Everything you need to know for the Premier League
The start of the new Premier League season kicks off tomorrow and concluding today we will preview all twenty clubs.
Included will be the close season comings-and-goings, the respective Premiership finishes over the last six seasons (from 2004 to 2009), a quick look back at the 2008/09 season as well as the latest odds on winning the Premiership.
There are also the odds on the first manager to be shown the door. Finally for each team there is a synopsis and a prediction to argue over.
Past performances: N/A, N/A, 9th, 15th, 10th, 9th
Rear View Mirror: West Ham finished in the top half of the Premier League last season (10th) but it was the lowest finish of all the London-based clubs.
Top scorer last season: Carlton Cole 10
Front door: Peter Kurucz, Luis Jimenez (loan)
Back door: Freddie Sears (loan), Diego Tristan, Lee Bowyer
Win the title? 750/1
Fire the Manager! Gianfranco Zola 16/1
Synopsis: Gianfranco Zola and assistant manager Steve Clarke deserve plaudits for managing to pilot West Ham through a tricky 2008/09 season. It was a gamble to appoint such an inexperienced manager after the early season departure of Alan Curbishley but it worked — in the short term anyway.
When you consider that the Icelandic financial meltdown struck the West Ham boardroom with a vengeance, all in all a second consecutive mid-table finish was a decent performance. Unfortunately for Hammers’ supporters the same again is probably the height of ambition.
The new owners are only sticking around to protect their initial loans while waiting for the economic tide to rise so they can sell and move on. Investment in the squad will be minimal and significant departures are more likely than arrivals before the transfer window slams shut.
That hardly seems promising for the on-field product, but the silver-lining to the current ownership situation is that West Ham is a far more valuable product as a Premier League club than they are as a Championship side. As such no one has an interest in killing the golden egg laying goose. The operation will be tightly run but not to the point of endangering the value of the asset that is West Ham.
Season’s narrative: Who will finally buy the club and provide some long term stability?
Past performances: 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st
Rear View Mirror: Last season United only dropped two points against teams that finished in the bottom half of the table.
Top scorer last season: Cristiano Ronaldo 18
Front door: Antonio Valencia, Michael Owen, Gabriel Obertan
Back door: Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rodrigo Possebon (loan), Fraizer Campbell, Richard Eckersley, Manucho
Win the title? 2/1
Fire the Manager! 33/1
Synopsis: The trophies and achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson are unmatched in the annals of British football. And as Manchester United ready for another English season, another record beckons.
No English team has ever won the top-flight in four consecutive seasons. Huddersfield was the first to complete a hat trick in the 20s and Arsenal matched the feat in the next decade. Half a century later, Liverpool also matched the achievement.
Either side of the millennium Manchester United became the fourth club to win three-in-a-row, but failed when Arsenal won the Premier League in 2002 and the Red Devils finished third. Now, for the second time this decade, United has the chance to be the first club to take four straight titles.
Ferguson’s knack for reinventing United over the last two decades has been one of the secrets of a run of success that is unrivalled in English football (last season’s league title was the 11th in 17 seasons which beat Liverpool’s run of the same number of wins but in 18 seasons between 1972/93 and 1989/90). However, history does show that on occasion the metamorphosis has not been immediate.
Eric Cantona retired in 1997 — United failed to win the Premier League the following season.
Jaap Stam was shown the door in 2001 — United failed to win the Premier League the following season.
David Beckham was sold to Real Madrid in 2003 — United failed to win the Premier League the following season.
Ronaldo and Tevez in 2009 …
Season’s narrative: How will United replace the goal scorers they have lost during the summer?
Past performances: 14th, 9th, 5th, 5th, 11th, 8th
Rear View Mirror: Tottenham conceded just ten goals at home last season which was the best defensive record of any Premier League side at home.
Top scorer last season: Darren Bent 12
Front door: Kyle Naughton, Kyle Walker, Peter Crouch, Sebastien Bassong
Back door: Ricardo Rocha, Didier Zokora, Chris Gunter, Adel Taarabt (loan), Darren Bent
Win the title? 80/1
Fire the Manager! 33/1
Synopsis: With so many managerial changes and players constantly moving in and out it can difficult to benchmark Spurs. You can look at goals scored (07/08 it was 66; last season 46), goals conceded (07/08 61 to 45 last season), and poor starts precipitating changes at the top and countless other factors.
But over the last ten seasons one thing sticks out above all others — Spurs are horrible away from home.
At WHL they get the job done and generally do it well. Five times their home wins in a season have been in double figures and they have never won fewer than eight games while enjoying the comforts of home.
Away from home it is a completely different story. Even in the two seasons when they finished fifth their away form was still an Achilles heel. Over ten seasons they have never had a season in which they have won more away games than they have lost.
What is more they only once won more than five (six in 05/06). In total Spurs have won 43 Premier league road games out of the last 190 they have played — less than one quarter.
If Spurs truly are going to emerge as a top four club under Harry Redknapp then away from home is where they have to improve, and the improvement has to be a massive one.
Season’s narrative: As soon as the transfer window closes Harry will start banging on about the glut of players he wants to sign come January.
Past performances: Promoted
Rear View Mirror: Wolves won the Coca Cola Championship by seven points and scored 80 goals while conceding 52.
Top scorer last season: Sylvain Ebanks-Blake 25
Front door: Nenad Milijas, Marcus Hahnemann, Kevin Doyle, Andrew Surman, Greg Halford, Michael Mancienne (loan)
Back door: Nobody of consequence
Win the title? 2,000/1
Fire the Manager! 16/1
Synopsis: Wolves are back in the top flight for only the second time since 1984 and hope to stay around longer than a one season stint in 2003/04. The same could be said for manager Mick McCarthy. He can claim two spells as a Premier League manager but with few high points.
He was handed an anchor called Sunderland in 2003 and could not keep them in the top flight. After two seasons in the Championship he helped the club to promotion, but as the third anniversary of his appointment approached, he was fired as relegation became close to inevitable.
This time it has been a case of building a team from the ground up and this is very much McCarthy’s team. He has made some excellent signings over the last couple of seasons with the likes of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (Plymouth Argyle), Christophe Berra (Hearts) and Chris Iwelumo (Charlton) joining the club.
McCarthy has gone for an eclectic mix of players to add to his Championship winning squad.
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann has been signed to provide some competition for Wales international Wayne Hennessy — a canny move considering Matt Murray’s long standing injury problems.
Kevin Doyle made a largely favorable impression while last in the Premier League with Reading and should add scoring depth. Not much is known about midfielder Nenad Milijas (Red Star Belgrade) and Ronald Zubar (Marseille), while Greg Halford joins his fifth club in three years.
If McCarthy can maintain the side’s confidence there is a good chance that the 2010 season will finish with at least three teams worse off than Wolves.
Season’s narrative: Can they keep some clean sheets?
Fox Soccer Channel’s Bobby McMahon contributes articles on the entire world of football on FoxSoccer.com and his blog, while also being a regular on the Fox Soccer Report. He is also the winner of the 2008 Soccerlens Best Media Blogger and Readers’ Choice and Editors’ Choice Awards.