Barclays Premier League Previews (SW-WA)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Swansea City

Manager: Francesco Guidolin

Stadium: Liberty Stadium (Capacity: 20,972)

Captain: Ashley Williams

Top Scorer: Andre Ayew (12)

Biggest Signing: Leroy Fer (£4.8 million)

Last Season: 12th

Prediction: Relegated

Swansea have become a shining beacon for Welsh sport over the past few seasons as a rugby heartland has seen their local football team become household names and dominate the back pages.

Swansea City despite not performing the tricks they should have last season managed to pull themselves well clear of the relegation fight that was captivating to the last.

ASHLEY WILLIAMS

Swansea captain, Ashley Williams.

The Welsh club do seem to often bring some attacking verve to their play and they certainly aren’t frightened of hitting teams on the break with the pace some of their midfielders possess to not use that talent would be absurd.

The Swans will have their work cut out this season though, Middlesborough, Hull and Burnley all have strong squads and with teams such as Sunderland strengthening over the summer it could be a tough season at the Liberty Stadium.

Recruitment is in one word, underwhelming. The capture of Fer is a coup for the club but other than that the other names don’t scream quality. No really high profile departures is big plus especially keeping skipper Williams despite interest from Premier League rivals, Everton.

LEROY FER

Leroy Fer in action for Norwich.

IN

Leroy Fer (Queens Park Rangers, £4.8 million)

Mike van der Hoorn (Ajax, Undisclosed)

Mark Birighitti (Unattached, Free)

OUT

Alberto Paloschi (Atalanta, Undisclosed)

Raheem Hanley (Northampton Town, Free)

Kyle Bartley (Leeds United, Loan)

The pursuit of Fernando Llorente is ongoing but other than that business looks to be done at the Liberty Stadium any other outgoings would be a shock with Everton cooling their interest in Ashley Williams.

My Swansea City XI (4-5-1): 1 L.Fabianski; 22 A.Rangel, 5 M.van der Hoorn, 6 A.Williams (Captain), 3 N.Taylor; 23 G.Sigurdsson, 7 L.Britton, 8 L.Fer, 24 J.Cork, 20 J.Montero; 10 A.Ayew

Barclays Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Stadium: White Hart Lane (Capacity: 36,284)

Captain: Hugo Lloris

Top Scorer: Harry Kane (25)

Biggest Signing: Vincent Janssen, Victor Wanyama (Undisclosed)

Last Season: 3rd

Prediction: Champions League

Tottenham would have been the story of the season if it weren’t for Leicester and their unbelievable title win.

Packed full of England stars Dier, Kane, Alli, Walker, Rose they should be match for any team even though many of those players were so under par at this summers Euros.

KANE

Harry Kane was singled out for his poor performances at Euro 2016.

The squad believe they can do it, they know they have the quality and fanbase to win the league, Pochettino is a very capable manager and he has taken the league by storm first at Southampton and now Spurs.

If the big clubs falter again it could be another chance for Tottenham to shock the fans and pundits alike. The top four has to be the aim for this ambitious club and they should look to make this a regular occurrence.

Recruitment has been strong bringing in some talented players whilst not losing any players so far.

Victor Wanyama scores for Southampton against Hull City in the Premier League at the KC Stadium

Wanyama bolsters options in midfield.

IN

Victor Wanyama (Southampton, Undisclosed)

Vincent Janssen (AZ Alkmaar, Undisclosed)

OUT

There are rumours we could yet see both the departures of Fazio to Roma and Alex Pritchard is generating interest from Championship duo Brighton and Norwich. No big names have been linked with moves though.

My Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): 1 H.Lloris (Captain); 2 K.Walker, 4 T.Aldeweireld, 5 J.Vertonghen, 3 D.Rose; 15 E.Dier, NA V.Wanyama; 20 D.Alli, 23 C.Eriksen, 11 E.Lamela; 10 H.Kane

Barclays Premier League Preview: Watford

Manager: Walter Mazzarri

Stadium: Vicarage Road (Capacity: 21,500)

Captain: Troy Deeney

Top Scorer: Odion Ighalo (14)

Biggest Signing:  Isaac Success Ajayi, Jerome Sinclair, Christian Kabsele (Undisclosed)

Last Season: 13th

Prediction: Safety

Watford had a good season last time out and found themselves well above the drop zone and keeping themselves well away from danger.

The Hornets played well and and former manager, Flores gave Watford, led by Deeney and Ighalo up front a distinctive style, a style that saw the side score goals and made them difficult to beat.

DEENEY

Troy Deeney is key to Watford

Teams travelling to Vicarage Road will face a very tough task of breaking down a thoroughly prepared team with a huge amount of desire to prove they have what it takes to succeed in arguably Europe’s most competitive league.

The north London club will look to their new manager and hope for consolidation this season and while I expect Bournemouth a team that came up with Watford to struggle this squad seem a lot more likely to build on last seasons form.

Recruitment wise a few clever signings have been made, they mostly increase depth within the side, not really any stars involved but with 38 games in a Premier League season, depth is key.

IN

Isaac Success Ajayi (Granada, Undisclosed)

Jerome Sinclair (Liverpool, Undisclosed)

Chrisitan Kabsele (Genk, Undisclosed)

OUT

Almen Abdi (Sheffield Wednesday, £4 million)

Gabriele Angella (Udinese, Undisclosed)

Josh Doherty (Leyton Orient, Free)

Joel Ekstrand (Released)

Lille forward Boufal remains a target but it is unlikely a move will be done this summer, transfer business looks like it is done for Watford.

IGHALO

Igahlo celebrates a goal with the mascot.

My Watford XI (4-4-2): 1 H.Gomes; 2 A.Nyom, 6 C.Kabasele, 15 C.Cathcart NA J.Zuniga; 11 N.Amrabat, 8 V.Behrami, 4 M.Suarez; 21 I.Anya; 9 T.Deeney (Captain), 24 O.Ighalo

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How Far Can England Go?

England’s win over Wales on Thursday has made sure that their destiny is in their own hands and they won’t have to rely on other results to qualify for the next round.

Following Slovakia’s win over Russia on Wednesday it has sent England to the top of their group.

Hodgson has been heavily criticised for a number of reasons, firstly the fact that the Premier League’s most prolific striker, Harry Kane was taking corners and also the arguably negative approach that has been adopted over his tenure.

Today though the former Liverpool boss has to be commended his decision to introduce Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy at half-time proved to be inspired as both strikers scored goals to overturn the 1-0 half-time deficit.

roy-hodgson-620

Roy Hodgson, England manager.

England have not done it the easy way conceding a late goal against Russia in their first game in Marseille and then having Gareth Bale give Wales a one goal half-time lead.

The character shown today and the way all three substitutes (Vardy, Sturridge and Rashford) played are encouraging for England. England could well progress to the quarter-finals should this form continue.

England should seal top spot this Monday when they play Slovakia in Saint Etienne. Wayne Rooney and his players will believe that should they play as they did in the second half and if Roy Hodgson does get his selection right then England could well impress a few people.

My England XI to play Slovakia (4-3-3)

1 Joe Hart; 2 Kyle Walker 5 Gary Cahill 6 Chris Smalling 3 Danny Rose; 20 Delle Alli 10 Wayne Rooney 17 Eric Dier; 22 Marcus Rashford 15 Daniel Sturridge 11 Jamie Vardy

Tottenham Hotspur Preview

Manager: Mauricio Pocchetino
Stadium: White Hart Lane
Captain: Hugo Lloris
Top Scorer: Harry Kane (31)

Tottenham a team that have really challenged the top 4 in recent seasons and now a regular team in European competitions last year however was a difficult one for the north London club.

Although Tottenham threaten the top 4 clubs in league positioning wins are rare they suffered heavy defeats to Manchester City as they were humiliated 4-1 and Chelsea who blew them away 3-0. Liverpool also put them to the sword as that match ended 4-1. These big losses before Christmas did not look good for Spurs. They were having patchy runs of form here and there but nothing to suggest they were good enough. None of their stars were really stepping up bar Kane and Eriksen at regular and long intervals. Tottenham found themsleves in 10th in mid December before they went on a run of 3 wins over the festive period including a win over Swansea away from home which many teams found tough with Swansea really improving every season. Spurs rose 3 places to 7th before they faced Manchester United a game that looked rather bleak if you looked at Spurs track record against England’s most successful club, they could only manage a 0-0 draw.

Tottenham players celebrate victory over Crystal Palace.

Tottenham players celebrate victory over Crystal Palace.

The 1st day of 2015 was the day that brought Tottenham’s best result and a match that made a hero out of England striker Harry Kane. Chelsea were beaten 5-3 in a phenomenal match, it was unheard of to put 5 past Courtois. Kane was sensational and suddenly a fanfare arose from the British press and the cries to get the striker playing for England rose into a crescendo. This second half of the season would prove to be much more fruitful than their slow start. A 2-1 win over Arsenal at White Hart Lane on 7th February was sensational and the Spurs stars were beginning to perform and bring some life and electricity to White Hart Lane. A trip to Manchester United was tough viewing as they were downed 3-0 at Old Trafford. This left the club reeling. Their run-in was fairly kind and a 4-3 win over Leicester showed how dangerous the club can be on the attack. They were building something special. This assault on the upper reaches of the table that started on New Years Day. They ended the season with a 1-0 victory against Everton a result that showed they are able to play some attractive football and will be looking to build on that sort of form in the coming seasons.

Tottenham very much assured as one of England’s could be clubs, they are missing 1 or 2 pieces of that puzzle a strand of that DNA that makes the Chelseas and Manchester Citys stand out. They found parts they didn’t know they had last season such as a world class striker and keeper in Kane and Lloris both of whim have been the interest of Manchester United although it seems their interest in Lloris has cooled now they have 5 goalkeepers in their 1st team. There are a few positions they lack in and at times their defence was exposed last season even in their 5-3 victory over eventual champions Chelsea is not a healthy record. Their goal difference was only a +5 at the end of the season compare that to 7th placed Southampton who finished with +21 but 2 places lower in the league table. Tottenham’s average season will need to be built on if they wish to play Champions League football anytime soon.

Tottenham’s key player was undoubtedly Harry Kane. The young finisher was outstanding following Christmas. He scored 31 goals in all competitions this season that is an alarming amount of goals. That is just 1 less goal that Agüero managed last season. Kane’s form earned him and England call-up. He scored on his debut and sent the country into delirium. The English striker saved Tottenham on many occasions and after becoming a cult icon after single handedly dismantling Chelsea he also scored the winner in the derby win over Arsenal. His finishing ability see him stand out as one of the league’s best forwards. He is going to be key to both his club and country’s fortunes for years to come.

Harry Kane got rewarded for club form by an England call-up.

Harry Kane got rewarded for club form by an England call-up.

Tottenham have been rather busy offloading players over the summer but have brought in a few fresh faces so they can continue to push for a top 4 place. They have brought in 3 new players the most notable being the acquisition of centre back Toby Alderweireld from the Spanish capital. He is a wonderful defender and could be a huge difference for a defence that at times leaked goals possibly the reason they have also brought in Wimmer. Kieran Trippier is another very canny signing a player that can be of service as back-up or in irritation system with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. Tripper is quick and provides a counter attacker that can pose problems for slow midfielders if he is given room on the outside.

Alternierend in action for Ajax.

Alternierend in action for Ajax.

A total of 7 first team departures. Brad Friedel finally retires from football at the age of 44, a wonderful servant to the game and the Premier League the former USA goalkeeper will be missed. Kaboul also leaves having had a good career in north London a player that was a real asset to the Spurs team and understood what the club meant to the fans. Lewis Holtby leaves the club, the promising midfielder showed some real potential last season but Tottenham have so much depth in midfield Holtby was always going to struggle. Paulinho has also had enough of north London, he has a great couple of seasons. Some high profile departures could harm Tottenham although their recruitment seems very smart.

IN: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid, £11.5 million)
Kieran Trippier (Burnley, £3.5 million)
Kevin Wimmer (FC Köln, £4.3 million)

OUT: Paulinho (Guangzhou Evergrande, £9.9 million)
Brad Friedel (Retired)
Lewis Holtby (Hamburg, £4.6 million)
Younés Kaboul (Sunderland, £3 million)
Étienne Capoue (Watford, £6.3 million)
Benjamin Stambouli (Paris Saint-Germain, £6 million)
Vlad Chiriches (Napoli, £4.5 million)

Tottenham should have an interesting season and should their stars be in a good vein of form I see no reason they can retain 5th.

My Tottenham Hotspur XI (4-2-3-1): 1 H.Lloris; 2 K.Walker 4 T.Alderweireld 15 E.Dier 3 D.Rose; 19 M.Dembélé 8 R.Mason; 22 N.Chadli 23 C.Eriksen 17 A.Townsend; 10 H.Kane

Bench: 13 M.Vorm 16 K.Trippier 5 J.Vertonghen 27 K.Wimmer 6 N.Bentaleb 11 É.Lamela 9 R.Soldado

Last Season: 5th
Prediction: 6th