Premier League Preview – 2011/2012 (Part Two)

10 08 2011

Everton

Everton are the only team out of the 92 in the football league who have not signed a player on a permanent basis.  Youngster Eric Dier, an Englishman with Portuguese dual-nationality, has joined on a second loan spell from Sporting Lisbon whilst James Vaughan has joined Norwich City for £2million. That is the end of the transfer dealings at Goodison Park this summer so far.

Everton have a good youth academy, and they’ve needed it, which has seen Jack Rodwell slot into the team well in previous seasons and this campaign could also see Jose Baxter and the highly-rated Ross Barkley feature regularly for the first team due to having such a small squad. The loss of the impressive Seamus Coleman for six months with an ankle ligament injury is a big blow for Everton. Coleman picked up the injury courtesy of an awful tackle by Villarreal’s Carlos Marchena in a pre-season friendly. Versatile players such as Coleman are vital to teams like Everton.

Evertonians must hope key players Mikel Arteta and Jack Rodwell have the worst of their injury woes behind them and remain injury-free this season and the returning Yakubu is still good enough to score goals at this level. On paper, Everton’s first XI is reasonably strong and David Moyes is perfectly capable of over-achieving like he has many times before.

Key Player: Tim Cahill

Net Spend: +£2million

Prediction: 9th

Fulham

Last season Mark Hughes continued Roy Hodgson’s good work from the previous campaign and both men have left a good set of players behind and a structure in place for Martin Jol to build upon.  A quiet summer of transfer activity so far has seen John Arne Riise and Patjim Kasami come in as the most notable signings. Will these signings be enough to see Fulham continue the good work started by Jol’s predecessors? They are certainly a good start.

Fulham’s season began on 30th June in the Europa League qualifiers so they should be fully prepared and match fit come the start of the Premier League season. The concern could be that a lengthy run in the Europa League might see Fulham end the season in a similar fashion to when they reached the Europa League final in 2010. I can’t see Fulham being dragged anywhere near the relegation zone but another mid-table finish beckons.

Key Player: Clint Dempsey

Net Spend: -£5.2million

Prediction: 12th

Liverpool

Liverpool have spent a sizeable amount so far and there’s every indication that one or two more signings are still to come. Having just a net spend of £2million in January due to the sales of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel counter-acting the fees paid for Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, Liverpool have signalled their intent on finishing in the top four this season by splashing out heavily with a net spend of £41million on Jordan Henderson for an initial fee of £15.8million, Charlie Adam for £7.3million and Stewart Downing for £20million. Brazil goalkeeper Doni joined from AS Roma on a free transfer to act as understudy to Pepé Reina.

Have Liverpool spent too much on Henderson and Downing? Many would argue, yes. I, however, disagree. Many still judge a player in today’s market by the fees associated with players of a similar calibre from previous years. The Transfer Price Index offers an excellent insight into this. Jordan Henderson, Phil Jones, Romelu Lukaku and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are the very latest signings to support the argument.

Strong financial backing by Liverpool’s American owners means the squad has been strengthened and a top four finish is a must. The signings of Adam and Downing will offer Liverpool something which has been lacking since Xabi Alonso, and probably Steve McManaman, left the club; a deep-lying playmaker in Adam and a genuine winger in Downing. Whilst comparisons are never helpful it is understandable to see why they are often made. In an attacking sense, there are plenty of options available to Kenny Dalglish. A front three from Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing supported by three from, assuming they all remain with the club, Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard, Alberto Aquilani, Raul Meireles, Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson means we should expect plenty of goals from Liverpool.

The biggest problem I foresee for Liverpool is the same problem I foresee for Arsenal and that is the defence. Liverpool conceded 15 goals in 6 pre-season games and whilst it is important to retain perspective and not jump to conclusions based on pre-season results, it’s hard to disagree that the defence could be Liverpool’s Achilles heel. With the end of the transfer window drawing ever closer, it could be that whoever out of Liverpool and Arsenal brings in the best defensive reinforcements has the edge in the quest to finish in the top four.

At right-back, Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and even John Flanagan provides me with no worries, but the rest of the defence could be exploited, particularly if injuries occur. Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio are very suspect to injury which is a shame as few doubt their ability. A full season from these two would leave Liverpool fans with few worries. Jamie Carragher isn’t getting any younger but his experience is crucial in bringing through young players such as Martin Kelly, John Flanagan, Jack Robinson, Andre Wisdom and Stephen Sama. Unfortunately, the signs are there to suggest that Carragher is on the decline. For me, Martin Skrtel isn’t good enough and Sotirios Kyrgiakos is a mix of the two aforementioned; he’s not getting any younger and he’s no longer good enough. Scott Dann appears likely to join Arsenal leaving Liverpool to look elsewhere for defensive reinforcements but José Enrique appears to be edging ever closer to signing for Liverpool to compete with Fabio Aurelio and Emiliano Insua for the left-back berth, assuming the latter remains at the club.

This is a big season for Liverpool. The realistic aim is to get back into the Champions League whilst bringing through the young players needed to enable a title challenge in the coming seasons.

Key Player: Luis Suarez

Net Spend: -£41million

Prediction: 4th

Manchester City

Manchester City enjoyed a reasonably successful season last term. Their first major trophy since 1976 has given the City faithful reason to be optimistic this season. City has continued to spend heavily this summer. A net spend of £46.6million, more than any other Premier League club, has been invested to ensure they strongly challenge for the Premier League and the Champions League this season. Sergio Aguero was signed from Atletico Madrid for £39.5million, highly-rated defender Stefan Savic cost £10.5million from Serbian outfit Partizan Belgrade, Gael Clichy switched allegiance from Arsenal for £6.8million and Costel Pontilimon is moving to England from Romanian side Politehnica Timisoara for £5.7million, replacing Shay Given as Joe Hart’s understudy.

Manchester City were outclassed by rivals Manchester United in the Community Shield.

Carlos Tévez playing for Manchester City

Image via Wikipedia

From 2-0 up, United showed their class and resilience by pulling the game back to 2-2 early in the second half. Roberto Mancini’s tactics and choice of substitution were particularly baffling. When chasing a winning goal, Mancini sent Gareth Barry and Gael Clichy on to the field. I have my doubts as to whether Mancini is the man to deliver the Premier League title to Eastlands for the first time.

The Carlos Tevez saga (pictured with his bulldog like approach) continues to rumble on and that needs to be resolved one way or the other. Nobody can deny the talent City have in their squad. On paper, they’re as good as any side. Unfortunately for City, football isn’t played on paper and question marks remain about the temperament of some of their players and the seemingly lack of team spirit. I expect the league to be very tight at the top so the fixtures between the top sides are crucial; the team who amasses the most points from those games will, in my opinion, win the league. I don’t think City are quite ready this season but they should fare well in the cup competitions.

Key Player: David Silva

Net Spend: -£46million

Prediction: 3rd

Manchester United

Manchester United have had a solid pre-season and Sir Alex Ferguson has shown signs of building yet another side capable of dominating for years to come. The average age of  United’s team in the second half (prior to Dimitar Berbatov’s five-minute cameo) of the Community Shield match against Manchester City was just 22 years old. £50.4million has been spent on David de Gea (£17.6million), Phil Jones (£16.9million) and Ashley Young (£15.8million) to ensure they remain as dangerous as ever with £10.1million being recouped from the sales of John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Gabriel Obertan and a handful of young players. The emergence of youth products Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley ensures there is a healthy competition for places at Old Trafford to enable a sustained challenge on all fronts for the coming season. Sir Alex Ferguson is laying down the foundations and building another squad that can be successful long after he retires.

Paul Scholes and Edwin Van der Sar have retired and the departures of John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Owen Hargreaves means a lot of experience has left the United squad this summer. It remains to be seen if United struggle in the way that Chelsea struggled in the previous season when a number of experienced players left for pastures new.  It’s impossible to replace Scholes; he’s one of the Premier League’s best ever players. That said, it’s a big season for the current crop of United stars and someone needs to step out of the shadows in an attempt to fill the void left by Scholes’ retirement. A stand-out season could lie in wait for Anderson. He’s shown in short spells the quality he has but now he needs to add consistency to his game. It could be a make-or-break season for the 23-year-old Brazilian.

Javier Hernández will prove to be an indispensable member of the first-team squad and I’m sure he’ll build on his terrific début season. A strike partnership with Wayne Rooney has the makings of being as good as any around and the two are vital to any success United can hope to have.

Key Player: Javier Hernández

Net Spend: -£40.2million

Prediction: 1st

All transfer fees correct according to the excellent TransferMarkt. Don’t believe the exaggerated fees you see in newspapers and on Sky Sports News!

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11 08 2011
12 08 2011
Premier League Preview – 2011/2012 (Part Four) « The Jepson Journal

[...] Click here for Part Two [...]

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