Premier League Preview – Part Three

Posted: August 7, 2015 in Football
Tags: , , , , ,
John Carver

No more John Carver, nut Newcastle continue to draw focus

The football season is back! Rejoice! The tedium that is the close season and the rubbish that fills our newspapers and websites desperate to fill column inches is finally at an end, and we can focus on the football itself. Well, nearly. I’m looking at you Daily Mail.

The Premier League has opted to kick-off at the same time as the other divisions in England this season due to a major tournament appearing next summer and it looks set to be potentially the most interesting season in a while, with a number of teams well equipped to mount a title challenge and nobody looking quite weak enough to be dead certs for the drop. 

Thus I have compiled a quick preview of every side in the division, rated and/or slated their summer transfer activity and attempted the fools’ game of predicting where they will end up. Enjoy and feel free to add your own comments at the bottom! 

Here is part three, taking us from Newcastle to Sunderland:

Steve McClaren

Can Steve McClaren restore pride to the Toon Army?

Newcastle United

Last Season: 15th

Transfers In: Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV), Aleksander Mitrovic, Chancel Mbemba (Anderlecht), Ivan Tonev (Northampton)

Transfers Out: Jonas Gutierrez (Realeased), Ryan Taylor (Hull), Sammy Ameobi (Cardiff, Loan), Adam Armstrong (Coventry, Loan)

It was an important summer for Newcastle this year, as they desperately required to repair the ill-feeling that has surrounded the club of late and saw them go from comfortable mid-table to requiring a last day victory to assure their top flight status.

Caretaker manager John Carver has thankfully been axed from the club after a string of ridiculous comments made the club look even more daft in the eyes of the neutral, and they have entrusted Steve McClaren as the man to lead them onwards and upwards, despite botching Derby’s promotion hopes to see a talented squad miss out on the play-offs.

A loosening of the purse strings may help ease tensions between board and fans as well, with large sums of money paid out to bring in Wijnaldum and Mitrovic after a few years of frugal business at St James’ Park. Their signings do come with decent reputations, but one always feels like holding judgement on any players from the Benelux leagues, as they so often prove very hit and miss.

These are clear attempts to address the weakness in parts of the squad, and look through it now suggests Newcastle shouldn’t really be in too much trouble in theory. But theory only goes so far. They won’t challenge the top half too much, but they have enough to steady the ship. That really should be the aim for this season.

Prediction: 11th

Alex Neil

Despite promotion via the play-offs, Norwich look like the strongest of the new additions

Norwich City

Last Season: Championship Play-Off Winners

Transfers In: Graham Dorrans, Youssef Mulumbu (West Brom), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, Loan), Robbie Brady (Hull), Jake Kean (Blackburn)

Transfers Out: Luciano Becchio, Javier Garrido, Carlos Cuellar (Released), Mark Bunn (Aston Villa)

It seems odd to say, but the side that required the play-offs to win promotion to the Premier League actually looks the best equipped to stay up. Norwich only spent one year in the Championship before bouncing back at the first time of asking, while Bournemouth are complete novices and Watford have endured a lot of upheaval over the summer months.

Since taking over at Carrow Road, Alex Neil has done a phenomenal job of uniting the players and forging a real battling team spirit that helped them climb the table and it is exactly that which could just about keep them afloat.

The majority of their players have had a taste of top flight experience before, and the addition of a few other well experienced men will aid them no end in their battle for survival. I just can’t see Norwich going down.

Prediction: 16th

Ronald Koeman

Koeman delat with key losses last season. Can he do it again?

Southampton

Last Season: 7th

Transfers In: Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord), Juanmi (Malaga), Cedric Soares (Sporting Lisbon), Maarten Stekelenburg (Fulham, Loan), Steven Caulker (QPR, Loan), Cuco Martina (Twente)

Transfers Out: Morgan Schneiderlin (Man Utd), Artur Boruc (Bournemouth), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Jos Hooiveld (Released), Sam Gallagher (MK Dons, Loan)

Another season spent exceeding expectations, another summer spent watching the bigger fish in the division pick off some of their better players. It must be a tiring scenario for Southampton fans by now, but those appear to be the breaks if you dare challenge the established order in the Premier League.

Southampton defied the naysayers after seeing their squad picked apart last year to have another tremendous season, but have now seen key players like Schneiderlin and Clyne snatched away from them. Yet Ronald Koeman has shown remarkable ability to replace his star men adequately before, and the signing of Jordy Clasie will be a fine addition to the squad to replace Schneiderlin.

The return of Jay Rodriguez to fitness will aid their attacking options and take the burden off Graziano Pelle and Shane Long, and while their defence has taken a bit of a hit, the presence of Jose Fonte will keep things relatively tight at the back. Nobody is predicting them for a relegation battle this time round, that’s for sure.

Prediction: 8th

Ibrahim Afellay

The Barcelona connection continues apace with the signing of Afellay

Stoke City

Last Season: 9th

Transfers In: Joselu (Hannover), Philipp Wollscheid (Bayer Leverkusen), Jacob Haugaard (Midtjylland), Marco van Ginkel (Chelsea, Loan), Shay Given (Aston Villa), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona), Moha El Ouriachi (Barcelona, Loan)

Transfers Out: Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla), Robert Huth (Leicester), Asmir Begovic (Chelsea), Wilson Palacios, Thomas Sorensen, Andy Wilkinson (Released)

Gone are the days of the cold, wet Tuesday nights at dirty old, long-ball kicking, set-piece utilising Stoke City. Mark Hughes promised to tidy up their image and he has done a terrific job, with the Potters playing some lovely football, twice outplaying my beloved Spurs and thrashing Liverpool on the final day of the season.

The revolution shows no sign of stopping and Hughes has been rewarded with an improved budget to continue bringing some impressive players to the club. The partnership with Barcelona has continued after resurrecting the career of Bojan last season, and one can only hope the same can be done for the phenomenal talent that is Ibrahim Afellay, with the Dutchman representing a fantastic catch should they be able to keep him fit.

With the talent Stoke currently have in their squad, they have the chance to break the glass ceiling they find themselves up against. There is no reason why they should be targeting the likes of Southampton and perhaps even a Spurs side that currently looks set to rely heavily on youngsters.

Prediction: 7th

Dick Advocaat

Surely Dick Advocaat represents a more stable manager for Sunderland?

Sunderland

Last Season: 16th

Transfers In: Jeremain Lens (Dynamo Kiev), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool), Adam Matthews (Celtic), Younes Kaboul (Tottenham), Yann M’Vila (Rubin Kazan, Loan)

Transfers Out: El Hadji Ba (Charlton), Santiago Vergini (Getafe, Loan), Connor Wickham (Crystal Palace), Wes Brown, Anthony Reveillere (Released)

Every summer I look at the business done by Sunderland and feel impressed, believing they have made the right moves to avoid being sucked into another relegation battle. And yet every season, they implode and find themselves right in the thick of it again.

However, these have all come under managers of a very unpredictable nature, and Dick Advocaat is no Paulo Di Canio. Or Gus Poyet. Or Roy Keane. Honestly Sunderland? Whoever has been in charge of appointing managers needs a long, hard look at themselves.

But I digress. Under a more steady and experienced hand, Sunderland have made enough good business to strengthen a squad that should not have been in as much trouble as they were last season. There’s enough talent there to achieve a comfortable mid-table place in truth, but it simply all depends on whether they gel together as a unit.

Chances are, it won’t be easy, but Sunderland will stay comfortably afloat by the end of proceedings.

Prediction: 13th

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