English Premier League Season Preview

The EPL starts on Saturday and here are all 20 teams with an indication of their chances, the new players and the rejects and the key men. The predicted finishing position should things pan out as expected.


Manager: Arsene Wenger Position last season: 3rd Nickname: The Gunners Ground: Emirates Stadium Key Man: Robin van Persie (should he stay)


Santi Carzola (Malaga, £16.5m), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier, £13m), Lukas Podoloski (Cologne, £11m)


Gavin Hoyte (Dagenham, free), Manuel Almunia (Watford, free), Joel Campbell (Real Betis, loan), Denilson (Sao Paulo, loan), Ryo Miyaichi (Wigan, loan)

Chances: With or without want away captain Robin van Persie, big questions remain about the backbone of Wenger’s young Gunners, who would have failed to make the top four were it not for the Dutchman’s record goal haul.

Even if Van Persie does go, the scheduled return of Jack Wilshere in October and the progress of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are reasons for optimism. So are Wenger’s purchases of Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski.

The cups again offer the best chance of ending an eight-year trophy itch, and expect another rollercoaster battle for Champions League qualification.

Verdict: 4th – But only just


Manager: Paul Lambert Position last season: 16th Nickname: The Villans Ground: Villa Park Key Man: Darren Bent


Matthew Lowton (Sheffield United, £3m), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord, undisclosed) Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar, free)


James Collins (West Ham, undisclosed), Carlos Cuellar (Sunderland, free), Emile Heskey (released) Chances: Lambert has been charged with reviving Villa’s fortunes after a forgettable season under Alex McLeish. Expect the former Norwich boss to make his new side hard to beat once more and move in the right direction.

Villa fans will be glad to finally have a pair of steady hands in Lambert – following on from the reviled McLeish and fellow underachiever Gerard Houllier.

The Scot has become one of the game’s most promising young managers after leading Norwich to successive promotions before comfortably keeping them in the top flight.

Verdict: 9th – They won’t be in relegation trouble this year.


Manager: Roberto Di Matteo Position last season: 6th Nickname: The Blues Ground: Stamford Bridge Key man: Fernando Torres


Eden Hazard (Lille, £32m), Oscar (Internacional, £25m), Marko Marin (Werder Bremen,£7m), Thorgan Hazard (Lens, free)


Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua, free), Jacob Mellis (Barnsley, free), Salomon Kalou (Lille, free), Jose Bosingwa (released), Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, loan), Romelu Lukaku(West Bromwich Albion, loan), Kevin De Bruyne (Werder Bremen, loan)

Chances: Despite delivering the FA Cup and a coveted Champions League trophy, new fulltime boss Di Matteo will be expected to hit the ground running in the league – failure to do so may test owner Roman Abramovich’s patience.

He has been boosted by some heavy summer spending, including £32million on Eden Hazard, £20m on Oscar and £7m on Marko Marin.

Some say that these players are just advance presents for the Blues’ next manager – maybe one Pep Guardiola.

Verdict: 3rd – Better than last year but won’t stop the Manchester domination.


Manager: David Moyes Position last season: 7th Nickname: The Toffees Ground: Goodison Park Key Man: Nikica Jelavic


Steven Pienaar (Tottenham, £4.5m), Steven Naismith (Rangers, free)


Jack Rodwell (Everton, £12m), Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls, £1m), Adam  Forshaw (Brentford, undisclosed), James Wallace (Tranmere, undisclosed), Joao Silva (Levski Sofia, undisclosed), Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce, undisclosed), James McFadden (released), Marcus Hahnemann (released)

Chances: Moyes continues to get his well-drilled outfit punching above their weight and, fired by the goals of Croatia striker Nikica Jelavic, expect the Toffees to again be pressing for a top-six finish – but they might be foiled.

The re-acquisition of Steven Piennar is very helpful as the South African’s dynamism and combativeness is mixed with a good pass and eye for goal.

If Jelavic and Steven Naismith click – having both played well together at Rangers, this is certainly a possibility – the Toffees will be more of an attacking threat than last season.

Verdict: 7th – Should reverse places with Liverpool this year with Rogers as their manager.


Manager: Martin Jol Position last season: 9th Nickname: The Cottagers Ground: Craven Cottage Key Man: Clint Dempsey


Hugo Rodallega (Wigan, free), Mladen Petric (Hamburg, free), George Williams (MK Dons, free), Sascha Riether (Cologne, loan)


Dickson Etuhu (Blackburn, undisclosed), Marcel Gecov (AA Gent, undisclosed), Andrew Johnson (QPR, free), Danny Murphy (Blackburn, free), Pavel Pogrebnyak Reading, free), Bjorn Helge Riise (released), Orlando Sa (released)

Chances: After a sluggish start last time out following their Europa League campaign, Jol’s side settled into form and should again be looking to consolidate a finish in the top half.

Mladen Petric has looked good in pre-season, but a lot hinges on whether the club can keep hold of American dynamo Clint Dempsey.

Jol has ended an era at Craven Cottage, allowing key players like Bobby Zamora, Andrew Johnson and Danny Murphy to leave and it will be interesting to see how he addresses building a new attacking spine to the team.

Verdict: 11th – Certain bottom half team, but the high end of the bottom!


Manager: Brendan Rodgers Position last season: 8th Nickname: The Reds Ground: Anfield Key Man: Steven Gerrard


Joe Allen (Swansea, £15m), Fabio Borini (Roma, £10m)


Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbache, £1m), Craig Bellamy (Cardiff, undisclosed), Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina, undisclosed), Maxi Rodriguez (Newell’s Old Boys, undisclosed) Fabio Aurelio (Gremio, free), David Amoo (Preston North End, free), Stephen Darby (Bradford, free)

Chances: New boss Rodgers will have his work cut out to take Liverpool straight back into the top four, but he should at least get the Reds playing the right way and if they can add a killer instinct, Anfield could well become a fortress once more.

His purchase of Fabio Borini, whom he managed at Swansea, could prove shrewd, as the Italian has looked good in pre-season.

If he can keep Steven Gerrard fit and get the best from Joe Cole, as well as keeping Luis Suarez out of trouble, a sleeping giant could start to come back to life.

Verdict: 7th – Not enough firepower to trouble the Manchester teams and London’s Chelsea, and Arsenal, but still up there.


Manager: Roberto Mancini Position last season: 1st Nickname: The Blues Ground: Etihad Stadium Key Man: Yaya Toure


Jack Rodwell (Everton, £12m)


Vladimir Weiss (Pescara, undisclosed), Greg Cunningham (Bristol City, free), Owen Hargreaves (released), Gunnar Nielsen (released), Stuart Taylor (released), Wayne Bridge (Brighton, loan)

Chances: City’s wealthy owners saw their hefty investment pay dividends with a dramatic final day which clinched the title. However, with eyes now firmly set on conquering Europe, a successful defence of their domestic crown will prove a real test.

Jack Rodwell has been the first player they have splashed the cash on this summer, but it’s not necessarily an improvement to their first XI, with Mancini saying the former Everton midfielder must improve.

The strikers they possess are scarily good – Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero are good enough to feature for any other clubs in the league, and Edin Dzeko isn’t a bad reserve.

Verdict: 1st – They look the goods again. But retaining it will be harder than winning it.


Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson Position last season: 2nd Nickname: The Red Devils Ground: Old Trafford Key Man: Wayne Rooney


Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund, £17m), Nick Powell (Crewe, £4m)


Park Ji-sung (QPR, undisclosed), Richie De Laet (Leicester, undisclosed), Matty James (Leicester, undisclosed) Paul Pogba (Juventus, free), Tomasz Kuszczak (Brighton, free), Michael Owen (released), Fabio (QPR, loan), Ben Amos (Hull, loan)

Chances: United dug in last season but were eventually made to pay for defeats home and away to their noisy neighbours, plus some other crucial dropped points in the run-in.

However, with City set to be distracted by European ambitions, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men could come good again when it matters.

Shinji Kagawa will add extra creativity in an attacking midfield role, and if they can sign Robin van Persie their front-line will only be rivaled by Man City’s.

Antonio Valencia, Luis Nani and Ashley Young provide super supply from the  wings and chip in with numerous goals themselves – United will always be an offensive threat.

Verdict: 2nd – This will be close, but they will just finish behind City.


Manager: Alan pardew Position last season: 5th Nickname: The Magpies Ground: St James’ Park Key Man: Papiss Cisse


Curtis Good (Melbourne Heart, £400,000), Gael Bigirimana (Coventry, undisclosed), Romain Amalfitano (Reims, free)


Leon Best (Blackburn, £3m), Fraser Forster (Celtic, £2m), Danny Guthrie (Reading, free), Peter Lovenkrands (Birmingham, free), Alan Smith (MK Dons, free) Ryan Donaldson (released), Tamas Kadar (Roda JC, free)

Chances: Pardew was named Manager of the Year for last season’s heroics as the Toon Army punched above their weight. A European adventure awaits as a reward, and if Cisse fires again, expect the Magpies to be in for another positive campaign.

They have not spent much on getting in any new players though, while the teams above them have improved. It will be difficult to get as close as they did to Champions League football.

Hatem Ben Arfa needs to be kept fit and happy – at his best he is sublime. The greatest goalthreat comes from Cisse – with defenders more aware of him next term it remains to beseen if he can carry on his incredible scoring feats.

Verdict: 8th – But if they play as well as they did last season, it could be higher.


Manager: Chris Hughton Position last season: 12th Nickname: The Canaries Ground: Carrow Road Key Man: Grant Holt


Robert Snodgrass (Leeds, £3m), Michael Turner (Sunderland, undisclosed), Jacob Butterfield (Barnsley, undisclosed), Steven Whittaker (Rangers, free)


Andrew Crofts (Brighton, undisclosed), Adam Drury (Leeds, free), Aaron Wilbraham (Crystal Palace, free), Zak Whitbread (Leicester, free), Josh Dawkin (released), Daniel Ayala (Nottingham Forest, loan)

Chances: Following Lambert’s move to Villa, former Birmingham boss Chris Hughton has been charged with safeguarding the future of the Norfolk club, who will do well to emulatelast season’s success, with consolidation the target at Carrow Road.

It was bad enough when Lambert departed in the summer but the situation looked like it could get worse after key man Holt handed in a transfer request.

But a change of heart from the striker saw him sign a new three-year-deal that will be a massive boost for the Canaries, who are hoping to avoid second-season syndrome.

Verdict: 15th – Survival would be a bonus – doing it without a panic will be tough.


Manager: Mark Hughes Position last season: 17th Nickname: The R’s Ground: Loftus Road Key Man: Park Ji-Sung


Junior Hoilett (Blackburn, tribunal), Park Ji-sung (Manchester United, undisclosed), Samba Diakite (Nancy, undisclosed), Robert Green (West Ham, free), Ryan Nelsen (Tottenham, free), Andrew Johnson (Fulham, free), Fabio (Manchester United, loan)


Paddy Kenny (Leeds, £400,000), Heidar Helguson (Cardiff, undisclosed), Rowan Vine (St Johnstone, free), Peter Ramage (Crystal Palace, free), Danny Gabbidon (released), Danny Shittu (released), Fitz Hall (released), Gary Borrowdale (released), Lee Cook (released), Patrick Agyemang (released), Akos Buzsaky (released)

Chances: After last season’s rollercoaster ride battling the drop, QPR’s owners have spent enough in the summer to make sure they won’t be involved in another relegation scrap this season.

Park Ji-Sung is the most widely praised acquisition – his time at Manchester United has taught him more than a few things, and his work-rate is super.

Former Blackburn attacker Junior Hoilett is another sharp purchase by Hughes, along with the experienced trio of Robert Green, Ryan Nelsen and Andrew Johnson.

Verdict: 13th – No risk this year, QPR will be solid and safe. They will cause some shocks.


Manager: Brian McDermott Position last season: Promoted Nickname: The Royals Ground: Madjeski Stadium Key Man: Pavel Pogrebnyak


Chris Gunter (Nottingham Forest, £2.5m), Adrian Mariappa (Watford, £2.5m), Pierce Sweeney (Bray Wanderers, undisclosed), Pavel Pogrebnyak (Fulham, free), Danny Guthrie (Newcastle, free), Garath McCleary (Nottingham Forest, free), Nicky Shorey (West Brom, free)


Michail Antonio (Sheffield Wednesday, undisclosed), Tomasz Cywka (Barnsley, free), Brian Howard (released), Andy Griffin (released), Jack Mills (released), Joseph Mills (Burnley, loan)

Chances: McDermott’s men finished like a train last season to claim the Championship crown, but the Royals will be set for a tough return to the top flight, which could just prove a step too far.

Picking up Pogrebnyak is certainly a good way to go about readying the team for Premier League duty, but despite his impact at Fulham, doubts still remain.

Although Reading play a decent brand of football, the smart money is on them to return from where they came from.

Verdict: 20th – Harsh, perhaps, but someone has to finish bottom. Reading look  most likely to. Can’t survive.


Manager: Nigel Adkins Position last season: Promoted Nickname: The Saints Ground: St Mary’s Key Man: Adam Lallana


Jay Rodriguez (Burnley, £6m), Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham, undisclosed), Steven Davis (Rangers, free), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace, compensation not yet agreed)


Dan Harding (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Bartosz Bialkowski (Notts County, free), Lee Holmes (Preston North End, free), Ryan Doble (Shrewsbury, free), David Connolly (released), Radhi Jaidi (retired), Aaron Martin (Crystal Palace, loan), Tommy Forecast Gillingham, loan)

Chances: The Saints finally marched back up to the top flight following successive promotions, but their return has been a long time coming and expect it to be a tough campaign down at St Mary’s.

Adkins’ defence could prove the weak link. Kelvin Davis in goal has played out of his skin for the south coast side in recent years, but both centre backs Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld are inexperienced at this level.

Nathaniel Clyne is a good purchase, and Jay Rodriguez might be – provided he’s played in the right place. Adkins has been experimenting with a 4-3-3 in pre-season, which has seen the striker play on the left.

Verdict: 19th, they will struggle to win away games. 40 points and safety is a pipe dream.


Manager: Tony Pulis Position last season: 14th Nickname: The Potters Ground: Britannia Stadium Key Man: Peter Crouch


Michael Kightly (Wolves, £2m), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo, undisclosed), Jamie Ness (Rangers, free), Goran Popov (Dynamo Kiev, loan)


Danny Collins (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough, free), Andrew Davies (Bradford, free), Salif Diao (released), Ricardo Fuller (released), Louis Moult (released), Tom Soares (released)

Chances: Stoke’s European endeavours took their toll on their domestic efforts last season, but Pulis’ men still have enough to ruffle a few more feathers over the next nine months.

As ever with the Potters, it’s their physicality that they will be noted for. All over the fieldlies strength, in the defensive power of Ryan Shawcross, through to the rough and tumble of Jon Walters and Kenwyne Jones at the other end of the field.

Peter Crouch adds a bit of class to proceedings, but he’s far more likely to bundle one over the line after a long-throw than score another wonder-volley (or anything like it).

Verdict: 12th – A slight improvement from last year. The club have not gained much over the summer, though Rangers’ Jamie Ness is a decent passer. Plenty of deadwood has been shifted.


Manager: Martin O’Neill Position last season: 13th Nickname: The Black Cats Ground: Stadium Of Light Key Man: Stephane Sessegnon


Carlos Cuellar (Aston Villa, free)OUTMarcos Angeleri (Estudiantes, undisclosed), Asamoah Gyan (Al-Ain, £6m), Michael Turner (Norwich, undisclosed), George  McCartney (West Ham, undisclosed), Michael Liddle (Accrington, undisclosed), Jordan Cook (Charlton, free), Craig Gordon (released)

Chances: O’Neill produced the required upward impact on his appointment last season, and the Black Cats will continue to improve in all areas.

Sessegnon has been a Premier League revelation – the only mystery is why no bigger club has poached him from Sunderland.

The striker position needs to be filled though – Frazier Campbell and Connor Wickham need to be back ups to a 15-goal-a-season forward, rather than the first port of call.

Verdict: 10th – provided they get Steven Fletcher or another good striker.


Manager: Michael Laudrup Position last season: 16th Nickname: The Swans Ground: Liberty Stadium Key Man: Scott Sinclair


Michu (Rayo Vallecano, £2m), Jose Manuel Flores (Genoa, £2m), Jonathan de Guzman (Villarreal, loan)


Joe Allen (Liverpool, £15m), Ferrie Bodde (released), Casey Thomas (released), Joe Walsh (released), Scott Donnelly (released)

Chances: After last season’s superb displays under Rodgers, Laudrup will have his work cut out to emulate those achievements in his first season in English football, which will be a test.

Losing midfield pass-master Joe Allen will be harmful too – and Scott Sinclair could still be bought by Manchester City.

Whether Laudrup can keep the Swans’ passing machine going is a question that needs answering. If it doesn’t work, they could be left all at sea.

Verdict: 18th as it was Rodgers that got the job done last year, not the players. Third team to go down.


Manager: Andre Villas-Boas Position last season: 4th Nickname: Spurs Ground: White Hart Lane Key Man: Gareth Bale


Jan Vertonghen (Ajax, £10m), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Hoffenheim, £8m)


Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow, £5m), Steven Pienaar (Everton, £4.5m), Niko Kranjcar (Dynamo Kiev, £2m), Ryan Nelsen (QPR, free), Ben Alnwick (Barnsley, free), Louis Saha (released), Bongani Khumalo (PAOK, loan), Massimo Luongo (Ipswich, loan), Ryan Fredericks (Brentford, loan)

Chances: Harry Redknapp paid the price for failing to deliver Champions League football, but former Chelsea boss Villas-Boas will be hard pushed to do the same in the first year of his new project at White Hart Lane.

Roundly derided by Chelsea fans after nearly getting them knocked-out of Europe and derailing their title-bid, he is out to prove himself with their rivals Spurs.

Before the season starts he needs to get himself a striker – Jermain Defoe is currently his only real option up top, but Emmanuel Adebayor is close to moving from Manchester City.

Verdict: 5th if they have a blinder, 4th will be a huge ask. Too inconsistent.


Manager: Steve Clarke Position last season: 10th Nickname: The Baggies Ground: The Hawthornes Key Man: Peter Odemwinge


Ben Foster (Birmingham, undisclosed), Markus Rosenberg (Werder Bremen, free), Claudio Yacob (Racing Club de Avellaneda, free) Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, loan), Yassine El Ghanassy (AA Gent, loan)


Keith Andrews (Bolton, free), Joe Mattock (Sheffield Wednesday, free), Nicky Shorey (Reading, free), Marton Fulop (Astera Tripolis, free), Somen Tchoyi (released), Paul Scharner (released), Simon Cox (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed)

Chances: Clarke has a tough act to follow after Roy Hodgson left for England, but the Baggies have a strong enough squad to finish away from trouble, especially with Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea.

Up front is definitely where the Baggies are strongest, Odemwingie and Shane Long are goal threats enough, even before the addition of the Belgian battering ram.

However, this is the first real test of Clarke’s managerial prowess and it could mean a tricky season.

Verdict: 16th – Survival, but not with a lot of room to spare.


Manager: Sam Allardyce Position last season: Promoted Nickname: The Hammers Ground: Upton Park Key Man: Kevin Nolan


Modibo Maiga (Sochaux, £5m), Alou Diarra (Marseille, £2m), James Collins (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Stephen Henderson (Portsmouth, undisclosed), George McCartney (Sunderland, undisclosed), Raphael Spiegel (Grasshoppers, undisclosed) Jussi Jaaskelainen (Bolton, free), Mohamed Diame (Wigan, free)


Robert Green (QPR, free), Julien Faubert (Elazigspor, free), Frank Nouble (Wolves, free), Freddie Sears (Colchester, free), Abdoulaye Faye (Hull, free), John Carew (released), Papa Bouba Diop (released), Ravel Morrison (Birmingham, loan)

Chances: Big Sam did the job in getting the Hammers back up last season, albeit through the play-offs, but the real test of his credentials is to come.

He’s experienced in the top flight and most would back him to do a solid job at West Ham. The club are ambitious and already have a strong squad. With one or two more signings, they should be able to keep clear of a relegation dog-fight.

Verdict: 14th – For a good chunk of the season they might find themselves in trouble but Allardyce has never taken a team down from the Premier League yet.


Manager: Roberto Martinez Position last season: 15th Nickname: The Latics Ground: DW Stadium Key Man: Victor Moses


Arouna Kone (Levante, undisclosed), Ryo Miyaichi (Arsenal, loan), Ivan Ramis (Real Mallorca, undisclosed), Fraser Fyvie (Aberdeen, undisclosed)


Chris Kirkland (Sheffield Wednesday, free), Mohamed Diame (West Ham, free), Hugo Rodallega (Fulham, free), Hendry Thomas (released), Steve Gohouri (released), Jordan Robinson (released)

Chances: Martinez again left it late to produce the ‘Great Escape’, and it’s difficult to say this season will be much different.

Picking up Ryo Miyaichi on loan from Arsenal will be useful, but if they fail to keep Chelsea’s hands off of Moses, they won’t be any better off.

And yet, it just seems like relegation is an impossibility. They always seem to survive, from the most sticky situations.

Verdict: 17th – Survival, again. By a whisker, again. 

So that is how it looks for season 2012/13 in the English Premier League.