EPL Week One Preview

EPL Week One Preview

  • Posted by Geoff Reid
  • On August 11, 2011
  • 2011 EPL Season, Geoff Reid

Clint Dempsey and Fulham kickoff their 2011 EPL campaign with Aston Villa. (Getty Images)

By: Geoff Reid

Editor’s note: This is a new addition to WVHooligan, starting this week. Each week, Geoff Reid will preview the upcoming EPL games and give you his prediction to each. Geoff will also continue to preview the Champions League matches as well once those get to the group stage. Feel free to leave you thoughts and comments on Geoff’s picks below.

Saturday August 13th
Blackburn Rovers vs Wolverhampton Wanderers from Ewood Park, Blackburn
Not the most high profile fixture of the new season, with both clubs fighting off relegation on the very last day of last season. Expect the same again from these two clubs with very little done in the transfer market from either side. With unrealistic pressure on Rovers boss Steve Kean from the Indian owners, he’ll need to get his side off to a good start with a opening win. Kean was promoted to manager when the current ownership purchased the 1995 Champions and decided to part way with former manager Sam Allardyce due to the dislike of the long ball tactics the current West Ham manager is famous for employing, but it was far more effective with the collection of players the Lancashire side have then open, attacking style the owners want, and Kean plays with. For the visitors, Wolves boss Mick McCarthy broke the club transfer record to get center back Roger Johnson from relegated Birmingham City. Per usual, Mick McCarthy teams will be hard working, with lots of team spirit, very physical, and hard to play against. Will it be enough to keep them up in the top flight for another season? Tune in to find out.
Prediction: Blackburn 1-1 Wolves

Fulham vs Aston Villa from Craven Cottage, London
Two clubs with new managers show optimism for a new season. The difference here is one set of fans seem a lot happier then the other on the new gaffers appointments. Starting with the home side, the Cottagers have former Tottenham, Hamburg, and Ajax boss Martin Jol in charge with definitely softened the blow by losing Mark Hughes at the end of the season. Content on the mainstay of the squad and spine of the team, only a few new players were brought in: former Liverpool and Roma left back John Arne Riise, and former Arsenal defender Philip Senderos are the stand out and will improve the squad’s depth considering their season already started weeks ago by qualifying for the Europa League due to fair play rules. Plus, you can’t help but think Jol has a point to prove after nearly taking Tottenham to the Champions League a few years ago had it not been for the final day of the season, and apparent food poisoning to blame during their pre-game meal. For the Villans, what is their expectations this season? After the good job Martin O’Neil did in charge, his resignation one week before the start of last season seemed to have sent them on a downwards course. Gerard Houllier didn’t improve things, and with his health not 100% it was never a long term appointment. Then former Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish taking the reigns is even more confusing considering he had a bullseye on him from Villa fans being a former manager of their crosstown arch rivals and getting them relegated. Losing both Ashley Young, Stuart Downing, and Brad Friedel dents the squad in a big way, although Friedel’s replacement is ready made in Irishman Shay Given from Manchester City.
Prediction: Fulham 3-1 Aston Villa

Liverpool vs Sunderland from Anfield, Liverpool
With optimism coming again in the camp of the reds and ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish, what is the realistic expectation for Liverpool this season? Dalglish, the clubs greatest ever player, did a fantastic job in turning around the fortunes of his beloved club halfway through last season taking the reigns from previous manager Roy Hodgson’s disastrous time in charge. The problem is, while a title challenge is what the fans want, a top four finish is much more realistic. The pressure is on Dalglish, after primary owner John Henry stated that the goal is to get into the top four, and nothing less. Instead of the usual top four trading places every season (Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea), Tottenham and Manchester City are now also in the mix and it’s far more difficult to achieve that. it remains to be seen how signings Stuart Downing, Charlie Adam, and Jordan Henderson will fit in, but it does give the squad more options and dimensions in the attack. For Sunderland, it’s even more difficult in trying to figure out what to expect from Steve Bruce’s side. The Black Cats have had the most turnover out of any club with a total of 10 new players coming in, and only three leaving. Bruce is also one of these managers that is tough to figure out. At times, he looks like a great manager keeping teams in the Premiership and overachieving with the squads at his disposal, while other times his teams can go on a miserable run of form like Sunderland did the second half of last season, and almost found themselves in a relegation battle towards the end.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland

Queens Park Rangers vs Bolton Wanderers from Loftus Road, London
A new season with another new London club, QPR got promoted by winning the N-Power Championship last season. With a 15 year absence from English football’s top flight, it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on this club this season. Manager Neil Warnock is no stranger to football in general, and tends to bounce around a fair bit with different clubs, and while love him or hate him, he does have a knack of getting clubs promoted to the top flight. The problem is he has never kept a side in the Premiership the following season (if he’s even still manager of that respective club). Warnock has pulled in some interesting acquisitions on a shoe string budget this summer, with the best buy looking to be former Blackpool striker DJ Campbell for £1.25m after scoring 13 goals for the tangerines last season. Kieron Dyer remains a big question mark due to the fact he hasn’t been healthy in a number of seasons. Survival will he the only objective for the hoops this season. For Bolton Wanderers, it’s interesting how manager Owen Coyle will put his team together with such bad luck through injuries, and more specifically, leg breaks. In pre-season alone South Korean winger Chung Yong-Lee was a victim, and then new signing Tyrone Mears from Coyle’s old club Burnley broke his leg after signing with the club only a week earlier. Add on top of all that, Stuart Holden’s knee injury coinciding with Bolton’s poor form during the end of the season was no coincidence. The Trotters attack is considerably weaker too with the departures of Swede Johan Elmander (Galatasaray), and Daniel Sturridge (return to Chelsea after loan expired).
Prediction: QPR: 1-0 Bolton Wanderers

Tottenham vs Everton from White Hart Lane, London
A new season, and a new sense of optimism around Tottenham and manager Harry Redknapp. While going on a wonderful run in the Champions League last season before getting knocked out by Real Madrid in the quarter final stages, Spurs were disappointed to finish 5th and only secure a Europa League qualification spot. Redknapp found out the hard way trying to balance a campaign at home, and on the continent, and the Tottenham hierarchy are desperate to get into Europe’s elite again. The big talk this summer around White Hart Lane has been the ongoing transfer saga of star midfielder Luca Modric and his on/off move to Chelsea. The only real notable acquisition for Redknapp has been goalkeeper Brad Friedel which shows he’s not totally satisfied with regular starter Gomes. It’s no secret Spurs will score plenty of goals, but it’s how many they concede at the other end will be their undoing. For the visitors from Merseyside, it’s been an extremely quiet summer for Everton and manager David Moyes. Only one signing was made and that was a loan deal in bringing in Eric Dier from Sporting. The good news is the solid nucleus of the squad is still in tact, and while it won’t be enough for a top six finish, Moyes continues to work wonders on a small budget. Everyone says he’s worked miracles for years, but it can’t be miracles if he’s doing it again, and again, it’s just down to fantastic management.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Everton
(Editor’s note: this match has been postponed due to the riots in London) 

Wigan Athletic vs Norwich City from the DW Stadium, Wigan
Another match that should see two sides battle it out for survival the whole season. Wigan, while at times playing wonderful attacking football had a terrible defense and if it wasn’t for goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi they might very well be in the N-Power Championship right now. Two big holes have been left in manager Roberto Martinez’s side with best player Charles N’Zogbia heading to Aston Villa, and Tom Cleverly who’s loan deal expired and is now back at Manchester United. For Norwich City, it’s the first time back in the Premiership since 2005, and manager Paul Lambert is making a quiet name for himself as a young manager having achieving back to back promotions for the East Anglian club. Seven players have come in, while six have left with Lambert going for experience in trying to secure a top 17 finish and survival being all that matters.
Prediction: Wigan Athletic 2-2 Norwich City

Newcastle United vs Arsenal from Saint James’ Park, Newcastle
Two teams that have massive question marks over themselves to start the new campaign. For Newcastle, the Magpies were suppose to replace former striker Andy Carroll with the fee they received from Liverpool on the very last day of the January transfer window last season, but unless another gem is waiting in the wings, that has not been done. Demba Ba from West Ham is not as good as Carroll so a question of where the goals will come from. On top of that, club captain Kevin Nolan was mysteriously sold to West Ham, who were relegated last season. With the off the field antics of midfielder Joey Barton distracting attention from the squad, you can’t put your finger on Newcastle United just yet, and could potentially have a relegation battle on their hands which is not what their fantastic, loyal fan base deserves. Arsenal on the other hand seem to be a club going backwards, not forwards. Manager Arsene Wenger might have his name etched in stone at the Emirates Stadium after everything he’s achieved with the club, but with no trophy in six years, how much patience does gunner fans have with the Frenchman? With the potential sales of captain Cesc Fabregas’ move to Barcelona, and Samir Nasri looking to leave this can’t be good for the north London giants.
Prediction: Newcastle United 2-3 Arsenal

Sunday August 14th
Stoke City vs Chelsea from the Britannia Stadium, Stoke
This should be one intriguing match-up with Stoke City’s physical, long ball, Rory Delap’s long throw tactics against new Chelsea boss’ Andre Villas-Boas’ first experience in English football as a manager. The home side have built up the Britannia as a fortress over recent seasons and has become very difficult for opposing sides to get any points from. Manager Tony Pulis plays to the strengths of his players and realizes his side are not going to outplay the likes of Chelsea on the pitch, but with height as an advantage, set pieces, or long throws are key. What will be interesting is seeing how Stoke will cope with playing in the Europa League as well by finishing runners in the FA Cup to Manchester City. This is not Villas-Boas’ first taste of English football as he was part of Jose Mourinho’s back room staff at Chelsea years ago, so he’ll have an idea about how Stoke will play. Once again for the Blues, the Champions League should be the priority for Roman Abramovich as it’s the trophy the owner wants to win more then any other.
Prediction: Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea

West Bromich Albion vs Manchester United from the Hawthorns, Birmingham
A good test for both sides on the opening game of the season. For the hosts, it means manager Roy Hodgson can test his side early against the defending champions, and getting results at home is what Hodgson is good at. With West Brom in relegation trouble half way through last season, Hodgson came in for the sacked Roberto Di Matteo, and turned the club’s fortunes around with tightening up the defense and keeping the score low while pinching the odd goal to win games, very typical Hodgson. The perfect test for the visitors as Manchester United look to get off to a good start and break down what should be a stubborn West Brom. If pre-season form is anything to go by, United should get some goals, but something tells me it should be a tight game.
Prediction: West Bromich Albion 1-2 Manchester United

Monday August 15th
Manchester City vs Swansea City from the Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Finally the opening weekend wraps up with the big spenders from the blue half of Manchester against the N-Power Championship play-off winners from south Wales. On paper, this should be a blowout, and it’s hard not to see it differently. What may make it interesting is there will be so much pressure on Manchester City and manager Roberto Mancini after qualifying for the Champions League, the signing of Argentine Sergio Aguero, and losing the Community Shield to arch rivals United last Sunday in the fashion they did giving up a two goal lead to lose 3-2. The visitors from south Wales will look to try and use that to their advantage. Manager Brendan Rodgers knows that all the pundits and press alike have already written off his side’s chances of survival and that’s okay. His side will play without any pressure on their shoulders because of it all season, and may raise some eyebrows in the process and will look to make an impact on the biggest stage starting in Manchester Monday night.
Prediction: Manchester City 5-2 Swansea City