07 League position: 15th
In: Scott Parker (Newcastle, £7m), Julien Faubert (Bordeaux, £6.1m), Richard Wright (Everton, free), Craig Bellamy (Liverpool, £7.5m), Freddie Ljungberg (West Ham, £3m).
Out: Paul Konchesky (Fulham, £3.25m), Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa, £8.5m), Tyrone Mears (Derby, £1m), Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool, undisclosed), Marlon Harewood (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Teddy Sheringham (Colchester, released), Shaun Newton (Leicester, released), Roy Carroll (Rangers, free).
West Ham has been in the news ever since that transfer saga of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tévez. Now that’s been talked about a lot and we don’t wanna talk about it here. But otherwise, the takeover, the new manager, the final escape from relegation, a double over Manchester United. I mean it has been an eventful season for the Hammers. JavierMascherano and Carlos Tévez both have left the club now, and the others who were on their way out of Upton Park were Paul Konchesky, Nigel Reo-Coker, Tyrone Mears, Yossi Benayoun, Marlon Harewood , Teddy Sheringham, Shaun Newton, Roy Carroll. Their two most important signings were Craig Bellamy and Freddie Ljungberg, both will be important players in the squad. Bellamy’s addition will mean that along with Dean Ashton & Bobby Zamora, Hammers have 3 famous faces doing the striking duties. Scott Parker, MatthewEtherington, Luís Boa Morte, Mark Noble, Mullins, Faubert & Lee Bowyer will provide the support needed in the midfield. Even though West Ham has a huge squad, and a lot of unknown faces, new manager AlanCurbishley will have to really do something great to break into the top 10, although 15 would be more realistic, and not have to fight for relegation again. They had a dream run at the end of the season, finishing off with that nearly epic win against Manchester United, Hammers managed to survive in the premiership. Only if that winning run is picked again this season, Eggert Magnusson can hope that Curbishley can lead the side to a decent season. I think they can pretty much do that, and qualification for Europe will be really a fantastic achievement for Curbs.
2006-07 League position: 16th
In: Diomansy Kamara (West Brom, £6m), Aaron Hughes (Aston Villa, £1m), Steven Davis (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Chris Baird (Southampton, £3.025m), David Healy (£1.5m), Paul Konchesky (£2m), Lee Cook (QPR, undisclosed).
Out: Claus Jensen (released), Mark Pembridge (released), Tomasz Radzinski (released), Mark Crossley (released, now at Oldham), Michael Brown (Wigan, undisclosed), Franck Queudrue (Birmingham, £2.5m).
The Cottagers weren’t really impressive last season, but managed to stay out of the drop zone. This season though, they have a new manager. Chris Coleman was replaced byLawrie Sanchez and who immediately started to bring in some new players. Aaron Hughes, Steven Davis, Diomansy Kamara, Chris Baird, Paul Konchesky, David Healy & Lee Cook. Not many players left, so its a good thing for Fulham. Kamara’s addition is quite good for Fulham, as they don’t have many strikers. Hughes’s signing is also important as Fulham’s defense was weak last season, and this should help the cause. Fulham doesn’t have much quality so it will a fight for survival in the premiership this season for them.
2006-07 League position: 17th
In: Antoine Sibierski (Newcastle, free), Titus Bramble (Newcastle, free), Mario Melchiot (Rennes, free), Andreas Granqvist (Helsingborg, undisclosed), Carlo Nash (Preston, £300,000), Jason Koumas (West Brom, £5.3m), Michael Brown (Fulham, undisclosed).
Out: Lee McCulloch (Rangers, £2.25m), Matt Jackson (Watford, free), Arjan de Zeeuw (released), David Unsworth (released), Andreas Johansson (AaB Aalborg, free).
The Latics, like Fulham, will have the aim to survive the drop zone, and Wigan seems in a better shape to do this than Fulham. The new manager Chris Hutchings signed a lot of players, Antoine Sibierski, Titus Bramble, Mario Melchiot, Andreas Granqvist, Carlo Nash, Jason Koumasand Michael Brown. They have Camara, Heskey, Aghahowa in the attack, Sibierski, Kilbane, Koumas, Michael Brown, Landzaat in the midfield and Ryan Taylor, Granqvist, Hall, Boyce, Bramble and their skipper, Melchiot in defense. So they have a good squad, although this still wont take them to a top 15 finish, but certainly a premiership survival is a possible target for theJJB Stadium based team.
2006-07 League position: not present, promoted to the premier league
In: Dickson Etuhu (Norwich, £1.5m), Kieran Richardson (Manchester United, undisclosed), Greg Halford (Reading, £2.5m), Russell Anderson (Aberdeen, £1m), Michael Chopra (Cardiff City, £5m), Paul McShane (West Brom, £2.5m).
Out: Kenny Cunningham (released), Tommy Miller (Ipswich, released), Stephen Elliott (Wolves, undisclosed).
Sunderland had it all it takes to make for a Shakespeare kind of tragic and heroic football seasons. They were relegated from the premier league with an all time low record of just 15 points on the table. 15! With 27 goals, league leader Thierry Henry outscored the entire Sunderland squad who managed to score just 26 goals. This is the second time a Premier League squad has been outscored by individual players. The first instance also involved Sunderland when they were outscored by three players, including Henry, in the 2002-03 season. A goal difference of -43, but just the next season they win the Championship and are back in the premiership! That’s some comeback. Most of the credit will go to Roy Keane, the former Manchester United skipper, who led Sunderland to win the championship and promotion to the premier league.
Now the fans will be having lots of high hopes and expectations from the team and the manager. So the natural question now is, can the black cats do what Reading has done last season. Or even better them? Now Sunderland can do the same, Keane can turn the team around once again like he did in the Championship. And a lot of hopes are shining at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland will be a team to watch this season, I reckon they will somehow manage to hover around the 8-12 position in the first half of the season, but should eventually finish around 12. Anything better would be a real achievement for them. Keane has a good squad, pretty much like what Reading had last season. They signed in some good players in the transfer window. Dickson Etuhu, Kieran Richardson, Greg Halford, Russell Anderson, Michael Chopra, Paul McShane and Stephen Elliott. Richardson will be a great player for them. The ex-Manchester United winger will get enough games to finally make a mark, and under Keane he should do well. Michael Chopra is a good addition to the forward line. So Sunderland should have a great season, and Keane should be able to make his mark as a manager. Ahh and the Manchester United v Sunderland matches will be must watch now, as the United faithfuls would want to see how Keane does in the premiership as a manager.
2006-07 League position: not present, promoted to the premier league
In: Olivier Kapo (Juventus, £3m), Garry O’Connor (Lokomotiv Moscow, £2.7m), Fabrice Muamba (Arsenal, £2m), Stuart Parnaby (Middlesbrough, free), Daniel de Ridder (Celta Vigo, free), Richard Kingston (Hammarby, free), Rafael Schmitz (Lille, season loan), Franck Queudrue (Fulham, £2.5m).
Out: Bruno N’Gotty (Leicester, free), Julian Gray (Coventry, free), Stephen Clemence (Leicester, fee rising to £1m), DJ Campbell (Leicester, £2.1m).
Now the writing is nearly on the wall for The Blues. They will face relegation battle, that too a tough one. Steve Bruce’s side isn’t really strong enough to fight it, and with the premiership sides getting stronger, they can expect some big thrashings by the hands of the top and even some mid table clubs. St Andrews Stadium did see a lot of new players coming in for the new season, but whether it will be enough to save from relegation will be a thing to see.
2006-07 League position: not present, promoted to the premier league
In: Robert Earnshaw (Norwich, £3.5m), Tyrone Mears (West Ham, £1m), Claude Davis (£3m), Andy Todd (Blackburn, free), Ben Hinchcliffe (free agent), Andy Griffin (Portsmouth, free), Lewis Price (Ipswich, undisclosed).
Out: Seth Johnson, Morten Bisgaard, Lee Grant (all released), Ryan Smith (Millwall, £150,000), Paul Peschisolido (Luton, free), Paul Boertien (Walsall, free), Lee Camp (Derby, £300,000), Steve Cann (Rotherham, released).
The Rams are in for a very very difficult season too like Birmingham. There aren’t just enough players who can score enough goals against the mid table teams, leave alone the top teams’ defense. So just scoring against the bottom table teams won’t be enough to ensure their stay in the premiership. RobertEarnshaw is probably their best man to score, if he gets enough support from the midfield and the supporting strikers, Derby can atleast hope for a survival, or else its surely back to the Championship for them next season. Still the fans will be happy enough to see them fighting out with the premiership sides at Pride Park Stadium, and with a good support they have Derby shouldatleast enjoy this season.