Friday, 26 August 2011

Week 2: Premier League Tops and Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Week

Plenty of action and controversy this week as the referees' decisions are under the microscope and hefty criticism once again, after overseeing 23 goals, two penalties  (which should have been three), 32 bookings and three sendings off (which should have been four):

Taylor made Toon winTop game: The Tyneside derby had a little bit of everything. Sunderland and Newcastle head-to-head in competitive spirit, showing the good and ugly side of the game, it was certainly not pretty but feisty, the fans definitely got what they paid for.

Top team: QPR made a good bounce back against Everton after their opening day 4-0 thrashing against Bolton. Their 1-0 win at Goodison Park was an amazing result, especially regarding the circumstances after their team was hit by a virus on top of everything else.

Tevez challenging for the ballTop player: Manchester City's Edin Dzeko was on fire, he looked a totally different player in his side's 3-2 win at the Reebok Stadium. With him on form and Samir Nasri finally signed, the likes of out-of-favour Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy will not be missed much if &and when they finally go.

Top goal: Gabriel Agbonlahor's opener for Aston Villa in their 3-1 win against Blackburn was a supreme take. After good buildup with Darren Bent, the number 11 striker cut one way, then the other, fooled everyone to float and curl the ball past Paul Robinson. Brilliant.

Top news: Champions League group draw, Europa League group draw, only days left for the transfer window to produce a couple more suprises and uproars...

Anderson Manchester United Premier LeagueFlop game: I thought Tottenham's trip to Old Trafford would be a bit more of a competition. It was a good match in the first half, but in the second half it was all United, Spurs nowhere to be seen, making no real competition of it, letting United dance all over them. No discredit to United, but it was a boring shame.

Flop team: Arsenal looked like a nervous bunch of nobodies, showing lack of discipline, defensive gaps and leaks everywhere, making it an easy 2-0 win for Liverpool at the Emirates eventhough the visitors were not at their best either. Even Sunday League football looks more competitive and professional then these dragging Gunners.

Arsene Wenger showing his frustrationFlop player: Emmanuel Frimpong's tackle on Liverpool's Lucas Leiva and his consequential sending off was unnecessary and irresponsible. It was one of the rare occasions where the ref got the decision spot-on though. Otherwise, the refs have not been on top of the game, especially Howard Webb at the Stadium of Light, after not giving Sebastian Larsson's handball which stopped Joey Barton's goalbound shot. The linesman disappointed Webb and left Barton outraged, makes a change, then. Why the video replays cannot be used is still a myth to me!

Flop goal: It has been a good week(end) for goalkeepers, the only flop goals were missed penalties and/or good saves! Although, Aaron Ramsey will not feel so lucky with the own goal he conceded against Liverpool...

Flop news: Kenwright blaming the bank for Everton's misery and lack of transfer activity; if you cannot afford it, why keep it?! Does nobody else want it or are you asking for too much, maybe?

My predictions - Actual results
Sunderland 1:1 Newcastle - 0:1
Arsenal 1:1 Liverpool - 0:2
Aston Villa 2:1 Blackburn - 3:1
Everton 3:1 QPR - 0:1
Swansea 1:1 Wigan - 0:0
Chelsea 4:1 West Brom - 2:1
Norwich 0:0 Stoke - 1:1
Wolves 2:1 Fulham - 2:0
Bolton 2:3 Man City - 2:3
Man Utd 4:2 Tottenham - 3:0

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Week 1: Premier League Tops and Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Week

It wasn't the most riveting opening weekend in Premier League history with only 11 goals on the opening day, but it was certainly not the most boring with a lot of controversy as always, here are my picks of the week:

Sebastian LarssonTop team: Without a doubt Manchester City run away with this award with the most convincing result and win after thrashing Swansea 4-0. But their rivals United impressed and showed why they are champions as always with their team performance although they needed that bit of luck to get the winner in the end, thanks to a Steven Reid who deflected Ashley Young's shot into goal.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney opens the scoring
Top player: Wayne Rooney - everything and everyone is revolving around him at United. Apart from his new hairdo, he is taking over the game and headlines for all the right reasons, dominating possession, walking all over the opposition and providing his team with crosses, chances, goals and with it wins and points. Champion indeed.

Top goal: Sebastian Larsson's stunner and equaliser against Liverpool. Ahmed Elmohamady's corking cross found Larsson, who was waiting and watching patiently before smashing the ball in with his right foot to make it 1-1 and let Sunderland grab a point at Anfield.

Top news: Queens Park Rangers have confirmed the successful takeover of Malaysian business tycoon Tony Fernandes.

Alex Song (left) and Gabriel Obertan (right)
Flop game: Obviously it was sad to see the Tottenham-Everton game having to be postponed due to safety reasons after the London riots, but, hey, rather safe than sorry. The most disappointing encounter after their 4-4 drama of last season was the 0-0 between Arsenal and Newcastle. They just didn't live up to last season's action-packed clash... Shame.

Flop team: Things could not have gone worse for QPR. After impressing so much in the first half, it all went downhill from there, from bad to worse to just embarrassing, especially the sending off of Clint Hill was the most stupid icing on the already horrible cake. QPR were certainly taught a hard lesson on Premier League football.

Flop player: Alex Song! The way he stamped on Joey Barton is unacceptable, no matter what his excuse is of what Barton might have done or said. It is not what I call sportsmanship! Good on the Premier League for acting fast and penalising and banning him accordingly and appropriately to show other players to not even think about spitting out with any kind of similar disgusting attitudes!

Norwich City playersFlop goal: New United keeper David De Gea has enough pressure on him to fill Edwin van der Sar's shoes, but after he let Long's shot sneak under him which should have been an easy stop, all eyes will be on him even more. Every keepers nightmare. And can someone tell me why Andy Carroll's goal was disallowed, exactly? If that minute physical contact is deemed  to be a fowl, then there should be about 22 red cards in every game!

Flop news: Arsene Wenger, just stop denying and refusing to stand up and come out with it! Your main players ARE GONE (or in the process of leaving)!

My predictions - Actual results
Blackburn 3:1 Wolves - 1:2
Fulham 2:1 Aston Villa - 0:0
Liverpool 3:0 Sunderland - 1:1
QPR 1:1 Bolton - 0:4
Wigan 1:0 Norwich - 1:1
Newcastle 2:2 Arsenal - 0:0
Stoke 1:2 Chelsea - 0:0
West Brom 0:4 Man Utd - 1:2
Man City 4:0 Swansea - 4:1

Friday, 12 August 2011

2011-2012 Premier League Season Preview

Sports - Football - Premier League - 2011-2012 Season Preview

And here we are again, new season, new luck, new drama, bust-ups, shouts, tears and cheers. Here is a quick overview of all the top league's teams with some ins, outs, facts, stats & thoughts:

Red shield with large gold cannon below the word "Arsenal" in white letters. Thin white and blue stripes line the shield's left and right edges.Arsenal

Ins: Gervinho from Lille, Carl Jenkinson from Charlton Athletic, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton

Outs: Kyle Bartley on loan to Rangers, Jay Emmanueal-Thomas to Ispwich Town, James Shea on loan to Dagenham & Redbridge, Denilson on loan to Sao Paulo, Gael Clichy to Manchester City, Mark Randall to Chesterfield, Thomas Cruise released, Jens Lehmann retired.

Facts & Stats: Manager: Arsene Wenger (16th season)
Owner: Arsenal Holdings plc
Chairman: Peter Hill-Wood
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 4th, 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 4th
Last trophy: 2004-05 FA Cup

Thoughts: Once again, it has been a worrying summer break for the Gunners, with more possible exits making the headlines than promising signings. Skipper Cesc Fabregas has not been included in the squad for their most recent pre-season friendly trip to Lisbon and their opening Premier League fixture against Newcastle, with boss Arsene Wenger insisting however they want to keep the Spaniard. Midfielder Samir Nasri has also been excluded, with both players looking to move to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively. With or without them, it looks to be another bleak season for the London side if they do not make any further changes.

A crest with a claret border, light blue background and yellow lion rampant facing to the left with a small star slightly above an outstretched leg. AVFC is atop the lion in claret writing with "Prepared" written underneath.Aston Villa

Ins: Nathan Delfouneso from Burnley (loan expired), Shay Given from Manchester City, Charles N'Zogbia from Wigan Athletic

Outs: Robert Pires released, Moustapha Salifou released, Isaiah Osbourne released, John Carew released, Harry Forrester released, Brad Friedel to Tottenham Hotspur, Ashley Young to Manchester United, Stewart Downing to Liverpool, Nigel Reo-Coker to Bolton Wanderers

Facts & Stats: Manager: Alex McLeish (1st season)
Owner: Randy Lerner
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 11th, 6th, 6th, 6th, 9th
Last trophy: 2001-02 Intertoto Cup

Thoughts: The summer break has looked very costly for the Lions after releasing five players and losing four of their first team players to Premier League oppositions, including one of the club's two top scorers of last season, Ashley Young. But with keeper Given and midfielder N'Zogbia signed up and confident they can replace the departed, McLeish can take a deep breath and see whether he can work with them to improve Villa's slump.

Blackburn Rovers.svgBlackburn Rovers

Ins: Myles Anderson from Aberdeen, David Goodwillie from Dundee United, Radosav Petrovic from Partizan

Outs: Frank Fielding to Derby County, Maceo Rigters released, Phil Jones to Manchester United, Zurab Khizanishvili to Kayserispor, Aaron Doran to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Benjani released, Jason Brown to Aberdeen, Jake Kean on loan to Rochdale, Nikola Kalinic to Dnipro, Keith Andrews on loan to Ipswich Town

Facts & Stats: Manager: Steve Kean (2nd season)
Owner: Venky's London Limited
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 10th, 7th, 15th, 10th, 15th
Last trophy: 1994-95 Premiership

Thoughts: Blackburn escaped relegation by just four points last season. However manager Steve Kean is optimistic with new signings Anderson and Goodwillie and prospect signings of defender Bruno Ribiero and a new midfielder and striker to boost the squad before the end of the transfer window giving plenty of ground for optimism.

Badge of Bolton WanderersBolton Wanderers

Ins: Darren Pratley from Swansea City, Nigel Reo-Coker from Aston Villa, Chris Eagles from Burnley, Tyrone Mears from Burnley

Outs: Johan Elmander to Galatasaray, Gavin McCann retired, Jlloyd Samuel released, Tamir Cohen released, Ali Al Habsi to Wigan Athletic, Danny Ward to Huddersfield Town, Matthew Taylor to West Ham United, Joey O'Brien to West Ham United

Facts & Stats: Manager: Owen Coyle (2nd season)
Owner: Eddie Davies
Chairman: Phil Gartside
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 7th, 16th, 13th, 14th, 14th
Last trophy: 1996-97 Division 1

Thoughts: Bolton have certainly been busy this summer with four new signings, eight departures, nine warmup games (won seven, lost two), and they are still on the lookout for a new winger and striker after revealing they are set to sell Shaun Wright-Phillips. Boss Owen Coyle and his side feel and look confident and given the time to settle have and will certainly show more signs of improvement on the field as much as they have off it.

Chelsea FC.svgChelsea

Ins: Thibaut Courtois from Genk, Oriol Romeu from Barcelona, Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht

Outs: Jan Sebek released, Michael Woods released, Carl Magnay released, Danny Philliskirk to Sheffield United, Jacob Sala to Hamburg, Fabio Borini to Parma, Nemanja Matic to Benfica, Michael Mancienne to Hamburg, Jeffrey Bruma on loan to Hamburg, Jack Cork to Southampton, Sam Walker on loan to Northampton town, Thibaut Courtois on loan to Atletico Madrid, Yuri Zhirkov to Anzhi Makhachkala

Facts & Stats: Manager: Andre Villas-Boas (1st season)
Owner: Roman Abramovich
Chairman: Bruce Buck
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd
Last trophy: 2009-2010 Premier League & FA Cup

Thoughts: It has been quiet around Chelsea for Roman Abromvich's means and standards. With only a couple of new signings, it is most certain the boss is looking for the likes of record signing Fernando Torres to finally kick off and find his old goal rush back. And with new manager Andre Villas-Boas, the Russian billionaire is looking to get the good old Portuguese spark back to the club they have missed since Jose Mourinho's controversial departure in 2007.

Everton's crestEverton


Outs: Iain Turner released, Hope Akpan to Crawley Town, Kieran Agard to Yeovil Town, James Vaughan to Norwich City

Facts & Stats: Manager: David Moyes (10th season)
Chairman: Bill Kenwright
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 6th, 5th, 5th, 8th, 7th
Last trophy: 1995-1996 Charity Shield

Thoughts: With a mixed pre-season (three wins, three defeats) and rather quiet summer on the transfer market at Goodison Park, David Moyes looks like he is sitting tight looking to get the most of what he has got rather than rocking the boat. Defender Sylvain Distin  was hoping for new faces on the one hand but is also excited by the merging players from the Academy, so it is all hope and not all flash the cash for Everton.

Everton's opening fixture against Tottenham Hotspur has been postponed due to safety reasons (see London Riots news feeds).

Fulham's crest since 2000Fulham

Ins: John Arne Riise from Roma, Marcel Gecov from Slovan Liberec, Pajtim Kasami from Palermo

Outs: John Pantsil released, Zoltan Gera released, Pascal Zuberbuhler released, Matthew Saunders released, Eddie Johnson released, Diomansy Kamara to Eskisehirspor, Kagisho Dikgacoi to Crystal Palace, Jonathan Greening to Nottingham Forrest, David Stockdale on loan to Ipswich Town

Facts & Stats: Manager: Martin Jol (1st season)
Owner & Chairman: Mohamed Al-Fayed
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 16th, 17th, 7th, 12th, 8th
Last trophy: 2000-2001 Division 1

Thoughts: It has been all hail for Martin Jol this summer, happy with new signing Pajtim Kasami and progressing to the final qualifying round in the Europa League (to face Ukraine's Dnipro August 18 and 25). It has been a seesaw ride for Fulham over the last few seasons, so, the question is whether Jol can keep the Londoner's ride high this season and not lose focus with the additional fixtures and pressures in Europe.

The words "Liverpool Football Club" are in the centre of a pennant, with flames either side. The words "You'll Never Walk Alone" adorn the top of the emblem in a green design, "EST 1892" is at the bottom.Liverpool

Ins: Jordan Henderson from Sunderland, Charlie Adam from Blackpool, Alexander Doni from Roma, Stewart Downing from Aston Villa, Jose Enrique from Newcastle United

Outs: Nikola Saric released, Stephen Darby on loan to Rochdale, Dean Bouzanis to Melbourne Victory, Paul Konchesky to Leicester City, Peter Gulacsi on loan to Hull City, Martin Hansen on loan to Bradford City, Thomas Ince to Blackpool, Milan Jovanovic to Anderlecht

Facts & Stats: Manager: Kenny Dalglish (1st/7th season)
Owner: Fenway Sports Group
Chairman: Tom Werner
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 7th, 6th
Last trophy: 2005-2006 FA Cup

Thoughts: After all the unrest, anxiety and concerns of the last couple of seasons on the pitch and behind the scenes, the Kop will be more than happy and expectant with their King Kenny back at the helm and the new owners seeming to settle in fine with less furore and more positive signings. The pre-season has been mixed (three wins, one draw, two defeats) showing the youngsters may have to wait that bit longer to break into the team whilst the new recruits need time to settle in.

A crest depicting a shield with a eagle behind it. ON the shield is a picture of a ship, the initials M.C.F.C. and three diagonal stripes. Below the shield is a ribbon with the motto "Superbia in Proelia". Above the eagle are three stars.Manchester City

Ins: Gael Clichy from Arsenal, Stefan Savic from FK Partizan, Sergio Aquero from Atletico Madrid, Costel Pantilimon from Politehnica Timisoara

Outs: James Poole to Hartlepool United, Shaleum Logan to Brentford, Felipe Caicedo to Levante, Javan Vidal released, Andrew Tutte to Rochdale, Scott Kay to Macclesfield Town, David Gonzalez on loan to Aberdeen, Donal McDermott to Huddersfield Town, Jerome Boateng to Bayern Munich, Ben Mee on loan to Burnley, Patrick Viera retired, Shay Given to Aston Villa, Jo to Internacional, Kieran Trippier on loan to Burnley, Michael Johnson on loan to Leicester City, Abdisalam Ibrahim on loan to NEC, Ryan McGivern on loan to Crystal Palace

Facts & Stats: Manager: Roberto Mancini (3rd season)
Owner: Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Chairman: Khaldoon Al Mubarak
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 14th, 9th, 10th, 5th, 3rd
Last trophy: 2010-2011 FA Cup

Thoughts: With the Arab owners spending big with record £38 million signing Sergio Aguero and keeping faith with Roberto Mancini, the pressure is on the Italian manager to make a good job of their first participation in the top European cup competition since 1968 (then European Cup, now prestigious Champions League) and push themselves into the title race. If the pre-season games and Community Shield are anything to go by, then Manchester is definitely up for a  juicy crunch at the top of the table.

Manchester United
The words "Manchester" and "United" surround a pennant featuring a ship in full sail and a devil holding a trident.
Ins: Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers, Ashley Young from Aston Villa, David De Gea from Atletico Madrid

Outs: Joe Dudgeon to Hull City, Paul Scholes retired, Bebe on loan to Besiktas, Ritchie de Laet on loan to Norwich City, Edwin van der Sar retired, Owen Hargreaves released, Conor Devlin released, Nicky Ajose to Peterborough United, Wes Brown to Sunderland, John O'Shea to Sunderland, Ryan Tunnicliffe on loan to Peterborough United, Scott Wootton on loan to Peterborough United, Robbie Brady on loan to Hull City, Oliver Gill released, Gabriel Obertan to Newcastle United

Facts & Stats: Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson (26th season)
Owner: Glazer family
Co-chairmen: Joel & Avram Glazer
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 1st
Last trophy: 2010-2011 Premier League & 2011 Community Shield

Thoughts: Having finally cracked Liverpool's title record, winning the holy 19th championship, beating Barcelona (only in a friendly match be noted) and snatching the Community Shield away from local rivals Manchester City with a typical last minute goal, it seems to be same old, same old glory, glory Man United. But as the first half of the Community Shield match showed, competitors are there and growing.

Club logoNewcastle United

Ins: Yohan Cabaye from Lille, Demba Ba from West Ham United, Sylvain Marveaux from Rennes, Gabriel Obertan from Manchester United

Outs: Ben Tozer to Northampton Town, Kevin Nolan to West Ham United, Kazenga LuaLua on loan to Brighton and Hove Albion, Wayne Routledge to Swansea City, James Tavernier on loan to Carlisle, Phil Airey on loan to Hibernian, Xisco to Deportivo La Coruna, Jose Enrique to Liverpool

Stats & Facts: Manager: Alan Pardew (2nd season)
Owner: Mike Ashley
Managing Director: Derek Llambias
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 13th, 12th, 18th (relegated), 1st (Championship, promoted), 12th
Last trophy: 2009-2010 Championship

Thoughts: Still hopeful of signing a couple more players after sealing the deal with Manchester United midfielder Gabriel Obertan, Alan Pardew will be happy if he can keep his current side away from Twitter and out of trouble in more context than one, the league, rebel Joey Barton especially. After being fined for his protests and criticism, he has been given the chance to remain at Tyneside, only time will tell if they will make up or break up and rise against or fall with it.

Badge of Norwich CityNorwich City

Ins: Steve Morison from Millwall, Ritchie de Laet on loan from Manchester United, James Vaughan from Everton, Bradley Johnson from Leeds United, Elliott Bennett from Brighton and Hove Albion, Anthony Pilkington from Huddersfield Town, Kyle Naughton on loan from Tottenham Hotspur

Outs: Jens Berthel Askou released, Matthew Gill to Bristol Rovers, Samuel Habergham to Tamworth, Luke Daley to Plymouth Argyle, Jed Steer on loan to Yeovil Town, Owain Tudur Jones to Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Facts & Stats: Manager: Paul Lambert (3rd season)
Chairman: Alan Bowkett
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 16th (Championship), 17th (Championship), 18th (Championship, relegated), 1st (League 1, promoted), 2nd (Championship, promoted)
Last trophy: 2009-2010 League 1

Thoughts: After completing the first back-to-back promotions from third tier to first since Manchester City in 2000, nothing is out of prospect as far as Paul Lambert is concerned. With injuries marring the pre-season tour, the manager is glad to see the back of them and can't wait for kick-off to their Premier League campaign. The Canaries have been the busiest on the transfer market and looked more than read in their last warm-up game, beating Serie A side Parma 3-0 at Carrow Road.

Queens Park Rangers crestQueens Park Rangers

Ins: Jay Bothroyd from Cardiff City, Kieron Dyer from West Ham United, Danny Gabbidon from West Ham United, DJ Campbell from Blackpool, Brian Murphy free transfer, Bruno Perone free transfer

Outs: Georgios Tofas released, Gavin Mahon released, Josh Parker released, Mikele Leigertwood to Reading, Lee Brown to Bristol Rovers, Joe Oastler to Torquay United, Max Ehmer on loan to Yeovil Town, Angelo Balanta on loan to Milton Keynes Dons, Peter Ramage on loan to Crystal Palace

Facts & Stats: Manager: Neil Warnock (2nd season)
Owner: QPR Holdings, Ltd.
Chairman: Gianni Paladini
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 18th (Championship), 14th (Championship), 11th (Championship), 13th (Championship), 1st (Championship, promoted)
Last trophy: 2010-2011 Championship

Thoughts: QPR have been through more ups and downs than the best roller coster ride, so the Hoops will be over the moon with their current high, hoping they can hold on and stay in the top tier after 15 years in the lower slumps. Neil Warnock will certainly recall and hope to emulate the club's ups of the 70s and 80s. New signing DJ Campbell scored after just 29 seconds of his debut, but with both pre-season friendlies ending in defeat, Warnock knows he still has a lot to do.

Stoke City badgeStoke City

Ins: Jonathan Woodgate free transfer, Matthew Upson free transfer

Outs: Ibrahima Sonko released, Abdoulaye Faye to West Ham United, Eidur Gudjohnson to AEK, Matthew Lund on loan to Oldham Athletic, Carl Dickinson to Watford, Andrew Davies on loan to Crystal Palace

Facts & Stats: Manager: Tony Pulis (6th/9th season)
Chairman: Peter Coates
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 8th (Championship), 2nd (Championship, promoted), 12th, 11th, 13th
Last trophy: 1999-2000 Football League Trophy

Thoughts: Making it through to the final qualifying round in the Europa Cup could not have given Stoke a better start to the season, after they qualified for the European competition for the first time in 36 years as FA Cup finalists as FA Cup winners Manchester City had already qualified for the Champions League. Manager Tony Pulis has worked wonders with the club and has promised more changes over the summer, remaining calm and sure of his side.

Logo Sunderland.svgSunderland

Ins: Connor Wickham from Ipswich Town, Craig Gardner from Birmingham City, Ahmed Elmohamady from ENPPI Club, Sebastian Larsson from Birmingham City, Keiren Westwood from Coventry City, Wes Brown from Manchester United, John O'Shea from Manchester United, David Vaughan from Blackpool, Oumare Tounkara from Oldham Athletic, James McClean from Derry City

Outs: Jordan Henderson to Liverpool, David Healy to Rangers, Nathan Luscombe to Hartlepool United, Robbie Weir to Tranmere Rovers, Michael Kay to Tranmere Rovers, Jean-Yves Mvoto to Oldham Athletic, Liam Noble on loan to Carlisle United, Steed Malbranque to Saint-Etienne. George McCartney on loan to West Ham United

Facts & Stats: Manager: Steve Bruce (3rd season)
Owner: Ellis Short
Chairman: Niall Quinn
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 1st (Championship, promoted), 15th, 16th, 13th, 10th
Last trophy: 2006-2007 Championship

Thoughts: Steve Bruce has already signed ten players this summer but he is hungry for more, eyeing up Manchester City's Craig Bellamy as his 11th signing as Mancini has made clear he wants rid of the 32-year-old Welshman. With eight players already on the exit list and more on the verge, the absolute revamp is nearly complete. The busy pre-season has shown (two wins, three draws, two defeats) more time is needed to see the new mix blend and produce the wanted improvements.

Swansea City AFC.pngSwansea City

Ins: Danny Graham from Watford, Steven Caulker on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, Jose Moreira from Benfica, Leroy Lita from Middlesbrough, Wayne Routledge from Newcastle United, Michel Vorm from FC Utrecht

Outs: Kerry Morgan to Neath, Albert Serran to AEK Larnaca, Dorus de Vries to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Yves Ma-Kalambay released, Jamie Grimes released, Cedric van der Gun released, Darren Pratley to Bolton Wanderers, Scott Donnelly on loan to Wycombe Wanderers, Gorka Pintado cancelled contract

Facts & Stats: Manager: Brendan Rodgers (2nd season)
Chairman: Huw Jenkins
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 7th (League 1), 1st (League 1, promoted), 8th (Championship), 7th (Championship), 3rd (Championship, promoted)
Last trophy: 2007-2008 League 1

Thoughts: Making their Premier League debut, Brendan Rodgers cannot wait for the season to start for his Swansea side saying "this is what all the hard work was for. No matter who we face they will be tough games this season, but we're really excited." The new signings Moreira, Lita and Routledge and friendly wins against Reading, Celtic and Real Betis are certainly good mood and confidence boosters and add optimism to all the excitement.

Tottenham Hotspur.svgTottenham Hotspur

Ins: Brad Friedel from Aston Villa

Outs: Jamie O'Hara to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Jonathan Woodgate contract ended, Steven Caulker on loan to Swansea City, Kyle Naughton on loan to Norwich City, Bongani Khumalo on loan to Reading, Nathan Byrne on loan to Bournemouth, Ryan Mason on loan to Doncaster Rovers, Jonathan Obika on loan to Yeovil Town, Oscar Jansson on loan to Bradford City

Facts & Stats: Manager: Harry Redknapp (4th season)
Owner: ENIC International Ltd.
Chairman: Daniel Levy
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 5th, 11th, 8th, 4th, 5th
Last trophy: 2007-2008 League Cup

Thoughts: Tottenham has made more headlines outside the sports ground lately, but Harry Redknapp's side do not want to lose focus, the manager sticking to his main 11 and Michael Dawson insisting Spurs are targeting a top-four finish after their first successful taste of UEFA Champions League football last season, reaching the quarter finals. The season preparation has gone well, shown good improvement (one defeat, one draw, one win) and if Luka Modric listens to Peter Crouch's plea, everthing should stay on course for the North Londoners.

Tottenham's opening fiyture against Everton has been postponed due to safety reasons (see London Riots news feeds).

West Bromwich Albion crestWest Bromwich Albion

Ins: Billy Jones from Preston North End, Gareth McAuley from Ipswich Town, Ben Foster on loan from Birmingham City, Zoltan Gera free transfer, Marton Fulop from Ipswich Town, Shane Long from Reading

Outs: Dean Kiely retired, Abdoulaye Meite to Dijon, Ryan Allsop to Millwall, Scott Carson to Bursaspor, Gianni Zuiverloon to Real Mallorca, Marcus Haber to St Johnstone, Boaz Myhill on loan to Birmingham City, Borja Valero to Villarreal, Giles Barnes to Doncaster Rovers, Chris Wood on loan to Birmingham City

Facts & Stats: Manager: Roy Hodgson (1st season)
Chairman: Jeremy Peace
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 4th (Championship), 1st (Championship, promoted), 20th (relegated), 2nd (Championship, promoted), 11th
Last trophy: 2007-2008 Championship

Thoughts: After a quite disastrous first half of a season with Liverpool, Roy Hodgson made up for it in the second half at West Brom, taking them up to 11th after replacing Roberto Di Matteo at the Hawthorns. With striker Ishmael Miller on his way to Nottingham Forrest, Hodgson is likely to up the bid for Reading striker Shane Long to strengthen the squad and will be happy to see the end of the pre-season friendlies and transfer window to get started on the real deal, although the season opener will certainly not improve the mood: the opponent being record champions Manchester United.

Wigan Athletic crestWigan Athletic:

Ins: Ali Al Habsi from Bolton Wanderers, David Jones free transfer, Nouha Dicko free transfer

Outs: Steven Caldwell to Birmingham City, Antonio Amaya to Real Betis, Charles N'Zogbia to Aston Villa

Facts & Stats: Manager: Roberto Martinez (3rd season)
Chairman: Dave Whelan
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 17th, 14th, 11th, 16th, 16th
Last trophy: 2002-2003 Division 2

Thoughts: After losing their star man Charles N'Zogbia to Aston Villa, Wigan are sweating over an injury to their midfielder James McCarthy. The Latics did end their pre-season on a positive note after edging to a win against Villarreal but it may have come at a cost and manager Roberto Martinez is the last one to jump the gun, pointing to last year's opening day defeat to Blackpool as reason to be cautious against Norwich on Saturday. He is positive though, they have learnt from that experience and is sure they can improve.

Wolverhampton Wanderers.svgWolverhampton Wanderers

Ins: Jamie O'Hara from Tottenham Hotspur, Dorus de Vries from Swansea City, Roger Johnson from Birmingham City

Outs: Nathan Rooney released, John Dunleavy released, David Jones contract ended, Greg Halford to Portsmouth, Scott Malone on loan to Bournemouth, Adriano Basso to Hull City, Danny Batth on loan to Sheffield Wednesday, Carl Ikeme on loan to Middlesbrough, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing on loan to Sheffield United

Facts & Stats: Manager: Mick McCarthy (6th season)
Owner & Chairman: Steve Morgan
Finished last 5 seasons, 2006-2011: 5th (Championship), 7th (Championship), 1st (Championship, promoted), 15th, 17th
Last trophy: 2008-2009 Championship

Thoughts: After scraping through to safety on the last match day of last season, Wolves will have been counting their lucky stars to still be in the Premier League. They were certainly busy in their season preparation, playing seven and testing a lot of their youngsters on the way, getting mixed results (three wins, one draw, three defeats). Mick McCarthy has made new signing Roger Johnson new captain, replacing Karl Henry, showing he is prepared to make tough decisions to assure Wolves safety.