Premier League Preview - Part 2

Friday, 14 August 2009


Here we go with Part 2 of my Premier League Preview ahead of the return of the beautiful game tomorrow. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
Liverpool

Desperation. That’s what Liverpool fans are feeling ahead of the new season. For the most decorated club in English footballing history it’s almost beyond belief that Liverpool will start this season not having been crowned domestic champions in 20years.

The league title is what the fans crave, and with Manchester United equalling their record of 18 domestic titles it’s now more important than ever for the Kop to end the draught.

It’s hard to believe that Rafa Benitez’s side only lost 2 games last season, scoring a league high of 77 goals and beating eventual champions Manchester United both at Anfield and Old Trafford, and still come away empty handed.

However it does show that they might be on the brink of their first title in two decades. The main aim will be keeping Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres fit. If those two are kept in tip top shape then Liverpool will be lifting the PL trophy come May.

Liverpool knew how to beat the big sides last season, but the struggled against weaker opposition. They clocked up a staggering 11 draws and even got beaten 2-0 by relegated Middlesboro. To win the title they will have to avoid a repeat of this.

Failure won’t be an option this season, and with Kenny Daglish, the man who led them to their last title in 1989 back at the club as Head of the Youth Academy. Who knows, it might be a good omen?

Ended up empty handed last season, it will be different this time round, the title beckons.

Touchline Views: Winners

Manchester City

Is this the year City sheikh up the Top 4? No. But they will certainly give it a go. City have now established themselves as the first major threat of the top 4 dominance in the best part of a decade. They will without a doubt be looking for an improvement of last season’s 10th place finish.

Among fans expectations will be high and after spending £200million in 12 months, they along with the clubs Arab owners will want to see a return.

City however are still all fur coat and no knickers. They have too many strikers, and have a defence about as solid as David Beckham’s career in the MLS, having conceded 50 goals last season.

With Hughes failing to prise John Terry away from Chelsea, and Everton intent on holding on to Joleon Lescott it will be hard for City to crack the top 4 just yet. They should be setting their sights on a place in Europe next year, not in the Champions League, but the Europa League.

Something that may work in City’s favour this season is they have no distraction of European football. So they can begin to lay the foundations for future success.

Touchline Views Prediction: 6th

Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson kicks off his 36th season in management and is faced with a remodelled Manchester United side following the departure of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo.

After winning three Premier League titles in a row, the Red Devils now enter unchartered territory, with no team ever winning the league title 4 seasons in a row. United will also look to overtake Liverpool and set as new record of 19 top-flight titles.

One of the biggest shocks this summer was Sir Alex Ferguson securing bargain buy of the year, Michael Owen on a free transfer.

In Owen they have a proven but injury prone striker. It will be interesting to see how his partnership with fellow England striker Wayne Rooney develops. Expect them to shine this season.

Life after Ronaldo? You bet there is, but not just yet. It’s going to be a struggle this season with Liverpool and Chelsea both having strong squads, United could feel themselves on the outside.
Then again Fergie is master of pulling rabbits out of the hat.

Touchline Views Prediction: 3rd

Portsmouth

A year after winning the FA Cup Portsmouth has lost their manager and most of their key players. The endless departures from Fratton Park have left Pompey severely weakened.

To date manager Paul Hart has been given no money to spend despite gaining significant fees from the sales of Glen Johnson and Peter Crouch. This could well be the season Portsmouth end their 6 year stay in the top-flight, unless the new owners come to their rescue, but it doesn’t look likely at the moment.

The players brawling on their pre-season tour shows that there is quite clearly unrest at the club. Who can blame them?

Portsmouth did enough to stay up last season despite shipping 57 goals, and having strikers who couldn’t score. Peter Crouch is the most significant lost having been their top scorer last term with 11 goals, and without a replacement in sight, I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

It may have been minus 10 in Southampton while the sun has been shining brightly in Portsmouth, however it looks like it’s going to be a role reversal this season.

Stormy times lie ahead at Fratton Park, and there is only one way Portsmouth are going, and that is down.

Touchline View Prediction: 20th


Stoke City

Stoke did the impossible last season by staying up, having been written off by everyone. Not only they managed to stay up, they stayed up by quite a margin, finishing 12th place.

Like Reading who have gone before them, they exceeded expectations in their first season only to be sucked straight back down the following year.

They only lost four times at home in 2008-09, but are a changed side away from home picking up only just 10 points from a possible 54, winning only 2 games.

As a manager Tony Pulis boasts a proud record of never having been relegated, despite managing strugglers like Bournemouth, Gillingham, Bristol City, Portsmouth and Plymouth, this is why I think Stoke will stay up again. If anyone can pull it out if the hat he can.

Rory Delap will need to keep firing in those long throws, having been responsible for almost a quarter of Stoke’s goals last season. They will also need to find the right partnership up front, after only scoring 38 goals last season.

Certainly Stoke are a team with more quality than Hull, so I think they’ll remain in the top-flight.

Touchline Views Prediction: 15th

Sunderland

Steve Bruce’s appointment as manager of Sunderland offers hope to a club who have been underperforming for years. Bruce is a man in demand after managing 11 years, after bringing success to Wigan and Birmingham. He will now need to work his magic in the North East.

Sunderland have a squad capable of making the top 10, and backed by new American owner Ellis Short, Bruce has been busy putting his own stamp on the squad.

He’s brought in two quality strikers, who are proven goal scorers, Darren Bent and Fraizer Campbell. If they can form a partnership that can score more goals than last season’s abysmal return of 34 goals, Sunderland have a big chance of making mid-table.

After nearly £70million of investment on players over the last 2 years, both the owners and fans will want to avoid a relegation struggle. The Black Cats only managed to survive by 2points last season, finishing 16th.

The investment on new players has been made, now it’s time to see a return. An improvement on last season will be what the club is looking for. The talent that’s at Bruce’s disposal is unquestionable, and if they click it could be a more positive season, but don’t expect miracles.

Touchline Views Prediction: 14th

Tottenham

With just two points on the board in late October, Harry Redknapp swooped in and heroically steered the club through troubled waters and led them to 8th place, narrowly missing out on a Europa League spot.

This season, Redknapp’s first full term in charge, he will be expected to come close to the club’s first top-four finish since the 1989-90 season.

Having not won away at Anfield, Old Trafford, Arsenal, or Stamford Bridge since way back in 1993, it looks like they won’t be challenging the top-four just yet. Redknapp’s history is also against him, as he has never led a side to a top-four finish.

Last term, Spurs had one of the best defensive home records, conceding only 10 goals during the whole season. They will need to keep that record up again this season, as well as being more attacking at White Hart Lane, where they scored only 21 goals in 19 games.

Redknapp has got three proven goalscorers at his disposal, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and new signing Peter Crouch, who will be yet again reunited with Redknapp, and Defoe. Spurs have got a formidable strike force, and if they can find form in front of goal, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

It’s too tight at the top, but ‘Arry has flashed the cash, wheeled and dealed, ducked and dived, Europe beckons this season.

Touchline Views Prediction: 7th

West Ham

2 years ago West Ham finished 10th place in the Premier League, but who knew a year later they would go one better and finish 9th, under rookie manager Gianfranco Zola.

He has proved many of his doubters wrong, and on limited funds he has managed to put together a team of strong British talent.

West Ham boasts a very impressive English spine, and goalkeeper Rob Green will be looking to impress this season if he’s to become England’s Number 1 for next year’s World Cup.

However, things won’t be as bright for Zola this season as West Ham no longer has the big financial backing that they once had, and will struggle to make mid-table this time round.
Their squad is relatively thin, and will be prone to injury during a long season.

Zola is West Ham’s saviour, and he will once again work his magic this season. His big success last season was helping Carlton Cole develop into an England international.

The Hammers have been quiet on the transfer market with the loan signing of Luis Jimenez from Inter Milan, who is nicknamed the ‘wizard’ for his trickery; he could well be one to watch this season.

Not enough movement in the transfer market could see Zola struggle this season, as the Premier League gets more competitive. The honeymoon period is over and mid-team looks to be a safe bet.

Touchline Views Prediction: 13th

Wigan

Roberto Martinez arrives at Wigan with a reputation as one of the most promising and innovative young managers in the game, after his stunning success with Championship side Swansea. But for now he is unproven at Premier League level.

The likable Spaniard will win plenty of friends this season with his charm, but maybe not enough games. Wigan is very much a rugby league town, so the Lactics could be in for a big scrum this season, after losing Amir Zaki, Mido, Antonio Valencia, and Emile Heskey.

That does not mean there should be a sense of gloom in this corner of Lancashire, after Martinez’s dealings in the transfer market.

He has wasted no time putting together is own squad signing promising striker Jason Scotland from former club Swansea, with fellow countryman Jordi Gomez following suit, after spending last season on loan with Martinez at Swansea.

Perhaps the most interesting of the signings is that of Irish hot prospect James McCarthy. The 18-year-old is certainly set for great things in the future, and will benefit greatly from Martinez’s guidance.

I think Wigan will have a competitive edge this season and will play some exciting football. They will need to start hitting the back of the net more, after missing a whopping 92% of their shots last term.
We can expect more of the same from the Latics, but with Martinez’s vision, they could surprise us all.

Touchline Views Prediction: 11th

Wolves

Wolves roar into the Premier League after an impressive Championship campaign last season, with 27 wins, scoring 80 goals. Unfortunately Mick McCarthy’s record in the Premier League reveals a horrifying 31 defeats from 37 games while he was in charge at Sunderland.

After their romantic appearance in the top-flight back in 2003, Wolves will be looking to avoid the trap this time round. Manager McCarthy has smashed the transfer record for former Reading striker Kevin Doyle, playing £6.5million for the Irishman shows their ambition to be a success this time round.

A bit like Aston Villa in the Premier League, Wolves nearly derailed their promotion chase after Christmas, with a dismal run of games which saw them win only once in 11. If this happens this season they will end up back where they started.

Wolves already have a fantastic advantage of possessing two prolific goalscorers in Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, and Chris Iwelumo. Between them the pair scored 41 goals last season, and if you add Kevin Doyle to that, goals should not be a problem.

However, goals will not be all that’s needed to survive. Something tells me Wolves will start off well, only to end up in relegation battle come the end of the season.

Touchline Views Prediction: 18th

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Touchline Views

This is a football blog by Ian Walsh, covering all aspects of the game - from the Premier League and La Liga to the slightly mental football stories we all love.

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