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Premiership Review S – W

Swansea City

Last Season – 3rd (Championship)

Having attracted much praise during their relatively brief stay in the Championship for their free-flowing style of football under the tutelage of three different young managers, Swansea City finally achieved their top flight dream last season via the play-off lottery.

With former Watford and Reading boss Brendan Rodgers at the helm the Swans were amongst the division’s frontrunners for almost the entire campaign, an impressive season eventually culminating in a scintillating 4-2 victory over Reading at Wembley, a game in which Rodgers’ men just survived a spirited second half Royals fight back after leading 3-0 at the break.

Swansea were hugely boosted toward the latter stages of last season with the loan signing of Italian frontman Fabio Borini from Chelsea and will have been massively disappointed not to secure his permanent signing this summer, with the player instead opting for a move back to his homeland with Serie A side Parma.

In order to fill the sizeable gap left by Borini, Rodgers has moved to bring in Championship striking duo Danny Graham from Watford and Leroy Lita from Middlesbrough for fees of £3.5 million and £1.75 million respectively. Graham emerged as the football league’s hottest prospect after notching 24 league goals for the Vicarage Road outfit last season and will be expected to continue these exploits in his first season at this level.

While Graham was widely expected to move to the Premier League, Lita’s arrival in South Wales is slightly more suprising. While often capable of producing goals at Championship level, Lita never particularly impressed during his only previous spell in the top flight with Reading and his questionable temperament may not be best suited to a team who are expected to struggle in the midst of a relegation battle.

The one thing Swansea certainly possess in abundance is pace, particularly in the wide areas. With Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair already occupying the wide positions, Rodgers has added healthy competition with the capture of Wayne Routledge from Newcastle United. It is certainly no secret that Routledge has failed to deliver at this level in the past, and the Liberty Stadium faithful will be hoping he can finally replicate his impressive Championship form in the Premier League.

In a defensive capacity, Swansea were immensely strong during their successful promotion campaign. With Welsh international Ashley Williams often leading by example at the heart of the defence, fans will be desperate to see him repeat such heroics this season and that will be crucial to their hopes of survival.

Rodgers has added towering Spurs defender Stephen Caulker to the ranks on a loan deal with the intention of improving his options at the back, Caulker having impressed during a spell at Championship side Bristol City last season. It is worth noting that Caulker has not yet featured in the Premier League for Spurs, and his inexperience in this division should mean he is not the only defensive addition Rodgers’ plans to make before the close of the transfer window.

The departure of first choice goalkeeper Dorus De Vries during the summer will have come as a big disappointment, with the Dutchman opting to join fellow Premier League side Wolves after seeing out his Swans contract. Rodgers appeared to identify Nottingham Forest stopper Lee Camp as his preferred replacement, but was seemingly unable to agree a satisfactory deal with his current employers and instead turned his attention to 29-year-old Portuguese Moreira, who was signed from Benfica for an undisclosed fee. With over 100 appearances for the Lisbon giants and international recognition with Portugal, Morerira appears, on paper, to be a more than adequate replacement for De Vries.

If Swansea are to prolong their stay in the top flight then their home form should be the key. Rodgers’ men were victorious in 15 of their 23 home games in the Championship last season, tasting defeat at the Liberty Stadium just three times and making it a fortress at this level will certainly aid their survival bid.

Brendan Rodgers’ positive footballing ethos coupled with their impressive home form should ensure that Swansea have a fighting chance of survival. The manager has strived to add greater firepower to the squad ahead of the start of the season but the relative top flight inexperience of several of his signings could prove to be an enormous gamble.

Key Man: Danny Graham – With the likes of Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair wreaking havoc down the flanks, Swansea are sure to create a number of chances and it will be crucial for their survival bid to have a clinical striker to convert a number of them. New signing Danny Graham, a prolific Championship marksman with former club Watford, will hope to adapt quickly to life at the highest level and help fire the Swans to Premier League safety.

Tottenham Hotspur

Last Season – 5th


The 2010/11 season proved to be somewhat bittersweet for Spurs. There was a sense of immense pride as they embarked on their very first foray into the Champions League, but many may feel somewhat disappointed that Redknapp’s men were not able to match their league exploits of the previous season, with a 5th placed finish ensuring Spurs will have to once again ply their trade in the Europa League.

With regard to their playing squad large question marks continue to remain over the abilities of goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who continues to be the epitome of inconsistency. Often capable of pulling off world-class saves, the Brazilian unfortunately made a number of high profile errors last season and Harry Redknapp has sought to address this problem with the signing of 40-year-old American stopper Brad Friedel, who arrives from Aston Villa following the end of his contract in the Midlands. The evergreen Friedel is likely to stake a real claim for Gomes’ place, with Carlo Cudicini also continuing to provide genuine competition.

Aside from the capture of Friedel, precious little other transfer activity has occurred at White Hart Lane this summer. Rather than solely focusing on new blood to bring into the club, much of the summer speculation at Spurs seems to have centred on the possible departure of playmaker Luka Modric, who is currently being persistently courted by Chelsea.


Up until now Spurs have shown admirable resilience in the face of sustained pressure to sell their prized asset, and it remains questionable whether the Blues will be prepared to offer the sizable fee that is being demanded for Modric’s services. For Redknapp the Modric affair seems to be a win-win situation on the face of it. If Spurs choose to cash in on the Croatian they will presumably receive a substantial sum of money with which to replace him, and if they decide to hold on to him at all costs they will still possess one of the finest midfield players in the world who is certainly not yet approaching the end of his Tottenham contract.

Redknapp will assumedly demand an improvement from his strike force ahead of the coming season. The forward quartet of Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe, Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko only managed a rather paltry 17 league goals between them last season, an unacceptable figure even after considering Spurs often deploy a solitary frontman, with Van Der Vaart in close proximity. Speculation continues to surround the future of both Keane and Pavlyuchenko, but whether or not they remain in Redknapp’s plans is currently unclear.

Predicting just how Spurs may fare during the coming campaign is somewhat difficult at this stage of the summer, as there is likely to be far greater activity at White Hart Lane during the latter stages of the transfer market. If they do eventually decide to cash in on Modric, assumedly Redknapp would be permitted to spend a rather large chunk of the money on a suitable replacement or to strengthen other areas of his squad.

Spurs’ return to the Europa League, a competition which seems to be proving far less popular than its predecessor, may well be an unwelcome distraction that offers far less glamour than the reputable Champions League. While it still prestigious to be competing in European competition, the Europa League is very likely to offer little else to Spurs than a chance to give their fringe and younger players an opportunity to play first team football.

Spurs, who have certainly been the closest to breaking the dominance of the so-called ‘top four’ in recent years, are being left behind in the shadow of Manchester City’s formidable spending power and will have to invest further if they are to match the relentlessly quickening pace.


Key Man: Gareth Bale – With massive uncertainty surrounding the future of diminutive Croatian playmaker Luka Modric, much of Spurs’ success will continue to rely upon the shoulders of young Bale, who has proved a revelation since he was positioned on the left wing. With his blistering pace and supreme fitness, Bale can be simply unplayable on his day and his breathless, all-action wing displays are likely to continue to be of great importance to Spurs as they attempt to secure a second Champions League berth.

West Bromwich Albion

Last Season – 11th

After he easily guided the Baggies back to the promised land at the first attempt in 2009/10, it appeared to all in football as if Roberto Di Matteo had established himself as one of managements hottest young prospects. However, the Italian found it a real struggle to find a consistent run of results at a higher level and was subsequently relieved of his duties in February and was replaced with the experienced Roy Hodgson, who himself had been a managerial casualty of the 2010/11 season, dismissed as Liverpool manager after an unhappy and short-lived spell in the Anfield dugout.

Hodgson’s appointment proved to be a masterstroke from Chairman Jeremy Peace, and West Brom eventually finished in a very comfortable 11th place after an impressive sequence of results that saw them pick up 16 points from nine Premier League fixtures. The Baggies were conceding far too often with Di Matteo at the helm and Hodgson’s renowned defensive nous was key in West Brom’s strong finish to the season, but only two clean sheets all season suggests there is still vast room for improvement.

One of the more surprising exits from the Premier League during the summer occurred at the Hawthorns, as former England international Scott Carson elected to bid farewell to English football, joining Turkish side Bursaspor for an undisclosed fee. Hodgson wisely moved swiftly to replace Carson and successfully negotiated a deal to bring Birmingham’s Ben Foster to the club, an agreement which saw Welshman Boaz Myhill move in the opposite direction.

Although perhaps not quite as impressive as many expected him to be following his time on loan at Watford, Foster performed admirably for the Blues last season and should prove an astute addition. In order to further compensate for the loss of two goalkeepers, Hodgson has also brought in Hungarian Martin Fulop who should provide dependable cover for first choice Foster.

Other new arrivals so far this summer at the Hawthorns include former Ipswich centre back Gareth McAuley and a welcome return for Hungarian winger Zoltan Gera who begins his second spell at the Midlands club. Northern Irishman McAuley won many plaudits for his committed displays at Portman Road and should add some needed competition for places at the back while Gera, who played a key role in an impressive period for former club Fulham, will need no introduction to Baggies fans who are fully aware of his capabilities.

As with former Ipswich duo McAuley and Fulop, Hodgson has also delved into the ranks of the football league to bring former Preston captain Billy Jones to the Baggies on a free transfer, the strong tackling 24-year-old signing a three-year deal. Known particularly for his versatility, Jones offers competition and cover for a variety of positions.

An area that now perhaps needs a little attention from Hodgson is in the forward position. While the clinical form of Peter Odemwingie is always likely to guarantee goals, his supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired, with only young Simon Cox seemingly capable of providing glimpses of quality.

While the likes of Roman Bednar, Antoine Fortune and Ishmael Miller can be used sparingly, they don’t really appear to have the quality necessary to move the Baggies forward. Strong rumours have continued to circulate recently linking Hodgson with a £6 million move for in-demand Reading frontman Shane Long who netted 28 goals in all competitions last season. The Irishman would prove a solid addition to the West Brom ranks, his rapid speed and deceptive strength could prove to be the perfect foil for Odemwingie in a partnership that would guarantee goals.

West Brom certainly appear to be in very safe hands under the guidance of Roy Hodgson who used his entire wealth of experience to steer the Baggies clear of trouble upon his arrival in February of 2011. Having already added competition for places through the squad this summer and rumours of a big signing imminent, the club’s reputation as a yo-yo outfit could well be a distant memory and they should be able to consolidate their Premier League status without too much trouble. 

Key Man: Peter Odemwingie – After a hugely impressive debut season in English football in which he notched 15 league goals, the former Lokomotiv Moscow striker has been linked with a number of reputable clubs during this current transfer window, including Arsenal. Should the Baggies be able to resist the circling vultures and hold onto the Nigerian should once again prove an absolutely pivotal player in their attack, particularly if Hodgson is able to partner him with a forward with similar ability.

Wigan Athletic

Last Season – 16th

Often cited as the Premier League’s most unfashionable club due to their perennially low attendance figures, Wigan stand on the brink of their seventh consecutive season in the top flight and remain the only side to have played in the English top-flight and never been relegated from it.

Fans favourite Roberto Martinez endured a long struggle during his second full season in charge of Wigan, the Latics struggled to keep their heads above water for the most part and just managed beat the dreaded drop with a narrow win at Stoke City on a dramatic final day.

An enormous blow to Wigan’s hopes for an improved Premier League campaign this time around is the departure of Charles N’Zogbia, with the Frenchman having joined Aston Villa in July for £9.5 million. Finishing as the club’s top scorer from midfield, N’Zogbia played a crucial part in Wigan’s late rally and subsequent survival and finding a suitable replacement of a similar calibre will be an immensely difficult task for Martinez.

Following Chris Kirkland’s continued battles with injuries and form, Martinez moved quickly last season to take Ali-Al Habsi on loan from Bolton Wanderers. Although the Omani was prone to making the odd mistake here and there, he mostly proved to be a popular addition to the Wigan squad and fans will be pleased that their player of last season has been snapped up permanently for an undisclosed fee.

Wigan will require further strengthening if they are to steer clear of the bottom three this season. The departure of N’Zogbia coupled with the return of young midfielder Tom Cleverly to parent club Manchester United has greatly weakened the midfield and this will certainly need to be addressed. Latics supporters will also recognise they face a fight to retain the services of young central midfielder James McCarthy, with the Irishman winning many plaudits for his performances at the DW Stadium since his move from Scottish side Hamilton.

Martinez has already moved to secure the free transfer of David Jones from Wolves, but Wigan still look devoid of any real quality in the middle of the park aside from McCarthy which could well be crucial if not properly remedied.

The back four is also an area that will require further attention from Martinez. Wigan leaked goals at an alarming rate during the last campaign and the losses of influential attacking players means they may not be able to get the goals to help compensate for such an appalling defensive record. Having seemingly failed to replace the often humorous but very important figure of Titus Bramble, Martinez is surely to prioritise defensive improvements during the remainder of the summer.

In the final third Wigan will continue to rely on the goal scoring exploits of Colombian Hugo Rodallega, who himself has been the subject of much transfer speculation this summer. After the departure of Argentinian flop Mauro Boselli who has returned to former club Estudiantes after a disappointing season with the Latics, it is left to the likes of former Kilmarnock target man Connor Sammon and young Victor Moses to provide the main support for Rodallega. In particular the latter is expected to step up to the task this season and begin to replicate the kind of form that he produced during his time with Crystal Palace.

Wigan look set to endure another season of struggle in the Premier League and are in dire need of further investment throughout the team if they are serious about staying in the division. Having relied for some time on a small group of quality players such as the departed N’Zogbia and the highly sought after McCarthy and Rodallega, Martinez will need to ensure that any key departures are adequately replaced. With Chairman Dave Whelan likely to keep a rather tight grasp on the purse strings at the DW Stadium in the midst of very difficult financial times, this may prove a rather difficult task for the Spaniard.

Key Man: Hugo Rodallega – After securing Wigan’s top flight status with a crucial header at the Britannia Stadium on the final day of last season, much will continue to depend on the club’s leading all-time Premier League goal scorer. N’Zogbia’s departure heaps yet more pressure on the shoulders of the Colombian striker, and there will be immense expectation from fans for him to deliver the goals to keep Wigan afloat.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Last Season – 17th

Wolves’ 2010/11 campaign was marred with inconsistency. Often performing admirably against the biggest teams in the Premier League and recording impressive wins over Chelsea, Liverpool and champions Manchester United, Wolves frustratingly struggled to produce similar performances against the teams directly around them which led to a season of continued uncertainty for Mick McCarthy.

Having been embroiled in a relegation scrap for most of the campaign, Wolves eventually only survived the drop on the final day of the season, a dismal first half showing against Blackburn saw them trail 3-0 at half-time but a second half revival coupled with events elsewhere just saw Wolves escape the bottom three, eventually finishing 17th with 40 points.

The biggest arrival of the summer thus far at Molineux so far is undoubtedly defender Roger Johnson, with Mick McCarthy choosing to spend a reportedly rather hefty sum of £8 million on the former Birmingham man. Praised for his stand-out performances in an ailing Blues side, Johnson was particularly impressive alongside defensive partner Scott Dann and Wolves fans will be hoping he can be equally as dominant in a brand new partnership, presumably with Scottish international Christope Berra.

Aside from the capture of Johnson, McCarthy has also opened the chequebook to bring in Spurs midfielder Jamie O’Hara for £3.5 million after the Englishman played a key role in Wolves’ survival toward the latter stages of last season. Having failed to establish himself in a first team capacity at White Hart Lane where he was beginning to stagnate, O’Hara will be looking to continue to impose himself on that Wolves central midfield and live up to his early potential.

There will also be greater competition between the sticks at Molineux during the coming season. After releasing veteran American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann following the end of his contract, McCarthy moved to snap up Swansea’s Dorus De Vries, who elected to sign with Wolves rather than agree a new deal with the Welsh side.

Dutchman De Vries drew many plaudits for his performances in a defensively solid Swansea team, and will surely be keen to prove he is not simply content with providing cover and will mount a constant challenge against Welsh international Wayne Hennessey for Wolves’ number one shirt.

In an attacking sense, Wolves have invested a great sum of money in first choice strikers Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher in previous summers, but there currently appears to be very little quality competition in reserve.

This was particularly highlighted during the nervy final weeks of last season, when Doyle was ruled out for a number of weeks with a shoulder problem and Wolves form suffered as a consequence as they struggled to score. While the likes of Andy Keogh and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake certainly proved reliable during Wolves’ last stint in the Championship, they have not proved particularly useful to McCarthy during their time in the Premier League and he may well be lining up replacements before August comes to an abrupt end.

Wolves’ target once again this season will be crystal clear, Premier League consolidation. While it may be all too easy for a club of Wolves’ stature to get carried away with their Premier League status and begin to get ideas and ambitions somewhat above their station,   Mick McCarthy appears to be an extremely grounded and realistic manager that knows what his squad is capable of and will simply not allow expectations to become unrealistic.

The additions of Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara have brought in established Premier League quality but further additions of a similar calibre will be required in order for supporters to enjoy a more relaxed campaign relatively free of relegation worry.

Key Man: Matt Jarvis – Winger Jarvis’ impressive form was perhaps the only constant in an otherwise inconsistent campaign for Wolves. Voted by fans and fellow players alike as the club’s player of the season, Jarvis weighed in with a number of key assists and managed to contribute four goals, his highest tally for four seasons and he was eventually rewarded for his fine form with a cap for Fabio Capello’s England in the friendly with Ghana. Similar displays from the sought after winger are likely to once again be vital to Wolves’ survival hopes.

George Flood

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