West Ham United Preview

Manager: Slaven Bilic
Stadium: Boleyn Ground
Captain: Kevin Nolan
Top Scorer: Diafra Sakho (11)

West Ham had a good season last year under Allardyce and played some good football, with a good season under their belt they’ll hope to kick on this year under a new manager before they move homes to the Olympic Park.

West Ham had a stunning first part of the season and had only lost 3 games by 8th November also had claimed some impressive scalps along the way. Losses to Manchester United, Tottenham and Southampton were nothing to be ashamed of either this run was huge for the London club. They were in the top 4 courtesy of this good form and a high profile 2-1 win over Manchester City on 25th October had rubber-stamped their credentials. They had also beaten Liverpool 3-1 in September they were showing that they were not a club to be taken lightly this astonishing form continued after November as they would only lose 3 more games before the turn of the year they cam in the form of narrow losses to Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton they finished 2014 in 6th place still impressive for the London club that had surpassed many clubs with both a bigger budget and better squad.

Sam Allardyce leaves the club after just 1 season.

Sam Allardyce leaves the club after just 1 season.

The second half would not be so successful for West Ham between the 31st January until the 25th April the club would only win 1 game as they beat Sunderland 1-0. This amazing fall from grace saw them in 10th place no mean feat for the club as they failed to find the astonishing form which had won them many fans before New Year’s Day. They were still playing attractive, free flowing football but the results were proving hard to come by. They finished the season with 3 straight losses and finished in 12th place. A respectable position but you can’t help but feel had they kept up the pace and not gone off the boil then Europe was a very real possibility. This season could be an important 1 for the club.

West Ham have been a club that had rarely looked like it will win games but now they are looking the business. They have played some good games and built a squad around some key players such as the enigmatic captain Kevin Nolan who has been hugely prominent in English football over the last decade it is strange that he has few England caps to his name. Mark Noble is another really big part of the West Ham puzzle and his form at 1 point put him in contention for England. Noble is a truly important player his partnership with Nolan is a real contrast of light and shade which made them so effective for large parts of last season.

Although Sakho was scoring a lot of the goals Enner Valencia had a good season for the Hammers he himself netting 5 times. His ability to do things he has no right to do make him a standout player he has this outrageous audacity to attempt things that players should not attempt. Valencia has the ability to turn games on their head I have a feeling the striker will be a huge part of this season. He has a team around him that know how to provide the Ecuadorian with quality ball with which he can dazzle opponents and fans alike.

Enner Valencia celebrates scoring a goal for Ecuador.

Enner Valencia celebrates scoring a goal for Ecuador.

Transfer business a strength for former boss Allardyce, Bilic has made a total of 6 signings whilst 8 players head for pastures new. He has brought in some rathe interesting players as well as bringing in Arsenal defender Jenkinson on loan. Ogbonna from Champions League finalists Juventus is a huge coup. He is a no nonsense centre back, his aerial ability is good and makes him a real handful at the set piece. Ogbonna could be key part of West Ham’s season. Dimitri Payet is a good signing he offers an attacking outlet to compliment the forwards such as Sakho and Valencia he will be a real threat if defenders allow him the space to exploit them with his pace and vicious power.

Ogbonna poses after completing his signing for West Ham.

Ogbonna poses after completing his signing for West Ham.

Veteran Carlton Cole goes he was just not providing enough to the squad although the former England striker could be a valuable asset to a Championship side. Downing the biggest transfer for West Ham this summer as he heads back to the north east to join Middlesborough an interesting transfer for both clubs he will be missed in London.

IN: Dimitri Payet (Olympique Marseille, Undisclosed)
Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus, €11 million)
Stephen Hendrie (Hamilton, Undisclosed)
Martin Samuelsen (Manchester City, Free)
Pedro Obiang (Sampdoria, Undisclosed)
Darren Randolph (Birmingham City, Free)

OUT: Carlton Cole (Free Agents, Free)
Stewart Downing (Middlesborough, £5.5 million)
Jussi Jääskeläinen (Wigan Athletic, Free)
Sean MacGuire (Dundalk, Free)
Nenê (Vasco de Gama, Free)
Guy Demel (Free Agents, Free)
Paul McCallum (Leyton Orient, Free)
Dan Potts (Luton Town, Free)

Some interesting signings and a rediscovery of that early season form could see them produce a stellar season it remains to be seen how much of that was down to manager Allardyce but we will see soon enough.

My West Ham United XI (4-2-3-1): 13 Adrián; 12 C.Jenkinson 21 A,Ogbonna 2 W.Reid 3 A.Cresswell; 4 K.Nolan (C), 16 M.Noble; 18 M.Amalfitano 27 D.Payet 11 E.Valencia; 15 D.Sakho

Bench: 1 D.Randolph 5 J.Tomkins 33 S.Hendrie 7 M.Jarvis 28 M.Lanzini 9 A.Carroll 20 M.Maïga

Last Season: 12th
Prediction: 9th

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Norwich City Preview

Manager: Alex Neil
Stadium: Carrow Road
Captain: Russell Martin
Top Scorer: Cameron Jerome (21)

Norwich the newly promoted team that have the most recent Premier League experience, they have a wealth of talent in their squad which may make them a difficult team to beat over the course of the season.

Norwich had a rather strong start to the season in August and September only losing 2 games and recording a win over Watford and a draw with Bournemouth who were both outstanding over the season and at the end were automatically promoted back into the first tier of English football. Norwich racked up a healthy number of points and looked primed to yo-yo back into the Premier League. However it was not to be as their autumn run was a horror show for the club as they could only win 1 game throughout October and November. This saw them slip to 11th in the Championship table having been at the top at the start of October.

Cameron Jerome netted 21 goals last season in all competitions.

Cameron Jerome netted 21 goals last season in all competitions.

The team improved in December recording giant wins over Huddersfield (5-0) and Millwall (6-1). Neil Adams however would depart from the club in early January and Alex Neil joined, Norwich would only lose 3 further games that season. A run of 5 wins over the course of February and March would see some of their best football as they netted 16 goals and only conceded 3, the complete team, their undoubted performance of the season coming at Watford where they smashed their promoted counterparts 3-0 away from home. An outstanding performance. This purple patch also included the 4-0 obliteration of Millwall at Carrow Road, Norwich endured a very strong spell.

Through March and April their assault on the top of the table grew stronger with a run of 8 unbeaten games which saw them rise from 5th to 2nd which was a statement of intent from the Norfolk club. They played some absolute crackers over the latter part of last season including their final day 4-2 win over Fulham lifting themselves into pole position for the play-offs which saw Norwich fighting past both Ipswich and Middlesborough to complete the bounce back into England’s top flight. Norwich’s final push for promotion was wonderful to watch as a neutral and if they can produce performances like that in the Premier League will be hard to stop the club surviving the dreaded drop.

Nathan Redmond a great player, full of enthusiasm a constant threat both in built attacks as well as on the counter due to his pace. The England under-21 winger has been a mainstay in the Norwich squad for much of the last 2 seasons adding that bit of flair to a team that at times have been lacking. He is 1 of those players that can light a fire inside the Canaries and has steered them to promotion from his spot. The undeniable brilliance of the youngster has been noted by England boss Roy Hodgson, it must only be a matter of time before the pace laden winger earns a call-up to the senior national side.

Nathan Redmond celebrates one of his goals.

Nathan Redmond celebrates one of his goals.

The newly promoted club have only recruited 4 players over the off season. The acquisition of Hull striker Brady is a huge coup, he is a proven midfielder2 at the highest level after his seasons at Hull including loan spells whilst he was at Manchester United where he failed to make an appearance. The 23 year old Republic of Ireland international has been a wonderful player over the past years. They have also brought in the West Bromwich Albion duo of Dorrans and Mulumbu, Dorrans is a super creating player up the middle. Mulumbu adds another top class player to the ranks, both offer not just their quality on the field but also Premier League experience off it for Norwich City.

Robbie Brady celebrates a goal for former club Hull.

Robbie Brady celebrates a goal for former club Hull.

Norwich have offloaded much of the deadwood with very few high profile names leaving bar possibly Becchio the former Leeds man but he hasn’t been at his best for some time.

IN: Robbie Brady (Hull City, £7 million)
Graham Dorrans (West Bromwich Albion, £3 million)
Youssouf Mulumbu (West Bromwich Albion, Free)
Jake Kean (Blackburn Rovers, Free)

OUT: Cameron McGeehan (Luton Town, Undisclosed)
Lucciano Becchio (Belgrano, Free)
Mark Bunn (Aston Villa, Free)
Ignasi Miquel (Free Agents, Free)
Sam Kelly (Free Agents, Free)
Carlos Cuéllar (Free Agents, Free)
Kyle Callen-Fadden (Free Agents, Free)

Norwich will be a difficult team over the course of the season will that be enough to stay up? Only time can answer this question, I think that the quality of the Premier League may be too much for Norwich.

My Norwich City XI (4-2-2-2): 1 B.Johnson; 2 S.Whittaker 5 R.Martin (C) 6 M.Turner 23 M.Olsson; 14 W.Hoolahan 4 B.Johnson; NA R.Brady 22 N.Redmond; 20 R.van Wolfswinkel 10 C.Jerome

Bench: NA J.Kean 30 S.Bassong 24 R.Bennett 8 J.Howson 41 G.Dorrans 9 K.Lafferty 11 G.Hooper

Last Season: Championship Play-Off Winner
Prediction: 18th (Relegated)

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

Bournemouth Preview

Manager: Eddie Howe

Stadium: Dean Court

Captain: Tommy Elphick

Top Scorer: Callum Wilson (23)

Bournemouth were outstanding last season and played a good brand of entertaining, attacking football that was a delight to watch and with finishers like Kermorgant and Wilson in their ranks goals were not hard to come by. Bournemouth continued their meteoric rise from obscurity last season, it being only their second year in English football’s second tier they dispatched of all opposition to take the title at a canter and bring them the season in the Premier League they longed for. A stunning run from 28th February saw them go 13 games unbeaten until the end of the season beating some tough opposition in the process including hammering Fulham 5-1 at Craven Cottage and a 3-0 win over Middlesborough at Dean Court.

Bournemouth celebrate winning the Sky Bet Championship.

Bournemouth celebrate winning the Sky Bet Championship.

The Cherries looked red hot in that final run and racked up 90 points over the course of the season scoring 98 goals in the process making them one of the most deadly teams in the football league. This form is bound to be a lot harder to come by against Premier League opposition but if the likes of Ritchie and Atsu can supply Bournemouth’s forwards with enough ball in front of goal they should score enough goals to keep them away from a relegation scrap. An impressive League Cup run also saw some impressive displays such as the 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion in the 4th round and the 3-0 demolition of Cardiff in the Welsh capital in the 3rd round. Liverpool ended Bournemouth’s cup run but many fans from all over the country will still have been hugely impressed by displays put in before Christmas by Bournemouth. So many players impressed last season none so more than former Swindon midfielder Matt Ritchie. The Scottish international was key to Bournemouth all over the pitch last season scoring goals as well as providing the strikers which is shown with his 15 goals from 46 appearances in the league from Ritchie last season. His impressive form for Bournemouth earn him the international call-up in March of this year to play against Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. If Bournemouth are to stay up Matt Ritchie will have to be at his best come August.

Matt Ritchie celebrates scoring against Derby County.

Matt Ritchie celebrates scoring against Derby County.

As is to be expected from a promoted club Bournemouth have had a busy summer in the transfer market. They have brought in five players whilst offloading eight players over the summer. Bournemouth have also brought in quality players like Boruc, Mings and King all likely to play a large part and considering Howe had to fork out £8 million for defender Mings plus loan out Ryan Fraser to Ipswich for the season he must be expecting to play Mings in some sort of role. Bringing in Boruc and Distin adds Premier League experience to a side distinctly lacking in that area.

Former Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings in action.

Former Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings in action.

They have lost a lot of the ‘deadwood’ from their squad mostly through releasing the players from their contracts the only standout name on the exodus in Pitman who leaves Dean Court to join Ipswich Town. With the recruitment of King and loan deal for Chelsea winger Atsu it looked unlikely that Pitman would play much in the Premier League anyway due to the riches Bournemouth have at their disposal looking to next season.

IN: Artur Boruc (Southampton, Free) Sylvain Distin (Everton, Free) Adam Federici (Reading, Free) Joshua King (Blackburn Rovers, Free) Tyrone Mings (Ipswich Town, £8 million + Ryan Fraser loan deal)

OUT: Brett Pitman (Ipswich Town, Undisclosed) Joe Partington (Eastleigh, Free) Josh McQuoid (Luton Town, Free) Mohamed Colibaly (Racing Santander, Free) Miles Addison (Free Agent, Free) Ian Harte (Free Agent, Free) Darryl Flahavan (Free Agent, Free) Benjamin Büchel (Free Agent, Free) Bournemouth statistically have the best chance of staying up out of the promoted sides and looking at their squad it looks like they will be staying up so long as they play the way they did last year. It’s shaping up to be tough yet enjoyable season for Bournemouth players and fans alike.

My Bournemouth XI (4-4-2) 1 A.Boruc; 15 A.Smith 5 T.Elphick (C) 3 S.Cook 14 T.Mings; 30 M.Ritchie 4 D.Gosling 8 H.Arter 20 C.Atsu 13 C.Wilson 17 J.King

Bench: 23 A.Federici 25 S.Distin 11 C.Daniels 19 J.Stanislas 6 A.Surman 9 T.Rantie 18 Y.Kermorgant Last Season: Championship Winners Prediction: 17th