The Premier League is back!
A hugely successful club with 13 top division titles, The Gunners’ haven’t won the Premier League title since 2004 and although they finished 3rd last season, their fans will be expecting some silverware this time around, at the very least. Cesc Fabregas remains at the club despite rumours all summer linking him with a move to Barcelona, which has to be an unexpected bonus. Laurent Koscielny is their most significant signing this transfer window, with several other key free transfers. Local rivals are Tottenham Hotspur.
Martin O’Neill resigned the week before the season started, which came as a shock to many in the football media and also to their fans. It seems likely that midfielder James Milner will move to Manchester City before the transfer window closes at the end of the month, perhaps even sooner.
Rumours persist that American owner Randy Lerner will approach USA head coach Bob Bradley for the managers role, at the same time that the US Football Federation are denying that is going to resign his position for the National team. In the meantime, Villa went into their opening match against West Ham United with caretaker manager Kevin Macdonald leading from the dug-out. It is possible he may be offered the role permentantly if he does get off to a good start. Local rivals are Birmingham city.
Alex McLeish has strengthened the side, bringing in England International Ben Foster in goal, a £6million transfer from Manchester United. The same price was also paid for Nikola Zigic from Valencia. Several Free transfers and a couple of loan deals to provide depth for the squad. Finished 9th last season, a respectable finish that the fans will be hoping they can improve upon. Local rivals are Aston Villa, and to a lesser extent West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Sam Allardyce, aka ‘Big Sam’ is the manager at Ewood Park. A respectable top 10 finish last season. If the proposed ‘buy out’ from Indian businessman Ahasan Ali Syed comes to fruition, fans of the provincial Lancashire side may well find themselves recalling the heady days of the early 90s when Jack Walker was owner and they won the Premier League. Syed has promised £100 million to spend on transfers. Local rivals are Bolton Wanderers.
Premier League newcomers. Ian Holloway. Won the play off final at Wembley for promotion. Just signed Marlon Harewood on a free transfer. The strong forward played a significant role in the early part of Newcastle Uniteds promotion and Championship winning campaign last season. The Tangerines. The Seasiders. Local rivals are Preston North End, (not in this division)
Manager Owen Coyle has brought in free-transfer signing Martin Petrov, but few other signings. Local rivals are Blackburn Rovers. Bolton may not get dragged in to a relegation fight but I don't expect them to be much above it.
Premier League Champions and FA CUP winners last season. Manager Carlos Ancelotti will be hoping to inspire the West London side to match that success again and perhaps a more successful Champions League campaign. Deco, Joe Cole, and Michael Ballack have moved on but the core of the side is still as strong as ever.
Manager David Moyes will be pleased to have kept a successfull squad together, and in particular that playmaker Mikel Arteta has just signed new contract. Without spending big, Moyes and Chairman Bill Kenwright have improved the squad, bringing in Jermaine Beckford on a free transfer. Local rivals are Liverpool.
New manager Mark Hughes will be hoping to improve on, or at least match the achievements of Roy Hodgson, who propelled the South London side to the heady heights of a UEFA Europa League final last season and a *th placed finish. Hughes is a familiar face in the Premier League, as former Blackburn and also Manchester City manager between 2008 and 2009.
There is a lot of uncertainty over ownership at Anfield. The American owners want to sell but are yet to find a buyer. Bringing in new manager, Roy Hodgson to replace Rafael Benitez may not have pleased all their fans but was a pragmatic decision. Local rivals Everton of the same City. Intense regional rivalry with Manchester United. Will want to challenge for the title this year, having had a poor season last year by their own standards. Keeping hold of their best players such as Fernando Torres and Stephen Gerrard can only have helped their cause. They have made a few additions to their squad but it remains to be seen what impact they will make on the title race this season.
Blessed with a very rich owner and spending a lot of money in the transfer market, City could well be one of the title contenders this time around, if the project works the way it is intended! City haven’t secured the transfer of James Milner from Aston Villa yet, but it is expected to go through soon. Manager Roberto Mancini will be looking to do better than last season, given all the money they have spent, close to £100 million and potentially higher as they don't seem to have finished yet. Yaya Toure, David Silva and James Milner will give an entirely new look to the squad. Local rivalry with Manchester United. Will Manchester City become the biggest club in Manchester? Or will it be another false dawn? Exciting times though, at Eastlands.
Finished runners-up last year, won the Carling Cup. The Red Devils won the pre-season curtain opener -- the Community Shield at Wembley against League Champions Chelsea. But that counts for very little except a confidence booster. Alex Ferguson, the most successful Premier League manager ever will be wanted to beat Liverpools all time League Championship record this time around, having equalled it two seasons ago but falling short in the last campaign. If they are to improve on last season, forward Wayne Rooney will have to play much better for his club side than he did at the World Cup.
The Magpies bounced back from relegation at the first attempt, winning the Championship with a record breaking campaign. This was thanks largely to keeping most of their squad together, and the leadership of rookie manager Chris Hughton. The former Tottenham coach has now earned the right to lead the Toon Army through a Premier League campaign. They haven't strengthened much, and the purse strings have been tightened. Veteran defender Sol Campbell will be a welcome addition on a free transfer. Local rivalry with Sunderland.
Manager Tony Pulis kept them in the Premier League again last season and fans at The Brittannia Stadium will be hoping to push on and achieve a top 10 finish.
Manager Steve Bruce has signed defender Titus Bramble from Wigan, formerly of local rivals Newcastle. 'The Mackems' started well last season but faded. Finished 13th and their fans at the Stadium of Light will be hoping for improvement.
Under the leadership of Manager Harry Rednapp, Spurs finished 4th last season, qualifying for the European Champions League. Rednapp thinks they are in with a chance for the title. Perhaps too ambitious, I expect the top 4 to be much tighter this year and they may be edged out. A good champions league campaign will do them the world of good.
West Bromwich Albion
Manager Roberto di Matteo has his work cut out to keep the West Midland side in the top division. West Brom have a habit of bouncing between to top two tiers. Newly promoted again, 'the Baggies' finished runners up behind Newcastle in the second tier, Championship last season and won automatic promotion. Nicky Shorey from Aston Villa and Boaz Myhill from Hull City are their most significant additions to the ranks. Local rivalry with Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
West Ham United
New manager Avram Grant has brought in Pablo Barrera who is unknown on the European Continent, but has good reports from South America where he played for UNAM Pumas. The former Chelsea manager has also made a few other interesting additions to a squad (Winston Reid, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Pablo Barrera and Frederic Piquionne) which may be in the bottom half of the table and it remains to be seen how tight that relegation fight will be.
Manager Roberto Martinez may have kept Wigan in the top flight last season, but they are one of the candidates to go down and he will have a struggle on his hands. Definately one of the brightest young managers around, and fans at the DW Stadium are in for a fingernail biting season.
Local rivals Birmingham City, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion. Manager Mick McCarthy worked hard to keep the West Midlands Club in the Premier League last season and will have his work cut out again to repeat the feat.
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