The season kicks off at quarter to one tomorrow and the heroes at STT have been beading for weeks. To fill the 19 and a bit hours, here is enough information and opinion on each team to fill your empty, competitive football-less heads.
Ingested: Bacary Sagna (Auxerre, undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski (Legia Warsaw, £2m), Eduardo da Silva (Dinamo Zagreb, undisclosed), Havard Nordtveit (FK Haugesund, undisclosed).
Excreted: Jeremie Aliadiere (Middlesbrough, £2m), Sebastien Larsson and Fabrice Muamba (
Prospects: After their worst season in recent memory, Arsenal will be looking to bounce back, but with so few players remaining from their 2004 undefeated season, have they got the ability to still mount a serious challenge for the title? In a word; not-f’ing-likely. But Wenger’s no mug, and showed an impressive collection of young talent in last year’s Carling Cup that might well form the backbone of this season’s new look (i.e. Henry-less) Arsenal. Goals in the one thing they need more than anything this season, and so a lot of their success will rest on the shoulders of new signing da Silva, a Brazilian-born Croatian international averaging almost a goal a game last season for Dynamo Zagreb. Somewhat unproven at this level, it’s gonna be a steep learning curve, but alongside a fit van Persie he could well score a bucketful.
Ingested: Nigel Reo-Coker (West Ham, £8.5m), Harry Forrester (
Excreted: Gavin McCann (Bolton, £1m), Jlloyd Samuel (Bolton, free), Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls, free), Stephen Henderson (
Prospects: I think many people expected more from Aston Villa last year given Martin O’Neill’s sublime track record, yet for one reason or another they didn’t quite fire. On paper they are starting to look like serious European contenders though, with the likes Reo-Coker and Harewood adding to an impressive collection of talent from home and abroad. If the excellent Petrov and Carew hit their stride early this year, Villa could well supersede many peoples’ expectations.
Ingested: Garry O'Connor (Lokomotiv Moscow, £2.7m), Stuart Parnaby (Middlesbrough, free), Sebastien Larsson and Fabrice Muamba (Arsenal, undisclosed), Olivier Kapo (Juventus, £3m), Daniel de Ridder (Celta Vigo, free), Richard Kingston (Antalyaspor, free), Rafael Schmitz (Lille, season-long loan), Liam Ridgewell (Aston Villa, £3m), Frank Quedrue (Fulham, £2m).
Excreted: Bruno N'Gotty (Leicester, free), Stephen Clemence (Leicester, £1m), DJ Campbell (
Prospects: And so
Ingested: Gunnar Nielsen (BK Frem Copenhagen, undisclosed), Maceo Rigters (NAC Breda, undisclosed), Roque Santa Cruz (Bayern Munich, undisclosed).
Excreted: Andy Todd (
Prospects: No offence to any Rovers fans out there, but its hard get excited in any way about
Ingested: Gavin McCann (Aston Villa, £1m), Jlloyd Samuel (Aston Villa, free), Gerald Cid (
Excreted: Tal Ben Haim (
Prospects: With a solid squad and steady building over the last few years
Ingested: Florent Malouda (Lyon, undisclosed), Tal Ben Haim (Bolton, free), Claudio Pizarro (Bayern Munich, free), Steve Sidwell (Reading, free), Danny Philliskirk (
Excreted: Khalid Boulahrouz (Sevilla, season-long loan), Yves Makaba-Makalamby (Hibernian, free), Geremi (
Prospects: They basically have to win the Champions League this year or its bye-bye Jose. Even a third Premier League title in four years would be seen as a disappointment by the
Ingested: Andy Todd (Blackburn, undisclosed), Robert Earnshaw (
Excreted: Seth Johnson (released), Paul Peschisolido (Luton, free), Morten Bisgaard (released), Paul Boertien (
Prospects: I take absolutely no pleasure in saying this but there is literally no way that
Ingested: Phil Jagielka (
Excreted: Gary Naysmith (Sheffield United, £1m), Richard Wright (West Ham, free), Alessandro Pistone (released), Scott Phelan (
Prospects: My dad always told me that good teams concentrated on being very strong right down the middle of the pitch, and Everton are certainly that: an excellent goalkeeper, a very solid central defensive partnership (now with Jagielka as an option too), a competitive midfield and a predatory goal poacher up top. Add to that the creative guile of Arteta and Cahill, and Everton will be pushing once again for
Ingested: Aaron Hughes (Aston Villa, £1m), Steven Davis (Aston Villa, undisclosed), Diomansy Kamara (West Brom, £6m), Chris Baird (Southampton, £3.025m), Paul Konchesky (West Ham, £3.25m), David Healy (
Excreted: Claus Jensen (released), Mark Pembridge (released), Tomasz Radzinski (released), Mark Crossley (released, now at Oldham), Michael Brown (Wigan, undisclosed), Frand Queudrue (
Prospects: I think if you offered Laurie Sanchez a 17th place finish now, he’d take it because Fulham will most likely be nuts-deep in a relegation dogfight most of this season. Looking at their squad there’s little to get excited about, even with the addition of Kamara for a frankly ludicrous sum of money, so scoring goals will most likely continue to be their main problem this year.
Ingested: Andrey Voronin (Bayer Leverkusen, free), Kristian Nemeth & Andras Simon (both MTK Hungariam, undisclosed), Nikolay Mihaylov (Levski
Excreted: Bolo Zenden (Marseille, free), Robbie Fowler (
Prospects: Following a second Champions League final in three years, Liverpool have clearly decided enough is enough and want their title of ‘biggest club in
Ingested: Geovanni (Cruzeiro, free), Rolando Bianchi (Reggina, £8.8m), Gelson Fernandes (FC Sion, undisclosed), Javier Garrido (Real Sociedad, £1.5m), Vedran Corluka (Dinamo Zagreb, undisclosed), Elano (Shakhtar Donetsk, £8m).
Excreted: Sylvain Distin (
Prospects: Its rare for a whole country to hate you unless, for example, you’ve been committing mass genocide for decades and oppressing a whole nation, but somehow Sven Goran Eriksson managed to achieve that status pretty easily. Everyone’s praying for his failure but to be honest,
Ingested: Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich, undisclosed), Anderson (FC Porto, undisclosed), Nani (Sporting Lisbon, undisclosed), Tomasz Kuszczak (
Excreted: Kieran Richardson (
Prospects: Well, the best team in the league have just got even better. There’s not much to really say about Man United at the moment, they have a simply incredible squad that is nigh on impossible to improve any further. Admittedly, Anderson and Nani might take some time to adjust to this country from the Portuguese league, but if Nani’s pre-season goal against the mighty Guangdong Pharmaceutical is anything to go by, I think they’ll do just fine. Also, kudos for finally getting rid of
Ingested: Tuncay Sanli (Fenerbahce, free), Jeremie Aliadiere (Arsenal, £2m), Jonathan Woodgate (Real Madrid, £7m), Luke Young (Charlton, £2.5m).
Excreted: Mark Viduka (
Prospects: With a solid defence marshaled by one of the best British defenders around, Middlesbrough are going to be a tougher prospect than most this season, however with a virtually non-existent midfield and hampered by the signing of Aliadiere up front with the Yak, I can’t see them finishing any higher than halfway.
Ingested: Mark Viduka (Middlesbrough, free), Joey Barton (
Excreted: Scott Parker (West Ham, £7m), Titus Bramble (Wigan, free), Antoine Sibierski (
Prospects: After a couple of years drifting in the wind, Newcastle now have a very competitive squad again for this upcoming season, and with Big Sam pulling the strings I can see a top 10 finish in store for them at least. Solid everywhere except maybe central defence, if their creative players fire they could well cause even the top 4 some real problems at St James’ Park. Furthermore, in Martins they have one of the most explosive players in
Ingested: David Nugent (Preston, undisclosed), John Utaka (
Excreted: Svetoslav Todorov (Charlton, free), Daryl Fordyce (released), Andy Grififin (
Prospects: Following a promising set of pre-season performances, hopes are high around
Ingested: Kalifa Cisse (Boavista, £1m), Emerse Fae (
Excreted: Steve Sidwell (
Prospects: Without the buzz of first-season-in-the-top-flight nerves, I fear for Reading this year. They undoubtedly have quality in all areas but its hard to see guys like Shorey and Doyle being able to keep up the high standards of last season. In Sidwell, they’ve also lost their midfield lynch-pin to the black hole that is
Ingested: Mido (Tottenham Hotspur, £6m) Dickson Etuhu (
Excreted: Kenny Cunningham (released), Tommy Miller (
Prospects: It’s difficult to predict how Sunderland are going to handle the step up this year, but with Keane behind the scenes you know for certain that they’re not going to rollover against anyone. Adding to what was a solid yet unremarkable squad from last season, upfront especially, Sunderland look like they might cause plenty of teams problems, with many possible combinations of pace and power. Whether the defense and midfield can cope with this significant jump in quality however is another matter…
Ingested: Gareth Bale (Southampton, £5m), Adel Taarabt (Lens, undisclosed), Yuri Berchiche (Athletic Bilbao, undisclosed), Darren Bent (Charlton £16.5m), Younes Kaboul (Auxerre, £8m), Danny Rose (Leeds, undisclosed), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Hertha
Excreted: Emil Hallfredsson (Lyn-Oslo, undisclosed), Reto Ziegler (Sampdoria, undisclosed), Mark Yeates (
Prospects: Perhaps the team with the best chance of challenging the ‘big 4’ this year, Spurs have steadily amassed a quality team with plenty of depth in all areas. The signings they’ve made have been promising, and it goes without saying that in Berbatov they have the league’s best player who’s not at Man United. Keen for a couple of seasons to edge Arsenal out of their champions league spot, I think Spurs now have the team to potentially do so.
West Ham United
Ingested: Scott Parker (
Excreted: Paul Konchesky (Fulham, £3.25m), Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa, £8.5m), Tyrone Mears (
Prospects: It’s hard not to like West Ham because they’ve always at least tried to play the right kind of football, and following last year’s close shave they’ll be looking for a consolidating season, free of drama. Having spent an awful lot of money over the summer, the squad is full of experience all over the pitch, and with Ashton hopefully back to his best, they’ll be desperate to start well. Reo-Coker and Harewood are not too great losses to be honest, but they might well miss the flare of Benayoun. However, if Curbishley can get just one more good season out of Ljundberg, and Bellamy can stay out of trouble, West Ham will undoubtedly vanquish all bad memories of last season’s relegation battle.
Ingested: Antoine Sibierski (
Excreted: Lee McCulloch (Rangers, £2.25m), Matt Jackson (
Prospects: As with