402 total views
Four times in succession Palace fans saw their team promoted to the Premier League, only to see them fall back down to the Championship after only one season. So when Tony Pullis guided the Eagles to 11th in the table last year, receiving the Premier League’s manager of the year award in the process, optimism was high at Selhurst Park for the coming season. Fast forward two weeks into the season and the club was in disarray. Pullis’ resignation, followed by the failed appointment of Malky Mackay, left the club without a manager for the start of the season. Enter Neil Warnock.
Back at Selhurst Park after leaving in 2010, Warnock will not be distracted by last year’s over achievement in the league – he will be aiming for one thing and that is survival. Wilfred Zaha returns on loan, with Andrew Johnson also having a second stint with Palace . Zaha should relish being back at his old club, while Johnson should bring much needed experience to a side who will be in shock following the pre season troubles. Add James McArthur (a record signing for the Eagles at seven million pounds), Kevin Doyle on loan and Manchester United youngster Zeki Fryers, Warnock has not wasted what little time he has had to strengthen the squad. Palace will need all of Warnock’s experience to avoid another relegation.
Following last season’s fifth place finish, Roberto Martinez’s Everton will be looking to hold ground and build on last season’s brilliant effort. Martinez built upon the foundations that Moyes had in place; a close squad harmony, while the mix of youth and experience mean that the Toffees will be looking forward to the coming season. While the squad lacks the quality of the teams that finished above them, Romelu Lukaku arriving for £28m shows intent to attack the top four and aim for higher honours this year.
Mixing the experience of Gareth Barry and Steven Pienaar with the youth of Besic, Barkley and Lukaku means that Martinez has a balanced midfield, backed up by an experienced defence of Baines, Distin, Jagielka and Howard. The fact that no players headed to Goodison Park on deadline day shows that Martinez is happy with his squad and is ready for the coming season. Everton’s season will be decided by how they can cope with competing in Europe as well as competing domestically, and how a 21 year old Lukaku can handle his huge price tag and the pressure of half of Merseyside on his back.
A finish of 16th might not look like an impressive achievement, but you won’t hear any of the Hull fans complaining. Safely avoiding relegation, their highest ever Premier League finish and a Europa League place courtesy of their FA cup final appearance. Despite the fan fallout with the proposed name change to “Hull Tigers,” the club had a stellar season last year. The squad looks much better than last year, with Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass in particular looking to impress once more. Youngsters Tom Ince and Tom Maguire at either end of the field will inject youth into an already youthful looking team. New signing Shane Long will join Nikica Jelavic in attack, the latter finishing last season as the leading goal scorer at the club, despite only joining in January.
Unlike the other managers I’ve mentioned so far, Steve Bruce was a busy man on deadline day. Hatem Ben Arfa from Newcastle and Gaston Ramirez are players of real quality while Mo Diame’s signing from West Ham will help to strengthen the midfield. The real eye catching signing however was the capture of Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez for a club record of £10m, showing that Steve Bruce is aiming to improve on last year.
After winning the Championship last year with a club record of 102 points, Leicester City are returning to the Premier League for the first time in a decade. The signing of Esteban Cambiasso will bring added experience and quality to a team who managed to score 120 goals in the league last year. Just half of that number should see Leicester safe from the Championship drop.
Nick Powell and Tom Lawrence have joined from Manchester United, which adds depth to a squad who were promoted with six games to go last year. While the lack of serious quality up front (David Nugent scored 20 goals last season in the league, but managed only six in his last season in the top flight), the Leicester midfield looks like their strongest area. Matty James and Danny Drinkwater (both former Manchester United players) managed 12 goals between them from the middle of the park last year, forming an effective partnership. Nigel Pearson can also rely on Kasper Schmeichel, who has just signed a new four year deal with the club. The 27 year old Dane didn’t miss a minute last season, conceding only 43 goals. Leicester might lack genuine quality up front, but they have a well rounded squad, and the acquisition of Brighton striker Leonardo Ulloa for eight million pounds will hopefully help up the field.