Premier League 2012-13: Team Preview, Part 1
The first in our series on this season’s Premier League; the ups, the downs and the hopes of all the teams!
The English Premier League returns on 18 August. It seems like only yesterday when Sergio Aguero scored that dramatic injury-time winner for Manchester City against Queens Park Rangers, to give the Blues their first title since 1968. As the new season approaches, it’s time to look at the 20 clubs who will compete in ‘The Best League in the World’.
West Ham United
Last season: 3rd in the Championship, promoted via the play-offs
Manager: Sam Allardyce
The return of the Hammers to the big time was greeted with delight all over the Cockney media; so beloved are West Ham by so many London-based journalists. The arrival of experienced defenders James Collins and George McCartney, as well as holding midfielder, Mohamed Diamé suggests that Allardyce will be out to build a durable unit. Allardyce’s teams are rarely pretty but tend to be effective and the Hammers look to have enough about them to attain mid-table status.
Last season: 2nd in the Championship, promoted automatically
Manager: Nigel Adkins
Given the crippling financial problems that the Saints have suffered over recent seasons, their return to the top flight is a magnificent achievement. In order to stay there, they will have to do clever business in the transfer market. Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis is one of their new arrivals, as is promising young defender, Nathaniel Clyne. Three of Southampton’s first four fixtures are against last season’s top three. This is not an accommodating start for the new boys and is likely to set the tone for a season in which the Saints battle relegation.
Last season: 1st in the Championship, promoted automatically
Manager: Brian McDermott
A storming run of form last season saw Reading clinch top spot in the Championship. McDermott adroitly managed his team and is now backed by new Russian money. Pavel Pogrebnyak, the Russian striker, looked useful last season for Fulham and will need to retain his goalscoring touch at Reading. The Royals are likely to be in a relegation scrap but if McDermott craftily marshals his resources, his team might emulate the solid mid-table achievements of last season’s newly-promoted teams, Swansea and Norwich.
Queens Park Rangers
Last season: 17th
Manager: Mark Hughes
QPR only secured their safety on the final day of last season but achieved notable home victories over Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham. Their away form needs to improve. The signing of Fabio da Silva (on loan) and Park Ji-Sung from Manchester United, players who have experienced top-level competition, is a positive move. More experience is provided by Andy Johnson and Ryan Nelsen. With these players, QPR should be able to survive more comfortably than they did last season.
Last season: 16th
Manager: Paul Lambert
Last season, ignorant pundits assumed that the rough ride Alex McLeish received from Villa fans was because he used to manage their bitter rivals, Birmingham. In reality, Villa fans disliked McLeish because he was a serial relegationist who played negative football. The paying customers turned out to know more than the pundits. Quelle surprise. Villa were fortunate to survive and Paul Lambert, recruited after a fine season at Norwich, has to pick up the pieces. Moroccan midfielder Karim El Ahmadi and Dutch defender Ron Vlaar have been their most notable arrivals. Without massive financial backing, a top ten finish does seem the best that Villa can hope for.