Football Season Guide

Arsenal

In


Yaya Sanogo (att)(Auxerre)

Out


Andrey Arshavin (att) (Zenit St Petersberg) ,Vito Mannone (gk) (Sunderland),Francis Coquelin (mid) (Freiburg), Johan Djourou (def) (Hamburg)

Last year's fourth place finish was in the end a decent achievement for Arsenal considering they were so far down the table in December and January. The speculation regarding the future of Arsene Wenger certainly did not help the situation, but as he always seems to do, he managed to turn things around and finish a point ahead of local rivals Tottenham Hotspur. His position once again looks secure ahead of the 2013/2014 campaign. This seasons squad would not appear to be any stronger, however if Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby stay clear of injury and feature more regularly than they did during the last campaign, the logical result should be improved performances and results. There is a strong argument to be made that Arsenal are lacking, and need, an out and out goalscorer, someone who may net twenty goals a season. However, Theo Walcott, Santiago Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski all managed double figures, so there are goals in the squad at present. The addition of some more firepower, along with the eradication of some of the silly goals conceded last season could see Arsenal improve on fourth place and perhaps even seriously challenge for some sort of silverware

Target


A place in the top four is as always the minimum requirement for Arsenal.

Aston Villa

In


Aleksandar Tonev (mid)(Lech Poznan), Jores Okore (def)(FC Nordsjaelland), Leandro Bacuna (mid)(FC Groningen), Nicklas Helenius (att)(Aalborg BK), Antonio Luna (def)(Sevilla), Jed Steer (gk)(Norwich)

Out


Richard Dunne (def)(Queens Park Rangers), Eric Lichaj (mid)(Forest)

Aston Villa more or less spent all last season worrying about relegation and at certain times throughout the season it is fair to say they looked doomed. Paul Lambert's young and relatively inexperienced side were always going to find the going tough, so to end the season in fifteenth place, five points clear of the drop zone, was all in all a satisfactory conclusion. Things ended up tight in the bottom half of the table, and indeed Villa were only five points shy of ninth placed Swansea City when everyone wrapped up for the summer. Lambert is of the belief that his side will only get better with age and experience and that season 2013/14 will see them improve and gel as a unit. A lot will depend on last season's top scorer Christian Benteke - whether he stays at the club, and if so if he can repeat or closely match last years impressive haul of nineteen goals. Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann got their act together towards the end of last season and finished with sixteen goals between them, but without Benteke's all round game and influence, its hard to see them improving their tally significantly. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan had a great campaign last season, but overall Villa conceded far too many goals. Things will need to be tightened up at the back considerably.

Target


A top half of the table finish to the season

Cardiff City

In


Andreas Cornelius (att)(Copenhagen), John Brayford (def)(Derby County), Simon Moore (gk)(Brentford), Steven Caulker (def)(Tottenham Hotspur)

Out


Heidar Helguson (att)(Released), Stephen McPhail (mid)(Released)

Last season was obviously a major success for Cardiff City. Malky Mackay's side very quickly became the Championship's team to be beat. The Bluebirds were consistently the stand out team in the division and in the end won the league by eight points. Their strong home form was key last season and they will need to continue to pick up plenty of points at the City Stadium if they are to maintain their top flight status beyond the one season. Mackay would seem to have money to spend to improve his squad, but so far just Andreas Cornelius, Simon Moore, Steven Caulkner and John Brayford have put pen to paper. It goes without saying that further additions are needed as soon as possible. Scoring goals last season was not a problem, they managed an impressive seventy two in total, but interestingly not one single player managed to hit double figures. Eight different players did net on five or more occasions though, those eight shared fifty four goals in total. Mackay will be hoping Cornelius will prove a big hit. The Danish international scored eighteen goals for Copenhagan last season and helped them lift the title. Frazier Campbell is a player who promised much but has been hit with a couple of bad injuries in recent times. If he can stay fit and gets a run in the side, perhaps alongside the 6ft 4in Cornelius, the pair could strike up a good partnership.

Target


Avoid an instant return to the Championship

Chelsea

In


Andre Schurrle (att)(Bayer Leverkusen), Mario van Ginkel (mid)(Vitesse Arnhem), Mark Schwarzer (gk)(Fulham)

Out


Yossi Benayoun (mid)(released), Florent Malouda (mid) (Trabzonspor), Paulo Ferreira (def)(released), Ross Turnbull (gk)(Doncaster Rovers), Marko Marin (mid)(Sevilla), Oriol Romeu (mid)(Valencia)

Rafa Benitez was certainly not liked by the majority of Chelsea fans, but it is hard to ignore the fact that all in all he probably exceeded expectations last season and under the circumstances did a fine job. Chelsea got stronger and stronger as the season progressed as the players became more comfortable with what he asked from them. Results after Easter in particular were impressive. The Champions League has always been important to Chelsea, but with that not possible in 2012/13, Benitez secured success in the Europa League. The return of Jose Mourinho has brought about a huge buzz. His overall track record is obviously second to none and big things are expected at Stamford Bridge this season. Goals were well spread out last season, with eleven players scoring at least two league goals, but the flip side of that was that only two, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata, hit double figures. Given the Blue's quality and depth in defense and their star studded midfield, it should not take much for Mourinho to have Chelsea genuinely challenging on a number of fronts this season.

Target


Winning the title, as well as success in Europe, is the target for the Blues

Crystal Palace

In


Stephen Dobbie (mid)(Brighton & Hove Albion), Dwight Gayle (att)(Peterborough United), Jerome Thomas (mid)(West Bromwich Albion), Jose Campana (mid)(Sevilla), Elliot Grandin (mid)(Unattached)

Out


Andre Moritz (mid)(Bolton Wanderers), Alex Marrow(mid) (Blackburn Rovers)

Crystal Palace return to the top flight courtesy of a dramatic playoff final win over Watford. Palace started last season strongly and always looked capable of challenging for the title. However, the longer the season went on, the more inconsistent they became. In the end they finished way down in fifth spot, a massive fifteen points off the top spot. Boss Ian Holloway loves his side's to play attractive football and there can be little doubt that Palace will be pleasing on the eye and keen to attack whenever possible. The flip side of that is that their defending at times leaves a lot to be desired. They conceded a massive sixty two goals last season, and so far at least have not strengthened their back four at all. Glen Murray scored a remarkable thirty goals last season before picking up an injury in the playoffs. It would seem likely that he will miss at least the first couple of months of the new season. Holloway has paid a large transfer fee to Peterborough for striker Dwight Gayle and will be hoping the youngster can continue to develop and improve. He netted thirteen times last season for a struggling relegated side. After missing out on Tom Ince from Blackpool, Holloway moved quickly to secure the services of Jose Campana from Seville. Campana has a decent pedigree having captained the Spanish U20 World Cup side recently

Target


Avoid relegation

Everton

In


Antolín Alcaraz (def), Wigan), Arouna Koné (att), Wigan), Joel Robles (gk), Atletico Madrid), Gerard Deulofeu (mid), Barcelona B - loan)

Out


Ján Mucha (gk), Krylya Sovetov), Thomas Hitzlsperger (mid), Phil Neville (def)

Everton begin the new season with a new manager in charge for a first time since 2004 and it will be a big question mark whether the Merseyside club can cope with the loss of a figure as significant as David Moyes. The Scott has made Everton a far solid, respectable and strong outfit than the one that he took over all these years ago despite not bringing in a trophy to the cabinet. He finally left Goodison Park, unable to resist the lure of Manchester United, and Everton acted in a swift and decisive manner to bring on a replacement. Spaniard Roberto Martinez was the popular choice of both fans and the chairman and he indeed will be the man to lead the Toffees from now on despite suffering relegation at the end of last season. Martinez has developed a great reputation in recent years for making his Wigan team play bold and attractive football, not paying attention to their mark as underdogs and coming out to attack even the big guns. More of that bold attitude will surely please the Everton fans who have not enjoyed a win over any of the current top-four teams away from home during the time of Moyes' reign. It is still very much open to debate how Everton will line up over the coming season as Martinez has not settled on sticking on with the regular 4-4-1-1 formation used in recent seasons or implement the three-man defence that he used constantly at Wigan over the last two seasons. The former is the more likely and safe approach as otherwise the change will be too drastic for a team that is basically the same from last year and is very much used to Moyes' methods. Over time though, he may well start using his preferred tactic and make this Everton team look more like one of his image. He already raided his former club to sign Joel, Antolin Alcaraz and Arouna Kone while the other summer signing was Barcelona's highly talented teenager Gerard Deulofeu, who comes on loan and is expected to bring sparkle and flair but is so far too erratic and inexperienced to be considered a vital player for the team. Marouane Fellaini is expected to leave before the end of the transfer window and it remains to be seen whether Martinez will be able to replace him. Overall, Everton may struggle to match the overachievement of last season and a place in the top ten but outside the top six is their most probable glass ceiling, despite the boasts by Martinez when he got the job that he guarantees Champions League football at Goodison Park. It may happen but it is highly unlikely to be in the near two or three years.

Target


Getting into the Europa League but the competition is too stiff for them to have a realistic chance. Martinez may focus on integrating his particular style of football and not so much on results.

Fulham

In


Fernando Amorebieta (def), Athletic), Derek Boateng (mid), Dnipro), Maarten Stekelenburg (gk), AS Roma), Adel Taarabt (mid), QPR - loan)

Out


Simon Davies (mid), Mark Schwarzer (gk), Chelsea), Mladen Petric (att), Chris Baird (def), Mahamadou Diarra (mid), Eyong Enoh (mid), Ajax - end of loan), Stanislav Manolev (def), PSV - end of loan), Urby Emanuelson (mid), AC Milan - end of loan)

Fulham have had a rather disappointing end to last season and will be looking to reach at least a top-half place this season with a new owner in place. Long-time chairman Mohamed Al Fayed has relinquished control of the club and sold it to America Football team owner Shahid Khan. He is not the type of owner that will just pour money into the club and he will expect more credible and consistent results from the team compered to Al Fayed who basically treated Fulham not as an investment but something more dear and which he was willing to accept a loss on. Martin Jol remains on as a manager and will be determined to make Fulham a more solid and dependable team. His early two summer signings of Fernando Amorebieta and Maarten Stekelenburg have been aimed towards that but the squad's biggest need, a proper ball-playing central midfielder, has not been satisfied yet. Moussa Dembele has certainly not been replaced since leaving and pairing Steve Sidwell and Georgious Karagounis again in the engine room will not bring too much success. Derek Boateng is the only signing in that area but he is hardly that sort of a player and is more of a destructor than creator. Adel Taarabt has joined on loan from neighbours QPR but he is not a player that will be used so deep in midfield and he will be more of an alternative to Bryan Ruiz. Fulham still contain some good quality in the squad but need at least three more solid, proven players who will go straight to the starting 11. For now, Fulham are most likely to repeat the displays of last season when they offered some genuinely exciting performances but also flattered deceive too often and consistency cannot be really expected from a team and a manager that are at times too cavalier and laissez-faire for their own good despite the pressure to bring better results this season.

Target


May be a season of struggle given the obvious weaknesses in some areas of the squad but still should be too good to go down. Probably finish in the bottom half of the table.

Hull City

In


George Boyd (att)(Peterborough United), Maynor Figueroa (def)(Wigan Athletic), Curtis Davies (def)(Birmingham City), Ahmed Elmohamady (mid)(Sunderland), Allan McGregor (gk)(Besiktas), Steve Harper (gk)(Newcastle United), Danny Graham (att)(Sunderland), Yannick Sagbo (att)(Evian)

Out


Seyi Olofinjana (mid)(Released), Jay Simpson (mid)(Released), Andy Dawson (def)(Scunthorpe United), Mark Oxley (gk)(Oldham Athletic) ,Corry Evans (mid)(Blackburn Rovers)

Hull City return to the Premier League after an absence of just two seasons. The Tigers left it until the final day of the season to clinch the second automatic promotion spot ahead of Watford. Manager Steve Bruce has received a lot of credit for getting this squad promoted. Bruce has plenty of experience in the top flight and that "know how" could prove crucial over the course of the season. The former Sunderland boss has been busy in the transfer market over the summer. Most notable are the additions of Maynor Figueroa and Curties Davies. Figueroa is a solid defender and should fit nicely in Bruce's preferred defensive version of the 1-3-5-2 formation. Davies has promised much in the past but has perhaps as yet not developed to the extent that was expected. Not a single player managed double figures for Hull last season so there is a little bit of added pressure on new strikers Danny Graham and George Boyd. Neither could be considered prolific based on their returns last season. As things stand it looks like Hull are going to struggle to score enough goals.

Target


Maintain their top flight status

Liverpool

In


Kolo Toure (def)(Manchester City),Luis Alberto (att)(Sevilla), Iago Aspas (att)(Celta Vigo), Simon Mignolet (gk)(Sunderland)

Out


Danny Wilson (def)(Heart of Midlothian), Jonjo Shelvey (mid)(Swansea City), Suso (mid)(Almeria), Pepe Reina (gk)(Napoli), Jamie Carragher (def)(retired)

Liverpool ended last season seventh in the table. All in all it was probably the best one could expect from Brendan Rodger's first season in charge. The Reds put in some top performances over the course of the season, but for the most part were far too inconsistent, particularly in the first half of the season. Worryingly they were a massive twelve points off a top four spot come the end of the season. Liverpool relied heavily upon the goals and assists of Luis Suarez and it remains to be seen whether he will remain at Anfield - either way he is suspended early on. Attackers Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas have put to pen to paper on long term deals, but it is fair to say neither of them seem to be what one would consider out and out goal-scorers and are unlikely to make up the deficit should Suarez depart. A lot is expected from Daniel Sturridge in what will be his first full season at the club. Jamie Carragher has retired and will doubt be missed on and off the field. His replacement, Kolo Toure, should provide competition at centre back and the former Manchester City man may start the season ahead of Martin Skrtel in the pecking order

Target


A place in the top four is the target - although they have a major battle on their hands to achieve it

Manchester City

In


Fernandinho (mid), Shakhtar), Jesús Navas (mid), Sevilla), Álvaro Negredo (att), Sevilla), Stevan Jovetic (att), Fiorentina)

Out


Carlos Tévez (att), Juventus), Kolo Touré (def), Liverpool), Karim Rekik (def), PSV - loan), Maicon (def), AS Roma)

Manchester City start the season with renewed ambition to get the title back at the Etihad after enduring a disappointing campaign last season. It is a measure of how far the club have gone and how lofty the ambitions are when a second-place finish and a FA Cup final are deemed a failure for the Sky Blues who barely broke into the top places only a few years ago. Yet, with such massive investment put into the project, Roberto Mancini was always facing the risk of sacking if he failed to defend the title and he was not even offered the courtesy of seeing out the previous season and was sacked with two games to spare. Chilean Manuel Pellegrini was the main chosen by the new head honchos at City and he will relish the chance to lock horns with the man that replaced him in the Real Madrid job four seasons ago, Jose Mourimho. Pellegrini proved in his one season in Madrid that he is capable of leading a team in a title-chasing campaign and that is why he should not be out of his depth. He ha been properly backed in the transfer market too and there is an argument to be made that City have most substantially improved their squad from all teams in the Premier League this season. Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic are all superb signings, albeit signed for pretty exorbitant fees, who offer variety and will be hungry for success. They were also all signed quickly and without fuss which has given the manager a team to bed them into the squad. Jovetic is possibly the best of the four signings as he is already on a world class level and is only going to get better with superb midfield around him, having excelled at an inferior Fiorentina team in recent years. Thus, it all looks in place for City to push on and give it a better go at getting the title this season. It will be also vital for players like Joe Hart, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero to get back to the form of the title-winning season while Matija Nastasic will be expected to at least maintain his standards after a stunningly impressive first campaign in English football. The other main issue for City is to improve in the Champions League after a dismal campaign last year. Pellegrini did very well with both Villarreal and Malaga in that competition and that is why the hopes are that he will manage to lead the team to at least the knockout stages, something that Mancini failed to do in the last two years. All in all, City look well-placed to be among the leaders in the table and may have the best chance of getting their hands of the trophy if United struggle with a new man in the dugout and Chelsea are not as effective as they used to be during Mourinho's first spell in charge.

Target


Getting the title back and they look well-eqiupped to do so.

Manchester United

In


Wilfred Zaha (mid), Crystal Palace - return from loan), Guillermo Varela (def), Penarol)

Out


Paul Scholes (mid)

Manchester United start a new era this season with Sir Alex Ferguson behind the scenes now and not there to lead his troops for yet another campaign. He decided that it is the right time to stop at the end of last season, when he delivered the 20th league title for the club. It came as a surprise but it had to happen at some point and these first few months will be both painful and strange for United as they adapt to life without a man that symbolised the club for the past quarter of a century. David Moyes was the man chosen and he will face a massive challenge in filling the gap left b y Ferguson on the dugout. He is a thin-skinned character who has the capabilities to do so but this is a challenge that will overawe almost anyone in the football world and how he actually copes with all the weight of expectations is one of the fascinating stories of the season. In all honesty, it has been a properly abject summer for United in terms of improving a squad that needs enhancement despite being clearly the best one in the country last year. The central midfield is a pertinent issue and the spectacularly failed moves for Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas came back to smack United in the face. The embarrassingly public chase of the latter was a particularly unedifying episode in the recent Manchester United history and Moyes and the new CEO, Ed Woodward, will need to up their game in the coming weeks and months if they are to maintain the status of the Red Devils as an elite club. There have no major signings at all during the summer and at least one signing in that area is expected before the end of August with former Moyes disciple Marouane Fellaini the man most likely to come in. On the top of that, the issue of Wayne Rooney and his desire to leave continues to sting and draw unwanted attention. Moyes has done well so far with that issue but the forward is highly unlikely to reach the heights he is capable of when he is kept against his wish at the club. It is not clear whether United will eventually give in and sell him to Chelsea but they are certainly in a tough spot at the moment. On the bring side, Wilfred Zaha has been a revelation in pre-season and has not been out of his depth while Robin van Persie is also already firing on all cylinders having scored a brace in the Community Shield final on Sunday. This may not be enough to keep United ahead of the pack though and with improving Chelsea and Manchester City, they face an almighty struggle to retain the title even with a new midfielder added to the squad.

Target


Securing yet another championship is the only natural aim but it may be more a season of transition given the new man in the dugout.

Newcastle United

In


Loïc Rémy (att), QPR - loan)

Out


Steve Harper (gk), Hull), Danny Simpson (def), QPR), Mehdi Abeid (mid), Panathinaikos - loan), James Perch (def), Wigan)

Newcastle United suffered a poor campaign last season and were very close to relegation at one point before eventually saving themselves. The Europa League campaign took its toll on a squad that was constantly blighted by injury problems and Alan Pardew will now look forward to a more focused and effective campaign from his men who definitely punched below their weight last season. Yet, the summer has not really went to plan for Pardew whose authority as a manager was massively undermined by the nonsensical appointment of dinosaur Joe Kinnear as a director football. The man who spent a few months as a Newcastle manager back in 2009, is definitely not the man to continue bringing in quality and cheap players to the club, a policy that had the club in good stead for the last couple of season. The decision to put him in that position was clearly to rattle Pardew who is tied to a long-term contract at the moment and cannot be really sacked even if owner Mike Ashley wants it. It is a messy and dysfunctional system at the moment but the players will be told to focus on improving their performances on the pitch and start getting results on a more regular basis. The manager has only managed to bring in forward Loic Remy so far on a loan deal after being rejected by the striker in January when a deal for a permanent transfer was agreed. Remy is a fine asset to have when he is bothered though and is highly effective and penetrative both as a lead striker and as a winger. There is more midfield cover needed though after the wretched season Cheik Tiote just endured. Moussa Sissoko will look to get back to the form of his early Newcastle days in the winter before he faded and may well become the fulcrum of this side. Papiss Cisse is staying on after the almighty row over the famous Wonga shirt but one would feel that the ill-feeling between the parties remains and he will not be as committed as last year. Generally, Newcastle contain some good players and should be able to finish in the top half of the table but the feel-good factor from 12 months ago is definitely gone and it is once again a mystery which direction the Magpies will head to - destruction or overachievement.

Target


A chaotic summer was not helpful after a testing last season but there is too much quality in the squad which should be enough for a place in the top ten but not more than that.

Norwich City

In


Ricky van Wolfswinkel (att), Sporting), Martin Olsson (def), Blackburn), Carlo Nash (gk), Stoke), Nathan Redmond (mid), Birmingham), Leroy Fer (mid), FC Twente), Gary Hooper (att), Celtic)

Out


Marc Tierney (def), Bolton), Tom Adeyemi (mid), Birmingham), Elliott Ward (def), Bournemouth), Korey Smith (mid), Oldham), Lee Camp (gk), George Francomb (def), AFC Wimbledon), Declan Rudd (gk), Preston - loan), Jed Steer (gk), Aston Villa), Andrew Surman (mid), Bournemouth - loan), James Vaughan (att), Huddersfield), Grant Holt (att), Wigan), Simeon Jackson (att), Eintracht Braunschweig)

Norwich City managed to survive at the end of last season and can look back on a generally satisfying campaign. It was always going to be a test for Chris Hughton to follow the footsteps of the highly popular and successful Paul Lambert but the Irishman certainly made his mark over the course of the last 12 months at Carrow Road and now no one can say that he is feeding off from the work done by Lamberts. The team has the lookout of a Hughton team, based on solid defending and good play on the wings. Norwich managed to save themselves due to their great form between October and December though as there is no hiding from the fact that they were extremely frugal and poor for most of 2013 so far. The fact that there were two very poor teams in QPR and Reading was the main reason the Canaries actually saved themselves having won just twice from early December to May. Hughton realised that during the summer and that is why Norwich have had a very exciting and pretty productive transfer campaign. The two main buys were Dutch duo Ricky Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer. The former is the man expected to bring the goals this season after Grant Hot endured a frustrating campaign last season and was moved out to Wigan in the summer. The Dutchman was great for Sporting Lisbon over the last two season and there is no reason why he will not be a success. He also has a great cover in fellow new signing Gary Hooper who was unstoppable for Celtic in recent season. Fer is a player of good pedigree and one that was very close to joining Everton in January. He is a box-to-box energetic player who will surely bring up the quality of the squad. Nathan Redmond and Marcus Olsson are two good signings too and there is certainly more depth and quality in the group. How they will fit together and work as a team remains to be seen with the likes of Roberto Snodgrass and Sebastien Bassong facing the challenge of maintaining the high level of last season. If the team remains as solid at the back as last season, they should be able to beat the drop.

Target


Improved on the last season's squad considerably and that should be enough to keep them up even though it may be a close call.

Southampton

In


Dejan Lovren (def)(Lyon), Victor Wanyama (mid)(Celtic)

Out


Richard Chaplow (mid)(Millwall), Vegard Forren (def)(Molde FK), Steve De Ridder (mid)(Released), Danny Butterfield (def)(Released), Dan Seaborne (def)(Yeovil Town)

Southampton survived their first season back in the top flight since 2005, finishing fourteenth in the table and five points clear of the drop zone. The season started slowly for the Saints and things were certainly looking bleak coming up to December. Nigel Adkins then seemed to be turning things around but was all of a sudden fired and replaced by Mauro Pochettino. A strong Easter period was enjoyed and three wins on the trot proved crucial seeing as they failed to win any of their final six games. Pochettino has not been as active in the transfer market as was expected, but in Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren he has attracted two players that were highly coveted by a host of other clubs. Rickie Lambert and Gaston Ramirez have both been linked with moves away from the club but Pochettino seems to have won the battle to keep them at St Mary's. Both players were crucial last season. Guly Do Prado's season was interrupted by injury and lack of fitness on more than one occasion. Pochettino will be hoping he can stay fit and feature more prominently. The club has a great record in recent years of players progressing from the academy and the club's owners feel this is vital if they are to maintain their top flight status and become a top ten side

Target


Avoid any involvement in a relegation battle and improve on last seasons fourteenth placed finish

Stoke

In


Erik Pieters (def), PSV), Marc Muniesa (def), Barcelona B), Maurice Edu (mid), Bursaspor - return from loan), Jack Butland (gk), Birmingham - return from loan)

Out


Michael Owen (att), Dean Whitehead (mid), Middlesbrough), Matthew Upson (def), Brighton), Carlo Nash (gk), Norwich), Mamady Sidibé (att), Rory Delap (def), Burton)

Stoke City start a new era this season after deciding to cut their ties with hugely successful manager Tony Pulis. The Welshman is by far the most significant figure in the recent history of the Potters after guiding them to the promised land of the Premier League and then, more importantly, establishing them as a genuine topflight team. Yet, the process of improvement each season has gone stale over the last year and the sense of dissatisfaction and desire for a change became too palpable to ignore by the end of the las season. Narrowly beating the drop at the end last season was no longer considered good enough and Pulis was let go despite the whole of the city being eternally grateful for his services. Owner Peter Coates opted for Mark Hughes as the man to lead his club forward and will hope that Sparky gets his managerial spark again after a woeful stint at QPR. Hughes is still a good manager and did brilliant job at Blackburn five seasons ago which should not be forgotten. Something of that sort is definitely doable for Stoke this year but the big question mark is whether the players will adjust quickly to the new methods and let go of the instilled defensively-minded attitude that Pulis drilled into them over the past few years. Hughes has looked to keep the squad intact from last season and only one of his summer signings is expected to be a regular this season. This is Dutchman Erik Pieters who is a cultured left-back who will bring drive and discipline and is definitely a superior player to Marc Wison. Marc Muniesa is the only other summer capture, a former Barcelona player who was once a great prospect as a centre-back. It will be fascinating to see whether he establishes himself in this Stoke side but one imagines he will be eased in gently. Stoke are a mystery at the moment and may well be back firing and challenging for the higher places with a new man in the dugout. Yet, the consequences of the divorce with Pulis may be more difficult to cope with and a relegation struggle could definitely be on the cards as well.

Target


May well get dragged into a relegation fight if the team does not start well after the change of managers.

Sunderland

In


Modibo Diakité (def), Lazio), Cabral (mid), Basel), Valentin Roberge (def), Maritimo), David Moberg Karlsson (att), IFK Gotteborg), Vito Mannone (gk), Arsenal), Jozy Altidore (att), AZ Alkmaar), El-Hadji Ba (mid), Le Havre), Emanuele Giaccherini (mid), Juventus), Dong-Won Ji (att), Augsburg - return from loan)

Out


Ryan Noble (att), Burnley), Titus Bramble (def), Matthew Kilgallon (def), Blackburn), Simon Mignolet (gk), Liverpool), Danny Graham (att), Hull - loan), Ahmed Elmohamady (def), Hull), Alfred N'Diaye (mid), Eskisehirspor - loan), James McClean (mid), Wigan), Kader Mangane (mid), Al-Hilal - end of loan), Danny Rose (def), Tottenham - end of loan)

Sunderland are aiming high once again this season after a busy and productive summer in which Paolo di Canio has managed to substantially overhaul and enhance the squad. The provocative Italian was brought in at the end of last season to keep the Black Cats clear of danger and they just about hang out to their top-flight status. It was a struggle and something that a team lavishing such big resources should not be going through. Di Canio had something of a free pass last season after coming in so late but the expectations and pressure are now definitely on him and Sunderland are a tough club to run when the locals are against you, as the once popular Martin O'Neill found out. Di Canio went abroad for his summer shopping and will hope that relative unknowns in England like Cabral, Modibo Diakhite, El-Hadji Ba and Valentin Roberge prove worthy signings. The two crown jewels in their summer recruitment are certainly former Juventus winger Emmanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore. The former is too good a player for Sunderland, frankly, as he is an established regular for Italy and a player capable of making the difference down the left with his powerful surges and lateral running. Altidore may have struggled at Hull four seasons ago during a loan spell but he is a man on fire at the moment after scoring 38 goals for AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivise over the last two years. His confidence and powerful presence will be a big asset up front for a team that badly struggled for goals last season. Di Canio will be aiming to mould all these new players into a coherent side but question marks are prevailing at the moment and it is hard to ascertain whether Sunderland are genuinely a better side this season. The Italian is prone to aggravation with his own players and it is interesting to see how the dressing room will react to his disciplinarian tendencies. Yet, Di Canio also has nous and definite ability to motivate the group and it should definitely be a better season for the Black Cats and a place in mid-table seems most probable.

Target


Chasing a place in mid-table and should be able to get it after the extensive summer transfer campaign.

Swansea City

In


Jose Canas (mid)(Real Betis), Jordi Amat (def)(Espanyol), Gregor Zabret (gk)(NK Domzale), Alex Gogic (mid)(Olympiakos), Alejandro Pozuelo (mid)(Real Betis), Jonjo Shelvey (mid)(Liverpool), Wilfred Bony (att)(Vitesse Arnhem), Jernade Meade (def)(Arsenal)

Out


Mark Gower (mid)(Charlton Athletic), Kyle Bartley (def)(Birmingham City), Kemy Agustien (mid)(Brighton & Hove Albion)

Swansea had a super first season back in the top flight, and then last season surprised everyone again with an impressive ninth place finish under new manager Michael Laudrup. The Swans also picked up the League Cup thanks to a five nil demolition of Bradford in the final at Wembley. Results in the league tapered off towards the end of the season after the cup triumph. Just one win was registered in the final ten games of the season. Laudrup is committed to the Swansea cause for the time-being, but it would appear to be only a matter of time before he leaves for a "bigger" club. The Dane has been busy in the transfer market of late, relying on his knowledge of La Liga with the additions of Jose Canas, Jordi Amat and Alejandro Pozuelo. Big money has also been spent on striker Wilfred Bony. The challenge of competing in the Europa League will test the squad significantly, especially if Swansea are successful in reaching the latter stages of the competition. Ashley Williams looks set to be staying put despite a lot of interest from other clubs. The centre back will this season be first team captain. Michu has also once again reiterated he is going nowhere. Last seasons top scorer with eighteen goals signed a new four year contract last January.

Target


Another top ten finish

Tottenham Hotspur

In


Paulinho (mid), Corinthians), Nacer Chadli (mid), FC Twente), Roberto Soldado (att), Valencia), Etienne Capoue (mid), Toulouse), Heurelho Gomes (gk), Hoffenheim - return from loan), Danny Rose (def), Sunderland - return from loan)

Out


William Gallas (def), David Bentley (mid), Steven Caulker (def), Cardiff), Clint Dempsey (mid), Seattle Sounders)

Tottenham are enduring yet another summer in which off-pitch issues are taking precedence over purely footballing matters and it does not bide well for their upcoming season. Spurs yet again narrowly missed out on Champions League football after just slowing down a bit in the final few weeks of the previous season and allowing Arsenal to just about nick the fourth place off their hands. It was a harrowing and agonising miss but the overall positivity around the place has been maintained as a result of some genuinely good football developed under the watch of Andre Villas-Boas. The Portuguese is keen to build something long-lasting at Spurs and that is why he rejected the chance to become a manager of PSG in the summer. He will now want his team to improve all over the pitch and become a side that scores more goals and turns more of their overall dominance into points. Yet, that seemingly good start of the summer is fading fast into memory after the oh-so predictable Gareth Bale soap opera has kicked into gear. The Welshman was by far the most devastating and unstoppable player in the league last season and the sole reason Tottenham kept getting results when they had no fit striker in the squad. He undoubtedly made himself indispensable for Spurs and for a while it looked like he will be staying on for at least one more season. However, the stakes changes when Real Madrid pressed home their long-standing interest and really started to talk about getting Bale this summer. This naturally unsettled Bale who has not played in the recent pre-season friendlies, inventing all sorts of mysterious injuries. Tottenham remain adamant that they will only sell for a mind-blowing fee which smashes the world record. While they may not get their wish, there is a feeling that Bale is beyond the point of return in terms of playing for Tottenham again and the team's crown jewel will get his wish before the end of August. All that overshadowed the fact that Tottenham signed some very good players in the summer and definitely boast a better squad at the moment. Paulinho is a fine driving midfielder that offer physique and technique at the same time. Roberto Soldado is a predatory and proven striker that is a genuine upgrade on the current two strikers on the books. Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue arrive more as squad players but are very good players as well. Thus, even with Bale likely to leave, the ingredients are there for Spurs to have another season actively involved in the battle for Champions League football. They may just miss out again though and will need to be more effective and hold their nerve better during the business end of the campaign.

Target


Securing Champions League football but the likely departure of Bale will be a major blow in that regard.

West Bromwich Albion

In


Nicolas Anelka (att)(Free), Goran Popov (def)(Dynamo Kiev), Diego Lugano (def)(Paris St Germain)

Out


Marc Antoine-Fortune (att)(Wigan Athletic), Zoltan Gera (att)(Released) ,Gonzalo Jara (def)(Nottingham Forest) ,Jerome Thomas (mid)(Crystal Palace), James Hurst (def)(Crawley Town)

West Bromwich Albion followed up on their impressive top ten finish in 2012 with an even better eighth placed finish last season. Considering that avoiding relegation was the main aim, all credit must be given to Steve Clarke and his side. The Baggies hit the ground running and had a great start to the season. They slumped either side of Christmas but still hit the magical 40-point mark before the end of February. Romelu Lukaku was very much the main man last season but with the striker now returned to Chelsea, Clarke has placed his fate in new signing Nicholas Anelka to replace the seventeen goal youngster. Apart from the 34 year old Anelka, the club have yet to make many other new signings, however Clarke has suggested that he expects another three or four new faces before the start of the season. Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long would seem to have the potential to develop further and has a decent chance of improving on his goal haul with the help of Anelka. Good things are expected from attackers Markus Rosenberg and Graham Dorrans also, although they expected to play second fiddle to Long and Anelka

Target


Remain in the top ten - however that looks like a big ask

West Ham United

In


Razvan Rat (def)), Shakhtar), Adrián (gk), Betis), Alou Diarra (mid), Rennes - return from loan)

Out


Carlton Cole (att), Robert Hall (att), Bolton), Gary O'Neil (mid), QPR), Emanuel Pogatetz (def), Wolfsburg - end of loan)

West Ham met the target of survival last season on their first campaign since promotion and the aims this season are higher as they look to break into the top half of the table and put their hat in the mix concerning teams challenging for the top six places. That may be too optimistic of an aim for the Hammers but the club has the clout and potential to make the next step having made considerable progress on the pitch last season. Allardyce created an effective and solid team that also knew how to get the needed results at the right time and they were never really in danger of going down. There will be more pressure now and the one worry for the fans is that the squad has not been strengthened as much as it was hoped. Andy Carroll is the main signing of the summer after turning his semi-successful loan spell from Liverpool to a permanent move. The big striker was at times unplayable but endured some pretty long dry spells in front of goal too and will be expected to deliver a more constant stream of goals over the coming seasons. The other two signings, Razvan Rat and keeper Adrian, are more of squad players and are not really going to lift the overall quality of the squad. At least one more signing is expected to come off before the end of the window as a cover striker and a new winger are among the targets but Allardyce has endured frustration after moves for South American talents Jefferson Monteiro and Duvan Zapata fell through. The squad already looks quite good on paper but injuries really took their toll at times last season and that is why a bit more depth is needed. West Ham can definitely be among the teams that improve on their last season's finish and have both an experienced manager and players with pedigree but this is a tough league and it may be too bold to predict anything more than a mid-table finish.

Target


Staying in mid-table and a place in the top half is certainly within reach.