Football Season Guide

Arsenal

In


Gervinho (forward)(Lille); Carl Jenkinson (defender) (Charlton Athl.) Carlos Vela (forward)(Return of loan from West Brom)

Out


Gael Clichy (defender) (Man City);Denilson (midfielder)( loan to Sao Paolo); Jens Lehmann(goalkeeper)(retired); Mark Randall (midfielder)(Chesterfield)

Seasons come and go with a sense of déjà vu for Arsenal fans, and with no silverware to show for their attractive brand of play since 2005. Last season was perhaps the most frustrating for the Emirates faithful as it petered out disappointingly in the final furlong and the fourth place finish means they have to go through a tough qualifying round in the Champions League against Udinese. Arsene Wenger, perhaps for the first time in his tenure, is under real pressure to deliver this time round. However, it very much looks like this season will be one of transition for the Gunners. Their captain Cesc Fabregas is almost certain to leave at some stage in the near future, with a number of other regular players such as Arshavin, Diaby, Bendtner, Rosicky or Squillacci possibly following suit. Samir Nasri has been heavily linked with a move away, having held out on signing a new contract so a January exit could be on the cards for the Frenchman. Gael Clichy, the last of the Invincibles, has already joined Manchester City and Denilson has gone off on loan at Sao Paolo. This hardly instils confidence as a new season dawns with only one high profile signing so far in the shape of Lille winger Gervinho. Wenger will hope most of all that injuries do not restrict his options as has too often been the case in the past few seasons. Thomas Vermalen remained absent for most of the past campaign and was sorely missed. The Belgian should return at the back alongside Johann Djourou or Laurent Koscielny. In goal, Wojciech Szczesny looked to have imposed himself before an injury stopped him in his tracks last season but the Pole should reclaim the number one jersey from the start of the campaign. Sagna will return on the right side of defence while Song should be the anchor of the side in central midfield with the promising Wilshere and Ramsey likely to take a larger hand in things. In the attack, Theo Walcott should take up a more central role as Gervinho will look to establish himself on the wing. Robin Van Persie will return in the marksman role upfront. Still, Wenger remains on the lookout for some reinforcements straight down the spine of the team.

Target


With the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City strengthening, a top four finish now looks like an optimistic target for the Gunners unless they seriously spend to make up for the inevitable departure of Fabregas and the lack of depth in the side, which is patent when injuries strike

Aston Villa

In


Shay Given (goalkeeper)(Man City); Charles N’Zogbia (midfielder)(Wigan)

Out


Ashley Young (midfielder)(Man United); Steward Downing (midfielder)(Liverpool); Brad Friedel (goalkeeper)(Tottenham Hotspur) Michael Bradley (midfielder)(return of Loan to M’Gladbach); N Reo Coker (mid)(Bolton); J Carew (forward)(released); R Pires (midfiedler)(released); M Salifou (mid)(released)

After what can only be described as a season of transition under Gerard Houllier, Villa look to rebuild with Alec McLeish at the helm. The Scot makes the short trip from rivals Birmigham City and will undoubtedly need a good start to win the fans' hearts. He inherits a squad bereft of both Downing and Young, who were the motors of the side in the past season. Goalkeeper Brad Friedel has also departed, along with Nigel Reo Coker. McLeish has shown a good eye for a deal on the transfer market so far in the summer with the signings of Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia. He will undoubtedly need more players of the same ilk to bring Villa back to where they belong, in the top tier of the table. One of the few encouraging points last season was the emergence of young players such as Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan or Ciaran Clark. The Scot should look to integrate them in the mix along with stalwarts Dunne and Collins in central defence. Luke Young and Kyle Walker look favourites to return at full backs while Stiliyan Petrov and Jean Makoun should animate the midfield. In the attack, the signing of Darren Bent in January proved an important, if expensive one and was probably the difference with rather safe finish and a relegation scrap. The former Spurs and and Sunderland man can always be relied upon to find his way to the net. He should be once again the focal point upfront, with Agbonlahor a likely accomplice. Stephen Ireland will look to make up for lost time in offensive midfield and with the addition of N’Zogbia roaming the wings, Villa could prove a force going forward.

Target


Villa will aim for a top ten finish and why not a return to European football

Blackburn Rovers

In


Miles Anderson (defender)(Aberdeen); David Goodwillie (forward)(Dundee Utd)

Out


Phil Jones (defender) (Man Utd); Mame Biram Diouf (forward, return of loan from Man Utd); Jermaine Jones (midfielder) (return of loan to Shaalke 04); Roque Santa Cruz (forward)(return of loan to Manchester City); Benjani (forward) (released); Jason Brown (goakeeper)(Aberdeen)

Rovers only scrambled to safety in the final game of last season under the stewardship of Steve Kean, who had been brought in by new owners Venky’s in place of Sam Allardyce. The Scot had inherited a solid unit, though they cruelly lacked in the creativity department with playmaker David Dunn spending most of his time in the treatment room. His form will be crucial again to Rovers fortunes this season. In midfield, Rovers have lost Phil Jones to Manchester United while Jermaine Jones, who put in a solid season last term, has returned to Schaalke. Kean will expect big things from the latin duo of Mauro Forminca and Ruben Rochina, whom he brought in last January. Pedersen, Olson, Emerton and Nzonzi should return in the middle of the park, having been steady performers in the second half of last season in the absences of Dunn, Andrews and Grella, who all struggled with injuries. At the back, Givet and Salgado should return in the full back roles but Kean will have to pull all the stops to keep defensive powerhouse Chris Samba. Meanwhile, his central defensive partner Ryan Nelsen should be able to start the season following a knee operation in the summer. In the attack, David Hoillett will look to pick up where he left off last season. The Canadian winger was the standout performer in the second phase in a rather toothless attack. It’s all change upfront this season with Benjani, Santa Cruz, Diouf and probably Kalinic off the roster and only Jason Roberts likely to stay on as a back up striker. Kean will look to get a line of credit for a big name signing to add to the arrival of Dundee striker David Goodwillie in the summer.

Target


It could be a difficult season for Rovers if they still struggle to find the net, as was the case last season. A midtable finish will be their target but most fans would sign right now for survival

Bolton Wanderers

In


Nigel Reo Coker (midfielder)(Aston Villa); Chris Eagles (midfielder)(Burnley); Tyrone Mears (defender)(Burnley); Darren Pratley (midfielder)(Swansea)

Out


Danny Sturridge (forward)(return of loan to Chelsea); Johan Elmander (forward)(Galatasaray); Matt Taylor (midfielder)(West Ham); JLLoyd Samuel (defender)(released); Tamir Cohen (midfielder)(released);J O’Brien (midfielder)(released)

Bolton had a good start of the season last time out under Owen Coyle but they dropped 14th place in the end after challenging for a top ten finish for most of the campaign. This highlighted their rather shallow squad and that might remain an issue this season, at least at the start. Johan Elmander, who finally found his range last season, has earned a big money move to Galatasaray while Danny Sturridge, who contributed a number of important goals, has returned to Chelsea. Meanwhile, the precious Chung Young Lee will miss most of the season with a broken leg. Matt Taylor has also moved to pastures new so Coyle has been busy on the transfer market this summer. So far he has brought in Darren Pratley from Swansea, rescued Nigel Reo Coker from Villa and taken on Burnley duo Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears. Still, more reinforcements are definitely needed to ensure Bolton remain competitive in midtable, which should be their aim this season. Coyle will hope to hang on to the highly rated Gary Cahill in central defence. Zat Knight finally seems to have established himself in central defence alongside him while Steinsonn and Robinson look favourites at this stage to retain the full back roles. Petrov, Holden and Muamba should return in the midfield while Coyle should logically be on the market for a striker to partner the evergreen Kevin Davies upfront.

Target


Bolton have finished in 14th place for two seasons running. They will look improve on that, provided Coyle is able to bring in another couple of players to the side

Chelsea

In


Romelu Lukakau (forward; Anderlecht); Thibault Courtois (goalkeeper)(Racing Genk); Oriol Romeu (midfielder) (Barcelona B)

Out


Yuri Zhirkov (defender)(Anzi Makhachkala); Fabio Borini (forward)(Parma); Iacopo Sala (midfielder)(Hamburg);Michael Mancienne (defender) (Hamburg); Nemanja Matic (midfielder) (Benfica); Gokhan Tore(midfielder) (Hamburg); Jeffrey Bruma (defender) (Hamburg; Loan ); Jack Cork (midfielder) (Southampton); Thibault Courtois (goalkeeper)(Loan To Atletico Madrid)

Chelsea embark on yet an other campaign with a new manager, their seventh in as many seasons. The chosen one is Andre Villas Boas, a 33-year old who, having propelled Porto to the forefront of the European scene, is hailed as the next Mourinho. The new man has been prudently treading the waters so far at Stamford Bridge, only bringing in the promising Oriol Romeu on a buy back deal with Barcelona to make up for the absence of Michael Essien, who has fallen victim to another severe injury. Of course, some transfer action is likely until the end of August. The Blues have reached an agreement with Anderlecht for the signing of promising youngster Romelu Lukaku but it should be a rather familiar squad that comes out at Stoke on opening day. In fact, most of the big names will be expected to perform more consistently than last season, as Lampard, Malouda, Drogba and Anelka were all good only in patches while defensively John Terry could never really settle with a partner in central defence due to injuries and rotation. Yossi Benayoun will look to make up for lost time having spend last season in the treatment room while Danny Sturridge will look to force his way in the starting 11 after a good loan spell at Bolton last season. David Luiz and Ramires will be expected to establish themselves as starters along with Cole and Ivanovic, who look destined to return at wing backs. In the attack, all eyes will be on Fernando Torres, who had a nightmarish start of his career at Chelsea since January

Target


Chelsea underperformed last season but still ran Man Utd very close so if Villas Boas gets his balance right both the Champions League and the lPremiership title look attainable targets

Everton

In


Out


Iain Turner (sp)(gk), Preston), James Vaughan (sp)(att), Norwich)

Everton finished last season in a respectable seventh position in the table and sadly for their fans this seems to be the glass ceiling for the current Toffees side as they are just unable to compete with the financial bullies occupying the rarified regions at the top of the Premiership. David Moyes has been quite desponded for long periods of last season with the team frustratingly inconsistent but he quashed any rumours of leaving and will stay on and try to somehow push Everton onto the higher level in the upcoming campaign. Yet, his hands are tied as there are no transfer funds at all and he needs to offload players before bringing any. None of this has happened and this has been a supremely quiet summer even for the standards of the Merseyside club. Keeping hold of prized assets like Phil Jagielka and Marouane Fellaini is likely to be successful and thus the backbone of what is generally a very good squad remains. The worry is that an injury crisis will leave once again the team badly exposed and thus unable to consistently generate points. Once again, Moyes will be wary against a slow start, something that has become anonymous with the Toffees over the last few years, as it cost his team too much lately. Yakubu Aiyegbeni is back in the team after a spell at Leicester on loan earlier in 2011 that seems to have refreshed him. Saemus Coleman will look to further his progress after a great season while Leighton Baines faces the challenge of having another consistently excellent season because if that happens, he may well start pushing Ashley Cole for a place in the England team. The best that Everton can hope for is the Europa League and they are more than capable of making it there provided that the start of the season is not absolutely dreadful and the core of the squad stays reasonably fit.

Target


The target is to stay close to the top teams early on and then go on the usual strong run of form late on to stand a chance for a European spot.

Fulham

In


John Arne Riise (r)(def), Roma), Csaba Somogyi (sp)(gk), MTK), Marcel Gecov (sp)(mid), Slovan Liberec), Patjim Kasami (sp)(mid), Palermo)

Out


Zoltan Gera (sp)(mid), West Brom), Jonathan Greening (sp)(mid), Nottingham Forest), John Pantstil (sp)(def), Leicester), David Stockdale (sp)(gk), Ipswich - loan), Eidur Gudjohnsen (sp)(att), end of loan), Gael Kakuta (sp)(mid), end of loan)

Fulham may have lost a quality manager in the summer in Mark Hughes, who decided that he is too good to hand around at Craven Cottage for more than one year, but have hardly let that unsettle them as the South London club reacted quickly and appointed Martin Jol as a replacement. The Dutchman still has a glowing reputation in England from his time at Tottenham and less than spectacular spells at Hamburger SV and Ajax have not really damaged that. Now he will be relishing the chance to have another crack in the Premiership and while Fulham may not be able to challenge for the top places, like Tottenham did, they are still a pretty good alternative. It looks like a happy marriage for both parties and the hope of the fans is that Fulham have another solid campaign in the league. They will be again competing in the Europa League too where they have to sift through a number of qualifying rounds before making it into the groups, and with the memories of reaching the final of the same competition 14 months ago still fresh, the team will embrace the challenge of competing on two fronts. Jol addressed the problem of lack of depth and brought in an experienced player like John Arne Riise while building up the midfield too with a couple of bodies. The squad remains overall the same though and something particularly bad needs to happen around the club for them to get embroiled in the lower regions of the table. The club is well placed to challenge for a top-ten finish but anything more than that seems too steep given the fierce competition in the top end of the table.

Target


Looking to finish as high as possible with the top ten a bit of a prerequisite by the owner.

Liverpool

In


Steward Downing (midfielder)(Aston Villa); Charles Adam (midfielder)(Blackpool); Jordan Henderson (midfiedler)(Sunderland); Doni (goalkeeper)( AS Roma)

Out


Milan Jovanovic (midfielder)(Anderlecht); Steven Darby (defender)(loan to Rochdale); Peter Gulacsi(goalkeeper)(loan); Martin Hansen (goalkeeper)(loan); Paul Konchesky (defender)(Leicester)

Liverpool very much had a season of two halves last time out. After a hugely disappointing six-month tenure for Roy Hodgson, the Reds were only second to Chelsea in the second half of the season after club legend Kenny Dalglish took the reins. King Ken has been putting his stamp on the squad in the summer, with the arrival of young British talent in the shape of Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing. This adds to the signing of Andy Caroll in the January transfer window. With Luis Suarez looking like the finished article upfront, Liverpool present a potent threat coming forward. However, there is some uncertainty regarding the long term fitness of Steven Gerrard. Besides, the Reds’ defensive solidity might be tested if they fail to add some steel at the back. Jaimie Carragher is starting to feel the outrage of the years while the classy Agger has been prone to injury in the past two seasons. Martin Skrtel will be looking to recover from injury in time for the start of the season while Glenn Johnson and Aurelio should start the campaign at full backs. In midfield, stalwarts Lucas and Kuyt should return with Raul Meireilles expected to build on a good first season at the club. Pepe Reina should return in goal, though the signing of Doni could signal a move for the Spanish custodian.

Target


Liverpool came close to a top-four finish last season in spite of giving their rivals a head start in the first phase. This should remain their target this season. However, their spending this time round could signal a push towards a title that has eluded them for a generation.

Manchester City

In


Stefan Savic (sp)(def), Partizan), Gael Clichy (r)(def), Arsenal), Sergio Aguero (r)(att), Atletico Madrid)

Out


Patrick Vieira (sp)(mid), retired), Jerome Boateng (sp)(def), Bayern Munich), Shay Given (sp)(gk), Aston Villa),

Manchester City finally made the big step last season, bringing silverware to their fans after a long 35-year wait, and the stage seems set for the Blue side of Manchester to take over the world with their oil dollars. City have had a superb campaign last season, making it into the Champion League straight through the group stage, and also winning the FA Cup. Now the bar is set even higher for Roberto Mancini who will be expected to have a side challenging for the title and now just content with a top-four finish. Unfortunately for City all is not rosy in their backyard and the Carlos Tevez saga provided an unwanted distraction during the summer. The Argentinian clearly wants to leave but there is no club willing to pay him the wage he desires and the fee demanded by City at the moment. Thus, the both parties are stuck in an unhappy marriage and Mancini will need a lot of his management skills to utilise Tevez in City's advantage during the season. The club's shiny new toy is another Argentinian, Sergio Aguero, who arrives in a 38million deal and will be expected to provide flair and goalscoring touch in the forward line. Overall, City have been less agressive in the transfer market this summer as Mancini already has the key ingredients for a squad that can challenge on both a domestic and European front. Last year, that seemed to be the main achilles heel of the team, with City only picking up their form at the end of the season once their Europe League venture was over. It is debatable whether they will be able to cope better this time around but nevertheless more exciting times await the fans at the now renamed Etihad Stadium as City continue their quest towards the very top of the football pyramide.

Target


The dream is to secure the title but it will be extremely tough given that it will be mixed with first ever Champions League campaign. Thus, getting into the business end with a chance and finishing second will be quite acceptable too.

Manchester United

In


David De Gea (r)(gk), Atletico Madrid), Ashley Young (sp)(mid), Aston Villa), Phil Jones (sp)(def), Blackburn)

Out


Owen Hargreaves (mid), Paul Scholes (sp)(mid), retired), Edwin van deer Sar (r)(gk), retired), John O'Shea (sp)(def), Sunderland), Wes Brown (sp)(def), Sunderland)

Manchester United secured a record 19th title last season, finally removing Liverpool off the perch as the most successful club in England, but were utterly outclassed by Barcelona in the Champions League final in a manner that very much dampened the celebrations over the historic title. It has been a summer of transition at Old Trafford, with Sir Alex Ferguson overhauling the squad in a manner comparable to the clear-out in 1995. Most of it was forced by the retirements of Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes with the manager buying players who will be at the club for the long term. David de Gea is an excellent keeper and, aged 20, can be with the Red Devils for the next two decades. Phil Jones is a superb defensive talent and a ready-made replacement for Rio Ferdinand when the old head decides to hang up the boots in a few years' time. However, the really big signing expected this summer, the midfield to fill Scholes' boots, has not materialised yet and it is anyone's guess whether Wesley Sneijder will eventually end up at United. The squad still looks pretty good as it is at the moment and United seem in pole position to reclaim their title. Manchester City may have further reduced the gap and Chelsea may have a bright new manager but with Wayne Rooney firing in all cylinders in pre-season and the squad at full-strength from the start, something that has rarely been seen lately, United are definitely bound for a good start and from then on they will be difficult to depose. The big aim is to topple this peerless Barcelona side from the pantheon of European football and this will be an immeasurably more complicated task given the way United were outplayed in two of the last three Champions League finals. However, with Ferguson in the midst of building his last great United side and hungrier than ever, one should never ever write off United from indeed getting the better of the Spanish giants at last.

Target


United will look to retain the title and are in a good position to do so but the big aim is to secure another European title and topple Barcelona off their perch.

Newcastle United

In


Sylvain Marveux (r)(mid), Rennes), Yoann Cabaye (r)(mid), Lille), Demba Ba (r)(att), Hoffenheim)

Out


Kevin Nolan (k)(mid), West Ham), Stephen Ireland (sp)(mid), end of loan), Sol Campbell (sp)(def), released)

Newcastle are once again living up to their billing as the main entertainers in the summer in terms of providing all sorts of absurd off-pitch nonsense, mostly stemming from their board of directors. The Magpies actually had a better season than expected last year, staving off relegation without too many problems despite a shock change of manager and loss of their bes player midway through the season. They had done quite well for a promoted team and Alan Pardew has been rightly credited for his handling of the club after the departure of the supremely popular Chris Hughton. Yet, just when things looked to be going smoothly at St James' Park, the ugly face of Mike Ashley's antics off the pitch stole the show. Pardew has seen none of the the £35m that the Andy Carroll sale generated that were promised to him and the transfer plans went into disarray in the early weeks of June. It only got worse when contract offers to star players like Joey Barton and Jose Enrique were withdrawn after it became clear that the wages on offer were too low to be accepted. As a result, both players now look on the verge of exit, the Spaniard all but set to link up with Carroll at Anfield while the outspoken Barton has been made available on free transfer after publicly criticising the club. And all that comes after the sale of skipper Kevin Nolan to West Ham after he also refused to sign a new contract on lower terms. It is difficult to understand what is exactly going on with the Magpies except that Ashley and the rest in the boardroom are doing everything in their power to destroy the great team spirit and cooperation that was nurtured at the club by Hughton. The bright spot in all that mess was the fact that Newcastle bought well and in Yoann Cabaye have the bargain of the summer so far for just £5m. Demba Ba showed enough at West Ham to convince Pardew that he can succeed as a centre forward at St James' Park. However, with so many key departures, one must worry for Newcastle and what can a bad start of the season may do to them.

Target


Another campaign of mid-table security will suit the Magpies just fine but they could definitely be dragged down with all the things going on there at the moment.

Norwich City

In


Steve Morison (r)(att), Millwall), James Vaughan (sp)(att) Everton), Bradley Johnson (r)(mid), Leeds), Anthony Pilkington (r)(mid), Huddersfield), Elliott Bennett (sp)(mid) Brighton), Richie de Laet (sp)(def), Manchester United - loan), Kyle Naughton (sp)(def), Tottenham - loan)

Out


Jens Berthel Askou (sp)(def), Matthew Gill (sp)(def), Owain Tudur Jones (sp)(mid), Inverness CT)

Norwich completed their mesmeric rise to the top flight in May after beating Portsmouth and thus sealing promotion to the Premiership two years after suffering relegation from the Championship and thus dropping to League One. However, Paul Lambert has taken charge since then and lead the Canaries to two consecutive promotions by playing a superb brand of attacking football on the way. The word extraordinary achievement does not really do Lambert and his men enough justice and actually keeping the team among the big boys this season will elevate them to even higher level. Lambert does not have a particular way in which he made Norwich a successful side again other than just letting the players express themselves and encourage to have a go at supposedly superior teams. While that worked out well in the Championship, with the team scoring an incredible number of goals in added time when going for broke, the Premiership presents another sort of challenge and the team will need something different. Lambert surely realises that but his transfer dealings have been aimed mostly at further stocking up the attacking department with Elliott Bennett, Steve Morison, James Vaughan and Anthony Pilkington. Sure enough, a couple of defenders arrived as well, but they are both young full-backs and not the sort of players expected to boost the back line. Yet, it is tough to be harsh on Norwich and their manager and they may well follow the philosophy taken by Blackpool last season - just having a go at teams - something that almost saw them survive. And for what it is worthy, Norwich have a superior side than Blackpool had last season and definitely have a pretty good chance to stay up provided that Grant Holt keeps coming up goals and Wes Hoolohan is able to string passess in the middle of the park.

Target


Survival will be a really big feat but it will be tough with a side that can be found wanting at the back against the very best.

QPR

In


Jay Bothroyd (forward)(Cardiff City); Kieron Dyer (midfielder)(West Ham); Danny Gabbidon (defender)(West Ham); DJ Campbell (forward)(Blackpool)

Out


Wayne Routledge (forward)(Swansea); Pascal Chimbonda (defender)(released); Mick Leigertwod (midfielder)(Reading)

QPR return to the top flight after a 15-year hiatus, having led the promotion race from the front in the Championship last season. The Hoops’ success was based upon a combination of defensive nous, instilled by manager Neil Warnock and the unfettered creativity of Adel Taarabt in offensive midfield. After being linked to a move away from Loftus Road, the Moroccan seems to be destined to stay this season, which would come as a huge relief for the fans. When QPR were taken over by two deep-pocketed sports entrepreneurs, Bernie Ecclestonne and Flavio Briatore, four years ago, and England’s richest man, Lakshmi Mittal, came in with a stake in the club, they were hoping for a return of the glory days at Loftus Road when they eventually returned to the top flight. Instead, Warnock has been given precious little funds to make the jump to the higher echelon. In fact, the West London outfit have been conspicuous by their absence on the transfer market until the signing of DJ Campbell. The former Blackpool forward does look like a great addition to theattack, along with Cardiff’s Jay Bothroyd, and both should form a decent strike force with Patrick Agyemang upfront. Warnock has also taken a bit of a gamble on Kieron Dyer. If he manages to stay fit, the former England man could be a great asset in midfield alongside the talented Alejandro Faurlin. Danny Gabbidon is also on the roster on a free transfer to give some Premiership pedigree to a defence comprising the likes of Kaspar Goss, Matthew Connolly, Bradley Orr, Fitz Hall and Danny Shittu. Warnock seems likely to keep his faith in Paddy Kenny in goal. The former Sheffield United boss usually plays an old fashioned counterattack game with long balls and will need all his experience to steer the Hoops to safety this season.

Target


Just like any promoted side, QPR will initially aim at survival before re-establishing themselves as a top flight side. A lot will depend on the board’s willingness to support Warnock

Stoke

In


Jonathan Woodgate (sp)(def) Tottenham)

Out


Ibrahima Sinko (sp)(def), released), Eidur Gudjohnsen (sp)(att), AEK), Abdoulaye Faye (sp)(def), West Ham), John Carew (sp)(att), end of loan)

Stoke City have had another wonderful season last year, reaching the final of the FA Cup and thus ensuring their first foray into European football in more than 30 years. Tony Pulis will hope that his side leaves a mark in the Europea League but not at the cost of compromising a league spot and it will be intriguing to see how the Potters cope with the challenge of playing on two fronts. As far as the league is concerned, the aim is again a mid-table finish with Stoke looking to avoid any flirtation with the bottom three - something that sporadically happened last season and set the races pulsing around the Britannia Stadium. However, one must worry for Stoke and their ability to cope with an increased schedule of games given that the squad remained practically unchanged since last season. The only addition is Jonathan Woodgate who is coming back from two injury-plagued years and there is little guarantee that he will stay fit over the course of the season. The attacking line has failed to convince last season with Kenwyne Jones going through long periods without a goal and Ricardo Fuller spending more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. Jon Walters provided some good service in that context but nevertheless another forward must be a priority who has been rejected by Carlton Cole while Birmingham have stood form amid interest for Camerone Jerome. The main sort of creativity is likely to again come from the two wings with Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant backed to build on great campaigns last year. Stoke's first 11 is definitely experienced and good enough to keep the team out of trouble but with the increased demands, the Potters may well have their closest encounter with relegation since their promotion three years ago.

Target


Finishing in the upper half of the table will be a good achievement, especially given the new challenge of playing in Europe, and as always Stoke look well equipped.

Sunderland

In


Ahmed El-Muhammadi (sp)(mid), (ENPPI), Kieran Westwood (r)(gk), Coventry), Sebastian Larsson (r)(gk), Birmingham), Ji Dong-Won (sp)(att), Chunham Dragons), Craig Gardner (r)(mid), Birmingham), David Vaughan (sp)(mid), Blackpool), Wes Brown (r)(def), Manchester United), John O'Shea (r)(def), Manchester United)

Out


Nedum Onuoha (r)(def), end of loan), Danny Wellbeck (r)(att), end of loan), John Mensah (sp)(def), end of loan), Sulley Muntari (sp)(mid), end of loan), Jordan Henderson (r)(mid), Liverpool), Boudewijn Zenden (sp)(mid), Cristian Riveros (sp)(mid), Kayserispor - loan), Steed Malbranque (r)(mid), Saint-Etienne)

Sunderland have had an eventful summer with Steve Bruce overseeing a squad overhaul that he expects will bring the Black Cats closer to the ultimate aim of brining European football to the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats faded badly last season after an extraordinary first half of the campaign when they had a genuine chance to make it to the top six but then injuries took their toll. Bruce was given the benefit of the doubt to prove that he can lift Sunderland to the next level and handed the cash from the sales of Jordan Henderson and Darren Bent to transform the squad. The mix of new players has been eclectic, ranging from unknowns like South Korean Ji-Dong Won to stalwarts like Manchester United duo John O'Shea and Wes Brown. Sebastian Larsson, David Vaughan and Craig Gardner could be excellent additions in midfield at the place of Henderson for whom the Black Cats got an excellent deal from Liverpool. It will be also interesting to see whether Kieran Westwood will be able to make the step up from being a very good Championship keeper to one who can cut it in the Premiership. All in all, it is difficult to predict what could happen with Sunderland this season as they could either have a superb start of the season and carry on with the momentum for a longer while than last season, given the bigger squad depth, or struggle early on and being dragged to the mire which may well cost Bruce the job. His hopes up front will be again pinned on club's record buy Asamoah Gyan who flickered at times last season but has never really shown enough consistency in the end product to justify his price tag. With the former United men boosting the back line, at least the defence should be shored up and conceding significantly less goals than in the second half of last season.

Target


Chasing a European spot may be overambitious but a top-ten finish is the minimum after such an expansive transfer campaign

Swansea City

In


Leroy Lita (Forward)(M’boro); Danny Graham (forward)(Watford); Wayne Routlegde (forward)(QPR); Michel Vorm (goalkeeper)(FC Utrecht); Jose Moreira (goalkeeper)(Benfica); Stephen Caulker (defender)(Loan from Spurs)

Out


Dorus De Vries (goalkeeper)(Wolves); Gorka Pintado (forward)(released); Darren Pratley (midfielder)(Bolton); Scott Donnelly(midfielder)(loan to Wycombe Wanderers)

Championship playoff winners Swansea return to the top flight after 27-year absence, becoming the first Welsh side to compete in the Premier league era. They deployed an expansive passing game in the Championship last season, which earned them the nickname of Swansolona but in order to withstand the shock to the system that is promotion to the top flight, Brendan Rodgers will need to shore up his backline. So far, he has broken the bank to sign Watford forward Danny Graham, along with Leroy Lita, to beef up the attack. Craig Beattie and Luke Moore have both failed to make the grade at Premiership level in recent seasons and are unlikely to succeed this time round so Rodgers might look for at least one proven striker at this level. Wayne Routledge does look like a good addition on the right wing to complement the talented Scott Sinclair on the left. At the back, Rodgers has taken on Stephen Caulker on loan from Tottenham and brought in keepers Michel Vorm from Utrecht and Benfica's Jose Moreira to make up for the departure of Dorus De Vries. The rugged Allan Tate, Gary Monk, Angel Rangel and Ashley Williams should return in defence to face a bit of a baptism of fire on opening day against Manchester City at Eastlands. Whether they will be good enough at this level remains to be seen though. The Swans were rather dominant at home last season but conceded quite a lot of goals on their travels, which should prompt Rodgers to bring in a higher caliber of defender. In midfield, Stephen Dobbie, Nathan Dyer, Joe Allen and Neil Taylor were rather solid last season and should return to the squad.

Target


Survival will obviously be the name of the game for the Swans. They have the bookies favourites to go down but a lot will rest on their defensive solidity particularly away from the Liberty Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur

In


Brad Friedel (r)(gk), Aston Villa)

Out


Jonathan Woodgate (sp)(def), Stoke), Jamie O'Hara (sp)(mid), Wolverhampton), Kyle Naughton (sp)(def), Norwich - loan), Steven Caulker (sp)(def), Swansea - loan)

Tottenham liked it a lot in the Champions League last season, going to the last eight and having a lot of fun along the way, but now will have to do with the Europa League and playing second-rate European teams on Thursday nights instead of facing the likes of Real Madrid and the Milan giants. Spurs tried hard to replicate their achievement from an year ago but this time City proved too strong and Harry Redknapp's men finished fifth. This is by no means a disastrous finish but the underwhelming feeling has been noticeable around the club ever since the end of the season. Now Spurs will be launching another assault on the top four but the overwhelming feeling around the camp is that with Liverpool regaining some of their strength and Manchester City pulling further away, the task of making it into the promised land will be harder than ever. Transfer business has been muted at White Hart Lane with only Brad Fridel arriving and Jonathan Woodgate leaving so far. The big talking point has been the future of Luka Modric but the club's strong stance on his availability means that for now the Croatian schemer is staying put, despite strong interest from Chelsea. Redknapp is still looking for a striker after last season proved that none of the current ones is capable of scoring 20+ goals a season - something that is mandatory for a club with Spurs' aspirations. There should be more activity in the remaining three weeks of the season in that aspect but as of now, the squad is no better than last season and with all the rivals improving, Tottenham may have to wait quite a long time for another taste of proper Champions League football.

Target


Making it into the sacred top four but are more likely to again miss out narrowly.

West Bromwich Albion

In


Ben Foster (goalkeeper)(loan from Birmingham City); Marlon Fulop (goalkeeper)(Ipswich); Billy Jones (defender)(Preston NE);Gareth McAuley (defender)(Ipswich); Zoltan Gera (midfielder)(Fulham)

Out


Carlos Vela (forward)(return of loan to Arsenal); Adboulaye Meite (defender)(Dijon); Gianni Zuiverloon (defender)(Mallorca); Scott Carson (goalkeeper)(Bursaspor); Giles Barnes (midfielder)(loan to Doncatser Rovers); Boaz Myhill (goalkeeper)(loan to Birmingham City); Chris Wood (forward)(loan to Birmingham City

Roy Hodgson needed all his experience to get West Brom out of a difficult position when he took over in January. After guiding the Baggies to a remarkable 11th place finish, he returns at the helm this season looking to secure their Premiership status. After all, Albion have been relegated from the top flight three times in the past nine seasons. With both keepers Boaz Myhill and Scott Carson gone, he has brought in Ben Foster on loan from Birmingham as well as Marlon Fulop from Ipswich. Otherwise, his priority has been to keep key players such as top scorer Peter Odemwingie, playmaker Chris Brunt, ball winner Yussuf Mulumbu and centre back Jonas Olsonn. He will need to find a partner for the Swede, having only brought in youngsters Billy Jones from Preston and Gary Mcauley from Ipswich at the back. The midfield should remain the strength of the side with Jerome Thomas, Graham Dorrans, Paul Scharner, James Morrison and Somen Tchoyi all expected to return to support Brunt. Meanwhile, with Gonzalo Jara, Nicky Shorey, Marek Cech and Stephen Reid all fit, the full backs slots look well staffed. In the attack, Hodgson has brought in his former Fulham player Zoltan Gera but he will probably be on the lookout for one more target man-type striker to supplement Peter Odemwengie.

Target


A mid table finish looks achievable under Hodgson’s stewardship provided he brings in some reinforcements at the back and upfront

Wigan Athletic

In


David Jones (midfielder)(Wolves)

Out


Charles N’Zogbia(midfielder)(Aston Villa); Tom Cleverley (midfielder)(return of loan to Man Utd); Steven Caldwell (defender)(released); Antonio Amaya (defender)(released);Daniel De Ridder (midfielder)(Grasshopper Zurich)

Escape artists Wigan return for a seventh consecutive top flight campaign, having narrowly cheated the jaws of relegation on the last day of last season. Most neutrals will feel that Wigan should never have been in this position, having deployed an attractive brand of football enacted by a number of top class players. Still, Wigan have flattered to deceive in the past three seasons now and Dave Wheelan and the fans will hope for a smoother ride this time round. Charles N’Zogbia has departed in the summer while the useful Tom Cleverley is back at Man Utd but Roberto Martinez can still count on the services of Hugo Rodallega, James McCarthy, Victor Moses and Conor Sammon upfront. At the back, Gary Caldwell should return to anchor the defence with Emerson Boyce, Antolin Alcaraz and Maynor Figueroa completing a solid-looking backline. There hasn’t been much action on the transfer front so far this summer, though Martinez did make sure keeper Al Habsi was handed a permanent move. The Omani’s saves kept Wigan in the top flight last season undoubtedly as much as N’Zogbia and Rodallega’s goals did. Former Wolves ball winner Dave Jones looks a useful addition to the midfield alongside Mohammed Diame but Martinez will certainly look to streamline his squad in the next few weeks while adding to his strikeforce.

Target


Wigan have flirted with relegation over the past few seasons now and, unless they manage to get some consistency in their results, they could once again find themselves in the dog fight come May

Wolverhampton Wanderers

In


Jamie O'Hara (r)(mid), Tottenham), Roger Johnson (r)(def), Birmingham), Dorus De Vries (sp)(gk), Swansea)

Out


Marcus Hahnemann (sp)(gk), released), Michael Mancienne (sp)(def), end of loan), Steven Mouyokolo (sp)(def), Sochaux - loan)

Wolverhampton just about managed to survive last season despite doing their best to blow it all away on the last day of the season and Mick McCarthy will be be determined not to let another traumatic campaign of that sort in the upcoming season. Wolves should not have been in the dire predicament they were given their top displays against the very best sides and he will be aiming his efforts in the summer in making his team play in the same away against the lesser guns. It has been a relative serene summer in the Black Country but both Rogers Johnson and Dorus De Vries are shrewd signings. Making Jamie O'Hara's move from Tottenham permanent was a vital move too that will ensure that Wolves possess the necessary drive in midfield that has been provided by him on many occasions in the latter part of last season. Matthew Jarvis and Kevin Doyle are staying on for the time being and anyway the team is under no pressure to sell. The main area for improvement is the defence after en some really silly goals were conceded over the course of the last year and the presence of Johnson, coming back from two great campaigns in partnership with Scott Dann, should go a long way into shoring things up. Michael Kightly is finall over his injury nightmare and ready to make his mark in the league two years overdue. He has the potential to be a regular but the same applies to Stephen Hunt too, the wily winger who missed too much of last season but came up with key goals when involved. Wolves in general looked well placed to stay up, but they did so last year too and then nearly went down. One never knows with this volatile team that can be inspiring and then diabolical in a flash of a second but the logic spekas that they are way too goo to be embroiled in another relegation fight.

Target


Wolves should be able to stay up if they do not shoot themselves in foot as often they did last season. With a bit more luck, they could even make it into the higher regions of mid-table.