After a poor start to 2009/10, Gary Megson was sacked. The final nail in the coffin being the 2-2 draw to Hull when leading 2-0. Burnley manager Owen Coyle was his replacement, and he started to get some points on the board. Wanderers ended the season in 14th, and stayed up despite failing to reach the 40 point mark, albeit by just one point.
The highlight of last season was the success of Korean import Chung-Yong Lee, who’s pace and directness impressed in his debut Premier League season, Kevin Davies was their top scorer again and they even managed a derby day victory of the Latics. Although I don’t think I’ll mention the score.
Comings and Goings:
Bolton did their business early, with five coming in so far. Lively winger Martin Petrov arrived on a free from Man City, whilst Coyle raided former club Burnley to sign Robbie Blake on a free. Surley he must be Wigan’s public enemy number one?
After turning us down in 2005 and playing for rivals Burnley and now Bolton. Real Madrid full back Marcos Alonso then joined for £1.6 million, Bolton then made Ivan Klasnic’s transfer permanent for free. The final signing to date is Oldham youngster Tom Eaves, who was being tracked by many Premier League and Championship clubs, but joined Bolton for an undisclosed fee.
The departures were Ricardo Vaz Te to Panionios for free, Nicky Hunt joined Bristol City for free, and Ali Al Habsi joined Wigan on loan.
Bolton now have a good manager who knows what he’s doing, Coyle will steady the ship and lead Bolton to safety. They have done brilliantly to keep promising centre back Gary Cahill despite reported interest from Tottenham and Everton, he will be the rock in their defence.
Beside him will be the occasionally clumsy Zat Knight, Danny Shittu is the only cover which leaves them light at centre half. In the full back areas they have the dependable Paul Robinson, the eccentric Jlloyd Samuel, the solid Sam Ricketts and the reliable Gretar Steinsson.
The centre of the park is filled with hard working war horses, Favrice Muamba, Gavin McCann and Sean Davis. On the wings, the impressive Matty Taylor will battle it out with Martin Petrov for a starting spot on the left, while Chung-Yong Lee should beat Robbie Blake to the right wing position.
Bolton look promising in that area. Up top, evergreen Kevin Davies will lead the line, with competition from Ivan Klasnic and Johan Elmander, who will probably operate as super subs. Well, just subs actually. Bolton have enough top flight pedigree to survive, but don’t expect anything spectacular.
The Duke’s Prediction: 14th
Key Man: Martin Petrov
Best Signing: Martin Petrov
Biggest Loss: Nobody
Goal Grabber: Kevin Davies
Ancelotti had a dream first season in English football, leading Chelsea to the League and Cup double and getting to the quarter finals of the Champions’ League. Didier Drogba was the star man, finishing top scorer in the Premier League with an impressive 29 goals, Frank Lampard managed a crazy 22 League goals from midfield as he enjoyed one of his best seasons.
Chelsea managed to score a record 103 League goals to boot, following a last day win over Wigan, which was just by a couple of goals. Florent Malouda was voted player’s player of the year with several stand out performances.
At the other end, despite his personal problems, John Terry marshalled the defence that conceded just 32 League goals. All in all it was a great season for Chelsea, the cherry on top was the 1-0 win over Portsmouth at Wembley in the FA Cup final.
Comings and Goings:
After allegations of having a squad that was ‘too old’ Ancelotti shipped out veterans Michael Ballack and Juliano Belletti on free transfers Deco moved to Fluminense whilst Ricardo Carvalho rejoined Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.
Ancelotti showed he wasn’t scared to lose key players if he felt he didn’t need them. After Joe Cole couldn’t agree a new contract, he left on a free to join Liverpool. Meanwhile young wingers Miroslav Stoch moved out to Fenerbahce for £2.5 million, Scott Sinclair turned down Premier League loan moves in favour of a transfer to Swansea and new signing Tomas Kalas moved back on loan to former club Sigma Olomouc following his £5.2 million to Chelsea.
Finally, Jack Cork moved on a season long loan to Burnley. Coming in, Ancelotti bagged Liverpool winger Yossi Benayoun for £6 million to replace Joe Cole, the only other arrival was Matej Delac who signed for £2.7 million from Inter Zapresic. Chelsea have been linked with a move for World Cup Mesut Ozil, however they face competition from Man United and Barcelona.
I fancy Chelsea to do well, they still have Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard who look dangerous, and will score plenty of goals. I feel they’ve made a mistake allowing Joe Cole to move to a rival for free, he’s a huge loss, and I personally don’t feel Benayoun is as good as Cole, despite costing £6 million more.
They look lighter in midfield following the departure of Ballack and Deco, but with Mikel, Essien, Lampard and Malouda they should cope. However, I don’t think they’ll retain their crown as they lack two genuine wingers and depth in midfield. I just think they may become unstuck in the bigger games when their midfield legs get tired due to fixture congestion.
Even Didier Drogba has been quoted saying they aren’t ready to retain their crown, which shows that the squad aren’t confident. Lampard and Terry may still be suffering a ‘World Cup hangover’ as may Frenchmen Malouda and Anelka. Chelsea will give United a run for their money though, but I feel Fergie’s men will get the better of them this year.
The Duke’s Prediction: 2nd
Key Man: Frank Lampard
Best Signing: Yossi Benayoun
Biggest Loss: Joe Cole
Goal Grabber: Didier Drogba
The Toffee’s got off to a shocking start last time out, even losing to Burnley 3-1, they managed to pick up some form later in the season however. They managed to beat Man City home and away, Man United left Goodison Park empty handed following their 3-1 defeat, and Louis Saha scored twice to conquer Chelsea at home.
Their eight place finish means no Europa League spot for Everton, after finishing two points short of rivals Liverpool. That could be a blessing in disguise as Moyes’ small squad has sometimes suffered due to European games in farfetched locations. Moyes will be aiming for the top six this time around, and it’ll be interesting to see how they get on.
Comings and Goings:
Everton haven’t spent heavily this summer, as usual. Jermaine Beckford joined on a free from Leeds, it’ll be interesting to see if he can make the move up from League One after firing Leeds to promotion, and scoring the winner at Old Trafford.
Joao Silva joined for £500,000 from Deportivo Das Aves, Jan Mucha then joined the Blues on a free Magaye Gueye joined from Strasbourg for an undisclosed fee. These three are unknown to most English football fans, and Moyes will be hoping he’s picked a few Tim Cahill’s out the bag, rather than a few Li Tie’s. Everton will be gutted at the loss of promising youngster Dan Gosling on a free to Newcastle after a mix up between player and club.
I think he might have had more luck staying with Everton than joining relegation threatened Newcastle. The only other departures were goalkeepers Carlo Nash and John Ruddy, who joined Stoke City and Norwich City respectively on free transfers. I doubt Toffee’s fans will be gutted about those two.
Everton look set to stay at around the eighth place mark following their arrivals this summer. The best transfer news was keeping hold Of Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta, meanwhile if they can get £8 million from West Ham for Yakubu then they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
Everton have a number of quality centre backs to choose from, so they shouldn’t be short of quality at the back. Joseph Yobo, Phil Jagielka, John Heitinga and Sylvain Distin are all on the books. In midfield they have craft and quality in Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Marouane Fellaini, Leon Osman and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
Up front they look a little light with just Louis Saha and Yakubu the only proven Premier League goalscorers, with the latter possibly on his way. They have Victor Anichebe, Jermaine Beckford and James Vaughan as back up, but all have questionable pedigree. Moyes could do with another striker to bolster the front line.
West Ham and Tottenham target Loic Remy has been mentioned, meanwhile it looks like Moyes has missed out on signing Landon Donovan permanently. They should have enough goals to get into the top eight, but they’ll probably finish higher than Villa because will have deteriorated rather than Everton have improved.
The Duke’s Prediction: 7th
Key Man: Mikel Arteta
Best Signing: Jermaine Beckford
Biggest Loss: Dan Gosling
Goal Grabber: Louis Saha
Roy Hodgson managed to lead Fulham to 12th place in the Premier League, aswell as the Europa League final, which ended in defeat to Atletico Madrid. Despite the loss, it was a great achievement which shows how far Fulham have came in the last 10 years.
Bobby Zamora shocked everyone and had a great campaign, despite only managing to score eight League goals, he got 21 goals from 44 appearances in all competitions, and earned a recent call up to the England squad.
The standout performances of the season were their 3-0 demolition of Man United at Craven Cottage, and the remarkable 4-1 victory over Juventus at home to turn around a 4-1 aggregate defeat, into a 5-4 win. Clint Dempsey scored the decisive goal with 8 minutes left with an audacious chip.
Comings and Goings:
The biggest loss of the summer was undoubtedly Roy Hodgson’s move to Liverpool. He led Fulham out of a relegation scrap in 2008, achieved 7th place and European qualification in 2009 and the Europa League final in 2010.
Mark Hughes was brought in to replace him, and Fulham to date have only made two signings. Phillipe Senderos on a free fom Arsenal, and Jonathan Greening on a free from West Brom. Hughes has been linked with bringing in favourites Roque Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy, who he signed for Blackburn and Man City during his time a manager at both clubs.
Fulham lost promising young defender Chris Smalling for a reported £7 million as he joined Man United in a deal that was sealed in January. Four players were released, Erike Nevland, Elliot Omozusi, Wayne Brown and Toni Kallio. Meanwhile Christopher Buchtmann joined Cologne for free. Hughes will be looking for a full back, a winger and a striker, plus a goalkeeper if Arsene Wenger makes a move for number 1 Mark Schwarzer.
I think Fulham will struggle this year, I don’t think they’ll go down, but they won’t have a season of mid table safety like they have done in previous years. Hangeland is their only solid centre half as Aaron Hughes and Phillipe Senderos are prone to errors, in the full back areas Pantil and Knochesky have peaked, and they have little cover.
The midfield is reliant on the aging legs of Danny Murphy, and although Duff and Dempsey will provide a goal threat, Greening and Davies don’t impress me and I think they’re short on numbers in midfield. With Andy Johnson still injured, there’s pressure on Zamora to score the goals, and 11 League goals in two seasons shows he may not be up to it.
If Hughes can bring in Santa Cruz or Bellamy that shouldn’t be a problem, but they’ll have to watch out as I think the teams that finished below them last season have improved beyond Fulham’s standard this season.
The Duke’s Prediction: 16th
Key Man: Damien Duff
Best Signing: Mark Hughes
Biggest Loss: Roy Hodgson
Goal Grabber: Bobby Zamora
2009/10 saw the end of the Rafa Benitez era at Liverpool after a shocking season, which saw one of the title favourites finish way down in seventh. A whole 26 points off champions Chelsea. The injury prone Fernando Torres didn’t play enough to contribute 20 goals for the team, although he did still manage 18 from 22 appearances.
Steven Gerrard looked like the only player to be at the level Liverpool expect, and even he under performed with just nine League goals, in comparison, Frank Lampard scored 22. The likes of Insua, Krygiakos, Lucas, Babel and N’Gog were poor and just weren’t up to standard for a Liverpool side. It spelt the end for Benitez
Comings and Goings:
Liverpool’s first task was finding a successor for Benitez, Kenny Dalglish announced his interest in the role, however it was Roy Hodgson that got it. Jonjo Shelvey and Milan Jovanovic joined as previously agreed, and defender Danny Wilson moved from Rangers for £5 million.
Holding midfielder Christian Poulsen swapped Juventus for Anfield in a £4.5 million deal, and keeper Brad Jones looks like he’s on his way from Middlesborough. However, the major coup of the summer was the capture of Joe Cole, on a free from Chelsea. Liverpool fought off competition from many other major clubs to land the playmaker, who will provide the creative spark Liverpool have sometimes lacked, leading to Steven Gerrard to draw comparisons between Cole and Messi.
Going the other way, Yossi Benayoun joined Chelsea for £6 million to raise funds, and Spanish flop Albert Riera joined Olympiakos for an undisclosed fee. David Martin, Mikel San Jose and Robbie Threlfall were all shown the door at Anfield too.
There’s also great speculation over the ownership of the club, Americans Hicks and Gillett said they were ready to sell up after the appeal from the supporters. The question is, who’ll buy the club? The club have been the subject of a takeover from a Chinese consortium, but it remains to be seen who’ll take over.
Liverpool should improve on last season, otherwise it will be a disaster. They expect a return to the top four, which would be instrumental in keeping key duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres at the club next summer.
The best news of the summer for Liverpool was holding onto those two, amid interest from Chelsea and Man City for Torres, and Real Madrid for Gerrard. Liverpool may line up with the 4-2-3-1 formation that Benitez favoured, which is growing ever popular. The question is, who’ll play where? I think Mascherano will partner Poulsen in the centre of midfield, to hold the fort and win possession. Gerrard will be freed to play in the ‘hole’ behind Torres, his favoured position.
Meanwhile Joe Cole will bring a creative spark on either wing, whilst Ryan Babel could play on the right wing because of his directness. What Liverpool lack is depth in the attacking area, besides those four, there’s little quality. The only decent midfielders I haven’t mentioned are Aberto Aquilani and Maxi Rodriguez.
Milan Jovanovic could provide an alternative to Torres if he’s successful. I think they’ll just pip Man City to fourth spot, due to their Champions’ League quality and City’s temperament. I expect Hodgson to do well, but only time will tell.
The Duke’s Prediction: 4th
Key Man: Steven Gerrard
Best Signing: Joe Cole
Biggest Loss: Yossi Benayoun
Goal Grabber: Fernando Torres
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