The Way I See the Premiership 2004/2005

Premiership season preview

I think I got a handful right last year. The safest prediction this year is that my performance will be worse.

Arsenal
Last season (LS): 1st
In: Robin van Persie (Feyenoord, £2.75m), Manuel Almunia (Celta Vigo, undisclosed), Arturo Lupoli (Parma, scholarship), Mathieu Flamini (Marseille, undisclosed).
Out: David Bentley (Norwich, loan), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Barcelona, undisclosed), Sylvain Wiltord (free), Kanu (West Brom, free), Martin Keown (Leicester, free), Liam Chilvers (Colchester, free), Graham Stack (Millwall, loan), Stathis Tavlaridis (Lille, undisclosed), Igor Stepanovs (released), Rami Shaaban (released), Ray Parlour (Middlesbrough, free).
I didn’t see last season coming. Arsenal’s historic and sickening unbeaten season was one of the greatest achievements in the history of English football. Bastards. It’s all change in 2004. Out goes van Bronckhorst, Wiltord, Keown, Parlour, Kanu and Stepanovs – all fringe players but moves that should put a strain on the first XI. The little-known quartet (in the UK at any rate) of van Persie, Lupoli, Almunia and Flamini will need to settle in quickly – more of an “Edu” than a “Cygan” situation required.
Prediction: 1st
Why?: The sub-standard players like Parlour, Wiltord and Kanu might have all moved on but there are four foreign players coming in who will face the usual problems adapting to Premiership life. Repeating last season’s unbeaten run is just not going to happen. With the pressure of expectation weighing heavier than ever, there is always the possibility that things just might blow up in Arsene Wenger’s face. However if they hold on to Vieira (which I suspect they might) they should be strong enough to hold off a tired-looking Manchester United side and a ludicrously assembled Chelsea.
Look out for: The usual positive, focused Arsenal squad to relegate everyone else to also-rans.
Aston Villa
LS: 6th
In: Martin Laursen (AC Milan, £3m), Carlton Cole (Chelsea, season-long loan), Vaclav Drobny (Strasbourg, season-long loan).
Out: Peter Crouch (Southampton, £2m), Dion Dublin (Leicester, free), Ronny Johnsen (released), Hassan Kachloul (released), Rob Edwards (Wolves, £150,000).
Last season was a startling one for Villa, one not expected by anyone (except by me!). The new signings look ok considering the lack of money at Dave O’Leary’s disposal. Laursen was an average Serie A player but should cope ok alongside the impressive Olaf Mellberg. Carlton Cole is a decent player but not a goalscorer (21 games/4 goals – only 8 starts though – last season for Charlton) and Drobny is a fairly unknown Czech who has just two caps for his nation.Some of the salary-drainers have gone – Kachloul and Johnsen did very little for Villa’s cause. Crouch is a gamey player who was out of his depth in the top half of the Premiership but Dublin’s experience and quality will be missed.
Prediction: 10th
Why?: I don’t expect Villa to go the way of Everton and collapse after an unexpectedly successful season, but I don’t either expect them to challenge for the top six again. They haven’t lost anyone significant save for Dion Dublin but at 35 the game was up on his Premiership career anyway. None of the signings will improve the side that much so Villa should slide down a few places but battle well and play some decent football.
Look out for: Mellberg to become a cornerstone of the side.
Birmingham
LS: 10th
In: Mikael Forssell (Chelsea, season-long loan), Julian Gray (Crystal Palace, free), Emile Heskey (Liverpool, £3.5m), Muzzy Izzet (Leicester City, free), Mario Melchiot (Chelsea, free), Jesper Gronkjaer (Chelsea, £2.2m) .
Out: Darren Purse (West Brom, £750,000), Bryan Hughes (Charlton, free), Andrew Barrowman (Blackpool, loan), Aliou Cisse (Portsmouth, £300,000).
He’s one hell of a canny manager, Steve Bruce. Forssell was their player of the season last year and surprisingly Chelsea agreed to him staying over for another twelve months – a puzzling decision. But their loss is Bruce’s gain and alongside new signing Emile Heskey – oft maligned but with a better chance for success out of the spotlight – they are going to frighten a lot of teams. Supplying the crosses will be the likes of Gronkjaer (if he can keep the ball in play) and Muzzy Izzet, for whom assists are a way of life.
Prediction: 6th
Why?: The Birmingham side keeps improving every year and Bruce shows that he has a game plan that unfurls a little more all the time. Melchiot and Gronkjaer may not be great players in the sense of the word, but they have a lot of experience that will count for much and more importantly fit in to the grand scheme of things perfectly. Heskey could bag a lot of goals for the side, certainly more than he achieved at Liverpool, and it will be interesting to see how the talented Julian Gray makes the step up from the lower leagues.
Look out for: Emile Heskey to score…15 goals?
Blackburn Rovers
LS: 15th
In: Paul Dickov (Leicester City, £150,000), Dominic Matteo (Leeds United, free), Javier de Pedro (Real Socieded, undisclosed).
Out: Andy Cole (Fulham, free), Michael Taylor (Cheltenham, free).
Despite a great run towards the end of last season (mostly due to the free-scoring of former third division striker, Jon Stead), Blackburn’s year was a shambles. Out goes Andy Cole and soon Dwight Yorke may follow him. In comes the gutsy but workmanlike Paul Dickov as well as Leeds’ Dominic Matteo and Spanish international Javier de Pedro. De Pedro is an interesting signing although questions will be asked as to whether he can withstand the physical nature of the Premiership. Matteo is a decent player but certainly not someone you want to build your side around (look at where it took Leeds). Nope, it’s not looking great for Blackburn.
Prediction: 14th
Why?: Not replacing Damien Duff last season was a mistake. De Pedro helps fill that gap but he will have to settle in quickly. Paul Gallagher and Jon Stead are two young strikers to watch this season and with Matt Jansen and James McEveley waiting in the wings (although Jansen really should have cemented his place by now), youth is what Souness needs to have faith in. However, they will struggle and if they happen to lose the likes of Barry Ferguson or Stead to injury, they might find themselves in a relegation scrap.
Look out for: While Barry Ferguson owes Souness a good season in midfield, Stead is the one whom all eyes are on.
Bolton Wanderers
LS: 8th
In: Michael Bridges (Leeds United, free), Les Ferdinand (Leicester City, free), Radhi Jaidi (Esperance de Tunis, undisclosed), Gary Speed (Newcastle, £750,000), Fernando Hierro (Qatar, free), Tal Ben Haim (Maccabi Tel Aviv, free).
Out: Ibrahim Ba (released), Per Frandsen (Wigan, free), Steve Howey (released), Simon Charlton (Norwich City, £250,000), Emerson Thome (Wigan, undisclosed).
You can’t help but admire Big Sam Allardyce (it’s ok to capitalise “Big” in this context). Getting Bolton in to the top half of the Premiership and to the League Cup final last season was a brilliant achievement. Signing the fattest player since Mick Quinn, Mario Jardel, was hilarious. Re-building the career of the under-rated Kevin Davies was admirable. So what have we got this season? Probably the most interesting line up in the league. How will injury plagued Michael Bridges and veteran, veteran Les Ferdinand shape up? Completing the retirement home feel are 34-year old but hugely talented Gary Speed and 36-year old Fernando Hierro who just spent a year sunning himself in Qatar. They could be ingenious signings. They could be disasters.

Ibramhim Ba, Steve Howey and Emerson Thome, who all made little impact, have moved on. Per Frandsen has also left after reaching his 34th birthday, and will be missed. So who is left? Jay-Jay Okocha, Ricardo Gardner, Kevin Nolan, Stelios Giannakopulos and Ivan Campo will join the new recruits as crucial components of the team. It looks like they could do ok.

Prediction: 11th
Why?: They will be fine. Sam knows how to play the game. Henrik Pedersen might find himself less of a first choice than before with more competition up front and with Frandsen gone from midfield, Gary Speed and Kevin Nolan will have to be more creative than usual. Giannakopulos may finally force his way in to the team now after helping Greece win Euro 2004.
Look out for: Young Portugeuse striker Vaz Te make an impact off the bench at times. And a lot of moaning from Big Sam.
Charlton Athletic
LS: 7th
In: Stephan Andersen (AB Copenhagen, £750,000), Bryan Hughes (Birmingham, free), Dennis Rommedahl (PSV Eindhoven, £2m), Talal el Karkouri (Paris St-Germain, £1m).
Out: Stephen Hughes (Coventry City, free), Sergio Leite (released), Richard Rufus (retired), Gary Rowett (retired), Claus Jensen (Fulham, £1.25m).
Is Di Canio staying? Isn’t he? He did ok last season for the Addicks but if he decides to move on they will get over it. It was a great season for Curbishley and his side and you wonder how long he can keep this up. Bryan Hughes is a decent player who tends to specialise in peaks and troughs and Rommedahl was a great capture for 2m. Former Sunderland player Talal el Karkouri comes with a strong reputation.Claus Jensen was the big loss – a surprise move considering his quality. While Rowett and Rufus were young, shock retirements, they have not played a role in the first team for quite some time.
Prediction: 9th
Why?: They have improved slightly in terms of overall squad but not if you consider the January loss of Scott Parker. The second half of the season was far less impressive than the first half with Parker’s absence named as a mitigating factor. Curbishley is wiley and if need be he will do some shopping after Christmas.
Look out for: Chris Perry – former Spurs cult figure who was a resounding success at Charlton last year.
Chelsea
LS: 2nd
In: Jose Mourinho (coach, Porto), Petr Cech (Rennes, £7.1m), Paulo Ferreira (Porto, £13.2m), Arjen Robben (PSV Eindhoven, £12m), Mateja Kezman (PSV Eindhoven, £5m), Didier Drogba (Marseille, £24m), Tiago Mendes (Benfica, £10m), Ricardo Carvalho (Porto, £19.85m).
Out: Claudio Ranieri (coach, Valencia), Winston Bogarde (released), Marcel Desailly (released), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Middlesbrough, free), Mario Melchiot (Birmingham, free), Emmanuel Petit (released), Mario Stanic (retired), Juan Sebastian Veron (Inter, season-long loan), Carlton Cole (Aston Villa, season-long loan), Jesper Gronkjaer (Birmingham City, £2.2m), Hernan Crespo (AC Milan, season-long loan), Mikael Forssell (Birmingham, season-long loan), Boudewijn Zenden (Middlesbrough, free), Neil Sullivan (Leeds, free).
Chelsea are operating as a parody of a football club, splashing out over £90m on seven players. Once again the investments are questionable, save for prolific striker Kezman (a relative snip at £5m) and Portugeuse defender Ricardo Carvalho (a slightly more costly £20m-ish). Drogba and Ferreira look over-priced, Tiago is little-known and questionable value at £10m and Robben looks good – but will have to stay on form to keep out Damien Duff.Some of the rubbish has been off-loaded. Bogarde, Melchiot, Petit, Stanic, Veron, Gronkjaer, Crespo and Zenden are all off the wage bill – Veron and Crespo on loan to Inter and AC Milan respectively.
Prediction: 2nd
Why?: Mourinho, despite leading Porto to the Champions League in May, is a strange character who looks capable of imploding due to over-arrogance or complacency. But we might be all mis-judging the seemingly big-headed manager. His signings are all decent despite some being obviously over-priced. Just like last season, it will take time to gel and that may be why they fail to catch up with Arsenal.
Look out for: Scott Parker and Tiago to battle for a midfield slot – and Parker to win out.
Crystal Palace
LS: Division One Play-off winners
In: Mark Hudson (Fulham, undisclosed), Gabor Kiraly (Hertha Berlin, free), Julian Speroni (Dundee, £750,000), Emmerson Boyce (Luton Town, free), Joonas Kolkka (Borussia Moenchengladbach, undisclosed), Sandor Torghelle (MTK Hungaria, undisclosed).
Out: Julian Gray (Birmingham, free), Curtis Fleming (Darlington, free), Jamie Smith (released)
Ian Dowie took Palace from relegation candidates to the Premiership in a matter of months. Phenomenal turn of fortune for the South Londoners who are back in the big-time against all the odds. But their signings reads like a who’s-who of unknowns. Speroni and Kiraly are goalkeepers, Hudson and Boyce are central-defenders, Kolkka a Finnish winger and Torghelle a Hungarian international striker.
Prediction: 19th
Why?: I think it’s justified to assume that Palace will struggle to stay up this season with none of their signings having experience of the Premiership. Dowie’s achievement is noteworthy to say the least but the best he can hope for is to amass some TV money and gain some experience for their return in a season or two.
Look out for: The tricky winger, Wayne Routledge.
Everton
LS: 17th
In: Marcus Bent (Ipswich Town, £400,000), Bjarni Thor Vidarsson (FH Harnarfjordur, undisclosed), Tim Cahill (Millwall, £2m), Eddy Bosnar (Sturm Graz, undisclosed)
Out: Niclas Alexandersson (IFK Gothenburg, free), Paul Gerrard (Nottingham Forest, free), Steve Simonsen (released), Scot Gemmill (Leicester, released), David Unsworth (Portsmouth, free), Tomasz Radzinski (Fulham, undisclosed), Tobias Linderoth (FC Copenhagen, undisclosed), Steven Schumacher (Bradford, free), Michael Symes (Bradford, free)
More change than usual for Everton with a number of players escaping the sinking ship while they can still make the lifeboat. Radzinski has had a reasonble but hardly outstanding few seasons at Goodison so his walkout will probably stick in the throat of fans for some time. The likes of Unsworth, Simonsen, Gemmill, Alexandersson and Gerrard were released to free up some of the wage bill and Tobias Linderoth never made an impact at the club and his move to FC Copenhagen for about £1m was a bonus for David Moyes.But the squad is thin now. Marcus Bent and Tim Cahill are decent players – but first division ones. Icelandic teenager Bjarni Thor Vidarsson could be quite some time away from the first team…but that’s what a lot of people thought about another 16 year old a couple of seasons ago. Much of the first team is not very inspirational – Kevin Campbell, Gary Naysmith, Kevin Kilbane and Alan Stubbs have failed to prove themselves while Moyes will be pinning hope on the youthful zeal of James McFadden and Wayne Rooney as well as the experience and reliability of Thomas Gravesen and Steve Watson.
Prediction: 20th
Why?: It’s hard to see light at the end of the tunnel for Everton as they launch from one crisis to another. Moyes first season was a success but last year was a near-disaster with relegation a real threat for months. Rooney may move on in the January transfer window and if that happens, there is little left at the club that will inspire them away from the trapdoor.
Look out for: McFadden to build on the promise he showed last season and eventually win a contract for a top six club like Newcastle or Liverpool.
Fulham
LS: 9th
In: Billy McKinlay (Leicester City, free), Andy Cole (Blackburn, free), Claus Jensen (Charlton, £1.25m), Tomasz Radzinski (Everton, undisclosed).
Out: Sean Davis (Tottenham, £3m), Mark Hudson (Crystal Palace, undisclosed), Abdeslam Ouaddou (Rennes, season-long loan), Andrejs Stolcers (released), Barry Hayles (Sheffield United, free), Jon Harley (Sheffield United, free).
If you woke up from a coma and saw that Fulham had signed Andy Cole and Billy McKinlay, you’d probably expect to see them lining up against Rotherham and Preston this season. But you would be wrong. For Fulham stayed up last season against all the odds – and indeed were a top four team for a while. In comes the impressive Claus Jensen to bolster a midfield that has lost Sean Davis and alongside Cole comes Radzinski from Everton to replace Saha and Hayles.
Prediction: 12th
Why?: I don’t expect Fulham to challenge like they did last year, especially with the loss of Sean Davis and the reliable Barry Hayles. The ageing and increasingly ineffective Andy Cole as well as grumpy Candadian Tomasz Radzinski might struggle to get the goals – but with Claus Jensen pulling strings in midfield they shouldn’t be short of ammunition. A player I never fancied before, Luis Boa Morte, had a good season in 2003/4, and if he can repeat the form then Fulham should be comfortable with a good cup fun for measure.
Look out for: Billy McKinlay to show the Premiership what they’ve been missing for years. Just kidding.
Liverpool
LS: 4th
In: Rafael Benitez (coach, Valencia), Djibril Cisse (Auxerre, £14m), Josemi (Malaga, £2m).
Out: Gerard Houllier (coach), Emile Heskey (Birmingham, £3.5m), Bruno Cheyrou (Marseille, season-long loan), Markus Babbel (Stuttgart, free), Anthony Le Tallec (St Etienne, season-long loan), Gregory Vignal (Rangers, season-long loan), Danny Murphy (Charlton, £2.5m).
The new Spanish coach has got a big brush and he’s going to use it. So far only one of the “flops” have gone – Bruno Cheyrou – and only one more may be on his way – Diouf. With Danny Murphy leaving for Charlton, Benitez looks tempted to hang on to Salif Diao for now. Emile Heskey moved for a decent fee and young players like Vignal and Le Tallec have been sent out on loan for the year.Coming in is Cisse for a phat £14m and defender, Josemi from unfashionable Malaga. Not really a season of upheaval but maybe a step in the right direction.
Prediction: 4th
Why?: It is a bit much to ask Benitez to get Liverpool in to the top three, but he should certainly be expected to close the gap on them. The signing of Cisse is key although little is known about Josemi who could partner Hyypia at the back. Steve Finnan and Harry Kewell struggled last season but they should be given the opportunity to make an impression on the new boss. With Gerrard staying, Owen and Baros ready to score goals and Chris Kirkland perhaps ready to go between the sticks again, it’ll be an interesting season for the Reds.
Look out for: Cisse to make a bigger impact than Chelsea’s Drogba.
Manchester City
LS: 16th
In: Ben Thatcher (Leicester City, free), Geert De Vlieger (Willem II, free), Danny Mills (Leeds United, free).
Out: Michael Tarnat (Hannover, free), Stephen Elliott (Sunderland, free), Arni Arason (released), Gerard Wiekens (released), Glenn Whelan (Sheffield Wednesday, free), Danny Tiatto (Leicester, free), Matias Vuoso (Santos Laguna, undisclosed).
Last season was an unmitigated disaster for City, struggling from about October on after being top of the Premiership in the opening weeks. Money has been spent on salaries rather than transfer fees with Danny Mills, he of the questionable temperament and ability, handed a five-year/£50,000 a week deal. That could prove to be the big decision for Keegan. Much of last year’s team remain with only Tarnat and Tiatto moving on to Hannover and Leicester respectively.
Prediction: 8th
Why?: I know I predicted a 9th last season and that didn’t really work out. And now I’m predicting an 8th place finish for a manager who is favourite to get the bullet. But Man City will be starting their second season in the City of Manchester Stadium, they will have the core of a very good side settled in and will have the added “steel” of Mills and Thatcher to a shaky defence. While the likes of Fowler, Wanchope, Macken, McManaman and Sinclair still have all to prove, Anelka and Shaun Wright-Philips have become two of the big Premiership success stories. They will struggle to hold on to the diminutive winger, Wright-Philips, but if they do, City can make the top half.
Look out for: I tipped him last season to be a star and I think we’ll see more of him – and an England call – for Wright-Phillips.
Manchester United
LS: 3rd
In: Gabriel Heinze (Paris St-Germain, £6.9m), Liam Miller (Celtic, free), Alan Smith (Leeds United, £7m), Gerard Pique (Barcelona, undisclosed), Giuseppe Rossi (Parma, free).
Out: Fabien Barthez (Marseille, free), Danny Pugh (Leeds United, free), Eddie Johnson (Coventry City, season-long loan), Mark Lynch (Sunderland), Daniel Nardiello (Barnsley, season-long loan), Nicky Butt (Newcastle, £2.5m), Luke Chadwick (West Ham, free), Michael Stewart (Hearts, loan).
Last year’s purchases were…well, a mixed bag to be kind. Ronaldo had some decent games, granted, and is definitely going to improve. Howard in goals was a success – until he ran out of steam in early 2004. But Kleberson, Djemba-Djemba and Bellion didn’t make an impact and question marks have been raised about Ferguson’s judgement. Out went the usual collection of Fergie’s Fledglings who didn’t make the grade – £12k a week Michael Stewart, Daniel Nardiello, Mark Lynch, Luke Chadwick and Danny Pugh (in part-exchange for Smith).
Prediction: 3rd
Why?: Heinze may be a good signing – he may not. Miller might work – but of course he may not be up to scratch. Pique and Rossi? Well who knows. There is very little faith in Ferguson’s signings these days. It might turn out that Smith is his best capture. Either way, the depreciation of Roy Keane, the loss of Beckham’s crosses and the sale of Butt rather than Phil Neville, mean that United won’t win the league this year. Rio will return to stabilise the back four but the damage might be done by then. Silvestre had a disastrous Euro 2004 compounded that with an own goal in the Charity Shield, so things might get worse before they get better.
Look out for: Alan Smith to become a cult hero – it could happen. Ferguson to walk away a dejected man in May.
Middlesbrough
LS: 11th
In: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Chelsea, free), Mark Viduka (Leeds United, £4.5m), Michael Reiziger (Barcelona, free), Ray Parlour (Arsenal, free), Boudewihn Zenden (Chelsea, free).
Out: Michael Ricketts (Leeds United, free), Phil Gulliver (Rushden & Diamonds, free), Jonathan Greening (West Brom, £1.25m), David Murphy (Hibernian, undisclosed), Ross Turnbull (Bradford, loan).
There is something scary about Middlesbrough. After the high-profile flops of Alan Boksic, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Emerson, you would think that chairman Steve Gibson had learnt his lesson. But in comes BIG earners Viduka, Hasselbaink, Reiziger and Zenden (probably none of them on less than £50k a week) and little Ray Parlour from Arsenal who might be on slightly less.
Prediction: 7th
Why?: And ironically it is Parlour who might epitomise the sort of work ethic and consistency that pushes Boro up in to the top half of the table. Hasselbaink is a good player who will do a job for them but Viduka could very well find himself slipping behind the under-rated Joseph Desire-Job should the goals not come. Reiziger is a novelty purchase who will probably quietly do his job but hardly warrant his massive wages and Zenden is another player who is competent but not to the tune of his salary.
Look out for: Parlour to show what a run in the team and a touch of faith can do for your performances.
Newcastle United
LS: 5th
In: James Milner (Leeds United, £4m), Patrick Kluivert (Barcelona, free), Nicky Butt (Man Utd, £2.5m), Steve Carr (Spurs, £2m).
Out: Steve Caldwell (Sunderland, free), Andy Griffin (Portsmouth, free), Lomano LuaLua (Portsmouth, £1.75m), Hugo Viana (Sporting Lisbon, season-long loan), Gary Speed (Bolton, £750,000).
This is Bobby Robson’s last season and he is approaching it that way by the look of it. Patrick Kluivert, who has it all to prove, is the big name signing but we may find that the excellent teenager James Milner and highly-decorated (not literally) Nicky Butt are the key players. Steve Carr’s 11th hour capture from Spurs is also very important for a Newcastle team reeling from a series of poor off-field publicity and poor on-field form.Going the other way is veteran Gary Speed who at 34 was not going to be first-choice, Lomano LuaLua who fell out with Robson last year and Hugo Viana who is on loan to Sporting Lisbon after failing to produce anything close to decent form for the Magpies.
Prediction: 5th
Why?: Although the squad is much stronger this year, Robson might still find it hard to close the gap on the top four. It should be nip and tuck between themselves and Liverpool for the fourth Champions league spot but a run of bad form could also let in Steve Bruce’s Birmingham or indeed their North-East neighbours, Middlesbrough.
Look out for: James Milner will develop in to one of the most highly rated teenagers in British football.
Norwich City
LS: Champions in Division One
In: David Bentley (Arsenal, season-long loan), Youssef Safri (Coventry City, £500,000), Paul Gallacher (Dundee United, free), Simon Charlton (Bolton Wanderers, £250,000), Thomas Helveg (Inter Milan, free), Mattias Jonson (Brondby, undisclosed fee), Darren Ward (Nottm Forest, undisclosed).
Out: Iwan Roberts (Gillingham, free), Mark Rivers (Crewe, free), Keith Briggs (Crewe, loan).
Against all the odds, Nigel Worthington have brought the popular Canaries back to the Premiership after a nine year gap. His signings are not shaking the world of football though. Young David Bentley is talented but unlikely to make that much of a difference to their chances of survival. Safri and Charlton, from Coventry and Bolton respectively, are decent pros but it is Thomas Helveg who brings the big-time experience to the club, fresh from Champions League experience at Inter Milan.
Prediction; 18th
Why?: It won’t be a forgone conclusion but the lack of strength in depth will eventually see Norwich succumb to the trapdoor in May. Helveg will be crucial but he can’t do it all himself. Having said that, their is plenty of talent at Carrow Road already. Paul McVeigh was a revelation in Division One, Darren Huckerby and Matt Svensson have played in the Premiership before, Malky Mackay and Marc Edworthy have plenty of experience and the Gary Holt/Damien Francis midfield axis is a talented one. The question is – will it be enough? Probably not.
Look out for: Nigel Worthington to come out of the season smelling of roses in a similar way to how Curbishely and Megson did in their initial Premiership managerial stints.
Portsmouth
LS: 13th
In: Andy Griffin (Newcastle, free), David Unsworth (Everton, free), Lomano LuaLua (Newcastle, £1.75m), Aliou Cisse (Birmingham, £300,000).
Out: Teddy Sheringham (West Ham, free), Tim Sherwood (Coventry City, free), Carl Robinson (Sunderland, free), Chris Tardif (Oxford, free), Deon Burton (Brentford, free), Neil Barrett (Dundee, free).
It’s a bit more of a settled season in terms of transfers in for Pompey. Replacing Teddy Sheringham is Lomano Lua Lua, replacing Tim Sherwood is Aliou Cisse. David Unsworth and Andy Griffin will shore up the back which is well served by Dejan Stefanovic, Hayden Foxe and Arjan De Zeeuw already.
Prediction: 16th
Why?: It’ll be tougher this year for Portsmouth. Nice team and all, but really is there that much quality there? Patrik Berger and Nigel Quashie are decent players but not top half-quality. Yakubu and LuaLua will be a good partnership but it will be difficult for the former to bag the same totals as last year. The defence is a good unit and are well marshalled but if the goals don’t come then a struggle is on the cards.
Look out for: More wheeling and dealing from Redknapp in January to save a season from disaster.
Southampton
LS: 12th
In: Peter Crouch (Aston Villa, £2m), Jelle van Damme (Ajax, £2.5m), Mikael Nilsson (Halmstad, free).
Out: Agustin Delgado (Aucas, free).
There have been rumblings of discontent from Southampton fans who have seen the club spend £2m of their money on Peter Crouch, the oft-criticised 6′ 7″ former Tottenham, QPR, Portsmouth, and Aston Villa striker. His sheer number of clubs at the age of 23 says it all. His purchase also ‘says it all’ about Paul Sturrock’s prefernce for a big man to play up with James Beattie and Kevin Phillips. It might also indicate a willingness from Sturrock to offload Beattie when he gets the chance. Mikael Nilsson is an international Swedish midfielder who featured in every game of Euro 2004 and Jelle van Damme a tough-tackling defender from Ajax. The only playing going outward is Agustin Delgado who was a shocking waste of over £3m.
Prediction: 17th
Why?: I’m afraid that things are on a downward trend for Southampton. After a couple of years on the up, the loss of Hoddle and Strachan look to have taken their toll. Sturrock is well-regarded but really not suited to Premiership management. He is direct and not what one might describe as tactically subtle. Southampton should stay up this year but with Pahars terminally injured, Phillips in his 30s, Fernandez and Svensson’s flair not always popular with their manager and Beattie looking unlikely to stick around much longer… you do the math.
Look out for: Crouch to fall over a lot and miss the target frequently.
Tottenham Hotspur
LS: 14th
In: Jacques Santini (coach, France), Sean Davis (Fulham, £3m), Pedro Mendes (Porto, £2m), Paul Robinson (Leeds United, £1.5m), Rodrigo Defendi (Cruzeiro, £600,000), Leigh Mills (Swindon, undisclosed), Marton Fulop (MTK Hungaria, undisclosed), Erik Edman (FC Heerenveen, undisclosed), Thimothee Atouba (Basle, undisclosed).
Out: Darren Anderton (released), Helder Postiga (Porto, £5m), Gustavo Poyet (released), Christian Ziege (released), Sergei Rebrov (West Ham, free), Steve Carr (Newcastle, £2m).
Spurs might have off-loaded the hapless Hoddle but they weren’t in much better shape with David Pleat at the helm as they stumbled from one horrendous performance to the next. The caputre of Santini and Jol as a mangagement team umberella’d by Frank Arnesen, is intriguing…but possibly fatally flawed. The string of signings including Champions league winner Pedro Mendes, Leeds goalkeeper Paul Robinson, Fulham midfielder Sean Davis and left-sided duo Edman and Atouba will have a hell of a battle ahead of them to turn Spurs from losers to challengers.There has been more good work done in off-loading the ageing drain on resources – Poyet, Ziege and Anderton finally got their papers. Sergei Rebrov has been written off as an £11m flop and Helder Postiga would have become a £6.25m flop before Spurs capitalised on his Euro 2004 performance against England by selling him back to European Champions, Porto. Steve Carr leaves after 11 seasons since his first team debut – Spurs fans will wish him well at Newcastle.
Prediction: 13th
Why?: Another dull 12 months lies ahead for Spurs. Their pre-season has been atrocious, with the team booed off against Cagliari last weekend. Defeats to the Italians, Rangers, Partizan Belgrade, Feyenoord and Sheffield United have made fans rather pessemistic, perhaps a little prematurely. But really, how much can the management team be expected to achieve in a few months? The signings are solid although a big name like Davids would have been nice. Progress will be made but overall Spurs won’t be challenging.
Look out for: Jamie Redknapp to embarrass everyone with his slow-motion cross-pitch movements.
West Bromwich Albion
LS: 2nd in Division One
In: Martin Albrechtsen (FC Copenhagen, £2.7m), Darren Purse (Birmingham City, £750,000), Riccardo Scimeca (Leicester City, £75,000), Tomasz Kuszczak (Hertha Berlin, free), Jonathan Greening (Middlesbrough, £1.25m), Kanu (Arsenal, free), Zoltan Gera (Ferencvaros, £1.5m).
Out: Phil Gilchrist (Rotherham, free), Mark Kinsella (Walsall), Dan Crane (released), Delroy Facey (released), Tamika Mkandawire (Hereford, free), Alassane N’Dour (released), Morten Skoubo (released), Joost Volmer (released), Simon Brown (Kidderminster, loan), Lee Hughes (sacked).
Lee Hughes sacking after his six-year jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving will cast a shadow over the club for some time. The sooner they disown the memory of their disgraced former striker, the better.Their new signings look to be the best of the promoted clubs – Kanu, Purse, Greening and Scimeca all work for me. The Polish goalkeeper Kuszczak will be good competition for Russell Hoult and Hungarian midfielder Gera could be a very canny signing.
Prediction: 15th
Why?: I expect West Brom to have a far better season than last time around. And the truth is that they didn’t disgrace themselves by any means two seasons ago – they just lacked the squad depth and quality to pull away from the bottom three. It wasn’t through lack of effort. With Norwich and Palace not strengthening as well as WBA and also not having the requisite recent Premiership experience and other poor teams like Everton, Portsmouth and Southampton around and likely to struggle, I quite fancy West Brom to be safe a few weeks before the end of the season.
Look out for: The Hungarian, Gera, could become the best ever Hungarian import to the Premiership. Oh.

And finally…

01 Arsenal Champions
02 Chelsea Champions League
03 Manchester United Champions League
04 Liverpool Champions League
05 Newcastle United UEFA Cup
06 Birmingham City UEFA Cup
07 Middlesbrough
08 Manchester City
09 Charlton
10 Aston Villa
11 Bolton
12 Fulham
13 Tottenham Hotspur
14 Blackburn
15 West Bromwich Albion
16 Portsmouth
17 Southampton
18 Norwich Relegated
19 Crystal Palace Relegated
20 Everton Relegated

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