Welcome to Part Two of my Premier League Preview, where I’m analysing the strengths and weaknesses of each of the twenty sides competing in the Premier League this season. If you missed Part One yesterday, make sure you check it out to see what I think each of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Blackburn and Bolton will be targeting from this season and whether or not they have the squads to achieve these goals.
Today I move on to look at new boys Burnley, title challengers Chelsea, Everton who will be looking to break the top four, a Fulham side who will want to repeat last season’s success and Hull City, who will hope that they can avoid be dragged into another relegation battle. What does the season hold for these clubs?
Last Season:5th in the Coca Cola Championship, promoted via the Playoffs.
Target: Burnley return to the top flight of English football via the playoffs, but despite a long history in English football (they were founder members of the football league) they will be under no illusions about this season – they have to survive, and establish a base from which to begin establishing themselves as a top flight club.
Squad Analysis: Promoted via the playoffs Burnley will no doubt be rank outsiders to survive the drop this season, but we all know that it can be done. If they are to survive though, Burnley will need every member of their squad to perform this season. They have less top-level experience than Birmingham and Wolves and few household names, but that doesn’t mean they will struggle. Last season they played really good football and if they keep that up and add some steel to defence, I think they could surprise a few people.
Key Player: I’m not too familiar with much of their squad, but I certainly have high hopes for Chris Eagles. The former Man Utd youngster has had a few good seasons at Burnley and looks like fulfilling his obvious potential. I always thought he could make an impression on the Premier League and maybe he will get his chance this season. If he plays to his ability, he will prove a crucial weapon in Burnley’s fight for survival.
Ttiao… Prediction: 15th. It won’t be comfortable, but I think Burnley will be this season’s surprise package.
Last Season: 3rd.
Target: A new season and another new Chelsea coach with a big reputation and big expectations. Big Phil let them down spectacularly last season but the magic of Guus Hiddink salvaged their season somewhat, and they’d have had a Champions League final appearance were it not for a referee of huge incompetence. Mr. Ancelotti knows what’s expected: Premier League and Champions League.
Squad Analysis: Chelsea’s is a squad brimming with experience, as many of its key components are now in their 30’s. You could see this as a negative, and perhaps the likes of Lampard, Drogba, Ballack and Carvalho will suffer more niggly injuries now, but they have a large squad with plenty of strength in depth. The only real additions are promising young striker Daniel Sturridge and Russian winger Yuri Zhirkov – and if he’s half as good in real life as he is on Football Manager then that’s quite a signing.
Key Player: Though many see John Terry as Mr. Chelsea, for me the key to their success is Lampard. Often compared unfavourably with Gerrard, Lamps is nevertheless a magnificent midfielder and when he plays well, so do Chelsea. If he can continue his form of recent seasons and chip in with more than his fair share of goals as usual, it will inspire those around him.
Ttiao… Prediction: No major improvements, but a new coach and weakened rivals: Chelsea will be Champions. 1st.
Last Season: 5th.
Target: Undoubtedly the best club outside of the ‘big four’ in the Premier League for the last two seasons, it’s all about progression for Everton. Hampered by an obscene amount of injuries last season they still had the staying power to finish 5th and reach the Cup final, and Moyes will have Cup success on his mind again, as well as ambitions of breaking into the top four again.
Squad Analysis: Though all the talk is about Lescott leaving at present, I don’t think Moyes will budge. That transfer aside there have been no major additions apart from Jo returning on loan for the season, and with a good pre-season under his belt that will prove an astute acquisition. With Jagielka, Arteta and Yakubu all still recovering from long term injuries some additions in defence and midfield are still needed, but when those players return and some new blood is added, Everton will have a squad capable of success.
Key Player: A tough choice as Everton are such a brilliant unit, with no real superstars, but I think Mikel Arteta is crucial to the way they play. While Pienaar and Osman have that creative spark and Cahill and Fellaini have great presence, no one can really run a game in the way that the Spaniard does. Everton look a more compose threat with Arteta on the pitch so the Toffees will hope that he returns to action sooner rather than later.
Ttiao… Prediction: 4th. Under Moyes, Everton thrive on adversity, and they’ll perform exquisitely again.
Last Season: 7th.
Target: Fulham shocked everyone last season, as Roy Hodgson turned them from relegation candidates into a side that qualified for Europe and maintained a stunning home record. They built on an extremely solid defence combined with some poaching, predatory attackers and the formula worked. They will want to repeat the trick this time around but will hope a European campaign won’t affect their league form.
Squad Analysis: Hodgson has yet to make any major additions to his squad this summer but, crucially, he hasn’t lost anyone either. Arsenal are sniffing around Hangeland, and the Norwegian would be a big loss, so they will be desperate to keep him. No doubt Hodgson is hoping to bolster the squad before the window shuts to aid their campaign on two fronts, but the likes of Erik Nevland, Andy Johnson and Clint Dempsey, who had a fantastic Confederations Cup, give them plenty of quality and creativity.
Key Man: Brede Hangeland. He rightly drew a lot of the plaudits for his performances last season, as he provided Fulham with a perfect foundation to go out and win games. Of course, he didn’t do it all on his own and Mark Schwarzer deserves a massive mention too, but if they can keep Hangeland and he can recreate last season’s solidity then it will give them every chance of repeating last season’s success.
Ttiao… Prediction: They haven’t got worse, but unlike their rivals, they haven’t improved. 10th.
Last Season: 17th.
Target: People often describe a club’s season as a roller coaster ride, and if we are to do that for Hull last season there’s only one choice: Alton Tower’s Oblivion. Against all expectations they rose steadily before suddenly plummeting ridiculously, in free fall, right until you thought they were doomed when they just about pulled out of the dive and survived by the skin of their teeth. It must have been a hell of a season, but I’m sure if you offered them the chance, they’d do it all over again so long as they survive come May.
Squad Analysis: The simple fact is that last season Hull began by massively overachieving, and then they reverted to normal and everyone realised that they weren’t good enough for the Premier League. That’s pretty much still the case because few additions have been made, though the loan capture of Jozy Altidore should give them more goals. Jimmy Bullard will be a new signing too when fit and will add some class to their midfield, but their squad still looks dangerously short on quality to me.
Key Player: Geovanni. When they started so well last time around it all centered around the Brazilian. He was scoring goals and creating them almost for fun, and when he was on song they looked dangerous. Then he sort of went missing, and so they stopped picking up points altogether. Geovanni can be their playmaker, and could make or break their season: if he plays well, they’ll survive, if he goes missing too often, they won’t.
Ttiao… Prediction: I think they’ll have a shocking season: 20th.
That’s all for Part Two of my Premier League Preview, but be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 3 when I will analyse Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Portsmouth and Stoke City.