The new English Premier League season kicks off on Saturday to much anticipation, so here’s Sports Pundit’s guide after an interesting off-season.
Last season; 3rd’‘Most goals; Cesc Fabregas (15)'’Most assists; Cesc Fabregas (15)
Arsene Wenger’s young Gunners push the top two for a long part of last term, but didn’t have the legs to go with them in the end. Injuries didn’t help, but they were probably short a striker.
Ins’‘Marouane Chamakh (Bordeaux), Laurent Koscielny (Lorient)'’Outs’‘Philippe Senderos (Fulham), Sol Campbell (Newcastle), Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk), William Gallas (released), Mikael Silvestre (released)Arsenal will re-build their defence with several veteran moving on in favour of Frenchman Koscielny. Moroccan star Chamakh is a big signing as Wenger tries to find someone to score 15-20 goals a season.Sports Pundit prediction; 4th'’Key player; Cesc Fabregas’‘Player to watch; Marouane Chamakh’’
The Gunners promise a lot, but haven’t delivered in recent times. On paper, their squad still appears to lack the quality required to genuinely press for the title, while they still want a goalkeeper.
Last season; 6th’‘Most goals; Gabriel Agbonlahor (13)'’Most assists; James Milner (12)
The Villains had another excellent campaign last term, pressing for the Champions League places, before claiming a sixth place finish. They did beat some of the big boys last season in a good sign.
Ins’‘n/a'’Outs’‘Nicky Shorey (West Bromwich), Wilfried Bouma (released), Marlon Harewood (Blackpool)Boss Martin O’Neill walked from Villa Park and that’s reportedly got a lot to do with the club’s transfer activity. There’s no major ins and outs at this stage, but there’s talk of selling stars like James Milner.Sports Pundit prediction; 8th'’Key player; Ashley Young’‘Player to watch; Gabriel Agbonlahor’’
O’Neill’s departure will require some recovering from for Villa, especially at this late stage, but if they retain their top players they’re capable of pushing for Europe again.
Last season; 9th’‘Most goals; Cameron Jerome (11)'’Most assists; Cristian Benitez (5)
Brum manager Alex McLeish did a wonderful job with Birmingham City last term, taking them to an unexpected top-half finish in their first season back in the Premiership with their stringent defence. But will it be a case of the second-year blues?
Ins’‘Ben Foster (Manchester United), Nikola Zigic (Valencia), Enric Valles (NAC Breda)'’Outs’‘Joe Hart (Manchester City (Loan Return)), Gary McSheffrey (Coventry), Cristian Benitez (Santos Laguna), Franck Queudrue (released), Teemu Tainio (released), Gregory Vignal (released)Goalkeeper Hart was a revelation last term, but Foster is a more-than-useful replacement. The underwhelming Benitez departs, while big Serbian striker Zigic arrives and he’ll be central to their attack.Sports Pundit prediction; 13th'’Key player; Roger Johnson’‘Player to watch; Nikola Zigic’’
Birmingham proved difficult to break down last season and McLeish will hope to continue that trend. If Zigic settles in up front and scores goals, they’ll push for another top-half finish.
Last season; 10th’‘Most goals; David Dunn (9)'’Most assists; Morten Gamst Pedersen (7)
Rovers boss Sam Allardyce did well guiding Blackburn to a top-half finish last season. Ewood Park became a fortress which none of the big four could break down, while Rovers’ set-pieces were a major feature of their success.
Ins’‘Mame Biram Diouf (Manchester United - Loan)'’Outs’‘Steven Reid (West Bromwich)Allardyce has been frustrated by Blackburn’s lack of funds for transfer activity. They’ve tried to sell Vince Grella and Jason Roberts but haven’t had takers, so they’ve settled for a loan deal for Diouf is a something of a gamble at this level.Sports Pundit prediction; 11th'’Key player; Christopher Samba’‘Player to watch; Martin Olsson’’
On paper, Blackburn don’t appear to have many goals in them and that could prevent them from pushing on from last season’s success. With a solid defence, though, they should comfortably survive.
Last season; 6th in Championship, promotion via playoffs’‘Most goals; Charlie Adam (18)'’Most assists; Charlie Adam (8)
Tipped by some pundits to be relegated from the Championship last season, Ian Holloway’s Tangerines surprised everyone by qualifying for the playoffs. They surprised everyone even more when they claimed promotion to the Premiership.
Ins’‘Marlon Harewood (Aston Villa), Chris Basham (Bolton), Craig Cathcart (Manchester United), Eliot Grandin (CSKA Sofia), Dekel Keinan (Maccabi Haifa), Ludovic Sylvestre (Mlada Boleslav), Malaury Martin (Monaco)'’Outs’‘Ben Burgess (Notts County), Stephen McPhee (retired)Holloway has pushed through a bunch of late deals for players unproven at this level. There’s nothing inspiring for Blackpool fans though, except for Harewood who could be a handful for opposition defences.Sports Pundit prediction; 20th'’Key player; Marlon Harewood’‘Player to watch; Charlie Adam’’
Survival is the goal and if they achieve it, it will be a minor miracle.
Last season; 14th’‘Most goals; Matthew Taylor & Ivan Klasnic (8)'’Most assists; Kevin Davies (7)
Gary Megson was sacked last term and Owen Coyle came in and helped the Trotters to survival. Bolton fans will be hoping they can push on from there.
Ins’‘Robbie Blake (Burnley), Martin Petrov (Manchester City), Marcos Alonso (Real Madrid)'’Outs’‘Chris Basham (Blackpool), Nicky Hunt (Bristol City), Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan – Loan)Petrov is an exciting addition at Reebok Stadium, while they’ve re-signed impressive striker Ivan Klasnic.Sports Pundit prediction; 10th'’Key player; Jussi Jaaskelainen’‘Player to watch; Lee Chung-Yong’’
In Coyle’s first full season in charge Bolton fans can expect a reasonable midtable finish. They should be good enough to avoid a relegation battle.
Last season; Champions’‘Most goals; Didier Drogba (29)'’Most assists; Frank Lampard (17)
In Carlo Ancelotti’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge the Blues showed resolve and quality to claim the Premiership by one point from Manchester United. An exceptional campaign for Chelsea.
Ins’‘Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool), Ramires (Benfica), Matej Delac (Inter Zapresic)'’Outs’‘Joe Cole (released), Ricardo Carvalho (Real Madrid), Michael Ballack (Bayer Leverkusen), Miroslav Stoch (Fenerbahce), Juliano Belletti (Fluminense), Deco (Fluminense), Scott Sinclair (Swansea City)Not a lot of major changes for Chelsea although the departure of Carvalho is a blow to their defence, while Benayoun effectively replaces Cole. Ramires’ impact will be interesting.Sports Pundit prediction; 2nd'’Key player; Didier Drogba’‘Player to watch; Florent Malouda’’
There’s plenty of hype suggesting this season’s title race will be wide open, but surely it’s only out of Chelsea and Manchester United. Not much separates them.
Last season; 9th’‘Most goals; Louis Saha (13)'’Most assists; Leighton Baines (8)
After a typical Toffees slow start, David Moyes’ men finished off their campaign in a lofty ninth place finish. Saha’s goals were crucial but Everton probably conceded a few too many to challenge for Europe.
Ins’‘Jermaine Beckford (Leeds United), João Silva (Deportivo Aves), Ján Mucha (Legia Warsaw)'’Outs’‘Dan Gosling (Newcastle)Not much change at Goodison Park, although Beckford’s arrival bolstered their attacking options, while the departure of young prospect Gosling was disappointing.Sports Pundit prediction; 7th'’Key player; Tim Cahill’‘Player to watch; Mikel Arteta’’
Moyes continues to do good things at Everton and another top-half finish is expected, but a push for Europe would be ideal.
Last season; 12th’‘Most goals; Bobby Zamora (8)'’Most assists; Bobby Zamora & Erik Nevland (4)
The Cottagers had another solid campaign last term, but their Europa League experiences – where they reached the final – was a distraction. The worry is manager Roy Hodgson is gone, but Mark Hughes replaces him.
Ins’‘Philippe Senderos (Arsenal), Jonathon Greening (West Brom - Permanent)'’Outs’‘Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Erik Nevland (Viking)Senderos is a welcome addition to Fulham’s stringest defence but he may struggle to break Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes’ partnership. A lot depends on if goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer stays.Sports Pundit prediction; 12th'’Key player; Brede Hangeland’‘Player to watch; Clint Dempsey’’
Fulham have consolidated their place among England’s elite since Hodgson’s arrival, so with him departing, Hughes will need to find his place at Craven Cottage. Plenty of challenges lay ahead and this may not be a totally comfortable season for Fulham.
Last season; 7th’‘Most goals; Fernando Torres (18)'’Most assists; Steven Gerrard (7)
Last term was a disastrous campaign for Liverpool, as they slumped to a forgettable seventh place finish. Rafa Benitez has been moved on and Fulham’s Roy Hodgson arrives as a steady hand.
Ins’‘Joe Cole (Chelsea), Christian Poulsen (Juventus), Jonjo Shelvey (Charlton), Milan Jovanovic (Standard Liege), Danny Wilson (Rangers)'’Outs’‘Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea), Albert Riera (Olympiacos), Philipp Degen (VfB Stuttgart - Loan)Hodgson has made plenty of shrewd acquisitions with Cole’s arrival the trump signing. Benayoun’s departure is a blow, but the Reds have held onto Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard is a big boost.Sports Pundit prediction; 3rd'’Key player; Steven Gerrard’‘Player to watch; Joe Cole’’
Liverpool’s new boss has brought a refreshing approach to Anfield and the club appears much more positive. The Reds should return to the top four, but probably won’t have the quality for a title challenge.
Last season; 5th’‘Most goals; Carlos Tevez (23)'’Most assists; Craig Bellamy (10)
Big-spending City did not achieve their goals last term, by missing out on the UEFA Champions League. Mark Hughes got the chop and Roberto Mancini improved their fares, but still couldn’t deliver. So now they’ve spent big and expectations are even higher.
Ins’‘Jerome Boateng (Hamburg SV), Yaya Toure (FC Barcelona), Mario Balotelli (Inter Milan), David Silva (Valencia), Joe Hart (Birmingham - Loan Return), Aleksandar Kolarov (Lazio)'’Outs’‘Martin Petrov (Bolton), Valeri Bojinov (Parma – Permanent), Javi Garrido (Lazio), Sylvinho (released), Benjani Mwaruwari (released), Stuart Taylor (released), Nedum Onuoha (Sunderland - Loan)Plenty of major arrivals at Eastlands, with Toure and Balotelli headlining that list, while the return of Hart could be the biggest boost. *Sports Pundit prediction; 5th'’Key player; Carlos Tevez’‘*Player to watch; Mario Balotelli’’
Mancini has the unenviable task of taking the Sky Blues to the top of the English game or get the flick, but he’s got the resources to do so. Nevertheless, City’s off-season signings probably don’t match the money they’ve spent. This may be another season of underachievement for them.
Last season; 2nd’‘Most goals; Wayne Rooney (26)'’Most assists; Ryan Giggs (11)
Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils were runners-up last term with Chelsea defeating them twice throughout the campaign, ultimately the decisive factor. Wayne Rooney was irresistable at times, but injury curtailed him at the crucial time and United fell a point short.
Ins’‘Javier Hernandez (CD Guadalajara), Chris Smalling (Fulham)'’Outs’‘Ben Foster (Birmingham), Zoran Tosic (CSKA Moscow), Danny Welbeck (Sunderland – Loan), Craig Cathcart (Blackpool), Mame Biram Diouf (Blackburn - Loan)Hernandez is an interesting acquisition after a bright World Cup. With no major outs, United appear very strong again.Sports Pundit prediction; Champions'’Key player; Wayne Rooney’‘Player to watch; Antonio Valencia’’
Ferguson and his Red Devils will be motivated by last season’s second-place. Little separated the Red Devils and Chelsea, so they can close the gap and if Rooney fires, go all the way.
Last season; Champions in Championship’‘Most goals; Kevin Nolan & Andy Carroll (17)'’Most assists; Danny Guthrie (12)
The Magpies will make an instant return to the Premier League after manager Chris Hughton guided them to top spot in the Championship last term. It was a year to restore confidence at St James’ Park.
Ins’‘Sol Campbell (Arsenal), Dan Gosling (Everton), James Perch (Nottingham Forest)'’Outs’‘Nicky Butt (released), Fabrice Pancrate (released)Campbell will add experience to Newcastle’s defence, while Gosling is a handy pick-up in midfield. Some good work by the Magpies.Sports Pundit prediction; 9th'’Key player; Danny Guthrie’‘Player to watch; Andy Carroll’’
Stability seems to have been restored at St James’ Park and after making some useful additions, Hughton’s Magpies should be able to push on.
Last season; 11th’‘Most goals; Matthew Etherington (5)'’Most assists; Matthew Etherington (8)
Another impressive campaign by the Potters in the Premiership, as Tony Pulis eased them to a comfortable midtable finish. Britannia remains a fortress, but goals were a problem last term.
Ins’‘Kenwyne Jones (Sunderland)'’Outs’‘Jamie Beattie (Rangers), Andy Griffin (Reading), Ibrahima Sonko (Portsmouth - Loan), Steve Simonsen (Sheffield United), Amdy Faye (released), Carl Dickinson (Portsmouth - Loan)Jones arrives as Pulis’ answer to their goal woes, while Beattie moves on after an ordinary campaign.Sports Pundit prediction; 18th'’Key player; Kenwyne Jones’‘Player to watch; Rory Delap’’
Pulis’ Stoke eased to safety last term, but clubs may soon begin to work out their game and over-reliance on set-pieces. The Potters desperately need a striker to score 10-15 goals this season.
Last season; 13th’‘Most goals; Darren Bent (24)'’Most assists; Andy Reid (6)
In Steve Bruce’s first season in charge at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland avoided a relegation battle with Darren Bent scoring plenty of goals and finished up a respectable 13th.
Ins’‘John Mensah (Olympique Lyon – Loan), Titus Bramble (Wigan), Nedum Onuoha (Manchester City – Loan), Cristian Riveros (Cruz Azul), Darren Welbeck (Manchester United – Loan), Simon Mignolet (Sint Truiden), Ahmed Al-Muhammadi (ENPPI), Marcos Angeleri (Estudiantes La Plata)'’Outs’‘Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City), Lorik Cana (Galatasaray), Marton Fulop (Ipswich Town), Daryl Murphy (Celtic), Nyron Nosworthy (Sheffield United - Loan)Plenty of changes at Sunderland in this summer, with the departure of Jones a problem for the Black Cats’ attacking options. Mensah and Bramble join Michael Turner at the back to add strength and steel.Sports Pundit prediction; 15th'’Key player; Michael Turner’‘Player to watch; Darren Bent’’
The Black Cats are good enough to avoid the drop, but a lack of goals could hold them back. They need to make the Stadium of Light a nightmare for opposition sides.
Last season; 4th’‘Most goals; Jermain Defoe (18)'’Most assists; Aaron Lennon (10)
Harry Redknapp has brought plenty of success to White Hart Lane as they broke the big four last term, claiming a place in the UEFA Champions League. Talk of pushing on and pressing for the title is premature, but it shows their ambition.
Ins’‘Sandro (Internacional)'’Outs’‘Adel Taarabt (QPR), John Bostock (Hull City - Loan)No major changes at Spurs this summer.Sports Pundit prediction; 6th'’Key player; Luka Modric’‘Player to watch; Gareth Bale’’
It will difficult for Tottenham to back up last season’s heroics. They’ve retained the bulk of their squad but with their additional European commitments, it won’t be easy.
Last season; 2nd in Championship’‘Most goals; Graham Dorrans & Chris Brunt (13)'’Most assists; Graham Dorrans (19)
England’s yoyo club, West Brom, are back in the top flight after Roberto Di Matteo guided them to second spot in the Championship. Young pair Dorrans and Brunt hinted a bright future at the Hawthorns.
Ins’‘Boaz Myhill (Hull City), Gabriel Tamas (AJ Auxerre), Nicky Shorey (Aston Villa), Steven Reid (Blackburn), Pablo Ibanez (Atletico Madrid)'’Outs’‘Jonathon Greening (Fulham - Permanent), Robert Koren (Hull City), Andwele Slory (released), Borja Valero (Villarreal - Loan)Albion have added depth to their squad with Tamas, Shorey and Reid. They haven’t lost any key players from last season’s promotion-winning side which is a plus.Sports Pundit prediction; 17th'’Key player; Scott Carson’‘Player to watch; Graham Dorrans’’
The Baggies will hope to avoid another instant drop down to England’s second tier after winning promotion. Di Matteo is a smart boss and he’ll be optimistic they can survive. If they do, it’ll be a good season.
West Ham United
Last season; 17th’‘Most goals; Carlton Cole (10)'’Most assists; Mark Noble (4)
It was a campaign to forget for the Hammers last term, as the flirted with relegation for long periods. Gianfranco Zola got sacked at the end of it and Avram Grant takes charge.
Ins’‘Thomas Hitzlsperger (Lazio), Pablo Barrera (UNAM), Frederic Piquionne (Lyon), Tal Ben Haim (Portsmouth – Loan), Winston Reid (FC Midtjylland)'’Outs’‘Guillermo Franco (released), Ilan (released)West Ham have made plenty of good signings in the off-season, with Hitzlsperger, Piquionne and Ben Haim all players who’ve performed at this level before.Sports Pundit prediction; 16th'’Key player; Carlton Cole’‘Player to watch; Jack Collison’’
Simply surviving won’t be enough in Grant’s first season in charge. Last term was disappointing for the Hammers and pushing towards the top half will be expected.
Last season; 16th’‘Most goals; Hugo Rodallega (10)'’Most assists; Charles N’Zogbia (6)
In his first season in charge of a Premiership outfit Roberto Martinez had his moments but ultimately he only narrowly guided the Latics to safety. Much more is expected this season.
Ins’‘Mauro Boselli (Estudiantes La Plata), Ronnie Stam (FC Twente), Antolin Alcaraz (Club Brugge), Ali Al-Habsi (Bolton - Loan)'’Outs’‘Titus Bramble (Sunderland), Mario Melchiot (Umm Salal), Jason Koumas (Cardiff City - Loan)Martinez has lost some key defenders but made some interesting additions particularly South American pair Boselli and Alcaraz.Sports Pundit prediction; 19th'’Key player; Gary Caldwell’‘Player to watch; Hugo Rodallega’’
Martinez might face a race against time as he tries to get Wigan playing the football he wants. Results will be the key and it might not happen. A difficult season ahead.
Last season; 15th’‘Most goals; Kevin Doyle (9)'’Most assists; Nenad Milijas, Matthew Jarvis & Christophe Berra (3)
Mick McCarthy steered Wolves clear of the drop last term in a successful season. Consolidating their place in the Premiership will be the goal for this term.
Ins’‘Stephen Hunt (Hull City), Jelle Van Damme (Anderlecht), Steven Fletcher (Burnley), Steven Mouyokolo (Hull City)'’Outs’‘Chris Iwelumo (Burnley), Andrew Surman (Norwich City), Jason Shackell (Barnsley), Sam Vokes (Bristol City – Loan), Stefan Maierhofer (MSV Duisburg - Loan)McCarthy has re-united Irish pair Hunt and Doyle – from their Reading days – in a decent move. Wolves have also made some shrewd signings in Fletcher, while not losing any key players.Sports Pundit prediction; 14th'’Key player; Kevin Doyle’‘Player to watch; Stephen Hunt’’
This season will be all about consolidation for Wolverhampton. Defensively they’ve got some worries, but with Doyle and Hunt in attack, they should surprise a few people.