Month: July 2014

Leicester’s Thai Owners are NOT Vincent Tan

One of the things that annoys me more than most things is not receiving credit for the good work you do. This summer, I, among many other fans, have been eagerly anticipating Leicester City’s first match back in the top-flight of English football. Having stormed the Championship last season racking up a monumental 31 wins and 102 points.

Despite, last season’s dominance, Leicester, as well as being plugged as potential dark horses for next season have been slated for an immediate return to the second tier too. I would be lying if it didn’t irritate me that my team has been written off by some (mostly Forest fans) before they’ve even really been assessed.

It’s fair to say that the Premier League can be a self-appreciating, internal, self-obsessed division. Fans of the division may not know an awful not about a rejuvenated, well-prepared Leicester side that is entering the division with a century of points, a circumstance that has never ended in immediate relegation. That’s probably why, when asked why many think Leicester will go down they can’t really give a reason – I’m certainly yet to hear or read a compelling one.

It baffles me that pre-season predictions have seen us placed below both Burnley and Queens Park Rangers who failed catastrophically to keep pace with City last season – nine and twenty-two points below respectively. I could forgive this view point, if either club had blown the division out of the water with their transfer dealings but you would be hard-pressed to argue that was the case. These people have written us off simply because we’ve just come up, and even we don’t have the spending power of the hooped West Londoners (even though it hasn’t helped them much thus far). Our dominance last season makes it much less likely that we’ll go down next season, statistically at least. But many fans choose to overlook that.

However, the most annoying critique of City heading in to the 2014-15 campaign has got to be the comparisons of owners Vichai and Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha with Cardiff City’s egomaniac boss Vincent Tan. Simply put they’re nothing alike. Leicester manager Nigel Pearson has been awarded with great leniency and faith from his Thai bosses during the Foxes horrendous slump in the 2012-13 season despite intense media pressure to give him the axe. Vincent Tan changes managers more than he changes his clothes. Too, the owners of Leicester City have invested in every aspect of the club, they don’t spend frivolously now like the did in Sven’s era, despite the media’s best attempts to paint Vichai’s comments to suggest such at a press conference in May. More importantly, the Foxes chairman and vice-chairman respect the culture of the club, vowing never to change the club’s crest, colours or identity unlike Mr. Tan who seems more interested in goading his club’s fans in to fisticuffs than rewarding their support like the Srivaddhanaprabhas.

This may simply sound like the bitter ramblings of a big-headed fan of a newly-promoted Premier League side but it shouldn’t be perceived as such. In spite of my staunch belief that Leicester will offer more than survival next season, I concede that there is a chance we could go down and people thinking it is not ludicrous at all. However, all I ask is, if you want to write us off – at least have a bloody good reason.

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2014-15 Premier League: Fans’ Preview (Part II)

With English’s top-flight once again relevant now the famous Leicester City F.C. have bounced back, there are just four weeks to go until the football season starts up once more.

 

Manchester United

@Edward_Walsh96

Last season: 7th
Manager: Louis Van Gaal
Rivals: Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal
Odds: 11/2

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
A top four finish in the PL. After the poor finish last season, we need to quickly recover to play in the top tier of European football.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My greatest fear is the lack of experience with a winning team. In addition, the adaptation to a new manager could be a struggle.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
The back four needs to be strengthened for next season. Bringing in Luke Shaw as LB was a good decision but with his big price tag and his young age it’s a gamble,

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I want to beat Liverpool the most next season. Our biggest and oldest rivals in the football history for Man Utd. After their impressive season last year, it made them perk up!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Herrera will be a player to look out for in the midfield. I’ve seen him play and he is a very talented midfielder with a lot to bring to Manchester. RVP will be another player to look out for next season. Finally Luke Shaw will bring some freshness to the LB position.

6. Who will win the league?
I think Chelsea will win the league. They have brought in two very good players and have come close to winning the title, I feel it’s time they won it.

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, West Ham and Sunderland. I think Leicester City will finish a close 17th.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I think QPR will be surprise a few with a mid-table finish. Other than that I think everything will be as expected.

9. Where will you finish?
I believe we will finish a close third, which will be a massive improvement on last season under David Moyes.

Newcastle United

@nufc4me

Last season: 10th
Manager: Alan Pardew
Rivals: Sunderland, Manchester United, Middlesbrough
Odds: 1000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Mike Ashley to sell and leave

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Two strikers

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I want to beat Sunderland

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Caldwell

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea

7. Who will go down?
Sunderland

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Newcastle

9. Where will you finish?
8th

Queens Park Rangers

@DazzerQPR

Last season: 4th (Championship)
Manager: Harry Redknapp
Rivals: Fulham, Chelsea, Watford
Odds: 7500/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
QPR to stay up.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
QPR to go down.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
All over. 1 LB as cover, 1 RB as cover, 2 CB’s, 2 CM’s, 1 Winger & a striker as well as keep Loic Remy.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Chelsea (and everyone around us who’ll be fighting for relegation)

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Joey Barton, Matty Philips and Charlie Austin are my dark horses

6. Who will win the league?
Man City

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, West Brom and Aston Villa

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Everton pushing on, Southampton could struggle big time!

9. Where will you finish?
Hopefully 17th or above!

 

Southampton

@ConnorArmstrong

Last season: 8th
Manager: Ronald Koeman
Rivals: Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth
Odds: 1250/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
I hope that this season ahead provides us with signs of improvement as it progresses, as it seems pretty obvious that Ronald Koeman is going to have to rebuild. It’d be great if we could have a good cup run along the way.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
That Koeman’s new side can’t adapt quickly enough and we end up playing catch up, possibly leading to relegation.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
I think the only place we don’t actually need to strengthen is central midfield. We’ve had players plucked from defence and attack, and we still need a goalkeeper to compete with Artur Boruc.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
For obvious player/manager related reasons from this summer, I most want to beat Liverpool and Tottenham. West Ham is another big one for me personally, living in Essex – there’s a lot of Hammers about!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
A bit difficult to say right now, seeing as the key men seem to be leaving, with new faces arriving. Dušan Tadić looks an exciting acquisition, though.

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, West Brom and Aston Villa

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester – I can’t see them flirting with relegation in the slightest and I think they’ll causes some upsets.

9. Where will you finish?
Somewhere between 10th and 15th. I’ll be happy so long as we stay up with a few games to go and show progression as the new manager builds his own Saints team. 

Stoke City

@JessySCFC

Last season: 9th
Manager: Mark Hughes 
Rivals: Port Vale, West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Odds: 2500/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope is that we’ll finish higher than our current highest finish (9th). 

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is injuries to our best players! 

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We really need to strengthen our strike force, it’s what lets us down the most.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
As per with every season, I’d most want to beat Arsenal and West Brom. 

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Arnautovic. His pace is unbelievable and this season he’ll be better than he was in the previous because he’s finally started to get used to our playing style and the league itself. 

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea.

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, QPR, West Brom

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester, I hope. (You’re welcome Chris)

9. Where will you finish?
I hope that we’ll finish 7th or 8th, which may be optimistic to say the least. 

Sunderland

@TonySAFC1973

Last season: 14th
Manager: Gus Poyet
Rivals: Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Leeds United
Odds: 5000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
A solid consistent season

2.What’s your biggest fear?
A relegation battle

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
A right-back and left-back

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Hull City

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Jordi Gomez and Giaccherini

6. Who will win the league?
Arsenal

7. Who will go down?
West Brom, Aston Villa and Burnley

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Swansea or Leicester

9. Where will you finish?
10th

Swansea City

@luseax

Last season: 12th
Manager: Garry Monk
Rivals: Cardiff City, Bristol City. Bristol Rovers
Odds: 4000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
For Garry Monk to have a great first season in charge of us.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
I’d say with the signings we’ve already made we’re okay. Although I would like to see us bring in a central defender and right back. Feel like we need stronger cover for Rangel if he can’t play some games.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I’d like to see us beat everyone naturally. Although a win against Everton would be nice as it’s never happened before. Not that I hate Everton, it just would be nice to beat them once. 

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Bafetimbi Gomis. Great signing for us, and could be lethal combining with Bony, providing he stays. 

6. Who will win the league?
Man City

7. Who will go down?
Argh, I hate this question. West Brom, Villa and Burnley.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Dark horses hmm.. Have a feeling Leicester might surprise a few this coming season.

9. Where will you finish?
Mid table again, going for 11th.

Tottenham Hotspur

@samhyde97

Last season: 6th
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Rivals: Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham United
Odds: 66/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Mauricio Pochettino taking us back to the Champions League, or perhaps even better, some silverware: the Europa League.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Losing Lloris before the season and/or losing Eriksen after the season.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Left Back, Centre Back; Rose and Dawson are worse than useless.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
As usual, Arsenal, of course.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Bentaleb and Tom Carroll, as well as the usuals; Eriksen, Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen etc.

6. Who will win the league?
City; no one can compete with that much money except Chelsea but I still don’t think they’ve got a good enough striker in Diego Costa.

7. Who will go down?
QPR (they’ll spend too much trying to create a whole new team again), West Brom, and Burnley.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester City; great squad and the money to keep it together and improve it, and Southampton; they may have lost their stars but with Koeman as manager and Tadic, Fonte and Rodriguez they can still do well.

9. Where will you finish?
Unfortunately and rather pessimistically, I think, without a solid defence it will be another 5th or 6th place finish.

West Bromwich Albion

@TheDelaney24

Last season: 17th
Manager: Alan Irvine 
Rivals: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa, Stoke City
Odds: 5000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Mid table mediocrity. Sounds uninspiring but there’s a rebuilding job going on at the Hawthorns this summer, having lost a few players in the close season. I’m sure most Baggies would take safety & continue good progress we had made. 

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation. I think it would be very hard for us to come back if we were relegated. Financially, we’d be fine, but we’d lose a lot of very good, established players.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Defence & attack. The signing of Lescott was a major statement, & it looks like the club are addressing our lack of full backs. We really need one top striker and a winger though.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Would have to be Villa again. Midlands derbies are few & far between these days, with Wolves & Birmingham in the Championship. Beating one of the big boys is always pleasing. 

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Everyone knows about Lescott and he will be a great addition to our squad. On his day, Stephane Sessegnon is a joy to watch, & Mulumbu has been courted by bigger clubs for a while. Squad is a bit thin at the moment but hopefully we can add a couple of the new lads to that list in time. 

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea. If Costa transfers his La Liga form to the PL Chelsea will be a formidable outfit. They’ve been crying out for a goalscorer. Cesc was an excellent addition too.

7. Who will go down?
I think Villa will struggle with Lerner having put the block on any major expenditure until they’re sold. Burnley will find it tough, but the last one could come from anywhere. Southampton? Interesting to see how they cope after the firesale. 

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
If they continue the progress from last season, then Palace will surprise a few people. Think Leicester will do ok too, they have a few £ to spend and have a good set up in Pearson and his team.

9. Where will you finish?
I think it’ll be tight but I think we’ll stop up. Anywhere between 10th and 17th would be deemed a reasonable season for us. 

West Ham United

@IAmKieranA

Last season: 13th
Manager: Sam Allardyce
Rivals: Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall, Arsenal
Odds: 5000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope is for us to have a very solid finish around mid-table.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear of the new season is that we will struggle again due to the lack of funds but hopefully Lambert can find a few cheap gems.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We need more depth in defence as in a new centre back and right back

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Spurs, of course!

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Aaron Cresswell and Ravel Morrison can shine and also Kouyate

6. Who will win the league?
Manchester City

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, Leicester and West Brom

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Everton.

9. Where will you finish?
I’ll go for 8th

The Profound Beauty of the World Cup

There is something profoundly beautiful about the World Cup. I don’t spend a lot of time following international football – forgive me, I’m English. Of course, I, like everyone else in my home nation pay attention only to the big events. We watch the European Championships, the World Cup, the qualifiers and even England friendlies, if only the latter two to moan about how dismal and uninspiring we are whilst we await Stoke vs. Hull on next week’s Super Sunday. Anyway, I always found the big international tournaments enjoyable, maybe the novelty of not paying much notice in the intermittent years made them more special, who knows? But it wasn’t until this year’s tournament in Brazil that I realised just how special the World Cup really is.

It’s a simple concept really. 32 nations sending 23 players to one country to kick a ball around a patch of grass for four weeks. We all watch, we all enjoy then we go back to the sustenance of league football straight after. However, when this basic idea is pulled together, it sparks off something quite unbelievable.

One billion. That is the estimated viewership for this year’s final. It’s prodigious that so many people are encapsulated by the spectacle of it all. Of course, the World Cup isn’t the only sporting event to do such things. The Olympics, as a prime example, too captures a worldwide audience, but this is different. There are few instances of simultaneousness in the World Cup, meaning for ninety minutes, Honduras and Ecuador and Croatia and Cameroon are the centre of the world, and with the greatest of respect, these four nations don’t always carry the greatest global presence.

What too is special about the World Cup’s engulfing appeal is its ability to transcend virtually everything. People of all races, genders, ethnicities, sexualities, religions and backgrounds come together to enjoy this four week footballing festival. Plenty of people I know don’t give a thought about football except for these four weeks where they’re actually fairly engrossed in the action too. You’ll find non-football fans just as entranced by Tim Cahill’s wonder-strike or Neuer’s sweeper-keeper spectacular as an away day regular.

The World Cup is like the best drama on television, chock full of underdog stories, upsets and moments of brilliance. Who foresaw Spain and Brazil getting pasted by the Netherlands and Germany? Who predicted Costa Rica to shame three former world champions in the ‘group of death’? Who predicted the USA to teach the rest of the footballing world a lesson in passion?

What’s really beautiful about the World Cup is it’s communal embrace. When England bowed out, after such a lacklustre display, my interest in the tournament never waned. I found Colombia’s infectious rhythm endearing, Chile’s gut and style seductive and Argentina’s conservatism exhausting – and I ‘rooted’ based on that. That’s the funny thing about the World Cup, you don’t even need to be involved or even invited to enjoy it – just ask the Welsh or the Scots. It’s a very special four week window for the world’s greatest sport, the world’s most passionate fans and some of the world’s proudest nations to put it all on the line for glory – and if yours doesn’t, you simply sit back and enjoy the profoundly beautiful ride.

2014-15 Premier League: Fans’ Preview (Part I)

With English’s top-flight once again relevant now the famous Leicester City F.C. have bounced back, there are just four weeks to go until the football season starts up once more.

 

Arsenal

@DanFromahier

Last season: 4th 
Manager: Arsene Wenger
Rivals: Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United
Odds: 9/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
To have a consistent injury free season and win the Premiership and the FA cup

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Another injury plagued season ending in failure, and the sale of a couple of big players to top it off

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
I would say another keeper to make sure there is completion for the #1 spot and a quality holding midfielder

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Chelsea purely because of the whole Fabregas situation and I hate Jose Mourinho

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Definitely the Ox providing he stays injury free can see him being one of arsenals star performers this upcoming season. I also think a young player to look out for is S.Gnabry , although the arrival of Sanchez will make it hard for him to break into the team

6. Who will win the league?
Hopefully Arsenal, but being realistic the signings that Chelsea have made has to make them favourites.

7. Who will go down?
Newcastle , Sunderland and QPR (if they can’t keep hold of Remy) if they can then Burnley will go down

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Stuck between Leicester and Stoke for dark horses, both will achieve way more than expected this season 

9. Where will you finish?
With the signings that are being made I would like to say 2nd or 3rd, not having to qualify for Champions League would be nice.

Aston Villa

@totteyvilla07

Last season: 15th
Manager: Paul Lambert
Rivals: Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Odds: 4000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
My greatest hope is for us to have a very solid finish around mid-table.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear of the new season is that we will struggle again due to the lack of funds but hopefully lambert can find a few cheap gems

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
In my opinion our main priority is getting a left back that is solid and consistent.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Every season the teams I most want to beat are the teams that finished top 6 the previous season.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
I think the main player in our squad to look out for is someone who we saw very little of last season and that is jores okore think he can come in to the team and really tighten up the defence and form a solid partnership with Ron Vlaar

6. Who will win the league?
Personally I can see Chelsea winning the league this season and with the 2 signings already made Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa they can be an absolute force next season

7. Who will go down?
I think Burnley will go down due to just not having a good enough squad to cope in the Premier League also I can see Sunderland going down the last team going down might be a surprise but I think Swansea

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
This season’s darkhorses will be either Queens Park Rangers or Leicester City because I think both teams will improve alot in the transfer window

9. Where will you finish?
I think we will finish 13th/14th as long as we don’t lose any of our key players through injury or even selling them.

Burnley

@NorAmClarets

Last season: 2nd (Championship)
Manager: Sean Dyche
Rivals: Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End, Bolton Wanderers
Odds: 10000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
I hope the side plays well, we’re competitive in every game we play and Sean Dyche shows that a side built around a strong team work ethic and players who passionately want to play for the shirt can survive and prosper in today’s Premier League.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
That it’ll be 2009-10 all over again. We’ll show promise, do well, and then some fundamental part of the side will leave and it will all fall apart. This time it might not be the manager; it might be the sale of a key player or even an injury.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
We have a relatively small squad, so Sean Dyche needs to bring in some depth, which he’s started to do. The core of our squad is quality but lacks experience in the Premier League, and so Dyche is adding that too. Most supporters agree that we need another, faster, central defender to pair with Jason Shackell, another central midfielder and a striker to partner with Danny Ings.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Being a small, unfashionable club taking the scalp of a big money club is very satisfying.  We host Chelsea and Man Utd. at Turf Moor for our first two home games so either one of those would get us off to a great start. The last time we played Man City at home they pasted us 6-1, so it’d be nice to gain some revenge by beating the reigning champions. And of course we’d love to beat Blackburn Rovers again, but sadly they’re in the division below us.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Danny Ings was Championship Player of the Year last year ahead of Ross McCormack and Danny Drinkwater, and we’re looking forward to seeing him take his game to the next level. Right back Keiran Trippier was named in the PFA Championship team for the last two years and seems poised to to become England’s best right back. Michael Kightly, who was on loan from Stoke last season, has now joined us permanently and seems ready to star. 

6. Who will win the league?
As much as I’d like to see someone new push for the title I think it will come down to one of Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea or Arsenal with Liverpool as a bit of a dark horse. If pushed I’d have to go with City.

7. Who will go down?
Interesting that the three promoted teams are the favourites to go down.  I’m going to be optimistic and choose Hull, Crystal Palace and West Brom to go down.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I’ve already said that I think Liverpool have an outsiders chance of winning the league. I also think Southampton will do well in spite of how the bigger clubs are plundering their young talent.

9. Where will you finish?
I’m predicting we’ll finish in 14th place. I think we’ll get enough points to be out of the danger zone and give ourselves another year to continue to establish ourselves in the Premier League. Unfortunately, that’ll mean another year without an East Lancs Derby, but it’ll be worth it.

Chelsea

@JonathanCDavies

Last season: 3rd
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Rivals: Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool
Odds: 2/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Last season was strong despite falling at the final hurdles. My greatest hope is that we can push on and go further in the league and Champions League.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
That’s a really tough one. I suppose the biggest fears probably aren’t realistic- getting relegated, not qualifying for the Champions League etc. I suppose it would have to be finishing fourth and having a poor Champions League (don’t think it’ll happen though!)

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?

We all knew where Chelsea needed to strengthen, and they have with the signing of Diego Costa.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Probably Manchester City. The two wins last year were probably our best performances of the season – it would be great to do it again at the Etihad after a few rough years there.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
I’d say Andre Schurrle. He had an okay first year, not bad not great, but he had a brilliant World Cup and will be coming back with the added boost of being a World Champion.

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea.

7. Who will go down?
West Brom, Burnley and QPR (in no particular order)

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
I’m not sure there will be a dark horse this year. I don’t think Liverpool will compete to the same extent this year, and United will be closer. Arsenal are always there or thereabouts but you wouldn’t consider them dark horses.

9. Where will you finish?
Top of the pile!

 

Crystal Palace

@russell2103

Last season: 11th
Manager: Tony Pulis
Rivals: Brighton & Hove Albion, Millwall, Charlton Athletic
Odds: 10000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Survival is still the biggest priority. Same as last year is good enough for me

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation & losing Pulis

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Left back. We don’t have one.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
We don’t really have a rival in the Premier league. So a big scalp like Chelsea/Man U is more appealing than London rivals like West Ham

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Gayle was very impressive in the last few games and could really step up this season.

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea

7. Who will go down?
Burnley – Ings could be off & he’s being replaced by Marvin Sordell
QPR – another season of players there for the money not the club with the same outcome as before
Hull – strains of Europe will take their toll despise big signings

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester. A very strong squad in the championship and money to spend they could really surprise people & finish top 10 

9. Where will you finish?
14th, comfortably mid table but stability instead of progression in our second season

Everton

@AdamRathe

Last season: 5th
Manager: Roberto Martinez
Rivals: Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City
Odds: 150/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
To achieve the Champion’s League. With other sides strengthening yet again, it’ll be another battle, but with Martinez surpassing everyone’s expectations we’re the most optimistic we’ve been.
.
2.What’s your biggest fear?
To not spend the money we all know we have. Martinez MUST be backed.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Up front – Lukaku will be a miss and we’ll need a reliable goal-scorer if we want to achieve our aspirations.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Liverpool – After we should have beat them at Goodison and their mauling of us at Anfield last season – in addition to our higher league finishes from 11-13 – we want to show the gulf isn’t what it seems. It’ll be a huge marker to put down for our aspirations too.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
John Stones – a potential England captain. The expected defensive attributes and the composure and technique to accompany it, all in a 20-year old.
Ross Barkley – Vital player and he’s honing his decision-making, which has always an issue before last season.
Aiden McGeady – could be really important next season. Showed glimpses of his Celtic form and he should find himself a starter at the beginning of the season.

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea – Mourinho has got the type of striker that is conducive to Chelsea’s style. On paper, he should grab them the goals they lacked last season.

7. Who will go down?
Burnley, West Brom and Swansea

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Tricky one, but if I had to choose I’d go with Sunderland. I can’t work out whether Poyet’s a bit of a gem or just incredibly fortuitous, but I’d say you don’t see that run that kept them up if you’re the latter. I think with a full season to have a crack at the PL, Poyet will put them in the top half. Now watch them go down…

9. Where will you finish?
6th – I hate to say it, but I’d be lying if I expected us to finish above one of Liverpool, United, City, Chelsea or Arsenal. Then again, we’ve not spend significantly yet, so I’d say that answer isn’t quite set in stone.

Hull City

@scottfarrow88

Last season: 16th
Manager: Steve Bruce
Rivals: Leeds United, Scunthorpe United, Grimsby Town
Odds: 5000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
On the pitch, improving on our points tally and position of last season. Off the pitch, the club to stop forcing the Hull Tigers issue

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Relegation. Bruce and the owner are starting to assemble a potentially brilliant side, but god only knows the financial state the club will be in if we go down.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Maynor Figueroa showed signs of promise at the beginning of the season, but it was easily the most vulnerable position last season. Saying that, Robbie Brady will be like a new signing for us this season and Joe Dudgeon will be returning from injury to provide some options in this position.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Most fans would say Leicester and Nigel Pearson, but a repeat feeling of Arsenal in 2008 would be nice.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Curtis Davies. He was solid in the centre of defence for us last year. Robbie Brady was starting to show his worth too before his injury, so keep an eye on him.

6. Who will win the league?
On current signings, I can’t see Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool winning it, and Manchester United I think will struggle to get close to the top 4, so I would have to say Manchester City.

7. Who will go down?
I think it will be a tight one in the bottom half again this season. But I’d go for Burnley, QPR and West Brom.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester. Really liked the work Pearson did when he was at Hull, made some great signings too. They’ve been threatening promotion now for a couple of seasons and I think they’ll surprise a few people. 

9. Where will you finish?
I’d be delighted to make an improvement on last season’s position of 16th. But, if (and hopefully we will) we progress to the group stages in the Europa League, then I’ll be happy if we stay up!

 

Leicester City

@beckytlcfc

Last season: 1st (Championship)
Manager: Nigel Pearson
Rivals: Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City
Odds: 5000/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Staying comfortably in the Premier League with minimal stress (yeah right on the latter)
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2.What’s your biggest fear?
Getting less points than Derby THAT season.

 

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
RB- Although RDL is very good and I think will be effective in the prem we need comfortable back up in that position.
Striker – linked with Ulloa & Wickham, think either would be ideal. People are really worried about this but I’m happy we have Nuge, Wood and Vardy who are capable
CB is questionable; we do have, Morgan, Wasyl, Moore & Upson, but considering the age and speed of Wasyl & Upson think we could do with another to strengthen, I think Morgan May struggle a bit.

 

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Everton at home first game. Going into our first game back into the Premier League with a win would be the most incredible thing, other than that I’ll take any wins, no particular massive hate for any Premier League teams.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Matty James – not only one of most promising young players of our squad who was vital for our success last year, but you should look out for him for his pretty face.
Riyad Mahrez – fresh from brilliant experience at the World Cup with Algeria, only getting better, think his trickery and class could be vital for us to catch teams out.
Jeff Schlupp – honestly believe he’ll flourish at new position of LB. Full pre season of training and learning in that position, speed and power he’s got going forward could be a real asset.
Chris Wood – unlucky with injury last year has been a bit off the radar on our success of last year, think will play a bigger part than people would imagine for next season. 

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea. I think if the imminent signings of Diego Costa, Fabregas and a few others succeed ‘The Special One’ will have a team too strong for the rest of the league, will be a close one think Man City, United & possibly Arsenal could be pushing; providing transfers go through. 

7. Who will go down?
Villa, West Brom/Burnley & QPR – QPR looking to continue with marquee signings they’ll be another team of individuals, think they were lucky to come up last year so think (& hope) they’ll head back down.
Villa were lucky it was a poor league down the bottom last year, haven’t had many inspiring signings which make me feel like they’ll be any better next year.
Then West Brom/ Burnley – didn’t want to say Burnley as think & wanted them to stay up, but their recent signing of Marvin Sordell didn’t show much ambition imo, West Brom just seem uninspiring and haven’t been down in a while. They’ll be scrapping I reckon. 

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester have the potential to be dark horses for success but I’m a massive pessimist when it comes to us, so I can’t choose us.
So, if they complete their potential signings they’ve been linked with I’d say Palace could do very well, considering they were bottom by a long way last Xmas they’re on the up. – not dark horses for the league, but higher than imagined.

9. Where will you finish?
16th, I really believe we have the right backbone of the club and squad to survive and establish ourselves as a Premier League club, but I am scared and think it will be more of a struggle than some people are thinking, but I’m always pessimistic about LCFC.

 

Liverpool

@AcresOfSeven

Last season: 2nd
Manager: Brendan Rogers
Rivals: Manchester United, Everton, Chelsea
Odds: 10/1

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
Mignolet to come into his own, the back four to exude efficiency, Lallana to hit the ground running and Sturridge to build on his form of last season and edge towards ‘World Class’ territory. A trophy would be nice, too.

2.What’s your biggest fear?
Squandering the money garnered from the sale of one of the world’s best players on mediocre talent, otherwise known as ‘doing a Spurs’.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Full Back – Johnson, Flanagan, Enrique doesn’t quite cut it at Champions League level – Centre Back, and now of course striker. There are some who think Sturridge is capable of being our lone striker and predominant goal scorer. 24 strikes last season speaks for itself, but his bouts of inconsistency worry me, as does his ability to replicate last season’s form without Suarez. 

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
I don’t think I’m alone in saying Chelsea would be a particularly gratifying win. They took 6 points off of us last year, and essentially destroyed our title aspirations. 

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
 Jordon Ibe, merely 18, a pacy winger of the Sterling Ilk though arguably a more clinical finisher. Expect him to light up pre-season and receive opportunities in the first team before Christmas. Additionally, Jordan Henderson should improve on his Goal Scoring/Assisting from last season. 

6. Who will win the league?
Chelsea, though City will run them Close. I see 4 teams still competing for the title well into April.

7. Who will go down?
West Ham, West Brom and QPR stand out as potential candidates. 

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Burnley to finish top 12, Sunderland in the top 10

9. Where will you finish?
3rd if we make accomplished signings that flourish early, 5th if not. An Fa Cup win is due as well…

 

Manchester City

@mcfc_kyle_nyr

Last season: 1st
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Rivals: Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea
Odds: 21/10

1. What’s your greatest hope for the new season?
At least one trophy and improve in European competitions.
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2.What’s your biggest fear?
No trophies.

3. In which areas does your team most need to strengthen?
Centre back, but it is a minor concern.

4. Who do you most want to beat this season?
Man Utd.

5. Players in your squad to look out for…
Fernando Reges and Stefan Jovetic.

6. Who will win the league?
One of Chelsea, Liverpool or Man City.

7. Who will go down?
QPR, Burnley, and Sunderland.

8. Who will be this season’s ‘dark horses’?
Leicester

9. Where will you finish?
Top 3