Premier League Preview – 2011/2012 (Part Three)

11 08 2011
English football (soccer) player Joey Barton

Image via Wikipedia

Newcastle United

Newcastle United appear to be coming close to turmoil once more under Mike Ashley’s leadership (or lack of). As we all know, on January transfer deadline day Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool for a staggering £35million. With no time to find a replacement, Mike Ashley explained on record in an attempt to appease disgruntled, yet loyal, fans that all the money would be available for Alan Pardew to spend this summer. So far, Newcastle have spent just £7.3million on Yohan Cabaye (£4.4million), which is terrific business considering how impressive he was for Lille last year, and £2.9million on Manchester United flop Gabriel Obertan who has been given a five-year-deal. Pardew has continued his French Revolution by signing Demba Ba (yes, I know he plays for Senegal!) on a free transfer and former Rennes winger Sylvain Marveaux, also on a free transfer.

Incidentally, Newcastle have sold former captain Kevin Nolan to West Ham for £2.9million. Nolan became frustrated at St. James’ Park after he was refused a new and improved five-year-deal, the same length given to boss Alan Pardew and Gabriel Obertan by Mike Ashley. Football’s youngest journeyman Wayne Routledge has joined his ninth professional club in Swansea City for £2.2million and Jose Enrique’s refusal to sign a new contract has led him to also grow disillusioned with life on Tyneside. A £6million move to Liverpool appears to be nearing completion. There’s not much time left remaining for Alan Pardew to spend the Andy Carroll transfer kitty.

Newcastle’s woes have continued as Joey Barton (pictured) joined Jose Enrique by taking to his keyboard and launching a scathing attack on his employers. Subsequently, Barton has been told he can leave the club on a free transfer. The departure of experienced players will do little to help Newcastle improve on last season’s respectable 12th place finish. Their squad is not as good as the one which was relegated in 2009 but it is better than six or seven in the Premier League. As long as Mike Ashley is chairman of Newcastle United, Premier League survival should be the realistic aim for the Toon Army.

Key Player: Yohan Cabaye

Net Spend: -£1.5million

Prediction: 14th

Norwich City

Norwich City’s remarkable rise from League 1 to the Premier League in just two seasons is an outstanding achievement. It is the first time a team has won back-to-back promotions to the top flight since Joe Royle accomplished the same feat with Manchester City in 2000.

Since losing 7-1 at home to Colchester on the opening day of the 2009/2010 League 1 season, Paul Lambert has made himself a hero at Carrow Road and there is plenty of reason to be optimistic with him leading Norwich in the top flight for the first time since 2005.  That said, with optimism should come caution as Norwich have spent just £6.9million on players mainly associated with teams plying their trade outside the top flight. James Vaughan does have Premier League experience with Everton and he joined Norwich this summer for £2million. Wales international Steve Morison has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top flight of his own after spending five years playing non-league football with Bishop’s Stortford and Stevenage Borough before signing for Millwall in 2009. He joins Norwich this summer from Championship side Millwall in a deal worth £2.4million. Bradley Johnson is the last of the permanent signings at Carrow Road and he signed on a free transfer from Leeds United.

Paul Lambert turned his attention to the best of what League 1 had to offer by quickly signing Elliot Bennett from Champions Brighton and Hove Albion for a fraction under £1.5million and Anthony Pilkington for £970k from Huddersfield Town. Pilkington, much like Steve Morison, is also familiar with non-league football after he spent a short time with Atherton Collieries following his release from Blackburn Rovers in 2006. Youngsters Kyle Naughton and Ritchie De Laet have joined The Canaries on season-long loan deals from Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United respectively.

If Norwich can bring in one or two more proven Premier League players they might have a chance of avoiding relegation.  As it stands, it’s difficult to imagine Norwich City as a Premier League side when the 2012/2013 season begins.

Prediction: 20th

Net Spend: -£6.9million

Key Player: Grant Holt

Queens Park Rangers:

QPR have added to their squad with one or two decent signings but it has been a relatively quiet summer at Loftus Road. Neil Warnock has mainly signed unattached players as they prepare to battle for Premier League survival. Jay Bothroyd, Daniel Gabbidon, Kieron Dyer and Brian Murphy have all joined QPR on free transfers whilst DJ Campbell has returned to the club he joined as a six-year-old after completing a £1.7million move from Blackpool. Bothroyd and Campbell should make a decent partnership should Warnock opt to play two strikers.

QPR have so far managed to retain the services of their gifted, but somewhat erratic, captain Adel Taarabt and cultured Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlin which offers hope to Rangers’ fans in an attacking sense.  Defensively, Warnock’s side seems a bit thin in terms of numbers and quality which will make it difficult for them over the course of a season. QPR may attempt to replicate the Blackpool model by aiming to outscore their opposition so expect to see them involved in a number of high-scoring games but, ultimately, their fate will likely be the same as Blackpool’s last season and relegation beckons.

Prediction: 19th

Net Spend: £-1.7million

Key Player: Adel Taarabt

Stoke City

Tony Pulis has yet to spend a penny in transfer fees this summer but he has snapped up released former England defenders Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson. Woodgate joins on a pay-as-you-play deal which could prove to be a masterstroke by Pulis as the former Tottenham defender’s quality is there for all to see. Pulis is reportedly in negotiations with Tottenham over the signing of Honduras grafter Wilson Palacios whilst Peter Crouch is still on his radar.

Stoke have become a team with a reputation for their in-your-face attitude and they are incredibly difficult to beat at the Britannia Stadium. Whilst their style of play isn’t always one for the purists they play to their strengths and that has seen them establish themselves as a Premier League side and they can also look forward to European football this season. Pulis has gradually assembled a squad capable of handling the rigours of playing twice a week.

Europa League qualifiers leave Stoke’s players match fit and in great condition as they prepare to host Chelsea on Sunday. Whilst it’s difficult to imagine Stoke remaining in Europe as the season draws to a close, their fans should be optimistic about enjoying another successful in the Premier League and building on last season’s 13th place finish.

Prediction: 10th

Net Spend: +£250k

Key Player: Ryan Shawcross

Sunderland

Sunderland have had the busiest summer of any Premier League team in terms of comings-and-goings. Steve Bruce has wisely spent the £15.8million fee received for Jordan Henderson by bringing in a blend of experienced players and highly rated youngsters for the future.  John O’Shea (£3.9million) and Wes Brown (£1.3million) should prove to be good signings so Bruce has done very well to acquire the pair for relatively little money. Ahmed Elmohamady impressed enough during his loan spell last season to convince Bruce to sign him permanently in a deal worth £2.2million to his former club Enppi.

Bruce turned his sights to bolstering his midfield by signing two of the most sought after free transfers in the country in Seb Larsson and David Vaughan who impressed for Blackpool last season. Former Coventry goalkeeper Kieran Westwood has also made the move to the Wearside on a free transfer. Craig Gardner will add some creativity to Sunderland’s midfield and his eye for goal convinced Bruce to splash out £5.8million on the man who finished as Birmingham City’s top scorer last season.

Chairman Niall Quinn opened his chequebook again by signing youngster Connor Wickham for an initial fee of £7.9million from Ipswich Town and one-time Reading man Ji Dong-Won joins for £2.1million from K-League side Chunnam Dragons.

The squad overhaul has been completed by moving on six players who featured regularly in the first team last season. Jordan Henderson’s transfer has already been mentioned and John Mensah has joined Lyon on loan, Bolo Zenden has been released at his own request, Cristian Riveros has ended his unhappy spell in England by joining Turkish side Kayserispor,  Steed Malbranque has ended his ten-year spell in the English top flight by signing for France’s most successful club Saint-Étienne and George McCartney has ended his second spell with Sunderland by returning to West Ham United for a second spell.

Asamoah Gyan has remained at the club and he is pivotal to this team. He is the only striker at the club who has proved he belongs in the top flight. The biggest problem Steve Bruce might have will be getting his new signings to gel together as a team. Such overhauls to first teams are rare in football so it will be interesting to see how well Bruce fares. He has spent £23million in a bid to improve Sunderland’s on-pitch fortunes after a disappointing end to the previous campaign.

Key Player: Asamoah Gyan

Net Spend: £-7.8million

Prediction: 8th

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

Click here for Part One

Click here for Part Two


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

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