By Laurie Fitzgerald
This weekend sees the return of the biggest league in the world, and Shouts from the Stands is doing a club-by-club preview of all 20 teams in the Barclays Premier League.
Today, we look at Merseyside giants Everton and Liverpool, Martin Jol’s Fulham, and the Manchester duo of City and United:
Last season: 1st
Summer so far: Having secured their fourth title in five years, it has been a summer of many changes at Old Trafford, as Sir Alex Ferguson looks to build the latest United team of the future. The trio of Phil Jones, David de Gea and Ashley Young have an average age of 22 and an average price of £18 million, but it was needed following the departures of Paul Scholes, Edwin Van der Saar, Gary Neville, Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Owen Hargreaves. However, as their comeback win over Manchester City in Sunday’s Community Shield proved, United still remain the team to beat.
Transfers In: Ashley Young (Aston Villa) £16 million, Phil Jones (Blackburn Rovers) £18 million, David de Gea (Atletico Madrid) £20 million.
Transfers Out: Edwin Van der Saar (Retired), Paul Scholes (Retired), Owen Hargreaves (Unattached) Free, Wes Brown (Sunderland) £1 million, John O’Shea (Sunderland) Undisclosed, Nicky Ajose (Peterborough United) Undisclosed, Conor Devlin (Unattached) Free, Bebe (Besiktas) Loan, Ritchie De Laet (Norwich City) Loan, Ryan Tunnicliffe (Peterborough United) Loan, Scott Wootton (Peterborough United) Loan, Robbie Brady (Hull City) Loan, Joshua King (Borussia Monchengladbach) Loan
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson – Superlatives don’t do the 69 year-old justice, so let the facts do that: 12 Premier League titles, two Champions League’s, five FA Cups and four League Cups in his quarter of a century in charge at Old Trafford. Having led United to become the most successful English team in history following their 19th title in May, the Scot takes his current squad into the new campaign as favourites to make it number 20.
Key Man: Wayne Rooney – Predictable yes, but the 25 year-old is now one of the more experienced men in the United squad following a raft of seasoned campaigners departing. After a difficult start to last season on and off the pitch, Rooney rediscovered his good form in the title run-in to help overcome the challenge of Chelsea. With Euro 2012 coming up at the end of the campaign, fans across the country will be observing the form of the influential forward with fervent interest.
Last season: 3rd
Summer so far: It wouldn’t be a usual summer at Eastlands without City spending a million or two. Stefan Savic joined from Partizan Belgrade, and Gael Clichy moved from Arsenal to Eastlands. The big signing though, was Atletico Madrid’s scoring sensation Sergio Aguero, who joined for a meagre £38 million. It remains to be seen though whether he is to partner or replace Carlos Tevez, who has made it clear he wants to leave Manchester to be closer to his family. His future could decide whether or not City became title contenders this season.
Transfers In: Gael Clichy (Arsenal) £7 million, Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid) £38 million, Stefan Savic (Partizan Belgrade) £6 million, Costel Pantilimon (Poli Timisoara) Undisclosed.
Transfers Out: Felipe Caicedo (Levante) £950,000, Patrick Vieira (Retired) Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich) Undisclosed, Shay Given (Aston Villa) £3.5 million, Jo (Internacional) Undisclosed.
Manager: Roberto Mancini – There was a huge pressure on Mancini to deliver last season with the aim of trophies and Champions League qualification, and he succeeded big time. A top-three finish and an FA Cup triumph that seemed their first silverware in 35 years answered the critics that felt his tactics were too negative to achieve success. Now with new reinforcements to an already strong squad, Mancini will be expected to push City onto another level.
Key Man: Yaya Toure – The Ivory Coast international is a great example of the modern-day midfielder. He can play the holding midfield role, as demonstrated during his successful time with Barcelona, and as he showed with City last year, the 28 year-old can also flourish in an attacking midfield role. His ability to get from box-to-box is down to his strength and deceptive pace. The performances in his debut season in England got better as the season progressed, typified by his tireless performance in the FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester United. With Tevez’s future up in the air, Toure will become the heart of City’s push for major honours.
Last Season: 6th
Summer so far: After a strong finish under the legend that is Kenny Dalglish and a host of big-name signings in 2011, optimism amongst the Kop faithful is at it’s highest since they launched a serious title push back in 2009. Money has been invested in key areas as well as potential, with big-money moves for 20 year-old Jordan Henderson and Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing. Charlie Adam could prove crucial in the heart of the midfield, while the deadwood such as Paul Konchesky and Milan Jovanovic have moved onto pastures new.
Transfers In: Jordan Henderson (Sunderland) £20 million, Charlie Adam (Blackpool) £7.5 million, Doni (Roma) Free, Stewart Downing (Aston Villa) £20 million.
Transfers Out: Paul Konchesky (Leicester City) Undisclosed, Milan Jovanovic (Anderlecht) Undisclosed.
Manager: Kenny Dalglish – Rightly regarded with a legendary status after his achievements as a player and manager at Anfield, there was only one man that John W. Henry could turn to when he ended Roy Hodgson’s disastrous spell in charge. He led the side from an unthinkable relegation battle to the brink of Europe, and did so by playing some wonderful free-flowing football. Now with Henry expecting a push for the top four, Dalglish has to deal with expectation rather than hope.
Key Man: Luis Suarez – The Uruguayan may have come to international prominence when he helped his country to fourth place in last year’s World Cup, but there were still doubts about the 24 year-old’s ability in a top league after scoring for fun with former club Ajax. But following his £22 million move in January, El Pistolero made an instant impression at Anfield, causing havoc for opposition defences. Having helped Uruguay win the Copa America this summer, Suarez and his partnership with Andy Carroll will be pivotal to Liverpool’s chances of Champions League qualification.
Last Season: 8th
Summer so far: It’s difficult to do a preview for a team that began their season weeks ago, but Fulham’s early start in the Europa League didn’t make their summer any less eventful. Mark Hughes resigned as manager, much to the annoyance of owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, who then went about bringing in his first-choice as manager 12 months ago in Martin Jol. The Dutchman has acquired some unknown quantities, although he produced a smart signature in former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise.
Transfers In: Dan Burn (Darlington) Undisclosed, Tom Donegan (Everton) Undisclosed, Csaba Somogy (Rakospalotai) Free, John Arne Riise (Roma) Undisclosed, Marcel Gecov (Slovan Liberec) Undisclosed, Pajtim Kasami (Palermo) Undisclosed.
Transfers Out: Zoltan Gera (West Brom) Free, Eddie Johnson (Unattached) Free, Diomansy Kamara (Eskisehirspor) Free, John Pantsil (Leicester City) Free, Matthew Saunders (Unattached) Free, Pascal Zuberbuhler (Unattached) Free, Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace) Undisclosed, Jonathan Greening (Nottingham Forest) Undisclosed, David Stockdale (Ipswich Town) Loan
Manager: Martin Jol – The former Tottenham boss returns to England following a three-and-a-half year spell overseas with Hamburg and Ajax. He almost joined the Cottagers last year, but saw the move blocked by the Dutch club. Jol’s previous experience in the Premier League is good, helping transform Spurs from mid-table mediocrity to back-to-back top five finishes, and will be confident of guiding Fulham on from their top-eight finish last season.
Key Man: Bobby Zamora – Having had an outstanding 2009/10 season, Zamora had last campaign cruelly interrupted when he broke his leg following a tackle by Wolves midfielder Karl Henry. Now he’s recovered, the striker will be looking to carry on where he left off the season before last. His brilliant hold-up play and an ever-improving strike-rate in the top flight makes him imperative to Fulham’s cause.
Last Season: 7th
Summer so far: Different summer, same old story for David Moyes in the transfer market. With the resources limited as per usual, the Scot has missed out once again on his main targets suchg as Charles N’Zogbia. It means another season of getting the best out of what he’s got. Thankfully, Moyes has a squad with huge talent that can be a match for anyone on their day, although he’s faced a fight in keeping Phil Jagielka, after the club rejected a £10 million bid from Arsenal for their talismanic centre-half.
Transfers In: None
Transfers Out: James Vaughan (Norwich City) £2.5million, Iain Turner (Preston North End) Free, Kieran Agard (Yeovil Town) Free, Hope Akpan (Crawley Town) Free, John Nolan (Stockport County) Free.
Manager: David Moyes – The 48 year-old goes into his 11th season as manager at Goodison Park, a record only exceeded by Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. However, he’s had to do things a little differently to the more illustrious duo, taking the Toffees from relegation strugglers to regular European contenders. It remains to be seen how long Moyes is willing to work under the continuous restrictions placed upon him by the board, but it hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most respected bosses around.
Key Man: Mikel Arteta – The Spaniard had a forgettable season last time around, with injuries and a loss of form hampering his campaign. But the 29 year-old goes into this season back to full fitness, and when the midfielder is pulling the strings for Everton, they can open up any side.
So what do you think? How will your team fare this season? Has your club strengthened well this summer? Let us know your thoughts.