Prospects of Premier League clubs

A look at the prospects for the 20 Premier League clubs heading into the new season, kicking off Aug. 13:


After another offseason dominated by Barcelona’s interest in captain Cesc Fabregas, the Gunners are delighted that the 24-year-old Spaniard appears set to stay. The signing of Ivory Coast international Gervinho from Lille will add flair to manager Arsene Wenger’s attacking options, which last season relied heavily on the injury-prone Robin van Persie. Their title challenge collapsed in April, when they went from contenders with a game in hand on leader Manchester United to finishing fourth. Many expected Wenger to be more active during the offseason, with pressure on the Frenchman to end the barren trophy spell of six seasons. Without strengthening further, they will likely struggle to secure Champions League football.


Villa has seen the arrival of a new manager and the loss of two star players. Alex McLeish replaced coach Gerard Houllier, who left the club on health grounds. The 52-year-old McLeish came from city rival Birmingham, which had recently been relegated from the Premier League under his guidance. Outside of Villa Park, thousands of fans protested against the decision, but without success. The transfers of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing soon followed but McLeish began to win over fans with the astute signing of goalkeeper Shay Given from Manchester City and Charles N’Zogbia from Wigan. Villa will struggle to improve upon last seasons ninth-place finish.


After leading Blackburn to safety in the second half of last season, manager Steve Kean has had a tough offseason with little transfer activity. The transfer of Phil Jones to Manchester United is a big loss but the fans are expecting to see some of the 17 million pounds ($27.7 million) reinvested into the team. Keeping central defender Christopher Samba has been a success, but it seems more players are looking to leave Ewood Park.


Owen Coyle will prepare his side for an important season after an encouraging campaign last time. The 45-year-old Coyle will be key for the Trotters this season as his tactical awareness, along with employing an attacking style of football, means they will not surprise anyone by achieving a top-10 finish. Keeping center back Gary Cahill at the Reebok Stadium, despite rumored interest from some of England’s biggest clubs, could be a huge factor in influencing the success of the club.


Andre Villas-Boas replaced Carlo Ancelotti as manager of Chelsea after his outstanding achievements with FC Porto, which saw him lift the Europa League and the Portuguese league titles last season. The 33-year-old Villas-Boas will prioritize in helping 50 million pound ($71.5 million) Fernando Torres rediscover his deadly scoring form. The 27-year-old Spaniard scored once in 18 appearances for the Blues after his January move from Liverpool and struggled to develop a partnership between Didier Drogba or Nicolas Anelka. An offseason knee injury suffered by influential midfielder Michael Essien has ruled the Ghana player out for six months.


David Moyes has gone through another quiet offseason with Everton. An injury to Mikel Arteta could see the Toffees endure another slow start to the season and the failure to replace Steven Pienaar following his move to Tottenham in January could see them struggle. Striker Victor Anichebe has been challenged by Moyes to meet his ”great potential” over the coming season. The 22-year-old Anichebe signed a new 4 1/2-year contract in January and Moyes wants to see the Nigeria international establish himself as a first team regular. Attacking midfielders Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini will also look to contribute with enough goals for Everton to challenge for Europe.


The appointment of Martin Jol as Fulham manager has been a welcome one from the fans after the departure of Mark Hughes. Hughes’ eighth-place finish will be tough to beat in Jol’s first season in charge but the Dutchman has made an astute signing in John Arne-Riise, who has plenty of Premier League experience after seven seasons at Liverpool. Pajtim Kasami also offers plenty of potential. The 19-year-old midfielder made 24 appearances in Serie A for Palermo last season. Jol will look to get the best out of Bobby Zamora, who is returning to fitness following a broken leg.


The appointment of club legend Kenny Dalglish as full-time manager signifies the optimism around Anfield ahead of the new season. Chairman John Henry has backed the 60-year-old Dalglish in the transfer market, investing in a policy of recruiting young, favorably British, talent with a potential resale value. The signings of Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing epitomize that ideology. The arrival of Charlie Adam from Blackpool is seen as a key transfer by Dalglish, who targeted the Scotsman in January. Captain Steven Gerrard is still struggling with a groin complaint and the 31-year-old England international will be out until September at the earliest. Gerrard’s last appearance for Liverpool was on March 6 and he will need to return to full fitness before long if his club is to secure a return to Champions League football.


The signing of Sergio Aguero has been the biggest summer transfer for Manchester City, with the Argentine brought in to spearhead the club’s attack on Manchester United’s Premier League title. City will compete in the Champions League for the first time in their history and manager Roberto Mancini is eager to add more silverware to his collection after last seasons FA Cup triumph. His squad has more than enough depth to seriously compete in the four competitions they are involved in. Gael Clichy’s arrival from Arsenal to replace Jerome Boateng is a clever signing and defender Stefan Savic has plenty of promise.


Alex Ferguson has been forced into the transfer window this offseason following the retirement of Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar. The signing of highly rated goalkeeper David De Gea from Atletico Madrid is as good a replacement as Ferguson could have hoped for and the arrivals of Phil Jones and Ashley Young suggest that he is now prepared to invest in English talent to maintain the Red Devils status as record holders of league titles after securing their 19th championship last season. United also have plenty of homegrown young players coming through to challenge for starting positions.


Newcastle’s offseason has been dominated by off-field activities. The departure of captain Kevin Nolan to West Ham was followed by Joey Barton being allowed to leave the club on a free transfer after publicly criticizing the way the club is being run. Left back Jose Enrique, who enjoyed an outstanding previous season for the club, also was unhappy at the club’s hierarchy and their decision to sell key players without reinvesting the funds gained.


Paul Lambert leads a young Norwich side into the Premier League on the back of two successive promotions. With a strikeforce headed by Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson, there will be pressure on them along with new signing James Vaughan to provide the goals to steer them away from relegation. Other youngsters who have joined The Canaries, such as Elliott Bennett and Kyle Naughton, will have to adapt quickly to the standard of the Premier League for Norwich to avoid relegation.


After strolling to promotion last season, manager Neil Warnock has decided to keep the faith with his squad for their season in the Premier League. The signing of Jay Bothroyd on a free transfer could be a masterstroke – the 29-year-old striker earned a surprise call-up to the England squad last season after scoring a number of goals in the League Championship for Cardiff and if he can bring that form into the Premier League, the Hoops could well avoid relegation troubles.


Stoke secured qualification into the Europa League for the first time in their history after finishing as runners-up in the FA Cup. Manager Tony Pulis has developed Stoke into a comfortable mid-table side in their three seasons in the Premier League. He has taken a gamble on signing injury-prone center defender Jonathan Woodgate on a free transfer from Tottenham.


Despite the exit of rising star Jordan Henderson to Liverpool, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce will be pleased with his acquisitions over what has been a busy offseason for the Black Cats. The signings of Wes Brown and John O’Shea, who has been appointed captain, from Manchester United bring a wealth of experience to a defense which at times looked fragile last season. With the players Bruce has at his disposal, he will almost certainly be expected to improve upon Sunderland’s 10th-place finish from last season.


Manager Brendan Rogers surprised most people by achieving promotion with the Swans last season. But avoiding the drop and leading Swansea to survival would impress many more as his club is one of the favorites to get relegated this season. Swansea have plenty of flair in attack and most eyes will be on former Chelsea player Scott Sinclair. Summer signing Danny Graham could be a hugely important player Swansea – he managed 24 goals for Watford last season.


Harry Redknapp maintained his reputation as a shrewd operator in the transfer market with the signing of veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel on a free transfer. The 64-year-old Redknapp will hope that Friedel can solve the goalkeeping problems at the club if, as expected, the American takes over from the inconsistent Heurelho Gomes as the first-choice goalkeeper. Elsewhere, the decision from Luka Modric to remain at White Hart Lane for another season is a boost for Spurs. If he and Gareth Bale can stay fit for the majority of this season, Tottenham will be sure to compete for a place in the top four again.


Taking over from Roberto Di Matteo, manager Roy Hodgson steered West Brom to a comfortable 11th-place finish in their first season back in the Premier League. The arrival of Ben Foster will end the uncertainty that surrounded the No. 1 jersey last season and Foster will use another season of Premier League football to showcase his international potential. Fan favorite Zoltan Gera’s decision to rejoin the Baggies from Fulham will add to the depth of the team but undoubtedly Hodgson’s most important achievement over the offseason was keeping clinical striker Peter Odemwingie at the club. Having scored 15 goals last season, Odemwingie is the key player in Hodgson’s team.


After yet again securing his side’s Premier League status on the final day of the season, Roberto Martinez will be hoping he can guide Wigan further up the table this season. The signing of goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi was deemed a necessity after the Omani’s great form throughout the season. Surprisingly, Martinez is yet to provide a replacement for Charles N’Zogbia, who was the Latics’ joint top scorer alongside Hugo Rodallega with nine goals last season. After Wigan managed to score only 40 goals last season, Martinez undoubtedly needs to provide greater support for Rodallega if Wigan are to improve on last season’s 16th-place finish.


Wolves are looking to consolidate their status as a Premier League club this season – a fact made clear by some astute signings by manager Mick McCarthy. Central defender Roger Johnson has been brought in to strengthen a defense which leaked 66 goals last season. The 28-year-old Johnson has been appointed captain by McCarthy, who described him as ”a commanding defender who is vocal and a leader.”