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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

The Premier League kicks off here


Thanks to Dan Jones for this belting pre-season preview for Vital Football. The time and effort that he's put into this is just amazing.

Arsenal

Overview - Arsenal have, like many clubs had a summer saga. But this summer saga has been the highest profile. Cesc Fabregas has been subject of 'will he, won`t he` transfer speculation, but at time of writing it appears to be behind the North London club and their captain looks set to stay. Cesc staying is a boost for Arsene Wenger`s side, as he looks to end the club`s dry spell of trophies, last being the FA Cup win in 2005.
Key Player - Robin Van Persie is the latest in a long line of goalscoring talent at Arsenal. Like Thierry Henry and Ian Wright before him, his goals are the key to Arsenal`s success and a fit RVP is a scary proposition for every defence in the league.
One to watch - Jack Wilshere has recently been called up by Fabio Capello to the senior side for England. He has a great future ahead of him and this season could be a big one for him. Wenger will no doubt give him opportunities in the cups, but many will be watching Jack closely if he is afforded a few Premier League starts.
Transfer Business - Marouane Chamakh finally joined the club after a couple of years in which he was linked. This deal was in place within days of the summer transfer window opening. The side have also brought in defender, Laurent Koscielny. Departures include William Gallas and Sol Campbell, who lets face it - are passed their best and Eduardo, who never really recovered from that horrific broken leg suffered 3 years ago.
Prediction - Arsenal will be there or there about, as they always are. Probably chasing the leaders until the last month or two of the season and then fighting for one of the remaining Champions League spots. The fans will probably be hoping for a serious attempt in the domestic cups, just to have some silverware.

My prediction - Fabregas staying is just what the team needed and although I cannot see them winning the league, I am convinced they will finish in the top 4. - 3rd

Aston Villa

Overview - What an intriguing summer it has been for the Villans, James Milner and Ashley Young have both been linked away and now Martin O`Neill has resigned. As I write, there is no replacement for the former manager and there remains uncertainty with regards to Milner`s future. However its not all doom and gloom, a few of the players will be happy to see the manager gone and morale in the dressing room or at least certain parts of it will be a little higher than a few week ago. Can Villa build on their second best Premiership points tally?
Key Player - Richard Dunne was rock solid for the Villa all season, albeit for one mistake in the League Cup final. With Martin Laursen now long gone, Dunne is the leader of the back four and possibly a new captain should the new manager wish to make his mark.
One to watch - Nathan Delfouneso had a few moments here and there to show what he could do last season and Martin O`Neill had been predicting big things for the forward this season, will The Fonz be given his chance to shine under the new manager?
Transfer Business - Wilfred Bouma said goodbye to the fans at the end of the season, and is now a free agent as is Marlon Harewood following the expiration of their contracts. Nicky Shorey has joined West Brom and James Milner looks likely to leave for Man City and Stephen Ireland is touted to be his replacement as part of the deal.
Prediction - Whether O`Neill had stayed or not, with little money to spend its unlikely that Villa will be in serious contention for the top four. Finishing top six again is the likely aim but depending on who the new manager is a mid-table finish could also be on the cards. Its very hard to predict with the manager`s job vacant.

My prediction - I cannot see Villa challenging for top four, because no money has been invested in the team (at time of writing), mid-table beckons. - 9th

Birmingham

Overview - The Blues hit the ground running at the start of last season and talk of relegation disappeared within months. Alex McLeish`s side gate crashed the top half and held on for dear life until the final whistle of the final game. Joe Hart was undoubtedly the star of the team and had many superlatives lavished over him during the course of the season. However Joe is back in contention at Manchester City and his time a Birmingham is now at an end. McLeish moved quickly though to sign Ben Foster from Manchester United and it is hoped Ben will have the same impact as Joe.
Key Player - Roger Johnson has a fantastic season in front of Joe Hart along with his partner Scott Dann. Birmingham`s defence worked well as a unit and Johnson impressed most of all. At one point his form had some calling for him to be included in England`s World Cup squad. With Capello looking to shake things up in the international team its likely Johnson will want to be part of any changes.

One to watch - Craig Gardner, still only young, Craig never really had the opportunity to shine at Aston Villa and although he had a few moments for the Blues following his January move, this is his chance to shine.
Transfer Business - Nikola Zigic is the big signing (literally) and Ben Foster comes in to replace Joe Hart between the sticks, time for Foster to rebuild his reputation and stake a claim for the England number one spot which is likely to be available following a dismal World Cup. Christian Benitez`s loan has ended.
Prediction - Birmingham will want to remain in the mid-table after a fantastic campaign last year and might even fancy their chances at qualifying for the Europa League. They have a good manager and a team with plenty of experience in every department. Relegation looks unlikely but the dreaded second season syndrome has played a part in the downfall of teams before.

My prediction - I think the Blues will enjoy another great season in the league, however I am not sure they will improve on last season`s 9th place finish. - 11th

Blackburn

Overview - After finishing 10th last season and reaching the League Cup semi-finals, Sam Allardyce will be desperate for a successful season at the Lancashire club. Not much transfer activity at Ewood Park and possibly the only interesting bit of news has been related to two of their goalkeepers. Paul Robinson, who missed out on the World Cup squad, was called up to the England side for a friendly against Hungary and then sensationally retired from International football, his replacement was team mate Frank Fielding despite having never played a game for Rovers.
Key Player - Christopher Samba is a huge player for the club, both physically and defensively. As well as his ability as a central defender he is also capable of scoring goals and has been known to do so during the course of the season.
One to watch - Alan Judge spend a year and a half on loan at Plymouth Argyle and despite some talk at the start of the summer that he might be on his way out of Ewood Park, he remains. Perhaps Big Sam has decided to give Alan a go in the first team this season following a lack of signings.
Transfer Business - Mame Biram Diouf joins on loan from Manchester United and will add a few goals to the Blackburn attack. Steven Reid has moved to West Bromwich Albion and Yildiray Basturk has also left after failing to make an impact during his short term contract at the club.
Prediction - Blackburn will want to finish in the top half, safe from the threat of relegation and that is pretty likely, given the team`s performance over the course of last season. You can guarantee Sam will do all he can to strengthen the side before the end of the transfer window too.

My prediction - I think Blackburn are in for a good season and although they are unlikely to climb any higher than last year, matching it is real possibility. - 10th

Blackpool

Overview - After beating Cardiff in the play off final, Ian Holloway and his team are looking forward to travelling to the finest stadiums in the country and making the most of what many believe will be a short stay in the top flight. Ian Holloway is not the fool many like to think he is, if you look past the jokes and his undoubted wit you will find an experienced manager who is preparing to do battle with the likes of Alex Ferguson, Carlo Ancelotti and Arsene Wenger, this is his chance to establish his reputation as one of the best managers in Britain.
Key Player - Marlon Harewood has signed after his release from Aston Villa and although there is a joke in there somewhere about Blackpool and donkey`s, Marlon is actually a pretty decent Premiership forward. Perhaps not for a top six side like Villa but for a team who need goals in order to beat the drop, Marlon is the man.
One to watch - I am going with another of their new recruits, Craig Cathcart. The 21 year old centre back has been capped by Northern Ireland at under-21 level and is touted to make the step up to their senior side. This move presents him with an opportunity to show everyone what he is capable of on the Premiership stage.
Transfer Business - Marlon Harewood and Craig Cathcart as mentioned above plus a handful of other new recruits including Malaury Martin formerly of Monaco. Ben Burgess joins Notts County and Stephen McPhee has been forced to retire due to injury.
Prediction - Every year there seems to be a surprise package from the promoted sides, Reading, Hull City and Birmingham City have all punched above their weight in recent years so it would be foolish to totally write off Blackpool`s chances. However it is pretty safe to say their aim this season is survival, pure and simple.

My prediction - Despite saying it would be foolish to write them off, I am going to. I am probably a fool, but with little investment its hard to see Holloway`s men staying up. - 20th

Bolton

Overview - This time last year, a very unpopular Gary Megson was manager of Bolton, now the very popular Owen Coyle has the reins. Bolton possess a team of international footballers and are very capable of mixing it up with anyone in the league on their day. At the moment I think Bolton are too strong to go down but a few injuries might hamper their chances of survival.
Key Player - Gary Cahill is the man every neutral seems to talk about, the big centre half is as good as any outside of the top four and in fact is quite often linked to top four sides. The former Villa man will play a key part for Bolton this season, no doubt about that.
One to watch - Martin Petrov chose Bolton over a few other clubs in Europe who wanted to sign him. The former Man City man looked good a couple of years ago and it will be interesting to see if Owen Coyle can help him rediscover that sort of form.
Transfer Business - Martin Petrov has winged his way in (pun very much intended), Robbie Blake links up with his former Burnley boss Coyle, Marcos Alonso arrives from Real Madrid and Ivan Klasnic has joined the club on a permanent basis. Tom Eaves joins from Oldham Athletic after bagging himself a hat-trick against Bolton in pre-season friendly earlier in the summer.
Prediction - Somewhere between the relegation zone and mid-table I reckon. Its going to be take abit of luck to climb any higher than that.

My prediction - I think Bolton will spend most of the season fighting off relegation and will manage to beat the drop. - 15th

Chelsea

Overview - Carlo Ancelotti did not suffer the same fate as Avram Grant and Phil Scolari before him, probably because he delivered the title. And now he has a second season at the club to look forward too. The Italian proved why he was so successful at AC Milan by preventing Manchester United winning a 4th consecutive title. But with the Chelsea side becoming increasingly older, this Didier Drogba for example will be 33 at the end of the season. Are they getting too old or does the experience of this squad ensure they will be lifting the title come May?
Key Player - Michael Essien has had two injury plagued campaigns and will be hoping its now all behind him. Two seasons ago, he was the key man for Chelsea and I believe they are a far better team with this guy in the midfield.
One to watch - Ashley Cole has made several comments in the press about England and despite links to Real Madrid, looks likely to remain on these shores. He remains one of the best, if not thee best left backs in the world. But unfortunately for him, he is the most hated man in Britain, he gets a lot of stick from fans which although sometimes justified can be in the most part a little over the top. Following his comments about hating English people, I expect him to have a frosty reception at every away ground this season. I will be watching him closely to see how he reacts to the abuse I believe he will receive, will he struggle or will he thrive?
Transfer Business - Yossi Benayoun comes in from Liverpool as their major signing however Joe Cole has gone the other way, almost a like for like transfer. Michael Ballack and Deco have both returned to their homelands as they approach their twilight years.
Prediction - Chelsea will be up there, no doubt. The only question is whether they can retain their title with a team of older players. John Terry is not the player he once was and Lampard and Drogba are into their 30`s now. It will be interesting to see if Ancelotti brings any of his younger players through during this campaign.

My prediction - I can only see a two horse race for the title and Chelsea will be fighting Manchester United for the crown, this year though, I think they will just miss out. - 2nd

Everton

Overview - Everton failed to finish in the top six last season for the first time in a while, however that could be down to another injury plagued season. Just about every player last season had an injury at one point or other, or at least that seemed to be the case. With everyone fit though, the Toffees are a brilliant team under the leadership of a fantastic manager, David Moyes.
Key Player - Mikel Arteta was touted as a possible replacement for Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal but with him staying put, and Arteta recently signing a new deal, that particular transfer looks extremely unlikely. Everton are well aware of how important that piece of news is, and will be hoping Mikel can stay fit for the whole season, if he does a push for the top4 is even more likely.
One to watch - Seamus Coleman is my pick, not Jack Rodwell as many would go for, as we all already know what a fine player Rodwell is. But Coleman is the player many Everton are raving about at the moment; the 21 year old Irish right back has only played a handful of games for the team but looked good during his short loan spell at Blackpool last season. During his time at Blackpool, he signed a new long term contract with Everton and its looks as though he is very much part of Moyes` plans.
Transfer Business - Jermaine Beckford was linked to almost every club this summer but opted to join the Merseysiders on a free transfer from Leeds and he could prove to be a very good signing. Magaye Gueye, Joao Silva and Slovakian Keeper Jan Mucha have also arrived and Dan Gosling has left the club on a free transfer.
Prediction - A possible push for fourth, but a top six finish would be the aim. A bad season for Everton would be finishing in the bottom half, but with a strong squad it`s unlikely.

My prediction - Everton don`t have mega bucks to spend but already possess a strong team and manager, so they should be able to compete. - 7th

Fulham

Overview - After two fantastic seasons, first qualifying for Europe and then reaching the final of the Europa League, it must have been sad for the Fulham fans to see Roy Hodgson go. And with very few good managers available, Mark Hughes would have been a popular choice for the job, although Martin Jol was offered the role first, Hughes is in no way a consolation prize but more a man, who despite proving his credentials at Blackburn Rovers will want to prove those who doubt his ability, wrong. He was never given a fair chance with Man City and considering Roberto Mancini provided no improvement; it does beg the question was Hughes simply getting the best out of an average team with a few big names thrown in.
Key Player - Mark Schwarzer was superb last season and although Arsenal have allegedly been sniffing around, as it stands the Australian looks likely to remain at Craven Cottage. Great news for the club as they will be hoping to qualify for Europe again, following a dazzling journey to the final earlier in the year.
One to watch - Andrew Johnson has been struggling with persistent knee problems over the last year or so and once fit could take a lot pressure off Bobby Zamora by adding some goals to the frontline. It`s a cliché in football but it will be like having a new signing when he returns to fitness.
Transfer Business - Philippe Senderos joins from Arsenal to strengthen the back line and Jonathan Greening`s loan has been made permanent. No major departures for Fulham except possibly Chris Smalling, who has joined Manchester United.
Prediction - New manager at the helm, its always hard to predict but Mark Hughes has inherited a strong side that has just played in a Europa League final, and although their league performance last term was not the best, without the distraction of Europe this season anything is possible.

My prediction - I rate Mark Hughes highly and believe Roy Hodgson left behind strong foundations on which to build, it should be a good season for Fulham. - 8th

Liverpool

Overview - Liverpool have been at the centre of most of this most intriguing headlines and rumours. First of all Rafa Benitez left the club, then Roy Hodgson was appointed, Joe Cole was soon signed on a free transfer, Steven Gerrard pledged his future to the club, Fernando Torres then revealed his desire to remain despite lots of talk about his future and now it looks like them nasty Americans might be selling up. So all in all, a good summer for the Scousers.
Key Player - Joe Cole arrives from Chelsea and will be a key player from day one. Under Rafa, wingers never really got a chance, but if Hodgson uses Joe Cole in that particular role it will add a whole new dimension to their attack, which up until now has been predominately going through the middle of the park.
One to watch - Jonjo Shelvey arrived from Charlton Athletic earlier in the summer and the 18 year old midfielder is very well thought of. If given a chance in the Liverpool first team it will be interesting to see how he gets on after a very impressive season in League One.
Transfer Business - As well as Cole and Shelvey, Milan Jovanovic has completed his move to Anfield to add options in attack and Danny Wilson has moved south of the border to show Premiership audiences why he was so popular at Rangers. Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera have both left the club.
Prediction - Anything is possible now with Hodgson at the helm and after last season`s dismal finish its likely things cannot get any worse. Torres and Gerrard staying is a major boost though midfield general Javier Mascherano looks likely to leave, a replacement is a must.

My prediction - Liverpool will improve on last season but I believe they will just miss out on the much coveted fourth place spot - 5th

Man City

Overview - After narrowly missing out on 4th last season, Roberto Mancini has set about strengthening the side in every area. More big name signings have arrived and its safe to say the quality of the side has improved on last season. So can the Citizens finally break into the top4? Mancini will certainly be hoping so, or he could be on his way out. Without the Champions League this season will all those superstars be happy with taking their turn sat on the bench?
Key Player - Kolo Toure is a vastly experienced centre half and will most of team`s strength being in attack, he will be required to keep the defence in top form. Kolo has played in the Champions League so he is used to dealing with the best strikers in Europe and will be the key to shutting out all opposition this season, working alongside new signings Jerome Boateng and Aleksander Kolarov.
One to watch - Joe Hart had a fantastic season at Birmingham City and is set to do battle with Shay Given for the number one spot, all eyes will be on him this season as he also tries to establish himself as the England number one. It`s a big season for young Joe.
Transfer Business - David Silva and Yaya Toure are the two big name signings this season. Kolarov and Boateng (mentioned before) have come in to strengthen the defence. Benjani and Sylvinho are the only departures of note having both been released. At time of writing Stephen Ireland looks set to join Aston Villa as part of a big money deal for James Milner.
Prediction - Man City will be watching Spurs in the Champions League this year and thinking, what if…. However without the distraction of being in the competition, they can concentrate completely on the Premiership, and that could very well work to their advantage.

My prediction - Without doubt Manchester City will be fighting for a Champions League spot this season, its just a question of where they will finish. - 4th

Man Utd

Overview - How many more years does Sir Alex Ferguson have left in him? At the end of the season he will have been with the club for 25 years, there are not too many managers in the history of the sport to have been with a club for a quarter of a century. You might think the hunger would have long gone, but you would be wrong. Man Utd have already won one piece of silverware, the Community Shield and although it`s just another trophy to add to the ever growing list, the fact they beat Chelsea in the final will have made it that little bit sweeter. Now the race begins for the big one, the title. Can Man Utd win it back?
Key Player - Wayne Rooney had a terrible World Cup, but you can guarantee he will be firing on all cylinders this season for the Red Devils. On his day he is the best striker in the world but whether he can put the summer behind him is the question on everyone`s lips. We will soon find out.
One to watch - Javier Hernandez looked impressive in the World Cup and has looked impressive for Man Utd this summer. Its looks as though Sir Alex has done it again and picked up a relatively unknown player who will shine on the big stage. I am looking forward to seeing what this young man can do.
Transfer Business - Hernandez is an exciting signing and the club has also brought in young defender Chris Smalling from Fulham. Ben Foster is perhaps the only sale of note.
Prediction - A bad season for Man United is finishing 3rd, but most people will have them in either 1st or 2nd in their predictions. Ronaldo is now long gone and although the team lost the title to Chelsea last season, I have a feeling they will be lifting the title in May.

My prediction - It`s going to be closely run like every year, but it`s a two horse race for me and Man Utd will win the title. - 1st

Newcastle

Overview - Everyone was shocked when Newcastle United went down two seasons ago, but they are back in the top flight. Although relegation would be as shocking as last time, they are probably the best equipped of all the promoted sides in the history of the Premiership. Chris Hughton did a brilliant job last season in ensuring a quick promotion and now he has an even bigger challenge, keeping the Magpies up.
Key Player - Andy Carroll was banging them in last season and having been given the number 9 shirt, he knows what is expected of him, plenty of goals. The big powerful forward will hope to follow in the footsteps of over legendary number 9s, namely Alan Shearer, Andy Cole and Jackie Milburn.
One to watch - Dan Gosling left Everton under strange circumstances, talk of verbal contract agreements and he eventually opted to leave Goodison Park for a club that seemed more keen to have tied down to a contract. He will want to stick to Everton this season and show them what they are missing.
Transfer Business - Dan Gosling from Everton as mentioned above, also Sol Campbell joins from Arsenal and James Perch joins following an impressive season for Nottingham Forest. Fabrice Pancrate has left the club.
Prediction - Lets be honest, anything is possible this season from relegation to a top half finish. There is definitely plenty of quality in the side with players like Alan Smith, Kevin Nolan, Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas.

My prediction - I believe Newcastle are strong enough to stay up, but I cannot see them making a huge impact this season. - 16th

Stoke

Overview - Stoke City have shown over the last two years that they are hear to stay and need to be taken seriously. Tony Pulis has put together a team as strong as any of the mid-table sides. They are a hard working side with plenty of muscle in every department and the signing of Kenwyne Jones just adds further bite to the team.
Key Player - Thomas Sorensen has been one of the most consistent keepers in the league for a very long time and continues to be Stoke`s star man. Interest from European clubs including Bayern Munich shows just how brilliant Sorensen is, and its great news for the team that he will be around again this season.
One to watch - Ryan Shawcross is, like many young English players very aware of the fact England`s more senior players failed to perform at the World Cup and Shawcross knows if he continues with the form of the last two years then he is in with a real shout of being part of Fabio Capello`s future squads.
Transfer Business - Kenwyne Jones joined for £8million, a club record and Florent Cuvelier joined from Portsmouth. Tony Pulis has made it clear that he is still on the look out for further recruitments. There have been three departures though, with Amdy Faye, Steve Simonson and Andy Griffin all moving on.
Prediction - Stoke might very well fancy their chances of qualifying for Europe, but a mid-table place is more likely. Relegation is possible but the team have proven in the last two seasons that they are capable of beating it and will more than likely do so again.

My prediction - There seems to be a lot of competition for a top half finish and although Stoke are one of the stronger teams in the race, they are still not the strongest. - 12th

Sunderland

Overview - To me, Sunderland are an enigma. They have money to spend, a fantastic ground, an amazing set of supporters and a decent manager. However they appear incapable of breaking into the top half of the table. Finishing 13th last season, Steve Bruce and his team will really need to do better to justify the huge sums of money Niall Quinn and the board have pumped into the transfer budget.
Key Player - Darren Bent scored 24 goals in his debut season for the Black Cats. When you consider that figure it makes you wonder why Sunderland finished so low in the league. Bent will no doubt want to continue finding the back of the net this season but he will be without he strike partner Kenwyne Jones, who has now left the club.
One to watch - Danny Welbeck has arrived on loan from Manchester United and all eyes will be on him this season. He scored a few goals for Preston last season but now its time to show everyone what he can do in the top flight.
Transfer Business - Welbeck and Nedum Onouha have arrived on loan and Marcos Angeleri, Titus Bramble and Ahmed Al-Muhammadi come in to improve the back line. Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and midfielder Cristian Riveros have been signed and John Mensah is on loan for another season. Lorik Cana and Kenwyne Jones are the two major sales.
Prediction - Sunderland are good enough to finish in the top half and with a bit of luck they might just manage it, but competition to be up there is fierce.

My prediction - I think Sunderland will have a decent season, but I think their rivals are a little bit stronger, so I suspect they will finish in the bottom half again. - 13th

Tottenham

Overview - What a season, although many predicted Spurs to be amongst those chasing fourth, few had them down to finish there. Full credit to Harry Redknapp for taking the club forward after a torrid time under Juande Ramos. The question now though has to be whether they can do it again, or will they crumble under the pressure and expectation?
Key Player - Goals win games and Jermain Defoe is a forward who knows how to score them. Tottenham have some fantastic players in their team but the thing that seperates them from many of their rivals is the amount of goals their forward line manages to score, and none more so than Defoe.
One to watch - Danny Rose burst onto the scene with a glorious goal against Arsenal minutes into his debut. Although he didn`t feature again last season, it`s likely we will be seeing more of the winger this season.
Transfer Business - 'Arry has not been very busy this summer, though he claims the market will start moving when James Milner completes his move to Man City. However the club have made on acquisition, Sandro joins for £6million from Internacional.
Prediction - As good as the Tottenham team is, they are still a little bit short of the quality possessed by fourth place rivals Man City and Liverpool and considering both those teams have improved their teams and Spurs are yet too, its unlikely Spurs will finish 4th. That said the window is not closed yet and they do have the pull of the Champions League to offer any potential signings.

My prediction - With the Champions League campaign, the team might struggle in the league. By struggle I mean miss out on fourth, but I still think they will be in the top six. - 6th

West Brom

Overview - Boing Boing! They are back again, this time with a new manager, Roberto Di Matteo. Graham Dorrans and Chris Brunt will both be part of the team despite links elsewhere which is a huge boost and the team also have trips to Villa Park, St Andrews and Molineux to look forward to. West Brom have managed to beat the drop once before, can they manage it again?
Key Player - Graham Dorrans is the main man without doubt. He can do just about anything required of a midfielder, he can tackle, pass, cross and perhaps most importantly of all, he can score goals. If West Brom are to beat the drop, they need Dorrans to be playing at his very best.
One to watch - Scott Carson will probably start the season as the club`s number one keeper, but with Boaz Myhill having joined from Hull City, the pressure is on. If Carson makes too many mistakes his place in the starting 11 will be at threat. He also might fancy his chances of getting into the new look England team.
Transfer Business - Boaz Myhill joins from Hull. Nicky Shorey from rivals Aston Villa and Pablo Ibanez, a former Spanish international have both joined to help bolster the back four. Steven Reid has now made his loan move from Blackburn Rovers permanent. Robert Koren and Filipe Teixeira have both been released by the club.
Prediction - A fight for relegation is undoubtedly on the cards, but you can tell by the calibre of signings that the Baggies fancy their chances.

My prediction - I cannot see West Brom staying up, though part of me really hopes they do. Relegation is very likely. - 19th

West Ham

Overview - David Sullivan and David Gold have told everyone who will listen about their transfer targets this summer, Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Joe Cole have all been in this sights this summer, but for whatever reason none have signed. I am sure they have sold plenty of season tickets though, not that I am suggesting that were the intention by mentioning these names……
Key Player - With the way Sullivan and Gold have gone on about Scott Parker every day this summer, I assume he is the key man, but maybe I have been brainwashed? No doubt Scott is a good player on his day and his experience will be required this season as West Ham look to beat the drop.
One to watch - Thomas Hitzlsperger has one of the most ferocious shots in the world, and although he has very little else to his game, you can expect to see one or two contenders for goal of the season from this chap.
Transfer Business - Thomas 'Der Hammer` Hitzlsperger has joined the Hammers this summer but he is joined by Mexican winger Pablo Barrera and Winston Reid join following decent world cups. Avram Grant has also raided former club Portsmouth for two players in Tal Ben-Haim and Frederic Piquionne. Striker Guillermo Franco has left the club.
Prediction - A battle with relegation is most likely but Avram Grant is a brilliant manager and should steer them to safety with a few games to go. Mid-table is possible.

My prediction - Some decent additions to the side that beat relegation last season leads me to believe they will be further up the league this year. - 14th

Wigan

Overview - When you look at Wigan`s squad, you have to wonder if they are capable of beating the drop this season, a lot of their better players have left over the last couple of seasons. However, its not all doom and gloom as Roberto Mancini had a reasonably successful season last year and Hugo Rodallega looks as though he is full of goals. Wigan could surprise a few, including myself.
Key Player - Maynor Figueroa is very popular amongst the club`s fans and the left back is one of the better players at the club. The worry is like Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios before him, will Maynor attract the attention of the bigger clubs in the league through his good performances. Plus with Titus Bramble now at Sunderland, Wigan will have to work extra hard to keep opposition strikers at bay, Figueroa`s importance has certainly increased.
One to watch - Victor Moses arrived last season from Crystal Palace with a reputation of being one for the future. He did play a few games for Wigan last season but we can expect to see more of him this year and watch to see if he can reach the potential many believe him to possess.
Transfer Business - Ronnie Stam and Antolin Alcaraz have arrived to replace Titus Bramble and both bring with them a wealth of experience having played all over Europe. Mauro Boselli and James McArthur have also arrived, and the side have brought in Ali Al Habsi on loan for the season from Bolton. Former captain Mario Melchiot has left the club.
Prediction - Ultimately I think Wigan are in for a relegation battle this season, but I believe they are stronger than most of their rivals and that should help them beat the drop.

My prediction - A fight for survival, possibly just managing to avoid the drop on the final day of the season. - 17th

Wolves

Overview - Wolves survived year one in the Premiership under Mick McCarthy and now is the real test, year two. Can Wolves avoid the dreaded second season syndrome? Unlike their rivals Birmingham, relegation still seems a real possibility and the men from Molineux might have their work cut out. That said some decent signings have arrived and the fans will be looking forward to the season ahead with a sense of optimism.
Key Player - It has to be Kevin Doyle, he was their key man last season and will more than likely be their key man this season. Doyle is a brilliant forward who, when on form can score goals for fun as he proved at Reading. Talking of his time at Reading, his old friend and fellow countryman Stephen Hunt has joined the club this summer, and if they can link up together as they have in the past then Doyle should be able to beat his goal tally from last year.
One to watch - Steven Fletcher joins from relegated Burnley and despite experiencing the heart break of relegation, Fletcher is back in the top flight and ready to link up with Kevin Doyle as McCarthy looks to form a deadly partnership between two of the most talked about strikers in the league last season, well from the bottom half of the table anyway.
Transfer Business - Fletcher and Hunt have both arrived as mentioned above and will both be expected to link up with Doyle and provide the team with more goals than they was scored last season. On top of that the team have a couple of new defenders in the shape of Jelle Van Damme and Steven Mouyokolo. A few players have been shown the door, including George Friend, Chris Iwelumo and Andrew Surman.
Prediction - It`s a tough one to call, because Wolves are more than capable of causing some upsets this season and really have strengthened their team this summer, anything other than a relegation battle though is unlikely.

My prediction - Wolves will battle bravely to beat the drop but unfortunately I think they will be sent back down to the Championship - 18th

So could this be the final league standings?

1 Man Utd
2 - Chelsea
3 - Arsenal
4 Man City
5 Liverpool
6 Tottenham
7 Everton
8 Fulham
9 - Aston Villa
10 Blackburn
11 - Birmingham City
12 Stoke
13 Sunderland
14 West Ham
15 Bolton
16 Newcastle United
17 Wigan
18 Wolves
19 West Brom
20 Blackpool




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The Journalist

Writer: Chris Baldwin Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday August 13 2010

Time: 5:44PM

 

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