Football

Premier League: Club-by-club targets

Can United regain their Premier League title? (©GettyImages)
Can United regain their Premier League title? (©GettyImages).

Arsenal: Win a trophy

For far too long now Arsenal fans have suffered.

Every summer they are promised top signings and a serious challenge for silverware and every season come May the fans are left feeling deflated and disappointed.

This summer the club apparently has a big transfer budget - something we have all heard before - but with big money offers being made for Luis Suarez and Gonzalo Higuain it appears the club now means business.

With the annual rise of ticket prices at The Emirates the club has an obligation to deliver some success to its loyal fans as another summer of false promises and a disappointing season could be too much for some fans to take.

I doubt the fans care too much what the trophy is but by May there is hope that the clubs engraver will of been able to blow the dust of his tools.

Aston Villa: Re-establish the club's top flight security 

Much like Arsenal, the Villa faithful have seen a dramatic drop in fortunes in recent seasons.

Four years ago the race was on between Villa and Tottenham to break into the top four and under Martin O’Neill, the Claret and Blue army were fighting on all fronts, making the League Cup final and an FA Cup final appearance.

Since O’Neill’s departure things haven’t been running too smoothly in Birmingham due to various reasons, but last season under new coach Paul Lambert and with virtually an entire new team there were a lot of positive signs.

Andreas Weimann was a revelation, putting in displays that led to Europe’s elite taking an interest, but Christian Benteke was the standout performer. Now the club have tied him down to a new deal it is up to the young Belgian to show he has earned it.

Some astute business has led to the club snapping up some fine young talent like Jores Okore and if the squad can stay injury free and the players continue where they left off Villa should be in line for their best season in long time.

Cardiff City: Stay up

As one of the new kids on the block there can only really be one main aim, stay up at all costs. Cardiff have the makings of a side that can do well in the top flight, a young hungry manager, an owner not afraid to invest and most importantly players who know how to win.

The Bluebirds comfortably won the Championship, booking their place in the top tier of English (and Welsh) football. After several seasons battling it out in the playoffs to get promoted, no doubt the club is desperate to stay after all the hard work they have put in leading up to this point.

Chelsea: Win the title 

The return of the Special One has undoubtedly raised the level of expectation at Stamford Bridge.

The club has one of the most promising and exciting young squads in Europe and after a season of 'what ifs', 2013 has to see them kick on and mount a serious title challenge. With players like Eden Hazard and Juan Mata coming of the back of excellent seasons it is up to them to inspire their teammates to reach the levels the fans expect.

With a bulging squad of dynamic flair players, Chelsea should be treating the league to some seriously beautiful football but it remains to be seen whether things will tail off and result in yet another frustrating campaign.

The team is very different to Mourinho’s first stint at the club and with the other teams in the league considerably stronger than they were in 2004 the challenge won’t be easy.

With the quality of the players in the squad the title, for the first time in a long time, looks like a realistic target.

Crystal Palace: Stay up 

As with Cardiff, all Palace should be focusing on is still being a Premier League team by May.

The Eagles have been a bit of a yo-yo team and this season is likely to be the same. Watford were widely tipped to come up but after a terrific display at Wembley Ian Holloway’s team came up instead.

The fans will be happy enough with just being back up in the top flight but with the loss of Wilfried Zaha and no real replacement coming in (so far) the club is going to have to rely on experienced heads like Kevin Phillips and Jerome Thomas to provide the quality they will need to stay up.

Everton: Create post-Moyes identity

One of the clubs facing a very tough season, Everton. Under Roberto Martinez, they need to hit the ground running.

One of the big criticisms that could be made about his Wigan side was the slow start they made to each campaign. Obviously, Everton are a bigger club with better players but for a club that beat Manchester United in their opening fixture last season, that won’t be acceptable.

The primary concern at the moment is hanging onto players like Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines and if they can make it through the transfer window with the squad intact, next season could be another great one.

The clubs involvement in the Europa League will test the resolve of both manager and the squad and could see them finish a bit lower down the table but, a good run in Europe would make that seem and as Fulham recently proved that is certainly achievable.

Fulham: Get back into Europe

A few seasons ago Fulham seemed on the verge of something special. The Cottagers made it to a European final beating the likes of Juventus and Shaktar Donetsk in the process.

Things have stagnated in recent seasons and the loss of key players last summer certainly didn’t help things. Some good business in the transfer market has seen Dimitar Berbatov come in and more recently Dutch international 'keeper Maarten Stekelenburg. 

They have added some much needed quality to the squad and should see them push on this season. The club may still be a way behind the likes of Liverpool and Everton but as Swansea proved last term, even with a small squad big things can be achieved.

Hull: Stay up

Like the other two promoted teams remaining in the league is the goal. Steve Bruce is a proven manager and the Hull players who were at the club last time will remember all too well the disappointment felt in relegation which should add some determination to the dressing room.

Staying up will prove a big struggle with the league the most competitive it has been for a while but, the club has been a big mover in the transfer window bringing in players like Danny Graham and Ahmed Elmohamady.

Proven Premier League players should give the club a good chance but as QPR have recently proved bringing in lots of new players guarantees nothing.

Liverpool: Get into the top four 

For most football fans it is sad to see the downturn in Liverpool's fortunes. Not all that long ago they were Champions of Europe and now the club are struggling to qualify for the Europa League.

There can only be one target for the Reds, get back into the top four. Easier said than done I know, but last season the club was - at times - playing ferocious attacking football and if the manager can instil some consistency into the club then Liverpool should be back where they belong soon enough.

The Luis Saurez sideshow needs to be dealt with first of course, the club maintain he isn’t leaving, the fans maintain he isn’t bigger than the club but sadly at the moment that isn’t the case. The players attitude is appalling and a lot of people argue it is damaging the club in such a difficult time so maybe selling him for an inflated fee to a rival and let them deal with his issues could be the best move.

The only problem with that is where do you find someone as good who wants to join a currently mid-table team? It would be a tough situation for even the most experienced manager to deal with and ultimately Brendan Rodgers needs to sort it quick because if Suarez ends up leaving on deadline day the club will find themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Manchester City: Make a strong challenge in Europe

Cities form in Europe has been pretty laughable when you consider the resources at the club's disposal and the dominance they have experienced in domestic football recently.

With a squad as large and talented as theirs a strong challenge on all fronts is now expected and bringing in Manuel Pellegrini and the four big transfers have only added to that expectation.

The Chilean has a good track record in the Champions League and clearly knows what it takes to succeed in Europe as every team he has managed in the continent has done pretty well in the competition so now it will be up to him to do it once again in England.

Last season was a disappointment for City but with the well publicised managerial and squad issues seemingly resolved we should see the Citizens back to their terrifying form of two seasons ago.

Manchester United: Move on from Fergie 

For the first time in a very long time a lot of uncertainty is in the air in the red side of Manchester.

The current league champions have a squad clearly capable of impressive things but there is a strong feeling Sir Alex Ferguson was the glue holding all of that together and maybe David Moyes might not be as capable of getting performances out of certain players that Mr Ferguson did with ease.

Obviously only a fool would write United off after their dominance of the league last term but, the days of managers getting three or four years to build a successful team are over. People might claim that is not the case with United but should the club find itself at risk of dropping out of the top four, it is highly doubtful the board would think twice about bringing a more proven manager in to steady the ship.

Liverpool’s dramatic fall from grace should certainly be featuring in the thoughts of those involved with United. Even with such a dominant recent record nothing is certain in football - in fact about the only certainty with Manchester United heading into this season is everybody is going to be keeping a very close on eye on what is sure to be an interesting season for the club.

Newcastle: Regain the form that made them European contenders

Two seasons ago Newcastle were on the cusp of Champions League football and had that dream been realised this target would most likely have been very different, but, as it is the club seriously struggled last season.

The seemingly never-ending grind that is the Europa League took a heavy toll on the squad and Newcastle more than any other team in England’s top tier felt the bite of the injury bug.

Now with a season ahead without such a strenuous fixture list and hopefully, a fully fit squad, we should see the sort of form from the Magpies that could get them back into Europe. That said the lack of any incoming transfers should be a source of concern for the Geordies.

Norwich: Build on last season

Another infamous yo-yo team, the past two seasons have been good from the Canaries.

The club has added some decent firepower to its ranks in Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel and have a good manager in Chris Hughton, so Norwich should be in for a season similar to their last.

Having said that, the two strikers forced their transfers to England with an eye to making their respective national squads for next summer’s World Cup so with that in mind Norwich could be next season's surprise team.

Southampton: Build on last season

Like Swansea the season before, Southampton came into the top flight with a reputation of playing attacking football.

Whilst at times that was the team's downfall it did lead to several shock results the club finished the season strongly getting positive results against many of the league's big guns.

Some excellent additions in this summer's transfer window in Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama have added to an already talented squad.

A good run in one of the cups may well be on the cards for the Saints but like Wigan proved last season taking your eye off the relegation battle can be a risky business.

Stoke: Implement new attacking philosophy

The arrival of Mark Hughes has promised progressive football, something that will be a breath of fresh air at the Britannia Stadium.

Stoke have done very well to establish themselves as a top flight regular on a budget made up of bits of string, buttons and whatever else the chairman has in his pockets, but as the club found out last season there is only so far you can go playing bruising defensive football.

Teams eventually find ways to beat you and because of this Stoke’s Premier League status looked, for the first time, a bit dodgy. Whether Hughes is the man for the job is still questionable - his record as a manager isn’t the best - and the release of so many players could come back to haunt the ex-City boss.

Sunderland: Climb back up the table 

One of the most active clubs in this summer's transfer window, Sunderland have undergone a major shake-up.

Last season's decision to sack the proven Martin O’Neill raised a lot of eyebrows, especially when his replacement was announced, but in fairness to Paolo Di Canio the club's form turned around and fairly quickly the club was safe.

Despite bringing in a lot of new players the club has pulled off some good moves in its transfer dealings with most notably Emanuele Giaccherini form Juventus. Di Canio’s quirky personality might of been exactly what was required to turn the form around last season whether he is genuinely the man for a long-term role is still questionable but he is certainly entertaining if nothing else.

The Italian could inspire the Black Cats through a strong season or he could get into a fist fight with a player on the touchline and everything could implode, it's hard one to call.

Swansea: Good run in Europe 

The Swans rise to the top flight is an incredible story to get where they are now on virtually no money and the backing of the fans is inspiring enough. But when you look at the style the club has done it in, all the plaudits are duly deserved.

The club faces its toughest test this season in the Europa League, the sheer amount of games was a struggle enough for Chelsea to contend with and almost killed Newcastle completely so it takes some serious managing.

A deep squad is a must and with names like Wilfried Bony and Jonjo Shelvey added it's a step in the right direction so hopefully the club will be fine.

I wish all the Swansea fans well in their first taste of European football, the club and its fan base deserves a lot of respect, and they have definitely earned their place at the European table.

Tottenham: Top four finish 

The target hasn’t changed since last summer and if Arsenal do spend the sort of money that's being talked about it could be the target again next summer too. A huge amount rests on whether the club can keep Gareth Bale.

The recent £85 million offer must be extremely tempting but if, like most summers, Daniel Levy leaves his manager about 10 minutes to spend the money then it is Spurs could be in for a rough season.

It was exciting to see the club break into the top four a few seasons ago and even more exciting to see Bale tear apart some of the Champions League top dogs and it sure would be nice to see the club back up there.

With £85 million, Tottenham could buy virtually a new team so that offer (if it is actually true) seriously needs considering you could buy three Eden Hazard's for that much!

West Brom: Build on last season's success

The Birmingham outfit were one of the surprise teams last season but a huge amount of that was down to the imperious form of one Romelu Lukaku. With him gone the need for a striker has been filled by the experienced Nicolas Anelka - the Frenchman has been a regular in the league but at 34, questions will be asked about his ability to play every game.

They were another team regularly going up and down between the Championship and the Premier League, but last season they announced to the nation they were here to stay this time.

Steve Clark seems to be a good coach and should see about tapping up his Chelsea contacts and try and get a few more of their talented youngsters on loan, both clubs clearly benefit from the arrangement and it would add the depth The Baggies require to improve on last season's finish.

West Ham: Solidify top flight status

Under Harry Redknapp, the club played flashy exciting football with some of the league's top players in the team, but recently its been hard to know which direction the club is going in.

They had a strong season points wise and ultimately, that is all that matters, but even after last season's success and the impressive swift return to the top flight Big Sam’s robust style has wrinkled a few noses at the Boleyn Ground and many still hanker for the days the ball was kept firmly on the deck by players like Di Canio and Frank Lampard.

Last summer saw additions like Joe Cole come in to add a bit more flair to the side and the summer acquisition of Razvan Rat from Shaktar Donetsk was a shrewd piece of business, but it's hard to see West Ham doing much better than they did last term.

 

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Premier League
Football

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