Previews: Hull, Liverpool, Manchester City
Premier League Preview 10: Hull City
Hull City were the surprise package of the 2008-09 season after an emphatic start in the league. In the autumn, for a momentary period of time, Phil Brown’s men became everybody’s ‘second’ team following impressive victories away from home at the Emirates and White Hart Lane. However talk of an unlikely European spot didn’t last long as the Tiger’s season soon unravelled with Brown’s team narrowly avoiding relegation on the final day of the season.
Phil Brown isn’t the most popular of bosses outside the KC Stadium. His bizarre decision to conduct a half-time team talk on the pitch at the City of Manchester Stadium received widespread criticism. His self-indulgent attitude was highlighted when he took to the microphone after survival on the final day of the season.
But love him or hate him, Brown has done a magnificent job at Hull. He rescued them from relegation to League One, achieved promotion the Premier League the following season and helped them to maintain their top-flight status last year.
Yet he has been unable to attract any big name players to the KC stadium this summer. His £14 million transfer budget remains largely untouched after missing out on Michael Owen and Frazier Campball. He even missed out on Bobby Zamora. His sole signings so far are Steven Mouyokolo, Jozi Altidore and Seyi Olifinjana.
The club have managed to hold onto their prized asset, English centre back Michael Turner, though Liverpool are still in pursuit of Turner’s signature. Giovanni will remain as The Tigers’ talisman. Last year when Hull City performed badly it coincided with a dip in form from the Brazilian. Brown will be looking to improve his team’s home form this season while match last season’s away performances.
Hull City need to find the net more often this season if they are to harbour any hopes of survival. Brown will be looking for offensive options to sign before the transfer window after missing out on the three strikers named above. He should also keep a lower profile this season and do his talking in the dressing room. Ultimately it’s difficult to see any other outcome then relegation for Hull City.
In: Steven Mouyokolo (Boulogne, undisclosed), Seyi Olofinjana (Stoke, £3m), Jozy Altidore (Villarreal, loan)
Out: Sam Ricketts (Bolton, undisclosed), Wayne Brown (Leicester, free), Matt Plummer (Darlington, free), Dean Windass (Darlington, free), James Bennett (Darlington, free), John Welsh (Tranmere, free), Ryan France (Sheffield United, free), Tom Woodhead (released)
TSR Writers’ Prediction: 18th
Premier League Preview 11: Liverpool
It has been 19 years since Liverpool last tasted League glory and with Manchester United ruthlessly piling up the titles and pulling level with 18 League titles, this season is pivotal for the Merseyside club.
Last season an impressive title push ended in disappointment with United edging the title by just four points. Liverpool’s impressive 86 points tally was the largest haul ever seen that didn’t win the Premier League title in a 38-game season. But despite not clinching it, Liverpool fans will be encouraged by the consistency shown throughout, and will be looking for Rafa Benitez’s men to build on last season’s near-miss.
Xabi Alonso’s long drawn out move to Real Madrid was finally confirmed last week and there is little doubt that Liverpool miss the Spaniard’s brilliant input in central midfield. Benitez has moved quickly to replace Alonso through the signing of Alberto Aquilani from Roma, however one would not expect the 25-year-old Italian to be able to instantly fill the departed Spaniard’s boots.
At the start of the Summer, Benitez was reported to have been allocated a transfer budget of £20 million, plus whatever revenue was generated by transfer business, yet so far, the Spaniard has brought in only two players, both for large sums.
But despite Benitez having already shelled out £38 million this summer, Liverpool fans must surely be expecting further signings before September 1st. A back-up striker looks to be a must, with Robbie Keane’s short spell at Anfield resulting in the player shooting back to Tottenham. This coming season, an injury to Fernando Torres would leave the Merseysiders seriously lacking in the firepower department.
In Steven Gerrard Liverpool have a talismanic captain, but also a leader and warrior that can help bring that trophy back to Anfield. Last season the 29-year-old midfielder came up with a host goals, 16 in the league, and all despite Gerrard and Torres only starting 14 League matches together.
It is possible, if not probable, that Benitez will bring in more players this summer, squad depth in certain key areas is surely what is separating the Anfield club from the League success that has evaded Merseyside for so long.
In: Glen Johnson (Portsmouth, £18m), Alberto Aquilani (Roma, £20m)
Out: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid, £30m) Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid, £3.5m), Sebastien Leto (Panathinaikos, £1.3m), Paul Anderson (Nottingham Forest, £250,000), Sami Hyypia (Bayer Leverkusen, free), Jermaine Pennant (Espanyol, free), Jack Hobbs (Leicester, free), Astrit Ajdarevic (Leicester, free), Shane O’Connor (Ipswich, free), Ryan Flynn (Falkirk, loan), Dean Bouzanis (Wrexham, loan)
TSR Writers’ Prediction: 3rd
Premier League Preview 12: Manchester City
It has been an incredible 12 months for Manchester City and their fans. The thought of Manchester City splashing out more than £100 million in a summer transfer frenzy would have seemed laughable 15 months ago, but the Arabian revolution has made it possible as they continue their policy of offering manager Mark Hughes bottomless resources as he rebuilds City’s team.
Last term City were more unpredictable than the English cricket team: they produced champagne performances against Portsmouth, Arsenal and Hull at home while proving utterly hapless at the Riverside and Reebok Stadium. Richard Dunne was no longer his reliable consistent self at the back with his defensive partner Micah Richards struggling to find the form that aroused the interest of Chelsea a few season before.
Elano flopped in his second season at Eastlands and has since manoeuvred a transfer away from Manchester. Stephen Ireland enjoyed a virtuoso season as he proved time and time again to be the one solid performer as others around him failed. Robinho endured a mixed baptism to English football. He scored a respectable 15 goals but was hitting the headlines for his antics off the pitch opposed to on it.
Hughes has invested heavily in his offensive options. The arrival of Roque Santa Cruz, Emmaneul Adebayor and Carlos Tevez has transformed City’s front line into potentially one of the most potent in the League. The addition of Gareth Barry could prove the most influential signing of the summer as the England midfielder will look to maintain the balance in midfield allowing prestigious talents like Stephen Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips to push on.
There will be sizeable expectation for Hughes and his team to perform this season and at least break into the “big-four” monopoly. He has the talent in his squad to launch an attack on the summit of the league, but whether his team will gel quickly or take until winter time for his players to familiarise themselves with each other, only time will tell.
In: Carlos Tevez (unattached, £25m), Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal, £25m), Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn, £17m), Kolo Toure (Arsenal, £14m), Gareth Barry (Aston Villa, £12m), Stuart Taylor (Aston Villa, free).
Out: Elano (Galatasaray, undisclosed), Ched Evans (Sheff Utd, £3m), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea, undisclosed), JÃƒÂ´ (Everton, loan), Felipe Caicedo (Sporting Lisbon, loan), Joe Hart (Birmingham, loan), Shaleum Logan (Tranmere, loan), Darius Vassell (Ankaragucu, free), Dietmar Hamann (released), Michael Ball (released), Danny Mills (released), Richard Martin (released), Angelos Tsiaklis (released).
TSR Writers’ Prediction: 4th