Premier League Preview: Everton to Man City

EVERTON

Club Nickname: The Toffees
Founded: 1878
Ground: Goodison Park
Manager: Roberto Martinez
Captain: Phil Jagielka
Last Season: 6th

The 2013/14 season will be a year of transition for the Merseyside club, the loss of David Moyes to Manchester United will have no doubt hurt the club, but Roberto Martinez will be seen as a suitable replacement. Martinez himself was linked heavily last season with the vacancy at Anfield and will be ready to prove his worth at a big club. Under Moyes the club enjoyed relative success, finishing 4th in 2004/5 and above Liverpool over the last two seasons (first time since the mid-1930s). However, in 11 years at the helm Moyes never won a trophy, something Everton fans will be hoping to change soon.

Much of Everton's prospects for coming season could hinge on two players - Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines. The players with have great effect if they stay at the club or of they leave due to them being the club's two near-world-class players. Fellaini has attracted much interest from British clubs like Arsenal, but as yet no offer has come in for the big Belgian. Baines, arguably England's current finest left-back has been linked with a move, like Moyes, to Manchester but is more likely to stay put.
Everton's last success
It would be unlikely to see Everton reach the heights of 6th again this season due to the greater spending power of other clubs and the transition between managers. However, with Baines, Fellaini and an in-form Kevin Mirallas anything is possible. A run in a cup competition like that in 2009 would go down well at Goodison Park and if Martinez can repeat his heroics with Wigan last season it would be unwise to write them off.  Arouna Koné looks to be an astute signing but with more outgoings than incomings the squad looks desperately small, one thing is for sure, it will another interesting season in Liverpool!

ONE TO WATCH: Everton have a wealth of talent at their disposal but we believe this season could be a fantastic opportunity to see Barcelona youngster Gerard Deufoleu shine. Signed on loan from the Catalan giant's "B" side, the Spain U-21 international has been touted as Barcelona's best prospect since a certain Lionel Messi. He will certainly rival the more established players for a starting berth and could be one of the Premier League's bargains of the summer if he fulfills the enormous potential he undoubtedly carries!

Transfers (In): Arouna Koné - Wigan Athletic, £5m, Antolín Alcaraz - Free, Joel Robles - Atlético Madrid, Undisclosed, Gerard Deufoleu - Barcelona 'B', Loan

Transfers (Out): 
Jake Bidwell - Brentford, Undisclosed, Johan Hammar - Malmö FF, Free, Thomas Hitzlsperger - Released, Sam Kelly - Released, Ján Mucha - Released, Phil Neville - Retired

VERDICT: This season as previously mentioned will be more about transition for Everton. After 11 years of Moyes it will without doubt take time to adapt to Matinez's possession football and attacking mentality. However with club looking set to keep Fellaini and Baines, alongside good signings in Kone and Deufoleu, the club could well reach the top 7 yet again. It will be a struggle due to the lack of depth in the squad, but I think they will just about make it! Ben -7th, Gareth -8th, James - 7th


FULHAM


Club Nickname: The Cottagers
Founded: 1879
Ground: Craven Cottage
Manager: Martin Jol
Captain: Brede Hangeland
Last Season: 12th

This summer has been yet another period of change at Craven Cottage. Eccentric owner Mohamed Al-Fayed has sold the club to Shahid Khan and transfers have been arriving in West London thick and fast. Under Martin Jol Fulham are beginning to develop a side that begin to reach the heights of the Roy Hodgson era. Last season saw a team lacking in consistency but often providing moments of pure genius and class. The 2013/14 season could be a make or break year for The Cottagers as they look to break from the "mid-table club" mould.
Star man
Fulham's hopes this season rely on players like Dimitar Berbatov, Brede Hangeland, Bryan Ruiz and new signing Martin Stekelenberg. The latter can be seen as a stunning coup for Jol as alongside his obvious talent in goals comes a wealth of experience right at the top of the game (played in a World Cup final) which some fans may have been forgiven for thinking was lacking following Schwarzer's departure. Berbatov has proven that he still has what it takes at the highest of levels with the Bulgarian netting an impressive 15 times in last-season's campaign.
Could Fulham reach the heights of 2010?
Fulham have the potential to place anywhere from 7th-17th next season, but again will most likely finish slap bang in the middle of the pack. Securing the permanent signature of Sascha Riether from Cologne is also astute business with the German full-back being one of the Premier League's best right-backs last season. Adel Taarabt also began to show signs of improvement at QPR last year and will hope to carry on the form in order for the good days to return. We wouldn't be too surprised at a League Cup run for the club next year either as Swansea showed in March - any one can triumph!

ONE TO WATCH: As previously mentioned, full-back Sascha Riether is our player to keep an eye out for. Last season he quickly established himself as a first team regular and has been touted by many commentators as one of the "best full-backs in the league". Next season however will be crucial for the German as he attempts to not be sucked into the cliché of 'second-season syndrome'. With the World Cup looming, a fine year for him could even spell a place on the plane to Rio. 

Transfers (In): Sascha Riether - Cologne, £1,300,000, Fernando Amorebieta - Athletic Bilbao, Free, Derek Boateng - Dnipro Dnipopetrovsk, Free Maarten Stekelenburg - A.S. Roma, £4,000,000, Ange-Freddy Plumain - Lens, Free, Adel Taarabt - QPR, Loan

Transfers (Out): Simon Davies, Chris Baird, Mahamadou Diarra, Mladen Petric, All Released, Mark Schwarzer - Chelsea, Free

VERDICT: Fulham's season will be interesting to watch unfurl, the West-Londoners could finish in any of 10 positions and have the flair to perhaps to mount a credible challenge in the league and cup. Berbatov will be essential to the chances of the team and could even fire them into European contention if others around him also perform. Hangeland is a strong leader and the team has a range of experience to mean there is little chance of relagation. We believe that Fulham's lack of consistency will mean a mid-table finish is the more likely. Ben - 12th, Gareth - 12th, James - 13th

HULL CITY


Club Nickname: The Tigers
Founded: 1904
Ground: KC Stadium
Manager: Steve Bruce
Captain: Robert Koren
Last Season: 2nd (Npower Championship)

Hull City represent perhaps the most alien of the new Premier League contingent for The Football History Boys due to their promotion almost slipping under the radar. The manager Steve Bruce is no doubt capable however of mounting a credible challenge in the league this season, albeit the challenge will most likely be beating the drop. However for the Hull fans they will look to draw on inspiration from the 2008/9 season when the club stayed up to fight for a second year under then manager Phil Brown.

The latest breed of Tiger talent looks a whole lot different to the team which beat Arsenal in 2008 and was embarrassingly "told-off" by Brown at Eastlands later in the season. Captain Robert Koren provides vital World Cup and past Premier League experience. The Slovenian was also the Tigers' top scorer last season a fact which could spell a greater need for a poacher at the forefront of Hull's attacking plans. Jay Simpson chipped in with 7 goals last season but has since been off-loaded and its begs to be seen whether Matty Fryatt and Nick Proschwitz are Premier League standard.
Any more big scalps for Hull?
However, at Bruce's disposal are some excellent new additions. The arrival of Tom Huddlestone to Humberside breathes fire in their bellies as the England International looks to revive his recently faltering career at White Hart Lane. Maynor Figueroa is fantastic signing at left-back and the arrival of Scottish number one Allan McGregor will provide a strong back line with Paul McShane also back in the Premier League. Yannick Sagbo will hopefully, from the Tigers' point of view, become the striker they have no doubt been looking for!

ONE TO WATCH: For us Robbie Brady provides the most excitement for the coming season. The young Irishman continued his fine form last season and scored for his country against Oman during the course of year. He picked up a fair few assists last which will be vital if Sagbo, Graham etc are going to hit the net. Goals will be the key to survival for Hull and if Brady can come of age, the two frontmen will have no problem getting them. 

Transfers (In): Maynor Figueroa - Wigan, Free, Danny Graham - Sunderland, Loan, Yannick Sagbo - Evian, Undisclosed, Allan McGregor - Besiktas, £1,800,000, Tom Huddlestone - Spurs, Undiclosed, Tom Livermore - Spurs, Loan, Steve Harper - Newcastle, Free, George Boyd - Peterborough, Free

Transfers (Out): Daniel Emerton, Paul McKenna, Seyi Olofinjana, Jay Simpson, and others (All Released)

VERDICT: We believe it is going to be a difficult season on Humberside for Hull following their unexpected arrival to the top flight. The new signings of Huddlestone, Graham and Sagbo leave some cause for excitement however as to go with Premier League/Ligue 1 experience they are all proven at the top levels. Despite these arrivals, their weak squad means that any injury could be fatal to their chances. Sorry Hull but we think you'll be going straight back down! Ben - 20th Gareth - 20th, James - 19th

FANS CORNER: Name: Rick Skelton        Twitter: @HullCityLive

SteveBruc addressed several key areas. We hadn't have a decent goalkeeper of our own for 3 years until he signed Allan McGregor and Steve Harper. He's added experience in defence and then added two strikers. Lack of goals has been our Achilles heel for 3 seasons, even in promotion, so Graham and Sagbo will hopefully address that. The remaining issue is the centre midfield. We've let two go recently and we didn't have that many to start with so that will be priority before the end of August.

 Sone Aluko could be the key man. He was the best player in the Championship up to Christmas last year and never played after that with injury. He's an old fashioned dribbler, low centre of gravity and has pace and a great left foot.

I don't see any sense in the name change whatsoever. If rebranding was all it took to attract investment from the very competitive market in the far east, a dozen clubs would have done it before now. If they had any hard evidence, I'd consider whether it's worth peeing on 109 years of history for it but there isn't. It's pie in the sky.

I think we'll have a really good go but unless someone like Newcastle, Sunderland, Fulham or Stoke spectaculary implode, I think we'll finish 18th.

LIVERPOOL


Club Nickname: The Reds
Founded: 1892
Ground: Anfield
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Captain: Steven Gerrard
Vice Captain: Daniel Agger
Last Season: 7th

7th, 6th, 8th, 7th. The last four seasons have been unacceptable for The Reds and the fans of England's most successful club. However, last season can be seen as a transition for club following Dalglish's departure and the arrival of the possession-loving Brendan Rodgers. Despite a slow start to his time on Anfield, Rodgers slowly-but-surely began to instill his methods on the Liverpool players. After Christmas the Merseyside club began to show signs that they were good enough to mount a serious challenge for Champions League qualification.
Liverpool boast a fine team-spirit
This season it would seem that hopes do not just rest on the shoulders of one player - Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan's antics this summer have been an embarrassment to the club which showed him nothing but support in his multiple misdemeanors. Rodgers began to provide fans with the bullish approach they has been looking for in his fair yet ruthless assessment of Suarez's disrespect for the club, making him train alone in the process. Liverpool this season boast a better, deeper squad with numerous match-winners to boot. The mercurial Brazilian Philippe Coutinho was one the league's star- performers post-Christmas last season and began to develop an understanding with reborn striker Daniel Sturridge reminiscent of Torres and Gerrard from 2009. Jordon Ibe and Raheem Sterling will also seek to impress further after promising pre-seasons.
Too Long
It is also a big season for skipper Steven Gerrard who himself has proclaimed never been fitter. Last season he played 90 mins 34 times to prove he is not losing his world-class ability. Gerrard knows the end of the season will bring his final England swansong as well, so will want a season to remember. New signings have also been greeted well by the Kopites as Iago Aspas found the net 4 times in pre-season along with Barcelona 'B' player Luis Alberto and one of the Premier League's finest goalkeepers Simon Mignolet. Kolo Toure seems to fit effortlessly into the Liverpool back four - replacing the almost irreplaceable Jamie Carragher, knowing that the back line is what most needs to improve under Rodgers.

ONE TO WATCH: Despite a number of players making the headlines at Anfield, last season saw the coming-of-age of Jordan Henderson. Henderson, often ridiculed for his hefty price tag began to repay the sum last season with man-of-the-match performances against Arsenal, Newcastle and Norwich. Boasting a better goal/assist return than England players Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverly, Henderson will look at 2013/14 as a season to lay down a marker and show just why so many people believe he is Steven Gerrard's heir. A place at the World Cup could await! 

Transfers (In): Iago Aspas - Celta Vigo, £7,000,000, Luis Alberto - Sevilla, £6,800,000, Simon Mignolet - Sunderland, £9,000,000, Kolo Toure - Man City, Free

Transfers (Out): Pepe Reina - Napoli, Loan, Jonjo Shelvey - Swansea, £5,000,000, Stewart Downing - West Ham, £6,000,000, Andy Carroll - West Ham, £15,500,000, Suso - Almeria, Loan, Jamie Carragher - Retired

VERDICT: It will be an interesting season for Liverpool this year following last year's transition and 7th place finish. However, following the promising signs after Christmas with Coutinho, Sturridge and Gerrard all on form The Reds will most likely push Arsenal all the way for Champions League qualification. A few more signings like Willian or Ajax's Christian Eriksen are needed however if they want to topple the North London club and get back where they belong! Ben - 5th, Gareth - 6th, James - 6th


MAN CITY

Club Nickname: The Citizens
Founded: 1894
Ground: Eastlands
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Captain: Vincent Kompany
Vice Captain: Pablo Zabaleta
Last Season: 2nd

2012/13 was a big disappointment for Manchester City following the glory of the previous season and no last-minute strike from Agueroooooo! Manchester United made easy work of the title and City never really got out of first-gear. However this year City seem a different prospect with new manager Manuel Pellegrini at the helm following Mancini's departure amid claims of unsettling players and multiple fallings-out. Pellegrini has previously held office at football's biggest club in Real Madrid so the Man City job will be provide comfortable transition from Malaga to Manchester.
Return to winning ways?
When it comes to star players Man City are not short of them, Hart, Kompany, Toure and Aguero provide a unstoppable spine to the side which somehow lost the FA Cup last year to Wigan Athletic. However, last season it can be said that some of these key men did not perform to their abilities. Aguero looked sluggish and Kompany was not the leader we had previously seen, often been overshadowed by 20-year-old Matija Nastasic in the process. David Silva will hope to re-find his form in time for Brazil 2014 and the English contingent of James Milner, Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott will be no doubt hoping for the same. They have the players, they just need to perform.
1956 FA Cup winner and legend Bert Trautmann
With Chelsea under Mourinho being The Citizens main title challengers this season, Pellegrini has not been slow in securing new signings, unlike his Portuguese rival. The signatures of Navas, Fernandinho, Negredo and Jovetic will breath new life in the team and provide competition for Aguero and Dzeko throughout the season. The recent 5-3 win over Milan in a friendly in Germany saw City go 5-0 up after 35 minutes and proved that they still have what it takes to take back the crown of Champions of England and Champions of Manchester. Another area of Manchester City's team which needs to improve is their record in Europe as the fans and team will be desperate to see them finally emerge from the group stage as qualifiers.

ONE TO WATCH: After performing well at the 2013 Confederations Cup, new signing Jesus Navas will hopefully be a joy to watch in the Premier League. Knowing that the World Cup is around the corner Navas has finally secured a move to a 'big club' and will looking to prove his worth for the City faithful. Navas comes with bags of potential, experience and pace and will no doubt be hoping to secure a starting berth at Eastlands. 

Transfers (In): Fernandinho - Shakhtar, £30,000,000, Jesus Navas - Sevilla, £14,900,000, Alvaro Negredo - Sevilla, £20,000,000, Stevan Jovetic - Fiorentina, £22,000,000

Transfers (Out): Kolo Toure - Liverpool, Free, Wayne Bridge - Reading, Free, Roque Santa Cruz - Malaga, Free, Carlos Tevez - Juventus, £12,000,000, Maicon - Roma, £3,000,000

VERDICT: If it's going to be a successful season, Manchester City's big names need a big improvement in order to wrestle the title back across the city. Silva, Toure and Kompany will once again be vital to Man City's plans and the big money new signings of Navas, Negredo etc. will add an extra spark and verve missing from the previous campaign. In terms of depth, no squad can really compete with Pellegrini's and this is why I believe they will pip Chelsea to glory come May! Ben - 1st, Gareth - 2nd, James - 1st

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