Aviva Premiership Preview: Sale Sharks

Director of Rugby/ Head Coach: Steve Diamond

Captain: Josh Beaumont

Stadium: AJ Bell Stadium (Capacity: 12,000)

Last Season: 6th

Prediction: 7th

Sale Sharks overperformed last year with a solid pack providing some quality ball for a backline lead by the maverick Danny Cipriani.

Sale despite having lost a few big names have a squad with some special players finally getting the recognition they deserve. Mike Haley and Sam James provide the excitement whilst Josh Beaumont is developing into an elite back row forward who is now captaining Sale.

HALEY.jpg

Sale fullback, Mike Haley.

Sale’s strike plays from deep make them hugely dangerous, the ability to attack at pace and without structure makes them deadly from 60-70 metres out. Sale use their pacey wingers and centres to score tries.

Sale have done exceptionally well to become such a successful club near Manchester having to compete with football and rugby league. The defence built by director of rugby Steve Diamond is excellent, they make hit after hit and can absorb pressure and work their way out of trouble.

THREE TO WATCH

Josh Beaumont

Position: Number Eight  Nationality: English  Age: 24  Height: 2.01m  Weight: 113kg

The captain is unlucky to be around at a time where Billy Vunipola, Nathan Hughes and Ben Morgan are playing. Beaumont is around the England squad and will fight his hardest as do his club to grab a place.

He will lead by example his work around the field are beneficial to the signature strike plays as he runs off the first and second receiver offering an effective crash ball carrier in the midfield.

Mike Haley

Position: Fullback  Nationality: English  Age: 22  Height: 1.88m  Weight: 91kg

Mike Haley is a very dangerous fullback, he can attack with loose ball and that puts him up there with the very best fullbacks in the league. Haley has an attacking mindset and it makes him the focal point for Sale.

The fullbacks also has an abrasive edge and he certainly has time on his side having only turned 22 in June.

AJ MacGinty

Position: Fly-Half  Nationality: American  Age: 26  Height: 1.85m  Weight: 95kg

MacGinty won the Pro12 with Connacht last season and with him bringing that winning mentality and also a big game mentality to the club.

MACGINTY

AJ MacGinty lines up a kick for USA.

The international fly-half will hope to ignite the Sharks backline and get them firing in the absence of England international Danny Cipriani. MacGinty can act as a playmaker and one of the strike runners.

TRANSFERS

IN (11)

Halanki Aulika (London Irish, ENG)

Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors (rugby league), ENG)

Curtis Langdon (London Irish, ENG)

Kieran Longbottom (Saracens, ENG)

AJ MacGinty (Connacht, IRE)

Bryon McGuigan (Exeter Chiefs, ENG)

Dan Mugford (Nottingham, ENG)
Laurence Pearce (Leicester Tigers, ENG)

Mike Phillips (Racing 92, FRA)

Lou Reed (Cardiff Blues, WAL)

Rob Webber (Bath Rugby, ENG)

OUT (10)

Tom Brady (Leicester Tigers, ENG)

Danny Cipriani (Wasps, ENG)

Vadim Cobilas (Bordeaux Begles, FRA)

Chris Cusiter (Retired, RET)

Mark Easter (Retired, RET)

Viliami Fihaki (Edinburgh Rugby, SCO)

Joe Ford (Yorkshire Carnegie, ENG)

Phil Mackenzie (San Diego Breakers, USA)

Nick Macleod (Dragons, WAL)

Tommy Taylor (Wasps, ENG)

The signing of MacGinty is huge, he couples playmaking with serious pace and will be key to Sale’s play off chances. The recruitment of Aulika, Longbottom and Webber in itself is a frightening front row they add depth to Sale. Phillips is also a massive coup for the northern powerhouse. And as for Charnley…Jason Robinson comes to mind.

CHARNLEY.jpg

Former Wigan Warrior, Josh Charnley.

The loss of English duo Taylor and Danny Cipriani will be big misses. Chris Cusiter brings his illustrious career to a close having represented his country 70 times and the Lions on one occasion. Tom Brady heading to Leicester depletes the wingers slightly, and losing Macleod sees the club have few playmakers left.

My Sale Sharks 23

15 Mike Haley 14 Tom Arscott 13 Johnny Leota 12 Sam James 11 Nev Edwards 10 AJ MacGinty 9 Peter Stringer

1 Ross Harrison 2 Rob Webber 3 Brian Mujati 4 George Nott 5 Lou Reed 6 David Seymour 7 TJ Ioane 8 Josh Beaumont

16 Neil Briggs 17 James Flynn 18 Halani Aulika 19 Andrei Ostrikov 20 Magnus Lund 21 Mike Phillips 22 Will Addison 23 Josh Charnley
Sale’s squad has very few star players. They do have a team that compliments each other and I believe a stronger team than last year, then again who does not this season will see them challenge for Champions Cup rugby.

Advertisements

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

Liverpool Preview

Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Stadium: Anfield
Captain: Jordan Henderson
Top Scorer: Steven Gerrard (13)

Liverpool will be disappointed with their campaign last season after a slow start they were given life after Christmas by none other than their captain and hero Gerrard. A crazy finish saw the Anfield club finish 6th a finish that surprised many including Rodgers who will have been surprised considering his team was lacking in goals.

Liverpool had a dream a dream to send Steven Gerrard off with that 1 trophy missing from his personal trophy cabinet laden with honours including captaining England and a Champions League. Alas it was not to be for the Reds. The run of 3 straight defeats in November to Newcastle, Chelsea and Crystal Palace highlighted the difficult opening few months for the club. This saw them only net 2 goals and concede 6. The lowest point came in the grudge match at Old Trafford as their nemesis won 3-0.

Steven Gerrard walking out for his final game at Anfield.

Steven Gerrard walking out for his final game at Anfield.

This was followed by an outstanding run from 21st December until 16th March as Liverpool failed to lose a game and managed some tough away wins against Swansea and Southampton both of whom were strong at their respective homes last season. But this run was ended by Manchester United who did the double with a 2-1 win at Anfield in March stalling the progress made by Liverpool in the preceding months of wins and draws. A stuttering end to the season saw many Liverpool fans experience a case of deja vu as Crystal Palace took a 3-1 win before Stoke bullied Liverpool into submission by beating Gerrard in his last Premier League game 6-1 at the Brittania Stadium.

The elephant in the Liverpool dressing room will be can anybody step up and replace Gerrard. The candidate that many have cited is of course Jordan Henderson, but it’s not the same it never will be as the last giant of Liverpool leaves and heads for Hollywood and the MLS. Henderson will obviously have a large part to play in the coming months and seasons should he stay at Anfield unlike Raheem Sterling. There is also big things expected of Sturridge who has an injury plagued season last season which saw him struggle and deprived Liverpool of the goals as Balotelli and Lambert failed to hit the target. If Liverpool are to succeed they will need to improve in front of goal and find that player that can change the game from the middle of the park.

Last season there were few players to choose from that really performed bar Gerrard and Sterling. Lazar Markovic turned up more often than not for the club with some good attacking displays and a varied passing game he was one of the shining lights in Liverpool’s darkest times. Adam Lallana had a fairly good second half of the season with some good displays at times as he finally replicated some of the form he had shown at St Mary’s on the south coast. Phillipe Coutinho also had a sterling run of form as the season and closed and many fans hope he can continue in that vein when the new season kicks off.

Phillipe Coutinho celebrates scoring a goal with Gerrard.

Phillipe Coutinho celebrates scoring a goal with Gerrard.

Liverpool have been busy in the transfer market bringing in 7 players all high profile names whilst offloading 6 players that have played a part in Liverpool’s recent history. Liverpool have decided that they need goals and have brought in 2 new strikers and an attacking midfielder in Ings, Benteke and Firmino all of whom will provide goals. Former Villa hitman Benteke scored managed 15 goals last season, Ings netted 11 goals for Burnley whilst Brazilian Firmino scored 10 goals. Rodgers will be desperate that the new boys can score their goals and win games. He’s also visited his favourite hunting ground Southampton and snapped up Nathaniel Clyne, right back being a problem position for Liverpool Glen Johnson never really made that shirt his own. The England right back could be a really good signing should he perform to his best ability. James Milner and Ádám Bogdán are 2 experienced players to bring in Milner could bring that professionalism and high standard in training that Gerrard offered, that air of confidence and experience that Gerrard exuded. Ádám Bogdán comes in as back-up and adds some experience to the squad.

Nathaniel Clyne in action for England.

Nathaniel Clyne in action for England.

The league’s worst kept secret was that England midfielder Gerrard was thinking of leaving, he left the club to join MLS side LA Galaxy. Another secret was Raheem Sterling wanted to leave and win trophies, his transfer saga went on too long before he finally made the move to Manchester City. Glen Johnson also leaves the club after a difficult couple of seasons at Anfield as his performance level dipped leaving him being dropped by Roy Hodgson for his replacement at Liverpool Clyne.

IN: Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton, £10 million)
Joe Gomez (Charlton Athletic, £3.5 million)
Roberto Firmino (1899 Hoffenheim, £21.3 million)
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, £32.5 million)
Ádám Bogdán (Bolton Wanderers, Free)
James Milner (Manchester City, Free)
Danny Ings (Burnley, Tribunal)

OUT: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, £44 million)
Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo, £5 million)
Sebastián Coates (Sunderland, £4 million)
Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy, Released)
Glen Johnson (Stoke City, Released)
Brad Jones (Free Agents, Free)
Javier Manquilo (Atlético Madrid, Loan Cancelled)

Liverpool will be different without Gerrard and will be a completely different prospect with the team. They have also lost their most complete, creative, attacking player Sterling to Premier League rivals. Their squad and recruitment make them a tough team to face this season and they will be confident of being able to fight but they will struggle to compete at the top of the table.

Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring against Leicester.

Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring against Leicester.

My Liverpool XI (4-3-3): 22 S.Mignolet; 2 N.Clyne 37 M.Skrtel 17 M.Sakho 38 J.Flanagan; 20 A.Lallana 14 J.Henderson (C) 10 P.Coutinho; 11 R.Firmino NA C.Benteke 15 D.Sturridge

Bench: 34 Á.Bogdán 6 D.Lovren 18 A.Moreno 4 K.Touré 23 E.Can 50 L.Markovic 28 D.Ings

Last Season: 6th

Prediction: 7th

Arsenal: Preview

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Stadium: Emirates Stadium
Captain: Mikel Arteta
Top Scorer: Alexis Sanchez (25)

Arsenal are one of the best teams in the country and from November time onwards the north Londoners were in excellent form. They were exceptionally hard to beat at the Emirates Stadium last year.

Arsenal have this amazing ability to mix the sublime brilliance with the horrific mistakes that cost teams titles which may explain Arsenal’s decade long trophy drought which haunted Arsenal until the 2013/14 season.

They walked away from last season once again having shown the inconsistency we have come to expect from the north London club having been as low as 8th in early December they then couldn’t stop winning after beating Manchester City 2-0 on 18th January.

On 10th February they started a staggering run of eight league wins as they beat Leicester City 2-1. It could only be ended by Chelsea in a 0-0 draw. This amazing run of form is the type of form that has made Arsenal such a formidable force not just in England but also Europe during that run they also defeated Monaco 2-0 away but crashed out of the Champions League due to the away goals rule.

Two trophies for Arsenal though marked a terrifically typical Arsenal season, Wenger walks away with the FA Cup and the Community Shield which must come as a huge relief to Arsenal fans.

Arsenal after their 4-0 win  over Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final.

Arsenal after their 4-0 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final.

The revelation of last year was the Chilean midfielder Sanchez who arrived from Barcelona promising much and he delivered netting 25 goals in all competitions 16 of which came in the Premier League. He will be key to Arsenal if they are to mount a title challenge this season.

Alexis Sanchez celebrating one of his 25 goals last season.

Alexis Sanchez celebrating one of his 25 goals last season.

Arsenal have not had a busy summer having only recruited one senior player for next year. They’ve recruited the experienced Cech from rivals Chelsea. The Czech keeper spent 11 seasons at Stamford Bridge racking up 333 appearances for Chelsea and winning numerous trophies in that time. He may well fill a shirt that Ospina and Szczesny just couldn’t nail down last season.

New Signing Petr Cech posing in Arsenal kit.

New Signing Petr Cech posing in Arsenal kit.

The Gunners have seen two faces leave the Emirates Stadium, in the form of French defender Diaby and striker Podolski. The former France international spent nine seasons at Arsenal making 125 appearances for the club scoring 14 goals in the process. He failed to impress enough to make himself a regular under Wenger. Podolski arrived in 2012 but spent a large part of last year on loan at Inter Milan having failed to make the lone striker’s shirt his own. The capture of Danny Welbeck last summer sealed the German’s fate.

IN: Petr Cech (Chelsea, Undisclosed)

OUT: Abou Diaby (Free Agent, Free)
Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray, Undisclosed)

If Arsenal can replicate their form at the tail end of last season there is no reason they can’t finish 2nd and mount a serious title challenge. One thing is for sure it will be an interesting season for Arsenal.

My Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): 33 P.Cech; 2 M.Debuchy 6 L.Koscielny (C) 5 Gabriel 3 K.Gibbs; 34 F.Coquelin 19 S.Cazorla; 17 A.Sanchez 10 J.Wilshere 11 M.Özil; 12 O.Giroud

Bench: 1 W.Szczesny 24 H.Bellerin 21 C.Chambers 8 M.Arteta 15 A.Oxlade-Chamberlain 14 T.Walcott 23 D.Welbeck

Last Season: 3rd
Prediction: 2nd