The Premier League starts today finally! After months of speculation about transfers, contenders and non-footballing issues, here it is. We look forward to the season in this preview.
MAJOR INS: Steven Fletcher (Hibs, £3m), Tyrone Mears (Derby, £500,000), Richard Eckersley (Man Utd), Brian Easton (Hamilton, £350,000), David Edgar (Newcastle), Fernando Guerrero (Indep, loan)
MAJOR OUTS: Alan Mahon (Tranmere)
Last Season: 5th (Championship)
Burnley have a very good manager in Owen Coyle but even with that it seems unlikely they'll survive. Their squad isnt strong enough. This squad is very similar to that of Derby in 07-08. Though they have more resistance than Derby. Key Man to watch is Steven Fletcher who came from Hibernian.
MAJOR INS: Scott Dann (undisclosed), Christian Benitez (£8.5m), Roger Johnson (£5m), Barry Ferguson (£1.2m), Joe Hart (loan), Giovanny Espinoza (loan), Lee Bowyer (free), Gregory Vignal (undisclosed)
MAJOR OUTS: Stephen Kelly (Fulham, free)
Last Season:2nd (Championship)
Verdict: Relegation Battle
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish seems to have visited a lot of reserve team matches last season. The fact that he has signed several English Premier league reserve players proves that. Their record signing Cristian Benitez from Ecuador is an unproven signing and Birmingham will be hoping he comes good.
MAJOR INS: Ronald Zubar (Marseille, undisclosed), Greg Halford (Sunderland, undisclosed), Nenad Milijas (Red Star, £2.7m), Marcus Hahnemann (Reading, free), Andrew Surman (Southampton, £1.2m), Kevin Doyle (Reading, £6.5m), Michael Mancienne (Chelsea, loan)
MAJOR OUTS: None
Last Season:1st (Championship)
Verdict: Relegation Battle
Wolves Boss returns to the top flight with another old-face Wolves. Mick McCarthy has strengthened his squad with signings such as Zubar, Halford, Hahnemann and Mancienne. Wolves are a very strong team in attack with Sylvain Ebanks-Blake their leadins striker and new signing Kevin Doyle with him. Their defensive part looks fragile though and this could be their weakness.
MAJOR INS: Steven Mouyokolo (Boulogne, £1.8m), Seyi Olofinjana (Stoke, £3m), Jozy Altidore (Villarreal, loan), Stephen Hunt (Reading, undisclosed), Kamel Ghilas (Celta Vigo, undisclosed)
MAJOR OUTS: Sam Ricketts (Bolton, undisclosed)
Last Season: 17th
Verdict: Relegation Candidates
Hull boss Phil Brown seems to lack in motivational skills. Hull won just one of their last 22 games last season which proves just that. It has been a very frustrating summer for Hull with most of their top transfer targets looking elsewhere. They include Owen among them. Though their is speculation that Real Madrid starlet Alvaro Negredo could be headed to Hull, this comes from their desperation to sign a quality forward. Plus the speculation of key man Turner going to Liverpool does not help. A dark season ahead for Hull.
MAJOR INS: Lorik Cana (Marseille, £5m), Fraizer Campbell (Man Utd, £3.5m), Paulo da Silva (Toluca, free), Darren Bent (Spurs, £10m),Lee Cattermole(Wigan, £6m)
MAJOR OUTS: Dean Whitehead (Stoke, £3m), Michael Chopra (Cardiff, £4m), Greg Halford (Wolves, undisclosed)
Last Season: 16th
Verdict: Top Half
Sunderland have signed ex-Wigan boss Steve Bruce and backed by a reasonable transfer budget, Sunderland should get a top-half finish and stay clear of relegation. They have signed Albania captain Lorik Cana which is a coup though there may be some problems due to disciplinary record. Bent comes to Sunderland after a rather frustrating spell at Spurs.
MAJOR INS: Lars Jacobsen (Everton), Elrio van Heerden (Club Brugge), Gael Givet (Marseille, £3.5m), Franco di Santo (Chelsea, loan), Nikola Kalinic (Hajduk Split)
MAJOR OUTS: Matt Derbyshire (Olympiakos, £3m), Roque Santa Cruz (Man City, £17.5m)
Sam Allardyce is back to his his usual habits in transfers. He scours the world for a cheap and good signing. They sold Santa Cruz to City finally but this has decreased their firepower and they have only Kalinic as a new quality forward. However their defence is strong with Samba at the helm and this should propel them to a safe mid-table position.
MAJOR INS: Steve Finnan (Espanyol, free), Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn, free), Frederic Piquionne (Lyon, loan), Antti Niemi (Fulham, free), Anthony Vanden Borre (Genoa, loan)
MAJOR OUTS: Peter Crouch (Spurs, undisclosed), Glen Johnson (Liverpool, £17.5m), Sean Davis (Bolton, free)
The future of Portsmouth can only be predicted by Nostradamus. Their takeover looms darkly and has not been completed though it was agreed in June. If the takeover goes through Pompey will survive. If the takeover fails, Pompey fail atleast financially.Failure of a takeover would result in Pompey being the first premier league club to go into administration.
MAJOR INS: Sean Davis (Portsmouth, free), Paul Robinson (West Brom, loan), Sam Ricketts (Hull, undisclosed), Zat Knight (Villa, undisclosed), Lee Chung-Yong (FC Seoul, undisclosed)
MAJOR OUTS: Tope Obadeyi (Swindon, loan)
Last Season: 13th
Verdict: Top Half
Similar to Blackburn. Allardyce's old club should get a safe mid table position. They have signed Zat Knight to steel up their defence. Gary Cahill looks to stay on having agreed a new contract. Though Gary Megson is not liked by the Bolton faithful, he'll end up keeping the safe. Mid-Table. Period.
MAJOR INS: Dean Whitehead (Sunderland, £3m)
MAJOR OUTS: Seyi Olofinjana (Hull, £3m)
Last Season: 12th
Verdict: Bottom Half
Stoke City surprised everyone last season by their performances and most importantly Rory Delap. Turns out Rory Delap used to train as a quarter-back rather than a right-back! On a serious note, Stoke will find it hard to repeat last season's performance with just Dean Whitehead coming in. Limited finances add to their worries and we should see Stoke just scrape through the relegation battle.
MAJOR INS: Jordi Gomez (Espanyol, £1.7m), Hendry Thomas (Olimpia), Jason Scotland (Swansea, £2m), James McCarthy (Hamilton, £1.2m), Scott Sinclair (Chelsea, loan), Antonio Amaya (Rayo Vallecano)
MAJOR OUTS: Antonio Valencia (Man Utd, £16m),Lee Cattermole(Sunderland, £6m)
Steve Bruce left Wigan for Sunderland with Roberto Martinez being brought in as his replacement. Martinez is inexperienced in the top-flight and this could hinder Wigan. The sales of Valencia, Cattermole and Palacios(January) do not help either.Wigan have been unable to prise their top transfer targets either due to lack of funds or players' unwillingness to come to Wigan.Mid-Table finish for Wigan.
MAJOR INS: Gareth Barry (Villa, £12m), Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn, £17.5m), Carlos Tevez (MSI, £25m), Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal, £25m), Kolo Toure (Arsenal, £14m)
MAJOR OUTS: Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea), Ched Evans (Sheff Utd, £3m), Elano (Galatasaray, £6m), Kasper Schmeichel (Notts County, undisclosed)
Manchester City have spent big this season. They have spent upward of £90 million till now. They have strengthened all their departments and they still are looking to sign another centre-back most probably Joleon Lescott of Everton. Man City have come under a lot of flak from Man Utd boss Alex Ferguson. However this is just another part of Ferguson's "mind-games" and he is jealous of his rivals. City have a very strong squad and they should be a big threat to the top four.
West Ham United
MAJOR INS: Luis Jimenez (Inter Milan, loan), Peter Kurucz (Ujpest FC), Fabio Daprela (Grasshopper Club Zurich, undisclosed), Radoslav Kovac (Spartak Moscow, undisclosed)
MAJOR OUTS: Freddie Sears (Crystal Palace, loan), Lee Bowyer (Birmingham, free)
Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola has made an impressive start to his managerial career. Him and right-hand Steve Clarke should be able to guide West Ham to a top half finish. They have signed many youngsters and they should think they are in safe hands. West Ham also signed Croatian veteran Radoslav Kovac after he impressed on loan last season. Finances aren't strong at Upton Park but this should not bother them.
MAJOR INS: Peter Crouch (Portsmouth, undisclosed), Kyle Walker & Kyle Naughton (Sheff Utd, undisclosed), Sebastien Bassong (Newcastle, £8m)
MAJOR OUTS: Didier Zokora (Sevilla, £8m), Chris Gunter (Nott'm Forest, £1.75m), Darren Bent (Sunderland, £10m)
Harry Redknapp has done a brilliant job since taking over at Tottenham. He guided them to an 8th place from a relegation place last season. They have added youngsters Walker and Naughton to their array of right-backs. Peter Crouch also makes a return to the club that he started his career at. This means that, as usual, Tottenham have more strikers in their squad than available places. Tottenham should finish in the Europa League places. They also remain a threat in the Cups.
MAJOR INS: Bjorn Helge Riise (Lillestrom, undisclosed), Stephen Kelly (Birmingham, free), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Golden Arrows)
MAJOR OUTS: None
Fulham exceeded all expectations last season by finishing in 7th place. Repeating that feat should not be too difficult considering they have the same squad more or less. However other teams have got stronger and this should provide a challenge to Roy Hodgson. Their success should depend upon their capability to keep Brede Hangeland at the club. Hangeland is not only sound in defence but also a threat aerially. Top Half seems likely for Fulham.
MAJOR INS: Stewart Downing (Boro, £12m), Fabian Delph (Leeds, undisclosed), Habib Beye (Newcastle, undisclosed)
MAJOR OUTS: Gareth Barry (Man City, £12m), Zat Knight (Bolton, undisclosed)
Aston Villa had a good first half of the season last year and an ordinary second half. This resulted in them surrendering their fourth place to Arsenal and then fifth place to injury-hit Everton. They seemed to be too reliant on Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbohnlahor to score goals for them. Influential midfielder Gareth Barry left for Manchester City. Villa signed Stewart Downing from Boro for £12m as replacement. Downing is sidelined with injury until December however. Villa captain Laursen retired due to injury. So, Martin O'Neill faces a challenge to repeat last season's performance. They'll finish in the top-half.
MAJOR INS: Jo (Man City, loan)
MAJOR OUTS: Lars Jacobsen (Blackburn, free)
David Moyes does the impossible year after year. With limited finances Everton still manage to not only survive but perform well too. Last season was also the same story regarding transfers with Everton buying Marouane Fellaini on deadline day. This season with only Jo arriving on loan and not much speculation to more signings, Everton look to have the same squad last year. They have held on to Joleon Lescott from Man City and should be able to keep him come September.
MAJOR INS: Thomas Vermaelen (Ajax, £10m)
MAJOR OUTS: Emmanuel Adebayor (Man City, £25m), Kolo Toure (Man City, £14m)
Arsenal face the same story again. Sell key players. Keep the money. After selling Adebayor and Toure to Man City for a combined £40 million, Arsenal haven't signed anyone except for Vermaelen whom the signed in June. Arsenal's youngsters should step up if they have to challenge for the Championship. However Arsenal look certain to win atleast one Cup this season ending a four-year wait.Their attack looks strong with RVP, Arshavin, Eduardo, Walcoot and Bendtner. Fourth Place.
MAJOR INS: Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow, £18m), Daniel Sturridge (Man City), Ross Turnbull (Boro, free)
MAJOR OUTS: Ben Sahar (£1m, Espanyol), Michael Mancienne (Wolves, loan)
Chelsea signed Carlo Ancelotti as their fifth manager in 20 months. Ancelotti comes with great tactical experience. Chelsea should compensate not signing a world class superstar by winning the championship for Mr.Abramovich. Ancelotti's preferred Diamond formation has its weaknesses as Man Utd showed last week. But with Bosingwa on they looked unbeatable. Drogba and Terry have both signed new contracts. Lampard is also in great form. This should take them a step closer to the title.
Glen Johnson with Rafa
MAJOR INS: Glen Johnson (Pompey, £17.5m), Alberto Aquilani (Roma, £20m)
MAJOR OUTS: Sebastian Leto (Pan'kos, £1.3m), Jermaine Pennant (Real Zaragoza), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid, £3.5m), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid, £30m)
Like United, Liverpool also have a weakened squad with the departure of Alonso. However Glen Johnson is a great signing for Liverpool. The England international will provide stability in both attack and defense. Alonso's replacement Aquilani is injured until September and fans will be hoping he finds his feet in the league fast enough to take advantage of the kinder first half fixtures. It seems like Liverpool will have to wait for atleast another year for the title. However, me being a red, I would be delighted to be proven wrong on this.
MAJOR INS: Antonio Valencia (Wigan, £18m), Michael Owen (Newcastle, free), Gabriel Obertan (Bordeaux, £3m)
MAJOR OUTS: Carlos Tevez (loan expired), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, £80m), Fraizer Campbell (Sunderland, £3.5m), Danny Simpson (Newcastle, loan)
Verdict: Top Four
The Cristiano-Real saga finally concluded this summer with the star going to Real and United getting £80m in return. Though this isuue has already been discussed a thousand times, Ronaldo's transfer is surely going to affect United a lot more than their fans think. Ronaldo was always dangerous till the end of the match and when thier opponents would run out of steam, Ronaldo would completely annhilate them. His replacement Valencia is more orthodox and more of a provider than a finisher which Ronaldo both was. Plus Owen is no match for Tevez. Tevez has a high work rate whereas Owen is more of a finisher. A fourth consecutive is improbable.