English Premier League Preview pt.3
Another term of English Premier League football kicks off over the weekend, so the final installment of Sports Pundit’s season preview is perfectly timed.
|We’ll go through the final 6 EPL clubs alphabetically from Stoke City||Stoke through to Wolves>, so you can get an insight into the new campaign and hopefully pick up a few tips for the new Sports Pundit Pan-European fantasy league.|
Dont’ forget to register for the Sports Pundit Pan-European fantasy league which includes players and coaches from Italy, Spain, Germany and, of course, England’s top flight.
Also, if you want to have a look at the first two installment’s of our EPL preview here’s the link for Part 1 (Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn, Bolton, Chelsea, Everton) and Part 2 (Fulham, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Portsmouth)
*Last season;’ 12th (12 wins, 9 draws, 17 losses)*Top scorer;’ Ricardo Fuller (11 goals)
Boss Tony Pulis worked wonders in Stoke’s first season in the Premier League last term, taking his side of nomads up to 12th. Stoke turned Britannia Stadium into a fortress and the points collected at home catapulted them well clear of safety. But the worry is if their woeful away form continues into next year. And, of course, if they follow in the footpath of Ipswich Town and Reading, and suffer a bout second season syndrome, which saw the aforementioned pair go down after an impressive first campaign in the top flight.>
Last term though, Stoke enjoyed a lot of success with set-pieces and Pulis seemed to have his side very organised. Rory Delap’s long-throws were famous and with Stoke’s side of big men they exploited those opportunities. Perhaps though with a bit more study and research from opposition coaches this season, the Potters may not enjoy so much joy, so they’ll need to find a new avenue to goal.
Pulis hasn’t made many changes to his squad, with Dean Whitehead arriving from Sunderland to replace Seyi Olofinjana, the only major move. James Beattie enjoyed a lot of success after his transfer window move last term and with a full season he will help Stoke’s hopes. But Pulis will need to come up with a few new tricks if the Potters are to maintain their premiership status.
**Fantasy Gun; **Rory Delap
Last season, Sunderland enjoyed the basis of a good side, but simply couldn’t turn what was on paper into reality. Replacing Ricky Sbragia with seasoned Premier League boss Steve Bruce should help the Black Cats improve on those matters thus providing optimism for fans, of this season’s only top flight North-East club, that they will avoid another relegation battle.
Bruce, who has done solid jobs at Birmingham City and Wigan in the past, has been backed with cash to spend by the club’s owners, bringing in Fraizer Campbell, Lorik Cana and Lee Cattermole as well as Darren Bent (who is a club record buy). French international Djibril Cisse has departed but Campbell and Bent will be expected to better his output up front, while Cana and Cattermole will hopefully add some craft to the midfield.
In defence, Anton Ferdinand and Danny Collins looked excellent last term and if Bruce can inspire keeper Craig Gordon to return to form, the Black Cats will have a solid foundation. A lot then falls on the new attacking arrivals who will be expected to fire, while Kieran Richardson will be hoping to fulfil his potential. But Bruce, who returns to his native North-East, seems to be a good appointment and the right man to fulfil Snderland’s potential and finally get the side moving in an upwards direction.
Fantasy Gun; Kieran Richardson
*Last season;’ 8th (14-9-15)*Top scorer; ‘Darren Bent (12)
After a couple of interesting years at White Hart Lane, this term looks like a more comfortable year for Spurs fans with Harry Redknapp at the helm and overseeing a more consistent Tottenham side. Redknapp, who has never taken a club to the top four, may believe if the club’s form after he took over in October can continue, he may be able to inspire Tottenham to a European spot or even more.
And Redknapp has bolstered his squad by adding Peter Crouch to re-unite their old FA Cup winning Portsmouth partnership along with Jermain Defoe. Add to that Spurs enjoy the services of Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko and it’s clear they’ve got plenty of firepower, but Redknapp will need to somehow accommodate them all. Up back, Spurs have sensibly signed a new centre-half in the shape of impressive ex-Newcastle man Sebastien Bassong and he’ll have much to do if injury-prone Jonathon Woodgate] or Ledley King have another extended run on the sidelines.
Tottenham have the basis to be at least a top-half club, but they should probably chase a spot in the Europa League. Realistically that’s what they’ll be aiming for and if Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon can create enough, then their accomplished forwards will likely to do their job. Defensively, there are question marks over Woodgate and King’s fitness while Heurelho Gomes improved in the latter half of last term but still doesn’t install great confidence. But a settled Spurs side under Redknapp should be in the race for European football.
**Fantasy Gun; **Aaron Lennon
*Last season; *‘9th (14-9-15)**Top scorer; ‘Carlton Cole (10)
Gianfranco Zola, alongside assistant Steve Clarke, have done a fantastic job at Upton Park with West Ham playing nice football and getting good results. It bodes well for the Hammers, and despite the financial worries of their former Icelandic owners, West Ham fans might feel they can better last season’s 9th place finish and perhaps even reach Europe.
Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker and Carlton Cole all impressed last term and effectively formed the spine for West Ham’s success. Zola has added to that bunch with skilful attacking midfielder Luis Jimenez arriving on loan from Internazionale as well as few other exciting youngsters. Zola seems to have lost skipper Lucas Neill but the Hammers defence looks to have adequate cover for the Australian.
The good thing about West Ham’s side is the number of youngsters who Zola has brought through and that bodes well. Mark Noble, Mark Tompkins, Jack Collison, Junior Stanislas and Savio Nsereko all will improve. But the worry for the Hammers is their financial problems, which could cripple the club in a crisis. But Zola looks a steady hand so a relegation battle looks unlikely although a European spot may be too much to ask.
Fantasy Gun; Mark Noble
*Last season; *‘11th (12-9-17)**Top scorer;’ Amr Zaki (10)
Wigan have endured a less than positive off-season with a number of big names leaving the DW Stadium including boss Steve Bruce, top scorer Amr Zaki and crafty midfielders Lee Cattermole and Antonio Valencia. It leaves new manager, the rather inexperienced Spaniard Roberto Martinez, with plenty of work to do. Martinez, who had a successful stint at Championship club Swansea City before his appointment at Wigan, is an impressive boss but the Premier League is tough and a lot for the Latics depends on the new man.
Martinez has brought with him a pair of ex-Swansea stars in the shape of creative Spanish midfielder Jordi Gomez and prolific forward Jason Scotland. They, like Martinez, will need to prove themselves at the top level. As well, exciting Irish youngster James McCarthy joins as well as Honduras international Hendry Thomas to bolster Wigan’s rather-depleted midfield stocks.
But all of Wigan’s additions seem gambles and it’s surprising to see a Premier League take such risks but Wigan have done so. Martinez perhaps has done enough to earn such confidence (he has been compared to Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger) but England’s top flight is quite the challenge, as Paul Ince or Sammy Lee will tell you. A relegation scrap or a top-half finish, Martinez could go either way.
Fantasy Gun; Maynor Figueroa
*Last season; *‘Champions (27-9-10)**Top scorer;’ Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (25)
Ex-Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy is back in the top flight with Championship winning Wolverhampton. But after his last ill-fated spell in the top flight, McCarthy will be hoping to do a lot better but he believes he’s learned from his past mistakes. For Wolves’ fans, they’ll be hoping he has, but all indications in pre-season are bright, especially with the wise acquisition of Ireland international Kevin Doyle.
Doyle adds to a bundle of attacking options at Wolves, which includes prolific hitman Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Scotland international Chris Iwelumo and midfielder Michael Kightly, but the latter three do need to prove themselves at the top level. Ebanks-Blake, an ex-Manchester United man, is expected to impress and if he does, he should inspire Wolves to survival. But he’ll be relying on a midfield, which won’t inspire fear into too many Premiership opponents.
McCarthy has also added former Reading stopper Marcus Hahnemann and he’s a top flight keeper who’ll add much-needed confidence to Wolves’ backline which will be tested much more this season. But plenty of Wolves’ side is inexperienced at the top level and their response to the new challenge of Premiership football will be critical in their success. McCarthy, as someone who’s failed in the top flight before, could be the right man to offer them advice, but still a relegation battle is probably on the cards.
Fantasy Gun; Sylvan Ebanks-Blake
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Friday July 24
Bayer Leverkusen> *Last Season;’ 9th (14 wins, 7 draws, 13 losses)*Top Scorer;’ Patrick Helmes (21 goals) The youthful Leverkusen squad will be hoping to improve on last season’s midtable finish under their new experienced boss Jupp Heynckes. More
Saturday October 29
Fulham’s efforts away from home rarely inspire but trips at the moment don’t get any easier than to the DW Stadium and they are worth chancing this weekend. More
Friday July 24
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