Even with Euro 2012 and the Olympics this summer, Premier League fans around the world have been eagerly awaiting the return of the greatest league in the world and it is now less than a week away. Who can forget Vincent Kompany’s stunning header in the derby against United or Sergio Aguero’s astonishing 94th minute winner against Qpr on the final day of the season to seal a first league title for Manchester City since 1968. Here I take a look at the expectations and possibilities for each club including the trio of promoted clubs, Reading, Southampton and West Ham.
Last season – 3rd
The Gunners will be looking to improve on last season’s third place. However without talisman Robin van Persie, they will not only struggle to match last season’s third place finish but they will be under pressure to secure one of the four Champions League positions on offer. Wenger has improved his attacking options with Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Carzola all making the switch to North London butwith the flying Dutchman on his way out they will struggle.
Prediction – 6th
Last season – 16th
After a disappointing season which saw the midlands club fighting relegation Alex McCleish was replaced by former Norwich boss Paul Lambert. Villa fans can expect a change in style of play which will please both players and fans alike. Lambert has shuffled the pack by offloading Emile Heskey, James Collins and Carlos Cuellar while bringing in Feyenoord duo Ron Vlaar and Karim El Ahmadi as well as Brett Holman and Matthew Lowton. The Villains will be hoping star striker Darren Bent can improve on his nine league goals from last season and he will be looking for improved service from Charles Nzogbia, Stephen Ireland and Gabriel Aghbonlahor.
Prediction – 9th
Last season – 5th
The Blues will be looking to improve on last season’s disappointing league form which saw them finish a massive 25 points adrift of league Champions Manchester City. That form wasn’t replicated in the Champions League as Roberto Di Matteo led his side to a dramatic victory in Munich to seal qualification in Europe’s elite competition for the coming season. Di Matteo has been busy in the transfer market with brothers Eden and Thorgan Hazard joining along with Marko Marin and Brazilian international Oscar while Didier Drogba has left for “a new challenge in China”, Salamon Kalou has joined Lille and defender Jose Bosingwa has been released. Surely an improved Chelsea this season but will it be enough for a first league title in 3 years?
Prediction – 3rd
Last season – 7th
Another typical season for David Moyes’ side last season, a poor start followed by an excellent finish which saw them finish above Merseyside rivals Liverpool. One has to wonder what they could achieve if they actually started a season well? The return of Steven Pienaar from Spurs will certainly boost Everton as will the signing of former Rangers man, Steven Naismith. Moyes will also be looking for striker Nikica Jelavic to continue his form from the second half of the season which saw him net nine league goals in just thirteen appearances.
Prediction – 8th
Last season – 9th
Martin Jol will be hoping to improve further on last season’s impressive top ten finish and to do so he will have to hold on to main man Clint Dempsey. The American has been linked with a move to Liverpool but if Jol can convince him to stay he will hope to link up with new strikers Hugo Rodallega and Mladen Petric who has scored five goals in four pre-season games. Full back Sascha Riether has also joined from Cologne while Andrew Johnson and Danny Murphy were the two main men who left on free transfers during the summer.
Prediction – 10th
Last season – 8th
After yet another poor season with controversy both on and off the field for the red half of Merseyside Kenny Dalglish has been replaced by former Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers who will look to put his stamp on the Reds style of play early on. Rodgers has recruited young striker Fabio Borini with whom he has worked with at both Chelsea and Swansea. Liverpool’s aim for the coming season will be to challenge for a top four spot but it remains to be seen if the current squad is good enough to succeed with a lack of goals a major problem for the Reds.
Prediction – 5th
Last season – 1st
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the summer has been the transfer activity at the Etihad Stadium, or the lack of it. They may be Champions but with sides around them strengthening City have been struggling to offload some of the high earners at the club who seem to have no future there. The rumours suggest that City have to sell before they can buy but with time running out in the run up to the start of the season City will have to either lower their valuation on players they are trying to sell or else buy now in the hope of selling later. In saying that, Carlos Tevez will be like a new signing after “missing” most of last season but to say the little Argentinian is unpredictable would be a massive understatement and the same could be said for Mario Balotelli.
Prediction – 2nd
Last season – 2nd
After the most remarkable final day of the season which saw United just 90 seconds away from winning yet another league title this season will see the Red Devils aim to regain the title at the expense of neighbours Manchester City. While City have been quiet, so far, in the transfer market United have signed Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell, with Robin van Persie now also on his way to Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson will also welcome back captain Nemanja Vidic who missed the majority of last season through injury and that could be the deciding factor when it comes to separating United and City at the end of the season.
Prediction – 1st
Last season – 5th
Can Newcastle repeat last season’s success? No major action in the transfer market for the North-East club but after an amazing season which saw a top five finish maybe there is no need for change. With Demba Ba scoring for fun in the first half of the season and then Papiss Cisse taking over Newcastle will cause plenty of problems for teams if they can get the two of them firing at the one time. It is still hard to see Alan Pardew’s side maintaining last season’s form but stranger things have happened.
Prediction – 7th
Last season- 12th
A comfortable first season for the Canaries saw them finish just outside the top ten on goal difference and while manager Paul Lambert has left to take over at Aston Villa new manager Chris Hughton has added Robert Snodgrass, Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker. Another bonus for Hughton is Grant Holt’s decision to sign a new three year deal at the club after speculation linking him with a move. The question remains though, will second season syndrome catch Norwich?
Last season – 17th
After surviving on the final day of last season Queens Park Rangers will be hoping to guarantee survival a little sooner this time around. Boss Mark Hughes has been busy in the transfer market bringing in Park Ji Sung and Fabio Da Silva (loan) from Manchester United alongside Rob Green, Junior Hoilett and Andrew Johnson. Hughes will be hoping unpredictable striker Djibril Cisse will keep up his goalscoring form from the second half of last season which saw him score six goals in eight games for the London club while he will also hope his discipline will improve; he was sent off in the other two games.
Prediction – 14th
Last Season – Championship Winners
Despite coming up as champions Reading could be the club most likely to struggle from the three promoted sides. Brian McDermott has done a magnificent job but his side struggled for goals last season and even with the arrival of Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak the Royals will find it even harder to score in the Premier League.
Prediction – 19th
Last season – Championship Runners-up
Goals won’t be as big a problem for the Saints with Rickie Lambert (25), Billy Sharp (19) and new signing Jay Rodriguez (15) all banging in the goals last season. Nigel Adkins has also brought in former Crystal Palace defender Nathaniel Clyne and Steven Davis from Rangers but will the lack of Premier League experience cost the Saints dearly?
Prediction – 16th
Last season – 14th
Safety was assured early last season for the Potters but with no European adventures this season Tony Pulis will be looking for an improvement on last season’s final position of 14th. It has been a relatively quiet summer at the Brittania with just Michael Kightly and Jamie Ness coming in while Ricardo Fuller and Salif Diao have both been released. Hard to look past the standard mid table finish for the Potters again.
Prediction – 12th
Last season – 13th
Martin O Neill will be looking for an improvement on last season’s 13th place finish as he faces into his first full season in charge of the Black Cats. O Neill has raided former club Aston Villa to complete the signature of defender Carlos Cuellar who remains the only signing for the North-East club thus far in the transfer market. With Nicklas Bendtner returning to Arsenal following his loan spell last season the Black Cats could struggle for goals unless they can clinch the signature of transfer target Steven Fletcher from Wolves.
Prediction – 11th
Last season – 11th
Plenty of changes at the Welsh club with Brendan Rodgers leaving to take over at Liverpool and one of last season’s top performers Gylfi Sigurdsson turning down a permanent move in favour of a switch to Spurs. New manager Michael Laudrup has strengthened his squad with the capture of Jonathan De Guzman and Spanish attacking midfielder Michu who netted 15 goals in La Liga last season with Rayo Vallecano but will it be enough for the Swans?
Prediction – 15th
Last season – 4th
Perhaps the most surprising move of the summer was Harry Redknapp leaving Spurs after leading a complete turnaround at the North London club. Spurs were bottom of the league when Redknapp took over in October 2008 and since then has led the club to a Champions League quarter final while narrowly missing out on a Champions League spot this season despite finishing in 4th due to Chelsea winning the Champions League. The new man in charge at the Lane is former Chelsea boss Andre Villas Boas and the Portugeese has added Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertongen to his squad while offloading Steven Pienaar, Louis Saha and Niko Kranjcar.
Prediction – 4th
Last season – 10th
After an incredible season at the Hawthorns last season manager Roy Hodgson was offered the England job which he duly accepted leading them to the quarter finals at Euro 2012. Hodgson’s departure left a vacancy in the Baggies hot seat which was filled by former Liverpool and Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clarke. Ben Foster has completed a permanent transfer to the Hawthorns while striker Markus Rosenberg has joined from Werder Bremen. Keith Andrews, Paul Scharner, Nicky Shorey and Somon Tchoyi were all released as Clarke starts rebuilding at the midlands club.
Prediction – 17th
West Ham United
Last season – Play off winners
A busy summer at Upton Park has seen James Collins, Mohamed Diame, Alou Diarra, Jussi Jaaskelainen and George McCartney join the Hammers while Rob Green left to join London rivals Qpr. Boss Sam Allardyce will be hoping his side’s experience will be crucial as they aim to establish West Ham as a Premier League side once more.
Prediction – 13th
Last season – 15th
Once again the Latics defied all the odds and predictions that they would be one of the sides relegated last season but can they do it once more? Roberto Martinez has done a remarkable job with limited resources and this summer has seen Hugo Rodallega, Chris Kirkland and Mohamed Diame exit the DW Stadium with star man Victor Moses also being strongly linked with a move to Chelsea while defender Ivan Ramis joined from Spanish side Real Mallorca.
Prediction – 20th