With the new Premier League season looming large on this weekend’s horizon, Being Sven is proud to bring you its official 2007/08 English Premier League Preview!
(Don’t be fooled into reading unofficial Being Sven previews. They’re cheap knock-offs and not even written in complete sentances! They may even cause cancer.)
You know how these things work; It’s a look at the Premier League, team by team, with a synopsis of how they might fare and what can be expected of them this campaign. The teams will be reversely listed in order of their predicted finish. That is to say, we start with the 20th place team and get to the champions last.
For the health of your eyeballs, I’ve split the preview up into two parts, each representing a half of the table. Today, the 1st part, consisting of #20 through #11. Tomorrow, the second, featuring #10 to #1.
20th – Derby
In: ST Robert Earnshaw (Norwich City – £3.5M), FB Tyrone Mears (West Ham – £1M), CB Andy Todd (Blackburn – Undisclosed), CB Claude Davis (Sheffield United – £3M), GK Lewis Price (Ipswich Town – Undisclosed), FB Andy Griffin (Portsmouth – Undisclosed)
Out: MF Seth Johnson, ST Paul Peschisolido, MF Morten Bisgaard, FB Paul Boertien, GK Lee Grant (All Released), MF Ryan Smith (Millwall – £150K), GK Lee Camp (QPR – £300K), CB Lewin Nyatanga (Barnsley – Loan)
Last Season Finish: 3rd in Championship, Play-off Winner (84 points)(63 Goals For, 47 Goals Against)
Overview: While they have themselves a manager who seems to have negotiating the Championship well under control, the Premier League is going to be well beyond Billy Davies’ grasp. This is not a club with much money or talent and while they’ve done well to win promotion, there isn’t enough quality to stay afloat.
Midfield: Not good enough. Though, they do have Giles Barnes (for now). But the up-and-coming youngster won’t be fit until at least September.
Sven’s Predictions: This team has the left blinker on because they’re poised to make an immediate U-turn and head straight back into the Championship. In a world where there aren’t many sure things, Derby getting relegated is a shining exception. I would consider not finishing buck naked last a success for the Rams.
Reason to Watch: Your favorite team is playing them and you’re looking forward to watching your team collect three easy points.
19th – Sunderland
In: MF Greg Halford (Reading – £3M), CB Russell Anderson (Aberdeen – £1M), ST Michael Chopra (Cardiff – £5M), MF Kieran Richardson (Manchester United – Undisclosed), MF Dickson Etuhu (Norwich – £1.5M)
Out: CB Kenny Cunningham (Released), MF Tommy Miller (Released), MF Arnu Riera (Falkirk – Loan), FB Stephen Wright (Stoke – Loan)
Last Season Finish: 1st in Championship (88 points)(77 Goals For, 48 Goals Against)
Much has been made of Roy Keane’s return to the Premier League as a manager. More than a few pundits love the romantic idea of this fiery figure staking his claim in the top flight, as if the sheer determination he showed in his playing days will be enough to keep Sunderland up. Very much cut from the same cloth as his long-time manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, the fledgling manager strikes me primarily as a motivator rather than a tactician. Yet, Keane’s motivational efforts, mixed in with a shit load of ‘screaming for the sake of screaming’, isn’t going to be enough to keep the Black Cats afloat.
Keane hasn’t been very active in the transfer market (see quote below), which is unfortunate because Sunderland are not good enough for the Premier League. The players he has brought, like Michael Chopra and Kieran Richardson, are second-tier cast-offs.
The majority of the defense hasn’t been at the club for more than a year and very few of them actually have Premier League experience. The midfield is in better shape, but lacks any creative minds. Dickson Etuhu and Dean Whitehead (captain) will be their most useful players.
Sadly, the strikers are not going to save this club as the most prolific scorer on the roster is Dwight Yorke. But at 35, he hasn’t heard the word ‘prolific’ since the millenium. It looks like a lot of the goals will have to come from the midfield.
Sven’s Predictions: There should be no reason the prototypical yo-yo team sheds its stripes this season. Dark days loom ahead at the Stadium of Light, at least until they get back into the Championship. I peg this team to lead the league in goals conceeded and rank last in goals scored. They’ll only finish ahead of Derby because they’ll take points off the Rams both times. Keane should consider himself lucky if he’s still employed next summer.
Reason to Watch: You hate Manchester United and think karma is going to treat Keane like a bitch.
Somewhat Relevant Quote: (Roy Keane on transfer market philosophy)
The last few weeks have been a big learning curve for me and there’s no doubt that if we can do well this season, I won’t bother doing any transfer deals next summer. If I can do a deal before the season ends, fantastic, but I’ve wasted hour upon hour on the phone this year and it has been very frustrating. Hopefully there is still time to pick up a couple more players and if I do that, I’ll be satisfied with the squad we have at the club.
Sometimes you think you’re making headway, then someone’s away on holiday and you can’t speak to the player anyway. I suppose the experienced managers are in a different boat, so I will have to learn. Obviously Manchester United were able to buy three players at the end of the season, but it is a bit easier for the big clubs. You see lots of other managers trying to plant a few seeds and then doing the deal when they come back from the summer break, but it’s a tough to get the right people in.
I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks and I won’t be wasting anybody’s time next summer. I’ll try to just have a holiday if I’m still in the job.
18th – Wigan
In: (Manager) Chris Hutchings, CB Titus Bramble (Free), ST Antoine Sibierski (Newcastle – Free), FB Mario Melchiot (Rennes – Free), CB Andreas Granqvist (Helsingborg – Undisclosed), GK Carlo Nash (Preston – £300,000), MF Jason Koumas (West Brom – £5.3M), MF Michael Brown (Fulham – Undisclosed)
Out: (Manager) Paul Jewell, CB David Unsworth (Released), CB Arjan De Zeeuw (Released), CB Matt Jackson (Watford – Free), MF Lee McCulloch (Rangers – £2.25M)
Last Season Finish: 17th in Premier League (38 points)(37 Goals For, 59 Goals Against)
Overview: Former manager Paul Jewell left the club in May and may have taken Wigan’s hopes of extending its stay in England’s top flight with him. While new manager Chris Hutchings has brought in some servicable Premier League performers, it’s unlikely the squad has enough to avoid the tag of ‘Relegation Fodder’.
Maybe it’s the Liverpool fan in me, but I rate Chris Kirkland as a fine goalkeeper. His problem isn’t talent, it’s staying healthy. There isn’t an injury he’s met that he hasn’t picked up. But, should he stay healthy for a large majority of the season, he’ll get the Latics a few points. But, Carlo Nash is ready to step in and do a mediocre job
should when Chris goes down.
Unfortunately, Kirkland has the likes of Titus Bramble playing in front of him. It’s not a terribly impressive defensive unit and it’s about to get worse with the impending departure of promising left back Leighton Baines. There is something to be said for the arrival of Mario Melchoit, back in England after a year in France. The proven centerback is the team’s new captain and should prove a wise choice as he’ll lead by example. It’s just a shame most of the squad won’t be able to follow.
I won’t badmouth the likes of Kevin Kilbane and Antoine Sibierski, but the rest of the midfield and strike force are pretty pedestrian. And then there’s Emile Heskey. While it’s easy to slag off a striker that doesn’t score (and I’ve had my fun at his expense), he certainly does work hard. But hard work isn’t going to win matches.
Sven’s Prediction: Wigan have a legitimate shot at staying up and I expect that the relegation struggle will continue until the last match day. But, I’ve got a hunch that Birmingham will beat the drop, leaving Wigan to regroup in the Championship. This is a team that could bounce right back the next year, though.
Reason to Watch: Why would you want to do that? Seriously. No reason.
Poor Emile Heskey. Watch him kick a field goal.
17th – Birmingham City
In: MF Fabrice Muamba (Arsenal – £4M), FB Stuart Parnaby (Middlesbrough – Free), ST Gary O’Connor (Lokomotiv Moscow – £2.7M), MF Oliver Kapo (Juventus – £3M), MF Daniel de Ridder (Celta Vigo – Free), GK Richard Kingson (Hammarby – Free), CB Rafael Schmitz (Lille – Loan), MF Neil Kilkenny (Oldham – Loan), FB Franck Quedrue (Fulham – £2M), CB Liam Ridgewell (Aston Villa – £2M)
Out: MF Julian Gray (Released), CB Bruno N’Gotty (Released), MF Stephen Clemence (Leicester – £750K), ST DJ Campbell (Leicester – £1.6M)
Last Season Finish: 2nd in Championship (88 points)(77 Goals For, 48 Goals Against)
Overview: No stranger to the Premiership, manager Steve Bruce has brought his club back up from the depths of the Championship for the second time in his six year tenure. Maybe having learned something from his time in and out of England’s top flight, Bruce has ushered in a smorgasboard of players this summer and even more are expected to join the cause. Among the new recruits, Kapo and de Ridder should a touch of class (or something closely resembling ‘class’) to the Blues’ attacking efforts.
Also new to the club is new majority shareholder, Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung. While every owner should certainly aim high and strive to take the club to new heights, Yeung may revise his lofty goals once he actually familiarizes himself with English football:
I want them to be an international team, maybe to be in the Champions League in the future.
‘Maybe’ indeed. I think he’ll find it hard to market Birmingham internationally as relegation fodder. Hell, they’re not even the most marketable team in Birmingham. And the Champions League? The Intertoto Cup would be an accomplishment.
To his credit, Yeung did not put a specific time stamp on exactly when this ‘future’ might be realized. Bruce, however, is more grounded in reality and has warned the new suit, who has expressed interest in bringing Chinese players to St. Andrews, that he will not be pressured into purchasing any players.
As for the players who already ply their trade at B’ham, it appears that the squad may be a bit top-heavy. Most of City’s better talent plays further up the pitch and it’s unlikely there is enough Premiership defensive pedigree on the roster to keep Birmingham from a relegation fight. Bringing in Quedrue and Ridgewell will certainly aid their cause, though.
Sven’s Prediction: Birmingham will find itself in a struggle to stay up. That threat of relegation coupled with the arrival of Yeung may put Steve Bruce’s job in jeopardy. But, the gaffer has bought well this summer and I like them to beat the drop. But, barely.
Somewhat Relevant Quote: (Bruce on pulling the plug on the Hossam Ghaly transfer)
His agent left a message and said that he wasn’t happy with the standard of players here. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – and I’ve kept the message on my voicemail.
When he had his one-to-one session with Dan, he was moaning we ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’ at Tottenham, it ‘wasn’t right’ and ‘ridiculous’. He had a right petted lip on. Yes, strong words were said and he was told in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t like it, he should clear off.
There’s no way I’m going to have someone criticising the squad, especially when they are supposed to be their new team-mates. And I’m not having anyone upsetting the togetherness and spirit we have worked so hard to build up here. I’ve had this before with a former captain (Kenny Cunningham) complaining about all sorts and I’m not going to keep fighting things like that. Yes, we train our players hard and we expect them to put the work in. What we do here was good enough for a World Cup winner (Christophe Dugarry) and so was our club and players.
Reason to Watch: You’re a Villa fan and you want to see your closest rivals lose.
16th – Middlesbrough
In: CB Jonathan Woodgate (Real Madrid – £7M), ST Jeremie Aliadiere (Arsenal – £2M), MF Tuncay (Fenerbahce – Free), FB Luke Young (Charlton – £2.5M)
Out: ST Mark Viduka (Newcastle – Free), FB Abel Xavier (LA Galaxy – Free), FB Stuart Parnaby (Released), ST Malcolm Christie (Released), ST Danny Graham (Released), GK Ross Turnbull (Cardiff – Loan)
Last Season Finish: 12th in Premier League (46 points)(44 Goals For, 49 Goals Against)
Overview: ‘Boro has themselves a new crest. Thought I’d point that out, because that’s probably the most exciting thing about the club. Then again, nobody has ever accused Middlesbrough or manager Gareth Southgate of being exciting.
That is until this year!
Actually, I kid. They’re a boring mid-table team who may actually struggle if they don’t find goals.
Their defender-turned-unliscensed manager has put together a defensive unit that looks good on paper (Woodgate, Huth, Riggott, Young, Taylor), but can they actually play as a cohesive unit? I’m going to wager that they can. I like this squad to tighten up and improve on the 49 goals they gave up last term.
While Stuart Downing currently holds the ‘promising youngster’ tag, I liked the look of Lee Cattermole last season and think he’s got a bright future ahead of him. He’ll probably be outplaying Arca, Boateng and Morrison by the winter. (Not that that’s such an achivement, but…) Adam Johnson may also turn out to be a decent player. Southgate’s youngest midfielders may just be his most promising.
Getting goals may be the problem for the Teesiders this season. Southgate has brought in Jeremie Aliadiere to provide firepower to compliment the outstanding Yakubu. An extended run of first team action may be what the Arsenal cast-off needs, but realistically ‘Boro are going to have to come up with a better replacement for Mark Viduka.
Sven’s Predictions: Middle of the road for ‘Boro. A lack of goal-scoring will drag them down towards the relegation zone, but they should be safe. I think this team may even have an extended League Cup run in them.
Reason to Watch: They’ve got two potential future England mainstays in Downing and Cattermole, both worth watching.
A younger Cattermole spilling some tears during a game:
15th – Reading
In: MF Kalifa Cisse (Boavista – £1M), MF Emerse Fae (Nantes – £2.5M)
Out: MF Steve Sidwell (Chelsea – Free), MF Greg Halford (Sunderland – £3M), Curtis Osano (Rusden & Diamonds – Loan), MF Scott Davies (Aldershot – Loan), GK Mikkel Anderson (Barnet – Loan), GK Ross Kitteridge (Dover Athletic – Loan)
Last Season Finish: 8th in Premier League (55 points)(52 Goals For, 47 Goals Against)
Overview: Reading enjoyed a fantastic first year in the Premiership playing attacking football. but, can they duplicate it? The smart money says no.
Unfortunately for manager Steve Coppell, influential winger Steve Sidwell has decided he’d rather sit on Chelsea’s bench instead of play regular football for Reading. But Reading’s most serious problem isn’t personnel, but familiarity. The Royals caught a lot of teams off guard last year by sticking with what got them to the Premiership — attacking. Too many newly-promoted teams try to park the bus in front of the goal and hope to grind out enough results to stay up, but not Reading. They attacked and it carried them to a top ten finish.
This year, they won’t catch anybody by suprise . Expect teams to try to slow them down and expose the mediocre defense. That said, Reading have much the same team as last season and know what to expect. Coppell will have this team ready for battle and they’ll attack in waves.
Sven’s Predictions: They’ll score more goals than they conceed and they won’t give up. It’ll be a roller-coaster year for Reading, but a second year slip-up is inevitable.
Reason to Watch: They play an entertaining brand of soccer worth checking out.
14th – Fulham
In: (Manager) Lawrie Sanchez, FB Aaron Hughes (Aston Villa – £1M), MF Steven Davis (Aston Villa – Undisclosed), ST Diomansy Kamara (West Brom – £6M), FB Paul Konchesky (West Ham – Undisclosed), CB Chris Baird (Southampton – £3M), ST David Healy (Leeds – Undisclosed), MF Lee Cook (QPR – £2.5M), CB Adrian Leijer (Melbourne – Undisclosed)
Out: (Manager) Chris Coleman, ST Heidar Helguson (Bolton – Undisclosed), ST Tomasz Radzinski, MF Claus Jensen, GK Mark Crossley, MF Mark Pembridge (All Released), ST Bjorn Runstrom (Kaiserslautern – Loan), MF Michael Brown (Wigan – Undisclosed), FB Franck Quedrue (Birmingham – £2M)
Last Season Finish: 16th in Premier League (39 points)(38 Goals For, 60 Goals Against)
Overview: Now that Chris Coleman has been replaced with former Northern Irish manager Lawrie Sanchez, ‘Team USA’ may now become ‘Team Northern Ireland’. Since taking over the London club, Sanchez has brought in four of his countrymen (Hughes, Davis, Baird and Healy) in a bid to recreate his international success at Craven Cottage (and maybe because they’re the only players he’s really familiar with).
Fulham almost succumbed to relegation last season, but this season should feature a new-look squad as turnover at the club has been high. The defense has added two reliable fullbacks in Konchesky and Hughes and brought in depth at centerback. Quite frankly, the backline needs all the help it can get, especially away from the comforts of home. Last season, nobody else in the Premier League conceeded as many away goals (42) as Fulham. Defending at Craven Cottage was better, to the tune of 18 allowed goals, which suggests this may be not be a personnel-specific problem, but mental or tactical flaw that Sanchez can change.
The midfield remains servicable if not spectacular. With the additions of Cook and Dempsey (well, in January), Fulham now have the option of playing with more width. No doubt the gaffer hopes Stephen Davis will add some grit to the engine room and inspire the efforts of his teammates. But, by Premier League standards, it’s a wonderfully average midfield which is going to have to rely on a lot of hard work to survive.
Leading the charge, young Collins John and the aging aerial threat of Brian McBride are joined by Kamara and Healy. Kamara lit up the Championship last year, but didn’t show that same promise in the Premiership the year before. Healy remains a mystery, excelling internationally but not so much at Leeds. But, if anybody is going to unlock his potential domestically, it will be his former national team manager.
Sven’s Predictions: Sanchez should get this team to play with more heart and determination and it will show in the standings. They’ll stay above the relegation fray, but will struggle to make a push into the top half of the table. It will be a year of marginal improvement at Fulham.
Reason to Watch: You’re an American looking for a team to support and they have a few Americans who feature regularly. (although you’d be better off with Reading)
13th – Bolton
In: (Manager) Sammy Lee, MF Gavin McCann (Aston Villa – £1M), FB Jlloyd Samuel (Aston Villa – Free), MF Blerim Dzemaili (FC Zurich – Free), CB Gerald Cid (Bordeaux – Free), ST Zoltan Harsanyi (FC Senec – Undisclosed), MF Danny Guthrie (Liverpool – Loan), MF Mikel Alonso (Real Sociedad – Loan), ST Heidar Helguson (Fulham – Undisclosed), MF Christian Wilhelmsson (Nantes – Loan), GK Adam Bogdan (Vasas – Undisclosed)
Out: (Manager) Sam Allardyce, CB Tal Ben Haim (Chelsea – Free), CB Cesar Martin, MF David Thompson, MF Quinton Fortune, ST Henrik Pedersen (All Released)
Last Season Finish: 7th in Premier League (56 points)(47 Goals For, 52 Goals Against)
Overview: After leading the Wanderers through multiple succesful seasons in the Premership and qualifying for Europe twice, Sam Allardyce has left for the (debatedly) greener pastures of Newcastle. The question now becomes, will Bolton continue to over-achieve and once again finish in the top half of the table under the stewardship of former Liverpool man, Sammy Lee? Or, as is the case with so many clubs who lose an influenial manager, will Bolton start a slide back towards the cellar, and eventually, Championship football?
In a bid to keep the club going forward, the new manager has continued the frugal transfer dealings of his predecessor, bringing in a boatload of new players, many either on loan or on the free. Whether or not they’ll be good enough to keep Bolton in the right half of the table and in Europe is yet to be determined.
There’s still plenty of proven talent on this squad. 11-goal Nicolas Anelka has declared his intent to stay with the club (at least until next week or when the wind changes direction, whichever comes first) and is backed up by a midfield featuring Kevin Nolan, El-Hadji ‘The Serial Spitter’ Diouf and aging workhorses like Gary Speed, Stelios Giannakopoulos and Ivan Campo. The midfield has also welcomed a few fresh faces. Should even one of the new boys contribute substantially, they’ll be in good shape. Can Xabi Alonso’s brother, Mikel, have the same impact at Bolton as his brother has had at Liverpool? Does the passing gene run in the Alonso family? Better yet, can he score from his own half?
Even for a scrappy team that recorded 12 clean sheets last season, this year’s backline doesn’t look particularly impressive. While Faye has been reliable at centerback and established fullback Jlloyd Samuel has joined the club, losing a player of Ben Haim’s quality will not help a team that was on the wrong side of the goal differential last term. Gerald Cid has some mighty big boots to fill. Bolton fans will also have to hope Ricardo Gardner’s knee holds up. The defence, as in years past, will rely heavily on the work of an industrious midfield.
Sven’s Predictions: While they’ll most likely continue to play the same rough & ugly (but highly effective) brand of soccer they employed under Big Sam (if it ain’t broke…), Bolton are going to backslide under any new manager. Should they get off to a particularly slow start, Sammy Lee may find himself among the leading contenders for ‘First Manager Sacked’. Should they elect not to employ thuggery in their football, as most of their new imports will not be familiar with the bruising style of play, but instead chase a more attractive brand of footy, their regression will be even quicker. The defense doesn’t have enough quality to fend for itself should the midfield shield go forward in search of goals. While it won’t be a relegation fight, it’s not going to be a pretty season at Bolton. Then again, it’s never really been ‘pretty’.
Reason to Watch: You enjoy hard-nosed, but not particularly attractive soccer.
12th – West Ham
In: MF Scott Parker (Newcastle – £7M), MF Julien Faubert (Bordeaux – £6.1M), GK Richard Wright (Free), ST Craig Bellamy (Liverpool – £7.5), MF Freddy Ljungberg (Arsenal – £3M)
Out: MF Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa – £8.5M), FB Tyrone Mears (Derby – £1M), MF Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool – Undisclosed), FB Paul Konchesky (Fulham – Undisclosed), Carlos Tevez (Manchester United – £2M)
Last Season Finish: 15th in Premier League (41 points)(35 Goals For, 59 Goals Against)
Overview: West Ham have had a busy summer. Unfortunately, most of it has involved legal proceedings. Hour after billable hour later, Carlos Tevez, the man annointed as last season’s savior, has moved on to Manchester United. And life returns to normal at Upton Park.
Or does it? Recently taken over by Eggert Magnusson, the club’s future looks a bit brighter with the Icelander’s money. And Alan Curbishley has spent some of it, bringing in known talents like Scott Parker, Craig Bellamy, Julien Faubert and Freddy Ljungberg to replace some key departures.
Sadly, Hammer fans won’t be seeing Faubert for quite some time, as he’s out for half the season with an Achilles injury. But Kieron Dyer may be on his way to London and a Parker-Dyer-Boa Morte-Ljungberg midfield could be the right combination to get the business done for the Hammers. But the question is, does Freddy have any life left in his legs or should he consider booking more underwear modeling gigs?
In addition to Bellamy, who should slot in well at Upton Park, West Ham also get Dean Ashton back after a year-long injury absence. They’ll need both their goal-scoring talents as the team’s dismal goal return was the reason they almost went under last season. (okay, one of the reasons)
The defense, with the exceptions of Christian Dailly and captain Lucas Neill, is relatively young and should improve slightly. A fit Robert Green in goal should help dial down the amount of goals they let in.
Sven’s Predictions: If this club struggles early, Curbishley gets the sack. I do think, however, that they’ve got another FA Cup run in them. Plus, I’ll dare to say the club never does business with Kia Joorabchian again.
Reason to Watch: Watching Craig Bellamy cry, pout and yell at his own teammates during the course of a game is highly entertaining. (more so when he’s not on your favorite team)
11th – Everton
In: FB Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United – £4M), MF Steven Pienaar (Borussia Dortmund – Loan)
Out: GK Richard Wright (Released), FB Alessandro Pistone (Released), FB Gary Naysmith (Sheffield United – £1M), ST Stephen Connor (Patrtick Thistle – Loan), ST James Beattie (Sheffield United – £4M)
Last Season Finish: 6th in Premier League (58 points)(52 Goals For, 36 Goals Against)
Overview: This is a squad that seems to yo-yo within the division on a year-to-year basis. Under the direction of manager David Moyes (not counting the two months of the 2001-02 season after he took over for Walter Smith), the Toffees have finished 7th, 17th, 4th, 11th and 6th. This fluctuating history would lead us to believe that they’re destined to disappoint this season, finishing somewhere around 13th.
It’s a small squad, so should they get hit with an injury bug, they could face a grim season. Moyes hasn’t done much to address this problem and it’s sure to take its toll over the long season.
The defense was one the Premier League’s better units last season, only allowing 36 goals with 14 clean sheets. Goalkeeper Tim Howard has permanantly joined reliable defenders like Jospeh Yobo, Joleon Lescott and Alan Stubbs. Tony Hibbert is expected to be contribute once again after a season beset by injury and illness. And the gang welcomes Phil Jagielka to the backline to offset their departures at fullback.
And yes, Phil Neville plays for them too.
It was the midfield, though, which was responsible for Everton’s 6th place and their spot in Europe. Good news for Evertonians; the two main cogs in the engine room, Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill, have extended their contracts. Along with Lee Carsley and Leon Osman, they’ll look to keep Toffee aspirations high. Loanee Stephen Pienaar should give them another attacking dimension. This midfield is going to have to produce just as many, if not more, goals as it did last season if they wish to finish in the top half.
Up front, Moyes will hope impressive youngsters James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe can built on the potential they showed last year. Otherwise, with the departure of Beattie, the scoring load falls squarely on the shoulders of Andrew Johnson. And it’s a heavy enough load to force him to take a dive in the penalty area, over and over and over again.
Sven’s Predictions: Everton have progressed well under Moyes’ stewardship but history should repeat itself as they swing back to the other side of the table. While the defense should remain strong and the midfield inspirational, injuries will be the undoing of Liverpool’s lesser side.
Somewhat Relevant Quote: (Mikel Arteta on Everton’s problematic squad size)
It is going to be a long season and we definitely need new signings. If everyone is 100 per cent and stays fit then maybe we will be okay, but if we get two or three injuries, we are going to need more players.
We have a great chance to move the club forward again, and hopefully we can have a good run in Europe and keep improving. We have a better squad than when we were last in Europe two years ago (when they crashed out in the CL third round qualifier); more experienced and better prepared. But it really is small, and if we can bring in some more new faces, it will be more than welcome.
Reason to Watch: Your dad is a Liverpool supporter and this is your lame idea of rebellion. Or you’re Gary Neville, checking up on brother.
Watch the brilliance of Phil Neville: