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The Farm Club Preview: English Premier League Part IV

August 17, 2012

Soccer


Welcome to Friday. We’re all amped here at the Farm Club about tomorrow’s opening matches. Think about it, tomorrow at 10 am you’ll be in front of your television or computer waiting for the match of your choosing to start-up. It’s a fantastic thought, and it really makes me glad that Premier League football doesn’t have a break like other sports do. I mean, the dudes play for something like ten months straight.

I don’t know if I should even be writing this article right now. I’m sitting in my cubicle at work and asking myself why I had to do that last shot or drink that beer. My head is pounding and my vision is blurry. Not to mention that today is basically a free day as my boss is on vacation and every one else in the office is heading to a work party 2 hours away. Of course, I’m not participating. Not because I’m not into that kind of thing, meeting and hanging out with co-workers is always a nice thing, I just have more important things to do. Like write this damn article for you and see my girlfriend for the first time in a month and a half. Welcome to the real world, Charlie.

I’ve written some in-depth previews of 14 clubs in the English Premier League. You can check them out by clicking one of the links below.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV is after the jump.

I’m going to be completely honest with you; this article isn’t going to be as lengthy as the first three. I’m got a hangover not to be reckoned with and I’m going to be much more straight forward about how I feel about this teams. It won’t take away from the quality of information that I’m bringing you, but the grammar could be an issue. Thank God for Microsoft Word and spell check.

Wigan Athletic

2011-12: Wigan is a team that seems to have some kind of divine intervention every season. Every year, they seem destined for relegation, and by some act of the Creator they are able to keep themselves from making the fall. 2011-12 was no different for the club, as they found form late to ensure their survival. Wigan had only captured 15 points in their first 23 matches, lost all matches in the months of September, October and January and looked to finally be forced out of the EPL after flirting with relegation for so long.

But testy Wigan would have none of that, posting remarkable numbers in the rest of the year. They found form especially towards the end of the season as they went 7-2-1 in their last ten matches, including wins over 4 of the top 8 clubs, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle United. There seems no explanation for what Wigan has been able to do when seemingly there was no chance for the club to escape relegation, but I’ll try to find an answer why their of golf differential of -24 the four months prior turned to +8 their last 4 months. A remarkable turn around that teams with grit and ability are able to perform in the end. And maybe a little help from the January transfer window…

The loan pickup for the oft-cash strapped club was Jean Beausejour who made an immediate impact for the club. The 28-year-old left-back/winger plays a role similar to Ryan Giggs or Leighton Baines do famously for their respective clubs, and did in well where in 16 appearances brought on 6 assists and plenty of wonderful crosses and through balls that made their way to the feet of Shaun Maloney, Victor Moses and Franco Di Santo.

He was key for the attack Wigan showed in the last half of the 2011-12 season.

AGF: 1.1 AGA: 1.6

Offseason: The Latics have lost two skillful players in Hugo Rodallega and Mohamed Diame to Fulham and West Ham, respectively. While both players’ impact on the first-choice squad was much lesser than the previous seasons, Diame still appeared in 26 games for the squad, starting 18 and was a solid choice in the midfield.

Wigan has brought in Fraser Fyvie, a 19-year-old midfielder from Scotland who they are very high on. While he may not have much of an impact this season, keep an eye out for the youngster in coming years. I would not be surprised if he becomes a very important part of the team…and then probably moves to a larger club. You know how that works.

Purchases of Ivan Ramis and Arouna Kone will add class to the squad, definitely. The latter is surely brought in as a replacement for the soon-to-be sold Victor Moses, who is set to join Chelsea reportedly early in the season. Kone netted 15 goals last season with Levante in La Liga and should provide some intense firepower.

The loaned-in Ryo Miyaichi from Arsenal is quite the young talent, and surely will prove a boost to the wings as well and give another option to Wigan boss Bobby Martinez as Moses moves to greener pastures.

2012-13: I really like what Wigan has done in the offseason to fill the hole that Moses will leave as he surely exits. Kone is a magnificent talent and watching him play in the Premier League should prove to be quite enjoyable. The issue is, Wigan plays a one-trick attacking style. Their 4-2-3-1 plays to their strengths and allowed them to score quite a few goals at the end of last season, but as opposing sides dissect it and understand that Wigan is left-heavy, they will find a similar fate to early 2011-12. The magic stops for Martinez and Wigan as they narrowly miss escaping relegation this year.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 18th

 

Aston Villa

2011-12: What the hell happened to this side? Seriously, Villa finished 9th in 2010-11. This team just could not find the back of the net, finishing with only 37 goals and was the 2nd worst attacking side in the Premier League. I didn’t expect them to fall so hard, even with the losses of both influential and fantastic wingers, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing before the start of the campaign. The club made an impressive £40m off the sales of both players and immediately attempted the rebuild, bringing in defensive-minded Charles N’Zogbia from Wigan.

But that’s where the signings stopped. Villa had to move those players because they are bleeding money, announcing a loss of £54m in February 2012. A fan base riving for a couple great signings after seeing both stars taken from them would receive none, and the club paid greatly for it as their attacking potential was killed off.

Alex McLeish, while not given much, in the end should have done more with the side and would lose his job as Aston Villa finished a dismal 16th. He was an absolutely dreadful signing and the fans hated him on his way in. In the end, the only reason that Aston Villa was able to stay up was very seriously the ineptitude of some sides they played. They surely played bad enough to be swiftly relegated, finishing an abysmal 2 points over 18th place Bolton Wanderers.

AGF: 1.0 AGA: 1.4

Offseason: Good morning, Paul Lambert. This man is the same man who stormed Norwich City from the lower leagues of English football into the Premier League and brought the team a 12th place finish, equaling the point total of West Brom who was in 10th. Lambert surely knows how to win with some lesser talent and do it well. If Villa are to make a triumphant return, they will do so on the back of their famed manager.

Karim El Ahmadi, Ron Vlaar and Matthew Lowton could very well have some effect, as they are primed for their first seasons at Villa Park. But, it still is tough to see where any goal scoring or intuition is on its way for this club as those signings probably do not bring with them any promise of results.

Stiliyan Petrov’s leukemia is in remission. That is fantastic news for the Villa captain and for fans alike. He won’t be able to help the squad this year and that is quite a loss for the already thin squad who will be relying on young home-grown talent in Marc Albrighton (who is most likely out for the first 2 months), Ciaran Clark and Barry Bannan. Gabriel Agbonlahor will also miss the beginning of the season for the club, as well as Richard Dunne. Villa is in need of more quality players, but do not have the funds in order to sign them at this time seemingly.

2012-13: Originally I was in the belief that Aston Villa would make a rebound this season, but as I researched their squad, the only positive for a side that will solely rely on Darren Bent for goals is their new manager. If any one will find a way to bring this squad back to their former glory, it will be Paul Lambert, so maybe that is their most important signing and move this year. If this squad can stay away from the relegation zone all season, and I believe they will once they become healthy after a tough start, they will be fine in the future and will be on their way to mid-table and beyond.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 11th

 

Queens Park Rangers

2011-12: The goal for the newly promoted QPR last season was to stay in the highest division of English football and in that they succeeded. Outside of that truth was the fact that they could have quite possibly only survived on the dreadfulness of other squads, rather than their own doing. Away from Loftus Road they posted the worst record in the EPL, taking only 11 points in their 19 fixtures and allowing more than 2 goals a game. At home, they posted a much better 7-5-7 record with a golf differential of just -1 and were able to pick up victories from large squads Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool and win their last 5 at home, bringing themselves up and out of relegation just barely.

Neil Warnock was sacked in January and new manager Mark (Leslie) Hughes has been kept on as he met the goal of survival and 2012-13 will be a building year for the squad who looks to work off the form they showed at home in the end of the 2011-12 campaign. And hopefully improve their dismal defense that tied for the worst in the EPL outside of the relegation zone.

AGF: 1.1 AGA: 1.7

Offseason: QPR, if I’m not mistaken, has signed the most players this summer out of the entire English Premier League. Their offseason has been a dream, quite honestly, for a squad that I thought would surely be heading to the Championship last season, and without prompt changes would surely be in the basement in 2012-13. But, Mark Hughes has been given quite the lengthy leash and his signings have almost instantaneously improved this squad and made them ready to leapfrog some squads in front of them on the table that haven’t been so lucky to land new talent.

Ryan Nelson, Robert Green, Jose Bosingwa and Andrew Johnson all joined QPR on free transfers. These players have all been tried and true in top levels of competition. Ryan Nelson brings leadership and defensive presence that QPR have been lacking, a kind of leadership only equaled by his free transfer partner Andrew Johnson, who should affirmatively bring some more options to Mark Hughes in the front third.

Robert Green, the long time West Ham goalkeeper is truly top-notch and has represented England in all phases of international competition. Jose Bosingwa brings a certain versatility and experience that is unrivaled as he can play in the back or midfield and has won countless trophies in his career to this point.

David Hoilett, young winger/midfield from relegated Blackburn Rovers brought them 7 goals and 5 assists in 34 starts last season and should be set to start with QPR as he could be the potential star of this team with another season under his belt. The purchase of another midfield presence in Park Ji-Sung from Manchester United also fortifies this troubling spot for QPR this season.

2012-13: A much improved QPR leapfrog some strong sides and leave a mark on the EPL. The stripes and swagger make people think “Newcastle” again (even though they’re horizontal, I know). Their summer transfers have been phenomenal and will be the talk of the League early on as they start very strong. The club falters later on, still keeping their composure and achieving a mid-table finish. This is a strong start for new manager Mark Hughes.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 9th

 

—–Promoted Sides—–

(Shorter excerpts on these as I don’t feel the preview of their previous season is all that important compared to the transfer moves they make and their roster support at the new level of competition)

Southampton

2011-12: Under the guide of manager Nigel Adkins, the Saints never left the top two spots in the Championship. In a see saw battle, they traded places with West Ham United for much of the year before sealing promotion with a 2nd place finish just behind Reading and in front of West Ham with 88 points.

Adkins was able to gain back-to-back promotion, bringing his club from League One to the Premier League in just two years. While this feat isn’t unheard of, it’s extremely impressive.

In the Championship, the Saints employed a 4-4-2 formation and look to go forward with the basic, pretty standard way to play the game, relying on his strikers to score the majority of the goals. Richard Lambert did just that for Southampton as he scored 25 goals and assisted 12 of them in his 39 starts in the Championship. Adam Lallana, a young attacking midfielder for the club shows promise as his 11 goals and 10 assists reflect. If Southampton are to stay above, he will have to remain a key cog in this team.

An influx of cash to the club has brought them this far and allowed for more flexibility in the transfer windows in the lower leagues. Let’s see if that strategy will continue as Southampton makes their way back into the Premier League for the first time since 2005.

Offseason: Southampton has joined the club in taking Scottish side Rangers standouts off their hands. Steven Davis, a central/right midfielder that netted 5 and assisted in 13 last season in the Scottish Premier League looks to make a difference for the newly promoted side and could be a very valuable pick up for the team as he seems to suit the 4-4-2 quite nicely.

In addition to the Davis pickup, the Saints have scored Nathaniel Clyne, the very young and talented defender from Crystal Palace to help fortify their back four.

While both major pickups have been very solid, the Saints have failed to make any moves on the market to help keep their club afloat in the Premier League. One has to question if their inability to bring in quality players that have been tried and tested in the Premier League could push them to suffer a one year up and down fate.

2012-13: Southampton is not able to bring in enough support to make an impact in the EPL and while the January transfer window proves dividends for them, it is too little too late as they are sent back to the Championship as the basement dwellers in the League. Their inexperience with high level competition and age of their top performers hurts them tremendously.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 20th

 

Reading

2011-12: Reading wasn’t really expected to move into 1st place and get automatic promotion, let’s put it that way. A slower start to the Championship season had most thinking the Royals would finish high enough for the playoffs, at best. But as the season wore on, Brian McDermott was able to get the best out of his side.

Interestingly enough, the highest scoring player on Reading came off the bench half of his time. Adam le Fondre made a splash as a part-time starter, part-time substitute with 12 goals in his first season out of the lower leagues of English football. Look for him to continue to develop and he could make an impact for the club.

Offseason: Reading has had a good spread of summer signings so far that they hope will help them remain competitive within the English Premier League.

The free transfer of long time Newcastle United defender Danny Guthrie, who lost his usual starting spot last season for the Toon, helps bolster the back line for the Royals. In addition, the move to help their attacking third by signing Pavel Pogrebnyak, who played last year on loan to Fulham and scored 6 goals in limited action, should prove to become the number one striker on the club very quickly.

Lastly, Adrian Mariappa, a first choice defender from Championship side Watford should also bring more choices to manager Terry McDermott.

2012-13: While Reading has gone about business in the right ways, they will be forced into the relegation zone all year. While they do better than their partners in automatic promotion, Southampton, they don’t surpass them by much. The first year is always the toughest, and their goal of survival in hopes of getting a share of the EPL cash and attracting higher level talent will not be realized.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 19th

West Ham United

 

2011-12: Different from Southampton and Reading, West Ham is a club with a magnificent past and history in the top flight levels of English football. The Hammers have always been a team known for their academy’s prowess, being coined the term the “Academy of Football,” by bringing up talented young players. Unfortunately for them, many of these players tend to be bought by larger clubs as the team has never been with the financial means to keep stability and their best talent.

Nevertheless, the relegated West Ham was able to hold onto most of their key players during their one year in the Championship and find themselves back in Premier League after just one season, which was completely essential for their financial and talent situation.

West Ham is a talented and experienced squad that has the ability to hit the ground running in the EPL.

Offseason: The lone loss for the Irons is their top-notch English goalkeeper Robert Green. How many matches Green has saved for West Ham over his illustrious career there we may never know, but as everything else in East London seems to be a revolving door, he has been a workhorse between the woodwork.

The loss of Green is tough, but West Ham has acted quickly to replace their first-choice goalkeeper with long time Bolton player, Jussi Jaaskelainen. The 37-year-old monster has been around football for quite some time and has played the last decade in the English Premier League. His experience will be met with open arms.

West Ham took a shot in the dark and really worked towards bringing Andy Carroll in from Liverpool, one year away from his £35m transfer that has helped Newcastle become so relevant so quickly. The bid was accepted by the Reds but Carroll did not want to move from Anfield, feeling he had some unfinished business with the larger club.

Successful transfers include important players such as the French international, Alou Diarra, exciting striker Modibo Maiga and Mohamed Diame. All should prove valuable contributions to the club.

A returning James Collins and George McCartney should also bring a much-needed stability to a back four that struggled at times last season. McCartney was a key component in helping the attack and limiting the damage from some stronger strikers last season and his signing is very important to the club.

2012-13: This club has held onto some of the most important pieces to their team and remains largely intact from two years ago when they were relegated. The signing of Maiga brings some important striking options to Big Sam for alongside Carleton Cole or in working with him. Mark Noble continues his development in the middle alongside captain Kevin Nolan and the sensational left footed Matt Taylor who assisted 10 goals last season. James Tomkins runs the back line and continues to improve as the Hammers are able to push themselves into a near mid-table finish. The experience on this squad is the difference, making them the only 2012-13 promoted club to keep their position in the Premier League.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 13th

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About Mike Gazdik

Born in Detroit, raised in Warren, MI and now located in Grand Rapids, Mike has lived in Michigan his whole life: totaling 22 years. He currently is Vice-President of The Farm Club, a blog that is growing daily with new writers and readers. He enjoys offering research driven articles on many different subjects, but mostly American football. The goal of The Farm Club is to give aspiring college writers the ability to write on what topics really get them ticking, while sharing their insight and feelings with a large reader base. www.thefarmclub.net If you think you'd like to contribute to The Farm Club, contact the blog on Twitter, Facebook or through email. Information is listed on the blog's webpage.

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  1. A Beginner’s Guide to Finding Your EPL Team | TheFarmClub.net - August 19, 2012

    […] Hopefully this was a good start for you, novice fan. Now that you have a good idea of what team you want to root for, I’d advise checking our my fellow Farm Club inhabitant, Michael Gazdik and his in-depth preview of your newly beloved EPL team this season, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. […]

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