The Way I See the Premiership 2003/4

Premiership season preview

It’s that time of year again – the one where I show myself to be the worst predictor since Nostradamus. So in alphabetical order here is how I see the league turning out.

Last season (LS): 2nd
In: Phillippe Senderos (Servette, undisc.), Gael Clichy (Cannes, £250,000), Jens Lehmann (Borussia Dortmund, £1.5m).
Out: Graham Barrett (Coventry, free), Oleg Luzhny (Wolves, free), David Seaman (Manchester City, free), Juan (Millwall, loan).
There’s no money for players and Arsene Wenger must have thought about walking away at some point during the summer. But with a forward line that will always score goals and a partially world-class midfield, it’s hard to ignore Arsenal. Wenger would have loved to have offloaded Kanu, Wiltord and maybe Van Bronckhorst, but with a thin squad it might be best to retain them for a further year.The re-signing of Bergkamp was a relief, but the 34-year old will only have a bit-part to play this season. Wenger will hope that the likes of Edu can become a fixture in midfield and that Stepanovs and Cygan finally begin to justify the manager’s faith in them. It will also be interesting to see how the back-four react to new keeper, Jens Lehmann.
Prediction: 3rd
Why?: They needed a big signing in defence and one wonders if Pires is committed enough. You also doubt that Parlour and Wiltord have the requisite quality to push the club that little bit further.
Look out for: Sol Campbell maturing further into the next Tony Adams.
Aston Villa
LS: 16th
In: Robert Olejnik (FK Austria, free) and Gavin McCann (Sunderland, £2.25m), Thomas Sorenson (Sunderland, £2.5m).
Out: Ian Taylor (Derby, free), Alan Wright (Middlesbrough, free), Oyvind Leonhardsen (released).
There may not be a lot of new players coming in, but Villa don’t need them. David O’Leary has offloaded a couple of older players (Taylor and Wright) and a mediocre one (Leonhardsen), and the purchase of Sorenson to replace the erratic Enckelman in goals is a positive step. A lot will depend also on the recovery of outcasts like Alpay and Angel, as well as the form of strikers Vassell and Allback. But the ridiculous money he was allowed to spend at Leeds probably clouded O’Leary’s ability as a manager, and it may be to his advantage to have very little at Villa, allowing him to focus on managing and coaching.
Prediction: 6th
Why?: O’Leary can inspire this talented squad a lot more than Graham Taylor could. The likes of Peter Crouch, Juan Pablo Angel, Alpay and Bosko Balaban are getting a final chance that they must have thought would never come.
Look out for: Darius Vassell to finally reach his full potential.
LS: 13th
In: Christophe Dugarry (Bordeaux, free), David Dunn (Blackburn, £5.5m), Luciano Figueroa (Rosario Central, £2.5m), Maik Taylor (Fulham, loan).
Out: Jacques WIlliams (Scarborough, free), Tommy Mooney (Swindon, free), Steve Vickers, Andy Marriott, Jonathan Hutchinson (all released), Michael Johnson (Derby, nominal).
Steve Bruce’s debut as a Premiership manager was beginning to look like it was all falling apart until a mid-season shopping spree that included Christophe Dugarry, Matthew Upson and Steven Clemence sent them rocketing up the table and well clear of relegation trouble.Clinching Dugarry on a free transfer will be a critical signing as the Frenchman was inspirational in the last third of the season. They have also captured a good midfielder in David Dunn, but with a price tag that looks ominously high. Maik Taylor is set to join on a year’s loan from Fulham and although Ian Bennet and Nico Vaessen have not let Bruce down, Taylor will provide some much needed competition.
Prediction: 8th
Why?: Bruce has developed a confident and talented team that is strong enough to “do a Blackburn” this season and hover inside the top ten.
Look out for: Robbie Savage and David Dunn to become a strong midfield partnership.
Blackburn Rovers
LS: 6th
In: Lorenzo Amoruso (Rangers, £1.4m), David Yelldell (Stuttgart Kickers, free), Steven Reid (Millwall, £2.5m), Vlatislav Gresko (Parma, £1.2m), Brett Emerton (Feyenoord, £2.5m).
Out: Damien Duff (Chelsea, £17m), David Dunn (Birmingham, £5.5m), James Corbett (Southend, free), Keith Gillespie (Leicester City, free), Marc Richards (Northampton, free), Henning Berg (Rangers, free), Darren Dunning (released). Craig Hignett and John Curtis (Leicester, free), Jonathan Douglas and Neil Danns (Blackpool, loans).
It was an incredible season for Blackburn last year. Although Yorke and Cole did not fire on all cylinders, Damien Duff inspired the club to a sixth place finish, and a place in the UEFA cup. And while the departure of Duff and occasional performer Dunn might indicate that the team are on a downward spiral, the recruitment of Steven Reid and Brett Emerton will provide the team with a partial replacement of quality in midfield.Rather less likely is the possibility that Lorenzo Amoruso will turn out to be a domineering presence in the Premiership. Already error-prone in the SPL, Souness will need to rollick the Italian more than a few times I should think.
Prediction: 7th
Why?: Duff is a big loss, but with only minor improvements in the teams around them, the raw talent still left in the squad, and the recruitment of Reid and Emerton, Blackburn will do okay.
Look out for: Steven Reid – the next big Irish star?
Bolton Wanderers
LS: 17th
In: Stylianos Giannakopoulos (Olympiakos, free), Florent Laville (Lyon, £500,000), Ivan Campo (Real Madrid, free), Kevin Davies (Southampton, free), Mario Jardel (Sporting Lisbon, free).
Out: Chris Armstrong (Wrexham, free), Leam Richardson (Blackpool, free), Mike Whitlow (Sheffield United, free), Paul Warhurst (released), Chris Downey (released), Gudni Bergsson and Colin Hendry (both retired).
A lot of forgotten players have left Bolton this season – Hendry, Warhurst, and Armstrong. Not much of a loss to the first team there, but the retirement (eventually) of Bergsson will be felt on the pitch. However once again Sam Allardyce has done the business in the transfer market. The impressive defender Florent Laville has been captured for a bargain £500k, the improving Ivan Campo finally signed on a free and the under-rated Kevin Davies has a chance to resurrect his once-glittering career. But Davies probably felt a pang in the pit of his stomach when Bolton snatched former Golden Boot winner Mario Jardel on a free transfer. The 29 year old has had his personal problems, but will be a crucial player if on form.

And if Okacha and Youri Djorkaeff, both outstanding in the second half of last season, continue to perform then Bolton should once again stay clear of relegation. Don’t be surprised though if it takes some mid-season bargain hunting once again.

Prediction: 14th
Why?: Always hard to know what Bolton are going to do but Allardyce is a survivor and he has instilled it in his squad.
Look out for: Okacha to once again steal the show.
Charlton Athletic
LS: 12th
In: Simon Royce (Leicester City, free), Matt Holland (Ipswich, £750,000), Paolo di Canio (West Ham United, free), Stephen Hughes (Watford, free), Sergio Leite (Boavista, free).
Out: Jesper Blomqvist (Djurgarden, free), Robbie Mustoe (Sheffield Wednesday, free), John Robinson (Cardiff City, free), Ben Roberts (Brighton, free), Tahar El Khalej (released).
Who doesn’t admire Charlton and what they’ve achieved? From the verge of extinction to the top half of the Premiership, it has been an astonishing ride. And while it won’t end in tears this season, it may very well be a step closer to the trapdoor than last season was.After an awful start, they then embarked on two months of championship form before again collapsing and finishing safely in mid-table. Apart from Matt Holland, a decent capture from Ipswich, there have been no major changes, and no first team players have left.

The late capture of talisman Paolo DiCanio should bag the Addicks a good few extra points, but if the Italian gets the hump, it will cost them dear in the dressing room and on the pitch. Charlton will find it harder to compete this season as Chris Powell and Graham Stuart are both a year older and England defender Paul Konchesky is looking for a way out. But retaining Scott Parker was a great result for manager Alan Curbishley and there should be just enough for Charlton to survive.

Prediction: 15th
Why?: No major surgery but Charlton still don’t have a prolific goalscorer. They may slip slightly down the league this season.
Look out for: Scott Parker – a star in the making.
LS: 4th
In: Marco Ambrosio (Chievo, free), Jurgen Macho (Sunderland, free), Glen Johnson (West Ham, £6m), Geremi (Real Madrid, £6.9m), Wayne Bridge (Southampton, £7m), Damien Duff (Blackburn, £17m), Juan Sebastian Veron (Manchester United, £15m), Joe Cole (West Ham, £6.6m).
Out: Graeme Le Saux (Southampton, part exchange), Enrique De Lucas (Alaves, free) Jody Morris (Leeds, free), Gianfranco Zola (Cagliari, free), Ed de Goey (Stoke, free), Rhys Evans (Swindon, free), Robert Wolleaston (Bradford, free) and Leon Knight (Brighton, loan), Albert Ferrer (retired).
What can you say about Chelsea that hasn’t been flogged to death already. They’ve basically just bought a formidable midfield that includes Damien Duff, Juan Veron, Joe Cole, Geremi and Frank Lampard. If there is a chink in the armour, it could be in defence. While Terry, Gallas and Desailly are three quality players, the new full backs will have to prove that they are good enough to play at this level. Bridge has always been a bit over-rated due to a shortage of English left-sided players, and Glen Johnson is a rookie.

Up front you might also worry about the form of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen. Neither were consistent last season and they only bagged 25 goals between them. Maybe with Duff and Geremi servicing them, that will all change.

Zola has gone, and the likes of Stanic, Gronkjaer and Zenden will no doubt find themselves on the outside looking in. Good thing for them is that their new billionaire owner doesn’t need to trim the wage bill – he’s got the week’s salaries in his back pocket.

Prediction: 2nd
Why?: You can’t argue with their purchases – no donkeys there – but it may take some time to gel and that’s why they may come up second best against Man Utd this season.
Look out for: Duff to become a true world class star.
LS: 7th
In: Joseph Yobo (Marseille, £4.5m), Li Tie (Liaoning Bodao, undisclosed)
Out: Juliano Rodrigo (released), George Pilkington (Port Vale, free)
It’s been a quiet summer for Everton, except for stories about 17 year old boy wonder Wayne Rooney. Last season’s loanees, Joseph Yobo and Li Tie, remain their only permanent signings, although they has taken up virtually all of David Moyes transfer budget. Moyes also has eyes on Steve McManaman, but a move looks unlikely at this point.
Prediction: 13th
Why?: The element of surprise is gone now, and although Moyes is a good manager, he can’t get blood from a stone forever. Without a few quality players, Everton will struggle to match last years achievements.
Look out for: Steve Watson to continue his new found reputation as one of the Premiership’s most reliable performers.
LS: 14th
In: Martin Djetou (Parma, loan), Junichi Inamoto (loan), Jerome Bonissel (Rangers, free), Dave Beasant (Brighton, free), Mark Crossley (Middlesbrough, free)
Out: Steve Finnan (Liverpool, £3.5m), Luke Cornwall (Bradford, free), John Collins, Bjarne Goldbaek (both released), Martin Herrera (Estudiantes de La Plata, loan), Abdeslam Ouaddou (Rennes, loan), Maik Taylor (Birmingham, loan).
If Chelsea want to learn a lesson from somewhere, they should look no further than their West London neighbours, Fulham. Their multi-millionaire owner financed their rise from the Third Division to the Premiership, but has since lost his desire and left new manager Chris Coleman with no money and no hope.Coleman is on a hiding to nothing and his selection as manager is indicative of just how little interest Mohammed Al Fayed has in the club these days. Fulham’s big signings were all hideously over-priced, and as of yet there has been no consistency from Legwinski, Malbranque and Marlet. When required it has been the likes of Luis Boa Morte, Louis Saha and Barry Hayles who have produced the goods, but this trio are not good enough for the Premiership.
Prediction: 20th
Why?: Rock bottom for Fulham this year and a turbulent start for new manager Coleman.
Look out for: Very little – perhaps Sean Davis strengthening his portfolio and finding a move away next summer.
LS: 15th
In: Jody Morris (Chelsea, free), Zoumana Camara (Lens, loan) and Didier Domi (PSG, loan).
Out: Harry Kewell (Liverpool, £5m), Olivier Dacourt (Roma, £3.5m), Jacob Burns (released).
Leeds current horror run is set to continue this season with Peter Reid obviously ignoring the large neon warning signs and taking on the job from hell. The club has been asset stripped of their best players with the exception of strikers Mark Viduka and Alan Smith. With only mediocrity to choose from and the rather un-inspirational signings of Morris, Camara and Domi, Leeds will struggle to stay afloat. Reid’s management skills have been called into question at Sunderland and there’s little chance of him regaining his reputation here.
Prediction: 17th
Why?: If the strikers go, Leeds have little to fall back on. The midfield is lightweight and the defence is porous. Only for the fact that there are worse teams in the Premiership, Leeds would be gone.
Look out for: David Batty’s return – but has he still got it?
LS: 2nd in Division 1
In: Steve Howey (Manchester City, £250,000), Paul Brooker (Brighton, free), Riccardo Scimeca (Nottingham Forest, free), Danny Coyne (Grimsby, free), Lilian Nalis (Chievo, free), Les Ferdinand (West Ham, free), Keith Gillespie (Blackburn Rovers, free), Ben Thatcher (Spurs, £300,000), Nicolas Priet (Lyon, free), Craig Hignett and John Curtis (Blackburn, both free).
Out: Darren Eadie, Nicky Summerbee and Michael Price (Darlington, free), Tim Flowers (retired), Stefan Oakes (Walsall, free) and Simon Royce (Charlton, free), Martin Reeves (Northampton, free), Jon Stevenson (Swindon, free).
No one has bought more players than Micky Adams in his bid to make his team strong enough for the Premiership. But when you are banking your future on the likes of Les Ferdinand, Steve Howey and Craig Hignett, you know that it will be a long hard season.Perhaps his best buy is Ricardo Scimeca from Nottm Forest, and Keith Gillespie should also provide a bit of quality wide on the right. But that’s an awful lot of new players in anyone’s book and again the subject of gelling must be brought up.

But Adams is shrewd and it will be a ding-dong battle between Leicester and Leeds to avoid that final relegation spot.

Prediction: 18th
Why?: Some people think Leicester got off lightly after being allowed to re-structure following administration and would love to see them go back down. That’s harsh on Micky Adams who has done a brilliant job there but he will struggle to keep Leicester up this year.
Look out for: Leicester’s great team spirit. No stars in this team.
LS: 5th
In: Harry Kewell (Leeds, £5m), Steve Finnan (Fulham, £3.5m), Carl Medjani (St Etienne, free).
Out: Pegguy Arphexad, Vegard Heggem (both released), Bernard Diomede (Ajaccio, free), Patrik Berger (Portsmouth, free), Stephen Warnock (Coventry, loan).
Two of Liverpool’s problem areas have been addressed and subsequently they should improve slightly on last seasons disappointing fifth place. If Kewell is played in his strongest position (take nothing for granted where Gerard Houllier is concerned), then Michael Owen should get a lot more service in the first four games than he did all of last season.Question marks remain about Emile Heskey, the biggest white elephant this side of Sergei Rebrov, but Kirkland/Dudek, Hyppia, Henchoz, Gerrard and Hamann remain a solid backbone. Houllier must deliver Champions League this season or he’ll be out on his ear.
Prediction: 4th
Why?: Kewell and Finnan are two excellent signings and should see Liverpool strong enough to make the top four. As to whether or not they will begin to play good football again…
Look out for: Steve Finnan to become the new Denis Irwin.
Manchester City
LS: 9th
In: Michael Tarnat (Bayern Munich, free), Trevor Sinclair (West Ham, £2.5m), Paul Bosvelt (Feyenoord, free) and David Seaman (Arsenal, free), Antoine Sibierski (Lens, £700,000).
Out: Shaun Goater (Reading, £500,000), Nic Jensen (Borussia Dortmund, £700,000), Peter Schmeichel (retired), Martin Vuoso (Santos Laguna, loan), Steve Howey (Leicester City, £250,000), Jeff Whitley (Sunderland, free), Ali Benarbia (Qatar, free), Alf-Inge Haaland (retired), Carlo Nash (Middlesbrough, nominal).
Manchester City are a ‘massive’ club, as we all know. Ninth place was a good finish last year even if the performances were erratic (somewhat expected under Kevin Keegan). But while Keegan remains an enigmatic manager, he has built the nucleus of a good side. Veteran midfielder Tarnat, Trevor Sinclair and Dutch midfielder Paul Bosvelt should shake things up in the middle for City, and with Nicolas Anelka and an out-of-sorts and unloved Robbie Fowler up front, they have the potential to take a lot of clubs by surprise. Don’t forget that they will also begin their new season with a new start at a new stadium as well.

And we all wonder if life will begin at forty for David Seaman.

Prediction: 9th
Why?: There’s not too much wrong with City that a bit of more fundamental coaching couldn’t sort out. Keegan’s teams always have the potential to lose their way and that’s kind of how City’s season was last year. He’s bought well though and if the forwards click, they should be able to re-create last seasons finish.
Look out for: Perhaps a few days in the son for Ian’s son, Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Manchester United
LS: 1st
In: Eric Djemba-Djemba (Nantes, £3.5m), David Bellion (Sunderland, free), Tim Howard (from the MLS, £2.3m), Cristiano Ronaldo (Sporting Lisbon, £12.2m), Kleberson (Paranaense, £5.9m).
Out: David Beckham (Real Madrid, £25m), Laurent Blanc (retired), David May (released), Lee Roche (Burnley, free), Danny Webber (Watford, free), Jimmy Davis (Watford, loan), Luke Chadwick (Burnley, loan), Bojan Djordjic (Red Star Belgrade, loan) and Michael Stewart (Nottingham Forest, loan). Juan Sebastian Veron (Chelsea, £15m), David May (Burnley, free).
It has been a strange pre-season for the biggest club in the world. One might say that the Ferguson-Keane axis is causing trouble at Old Trafford and this has hastened the departure of Beckham and Veron. But that would be mere speculation on my part…perhaps.There’s something rather underwhelming about the purchase of Djemba-Djemba and Bellion. Djemba-Djemba may turn out to be a bench-warmer while Bellion will have to mature quickly if he is to partner Van Nistelrooy. And although Kleberson, a World Cup winner, is undoubtedly a good player, the multi-millions paid for Cristiano Ronaldo is puzzling. The 19-year old prodigy would have been a free agent in 12 months. Desperation, anyone?
Prediction: 1st
Why?: This is United we are talking about and with Rio at the back, Giggs/Keane/Butt/Scholes in the midfield and Ruud up front, there’s little doubt they are going to thrash a lot of people. They should just be able to hold off Chelsea, but as for 2004/5…
Look out for: Darren Fletcher to “do a John O’Shea” and play a big part this season.
LS: 11th
In: Doriva (Real Madrid, loan), Alan Wright (Aston Villa, free), Carlo Nash (Manchester City, nominal).
Out: Tony Vidmar (Cardiff, free), Alen Boksic, Arturo Bernhardt (both released), Jason Gavin (Bradford City, nominal fee), Noel Whelan (Millwall, free) and Luke Wilkshire (Bristol City, £250,000), Mark Crossley (Fulham, free).
Not much movement at Middlesbrough and this is the main reason that the Smog Monsters will fail to bring much excitement to the Riverside faithful. Doriva is a solid signing, but Aston Villa’s former left-back Alan Wright is hardly the most inspiring capture.Boksic’s hungry £63k-a-week gobble has been sent out to pasture along with the former talent known as Noel Whelan. Mind you, they still have a formidable center-back pairing of Southgate and Ehiogu, the effective George Boateng and Jonathan Greening in the middle and of course little Juninho to add some sparkle, so it’s not all bad.
Prediction: 16th
Why?: There hasn’t been enough progress at the Riverside this summer and with Ehiogu out for a few months, Middlesbrough will be somewhat vulnerable. Chris Riggott and Malcolm Christie will need to become real stars if ‘Boro are to avoid a relegation fight this year, but that’s exactly what I think they will get involved in.
Look out for: Juninho to be the brightest star on show.
Newcastle United
LS: 3rd
In: Lee Bowyer (West Ham, free)
Out: John Karelse (released), Joe Kendrick (1860 Munich, free).
Newcastle’s lack of transfer activity speaks volumes about the club’s current state – it’s healthier than it has been for some time. Bobby Robson might be older than talking movies, but he’s certainly just as wise.Lee Bowyer is a questionable acquisition but might turn out to be a criticial one if he can recapture his Leeds United form.

And you can’t really argue with a squad that has established talents like Alan Shearer, Shay Given, Nolberto Solano, Jonathan Woodgate, Craig Bellamy, Gary Speed, Laurent Robert and Kieron Dyer, along with rising stars like Jermaine Jenas, Lomano Lua Lua, Shola Ameobi, Darren Ambrose, Hugo Viana and Michael Chopra.

Prediction: 5th
Why?: There’s no doubt that Bobby Robson has got the experience/youth balance just about right, but this might be a watershed season in the careers of players like Shearer and Speed. Are Dyer, Jenas and Viana ready to step up to the plate?
Look out for: Jermaine Jenas to establish himself as this year’s Kieron Dyer (it could get confusing).
LS: Champions in Division One
In: Patrik Berger (Liverpool, free), Teddy Sheringham (Tottenham, free), Boris Zivkovic (Bayer Leverkusen, free), Dejan Stefanovic (Vitesse Arnhem, £1.85m pending work-permit), Yakubu Ayegbini (Maccabi Haifa, undisc.), Harald Wapenaar (Utrecht, free), Vincent Pericard (Juventus, £400,000) and Amdy Faye (Auxerre, £2.5m), Sebastien Schemmel (West Ham, undisc.).
Out: Jason Crowe, Carl Tiler, Luke Nightingale, Lee Molyneaux, Tom White (all released), Gianluca Festa (Cagliari, free), Paul Merson (Walsall, free).
Losing Paul Merson was a big blow for Mr Redknapp, but lets face it Merse has been unable to settle anywhere for very long in the last few years. But in his place comes seasoned veteran Teddy Sheringham, decent Liverpool winger Patrik Berger and completed deals for last year’s influential loanees Yakubu Ayegbini and Vincent Pericard. But how they will all settle in the Premiership is another question. There are enough players with Premiership experience in the squad to ensure that Pompey do reasonably well this year (Hislop, Sherwood, Stone, Burton, Foxe, Stefanovic, in addition to Sheringham and Berger), and of course Harry Redknapp did a good job at West Ham for long enough (look what happened a year after he left the club).
Prediction; 11th
Why?: Portsmouth are best placed of all the promoted teams to survive this year due to their experienced manager and players. As long as they don’t get bogged down in cup runs, it should be a fairly safe mid-table finish for the Fratton Park side.
Look out for: Teddy to bounce back after his disastrous season at Spurs.
LS: 8th
In: Graeme Le Saux (Chelsea, part-exchange), Darren Kenton (Norwich, free), Leandre Griffit (Amiens, free), Fitz Hall (Oldham, £250,000) and Yoann Foley (St Etienne, £250,000), Neil McCann (Rangers, £1.5m), Kevin Phillips (Sunderland, £3m).
Out: Wayne Bridge (Chelsea, £7m), Kevin Davies (Bolton, free), Brian Howard (Swindon, free), Federico Arias (released).
Last season was nothing short of a huge success for Gordon Strachan and Southampton. The two biggest surprises were seeing former Blackburn reserve James Beattie score a hatful of goals and midfield journeyman Chris Marsden emerge as one of the Premiership’s unsung heroes. But twelve months on and after a dismally ineffective FA Cup final performance, Strachan will be under pressure to match that success.

Out goes Bridge, in comes Le Saux, a player who still has a good twelve months in him. Meanwhile the highly-rated Kenton and Hall make their way up from the lower leagues, while Neil McCann comes down south from Rangers (essentially a lower league too I suppose) and Kevin Phillips joins from Sunderland.

Despite the accomplishments of last year, Strachan’s management is still called into question from time to time, and one wonders if this moderately talented squad can pull another top 8 finish out of the bag.

Prediction: 12th
Why?: I’m not convinced that Strachan is much of a manager. Even Glenn Hoddle managed to get Southampton into the top half of the table. Beattie will not bag as many goals this year, but at least a decent Premiership player in Kevin Phillips partners him now. Elsewhere though, the unproven players that have been brought in are not going to strengthen the first team all that much. At the very least they will be safe from relegation but don’t expect a top half finish again.
Look out for: David Prutton to prepare for a big money with a string of quality performances.
Tottenham Hotspur
LS: 10th
In: Bobby Zamora (Brighton, £1.5m), Helder Postiga (Porto, £6.25m), Freddie Kanoute (West Ham, £4m), Bobby Convey (DC United, 1m, subject to work permit), Mbulelo Mabizela (Orlando Pirates, 1m, subject to work permit)
Out: Teddy Sheringham (Portsmouth, free), Steffen Freund (Kaiserslautern, free), Alton Thelwell (Hull City, free), Ben Thatcher (Leicester, £300,000) and Steffen Iversen (Wolves, free). Matthew Etherington (West Ham, £500k in part exchange).
Glenn Hoddle continues to trim his squad of highly-paid, yet unwanted assets such as ageing stars Sheringham and Freund, as well as reserve players like Iversen, Etherington and Thatcher. Coming in are the injury-prone Freddie Kanoute, one of Europe’s hottest talents Helder Postiga and prolific lower-league goalscorer Bobby Zamora. What he will do with these three strikers alongside last season’s star, Robbie Keane, is anyone’s guess.

But his problems are present in defence and midfield. The midfield is lightweight (Redknapp/Anderton), and Dean Richards has improved to the point where he is missed if he is injured (which is frequently). The Balkan midfielders (Bunjevcevic/Acimovic) have not made much of an impact and young defenders Ledley King and Tony Gardner struggled to perform consistently last year. At the time of writing, Hoddle was set to capture American midfielder Danny Convey and South African captain and central defender, Mbulelo Mabizela. It remains to be seen what sort of impact these two imports will have on the Premiership.

Prediction: 10th
Why?: Tottenham is the name, mid-table is the game. Hoddle is on borrowed time at Spurs such has been the unimpressive progress he has made in two and a half years. If the new forwards don’t score then Spurs may find themselves in the bottom six. But the squad is good enough to make the top ten – it’s just that mid-table is not good enough for a club of their size.
Look out for: Rohan Ricketts. The former Arsenal man has had a great pre-season.
Wolverhampton Wanderers
LS: 3rd in Division One
In: Isaac Okoronkwo (Shaktar Donetsk, free), Silas (Uniao Leiria, £1m), Jody Craddock (Sunderland, £1.75m), Henri Camara (Sedan, £1.5m), Oleg Luzhny (Arsenal, free), Steffen Iversen (Tottenham, free) and Carlos Kameni (Le Havre, loan).
Out: Michael Branch (Bradford, free), Cedric Roussell (Genk, undisc.), Ludovic Pollet (released), Kenny Coleman (released) and Mohammed Camara (Burnley, free).
Wolves have always been a romantic team over the years, and neutrals all over the country greeted their elevation to the Premiership favourably. And the goodwill should continue throughout the season as everyone picks their second team to support.As for their chances of staying up? Despite some fairly high profile signings of internationals like Iversen, Camara and Luzhny, as well as one of Sunderland’s best players Joey Craddock, Wolves will struggle to make an impact on the Premiership.

Dave Jones will relish the chance to take on the top league again after Southampton dismissed him for unsubstantiated claims of child abuse made against him. If one thing does keep Wolves up this season it will be Jones’ desire.

Prediction: 19th
Why?: Just too many better teams above them and not enough quality coming in. Iversen just isn’t good enough and Luzhny struggled in the Premiership as well. It remains to be seen how unknown players like Silas and Kameni perform.
Look out for: Jolean Lescott to break into the England squad.

And finally…

01 Manchester United Champions
02 Chelsea Champions League
03 Arsenal Champions League
04 Liverpool Champions League
05 Newcastle United UEFA Cup
06 Aston Villa UEFA Cup
07 Blackburn Rovers
08 Birmingham City
09 Manchester City
10 Tottenham Hotspur
11 Portsmouth
12 Southampton
13 Everton
14 Bolton Wanderers
15 Charlton Athletic
16 Middlesbrough
17 Leeds United
18 Leicester City Relegated
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers Relegated
20 Fulham Relegated

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s