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2013/14 Premiership Preview

Arsenal

As much as we may resent him Arsene Wenger has the ability to get his team that coveted top four finish every season.   While we would like nothing better than to write the Gooners off this season history and bitter experience have shown us never to underestimate them.

So far they have not been able to prize Luis Suarez away from Anfield but the rumours are that Wenger is sitting on a small goldmine which he is finally prepared to blow on the right players that can end their wonderful eight barren trophyless years.

You can bank on them pulling a few rabbits out of the transfer hat before the window closes.

For this reason alone, although Spurs look to be in better shape than them at the moment, they will still be our main threat to that final Champion League place.

One to watch: Jack Wilshere. Although we love to hate him there is no denying his talent.  Wilshere will be keen to stay fit not just for them but for England too.  If the Gooners are to end their barren run without a trophy Wilshere and Santi Cazorla will be the key men.

Predicted finish: 5th.

Aston Villa

Last season was hardly memorable for Villa fans, with the form of Christian Benteke the only highlight of an otherwise disappointing season. Much will remain if they can keep him.  They have a tough start with games including away at Arsenal and Chelsea so their confidence could be dented early on.

One to watch: Christian Benteke. They claim that the  Belgian’s signing off a new contract is by far their best business.  But does that really mean anything in this day and age?   They will still do well to keep their 17 goal forward before the window closes.

Predicted finish: Mid table.

Cardiff

The Premier League’s latest Welsh newcomers join after falling frustratingly short of promotion for so many years. Bankrolled by Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan , the now red-shirted Cardiff (awful) side have spent some big money this summer, with the likes of Gary Medel and  our own Steven Caulker joining to help avoid relegation.

One to watch: Andreas Cornelius.  The big Danish striker scored 18 goals for FC Copenhagen last season and looks ideally suited to the physical demands of the English game.  Along with Steven caulker he’ll need to justify his fee if Cardiff are to stay up.

Predicted finish: Avoiding relegation… just

Chelsea

Jose may well be back but so far Roman hasn’t exactly fully opened his vast resources to him.  It has been a quiet summer for The Special One compared to last time he was at the Bridge.   This may simply be that he feels that by just adding German winger Andre Schurrle and returning loanee Kevin De Bruyne to the squad he already has enough to win the title.  Or does it mean be  still feels he can tempt Wayne Rooney away from Old Trafford?

One to watch: José Mourinho. With the outspoken Portuguese manager back at the Bridge, the Premier just got a bit more interesting.

Predicted finish: 3rd

Crystal Palace

It’s great to have Ian Holloway back in the Premiership.  The old pirate somehow squeezed Palace back into the big time and will need to work a miracle to keep them up.  They have lost Wilfried Zaha to Old Trafford and this will hurt them.

One to watch: Marouane Chamakh. Palace’s biggest signing this summer, the former Gooner striker is much maligned but was a regular goalscorer at Bordeaux. If his confidence improves, he could score some vital goals.

Predicted finish: 19th

Everton

With David Moyes departing for Old Trafford and the hugely likeable Roberto Martinez stepping in the Toffees will have to get used to a different style of football.   .Much will depend on keeping Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines but if they can they should be safe.

One to watch: Gerard Deulofeu. The 19-year-old Spaniard was the star of Barcelona’s B team last season, scoring 18 goals in the process.

Predicted finish: Mid-table.

Fulham

The biggest change at Craven Cottage is in the boardroom with Al Fayed selling them to American billionaire Shahid Khan. What that will mean for Martin Jol’s team remains to be seen, but as yet they’ve had a quiet transfer period.

One to watch: Adel Taarabt.  Our ex player flattered to deceive as QPR limped to relegation last year. Now is his opportunity to prove he is as good as his agent believes.  .

Predicted finish: Mid-table.

Hull

Hull performed remarkably well in the Championship last season but may well be out of their depth in the Premiership.  The home form will be the key if they are to make a real fist of avoiding relegation.

One to watch: Danny Graham. The striker impressed at Swansea during their first season in the Premiership, before a goalless spell at Sunderland at the end of last season. Which Graham shows up could have a serious effect on where the Tigers finish.

Predicted finish: 20th

Liverpool

The Luis Suarez transfer saga may has almost rivalled our own with Gareth Bale.  So far they have resisted the Uruguayan wish to seek pastures new.  The pressure will be on Brendan Rodgers to get them back in Europe but it will be far more likely to be in the Europa Cup rather than the Champions League.

One to watch: (Obviously Luis Suarez if he stays)  Philippe Coutinho. In just half a season, the Brazilian has turned into one of the Premier League’s most exiting young talents. With Suarez itching to leave (and banned for the first six games anyway), Liverpool will be hoping Coutinho can fill the the gap.

Predicted finish: 6th

Manchester City

With Roberto Mancini gone, former Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini has taken over at City  - and he’s certainly been busy. Jesus Navas, Fernandinho and Stevan Jovetic have been among the big-name signings this summer, resulting in a formidable strike force. While Pellegrini’s mission will be to make a real impact on the Champion League’s latter stages – the mega rich owners will want the Premiership title back from their local rivals.  Anything else will be seen as a failure.

One to watch: Alvaro Negredo. Reportedly not City’s first-choice signing, the Spain striker still is a remarkable physical presence in the box – fast, strong and with an eye for goal. Trust us: he’ll score goals.

Predicted finish: Champions

Manchester United

How do you replace the greatest manager of  the modern era?  That is the task facing David Moyes.   Moyes biggest problem so far,  has been getting new players in.  Cesc Fabregas and Thiago have eluded him so far.  With Wayne Rooney agitating for a move away from United and the shock of Fergie’s departure it may be a season of transition at Old Trafford.

One to watch: David Moyes. The ex Everton manager will be under enormous pressure and scrutiny.  Fergie’s endorsement of Moyes will give him security but Moyes will be anxious to do things his way.  Older fans will remember when Sir Matt Busby left and any will hope history does not repeat itself.

Predicted finish: 4th

Newcastle

It was a strange season for Newcastle last year: after establishing themselves as solid, mid-table side, they floundered, only just escaping relegation in 16th place. The summer has also been a frustrating one, with star striker Papiss Cisse refusing to wear the Wonga-sponsored kit because of his faith and Alan Pardew struggling to improve his strike force.

One to watch: Loic Remy. The Frenchman did well in his few months in the Premiership last season – scoring 6 in 14 appearances – but he is also injury prone.  Newcastle’s season may hinge on how often Remy is fit to play.

Predicted finish: Relegation contenders.

Norwich

After finishing 11th last term, Chris Hughton’s side have not rested on their laurels to make a series of astute signings including Dutch stars Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer and Celtic forward Gary Hooper.

One to watch: Ricky Van Wolfswinkel. The 24-year-old Dutch striker has been making a name for himself at Sporting Lisbon in recent years, and could be an excellent addition replacement for Canaries super-sub Grant Holt.

Predicted finish: Mid-table.

Southampton

Southampton were one of the most attractive teams to watch last year, thanks to the likes of Jay Rodriguez, Gaston Ramirez, Adam Lallana and Morgan Schneiderlin. Expect another solid season.

One to watch: Victor Wanyama. The bruising defensive midfielder shone at Celtic last season, and was linked with top sides including Manchester United before moving to the south coast this summer.

Predicted finish: Mid-table.

Stoke

With Tony Pulis gone it will be interesting to see if Mark Hughes will change their uncompromising style.

One to watch: Marc Muniesa. The young Spaniard showed real promise at Barcelona, but may struggle to adapt to the physical demands of the English game. Stoke will need a robust defence if they’re to stay above water.

Predicted finish: Relegation contenders.

Sunderland

Paolo Di Canio be controversy  but you can’t argue with the effect he’s had on Sunderland. After reinvigorating them last season, the Italian has made some smart additions to his ranks: including American striker Jozy Altidore and keeper Vito Mannone to replace the Liverpool-bound Simon Mignolet.

One to watch: Emanuele Giaccherini. The former Juventus winger played a starring role for Italy in the Confederations Cup this summer and is a dangerous attacking threat.

Predicted finish: Mid-table.

Swansea

The Welsh Barcelona have carved out a spot as many Match Of The Day fans second team with their brand of fluid, continental football under Michael Laudrup. After clinching their first silverware last term, expect another promising year – particularly given the spate of summer signings, including Liverpool’s Jonjo Shelvey and Ivory Coast striker Wilfried Bony.

One to watch: Michu. Undeniable last season’s bargain buy, the prolific Spaniard will again be crucial to Laudrup’s plans.

Predicted finish: Top eight.

Tottenham

If we hold firm over Gareth Bale then we could be in for one of our best season’s in 30 years.  It’s no exaggeration to say that Gareth Bale was up there with anyone in the world with his sensational form.  The Welshman aside, Andre Villas-Boas has had an productive summer in the transfer market; Brazilian midfielder Paulinho is a world-class talent and Roberto Soldado could finally be the striker we have been crying out for for years.

One to watch: Gareth Bale.  No more to be said!

Predicted finish: Runners up

West Brom

With Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku having returned to Chelsea, Steve Clarke’s side will need a new star this season to fill his boots. The return of Nicolas Anelka to the Premier League will no doubt help, but it’s hard to see how he’ll match the Belgian forward’s impressive haul last season.

One to watch: Diego Lugano. The Uruguayan centre-back is an seasoned international, and will bring some serious quality to the Baggies’ defence.

Predicted finish: Safe – just.

West Ham

The signings of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing  tells you everything you need to know about how Sam Allardyce will continue to get the Hammers playing.  Up and at ‘em!  Exactly what the older West Ham fans who can remember the football played under Ron Greenwood and John Lyle makes of their current style is unprintable!

One to watch: Andy Carroll. When fit he can be a handful for any defender but staying fit is the problem.

Predicted finish: Mid-table.