Team Analysis For The Barclays Premier League Season 2014/2015



Manchester United

Van Gaal Manchester United

Where to begin with Man U’s season last year… It was comical for a while, then slightly less so and then it made me a bit sad, but then I overheard some United fans loudly bragging  about their history in a pub (with thick cockney accents) and decided I was okay with it again. David Moyes should never have been given the job and the only explanation I’ve come up with as to why he was is that Fergie decided he was the man for it on the basis of them both being Scottish.

Enough about the past though because the future is Dutch, a little bit crazy and a lot more unorthodox: Louis van Gaal. The former Dutch, Ajax and Barcelona manager who even Zlatan says is a bit unstable. However, there’s no denying he’s both successful and effective. Apparently, he’s been promised a hefty transfer budget in order to rejuvenate a team that is filled with players that have underperformed and quite frankly, don’t seem good enough to play for a club of Manchester United’s stature.

So far this summer Man U have signed Luke Shaw from Southampton for £27,000,000 and Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao for a fee of £28,000,000. Luke Shaw is a young left-back with invaluable Premier League experience for someone of his age and potential; Herrera on the other hand is a tempo controlling playmaker who doesn’t score many, but has racked up some well-rated performances for Bilbao by contributing assists and ensuring the ball isn’t given away cheaply.

United are being linked with every Dutch player and their mother because of Van Gaal, another name that should have fans salivating is Arturo Vidal, the no-nonsense Chilean midfielder who can score and pass as well as tackle furiously. United have let Nemanja Vidic go to Inter, Patrice Evra is off to Juventus, Rio Ferdinand is going to QPR while legendary United player Ryan Giggs has retired.

Shaw can be seen as a direct replacement for Evra but the departure of United’s most successful ever central defensive partnership should mean that decent replacements are on their way in. The Manchester United midfield crisis was apparent last season after years of Ferguson patch work, Vidal is one step towards solving that but another signing wouldn’t go amiss, particularly in the winger department; Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria is another rumoured signing to fill that position but with oil-rich moneybags PSG also on the case it might not be.  Personally, I think that with the probable departure of Hernandez, an aging Van Persie and new Captain Wayne Rooney proving temperamental and inconsistent a striker would probably be a good addition too.

Manchester United are going to be difficult to predict this season. I can’t see them winning, at all, but I would expect them to be in or about the top 4. That would still be a remarkable turnabout for Van Gaal and would also mean that continental sponsorship was back on the table, from a business perspective. A problem potentially facing Man U this season is tempting top players to join them, without Champions League football; on the other hand, without continental football United can focus solely on the Premier League. Less travelling + less matches = more focus on the league.

Newcastle United

Remy Cabella Newcastle

Alan Pardew was possibly the only manager in the Premier League that drew as much resentment from his fans as the Toon army was beaten 15 times after Boxing Day, including a run of six consecutive losses.  The run was only ended after a 3-0 win against Cardiff which was one of the ugliest displays of fans vocalising distain on a manager I remember witnessing.

Mike Ashley, the ever popular owner of Newcastle United has also failed to invest in two transfer windows which hasn’t exactly helped matters. Pardew outlined his expectations at the start of the 13/14 season as top 10 and managed to guide Newcastle to 10th place, but Newcastle fans clearly expect more and definitely desire better performances than the ones seen last season.

Alan Pardew should take some blame, Ashley should take some blame but also a certain degree of blame has to lie with the players. Other than loan acquisition Loic Remy there were few players who played well consistently for the Magpies. Hatem Ben Arfa has had problems with injuries throughout his Newcastle career but produced some great football when he was fit, until last season. The Frenchman swung between looking lazy and then trying to singlehandedly take on teams depending on his mood; pictures circulating of him carrying a fair bit of weight before the season begins won’t help the debate about his professionalism either.

The good news for the Newcastle fans is that the club has some money to spend due to their stinginess in the last couple of windows. Remy Cabella is a great prospect as is Siem De Jong, the brother of the underperforming loanee from last season and former Ajax captain, with the duo arriving for a total of £18,000,000. On top of these seemingly intelligent signings, 21 year old attacking midfielder Ayoze Pérez has joined from Tenerife, highly rated right back Daryl Janmaat and striker Emmanuel Riviere from Monaco; all for undisclosed fees, while Argentine striker Facundo Ferreyra has joined on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles have also signed for the Magpies from Nottingham Forrest but are being loaned back for this season and Jack Colback has joined from rivals Sunderland on a free transfer. These signings should breathe some much needed life back into a Newcastle squad that has previously seen its best players leave, with no replacements acquired and it will ensure that they actually have some quality rotation options on the bench. I think some defensive reinforcements could be needed before the window closes to ensure that the leaky Newcastle defence doesn’t allow the goals to come so easily.

Depending on how the new signings settle in, because there is a LOT of them to bring in at once, I would say that Newcastle are looking at finishing up around the edge of the Europa qualifying zone. They have a better team than last year, on paper at least, and at least morale should be better now that the players and fans have actually seen some money spent. As long as the players don’t decide that they know better than the manager, then we might see some good football from up Toonsside.

Queens Park Rangers


Q.P.R should have easily gained automatic promotion from the Championship last season but it didn’t quite go to script. Manager Harry Redknapp has had one of the least enviable tasks in football in dealing with a Q.P.R team who weren’t justifying their enormous wages and were accused of having a bad attitude. ‘Arry did alright in dealing with all the nonsense though and succeeded in earning promotion the difficult way, through the play-offs.

Wealthy club owner Tony Fernandes will have been satisfied with only spending one season in the Championship and Redknapp is a manager with the experience to ensure that the same mistakes that led to relegation previously aren’t made again. Thomas Carroll, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Niko Kranjcar were three regular players from a total of seven loanees borrowed from other clubs, something which is unusual in the Premier League. The problem with Q.P.R though was that while their defence wasn’t bad (not great, but not bad) they struggled to score goals, with the fewest goals in the top four teams by 12.

Rangers have done some good business in the transfer window, signing Steven Caulker and Rio Ferdinand to form a defensive partnership that a lot of fans are looking forward to seeing. Jordon Mutch, the 22 year old former Cardiff midfielder is another astute signing by Rednapp; a good all-round central midfielder who can set up and finish a goal. Mauricio Isla, a Chilean right-back, has been signed on loan from Italian champions Juventus and, as seems to be the way with Chilean players, he’s a flexible player who can play in a number of other positions.

So far Steven Caulker and Jordan Mutch are the only players who have cost the club fees, with Caulker arriving for £8,000,000 and Mutch for £6,000,000; neither fee is unreasonable considering the age and quality of the players. Q.P.R NEED some attacking reinforcements, on loan wouldn’t be bad but ideally on a permanent deal. A solid defence is the key to Premier League survival, but goals are a necessity and a necessity that Q.P.R might struggle to come by.

I think Q.P.R are a good team, they have a solid defence and that’s…good. The problem is that they were struggling to score in the Championship, so I can’t see them coming easily for Rangers in the division above. If they sign another striker then I think they’ll stay up, but as it stands I’m pretty sure they’ll be involved in a battle at the top of the relegation zone that I’m not sure they’re going to win. Harry Redknapp is a good manager and I hope for their sake that deadline day involves him chatting about forwards while leaning out of his car window.

I may get panned for saying this but I think one Joey Barton is also going to play an important role. People laughed when I said that in the 2011/2012, but then he got sent off and we all know what happened next: “AGUERRROOO!” Joey Barton is not a fantastically gifted player but he is a loud personality; he influences other players and the morale in the dressing room. He’ll either cause problems or make sure no-one else in the team does, depending on how he feels.



Southampton impressed for a variety of reasons last season: 1) A majority of their first team top players were English, 2) No-one expected them to do as well as they did, 3) Several players no-one would have dreamt of got called up to their respective national teams based on their performances, 4) They had some REALLY good performances.

I lived in Southampton previously and managed to make it to a few games, last year was by far the most positive the locals had been about their team. Don’t get me wrong, the Saints are extremely popular in their own town, but last year people were seeing players like Jay Rodriguez put in some Man of the Match worthy performances.

This was in no small part due to the work of their manager; a former Argentine international and the man who allowed David Beckham to score a penalty in the World Cup: Mauricio Pochettino. Pochettino apparently forced players to partake in ‘double training’ and it showed with their greatly improved performance. However, this is not the same Southampton team as last year, in fact it may as well be a different club…called Southampton. Their departures include (deep breath now): Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers and even their manager Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t secure enough to avoid being nabbed.Morgan Schneiderlin is also subject to speculation after making his intentions to leave clear, whether the club cave in or not is a different matter.

New manager the Dutchman Ronald Koeman, who’s managed Feyenoord, PSV, Ajax and Barcelona, has an unenviable task ahead of him though. As mentioned above, Southampton have had a big transfer window, though not the one they would have necessarily wanted. In the words of “Futurama’s” Professor Hubert Farnsworth though: “Good news everyone!” Southampton got some good prices and raked in the money with those transfers at a figure around £92,000,000. Wow.

Ronald Koeman has a lot of money to replace those players and between the exciting younger players like James Ward-Prowse left at Southampton and his unparalleled knowledge of the exciting Dutch Eredivisie, I’d be expecting some good quality football be played at St Mary’s Stadium this season. Currently, Southampton have bought the impressive young Serbian International Dusan Tadic from FC Twente for £10,900,000; experienced Italian striker Graziano Pelle from Feyenord for an undisclosed fee and goalkeeper Frazier Forster for £10,000,000 from Celtic.

Chelsea’s young defensive prodigy Ryan Bertrand and Inter Milan’s young midfielder Saphir Taider have also joined the club on loan. It’s clear that Southampton need to strengthen virtually every aspect of their team. Between players being sold, players wanting to be sold and players leaving the club on free transfers, Southampton now have the money to buy a decent squad while maintaining their philosophy of developing their legendarily good youth players.

The south-coast Saints are going to have their work cut out to get themselves to the stage they were at last year, in 8th position; but I think between an experienced manager of undisputed quality, having enough cash to buy in suitable replacements and some enviable youth players coming through into first team, a mid-table finish should be considered a good result after the summer they’ve had so far. Southampton have a budget that would most teams around the world  would kill to get and I trust Koeman to make some good investments that will look to the long-term as well as make an instant impact.

The main problem that I can see them stumbling across will be that they may struggle to get a completely new-look squad to blend as quickly as the manager needs it to. Pochettino’s Southampton players knew each other and had played together in the season’s previously, Koeman’s team won’t have that luxury.

Stoke City

Bojan Stoke

After years with their beloved manager Tony Pulis, Stoke fans can’t have been thrilled when his replacement was announced to be the man attributed with spunking Q.P.R’s finances up the wall so quickly and inaccurately he was comparable to a teenager who’d just seen boobs for the first time.

To be honest I’d never really rated Hughes as a manager and so was firmly aligned with this view until he actually started getting Stoke to play some good football. It feels weird suggesting that the Potters were playing ‘attractive’ football but they actually did; players like Stephen Ireland, who had been shut out in the cold at Aston Villa, helped introduce a different style of play and it worked and you know that 4-1 win over Villa had to feel especially good for him.

Stoke improved throughout the season and during their last 11 games managed to get 7 wins. Hughes also made a great decision and swapped Kenwyne Jones, a striker who managed to cause more problems for his own team than the opposition, for Peter Odemwingie, who didn’t exactly have a great reputation either. Odemwingie has been a different player for Stoke and has managed to positively contribute to goals; he’s never going to be a 20 goals season type of player but he’s powerful enough to make a nuisance of himself against defences.

The transfer window has been good for Stoke so far, with ex-Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley, ex-Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell and former Man United striker Mame Diouf all signing for precisely zero pounds. Diouf is arriving from Hannover and I think he’s a particularly good signing for the Potters, especially on a free transfer. These signings are all good in that they each have Premier League experience and they’re all physically strong players who aren’t going to be easy for other teams to push around. If nothing else they’re some proven rotation options for Mark Hughes.

However, the signing that I’m particularly interested in is Bojan Krkic. Bojan was once considered to be the next big Barcelona youth prospect but failed to impress during his time at the Nou Camp and he hasn’t been fantastic during his loan spells to various leagues. That being said, it’s clear he has talent and for £3,000,000 was a steal in my opinion. Hughes is a difficult taskmaster and will get the best out of Bojan, which could be a worry for other teams.

Stoke conceded 52 goals last season and that’s not great so I’d like to see them get another player for their backline, I actually like Shawcross and think he’s underrated but another quality centre-back (ideally left-footed) would be a useful addition.

I like this Stoke side and with an attacking line-up that includes: Crouch-inio, Bojan, Diouf, Odemingie, Ireland and the tricky Austrian winger Arnautovic can cause problems for a lot of teams in the league. I’m predicting that they’ll be in the top 10 again this season, maybe even sniffing around Europa league football. I also think that they might perform well in some cup tournaments this year, their squad is a good mixture of experience and youth.

Generally speaking, many teams choose to play some youth players for tournaments like the Capital One Cup and with Stoke having such a physical team they are just going to bully and push past anyone who’s not strong enough to stop them. On a personal note, I’d once again like to apologise to Mark Hughes, you’ve done good boyo.



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