Premier League preview – Topped out in the top half

Topped out in the top half

EVERTON

Ins: Steven Naismith (Rangers, free) Steven Pienaar (Spurs, 5m)

Outs: Marcus Hahnemann, Aristote Nasiala, Adam Forshaw, James McFadden, Femi Orenuga (all released) Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls, 1.1m) Joseph Yobo (Fenerbache, 2.2m) Royston Drenthe (Real Madrid, loan return) Denis Stracqualursi (CA Tigre, loan return) Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, 13.2m)

Why they’ll finish in the top half

The Toffees have been a fixture in the top half of the Premier League’s table for the past six seasons thanks to David Moyes’ ability to refresh his squad through some shrewd dealing in the transfer market, both in buying and selling, while integrating talent from Everton’s impressive academy set-up into the first team. The squad is packed with experienced, talented players, starting between the sticks with American international Tim Howard. At the other end of the park, Nikica Jelavic made an impressive debut after his move from Rangers in January. With the Rodwell money, Moyes has made an intriguing pitch to Arsenal and Milan target M’Baye Niang, a 17-year-old French starlet, to continue his development on the blue side of Merseyside.

Why they won’t make Europe

Budget constraints made Everton’s squad one of the thinnest in the top half of the table, even before the sale of Jack Rodwell to Manchester City. Any injuries or suspensions to either Jelavic or Steven Pienaar would badly damage Everton as there are no plausible alternatives for their finishing and creative play within the squad.

Key man

Jelavic’s goals will be key if Everton hopes to realize its European aspirations.

Verdict

Everton continues to punch above its fiscal weight, topping its better financed-rivals across Stanley Park last season. Without a new owner to invest the necessary funds or a new money-spinning stadium, the Toffees appear to be bumping at the ceiling right now.

FULHAM

Ins: Hugo Rodallega (Wigan, free) Mladen Petric (Hamburg, free) Sascha Riether (Cologne, loan)

Outs: Andy Johnson (QPR, free) Danny Murphy (Blackburn, free) Pavel Pogrebnyak (Reading, free) Orlando Sa (AEL Limassol, free) Bjorn Helge Riise (Lillestrom, free) Marcel Gecov, 686k) Dickson Etuhu (Blackburn, 1.6m)

Why they’ll finish in the top half

Martin Jol is one of the cannier operators in England’s top flight and this is reflected in the Cottagers status as one of the Premier League middle powers. Solid at the back and tough to beat at home, Fulham also possesses creativity in the midfield and bite up top. Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey have attracted interest from big clubs in England and beyond while Bryan Ruiz began to justify his fee prior to breaking his foot in April. Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega will be expected to fill the scoring void left by Pavel Pogrebnyak’s departure.

Why they won’t make Europe

The squad has a threadbarish feel to it. Dempsey and Dembele may leave west London before the end of the summer or January. The squad features several players whose age and injury history suggest declining returns, notably Mark Schwarzer, John Arne Riise Damien Duff and Mahamadou Diarra.

Key man

If he stays, American international Dempsey will be relied upon to create and finish opportunities. If he leaves, that burden will fall to Dembele.

Verdict

Sound as the pound, well, at least as much as it used to be prior to the Callaghan government. Freed of the distraction of European football, they should be solidly mid-table, even if they fail to hold on to Dempsey.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Ins: Ben Foster (Birmingham, 4.4m) Yassine El Ghanassy (Gent, loan) Claudio Yacob (Racing Club, free) Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen, free) Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, loan)

Outs: Nickey Shorey, Joe Mattock, Somen Tchoyi, Keith Andrews, Martin Fulop, Paul Scharner (all released)

Why they’ll finish in the top half

While past performance is hardly a guarantee of future results, West Brom have demonstrated increasing returns and all signs point towards that trend continuing. A classic yo-yo club that achieved promotion in 2009/10, the Baggies have sat solidly in the middle of the table, registering 47 points in successive seasons to establish themselves as the leading club in the Midlands. Ben Foster was signed after an impressive season-long loan. Youssuf Mulumbu added both steel and skill in the middle of the park while Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long provide varying types of threats to opposing keepers. The summer saw very interesting additions from outside England as midfielder Claudio Yacob and forward Markus Rosenberg arrived on frees. Highly touted Drogba clone Romelu Lukaku will get a chance to establish his credentials on a season-long loan to The Hawthorns from Chelsea. Another former Blue, Mourinho-era assistant manager coach Steve Clarke, takes over in the technical area from Roy Hodgson.

Why they won’t make Europe

Even with Hodgson’s well-drilled focus on defending, West Brom shipped 51 goals and they have not shopped to improve this area. Clarke is highly regarded as a number two but only has a brief spell as caretaker at St. James Park on his resume as a manager. Lukaku is unproven and may need time to settle in.

Key man

One of the most underrated players in the Premier League, Mulumbu’s contributions in the middle will be crucial for the Baggies to maintain their place.

Verdict

A Midlands version of Alan Curbishley’s Charlton Athletic, West Brom have finally established themselves in the top flight after a 10 years of bouncing between the Premier League and League Championship. They lack the financial muscle to sign the players they will need to advance further. The key is now hanging on to the ones that brought them here.

17 comments
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  1. Just to repeat, CIAO has created a fantasy football league and no worries about finishing last as I have entered a team. The details are:

    Fantasy Soccer League @ http://www.premierleague.com
    Code to join this league: 830093-206999
    League Name: Sofaball

  2. @ewtt

    On the subject of Anderson, Portugese journalist Victor Ferreira has some ideas about why he’s failed to fire at Old Trafford.

  3. £24m for a 29 year old player that has a significant history of injuries. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsenal get the silverware this year and ManU don’t. Or neither get silverware, I suppose. Arsenal still has some business to sort out though, their lineup seems a *tad* weighted to going forward, which would be exasperated if Song goes too. Wouldn’t mind seeing some RvP/Chamakh/Park/Arshevin/Bendtner money turn into a defensive player. Or, perhaps what they need is a bit of coaching/strategy with defense. There has been a steady erosion of goals against since 2007/08

    07/08: 31
    08/09: 37
    09/10: 41
    10/11: 43
    11/12: 49!!!

  4. @Shmish
    Ya really think an Arsenal side which just lost their talisman and attacking predator can “compete for silverware” as Wenger just claimed… again?

    African Cup Nations, a brand new unproven attacking lineup and no fullback cover against the likes of Manyoo, Chelsea, Manciteh?

    Carling Cup… maybe.

    @Goonz
    You shoulda taken that 2:1 Bet on RvP to Manyoo that I offered ya on Bobby’s site! ::)

  5. I can’t wait to see what happens over the course of the season. For better or for worse, I think it’s going to be just as interesting as last year.

  6. @shmish

    If the figures I’m hearing are true, we really had no choice but to sell. RvP has apparently agreed to a 225k/week deal with Beetface, which is laughable. If the 24m fee is true, then he basically paid for Poldi and Giroud with this sale.

    If natural justice prevails, he’ll break his ankle in September and be gone for six months. RvP has earned that sort of karma. And Beetface deserves it for paying so much money for an injury-prone 29-year-old striker when he really needs a central midfielder.

  7. @SL

    Actually, the RvP unfolded pretty much as I predicted on Bobby’s blog so I didn’t need to take your money.

    RvP’s departure won’t hurt us as much as Alex Song leaving for Barcelona. And speaking of that, it sort of puts your rants slagging Songinho last year into a certain perspective — that you didn’t know what you were talking about.

    Barca are going to pay about 20m for Song, which is good business for us, although I do think we’ll lose something with a robust presence in the middle of park. Sahin is class but maybe we go in for Victor Wanyama or Wenger swoops in late and brings in Yann M’Vila on the cheap. You’ve been lobbying for that move for what, three fucking years? It will be interesting to see if your tune of woe changes if M’Vila turns out in red and white.

    Even without RvP and Songinho, we’re well ahead of where we were at the same time last year. Shame you don’t see that. They looked awesome in the Cologne friendly.

  8. @RDM

    After watching the Cologne friendly, I can’t wait for the season to start. Wenger’s changes have really freshened the club. Gervinho, in particular, looks a different player.

    I expect really tight scraps for the league, the final Champions League place and in the relegation scrap.

  9. AG:
    Top notch, bruv. Keep it up.

    Thanks for the Gaelic translation.

    “I don’t know how many neutrals would agree with you about that list.”
    Mebbe, but Lucas and SG were hurt basically the entire season, and Carroll was completely mishandled.

    “A player’s value is only relevant the day his registration gets bought or sold.”
    Agreed, but they should state whether they’re doing their calcs based on a player having 2 years left on his deal, or in the last year of his deal, or whatever. If they’re saying that the prices are in a complete contract vacuum, again, IMvhO, they are skewed.
    —-

    disturbance:
    Geez, if I’da known I’d hurt yer feelings enough to dump me on FB, I’da sent AG a pm…..

    In any event, diminishing an opponent, especially one who has been at the very top of the world game for years, is classless. Period. Defend yer girl on her talent, or rationalize the result all you want, but if someone said Messi only scored cuz the defense played bad and the goalie had a wobbler, what would your response be?

    So, the moral of the story is… you don’t like excuses, unless it’s an American?

  10. As far as Les Gauls go, it’s an awful lot of change for one offseason. Feels like too much, even for The Voyeur.

    Shockingly, I can’t disagree with SL re: ACN, DM (*if* Song leaves, which would s0x0rz IMO) and RB coverage. Love the fact that AFC doesn’t appear to be relying on anyone other than Verm too much, but I’d hate to go into a season with this much talent relying on Coq/Frimmer/Wiltshere too much to be top notch, consistent contributors.

    YMMV. (c:

  11. @AG

    Actually, the RvP unfolded pretty much as I predicted on Bobby’s blog so I didn’t need to take your money.

    *Nice job of covering all bases on that one mate as this was part of your reply on SRE:
    ” I can’t see him leaving this summer. Next summer is obviously a different story.”

    “RvP’s departure won’t hurt us as much as Alex Song leaving for Barcelona. And speaking of that, it sort of puts your rants slagging Songinho last year into a certain perspective — that you didn’t know what you were talking about.”

    * You are right again, as I am sure that Song will replace the likes of Busquets and Xavi as a starter and will be allowed to neglect his defensive duties by marauding up the field like a Clydesdale to provide a few chipped assists to Messi and Villa. Players such as Song are a dime a dozen and he is not imposing, a leader or intelligent on a consistent basis, as evidenced by his moronic haircuts and on field brain-farts. He will be a Scott Parker off the bench at Barca when Busquets or Macherano need a breather.

    My only regret of his departure is he would make a good CB should Kocielny get injured and WHEN Per’s jelly legs get found out this season. Other than that M’Villa is on his way, a proper box-to-box mid who is imposing and has skill. And taking a great player like Sahin on loan would just confirm our status as a feeder club whose manager chisels from season to season and lacks a clear and successful vision of where the club is going.

    “Even without RvP and Songinho, we’re well ahead of where we were at the same time last year. Shame you don’t see that. They looked awesome in the Cologne friendly.”

    * Yeah we are fierce against the likes of Cologne. Can’t wait to see your prediction for them this year because if you state that they are anything but title contenders then it makes your “tune and lobbying…. for three fucking years” kinda Hypocritical or simply in denial like a mother who won’t accept her son’s addiction to smoking bath salts!

    Wenger’s failed “plan” has come to fruition and created a side which is only capable of attaining a CL spot or CC/FA Cup at best, no matter what he tells you when he looks into the camera as he sports his new Dolce Gabbana glasses.

    In order to develop players from youth and create team spirit, cohesion and success, the players must WANT TO STAY AT THE CLUB MATE.

  12. @gorn

    LFC are apparently pursuing Sahin with vigour after signing Joe Allen. This suggests they needed to upgrade central midfield, no?

    And there’s not a chance Carroll would start ahead of Cisse at Newcastle, Fern at Rent Boyz, RvP at HRP or Adebayor at Spurs. If AVB or Wenger thought he could, they would have bought him when FSG was publicly shopping him this year rather than going for Giroud or whomever the lesser lights are looking at.

    “As far as Les Gauls go, it’s an awful lot of change for one offseason. Feels like too much, even for The Voyeur.”

    This is what everybody said last year after Nasri and Cesc departed, right? And funny how it wound up. In fact, I seem to recall similiar tales of woe back in the day when Wenger was selling Anelka and Overmars and Paul Merson.

    Compared to last season’s late-August trolley dash through the transfer window, Wenger has managed the transition a good deal better. I would like to see another fullback in the squad. I would have preferred to keep Songiho but I’m assuming Wenger has lined up a replacement and Barca is going to pay more than FSG did for Joe Allen.

  13. AG – Obviousl\y your definition of Arsenal’s ” tales of woe” is different than anyone’s on this board.

    *As for Sahin, seems like Charlie Adam is on his way out so the move makes perfect sense.

  14. AG:

    “Where do Carrick and Scholes sit in the midfield hierarchy? I also see that Fletcher played in a testimonial. It would be a real boost if he came back.”

    Great question. At the beginning of the season last year both players were watching Anderson and Cleverly. Obviously both got injured along with Fletcher so Scholes had to come back and play pretty much every match along with Carrick. My guess is that Scholes will start out in a reduced role along with Carrick. Cleverly has the ability to do what both players can do in terms of controlling possession and needs games to continue his progression. Scholes is done yet again after this year and Carrick is just over 30 so his time is fast approaching as well. Defensively Carrick is better than Cleverly right now but he’s slower so there definitely will be some experimenting in the first few months.

    There’s not a chance Fletcher will be back in my mind given my background in the medical field. Its a wonder he’s been able to play with his condition for as along as he has. I was very happy to hear that he got a few minutes but no one should expect him back any time soon if ever. If he had remained healthy Scholes would still be back home and Anderson sold.

    And speaking of which…thanks for the article on Anderson. I’ve read other articles that he wasn’t in his preferred position. In fact, I’m sure he’s said as much. When he came to United, however, he wasn’t needed in that position. Tevez was there, along with Ronaldo and Rooney who all took turns in and out of where Anderson would have liked to be. His job was to clean up for them from deeper positions which he actually did pretty well and either through injury or lack of form, has stopped doing. Much like the penny dropped for his counterpart in Nani back in 09′, this season has to be a full and productive one for him. Kagawa, Cleverly, and now Powell along with Tunnicliffe and Petrucci from the reserves are all poised and waiting.

    “If the figures I’m hearing are true, we really had no choice but to sell. RvP has apparently agreed to a 225k/week deal with Beetface, which is laughable.”

    Arsenal weren’t in the region of this quoted figure? They couldn’t have been far off. Could it have been the number of years they balked at?

    Nevertheless…

    According to this well thought out article, United have done exactly what they needed to do in order to continue their challenge for honors…http://fourfourtwo.com/blogs/statszone/archive/2012/07/27/van-persie-lucas-gaitan-baines-which-players-can-help-man-utd-win-back-title.aspx

    As I told you before, which clearly you ignored, I would rather have had Song if he was available. If not him than anything in the mold of a passing, gritty, mobile, durable, athletic, defensive midfielder. Which sounds an awful lot like Song, doesn’t it? Anderson and Cleverly are clearly being looked to for immediate impact which is simply shocking to me given that neither one has shown enough consistency to warrant any sort of long term confidence.

    As for Arsenal, attacking has never been an issue during Wenger’s time so RVP leaving isn’t a big deal. I remember when Henry left and there were rumbles of a similar nature. Of course, he didn’t have the season RVP just finished with but there were others waiting in the wings to step up. Nothing has changed seeing who is there and who has arrived. They will yet again be more than fine.

    But as Shmish pointed out, that defense needs work immediately. Some think that Cazorla will have an impact with this given his tacking and interception stats. He’s also a rather tidy passer so they retain possession much better on the wings. The problem I have is that, Arshavin aside, most of the players at Arsenal have the ability to defend but it doesn’t seem to be reinforced enough. I’m repeating myself but I think it calls for it when year after year they increase their GA. There isn’t a chance a PL winner will give up anything over 32-35 goals for the foreseeable future. Back line needs reinforcing as well. Is Sakho the odd man out at PSG? I think I saw him jutted out to the right in a preseason match. Any word on if Wenger has taken a peek at the lad?

    Seeing is believing when it comes to Arsenal. Although, I expect them to be much closer to United and City this season.

  15. @SL

    *Nice job of covering all bases on that one mate as this was part of your reply on SRE:
    ” I can’t see him leaving this summer. Next summer is obviously a different story.”

    What I said was I couldn’t see him leaving unless Beetface stumped up and meet Wenger’s price. 22.5m plus 1.5 in add-ons for a 29-year-old striker with a year to go on his deal is great business.

    “* You are right again, as I am sure that Song will replace the likes of Busquets and Xavi as a starter and will be allowed to neglect his defensive duties by marauding up the field like a Clydesdale to provide a few chipped assists to Messi and Villa. Players such as Song are a dime a dozen and he is not imposing, a leader or intelligent on a consistent basis, as evidenced by his moronic haircuts and on field brain-farts. He will be a Scott Parker off the bench at Barca when Busquets or Macherano need a breather.”

    lol — it’s funny you can’t admit when you are wrong. The fact that Barca are going for him and are going to meet Wenger’s valuation sort of underscores my point that you’ve been acting like a bitter little troll about this subject for the past couple of years. There’s should be no shame in admitting you were wrong.

    “* Yeah we are fierce against the likes of Cologne. Can’t wait to see your prediction for them this year because if you state that they are anything but title contenders then it makes your “tune and lobbying…. for three fucking years” kinda Hypocritical or simply in denial like a mother who won’t accept her son’s addiction to bath salts!”

    Bath salts? Hmm, is there something you want to share with us? That’s a rather bizarre analogy.

    Anyway, compared to the shambles at the start of last season, the side looks much, much more settled and cohesive although it’s probably difficult for people who don’t regularly watch the team to chart this progress.

    With all that said, I would like to see us buy a right back and find a replacement for Song but there’s still plenty of time before the window shuts to find those players.

  16. @ewtt

    Thanks for your thoughts on the United midfield hierarchy. Today’s preview is late due to Newcastle United signing Ajax holding midfielder Vurnon Anita. Wonder if that means Tiote might be available and on the move?

    “Arsenal weren’t in the region of this quoted figure? They couldn’t have been far off. Could it have been the number of years they balked at?”

    I heard we went to 140k/week although there were reports of a loyalty bonus being included that would have pushed the package to 180k/week. And yeah, I understood we were at three years. In any event Kees Vos and the rest of RVP’s posse made it clear they were not interested in re-signing and the club asked them to keep it under wraps, which they did until after the Euros ended. Wenger was willing to keep him for a final year although RVP’s statement on the website enraged him unless somebody stumped up with 20m-plus. Wenger also apparently made overtures to PSG but the Quataris didn’t bite. Whether this was wages or injury history is unclear but I’d suggest Zlatan’s age and wage package suggests they were worried about RvP’s fitness.

    “According to this well thought out article, United have done exactly what they needed to do in order to continue their challenge for honors…http://fourfourtwo.com/blogs/statszone/archive/2012/07/27/van-persie-lucas-gaitan-baines-which-players-can-help-man-utd-win-back-title.aspx”

    If he stays healthy, he’ll really add something to the United attack. And I don’t really think they need all that much to challenge the Massive this year. They lost on goal difference despite losing Vidic for most of the year. De Gea should be better, too.

    “As I told you before, which clearly you ignored, I would rather have had Song if he was available. If not him than anything in the mold of a passing, gritty, mobile, durable, athletic, defensive midfielder. Which sounds an awful lot like Song, doesn’t it? Anderson and Cleverly are clearly being looked to for immediate impact which is simply shocking to me given that neither one has shown enough consistency to warrant any sort of long term confidence.”

    I responded to you about that “Hahaha. Actually, that’s a pretty good idea and Wenger would sell at around 20m (pounds not euros). And Song is the player that Beetface thought Anderson would turn into before eating himself into irrelevance.”

    “But as Shmish pointed out, that defense needs work immediately. Some think that Cazorla will have an impact with this given his tacking and interception stats. He’s also a rather tidy passer so they retain possession much better on the wings. The problem I have is that, Arshavin aside, most of the players at Arsenal have the ability to defend but it doesn’t seem to be reinforced enough. I’m repeating myself but I think it calls for it when year after year they increase their GA. There isn’t a chance a PL winner will give up anything over 32-35 goals for the foreseeable future. Back line needs reinforcing as well. Is Sakho the odd man out at PSG? I think I saw him jutted out to the right in a preseason match. Any word on if Wenger has taken a peek at the lad?”

    I’m going to save this subject for the preview but Steve Bould’s work in the summer will figure prominently in my response. If Song goes (and I understand that’s imminent), we’ll need two players. One on Wenger’s radar is the young Montpelier captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, whom Milan tried to buy earlier in the window and recently won his first cap with France. Sakho is apparently not for sale because PSG needs him to fulfill its homegrown requirements in the first-team squad for UEFA.

  17. Oh and the new preview is out. Enjoy. Thanks to $#*&#*&$ United and Arsenal, I’m having to do some furious rewriting in order to get the final one posted by a decent time on Friday.

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