Barclays Premier League Previews (WE)

Barclays Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion

Manager: Tony Pulis

Stadium: The Hawthorns (Capacity: 26,852)

Captain: Darren Fletcher

Top Scorer: James Morrison (3)

Biggest Signing: Matt Phillips (£5.5 million)

Last Season: 14th

Prediction: Mid-Table

West Bromwich Albion played an effective brand of football last term and although they were not the most exciting of clubs to watch there was no fear that they would go down.

The squad is jam packed with players that have either had their day or promising youngsters whilst the club do not possess any real superstar just proved by the fact their top scorer last season could only amass three goals.

FOSTER

Ben Foster is key man for Pulis’ team.

Pulis is clever manager and he built Stoke into a club that was difficult to beat and took the Potters to an FA Cup semi-final something that a club such as West Brom should be aspiring to.

The Baggies should be strong at home but the games that separate the average teams from the good ones are the clashes away from home, West Brom are still in the building process but they should not be troubled with a relegation battle this season.

They have brought in one player and it’s not exactly making waves, they have cut the deadwood effectively and if they can secure one or two more players in key positions they will have a competitive squad.

IN

Matt Phillips (Queens Park Rangers, £5.5 million)

OUT

Shaun Donnellan (Stevenage, Loan)

Victor Anichebe (Released)

Stephane Sessegnon (Released)

Anders Lindergaard (Released)

PHILLIPS

Matt Phillips is a big signing.

Saido Berahino remains a “problem player” for Pulis but he could soon be seeing the exit doors if not this summer then January could see him head for pastures new Crystal Palace looking a likely destination. Watford’s Odion Ighalo could be on the way to the club although that seems unlikely but could happen due to negotiations with Sakho (West Ham) falling through.

My West Bromwich Albion XI (4-2-3-1): 1 B.Foster; 16 C.Gamboa, 3 J.Olsson, 25 C.Dawson, 15 S.Poncognoli; 24 D.Fletcher, 8 C.Gardner; 10 M.Phillips, 7 J.Morrison, 11 C.Brunt; 9 S.Rondon

Barclays Premier League Preview: West Ham United

Manager: Slaven Bilic

Stadium: Olympic Stadium (Capacity: 60,010)

Captain: Mark Noble

Top Scorer: Dimitri Payet, Andy Carroll (9)

Biggest Signing: Manuel Lanzini (£9.4 million)

Last Season: 7th

Prediction: Mid-Table

West Ham have performed above and beyond over the course of the last couple of seasons and they have an unbelievable manager at the helm who will only push the London club onto bigger and better things given the resources.

With players like Mark Noble, Aaron Cresswell and Winston Reid all solid without being remarkable. Add into that remarkably talented players such as Frenchman Payet and new signing Sofiane Feghouli this deadly cocktail of players makes them an interesting prospect.

PAYET

Payed was one of the best players last season.

Bilic will have his team extremely well drilled and fine tuned to each opposition throughout a long and arduous season in the Premier League.

West Ham’s new home is among the biggest stadiums in European club football, it remains to be seen if the squad is deep enough to compete on more than one front. The Hammers will hope they can make the Olympic Stadium as much of a fortress as the Boleyn Ground.

West Ham have signed some really exciting players strengthening the depth in the midfield and signing some really exciting talent both up front and at the back.

IN

Manuel Lanzini (Unattached, £9.4 million)

Andre Ayew (Swansea City, Undisclosed)

Harvard Nordveit (Borussia Monchengladbach, Undisclosed)

Arthur Masuaku (Olympiakos Piraeus, Undisclosed)

Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia FC, Free)

Ashley Fletcher (Barnsley, Free)

OUT

James Tomkins (Crystal Palace, £10 million)

Elliott Lee (Released)

Joey O’Brien (Released)

This looks as though it may be it for West Ham after they have cooled their interest in Milan forward Carlos Bacca and Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette.

FEGHOULI.jpg

Feghouli celebrates a goal for former club Valencia.

My West Ham United XI (4-3-1-2): 13 Adrian; 22 S.Byram, 2 W.Reid, 21 A.Ogbonna, 3 A.Cresswell; 7 S.Feghouli, 16 M.Noble (Captain), 10 M.Lanzini; 27 D.Payet; 9 A.Carroll, 20 A.Ayew

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The Premier League: What’s Left to Sort Out?

So following Spurs draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the incredible Foxes were crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132 year history.

goooal

Leicester City have finally won the Premier League title.

Ranieri is no longer the nearly man, and he has done it on what can be described as a tight budget with two games to spare an astonishing achievement for a club that signed their star striker for just £1 million, compared to Manchester City’s Agüero who cost them a cool £38 million as the second most expensive transfer in Premier League history.

Champions crowned now all eyes are on two important races, the race for the top four and the race to avoid the drop.

In the race for the top four it seems there are you could argue four teams but Arsenal should be safe. Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham now have to fight it out to see who can make it into the Champions League.

aguero

Agüero cost City an eye watering £38 million.

4th Manchester City

Played 36 Points 64 Goal Difference 30

The club built on Mansour’s millions, shaped around a plethora of international stars. Pellegrini heads for the exit at the end of a disappointing season where a team that should be topping the league every season is fighting to retain  Champions League status without having to win the trophy itself.

They have scored more goals than any other Premier League side with 68 but a leaky defence has conceded 38 goals, a problem that is hard to fix and with Manchester United and West Ham only four and five points away respectively with a game in hand the pressure is on.

Should they fail to keep hold of fourth the Champions League tie tomorrow becomes all the more significant.

Remaining Fixtures: Arsenal (H), Swansea (A)

Prediction: 4th

martial.jpg

Martial has been one of van Gaal’s few successes in the transfer market.

5th Manchester United

Played 35 Points 60 Goal Difference 12

Money spent on players that don’t perform. A disastrous season for the Red Devils, not enough goals, not good enough performances. Louis van Gaal has failed to restore the one great club to the top of the league.

An FA Cup final awaits against the struggling Crystal Palace what little consolation that will prove to be should Manchester United miss out on a Champions League place.With Martial looking to be the only signing that has actually made any progress the future does look bleak for United fans.

It looks as though another summer of signings is on the horizon and possibly the arrival of old rival Mourinho although it may take more than the ‘Special One’ to help this club’s fortunes.

marky boy

Mark Noble has been key for West Ham this season.

Remaining Fixtures: Norwich (A), West Ham (A), Bournemouth (H)

Prediction: 6th

6th West Ham United

Played 35 Points 59 Goal Difference 17

Unlike the other two the Londoners will be happy with their current position, they have been wonderful but due to Leicester’s title run their big performances have gone unnoticed under the radar.

Mark Noble has been at the heart of this team’s fight and desire along with left back Aaron Cresswell. West Ham are looking like this could be their year to finally be in the Champions League by taking that coveted 4th spot.

The Hammers have a crucial showdown with Manchester United on 10th May which could well decide the race. And with the other two sides having the Champions League and FA Cup to focus on West Ham could have the edge.

Remaning Fixtures: Swansea (H), Manchester United (H), Stoke (A)

Prediction: 5th

Now for the relegation fight and the race to avoid the drop.

newcaaaaastle

Newcastle are having a tough year.

17th Newcastle United

Played 36 Points 33 Goal Difference -25

The historic club have had a horrific season by all accounts, a number of false dawns under McLaren were crushed after suffering some scarring defeats. And it took Benitez a few games to get the ball rolling but now the club are unbeaten in their last four matches.

Two massive games left and with points likely to be tight the game against Aston Villa is vital. It is also notable that Spurs no longer have anything to play for the Champions League is secured.

Going down would signal a backwards step especially considering some of the players in the squad but they are the form side.

Remaining Fixtures: Aston Villa (A) Tottenham Hostpur (H)

Prediction: 17th

afcsund

Sunderland could be facing the drop.

18th Sunderland

Played 35 Points 32 Goal Difference -18

Defoe is the reason Sunderland are still fighting for survival, and how crucial might his equaliser against Stoke prove to be?

The relegation fight sees all eyes now on the northeast, Newcastle or Sunderland some have already written off Norwich. Sunderland do have a tough run in but a game in hand over their bitter rivals.

With one great English club destined for the Championship it would be a shame to see another go.

Remaining Fixtures: Chelsea (H), Everton (H), Watford (A)

Prediction: 18th

ncf

Norwich have not had much to cheer about this year.

19th Norwich City

Played 35 Points 31 Goal Difference -26

It looked at one point that the Canaries might have pulled away and survived but an upturn in the fortunes of Sunderland and Newcastle quashed that dream.

Watford and Bournemouth both kicked on this season from the Championship, Norwich sadly have struggled to find consistent form. They also have a game over currently safe Newcastle but again have a tricky run-in.

Norwich look down already but a good run could see them pull off a couple of vital wins. Only time will tell.

Remaining Fixtures: Manchester United (H), Watford (H), Everton (A)

Prediction: 19th

uh oh.jpg

What a year it’s been for Jamie Vardy.

So Leicester are champions but plenty to keep you interested for the rest of the season.

Stoke City Preview

Manager: Mark Hughes
Stadium: Britannia Stadium
Captain: Ryan Shawcross
Top Scorer: Mame Biram Diouf (12)

Stoke City seem to have surprised many in recent years by not being involved in the basement battle which has seen many good sides go down. Stoke always seem to be able to achieve that safe mid-table finish.

Stoke’s squad is built around having technically gifted midfielders they are solid and reliable but lack the attacking spark of say Everton or Spurs teams with a similar budget but a different play style. The gameplan has not changed much since the departure of former manager Pulis who was the man that built this side into the team that don the red and white today. They started last season with an indifferent run of form really setting the tone for the season. Their away form looked good until the 4th October when a trip to Sunderland derailed that as Stoke were beaten 3-1 with Adam scoring the only goal for Stoke. Their most promising early season display was a great win over Manchester City as Stoke won 1-0 courtesy of Diouf, it was made all the more impressive with the game having been at the Etihad Stadium.

Mame Biram Diouf celebrates a goal against QPR.

Mame Biram Diouf celebrates a goal against QPR.

Stoke’s life in mid-season was made more difficult by a tough run of 3 games against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. After 2 losses to both Liverpool and Manchester United, Stoke were on a run of 3 straight losses, an emphatic 3-2 win over Arsenal at the Brittania Stadium saw Stoke pick themselves up and give their team a fighting chance of European football, the end goal for Stoke in any given season. This win however was avenged on 11th January as Arsenal won 3-0 in the return leg. Undoubtedly Stoke’s best football was played at the end of the season smashed Tottenham 3-0 before a draw with Burnley followed by the 6-1 destruction of Liverpool ruining Gerarrd’s leaving party.

Cup runs seem to be a thing of the past for Stoke, the FA Cup threw up what seemed a routine game against Wrexham which Stoke were losing until the final 10 minutes as Stoke fired home 3 goals in the final 10 minutes the 2nd coming 2 minutes from time and the 3rd in the 4th minute of stoppage time both thanks to former Manchester City player Stephen Ireland. They eventually crashed out to Blackburn Rovers who slaughtered Stoke 4-1 in the 5th round.

The best player for Stoke last season has to be Charlie Adam, the midfielder was in inspired form especially following Christmas. Ryan Shawcross may be the captain but the midfielder has a role to play in leadership of the club. Adam is tireless and fits the Stoke mould of a powerful, solid midfielder with little creativity, he is the heartbeat of the Stoke midfield offering himself as the man to go through linking the solid defenders with the towering strikers. His passing game is something to be admired whether you are a Stoke fan or a neutral Charlie Adam is a player to watch.

Charlie Adam after his outrageous long range effort against Chelsea.

Charlie Adam after his outrageous long range effort against Chelsea.

Business in the market has seen Stoke snap up 6 new faces and part company with 8 first team players. The signing of Irish keeper Given is big news having lost Begovic to title holders Chelsea resources were looking rather thin on the ground with Butland the only first team keeper but Stoke have boosted the ranks by signing the Irish veteran and the Danish 23 year old Jakob Haugaard. They have also signed England right back Glen Johnson, it was inevitable he would the leave the club what with Nathaniel Clyne moving to Anfield. Johnson will add experience to this squad and bring a wealth of Premier League knowledge. Stoke have also brought in Afellay from La Liga giants Barcelona. The midfielder has 50 Netherlands caps to his name and could be a hugely exciting player to watch should he play a big role in Stoke’s forthcoming campaign.

Shay Given making a save for former club Aston Villa.

Shay Given making a save for former club Aston Villa.

The loss of keeper Begovic is huge for the club, he was a massive asset and he will be missed by fans at the Brittania Stadium but with the pulling power Chelsea have the move was never in doubt especially after the departure of Cech. Steven N’Zonzi is also on his way out the midfielder has been a big part if the club for so many years and was impressive last season for The Potters he will be missed by the club as he leaves for Spain. They have also lost another club stalwart in Robert Huth the 30 year old spent 6 seasons at Stoke and established himself as 1 of the 1st names on the team sheet, he will be missed.

IN: Jakob Haugaard (FC Midtjylland, Undisclosed)
Phillip Wollscheid (Bayer Leverkusen, Undisclosed)
Shay Given (Aston Villa, Free)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool, Free)
Joselu (Hannover 96, £5.75 million)
Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona, Free)

OUT: Asmir Begovic (Chelsea, £8 million)
Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla, £7 million)
Charlie Ward (Free Agents, Free)
Tom Sorensen (Free Agents, Free)
Andy Wilkinson (Free Agents, Free)
Wilson Palacios (Free Agents, Free)
Robert Huth (Leicester City, Undisclosed)
Jamie Ness (Scunthorpe United, Free)

Stoke have recruited well and could well mount a challenge for Europe this season they must try and make the Brittania Stadium a fortress and if they can find a plan B alternative to the ‘long ball’ game they have made their own.

My Stoke City XI (4-3-1-2): 24 S.Given; 8 G.Johnson, 17 R.Shawcross, 26 P.Wollscheid, 12 M.Wilson; 16 C.Adam, 6 G.Whelan 7 S.Ireland; 14 I.Afellay; 18 MB. Diouf 25 P.Crouch

Bench: 1 J.Butland, 2 P.Bardsley 3 E.Pieters 15 M.Van Ginkel 21 S.Sidwell 10 M.Arnautovic 11 Joselu

Last Season: 9th
Prediction: 13th

Southampton Preview

Manager: Ronald Koeman
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Captain: José Fonte
Top Scorer: Graziano Pellé (16)

Southampton were expected to be in a relegation scrap last season following a mass exodus of players to the north west but Southampton refused to lie down and performed admirably to find themselves in European contention.

Southampton were a tough side to beat last season and started the season very strongly with home form serving the side well. They recorded an impressive 4-0 win over Newcastle and a 3-1 win away against West Ham in a run that saw them in 2nd place at the end of September having only lost 1 game to Liverpool on the opening day of the season. October saw Southampton’s biggest win of the season as they annihilated Sunderland 8-0, it showed just how dangerous Southampton could be and players such as Schneiderlin and Pellé demonstrating just what they could do given the ball and freedom to play.

during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Southampton at Selhurst Park on December 26, 2014 in London, England.

A run of 4 defeats through November and December saw Southampton slip out of the top 4 the tough defeats to Manchester United and and Manchester City at St Mary’s were disheartening for fans and it looked as though the dream of European football could be about to turn. Southampton did turn things back in their favour though with notable victories over Arsenal and Manchester United as well as a well fought 1-1 draw with champions Chelsea. Southampton’s March and April form was patchy but Southampton kept just enough wins going their way as they secured European football partly thanks to a 6-1 obliteration of Aston Villa on the penultimate weekend finishing the season in 7th place.

After last season the club have blocks to build with, a squad full of talent and a strong academy set up with the under 21’s defeating Blackburn to win the under 21’s Premiership Cup after an amazing strike from forward Sam Gallagher. This season is a chance for Southampton to prove they can consistently be a top 6/7 team and regularly secure European football if they can achieve that then that in itself will be considered a victory and a satisfactory outcome to what looks to be a difficult season ahead.

Tadic had a wonderful season on the south coast his attacking ability coupled with pace made him a danger on a number of levels. The attacking midfielder gave defenders headaches with his ability on the ball and he provided an awful lot of chances throughout the course of the season if he continue in that sort of form Southampton will fancy their chances against even the best teams.

Tadic on the ball for Southampton against Millwall.

Tadic on the ball for Southampton against Millwall.

Southampton have brought in a few new faces, most notably perhaps is Cédric Soares from Sporting, the 23 year old is a very talented right back able to attack and defend. The Portuguese international will look to bolster options for Koeman at the back which had a settled look about it towards the table end of last season. Another big signing for the club is Juanmi the 22 year old from Spain has been a huge player for former club Malaga last season making 38 appearances and scoring 8 goals in the process for the La Liga side.

New signing Cédric Soares posing at St Mary's.

New signing Cédric Soares posing at St Mary’s.

A few well known faces have left for the north west once again poaching the south coast stars. England right back Nathaniel Clyne leaves for Anfield after Johnson left Liverpool following a couple of disappointing seasons for the former England number 1. Clyne will be a huge loss after a wonderful display of talent throughout the season he and Bertrand very strong for the club making a huge difference. Another huge loss is that of French midfielder Scehneiderlin who will join former teammate Luke Shaw at Old Trafford, Schneiderlin who has been a key part of that Saints midfield for the last few years leaves a huge hole in the heart of Southampton. He is a big loss to a team that is finding it increasingly hard to keep hold of their top stars as the team continue to improve. Boruc is also another big miss but with a lot of competition for the goalkeepers starting berth at St Mary’s with players like Forster, Davis and Gazzaniga all competing along with securing Stekelenburg on loan.

IN: Cédric Soares (Sporting CP, £4.7 million)
Juanmi (Malaga, Undisclosed)
Cuco Martina (FC Twente, Undisclosed)
Jordy Clasie (Feyernoord, Undisclosed)

OUT: Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool, £12.5 million)
Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United, Undisclosed)
Artur Boruc (Bournemouth, Free)
Cody Cropper (MK Dons, Free)
Jos Hooiveld (AIK, Free)
Dani Osvaldo (FC Porto, Free)
Jake Sinclair (Free Agents, Free)
Omar Rowe (Free Agents, Free)

Southampton have made some good additions to the squad but it looks as though the departures may have a much bigger impact on the squad. Europe could be a stretch too far but I still expect them to finish in the top half (just).

My Southampton XI (4-3-2-1): 44 F.Forster; 2 C.Soares 6 J.Fonte (C) 26 S.Caulker 21 R.Bertrand; 16 J.Ward-Prowse 12 V.Wanyama 11 D.Tadic; 10 S.Mané 9 J.Rodriguez; 19 G.Pellé

Bench: 1 K.Davis 33 M.Targett 15 C.Martina 8 S.Davis 4 J.Clasie 7 S.Long 20 Juanmi

Last Season: 7th
Prediction: 10th

Manchester City Preview

Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Stadium: Etihad Stadium
Captain: Vincent Kompany
Top Scorer: Segio Agüero (32)

Ultimately Manchester City will view last year as a failure losing the title to Londoners Chelsea with barely a whimper as the trophy went to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea finished a clear 8 ahead of Manchester City in what was a very easy title race.

Manchester City’s record at home is wonderful having lost just twice at home in the league with 14 wins that is a record that most teams in Europe would die for including the Spanish giants of Real Madrid and Barcelona or the likes of German heavyweight Bayern Munich. Their attack was something to behold over the course of the season they scored 83 goals which is an outstanding total for any club. With strikers like Agüero, Bony and Jovetic in the team are simply terrific at doing a forwards job with their pace and shooting accuracy. Their 83 goals is 10 more than the nearest team which is Chelsea who only managed 73 goals over the course of the campaign.

Agüero celebrates a goal against Arsenal.

Agüero celebrates a goal against Arsenal.

Manchester City’s clinical ability was clear to see with their impressive 5-0 demolition of Newcastle on 21st February and an incredible 6-0 annihilation of QPR in early May they were no stranger to banging home goals that at times they had no right to score. The quality in the squad is scary to have that much money sat on the bench which included names like England midfielder Lampard, Bony and Navas. The Sky Blues have endured some tough times over the years but now they are a top team the fans will not settle for anything but the very best from their star studded, expensive squad. The squad that saw them rack up a 12 game unbeaten streak from 2nd November until the 18th January when Arsenal beat Manchester City 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

Silva, Toure and Navas are the undeniably superb creative players full of flair and energy with their attacking brilliance. The midfield at the Etihad Stadium is a blend of attacking geniuses and defensive organisers they are a well oiled machine that keep the blistering attackers connected to the able defence with players like Vincent Kompany and Kolarov who have been hugely important for their club. Manchester City had a wonderful few results last season but their humbling at the hands of Middlesborough in the FA Cup and Newcastle in the League Cup ensured that Pellegrini’s team would not be winning a trophy this season.

David Silva celebrating at the Emirates Stadium.

David Silva celebrating at the Emirates Stadium.

The key man for Manchester City was undoubtedly the goalkeeper Joe Hart who for a number of seasons has been key to the team’s success. Hart has a very good record in goal and the England goalkeeper made 36 of the 38 Premier League appearances last season an amazing feat in itself. To have the world’s best attackers Suarez, Messi and Neymar only put 3 goals past you in all seriousness is not bad. Yes Manchester City did concede the most goals out of the top 4 in the league but once again the goalkeeper has been huge if the defence was slightly shaper it is undoubtedly the weakest part of Pellegrini’s arsenal.

The transfer market a familiar place for Manchester City however they have only brought in 2 first team players. 2 very goof players of course with England internationals Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph joining Manchester City. Sterling wants to win trophies and play in the Champions League that he will get at Manchester City but can he become a star at Manchester City I for one do not think so, he could of course end up as another starlet on the scrapheap like Scott Sinclair. Fabian Delph joins amidst him pledging his loyalty to former club Aston Villa. There are calls that Manchester City are just trying to boost their English quota. This is no surprise looking at their academy compared to the other big team Chelsea who have a wonderful academy. The only player to graduate from the Manchester City academy in recent years is of course Micah Richards who has left for Aston Villa as Delph heads north.

New signing Sterling on the ball for England.

New signing Sterling on the ball for England.mil

Manchester City have lost 9 players over the summer high profile names like Negredo who has been lacklustre in the Premier League but is nonetheless a very good finisher. Lampard finally ends up across the pond in New York. The aforementioned Sinclair heads to Aston Villa along with Richards to try and resurrect his career which stalled in the north west. Milner also leaves the Etihad to join Premier League rivals Liverpool in a deal that could be huge for the Anfield club.

IN: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool, £44 million)
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa, £8 million)

OUT: Micah Richards (Aston Villa, Free)
Scott Sinclair (Aston Villa, £3 million)
John Guidetti (Celta Vigo, Free)
Álvaro Negredo (Valencia, £22 million)
Frank Lampard (New York City, Free)
James Milner (Liverpool, Free)
Majita Natasic (Schalke 04, £8.3 million)
Dedryck Boyata (Celtic, £1.7 million)
Karim Rekik (Marseille, £3.9 million)

An already great and expensive team has been bolstered with impressive yet expensive acquisitions with their 2 English assets. They are by no means bargains but if their 2 new recruits can continue their development and Manchester City can continue to play good football then they can win the league but their competitors Arsenal and Chelsea look too strong.

My Manchester City XI (4-2-3-1): 1 J.Hart 5 P.Zabaleta 4 V.Kompany (C) 20 E.Mangala 11 A.Kolarov; 18 F.Delph 25 Fernandinho; 7 R.Sterling 42 Y.Touré 21 D.Silva; 16 S.Agüero

Bench: 13 W.Caballero 22 G.Clichy 26 M.Demichelis 6 Fernando 14 W.Bony 15 J.Navas 8 S.Nasri

Last Season: 2nd
Prediction: 3rd

Crystal Palace Preview

Manager: Alan Pardew
Stadium: Selhurst Park
Captain: Mile Jedinak
Top Scorer: Dwight Gayle (10)

Crystal Palace had a real transformation when former Newcastle boss Pardew joined the club he had enjoyed a successful spell at as a player. He took Crystal Palace from a possible relegation scrap to mid-table safety and with some very talented players I see no reason they can’t secure an even better spot this season and possibly fight for European football.

Jedinak celebrates scoring against Liverpool.

Jedinak celebrates scoring against Liverpool.

Crystal Palace claimed some impressive scalps throughout the season against top sides with wins against Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs all falling foul of the London club. The victories made them confident and that was expressed in the second half of the season and with players like Bolasie, Zaha and Jedinak made chances for the likes of Chamakh and Gayle. Crystal Palace are a force to be reckoned with as the teams found out over the course of the season.

After Pardew took over Crystal Palace won 10 games and lost only 7 in a run that lifted the club into mid-table and away from a relegation scrap which became closer to call as the season progressed. Crystal Palace’s form at Selhurst Park over the course of the season will give the club hope for next season especially with the recruitment Pardew has made over the summer as well as shifting some deadwood in the squad. Their cup runs were also credible only falling to Liverpool in the FA Cup and Newcastle in the League Cup in early stages but to only lose to Premier League opposition should stand them in good stead heading into the cup competitions this coming season.

Given the mentality Crystal Palace built under the stewardship of Pardew they can head into this season proud but eager to progress to the next level in terms of quality and clinical ability. Crystal Palace have proved themselves now and their aim for this season has to be a top 8 finish. The way they finished the season was impressive as they practically switched places with Newcastle as the latter crashed into the relegation battle which was something to admire when watching the London club.

Yannick Bolasie was so strong for Crystal Palace last season his pace down the wings make him very good at beating defenders some of the strongest full backs have their work cut out against him. The winger was instrumental to his team’s attack and worked well in covering in defence. When he fires though not many defenders would fancy their chances. I am surprised the winger has not been approached by the likes of Liverpool who are in the market for a replacement for City attacking midfielder Sterling. Bolasie will have a huge effect on Crystal Palace’s fortune this season.

Yannick Bolasie on the ball against Everton.

Yannick Bolasie on the ball against Everton.

Crystal Palace have seen a reunion over the summer with the recruitment of former Newcastle midfielder Cabaye to Crystal Palace. Cabaye adds some creativity to the Crystal Palace midfield and if the French international plays well then Palace will most likely have a good season. Cabaye is a strong provider and will also add goals with his venomous shot. Yohan Cabaye made 79 appearances for Newcastle and scored 17 goals, he also has made 39 appearances for France and scored 3 goals. Palace have recruited a goalkeeper to add strength to an already strong pool of talent with Speroni and Hennessy already at the club. He is unlikely to make the team with the already talented duo at the club.

Cabaye joining Crystal Palace will see a reunion with former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew.

Cabaye joining Crystal Palace will see a reunion with former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew.

Pardew has done well in recruitment and also in offloading some of the players that were not really adding anything to the squad except for taking up space on the wage bill. Jerome Thomas is leaving in one of the high profile names relative to some of the names on the list as Cabaye comes in another former Newcastle man Shola Ameobi leaves the club on a long list of names that leave the club this summer.

IN: Yohan Cabaye (Paris Saint-Germain, £10 million)
Alex McCarthy (Queens Park Rangers, £3.5 million)

OUT: Shola Ameobi (Free Agent, Free)
Sonny Black (Free Agent, Free)
Michael Chambers (Welling United, Free)
Shawniki Clement-Peter (Free Agent, Free)
Bradley Commins (Free Agent, Free)
Kyle De Silva (Notts County, Free)
Stephen Dobbie (Free Agent, Free)
Mandela Egbo (Borussia Monchengladbach, Undisclosed)
Morgan Ferrier (Free Agent, Free)
Owen Garvan (Free Agent, Free)
Jahmal Howlett-Mundle (Heart of Midlothian, Free)
Elliot List (Gillingham, Released)
Kiye Martin (Free Agent, Free)
Lewis Price (Sheffield Wednesday, Free)
Peter Ramage (Free Agent, Free)
Ghassimu Sow (Free Agent, Free)
Jerome Thomas (Free Agent, Free)

Crystal Palace have a squad capable of winning big games next season and finishing in a strong position couple with that with the addition of a star midfielder and there you have a team that could do something special. They have to aim for an improvement on last season and if they play like we all know they can then that is inevitable.

My Crystal Palace XI (4-2-3-1): 1 J.Speroni; 2 J.Ward 6 S.Dann 27 D.Delaney 34 M.Kelly; 15 M.Jedinak (C) 18 J.McArthur; 7 Y.Bolasie 14 Y.Cabaye 11 W.Zaha; 29 M.Chamakh

Bench: 13 W.Hennessy 5 P.McCarthy 4 B.Hangeland 28 J.Ledley 22 J.Mutch 42 J.Puncheon 9 P.Bamford

Last Season: 10th
Prediction: 8th

Aston Villa Preview

Manager: Tim Sherwood
Stadium: Villa Park
Captain: TBA
Top Scorer: Christian Benteké (15)

Aston Villa really struggled last season with an awful start to the 2014/15 season seeing them slump to 17th place only three points clear of Hull City who were relegated to the Championship after losing to Manchester United on the final day of the season.

Aston Villa struggled to score goals throughout the season especially towards the start with Belgian pitman Benteké sidelined through injury, Aston Villa started a startling run from the 20th September until the 2nd November where they failed to score a goal they ended this run losing 2-1 to Tottenham. In that period they suffered defeats to QPR, Everton, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal conceding 13 goals in the process.

Benteke celebrates scoring a goal against Spurs.

Benteke celebrates scoring a goal against Spurs.

Aston Villa also suffered over the turn of the year as they went 12 Premier League games without a win picking up just three points between 13th December and 28th February a run that left them in the relegation zone and was a period which saw the fans finally lose patience with Lambert as he was sacked on 11th February and Tim Sherwood took over three days later.

Although Villa’s league form was far from what the fans were hoping for last August the club did somehow manage to reach the FA Cup Final at Wembley beating formidable opposition such as Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool as they marched to the final which they lost 4-0 to Arsenal. This marked some achievement by the management and may have helped Tim Sherwood keep his job over the summer.

Last season so many players impressed but inconsistently, Jack Grealish is a real one to watch for the future and Delph was instrumental for Aston Villa earning an England call-up. If Scott Sinclair can stay fit he could help Villa mount a challenge for European football.

The transfer window has season a flurry of changes at Villa Park and a host of stars leave Birmingham in search of trophies with Delph leaving for Manchester City and Given headed for Stoke they have lost undoubtedly two important senior players for the club. Benteké has also agreed a deal to join underachievers Liverpool after their dire year in front of goal. The Belgian forward’s deal is yet to be confirmed but is understood it is only subject to a medical.

Fabian Delph in action for England.

Fabian Delph in action for England.

The big name heading to Villa Park is former Manchester City and England defender Micah Richards who may be able to sure up a defence that shipped 57 goals last season in the Premier League alone. Sinclair’s loan also being made permanent could give Aston Villa that creative spark in attack that they lacked for much of last season.

Micah Richards shortly after signing for Fiorentina.

Micah Richards shortly after signing for Fiorentina.

IN: Mark Bunn (Free Agent, Free)
Idrissa Gueye (Lille, Undisclosed)
Micah Richards (Fiorentina, Free)
Scott Sinclair (Manchester City, Undisclosed)

OUT: Fabian Delph (Manchester City, £8 million)
Shay Given (Stoke City, Free)
Darren Bent (Free Agent, Free)
Andreas Weimann (Derby County, Undisclosed)
Enda Stevens (Free Agent, Free)
Matthew Lowton (Burnley, Undisclosed)
Yacouba Sylla (Rennes, Undisclosed)

My Aston Villa XI (4-3-3): 1 B.Guzan; 4 M.Richards 14 P.Senderos 6 C.Clark 2 N.Baker; 28 C.N’Zogbia 15 A.Westwood 40 J.Grealish ; 9 S.Sinclair 27 L.Kozak 10 G.Agbonlahor

Bench: 13 J.Steer 33 J. Amavi 5 J.Okore 21 A.Hutton 12 J.Cole TBC A.Tonev 37 C.Robinson

Last Season: 17th
Prediction: 16th