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City's Grit, Utd's Rebirth, Liverpool 5th, Everton 6th, Burnley Doomed

David Boyd with the best, the worst and predictions for the upcoming Premiership season

Written by . Published on August 15th 2014.


City's Grit, Utd's Rebirth, Liverpool 5th, Everton 6th, Burnley Doomed
 

WE'VE learnt something at Confidential over the summer.

By remembering to celebrate the whole squad’s birthdays, City show they have the strongest and happiest squad in the Premiership.

Not only is Accountant Dave pretty nifty with a calculator, he also knows everything that's worth knowing about sports in the North West. Particularly football, rugby, cricket and cycling, amongst others. Everything but gymnastics actually, he's crap at gymnastics.

So we unshackled Dave from his abacus, sat him down at a Brother Deluxe 1350 typewriter and told him to write us a weekly sports column.

Here's his first installment, a preview of the Premier League 2014/15 season...

Up for grabsUp for grabs

It's been a journey of fifteen weeks, 105 days, 2520 hours, 151,200 minutes or 9,072,000 seconds.

The pain and loss remedied only by the coming-and-going of the World Cup in Brazil, and other pointless friendly matches around the world.

Now the finish line is in sight. Saturdays will no longer be filled with DIY, Saturday bloody Kitchen or quality time with the family. Pfft. We'll actually have something to talk to the father-in-law about again.

Yes, on Saturday 16 August the Premier League makes it glorious return.

But it's easy to lose focus over the summer. Take your eye off the ball.

What's been happening over the past few months? What can we expect from the next nine months? How will the North West’s Premier League sides fair? Read on my fellow football starved fans, drink it in...

City fans at the 2014 champions paradeCity fans at the 2014 champions parade

Manchester City

Formation 4-2-3-1

Best starting eleven: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri, Jovetic, Silva, Aguero

Transfers:

In: Mangala (32m), Fernando (12m), Caballero (6m), Sagna (Free) Lampard (loan)

Out: Rodwell (10m) Barry (1m) Pantilimon (Rel), Lescott (Rel)

A quieter summer than has been seen for some time at the Etihad as fine tuning of a talented squad has taken place over wholesale changes. City have gone about their business in a careful manner bringing in all the names Pellegrini had on his shopping list to address the perceived weaknesses in the defensive half of their team.

A strike force that mustered an impressive 102 Premier League goals has not been added to, but the returning Jovetic has given cliché fans across the country the chance to drop 'he’ll be like a new signing' into many a pub conversation.

The news that Toure has put his birthday cake breakdown behind him, Silva has signed a new five year deal and Kompany has pushed past his injury plagued 2013/14 season indicate the spine of the team is as strong as ever.

Best Signing: David Silva’s new contract.

Best case scenario: By remembering to celebrate the whole squad’s birthdays, City show they have the strongest and happiest squad in the Premiership and do what only Chelsea and Manchester United have done and retain the title in the Premier League era. Delving deeper into the Champions Leage knock-out stages would be seen as a step in the right direction.

Worst case scenario: City suffer the same slump they did after winning the title in 2012, falling out with each other and their manager. Finishing anything but top will be a disappointment. 

Prediction: Champions again.

Champions again?Champions again?

Manchester United

Formation 3-5-2

Best starting eleven: De Gea, Evans, Jones, Smalling, Valencia, Shaw, Carrick, Herrera, Mata, Van Persie, Rooney

Transfers:

In: Luke Shaw (32m), Herrera (30m)

Out: Buttner (5.5m) Evra (1m) Bebe (2.5m) Vidic (Rel), Ferdinand (Rel) Macheda (Rel)

The perfect time for Van Gaal to take over? On the one hand it will be harder to do much worse. On the other he is stuck with Fellaini and Nani on five year contracts and a drain of experience out of the dressing room with the departure of Giggs, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra.

The rebuild has started though with Luke Shaw offering youthful potential and natural ability if not instant value for money. Herrera will bring in some quality ball possession and distribution into the middle of the pitch to help out the over-worked Carrick. Expect to see the true worth of Mata now that he has settled into the team.

With Vermaelen escaping to Catalonia rather than Carrington and Hummells looking likely to stay in Dortmund over Didsbury, United are showing a distinct lack of quality in the centre of their defence. At the other end of the pitch, expect a fully fit Van Persie to return to the top of the goal scorers list (how Moyes would have enjoyed that bonus). Proof of Van Gall’s 'top manager' status will be shown if he can get the best out of Rooney. If you're reading Roy - and we doubt you are - I bet it won’t be playing him on the left wing.

Best Signing: An Adidas sponsorship contract worth 750 million

Best case scenario: Finishing above Liverpool amongst the Champions League places.

Worst case scenario: A live re-enactment of the previous season.

Prediction: Third (expect improvement but not miracles).

Van Persie's fitness will be keyVan Persie's fitness will be key

Liverpool

Formation 4-2-3-1

Best starting eleven Mignolet, Johnson, Agger, Lovren, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson; Lallana, Coutinho, Sterling; Sturridge

Transfers:

In Lallana (£25m), Lovren (£20m), Markovic (£20m), Moreno (11m) Origi (£10m), Can (£8.25m), Lambert (£4m)

Out: Suarez (£75m), Alberto ( Loan), Aspas (Loan), Wisdom (Loan).

How to solve a problem like Suarez? As anticipated that involved letting him move on for a handsome price, though immediate thoughts turn to how you replace 31 goals. The answer has been found not in an expensive continental striker but by letting in 31 goals fewer at the back. Lovren appears to be the commanding centre back that they have been missing since Carragher was in his prime and Moreno, whilst youthful and raw, is seen as a long term prospect for Spain’s international team.

A handful of promising young talent has been snapped up from around Europe and it remains to be seen if they can instantly drop into the Rodgers system, though with pace and technical ability in abundance there should be much to keep the Anfield faithful happy. With more faces likely to appear before the end of the transfer window it seems likely that Champions League commitments shouldn’t affect the squad too much, but injury to lead striker Sturridge would see an unproven strike force need to step up.

Paying top money for English talent is a frustrating querk of the transfer market but Lallana should be a better purchase than Carroll in every department from end product to haircut.

Best Signing: Lovren. A hefty mark up for a defender signed for £6m last year but if he lives up to his promise then it will be money well spent.

Best case scenario: New signings live up to their undoubted potential, Gerrard gets some new studs and Liverpool go one step further and take the title to Merseyside.

Worst case scenario: Signings turn out to be more Florent Sinama Pongolle than Fernando Torres and rather than looking at the top of the table Liverpool are looking at clinging to a top four place.

Prediction: Fifth

'How much did you get for Suarez, Brendan?''How much did you get for Suarez, Brendan?'

Everton

Formation: 4-1-4-1

Best starting eleven: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines; Barry, McCarthy; Mirallas, Barkley. Pienaar; Lukaku

Transfers:

In: Lukaku (£28m), Besic (£4m), Barry (, £1m)

Out: Gueye (REL)

With Martinez spending almost the entire transfer kitty on one player, some of the best signings have been made in the contract room. Martinez, Barkley, Coleman, Stones and McCarthy have all committed to long term deals which indicates an exciting few years in store for the toffees. If a few loan deals similar in quality and impact of Lukaku and Deulofeu can be added to the squad then expect Fortress Goodison to be rebuilt and the ‘Big Five’ worrying.

Home form has rarely been an issue but if they can convert possession and territory into dominance and goals outside of the city then Everton will be looking at a top four spot.

Best Signing: Lukaku. The statement of intent that Everton fans have been craving, along with long term contracts for manager Martinez and his rising stars.

Best case scenario: The same again in the league and a piece of silverware from the cups.

Worst case scenario: Europa League commitments stretch the resources and lead to less success all round whilst still playing some of the best football on show.

Prediction: Sixth

Martinez has pushed Everton onMartinez has banked on Lukaku

Burnley

Formation: 3-5-2

Best starting eleven: Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Kightly; Jones, Taylor, Arfield; Jutkiewicz; Ings

Transfers:

In: Lukas Jutkiewicz (1.5m), Marvin Sordell (Undisclosed), Michael Kightly (Undisclosed), Matt Gilks (Free), Steven Reid (Free), Matt Taylor (Free)

Out: David Edgar (REL) Junior Stanislas (REL) Chris Baird (REL)

The recruitment drive for a promoted club can go two ways, last year Crystal Palace adopted the sign anyone and everyone who is interested and were left with a disgruntled and oversubscribed squad. The other is to struggle to attract players willing to make the jump to a side that may struggle to compete in the promised land of the Premiership. At present Burnley are in the latter category, premiership experience in the form of Taylor and Reid will be valuable and Jutkiewicz will look to share the goal burden with Ings but the answer to whether the small squad can compete week in week out, will likely be no.

 Dyche will be keen to stick with 23 players that awarded them promotion, but a bit more quality around the edges wouldn’t go amiss. Avoiding relegation is the target and strong home form at Turf Moor will be imperitive if this is to be achieved. In all likelihood it appears at least two from three promoted clubs will go down so Burnley will do well to beat the heavily backed sides of QPR and Leicester.

Best Signing: Jutkiewicz, When fit he has scored goals, though admittedly at lower levels. Should (and needs to) work as a good foil for Ings.

Best case scenario: Survival is the aim and will be celebrated like winning the title. Keeping moral high and holding onto manager Dyche is key.

Worst case scenario:  Unrealistic expectations. Manager jumping ship/pushed. Sink without a trace. Much like their last visit in 2009/10.

Prediction: Buggered

Sean Dyche could need a miracleSean Dyche could need a miracle

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ShybaldbuddhistAugust 15th 2014.

Chelsea, City, Arsenal, United, Everton, Liverpool in that order, in my humble opinion!

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