Barclays Premier League Previews (SO-SU)

Barclays Premier League Preview: Southampton

Manager: Claude Puel

Stadium: St. Mary’s Stadium (Capacity: 32,505)

Captain: Jose Fonté

Top Scorer: Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mané (11)

Biggest Signing: Nathan Redmond (£11 million)

Last Season: 6th

Prediction: Safety

Southampton have overachieved over the last two years and Koeman has built a squad capable of challenging the best..that is until he left this summer.

Although the club have seen a large number of departures over the last two years it feels as though the loss of Koeman could be the one that is felt the most on the south coast.

Southampton have an ability to play an attacking, exciting brand of football with a talented set of midfielders and attacking wide players offering width and pace. This coupled with prolific finishers made Southampton a feared force last year.

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Austin will be hoping to start more this season as Pelle moves to China.

They have lost many of their core players that were there to create the chances whilst also losing both their top scorers, it will be interesting to see if they have ready made replacements or if they may become a poor man’s Arsenal, all this talent and excitement but without the glue to hold it all together.

Saints will not be threatened by relegation but I also think the top half will be unattainable for the club. A lot of this though will depend on the man management and gameplan utilised by new manager Puel.

In terms of recruitment the outgoing list dwarfs the incoming one, they have lost some seriously talented players that were key to Southampton’s outstanding 6th placed finish this season.

IN

Nathan Redmond (Norwich City, £11 million)

Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg (Bayern Munich, Undisclosed)

OUT

Sadio Mané (Liverpool, £34 million)

Graziano Pelle (Shandong Luneng, Undisclosed)

Victor Wanyama (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed)

Juanmi (Real Sociedad, Undisclosed)

Gaston Ramirez (Middlesborough, Released)

Kelvin Davis (Retired)

Southampton will be looking to bolster their squad further with them currently looking at goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

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Redmond could be an important capture.

My Southampton XI (4-2-3-1): 44 F.Forster; 2 C.Soares, 6 J.Fonté (Captain), 17 V. Van Dijk, 21 R.Bertrand; 16 J.Ward-Prowse, 8 S.Davis; NA N.Redmond, 7 S.Long, 11 D.Tadic; 28 C.Austin

 

 

 

 

Barclays Premier League Preview: Stoke City

Manager: Mark Hughes

Stadium: Brittania Stadium (Capacity: 27,902)

Captain: Ryan Shawcross

Top Scorer: Marko Arnautovic (11)

Biggest Signing: Joe Allen (£13 million)

Last Season: 9th

Prediction: Mid-Table

Stoke have made some impressing strides of late and have clambered up to being a fairly consistent mid-table side even if they did start the season struggling to find goals.

When you have quality like Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay you can produce some good football whoever your opponents may be.

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Shaqiri is one of Stoke’s stars.

Stoke have the following to keep building and keep striving to outdo their nearest rivals with some good football and entertaining attacking coupled with strong defending makes them a formidable side.

They have leaders across the pitch, Shawcross, Adam, Crouch all of whom have huge amounts of experience and have given this team a real identity.

In terms of transfers Stoke have made the most of their money brining in two acquisition to make a difference whilst cutting the deadweight loose.

IN

Joe Allen (Liverpool, £13 million)

Ramadan Sobhi (Al Ahly, £5 million)

OUT

Ben Barber (York City, Free)

Yusuf Coban (1899 Hoffenheim, Free)

Dominic Kurasik (Brentford, Free)

Alex Grant (Perth Glory, Released)

Peter Odemwingie (Released)

It looks as though much of Stoke’s business is now completed, the chase for Berahino has gone cold now. It remains to be seen what else could be done before the season starts.

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Joe Allen could make a real difference.

My Stoke City XI (4-2-3-1): 1 J.Butland; 8 G.Johnson, 20 G.Cameron, 17 R.Shawcross (Captain), 3 E.Pieters; 4 J.Allen, 6 G.Whelan; 10 M.Arnautovic, 14 I.Afellay, 22 X.Shaqiri; 18 MB Diouf

 

 

Barclays Premier League Preview: Sunderland AFC

Manager: David Moyes

Stadium: Stadium of Light (Capacity: 49,000)

Captain: John O’Shea

Top Scorer: Jermain Defoe (15)

Biggest Signing: Not Applicable

Last Season: 17th

Prediction: Safety

Sunderland did very well at the tail end of last season as Allardyce steered them to safety sending Newcastle and Norwich down on the penultimate match of the season.

One man that was instrumental in Sunderland’s survival was former Tottenham striker Defoe who picked up a healthy 15 Premier League goals last season for the Black Cats.

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Defoe has a stunning strike record.

Sunderland have lost Sam Allardyce to England and must rebuild under Scotsman Moyes who takes his first job since being sacked as Real Sociedad manager. Sunderland are much a club in the Everton mould when Moyes first took over there.

The squad is full of experienced international players who most of whom are past their best but possess a wealth of knowledge regarding the Premier League.

Sunderland should have enough quality to see off other strugglers like Bournemouth and Swansea and if Defoe is kept well supplied up front there is no reason the veteran striker cannot score the tally he racked up this season.

Recruitment wise it has been very poor, no new faces plus a bunch of high profile departures, Sunderland’s transfer strategy has been woeful.

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David Moyes is the only new face.

IN

OUT

Emanuele Giaccherini (Napoli, £2 million)

Santigo Vergini (Boca Juniors, £1.5 million)

Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wednesday, Free)

Martin Smith (Kilmarnock, Free)

Danny Graham (Blackburn Rovers, Released)

Wes Brown (Released)

Steve Harper (Released)

They have lost some big names there, Giaccherini will be missed the most, failure to pull in any other players and with very few rumours, panic buying may be Moyes’ strategy come August.

My Sunderland XI (4-1-3-1-1): 25 V.Mannone; 2 B.Jones, 16 J.O’Shea (Captain), 15 Y.Kaboul, 3 P. Van Aanholt; 6 L.Cattermole; 14 J.Gomez, 8 J.Rodwell, 7 S.Larsson; 22 W.Khazri; 18 J.Defoe

 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

The Relegation Battle

As we hurtle towards the end of what has been a thrilling season for fans, least of all the fact that Leicester still are sitting pretty atop the Premier League table.

If we look at the other end though, it is still all to play for in the fight for survival, currently there are only 12 points separating 14th placed Watford and 19th placed Newcastle United, however Watford and Swansea are looking safe.

That leaves Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Sunderland, Newcastle and Aston Villa all still trying to avoid relegation.

If we take Aston Villa out of the equation, they lie bottom of the league 12 points from safety, they are odds on favourites to go down.

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Aston Villa haven’t had much to celebrate this season.

However Newcastle are on 25 points and Sunderland 26, they are just two points away from the currently safe Norwich, however both the teams have a game in hand over the Canaries who have 28 points. It looks as though Crystal Palace who are on 33 with a game in hand over Swansea look safe and with Swansea on 36 they should be able to get to the magic 40 in their 7 remaining games.

All eyes go to the east now as Sunderland, Newcastle and Norwich fight to keep their Premier League status, all three sides have strong squads.

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Norwich City celebrate a much needed goal.

Norwich City

Current Position: 17th

Points: 28

Games Played: 31

Goals Scored: 32

Goals Conceded: 54

Remaining Games: Newcastle United (H), Crystal Palace (A), Sunderland (H), Arsenal (A), Manchester United (H), Watford (H), Everton (A)

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Sunderland

Current Position: 18th

Points: 26

Games Played: 30

Goals Scored: 36

Goals Conceded: 55

Remaining Games: West Bromwich Albion (H), Leicester City (H), Norwich City (A), Arsenal (H), Stoke City (A), Chelsea (H), Everton (H), Watford (A)

newcaaaaastle

Newcastle are having a tough year.

Current Position: 19th

Points: 25

Games Played: 30

Goals Scored: 29

Goals Conceded: 55

Remaining Games: Norwich City (A), Southampton (A), Swansea City (H), Manchester City (H), Liverpool (A), Crystal Palace (H), Aston Villa (A), Tottenham Hotspur (A)

There are some big games ahead some defining games, the matches that stand out are:

Norwich City v Newcastle United, 2nd April

Norwich City v Sunderland, 16th April

Aston Villa v Newcastle United, 7th May

And of course Survival Sunday the 15th May.

The season has been a long one for all three sides and the final few weeks aren’t going to be much easier, the pressure is on and it’s clear only one side will stay up.

The likelihood we will have some sort of clear picture by the final day of the season and with two teams facing two of the top four each and each team playing at least one game against another one of the bottom four it is all to play for heading into the final weeks.

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

Sunderland Preview

Manager: Dick Advocaat
Stadium: Stadium of Light
Captain: Lee Cattermole
Top Scorer: Connor Wickham/ Jordi Gomez (6)

Sunderland a season that saw them head for relegation before a sterling fightback under Advocaat saw them find a way to stay in England’s top flight. Sunderland live to fight another day.

Sunderland had a fairly average start to the season although they failed to secure a win until 4th October, they only lost 1 match and that was a 1-0 defeat away at QPR. They had managed wonderful draws against both Manchester United and Tottenham setting them up rather nicely. The 3-1 win over Stoke was unfortunately not a sign of things to come for Poyet and the Black Cats as 14 days later they would suffer a 8-0 humbling at the hands of Southampton. This would be a should destroying result for any side they returned home the week after only to once again fail to score as Arsenal won 2-0. Sunderland did manage 2 more wins before Christmas defeating Crystal Palace 3-1 in early November, and a crucial win over Tyneside rivals Newcastle just before Christmas. They finished the year in 14th place and relatively safe but with only 3 wins under their belts.

Ecstasy for Sunderland as they beat Newcastle.

Ecstasy for Sunderland as they beat Newcastle.

After Christmas Poyet could only manage 1 more win before he was sacked mid-March and that was only a routine victory over strugglers Burnley. Prior to this rare win they had lost 3 games in a row and were looking in bad shape. Following the win over Burnley Poyet only survived a further 6 games. The final nail in the former Brighton bosses coffin was Aston Villa defeating Sunderland 4-0 at the Stadium of Light leading to Poyet’s departure 2 days later. Sunderland were now languishing in 17th place just above the drop zone. Dick Advocaat took over and would only lose 3 times with Sunderland before the season was over. In just his 2nd game in charge Sunderland once again defeated Newcastle to do the double over their local rivals which has become something of a regular occurrence.

Sunderland would see May as the month they recovered as they won their 1st two games exacting revenge over Southampton with a 2-1 win and also beating Everton before 2 draws against Arsenal and Leicester before a loss to Chelsea on the final day. It was not perfect but Sunderland had done what they set out to do and Advocaat had taken Sunderland to 16th place and they were safe for at least one more season. Sunderland are going to need one hell of a change in fortune and gameplan if they want to get higher than they did last season.

Connor Wickham was by far their best player last year and it is hard to see where the goals will come from now he has joined Crystal Palace for an extortionate £9 million. Jack Rodwell is a promising midfielder his time at Manchester City stunted his career after limited success at Everton but it seems the 24 year old is trying to now rebuild his career in the north east and he is a very good player, his passing game is an asset to any time he sees space and has the talent to exploit it. His work rate is impeccable and with players like M’Vila and Cattermole around him they form a very hard working midfield. Jack Rodwell is sure to be in Advocaat’s plans leading into this season. This could be a huge season for the 3 cap England midfielder.

Jack Rodwell is all smiles after scoring his first goal for Sunderland against Manchester United.

Jack Rodwell is all smiles after scoring his first goal for Sunderland against Manchester United.

Sunderland have gone on a recruitment drive as well as securing M’Vila on loan from Rubin Kazan they have closed the deal on 4 new players whilst losing 3. Former Tottenham man Younés Kaboul is a big signing he not only brings Premier League experience but a defensive game that was something that was greatly lacking in Sunderland’s armoury last season. They have also brought in Coates from Premier League rivals Liverpool another worthy addition to the side. Sunderland’s recruitment doesn’t see any big names but the new faces are more necessity than luxury.

Kaboul in action for former club Spurs.

Kaboul in action for former club Spurs.

Departures are fairly insignificant bar Wickham who leaves after 2 big seasons. It seems the striker got bored of the Sunderland circus and heads off to London. His goals will be missed. As will his searing pace and creativity a rare bright spark in the black clouds that gathered over the Stadium of Light last season.

IN: Younés Kaboul (Tottenham Hotspur, £3 million)
Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kyiv (£8 million)
Sebastián Coates (Liverpool, £2 million)
Adam Matthews (Celtic, £2 million)

OUT: Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace, £9 million)
El Hadji-Ba (Charlton Athletic, £500,000)
Anthony Réveillére (Free Agents, Free)

Sunderland have recruited well and Dick Advocaat is a very clever manager he will have a trick or 2 up his sleeve but in my eyes survival is highly unlikely.

My Sunderland XI (4-1-3-2-1): 1 C.Pantilimon; 15 Y.Kaboul, 5 W.Brown 22 S.Coates 3 P.van Aanholt; 14 J.Gomez; 8 J.Rodwell 4 L.Cattermole (C), 21 Y.M’Vila; 17 J.Lens, 19 D.Graham; 18 J.Defoe

Bench: 25 V.Mannone 12 A.Matthews 16 J.O’Shea 7 S.Larsson 4 L.Bridcutt 23 E.Giaccherini 26 S.Fletcher

Last Season: 16th

Prediction: 20th (Relegated)

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

Newcastle United Preview

Manager: Steve McLaren
Stadium: St James’ Park
Captain: Fabricio Coloccini
Top Scorer: Papiss Cisse (11)

Newcastle’s season was a number of things, all bad none good. The club made some very interesting signings in the likes of Cabella and Riviére both of whom failed to impress. Newcastle finished in 15th disappointing for such a large club.

Newcastle’s demise could be pointed out to the latter part of the season when John Carver was in charge but you can’t forget that Newcastle started the season with a run of 7 games without a win these included a humiliating 4-0 loss to Southampton where the Saints ran riot. They seemed to have a lot of luck facing the north east. This run however was followed by Pardew inspiring his side to a run of 5 wins including defeats of Liverpool and Tottenham that saw Newcastle climb and Pardew’s stock rise, this signalled that Newcastle meant business and the impressive displays from players like Jack Colback and Daryl Janmaat as well as the scoring from Perez made Newcastle a tough side to beat.

Ayoze Perez on the ball for Newcastle against Manchester City.

Ayoze Perez on the ball for Newcastle against Manchester City.

On 6th December Newcastle became the first team to beat Chelsea that season in an emphatic 2-1 win at St James’ Park, this was a heroic display from Newcastle and showed other teams that Chelsea were not as invincible as they had seemed early in the season. This was followed though by 3 straight defeats including a loss to local rivals Sunderland and that was that as Pardew left the north east of his own accord to join up with London club, Crystal Palace. This signalled a change in Newcastle’s league standing as into the breach stepped John Carver and Steve Stone who would oversee the remainder of the season as caretaker managers and would see a horrific run of games leading to Newcastle being embroiled in a relegation battle that went down to the final game against West Ham at St James’ Park.

John Carver oversaw Newcastle’s biggest defeat of the season when they faced Manchester United and crashed to a 5-0 defeat. This was followed up by a solitary win before the run of games that would see Newcastle slip from mid-table obscurity into the relegation dogfight. They suffered 10 games only picking up 1 point a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. They lost Sunderland who once again did the double over the Tyneside club and they suffered a defeat at the hands of already relegated club QPR on the penultimate weekend of the season. Their Premier League status was threatened but after Jonas Gutierrez inspired his team to 2 goals scoring 1 himself over West Ham and Newcastle could sleep easy that had retained their Premier League status, John Carver would not recover and was sacked as Mike Ashley brought in Steve McLaren.

The key player undoubtedly was former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback, Colback joined the club with high hopes of outdoing his former club and local rivals Sunderland only to find himself being 1 of only a few bright sparks donning the famous white and black shirt. The midfielder was industrious and made 35 appearances over the course of the season. He was the rock at the heart of Newcastle and his dictating of pace from the centre of the park was class. He reads the game well and has given Newcastle cause for hope as we hurtle towards next season. Newcastle fans will be hoping their local lad can give Newcastle more of what he was capable of producing last season.

Jack Colback celebrates scoring against Everton.

Jack Colback celebrates scoring against Everton.

Newcastle have made 3 important signings as well as seeing Darlow and Lascelles come after their year long loan at Nottingham Forest. The pick of the bunch is midfielder Wijnaldum who has been nothing short of outstanding throughout the Magpies pre-season. He has scored goals and created them, he is sure to be a worthy addition at St James’ Park. Mitrovic also arrived and his scoring prowess is quite something, the forward managed 28 goals in 51 appearances for Anderlecht last season and at 20 years old is still improving as a player and is not short of confidence he and Ayoze Perez could be formidable for Newcastle for seasons to come. Chancel Mbemba has also finally arrived after questions about his age were answered and he could be a very important addition as Newcastle’s defensive woes last season were something that McLaren is keen to address.

Geoginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring a goal for Holland at the World Cup.

Geoginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring a goal for Holland at the World Cup.

Newcastle see a number of departures, they sickeningly got rid of Argentina international Gutierrez who’s treatment from the club has been disgusting. They also lose Ryan Taylor and their first choice left back Santon who was key to Newcastle’s defence. The core of Newcastle has been ripped out and a gaping hole will be left by the departure of long time servants Taylor and Gutierrez who were at the club during the season in the Championship and helped them regain Premiership status it is a dark time on Tyneside.

IN: Chancel Mbemba (Anderlecht, £8.5 million)
Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven, £14.5 million)
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Anderlecht, £13 million)

OUT: Ryan Taylor (Hull City, Free)
Davide Santon (Inter Milan, £3.25 million)
Jonas Gutierrez (Free Agents, Free)
Remie Streete (Port Vale, Free)
Adam Campbell (Notts County, Free)

Newcastle will be hoping for a better season and if they can produce some good football a top half finish. McLaren will be hoping to find a regular finisher in his side as well that have struggled for an out and out goalscorer since the departure of Demba Ba.

My Newcastle United XI (4-1-2-1-2): 1 T.Krul; 22 D.Janmaat 2 F.Coloccini (C) 15 J.Lascelles 18 C,Mbemba; 4 J.Colback; 7 M.Sissoko 16 R.Aarons; 5 G.Wijnaldum; 45 A.Mitrovic 17 A.Perez

Bench: 26 K.Darlow 19 M.Haïdara 3 P.Dummett 24 C.Tioté 20 R.Cabella 10 S.de Jong 9 P.Cisse

Last Season: 15th
Prediction: 11th