Here is the final part of how The Duke sees the Premier League unfolding with views on how each team, including Wigan Athletic, will cope this season. Here is part four, with Spurs, West Brom, West Ham, Wigan Athletic and Wolves. Don’t forget to visit the message board to let us know your views.
Harry Redknapp will be delighted at the job he did at White Hart Lane last season, breaking the mafia of the ‘big four’ and gaining Spurs a Champions League spot. The standout performers were Jermain Defoe, who scored a career best 18 league goals, Gareth Bale, whose marauding runs down the left wing led to his top form at the end of last season.
Tom Huddlestone was a steady performer, and Luca Modric’s creativity caused many teams problems. The stand out performance was the 9-1 demolition in November; the opposition that day seem to have slipped my mind. Spurs totalled an impressive 73 goals last season, with an impressive attacking line up, last season was more than any Spurs fan could have dreamt of.
Comings and Goings:
Despite their need to strengthen in depth ahead of the European season, Spurs have only made one purchase. £6 million Sandro, the 21 year old Brazilian moved to Spurs as they fought off interest from rivals Arsenal.
Sandro is a product of Interacional’s youth system as is a defensive midfielder. Redknapp has been chasing Craig Bellamy to add pace to his front line, and an alternative option to his left wing, however, with Jermain Defoe, Luca Modric and Gareth Bale, Redknapp won’t be too gutted if he doesn’t land him.
Loic Remy is a target to add to the attack, midfielders Steven Pienaar and Scott Parker remain at Everton and West Ham respectively despite Tottenham’s interest. Ipswich hot prospect Connor Wickham, who’s been described as a ‘young Teddy Sheringham’ has been a target.
Although Spurs failed agree a fee with Ipswich. Spurs have lost just four players, Jimmy Walker was released and David Button has joined Plymouth on loan. John Bostock has joined Hull City on loan, and Andros Townsend has joined Ipswich on loan.
Tottenham do have a large squad, so fixture congestion shouldn’t be a big problem, they have great English talent such as Dawson, Lennon, Huddlestone, Jenas, O’Hara, Defoe. Spurs still have a problem at left back, as Benoit Assou-Ekotto isn’t the best player in the world, and will be vulnerable against quality wingers, and Bale is great going forward but lacking in the defensive area.
Centre back isn’t a problem area for Spurs, with Corluka, Dawson, King, Kaboul, Woodgate and Bassong all comfortable there. The midfield has depth with Huddlestone and Palacios the best ball winners, the ball players will be the likes of Modric, Bentley, Jenas and O’Hara.
World Cup star Giovani Dos Santos will be like a new signing after returning from his loan spells at Ipswich and Galatasaray, he has great creative talent and can play on either wing. Aaron Lennon gives them great pace and width on the right, and Modric and Bale will battle for that left wing spot. Up front, competition is healthy, with Defoe, Crouch, Keane and Pavlyuchenko all on the books.
Spurs have competition in every area of the pitch and will cause people problems. I don’t think they have the credentials for another top four finish because Liverpool and Man City have strengthened, so Spurs, even though it’s no fault of their own, I think will have to settle with sixth.
The Duke’s Prediction: 6th
Key Man: Luca Modric
Best Signing: Sandro, the only one so far
Biggest Loss: Nobody
Goal Grabber: Jermaine Defoe
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom joined Newcastle as the pair made it back into the Premier League at the first attempt, accumulating 91 points, 12 more than third placed Nottingham Forest. It was Roberto Di Matteo’s first season in charge at the Hawthorns, he was praised for his attractive style of play.
The stand out performers were midfielders Graeme Dorrans and Chris Brunt. Dorrans’ creative spark meant that he caught the eye of Premier League clubs such as West Ham, and Brunt’s constant goal threat from the left hand side gave him a total of 13 league goals.
Comings and Goings:
Di Matteo took Pablo Ibanez to the Hawthorns after snatching the defender on a free from Atletico Madrid, who should tighten up the Baggies’ defence, Gabriel Tamas was the next arrival, joining for £800k from Auxerre. Last year’s loanee Steven Reid joined on a free from Blackburn, and keeper Boaz Myhill joined for £1.5 million from Hull to provide competition for the number 1 jersey at West Brom.
Left back Nicky Shorey joined from midlands rivals Aston Villa for £1.5 million. Di Matteo was linked with a move for unattached defender Callum Davenport to tighten up his defence, along with former Latic Jimmy Bullard and Stoke’s James Beattie, although moves for all three haven’t materialised.
West Brom released four players, they let Filipe Teixeira and Andwele Slory leave on frees, but the most surprising decision was to let the playmaker and Slovenian captain Robert Koren leave for nothing. Former captain Jonathan Greening joined Fulham for free, and midfielder Borja Valero has joined Villareal on loan.
West Brom face a battle on their hands to stay up, their defence will leak goals as Meite and Olsson are prone to errors, Shorey is a solid full back and Zuiverloon will get forward well from right back however.
The midfield is high on numbers, but not all of them are great, I’d say only Chris Brunt, Graeme Dorrans and James Morrison can cut it at this level, and the likes of Youssuf Mulumbu, Jerome Thomas, Giles Barnes and Steven Reid will add little to the squad. Their attack looks short of goals too, with Roman Bednar not prolific, Ishmael Miller only just returning from injury, Chris Wood and Reuben Reid too young, and Luke Moore being a Championship player, their wildcard is Simon Cox.
He bagged in 30 goals for Swindon in 2008/09, but that was League 1, last season he scored just 9 league goals and is unproven at this level. I fear that unless they sign a proven striker, then West Brom will struggle, and the three that came up will go straight back down in my view.
The Duke’s Prediction: 19th
Key Man: Chris Brunt
Best Signing: Pablo Ibanez
Biggest Loss: Robert Koren
Goal Grabber: Chris Brunt
West Ham United
Gianfranco Zola endured a torrid season at Upton Park last season, with West Ham finishing on just 35 points, seven less than the total they got last time they were relegated. Although they did eventually finish 17th, West Ham stayed up because there were three worse teams than them, rather than them being Premier league quality.
They were over reliant on Scott Parker’s energy in midfield and Carlton Cole’s physicality up front, so when he got injured they were hit hard. They managed just 8 wins all season, the dire display cosy Zola his job, and Avram Grant is the new man at the helm just how well he’ll do is a different question.
Comings and Goings:
There was something of an Isreali revolution at West Ham, with Grant installed as manager, Grant signed Tal Ben Haim on loan from former club Portsmouth, and then went after Israeli’s James Ibrahima Crosby and Gil Vermuth.
Thomas Hitzlsperger joied from Lazio for free, whilst Grant signed Lyon’s Frederic Piquionne, who had at loan at Portsmouth, for £1 million. Mexico’s World Cup star Pablo Barrera also joined for £4 million, meanwhile New Zealand defender Winston Reid from Danish club FC Midtjylland for an undisclosed fee.
A loan move for Ajax striker Miralem Sulejmani fell through after the Serbian was denied work permit. Four players were released, Mido, Guillermo Franco, Ilan and Josh Payne, whilst Radoslav Kovac is in talks with Stoke over a £2 million move. West Ham will be delighted that they’ve held onto star performers Scott Parker and Carlton Cole after reported interest from Premier League clubs.
I think that West Ham will be fine this season following their nightmare last season. They’ve strengthened well, their back four now looks solid with Upson, Ben Haim and Reid being dependable centre halfs, in the midfield, Parker is joined by Hitzlsperger, a tough tackling midfielder with a ferocious shot, local boys Mark Noble and Jack Collison will provide energy in the midfield when called upon, and Valon Behrami’s versatility will be key.
Pablo Barrera will provide skill and directness on the right, whilst fans favourite Alessandro Diamanti will do the same on the left. Up front, West Ham have options for once. Out go the aging and desperate Franco Ilan and Mido, in comes Frederic Piquionne, who can score goals at this level in a good team.
Benni McCarthy will provide the odd goal here and there and having enthusiastic youngster Freddie Sears back from his loan spell at Crystal Palace will be like a new signing. The common denominator up front will be Carlton Cole, who will make goals for himself and those around him, Avram Grant knows how to get the best out of his players, and Hammers’ fans can look optimistic once again.
The Duke’s Prediction: 12th
Key Man: Scott Parker
Best Signing: Pablo Barrera
Biggest Loss: None of them
Goal Grabber: Carlton Cole
Roberto Martinez’s introduction to life as a Premier League manager was a harsh one, although he managed a surprise 2-0 away win at Villa Park, Wigan followed it up with a home defeat to Wolves, a 5-0 loss to Man Utd and an embarrassing 4-1 defeat in the Carling Cup to Blackpool.
The season was used for the players and fans to get used to the new, more attractive system and style of play. The 4-2-3-1 wasn’t every fan’s favourite, but Martinez stuck with it and Wigan gained much praise for it. Charles N’Zogbia was the star man on the right wing, cutting in onto his left foot, Hugo Rodallega scored 10 goals from the left wing.
Youngster James McCarthy joined from Hamilton and impressed with his energy, bargain but Momo Diame was another athletic central midfielder who impressed. Latics finished 16th with just 36 points, their lowest Premier League total, but managed to stay up and have Premier League football for a sixth season.
Comings and Goings:
Martinez was quick to sign the players he felt he needed to enrich his already attractive style of play, like Alex Ferguson, he signed Paraguayan Antolin Alcaraz before the World Cup to avoid a rise in interest, and a harder task to sign the player.
The defender was signed on a free transfer from Club Brugge despite reports he may not join after his successful World Cup. Wigan will give commentators nightmares next season when James McCarthy will be joined by James McArthur after the latter joined from Hamilton for £1 million.
Wigan then brought in Argentinean striker Mauro Boselli for £6 million from Estudiantes, the bullish striker has been on great form in pre-season, and Latics’ fans are expectant of him to produce the goods ahead of the new season. Dutch defender Ronnie Stam joined from FC Twente for £3 million to fill the void at right back, Bolton keeper Ali Al Habsi joined on a season long loan as back up for Chris Kirkland.
Going the other way, Wigan said goodbye to captain Mario Melchiot as he joined Umm Salal on a free, fans favourite Paul Scharner was also released along with Tomasz Cywka, who joined Derby. Titus Bramble joined Sunderland for £1 million and Antonio Amaya and Jason Koumas left the club on loan, joining Rayo Vallecano and Cardiff City respectively.
Meanwhile, out of favour striker Jason Scotland looks set to join Ipswich for £1 million after scoring just one league goal all last season and star man Charles N’Zogbia has handed in a transfer request, Sunderland, Birmingham and Juventus have reported interest. Wigan look resigned to losing a key player at a vital time, they’ll be looking for a fee of around £10 million.
I for one am really hopeful about this season. Martinez’s signings look impressive and his 4-2-3-1 formation looks like it’ll be a hit this season. Boselli looks like a natural goal scorer, and I am very optimistic about him, behind him I was hoping that Moses, N’Zogbia and Rodallega would be part of a fluent trio that weaved in and out of each other and interchange behind Boselli. With N’Zogbia on his way, it looks like Martinez will have to either replace him with Gomez or bring in somebody else.
I imagine he’ll want to bring in a quality replacement and the only person that I can think of that fits the bill is Stoke’s Sanli Tuncay. He’s reportedly available for around £4 million, and would do brilliantly operating just off Boselli, the attacking flair and creativity would win us alot of matches and cause people problems. In midfield, we have energy in James McCarthy and Momo Diame, Ben Watson is an accurate passer and Hendry Thomas is a tough tackler and always gives an easy pass.
The defence is my only concern, I am hopeful that Caldwell and Alcaraz can striker up a good solid partnership, and that Ronnie Stam is a solid attacking full back. Figueroa is a dependable left back, and we have cover in Boyce and Gohouri, I see no reason why Wigan won’t stay up and I’m confident about the season ahead.
The Duke’s Prediction: 13th
Key Man: Hugo Rodallega
Best Signing: Mauro Boselli
Biggest Loss: Titus Bramble
Goal Grabber: Mauro Boselli
Following promotion to the Premier League, Wolves had one aim: survival. Mick McCarthy’s men achieved that by finishing 15th with 38 points. £6 million signing Kevin Doyle was the main man, his work rate and pace earned the striker nine league goals as he spearheaded Wolves’ attack. Matt Jarvis and Matt Kightly were impressive on the wings, and Karl Henry’s skills of breaking up play and giving the simple ball earned him many plaudits. 35 year old Jody Craddock was a revelation, scoring four goals and was a solid performer at the back, earning him the club’s player of the season award.
Comings and Goings:
Wolves did their business early, and strengthened heavily, they signed three Steven’s, Hunt, Mouyokolo and Fletcher. Hunt and Mouyokolo joined from relegated Hull for a combined fee of £5.5 million. Hunt is a dependable winger with the ability to create a moment of magic, whilst Mouyokolo is a strong, solid defender to partner Jody Craddock. Steven Fletcher joined from relegated Burnley, where he was top scorer after netting eight goals, costing Wolves £6 million.
Adlene Guedioura made his loan move from Belgium side Carleroi permanent for £2 million, Geoffrey Mujangi Bia joined from the same club on loan. Finally, McCarthy spent £2.5 million on bringing former Southampton defender Jelle Van Damme to Molineaux from Anderlecht.
McCarthy also wants to bring Chelsea defender Michael Mancienne back to the club on loan for a third successive season. Going out of the club, Jason Shackell joined Barnsley for an undisclosed fee, Chris Iwelumo joined Burnley for an undisclosed fee and Andrew Surman joined Norwich for £500,000. Mark Little, Daniel Jones and George Friend were all released.
Wolves look strong this season having strengthened heavily in the summer, their squad now has depth in all areas and plenty of Premier League quality. In defence they have Van Damme, Craddock , Stearman, Halford, Mouyokolo, Berra and Zubat to choose from. The midfield two crafters, Karl Henry and Adlene Guedioura, the ball players are the impressive Nenad Milijas, David Jones, Matthew Jarvis, Steven Hunt and Michael Kightly.
They do look light in centre midfield however and lack depth in that area. Up front, the pressure is lifted of Kevin Doyle’s shoulders to score the goals as Steven Fletcher has been brought in, those two should cause plenty of defences problems, but besides their first eleven they don’t have much quality which is why I think they’ll have a good season, but won’t be mid-table material just yet. The pressure is on McCarthy after spending so much money, but if it comes off then he’ll have an impressive team that get some surprise results in the Premier League this season.
The Duke’s Prediction: 15th
Key Man: Steven Hunt
Best Signing: Steven Fletcher
Biggest Loss: None of them
Goal Grabber: Steven Fletcher
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