Here is the third of a four part article on how The Duke sees the Premier League unfolding with views on how each team, including Wigan Athletic, will cope this season. Here is part three, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Stoke City and Sunderland. Don’t forget to visit the message board to let us know your views.
City, as expected spent huge amounts of money last summer. Bringing in Tevez, Adebayor, Barry, Toure and Lescott. After seven successive draws, Mark Hughes controversially lost his job, Italian Roberto Mancini was his replacement. Despite his scarf being an instant hit, the defeat to Spurs at Eastlands meant City only finished fifth, despite the target of finishing in the top four.
There was plenty of controversy along the way, not least Adebayor’s stamp and sprint to the Arsenal fans during City’s 4-2 win at Eastlands and Robinho storming off down the tunnel at Goodison following his substitution. City did manage 73 goals however, and 18 wins, if they turned just some of their 13 draws into wins they’d have been in the top four easily. That has to be the aim this season.
Comings and Goings:
There were no prizes for guessing who the Premier League’s top spenders were this summer, after City spent £79 million in total to bring in the likes of Yaya Toure from Barcelona to add steel and energy to the midfield, David Silva from Valencia after the two settled on a £24 million fee for the creative winger. City then raided Lazio for Aleksander Kolarov, who cost £17 million, German defender Jerome Boateng arrived from Hamburg for £10 million.
Meanwhile Albert Rusnak came in from Kosice for an undisclosed fee, and Alex Henshall joined from Swindon on a free transfer. City is also in pursuit of Italian Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan for £25 million. In my opinion he’s worth nowhere near that, and City is being ripped off for another temperamental forward to go with Tevez, Bellamy and Adebayor.
Going out of Eastlands, fans favourite Martine Petrov left to join Bolton, Nedum Onouha has joined Steve Bruce at Sunderland on loan in search of first team action. Out of favour strikers Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz could be on their way out with Mark Hughes keen to bring them to Fulham.
Meanwhile Italians Parma and Lazio raided City for forgotten striker Valeri Bojinov and Javier Garrido respectively. Veteran full back Sylvinho was released, Robert Mak joined Nuremberg and Gunnar Neilsen joined Tranmere. Finally, Filipe Caicedo looks to be on his way to West Ham on loan.
City have an exciting team with attacking talent, City may be another team to use the 4-2-3-1 system. With Yaya Toure partnering Gareth Barry to provide a stable midfield. On the wings, David Silva looks set to start on the left, whilst Adam Johnson cuts in onto his left foot on the opposite side, Carlos Tevez may operate just behind Emmanuel Adebayor.
An interesting battle will take place between Shay Given and Joe Hart for the goalkeeper spot, with both saying they’ll leave if they don’t get first team action. The defence will be stronger following Boateng and Kolarov’s arrival. City will be exciting to watch, but my main worry for them is the temperament of their players.
Mancini can’t keep them all happy, and I think Bellamy, Santa Cruz, Bridge, Zabaleta, Kompany, Wright-Phillips, Vieira, Robinho plus Given or Hart will become unhappy at some point due to the lack of first team opportunities. That must take its toll on team morale, and although I think they’ll finish above Tottenham this year, the top four may still be out of reach.
The Duke’s Prediction: 5th
Key Man: Carlos Tevez
Best Signing: David Silva
Biggest Loss: Petrov, although they won’t even miss him too much
Goal Grabber: Emmanuel Adebayor
United nearly made it four titles in a row when they finished just one point off the winners Chelsea, and even took the title race down to the final day. It was United’s first season without talisman Cristiano Ronaldo following his transfer to Real Madrid, meaning more pressure on Wayne Rooney to produce the goals. Rooney responded to the pressure, delivering 26 League goals for his best career tally.
The addition of Antonio Valencia looked a brilliant one, he set up plenty of Rooney’s goals, including the winner in the Carling Cup final, with pinpoint right wing crosses. United also managed to reach the Champions League quarter final, losing out on away goals to Bayern Munich after a 4-4 aggregate draw.
The Red Devils were the shock of the FA Cup, getting knocked out by Leeds in the third round, leaving Chelsea with a clear route to victory. Although there was no silverware, 2009/10 was still a success for Ferguson’s men, and they’ll be looking to do even better this season.
Comings and Goings:
Ferguson rarely signs in huge bulks over the summer, so far he’s brought in four. The first being Chris Smalling for £7 million from Fulham, the young centre half looks like the ideal successor for Rio Ferdinand. Ferguson then made the wise decision of signing Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez for £7 million before the World Cup, where he impressed with Mexico, avoiding a bidding war after the finals.
It’s a strategy that Sir Alex will wish he took with German playmaker Mesut Ozil. The third addiction was Marnick Vermijl from Standard Liege for an undisclosed fee, he’s one for the future. In the last few days, Sir Alex has splashed £7.4 million on Portuguese striker Bebe, as recommended by Carlos Queiroz.
Going the other way, strikers Mame Diouf and Danny Welbeck have gone out on loan to Blackburn and Sunderland respectively, promising keeper Ben Foster has joined Birmingham for £6 million. Meanwhile promising Serbian winger Zoran Tosic has joined CSKA Moscow for £8 million. Trio Tom Heaton, Danny Drinkwater and Craig Cathcart have all left Old Trafford during the summer.
United were very close last year, and I fancy them to make it 19 top flight title wins by May. United have a strong,quick and reliable back four plus depth in midfield. Fletcher, Scholes, Carrick, Anderson and Hargreaves are all brilliant central midfielders when fit, each with create passing ranges.
On the wings, Nani is improving and will chip in with some vital goals, Valencia will continue to provide the service from the right wing, Gabriel Obertan is used as a super sub and the evergreen Ryan Giggs will be as strong as ever this season. Up front United have strengthened, the pressure has been taken off Rooney to score a little, as United now have Berbatov, Owen, Hernandez and Macheda to call upon when needed.
I feel they have a great togetherness and consistency that champions require, Ferguson has invaluable title winning experience, and just when you think he can’t win any more trophies, he defies the odds. I expect United to be top of the pile in May, and my money is on them.
The Duke’s Prediction: 1st
Key Man: Wayne Rooney
Best Signing: Javier Hernandez
Biggest Loss: Ben Foster
Goal Grabber: Wayne Rooney
When the Toon fell out of the Premier League with that 1-0 defeat at Villa Park in May 2009, some wandered if they’d have enough to come back. The answer was a resounding yes.
Chris Houghton was appointed manager and did an excellent job, easily winning the Championship title with a 102 point haul, scoring 90 goals along the way and making it back to the Promised Land at the first attempt. Houghton will be hoping for survival this year, but Newcastle’s demanding faithful mean that he’s one of the favourites to be sacked first.
Comings and Goings:
Alarmingly for them, Newcastle have only brought in three players: youngster Dan Gosling from Everton, utility man James Perch from Nottingham Forest, and veteran centre-back Sol Campbell on a free from Arsenal.
With just two leaving the club, Nicky Butt and Fabrice Pancrate, Newcastle have pretty much the same squad that they went up with. They were linked with an ambitious move for talented Marseille winger Hatem Ben Arfa, although Houghton has played down speculation. I would be very surprised if that one went through.
I fear for Newcastle, their squad in 2009 wasn’t good enough to stay up, and this one is of even less quality. At the back, Steven Taylor is solid, but Colloccini is very error prone and Sol Campbell isn’t getting any younger.
In the full back areas, Jose Enrique isn’t the best player in the world, and Ryan Taylor proved at Wigan that he isn’t the best defensive player. Besides those four, they have very little cover. The midfield is better, Joey Barton and Alan Smith will intimidate plenty of people with their tough tackling. Kevin Nolan was in great goalscoring form last year, and he’ll need to be on form again this season, Dan Gosling may be too young to have a huge impact on the first team.
On the wings, Danny Guthrie is average, Jonas Gutierrez blows hot and cold, and doesn’t score alot, Wayne Routledge is a Championship player, and Peter Lovenkrands is getting older, so they don’t have many options. Up front they will struggle. Andy Carroll isn’t prolific, neither is Shola Ameobi, Leon Best is an average Championship player, and Nile Ranger and Ryan Donaldson are too young.
History says that teams that struggle to score struggle to win, and that’s why I fear for Newcastle this year. I just don’t think they have what it takes in either penalty area, and they’ll go back from where they came.
The Duke’s Prediction: 18th
Key Man: Kevin Nolan
Best Signing: Dan Gosling
Biggest Loss: Nobody
Goal Grabber: Shola Ameobi
There was no case of ‘second season syndrome’ for the Potters as they managed an eleventh place finish and finished with 47 points. However, I will challenge anyone who says that Stoke City have amazing home form, this is quite simply a myth.
Stoke managed 7 wins, 6 draws and 6 defeats at home last season, totalling 27 points. I admit, it’s not a bad total, but we managed 25 points at home, just two less, and nobody ever mentions how great our home form is. West Ham and Burnley got 26 points at home each, and they were in the relegation dog fight.
Blackburn got more, Birmingham got more, Sunderland got more… Sorry if it seems like I’m anti-Stoke, but it’s a myth that really annoys me. Regardless, Pulis will be happy that Stoke seem to look at home in the Premier League, and can look forward to a third season in the top flight in a row this season.
Comings and Goings:
Stoke’s headline signing will no doubt be their £8 million capture of Kenwyne Jones from Sunderland. This athletic target man will play a huge role in Stoke’s long ball game again this season and will cause great discomfort for many defenders. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that Tottenham and Liverpool were sniffing around for Jones.
Stoke also brought in former Latics’ keeper Carlo Nash, who seems to just move from club to club, just being a back up keeper and moving on a free transfer after not making a single appearance. Stoke also took advantage of Portsmouth’s financial situation by signing promising youngster Florent Cuvelier for an undisclosed fee.
Going the other way, Wiganer Andy Griffin joined Reading for £250,000, Steve Simonsen joined Sheffield United for free, Amdy Faye and Nathaniel Wedderburn were both released. Meanwhile, Diego Arismendi and Ibrahima Sonko both left the club on loan. Stoke have been looking to trim their squad, and James Beattie looks like he’s on his way to Rangers, another target Blackpool have missed out on.
Meanwhile, technically their best player Tuncay looks to be on the way out, for reasons I can’t imagine, with Wigan and Blackburn reportedly ready to make £4 million offers. Stoke are looking at highly rated striker Loic Remy, however, after buying Jones and with Tottenham and Liverpool’s reported interest, it looks as if he won’t be moving to the Brittannia.
As much as it hurts me to say it because I can’t stand Stoke, they’ll do well this season. Their back four is as strong as anyone’s, with solid centre backs Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Danny Collins and Abdoulaye Faye, they won’t concede many, and will be a threat from set pieces.
Their midfield won’t need great ball skills as the ball will be flying over their heads most of the time, they’re mainly physical players with a tough tackle, Glenn Whelan, Salif Diao, Dean Whitehead and Rory Delap fit the bill perfectly. On the wings, Liam Lawrence can produce the unexpected and Matthew Etherington is a impressive player.
Up front, Stoke have depth and goals in Jones, Tuncay, Kitson, Fuller and Beattie, the question is if they can keep them all happy, and how many will be there at the end of August. Tony Pulis does have a solid squad that will get results, and they’re better than most of the ten or eleven clubs that will have the same common goal, survival.
The Duke’s Prediction: 10th
Key Man: Matthew Etherington
Best Signing: Kenwyne Jones
Biggest Loss: Nobody yet, but Tuncay if he goes
Goal Grabber: Kenwyne Jones
Steve Bruce’s first season in charge at the Stadium of Light ended with a 13th place finish, even though it could have been alot more. The fifteen game winless run didn’t help their league position, low points include the 7-2 thrashing at Stamford Bridge and 3-1 away defeat to Burnley.
There were lots of positives however, Bruce’s first purchase from Harrods, Darren Bent, managed to justify his £10 million fee with 24 league goals, which still wasn’t enough to budge Emile Heskey out of the England squad.
Lorik Cana forged an impressive central midfield partnership with Lee Cattermole, and youngster Jordan Henderson had an impressive season, with his first goal coming against Man City at Eastlands. Sunderland did only manage 44 points, which is one less than Bruce accumulated in his last season with Wigan.
Comings and Goings:
Bruce’s signings had a certain unknown feel about them, besides Bramble, he took a dip into the unknown and signed some less than household names. He signed Cristian Riveros from Cruz Azul for an undisclosed fee, the Paraguayan midfielder has 50 caps for his country.
Bruce then brought in Simon Mignolet from Sint Truidense for £2 million, he spent the same amount on bringing Marcos Angeleri from Estudiantes. Bruce then acquired the highly rated Egyptian wing back Ahmed Al-Muhammadi from Marcos, with the option of signing him for £2 million next summer, so much for shopping at Harrod’s.
Sunderland raided Manchester for two loan deals, defender Nedum Onouha joined from Man City, and Danny Welbeck has joined from Manchester United for the rest of the season. Bruce raided old club Wigan for centre half Titus Bramble, for a reported pittance of £1 million, Bruce had transformed Bramble into a reliable centre half during his time at the JJB (as it was then) and Bramble was keen to rejoin Bruce at the Stadium of Light.
Bruce has also been linked with a move for Wigan winger Charles N’Zogbia, who has handed a transfer request, he’d necessitate a fee of around £10 million, keen on adding a winger to his squad, Bruce has also been tracking Fulham’s Zoltan Gera.
Kenwyne Jones and Lorik Cana were the highest profile departures, with Jones joining Stoke in an £8 million deal, and Cana joined Turkish giants Galatasaray for £5 million after just one season on Wearside. Darryl Murphy moved north of the border to join Celtic, and Roy O’Donovan joined Coventry on a free. The only other departures were Nyron Noswrothy, who joined Sheffield United on loan and Jamie Chandler, who joined Darlington for free.
After a season of conciliation, Bruce now has to produce the goods, he’ll be targeting a top 10 finish. He has a strong back four with a top goalkeeper, Craig Gordon should be his ‘safe hands’ in goal, in fron of his, Bruce has Turner, Bramble, Mensah, Ferdinand and Kilgallon to choose from.
McCartney is a solid left back, comfortable in defence and attack, meanwhile Ahmed Al-Muhammadi looks like being the first choice right back. In midfield, Lee Cattermole will act as the ball winner, with Richardson, Malbranque and Reid providing the creative spark. They are lacking a right winger however, which may be the spot N’Zogbia will fill, should he join the Black Cats.
Up front, Darren Bent is the key man, he’ll be looking to break the 20 goal mark again in 2011, he’ll be partnered by Fraizer Campbell, yet you still feel that Sunderland are light up front following Kenwyne Jones’ departure, Loic Remy is a target, Tuncay Sanli, Robbie Keane and John Utaka have all been linked with a move to Sunderland.
I feel that Sunderland look strong, and should have no trouble avoiding relegation, if Bent fires in the goals, then they’ll get some impressive results. Bruce will probably field a 4-4-2 formation, so we’ll see if it’s ‘outdated’ like so many people claim.
The Duke’s Prediction: 9th
Key Man: Darren Bent
Best Signing: Titus Bramble
Biggest Loss: Kenwyne Jones
Goal Grabber: Darren Bent
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