Jozy Altidore Twitter Page (@JozyAltidore)
So, after the first two installments, we have seven more clubs left to go through, the first of which is…
Southampton who, despite only returning to the top tier last year, look to have reestablished themselves as a proper Premier League club (as opposed to a Reading, or a Hull that are promoted, only to go straight back down). The sacking of Nigel Adkins and the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino did raise eyebrows, but has proved to be a masterstroke by the oft not liked Italian chairman, Nicola Cortese. Youngsters like Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin have had an excellent maiden season in the top division, and should be expected to kick on this year. The player who the Saint’s fans will be most excited by this season, will be their new $19 million signing from Glasgow Celtic, Victor Wanyama. The Kenyan captain is an absolute force of nature in the middle of the park, and though rumored to have attracted the interest of both Arsenal and Manchester United, Wanyama opted for Southampton, due to the clubs ambition. Considering the weaknesses of both of these Premier League heavyweights and how Wanyama would have been a great remedy, it will be interesting to see how the Kenyan, who stifled Barcelona’s legendary midfield last season, will adapt to the Premier League and if he will be a hot transfer market commodity a year from now.
And on to the curious case of Mark Hughes and Stoke City…The sacking of Tony Pulis had seemed inevitable for some time. Stoke City had a playing style similar to Graham Taylor’s Watford team, were far too stale for the Premier League, and the results were beginning to show that Pulis had taken the team as far as he could. Despite the significant investment in the side over the past few years, Stoke do not have much in the way of star quality. Hughes’ signings thus far have been limited to defenders, Spanish U-21 international Marc Muniesa, and Dutch international Erik Pieters. Both are recently rehabilitated from long term injuries, so it will be interesting to see how they will fare under Hughes’ usual high impact playing style. Pieters firebrand temper ( he was sent off on his return from a 9 month injury layoff last season, and added to matters by putting his fist through a window, which led to a further 3 months on the disabled list), is another reason that Hughes will be reliant on the reflexes of last season’s Player of the Year, Asmir Begović. Having recently committed himself to the Potters, after a year of transfer speculation linking him to many top Premier League sides, Begović, who saved the sixth highest amount of shots of all Premier League keepers last season, is set for another busy year between the sticks for the Staffordshire side.
Sunderland fans should expect a very interesting season, possibly for good and bad reasons. Italian maverick, Paolo DiCanio, having saved the club from relegation last time out, after his April 1st appointment, has made the side his own, with 9 incoming transfers, and 10 outgoing thus far. Bedding in time will be needed, of course, but with three winnable fixtures to start the league season, beginning with Fulham at home, DiCanio’s side will need to get acclimatized to their roles quickly. Emanuele Giaccherini looks a very interesting signing for the Mackems, the Italian international was a $10 million purchase from Juventus, but the player with the most to give and to live up to for Sunderland this year will be US international, Jozy Altidore. Although it seems like Altidore has been around for years (after previous spells playing in the MLS, Spain, the Premier League, Turkey, and Holland – he has) , he is still only 23, and seems in shape to fare much better, in his second stint in the English top tier. A season career high of twenty-three goals last time out, with Dutch club AZ, the American striker will certainly score many more goals this year, to add to his solitary goal in the Premier League.
Last season’s surprise package, Swansea City, will be hoping to continue their success story under manager, Michael Laudrup, facing up to his difficult second season. Undefeated in all of their pre-season (and Europa League qualifying) games, the Danish manager has been shrewd in his dealings again this Summer. Jonjo Shelvey will add to the competition for places in the middle of the park; one of last year’s transfer successes, Jonathan de Guzmán, has been reacquired on loan; the services of scoring sensation Michu have been retained; and Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony was poached from Vitesse, in Holland. Bony, scorer of forty-six goals in a mere sixty-five games for the Dutch outfit, is strong on the ball, fast, and a deadly finisher, which should make him an excellent foil for the more subtle skills of Michu, in the Swan’s forward line. At only $18 million, compared with the prices being quoted for other top finishers around Europe, Bony looks set to be another bargain for Laudrup and Swansea.
Wilfried Bony (@BonyFans)
Picking Tottenham’s stand out player is a little up in the air at present. If chairman, Daniel Levy finds a way to satiate him, and he stays free from injury, Gareth Bale will be Tottenham’s Player of the Year again this season. End of argument. As it appears more likely that Bale will depart for Real Madrid, we will have to look through the squad for others to fill that mantle. André Villas-Boas has purchased well this year so far, supplementing his attack with, Roberto Soldado, the long sought goal scorer, and Nacer Chadli, a fast, skillful, goal-scoring winger. Both should integrate well with a squad that has a plethora of attacking midfield talent. The role of defensive hub for this will lay with Tottenham’s recently purchased Brazilian midfielder, Paulinho, and his compatriot, Sandro. Whilst I would say that both players are of equal importance to the North London side, the new signing will have to take control of a midfield that will be without Sandro, who is still recovering from an injury sustained against Q.P.R., back in January. A box-to-box midfielder, with a similar powerful dynamism to Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, Paulinho will hope to emulate his Confederations Cup performances, where he drove his Brazilian team on to victory. A strong midfield partnership this season with Sandro, could lead to a similar result at the World Cup next year.
It should also be an interesting season at West Bromwich Albion. Diego Lugano is an odd purchase by manager, Steve Clarke, the Uruguayan captain is a tough and uncompromising center back, but at 32, one wonders if he will be able to cope with the speed of teams like Arsenal and Chelsea. Having lost last season’s top-scorer, Romelu Lukaku, to his parent club, the only like for like replacement they have acquired, Nicolas Anelka is certainly another well past his prime. Stuck with last season’s transfer window misfit, Peter Odemwingie, West Brom will definitely struggle to match last seasons, relatively impressive fifty three goals scored. Their primary hope, in this regard is Irish international, Shane Long. Long began last season brightly, but an early season injury, coupled with a subsequent loss of form, and the emergence of Lukaku left the Irishman with just nine Premier League goals to his credit. Given the current lack of squad depth, Clarke will be looking for a much more balanced season from the County Tipperary man this time out, and that his goals and energy can keep the Baggies safe from relegation worries.
This season looks to be one of evolution, rather than revolution at West Ham United. Sam Allardyce, arguably the Premier League’s last old school, long ball merchant, has augmented his squad this season with the experienced and technically gifted wing-back, Razvan Rat, but his primary piece of business was securing former loan signing, Andy Carroll, on a permanent basis. Whilst never a prolific goal scorer, Carroll only managed to score seven goals, in his twenty-four games for the Hammers last season. Given his aerial prowess, and his pretty decent left foot (for a big man), Carroll needs to hit the back of the net more, particularly in a World Cup year. Given the style of Sam Allardyce’s side, and an injury free year, he may just do that.