Premier League Preview – The week of home favourites? Saturdays Games.

Arsenal v Swansea – Saturday 15.00 Whatever way you look at it, Arsenal did not have a good transfer window, they lost their captain and last years most influential player, they may have made a lot of money in the process but many will argue the replacements they brought in have not strengthened the side enough to mount a title challenge or even a push for that third place, instead, many suspect they will be fighting it out for the fourth place spot against Liverpool and Tottenham (who have problems of their own). Swansea on the other hand certainly stregthened their side, their purchase of Michael Vorm looks a wise one, he may not be the biggest of keepers but he certainly is agile enough and Brendan Rodgers pointed out that he is technically good enough to join in their passing game so now swansea feel confident enough to build from the back. This should be a good game between two sides who like to play attractive football, sales, injuries and suspensions have hurt Arsenal but they should have enough to win this one, though it may be a scoreline that reflects the George Graham era better than the Arsene Wenger one. Home win by the odd goal. Everton v Aston Villa – Saturday 15.00 Everton were severely hamstrung by financial constraints throughout the transfer window and ended up mostly clearing house of players they felt were no longer good enough.  The emergence of Ross Barkley in midfield will certainly have helped make up for the loss of Mikel Arteta to Arsenal.  Everton have two hopes of staying in the Premier league this season, the first is their successful academy that just keeps on supplying the club with useful young players, both Rodwell and Barkley look like England prospects and whilst their combination in midfield may be lacking experience, it certainly doesn’t lack talent.  Their second hope is that there will be three worse teams in the league than them, early indications suggest there might be but there lack of options up front is not a tick in the positive side of the spreadsheet. Aston Villa have bought well during the transfer window but losing Stewart Downing and Ashley Young was a big blow, the impressive but inconsistent Marc Albrighton and the sound signing of Charles N’Zogbia may help lessen the impact but most sides would struggle losing two such important players.  The signings of Shay Given, Alan Hutton and Jermaine Jenas are certainly positive moves, Villa have been in need of a permanent right back for some time and Jenas on loan is a no-brainer, if he shows his quality consistently, then he may move there permanently, if he doesn’t, then he’s probably still good enough to hold a place on the bench and will eb returned to Tottenham at the end of the season. With both sides likely to field a number of new players, this game could take some time to settle down but I expect Villa to come through this one with the points. Away Win. Manchester City v Wigan – Saturday 15.00 Man City were, as usual, big players during the transfer window, it may have cost them a lot of money but they have built a superb squad, perhaps the best in the Premiership, it’s the fine elements that will determine how far they can go in the Champions League and in the title chase and one of those elements is the attitude of their manager, too ,often last season, Mancini seemed to send his side out aiming for a draw, perhaps now he feels confident to loosen the reigns a little and let his creative players attack the opposition, unfortunately this could negate the impact that Yaya Touré has on their attacking side of the game, he was phenomenal last season but with players like Silva, Nasri, Aguero and Dzeko all looking like they will be regular starters this season, Touré may have to hold back a little for the benefit of the team. Wigan once again sold their best player from last season, speculation surrounding last season other bright sparks, McCarthy and Rodallega came to nothing and both players ended the window without going anywhere, McCarthy even signed an extension to his current contract which give Wigan fans he will be sticking around for longer than just this season.  Albert Crusat will add pace to the side and Shaun Maloney will add guile, Maloney will be hoping he doesn’t suffer the injuries and lack of form that plagued his time at Aston Villa. Wigan will do their best to play attractive football but I expect them to get steam rollered by Man City. Home win. Stoke v Liverpool – Saturday 15.00 Kenny Dalglish and Damien Commoli were busy during the transfer window, buying a whole new midfield and lightening the wages by getting rid of some high earners like Joe Cole, Poulsen, Kyrgiakos and Meireles.  Downing and Adams certainly seem like the kind of signings that Dalglish would make and the siging of Henderson looks like a Commoli “one for the future” special. Liverpool have started the season solidly and they look likely contenders for fourth spot along with Arsenal and Tottenham. Stokes boss Tony Pulis had a good last day of the window, bringing in Cameron Jerome from Birmingham with Palacios and Crouch from Tottenham, if Pulis can get the best out of Palacios he will have a player who will fit perfectly into the Stoke side, injuries and personal problems caused by the kidnap and subsequent murder of his brother are big obstacles to negotiate though. Jerome and Crouch will add pace and height to the Stoke forward line, with Kenwynne Jones also available, Pulis should be able to field a formidable selection each game. Stoke away have been a bit powder puff but at home it’s a different manner, I think Liverpool have enough about them to gain a point though. Draw. Sunderland v Chelsea – Saturday 15.00 Sunderland chased a lot of players over the summer and by and large, got most of them, as important as new signings, holding onto Asamoah Gyan was vital, the signing of Wes Brown looks a good buy, the experience he built up during his years at Manchester United will greatly benefit his new club and he has already demonstrated that with his performances for his new club. Chelsea spent most of the window chasing Luka Modric but switched targets at the last minute and signed Meireles, a player manager Andre Villas-Boas has worked with before, another player on the Chelsea wish list was Alvaro Pereira but that was another move that didn’t come off.  The sigings of Lukaku and Juan Mata were successful though and Mata especially looks like he will have a big part to play this season. Sunderland may have strengthened but Chelsea are also stronger as well and I don’t see them repeating last years win in this game. Away win. Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur – Saturday 15.00 Wolves did good business during the window, bringing in solid Premier League performers like Jamie O’Hara and Roger Johnson,  I think Wolves look stronger than I can ever remember them starting the Premiership season, two wins and a draw so far have put them in 5th place and right now, they deserve to be there, that’s not to say I expect them to finish anywhere near that position but I doubt they will be down around the strugglers this season. Tottenham on the other hand have had to deal with a disruptive player and an equally disruptive manager, Harry Redknapps comments to the press seemed to undermine his chairmans stance on the Modric situation and the fallout looks likely to have disrupted pre-season plans, the epxected arrival of a top quality striker ended only with the loan siging of Emmanuel Adebayor, who although he has the class and ability that Tottenhams other strikers lack, he is only on loan so is no long term solution. Tottenham seem to struggle against Wolves more than most and with their start to the season less than perfect and several important players out injured, I can see Wolves picking up another win here and the pressure increasing on Redknapp, with matches against Liverpool and Arsenal coming up, could “2 points from 8 games” be his downfall? Bolton Wanderers v Manchester United – Saturday 17.30 Bolton brought in Ngog from Liverpool and Gaël Kakuta on loan towards the end of the window, Owen Coyle has a history of signing good players on loan and Kakuta could be another master stroke by the Trotters boss.  The Bolton side look short of pace and trickery at the moment with important players out injured long term, if they can coax good performances out of Ngog as well, the Bolton front line could start to be a danger to some top sides in this division. Manchester United preferred to get their work done early and so far, their mixture of new signings and bright young things has done them proud, Tom Cleverley looks to have benefitted from his time spent at Wigan last season, the lack of a “special” midfield siging indicates that Sir Alex Ferguson feels Cleverley has enough about him to benefit the United side, certainly his partnership with Anderson looks promising and with players like Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick itching to get back into the side, competition for midfield spots could keep everyone hungry. United look in great shape and look set to defy their “slow starter” reputation, I expect that defiance to continue in this game. Away win.  ]]>