And so, we have reached the end of the line, and the final five are up for inspection. They are Swansea, Spurs WBA, Wigan and Wolves. And don’t forget to get in touch if you have any views on any of the transfer activity of the summer.
It’s always interesting to see what the new boys get up to, especially those that have not been in the Premiership, and as discussed yesterday, you can either spend sensibly and gamble a bit, or invest heavily at bigger risk, but bring in experienced talent. I think Swansea were forced to think of the safer option and take the gamble that their free-flowing football would find enough purpose to see off enough teams for enough points to stay up. The summer didn’t start too well as they lost Dorus de Vries on a free to Wolves. The Dutchman has been with Swansea through their rise through the divisions, and has been responsible for some match winning displays. This immediately weakened the team in my eyes, but having replacement Michel Vorm arrive from Utrecht, I wouldn’t be too disheartened as he has put in some excellent displays, and earnt what could be a valuable point for the Swans against Wigan. Darren Pratley was another key player Swansea wouldn’t have wanted to lose, although the player has a better chance of progression at Bolton; but the Jacks will miss the industrious midfielder’s presence in the team. Ma-Kalambay, van der Gun and Pintado were amongst the others that left the club, but none that would be of great loss. So, following Vorm, who were the other players brought in to strengthen? Well strengthen’s a strong word, but Brendan Rodgers has made some acquisitions. It looks like fourth or fifth time’s a charm for Wayne Routledge in the Premiership, as the Swans became the latest club to take a gamble on the winger who has always shown promise but never really delivered outside the Championship. I don’t think he’s good enough to dislodge Nathan Dyer, but he could always go on the other flank. Rodgers looked outside the Premiership when recruiting Jose Moreira from Benfica and Gerhard Tremmel from Red Bull Salzburg, so it remains to be seen how they adapt to life on these shores, although in Moreira’s case in particular, I don’t see him replacing the current player in his position. Leroy Lita was next in, hardly the player who will score you loads of goals to keep you up, which is a shame given his early promise shown in the England youth setup. He may compliment Scott Sinclair, so we’ll wait and see. No one was really brought in that gives me great confidence in Swansea to be honest, which it pains me to say, as I saw a lot of them in the Championship and they really do play good football. My only fear is they go at team’s too much and get opened up. They did run rings around Man City in the first half of their first game, but lost it at the end. I remember Nigel Worthington’s Norwich side a few years ago were applauded for having a go at teams, but inevitably got ripped apart and crashed out of the league on the last day thanks to a 6-0 thrashing by Fulham. And last year we had Blackpool, who became everyone’s second favourite team because of how they attacked sides, but even they couldn’t stay up. I fear for Swansea, but hope they don’t suffer the same fate.
Right let me get it out of the way. Luka Modric. There I said it. We all know the saga, and Spurs have done well to keep the little magician, although only time will tell if it is detrimental to keep a player who is not happy. So let’s move on. All in all, Harry Redknapp loaned out 10 players during the summer, the most notable being massive underachievers Jermaine Jenas and David Bentley booted out on a quest to try find some form to match the hype. In Bentley’s case I think this is doable at West Ham, but the jury’s still out on Jenas at Villa. As for players out, Jamie O’Hara was first having spent the season at Wolves, the deal was made permanent. Great move for the player and his new club, as O’Hara has always played his best football away from White Hart Lane. Johnathan Woodgate also left on a free, which was a sad sight, but Harry has given the aging defender a lot of patience and it wasn’t worth a new deal. One wonders what will happen with Ledley ‘I can’t train and can barely play’ King when his time comes. Alan Hutton and Robbie Keane fell foul to the famous Harry Redknapp disease of “once you fall out of favour, you’re dead to me” which struck Darren Bent quite badly in recent years, and almost forced Gareth Bale out, an egg on face moment if ever there was one for ‘Arry. I think Hutton will do well at his new club, and I believe Keane will too although I imagine he’s just playing for his retirement now in LA. The last two out the door were Crouch and Palacios to Stoke. No surprise a midfielder left, due to Spurs’ over abundance of players in the centre, although I am surprised it wasn’t Niko Kranjcar; maybe he likes the Tottenham bench after all. Crouch was a surprise, as with Keane leaving also it only left newboy Adebayor, injury-prone Defoe, and great but out-of-favour Pavlyuchenko. Maybe the Russian will get the chance he deserves?!The lack of strike options is made even more obvious now that van der Vaart has been ruled out for 6 weeks with injury. Not good times for Tottenham who were also shown lacking in the transfer market as they failed to sign Gary Cahill; a player they are crying out for as a decent partner for Michael Dawson at the back, especially if something happens to Gallas. I never realised until writing this, just how little money Tottenham spent in the summer: almost none. Brad Friedel was brought in on a free at the start, which is good cover for calamity Gomes but hardly building for the future, then came Adebayor and Iago Falque on loan. I’m dubious as to the effect Falque can have, but I think Adebayor is a great signing on loan. Yes he can be a bit of a diva, but the man has bags of talent and knows where the goal is in this league. He’s big, quick and skilful and I predict he will be a great success for Spurs this year. And one great signing was followed by another, and it was hardly a surprise, as Scott Parker was welcomed for 5m. A good buy, and a player that will add experience and quality to a Tottenham midfield that can sometimes be wanting. I have no doubt players like Tom Huddlestone can learn a lot from the England man. I think Spurs will push for CL as they did last year, and if Adebayor gets firing and the little Croat finds his head, then that is definitely possible. If not, I can see Arsenal and Liverpool having too much for them. Oh, and pause for thought, but could this be Harry Redknapp’s last hurrah for Spurs given that Fabio Capello will be replaced after Euro 2012? Hmm…
West Bromwich Albion
I never really understood why Di Matteo wasn’t given a little bit longer last season, but then Roy Hodgson came in and did a great job. Plus, a side famous for yo-yoing managed to stay up and I think this season could be a season of cementing their place in the league. They shipped out a lot of players, although no one of great impact, so one would think they have enough to do just that. They managed to keep Peter Odemwingie too, which will be a great boost for the Hawthorns faithful. Scott Carson left for pastures new in Turkey, but in fairness has never recovered from that Wembley nightmare against Croatia. And his replacement is a good one in Ben Foster. I remember a few years ago hearing Man Utd fans bang on about how good this lad was, and he was England’s and their number one, yet when he went to Birmingham and was relegated with them last year he automatically became crap. Oh how fickle fans can be, but I think Foster will get a chance to rebuild his reputation at WBA and its a good buy for all. This summer also saw the return of old hero Zoltan Gera after he was released by Fulham. I don’t think he will have the same impact he had the first time round, but Woy did work with him at Craven Cottage, and he must have seen something there to bring him back. No doubting the best signing for West Brom this summer was Shane Long. Courted by many, WBA finally managed to wrap up the deal at the start of the season and he had instant impact against Man Utd, although he may wish to thank David De Gea for that one. I think Long will get goals for WBA though, and along with Peter Odemwingie I think they will score enough to stay in the top flight. Fans may feel slightly disappointed that the club didn’t manage to sign Owen Hargreaves when it looked like a deal was going to be done before Hargreaves went awol. But then the lure of Man City may have proved too much and for a player that can’t handle playing week in week out, warming the bench at Man City for a tidy pay packet would be my choice too. All in all, I think West Brom will stay up, top half may be beyond them, but cementing Premiership football for a third successive season is the main aim.
Not a lot happened at Wigan in the summer really. Their manager was tipped for the Aston Villa job and whilst some may commend his loyalty to stay with Wigan and Dave Whelan, the man who gave him his chance, I think he may rue the missed opportunity given that there is only so far you can take Wigan as it is a dorment club and staying up is the only objective every year. Things were made even worse when they lost their best player. Again, well played to Dave Whelan who stayed strong on his valuation of the player and received a good fee for Charles N’Zogbia, but the money wasn’t quite invested in a suitable replacement and this has no doubt weakened a side that were struggling to stay up anyway. The most optimistic Wigan fan will point to young talent Victor Moses and the fact he had such a good preseason, but I don’t think he’s quite a match winner yet and is too inconsistent to rely on. I think he may turn out to be one of Wigan’s better players, along with the likes of Ben Watson, and Wigan have done well to keep the talents of Hugo Rodallega at the club. I also think Ali Al Habsi was a good buy having impressed on loan last season, and Shaun Maloney may be a good acquisition but I worry for any player making the move down south, as seen with the likes of Barry Ferguson who never quite found the same form he showed in the SPL. I don’t think Wigan are any stronger this year and they only just stayed up last time out. I think those at the DW Stadium will be bracing themselves for another long hard season which will end in a relegation dog fight, which they may not win…
Wolves are on of those clubs that don’t spend outside their limits and have ensured a bit of stability. In Mick McCarthy they have a manager that’s seen it all before and in Jed Moxey they have a chairman who offers a lot of support. And despite shipping out a few players on loan and releasing some others, there are a few bits of business they have done which has been quietly impressive. The signing of Dorus De Vries gives good back up following the release of Marcus Hahnemann, but I don’t see the Dutchman getting many games if Wayne Hennessey’s form can be maintained; although that’s not a bad thing for Wolves. Jamie O’Hara is great business given his influence on the side, and whilst it may not seem like a new signing given that he was at Molineux last season on loan, its a good signing either way. The signing that impressed me most though is that of Roger Johnson from Birmingham. Having risen from his days at Cardiff, Johnson had a good year last year along with Scott Dann, and was tipped to be on Liverpool’s radar. To McCarthy’s credit too, he wrapped up the business very quickly and without too much hoo-hah, and he will be a great addition to the Wolves backline. As predicted, not a lot of business at Wolves this summer, but like other teams they have done well to hold onto their prized assets such as Kevin Doyle who was on a few clubs’ radar this summer. I think they have strengthened compared to last year but may possibly be dragged into a relegation battle, but there appears to be enough squads in the league weaker than them, so I think they might stay up. And given the way the club is run, this would be a good thing.
So there’s the round up of the 20 Premier League teams and their business, and I know as well as anyone that it can all change, and predictions now can mean nothing, but hey, it’s fun, and all for the love of the game.