Writing this 4 part transfer saga has been the bane of my life. At the beginning it seemed a good idea, and a good chance to get a detailed prediction on all things Premier League. In reality, you find yourself reluctant to write about other topics due to having not finished the series. Additionally, by July certain teams are very transfer active so have already beaten you to players – believe me, Norwich City had battered by blog notes by week 3. Demoralising.
Before I begin, allow me to give a massive thank you, a shout-out and a twitter direct to; Ian Mitton and Joe Liquorish, whose knowledge in the fields of Norwich City and QPR made this possible – I just hope they’re not offended with my conclusions.
So here we go, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City. The three promoted sides are among the favourites to go down, and with all due respect to their achievements last year, I believe this is a season where we’ll see a points tally to rival Derby County’s record in 07/08, and it will be set by one of the newly promoted sides. I think Wolverhampton will be clear with ease, replaced with Blackburn in the dog-fight, and Wigan will once again scrap it out in a 3/5 battle for the drop.
Wigan Athletic; (last season, 16th)
Transfers already made; In; Ali Al-Habsi (GK), Out; Steven Caldwell (CB).
Remaining budget; £10M – Sell to buy.
Positions to strengthen; STR, CB, AM.
Latics fans surely cannot have any fingernails left, every season they’ve flirted with the drop – yet when it matters they can pull it out the bag. Once again I can see them being involved in the relegation battle. Whelan is a fantastic Chairman, he is the ‘Carlsberg don’t do, but if they did…’ of Chairman, but what he desperately needs is finance. Wigan have the lowest attendances in the 3 year PL clubs and I can’t remember the last time I witnessed the DW a sell out – excluding the town’s pride; rugby. This isn’t just a side-swipe at the lack of support, I’m saying this from a financial point of view. Sponsors won’t come in to a club who can’t even get their own fans through the gates, and every season ticket sold increases DW/RM’s ability to bring it top players. Their scouting network is keeping them afloat, and that is top class.
So here’s what’s needed, a good out-and-out CF, I think a Championship raid is needed. I was very surprised they weren’t more assertive in their quest for Craig Mackail-Smith, DJ Campbell is an option but with him they would need a link up man, Hooper at Celtic may want to avoid another season playing second fiddle to their stronger Old Firm counterparts while they have been heavily linked with Getafe’s Coulunga. I think Wigan will end up bringing in another South American starlet, they rumour mill has been quiet which makes me think their eyes are on the Copa America. Charles N’Zogbia may leave but this could be a blessing in disguise, funds would be re-invested to give a more rounded strength to the Latics. CB’s are needed because it is the weak-link in this side, when Wigan play; Dr. Jekyll is lovely to watch but by god Mr. Hyde is laughable.
If I was Roberto Martinez, I would sign; Coulunga, but quickly before someone else spots him. Liam Ridgewell/Matthew Upson perhaps, but I think the wage bill could be too high. Cathcart is a possibility, he was the best of a bad bunch in the Blackpool defence but perhaps has more to offer.
Wolverhampton Wanderers; (last season, 17th)
Transfers already made; In; Jamie O’Hara (CM), Doris De Vries (GK).
Remaining budget; £13-17M
Positions to strengthen; The whole back line. CM’s.
Wolverhampton fall into that category which I put West Ham in last season. They were literally too good to be in the position they were. Injuries blightened them but I can’t help but think the problem is McCarthy, he strikes me as being a manager who’s not necessarily that good at gel-ing players and getting the best from them, that aside, I think they’ll confidently finish around 11-14th. I like them, I like their midfield, though could be strengthened, and I think they’ve got a good arsenal of attacking options. The GK is fairly solid too. Defensively they’re strong and powerful, but technically not as strong as present in other sides.
Reports are coming out that Jonny Evans and Paul Konchesky are being lined up, would be two good additions. Craig Bellamy and Robbie Keane could both be available, but it must be said it would be a big out-lay for a side who have good options in attacking roles. Liverpool are set to have an exodus of their 14 CM’s to a more manageable number, I’m sure McCarthy has kept his eye on the more affordable options. For strength in midfield I would love to see Wolves, and their fans, take a look at Celtic’s Beram Kayal. I’m a Rangers fan, so I’m saying this once and once only, he’s brilliant. Celtic’s best CM since Stan Petrov.
If I was Mick McCarthy, I would sign; Evans and Konchesky, take a look at Owen Hargreaves on a pay-as-you-play basis, and why not Jonathon Woodgate on the same basis. Lee Bowyer could bring muscle and experience, but technically there’s better players. Finally, though this isn’t a signing, Nenad Milijas is so much better than his form has suggested, get the best out of him!
Queens Park Rangers; (last season, Championship 1st)
Transfers already made; Nil, none significant anyway.
Remaining budget; Hmmm. The jury is out. They have a lot at their disposal, but don’t seem to want to commit it to a money-pit football industry.
Positions to strengthen; LW, CM, CF, RB.
Now, QPR fans, your first fear – from what I gather – is the potential loss of AdeL Taarabt. Do not fear, he’s so massively over-rated it makes me want to cry. He dominated the Championship because largely it’s a league which players dive in, thus making them easy to beat, also, he’s fairly strong so he holds his own. He’s not stupid, if he wants to continue a career with success he’ll go to PSG and win things. But if he stayed at QPR he’d be a PL flop, players like Song/Essien/Fletcher/Lucas/Tiote etc would make him turn up to games with shoulder-pads on. Bullied.
I feel there is just a general need for some Premier League experience and some young quality, as balance of the pair. All promoted sides need a striker, they always do, but I’d put QPR as favourites for the signiture of DJ Campbell, Andy Johnson is another option. Kyle Naughton on loan would be perfect but it looks like Spurs are looking to develop him internally, Alan Hutton on a permanent basis could be feasible seeing bigger clubs appear to be over-looking his quality. Jermaine Jenas could be a good signing as he looks to stay in London for family reasons but has fallen out of favour at TH. Jamie Murphy is turning heads at Motherwell but the PL could be a jump too big. Chris Eagles is a player I really like and could fill that creative void vs bottom half clubs IF Taarabt leaves.
If I was Neil Warnock, I would sign; Hutton, Eagles, Campbell, Murphy – take a risk, he’s a quality player, Nigel Reo-Coker is a free agent too.
Norwich City; (last season, Championship 2nd)
Transfers already made; In; James Vaughan (CF), Bradley Johnson (CM), Anthony Pilkington (Wing), Elliot Bennett (Wing). Ritchie de Laet (DEF), Steve Morison (STR).
Remaining budget; £5-10M
Positions to strengthen; Bolster the defense, need some better quality. Perhaps natural width and GK competition.
Norwich City are my pick of the newly promoted which may just have a chance of staying up, however I feel ‘second season syndrome’ could be what catches them out. Their main advantage to the other promoted sides is that Lambert (yet another addition to the Premier League from the Glasgow School of Football Managers) got his act together early and got signings in quickly. A very structured approach to the new campaign. If I’m honest, there’s not a lot left for them to do. Just a general re-vamping. CB quality would be good, however I don’t feel they’ll find it in the Championship, and I worry that Premier League clubs could be too far from their price range. Their CB’s are okay, I think Lambert prioritised a good break-up midfielder (Johnson) to ease the pressure on the back 2. Time will tell. A loan deal for a top sides’ young CB’s could be the best option. GK’ing competition could come in the same form, a loan deal for a major sides upcoming player, alternatively Newcastle United are finding themselves with 3 GK’s of high quality in Harper, Krul & Forster – Nick one of them, give them a chance to compete 1 on 1 for the nod at Carrow Road. Finally, due to the narrow diamond midfield that Norwich play, natural width is needed, but I’m unsure where it’ll be found on budget, Wladimr Weiss could be an option and he’s got a quick and innovative mind that can unlock defenses – See Nikita Jelevic’s winner in the Co-Op Cup Final (Rangers v Celtic).
If I was Lambert, I would sign; Kyle Bartley, Tim Krul, Wladimir Weiss, and one big name at CB. Spend £4/5M on getting in a bully, who’s perhaps slightly past it but still has 2/3 seasons left at the top. If they’re to stay up they need PL experience. The only pain is that names in that department are limited as they tend to be snapped up by promotion chasing Championship sides.
Swansea City; (last season, Championship 3rd – Play off winners)
Transfers already made; Steven Caulker (FB), Danny Graham (STR).
Remaining budget; £10-13M – Most likely around £8/9M though.
Positions to strengthen; All over. Depends on how they wish to tackle the PL. Read on.
Okay, so I’ve written a blog previously expressing my dislike of the officiating which led to their play-off win, but that was largely due to my dislike of Phil Dowd as a person, and further fuelled by Dobbie’s antics. You’re in the PL now, and over the course of the season you deserve it. So let’s cast that aside and get on with this. Swansea’s season will largely depend on how Brendan Rodgers wants to approach the campaign. They can either play how they know, from the back football, passing, control and possession. However, if they do that they’re going to take some heavy defeats, slightly Blackpool-esque. The difference is the gulf in class between the top and bottom half, if they try to play ‘football’ against PL clubs, they’ll lose vs the top clubs and might beat the lower ones. It’s a risk, so would need to invest in top quality players. Alternatively they could switch to the 4-2-3-1, which is what I believe they will do. Scott Sinclair is a good striker in that position and Graham will give competition. This allows Swansea to dominate midfield and keep the ball well. The biggest hiccup to this is that they sold Darren Pratley. WHY? He’s exactly who they need, plus one more. Dyer looks promising and their defence actually looks okay for a newly promoted side. Granted they shipped 2 vs Reading but that was an open game. They need to sign CDM(s) and a new GK.
If I was Brendan Rodgers I would sign; Moreira - They look to have that all but wrapped up, CDM’s are few and far between, Lee Bowyer/Nigel Reo-Coker looks the best option but I doubt Swansea can match the wage demands. I just don’t see where they can find the top quality CDM’s. Pratley would have been ideal. Time will tell, but for sure we know they will cause a few upsets along the way.
I think Blackburn, Swansea, QPR will go down. Wigan will leave it very late (once again) and Norwich will be safe by gameweek 35.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed this. It’s been time-consuming but as my blog has passed the 40,000 mark after a mere 7 weeks I can safely assume it’s being well received. Leave comments, let me know what you think, agree/disagree or alternatively come onto my twitter and do the same.Follow @markbritton7
Best of luck for the new season.
Over and out.