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Season Preview Part 2 08/08/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Part Deux.  Next lot up Friday.  

BOLTON WANDERERS

INS: Andy Lonergan (Leeds United, Undisclosed), Matt Mills (Leicester City, Undisclosed), Keith Andrews (West Bromwich Albion, Free), Joe McKee (Burnley, Free), Benik Afobe (Arsenal, Season Loan)

OUTS: Rhys Bennett (Rochdale, Free), Robbie Blake (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Mark Connolly (Crawley Town, Free), Tom Eckersley (Accrington Stanley, Free), Jussi Jaaskelainen (West Ham United, Free), Tope Obadeyi (Rio Ave, Free), Sean Davis, Dino Fazic, Ricardo Gardner, Ivan Klasnic, Nigel Reo-Coker, Paul Robinson, Gretar Steinsson

OUR EX-TROTTERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Chris Eagles, Joe McLaughlin (scout), Marvin Sordell

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two one-nil defeats in the last Premiership season… daylight robbery at the Reebok, where a Gary Speed penalty in the sixth minute of added time gave the home side an implausible triumph, and a far more credible scoreline from the return at Vicarage Road, Nicolas Anelka the goalscorer on this occasion.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Bogdan
Mears         Ream         Mills      Ricketts
Eagles      Pratley        Andrews     Petrov
Sordell      K.Davies

VERDICT: In the end, it was all about Marvin.  We wanted Bolton to stay up because that would have secured us a bigger slice of transfer fee, and because you kind of wanted Marvin to be given a shot, to show them what he could do.  It didn’t happen, and Wanderers’ eleven-year stretch in the top flight – they were promoted with Blackburn during GT’s last season – came to an end.

Much as Owen Coyle may have lost a little of his lustre, however, you’d have to give Wanderers a better than evens shout of going straight back up.  There are similarities – up to a point – with the West Ham squad that somehow got itself relegated two years ago… there’s no Scott Parker figure, admittedly, and no unpleasant celebrity cabal running the show, but you do look at the squad and wonder how that happened.  Injuries to key players didn’t help… Lee and Holden should both be fit to contribute to this season’s efforts, although the Korean has already been linked to moves away.  But ultimately it was a lack of creativity in midfield that cost Bolton;  a solid side with a few goals in it, however, is a much likelier recipe to succeed in the second tier.  Considering the cover that Wanderers have in most positions (Lonergan in goal, Knight and Wheater at the back, Mark Davies, Lee, Holden in midfield, Ngog up front), iffy finances or no, you’d have to fancy them for automatic promotion.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

INS: Andrew Crofts (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Tomasz Kuszczak (Manchester United, Free), Bruno Saitor (Valencia, Free), Charlie Oatway (not that one) (no club), Wayne Bridge (Manchester City, Season Loan)

OUTS: Alan Navarro (Swindon Town, Free), Michael Poke (Torquay United, Free), Leon Redwood (Brentford, Free), Mitch Walker (Dover Athletic, Free), David Gonzalez, Ryan Simmonds, Jamie Strong, Jake Forster-Caskey (Oxford United, Six Month Loan)

OUR EX-SEAGULLS: Chris Iwelumo, Mark Yeates

THEIR EX-ORNS: Liam Bridcutt, Will Buckley, Will Hoskins, Tomasz Kuszczak

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Troy Deeney winning the home encounter by missing an easy chance then scraping in the rebound;  hanging on for a point in a dramatic match at the Amex in April in which Kuszczak, perhaps unfortunately, was outstanding.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Kuszczak
Bruno       El Abd           Dunk          Bridge
Noone        Bridcutt        Crofts      Vicente
Hoskins
Mackail-Smith

VERDICT: If you’re looking for a side to follow in the path of Norwich/Swansea/Reading/Southampton, a sort of well-run provincial club that’s got a shout of upsetting the yo-yoing of relegated sides and their increasingly comfortable parachute payments, it’s difficult to look beyond the Seagulls.  They may not have achieved the successive promotions that their previous season had suggested might be on the cards, but a solid tenth still represents a decent return and nobody who was at the Amex for our game at the end of last season will doubt the potential of the set-up.  They’ve added well too, of course… we know only too well what a monstrous presence Kuszczak will be at this level, and the signing of two decent full backs addresses another area perceived as a relative weakness.  The retention of Vicente is the biggie, of course, and much might depend on whether they can coax more than eleven starts from the fragile but mercurial playmaker.

If there’s a weakness, it’s in the striking positions.  Watford fan CMS might be the player many of us wish we’d signed on several occasions,  but the suspicion is that he doesn’t quite fit into Gus Poyet’s style of play, despite remaining the club’s (and Poyet’s) record signing.  Will Hoskins has been in form in pre-season but has been walking the tightrope of being the next-big-thing-just-needs-a-run for eternity without quite making it.  And of course, as both our games last season demonstrated, there’s a bit of volatile nastiness about Albion that might work against them when they don’t get the breaks.  Bloody good side though.  Third or fourth, probably, with an outside chance of automatic.

BRISTOL CITY

INS: Greg Cunningham (Manchester City, Undisclosed), Paul Anderson (Nottingham Forest, Free), Tom Heaton (Cardiff City, Free), Jody Morris (St Johnstone, Free)

OUTS: Jamal Campbell-Ryce (Notts County, Free), David Clarkson (Bristol Rovers, Free), Marlon Jackson (Hereford United, Free), Jamie McAllister (Yeovil Town, Free), Christian Ribeiro (Scunthorpe United, Free), Dan Ball, Khalifa Cissé, David James, Henry Muggeridge

OUR EX-ROBINS: Chris Iwelumo

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two matches featuring pivotal errors by the home keeper; Scott Loach’s airkick gifting City a scarcely deserved point at Vicarage Road, David James’ unchallenged punch into his own net heralding a straightforward evening for the Hornets at Ashton Gate.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Heaton
Foster                    Fontaine       Nyatanga        Cunningham
Adomah       Morris         Elliott       Anderson
Stead         Pitman

VERDICT: Sometimes, gradually, a club just develops a smell.  Like damp.  A sense that something isn’t quite right, an indication that problems haven’t been dealt with.  Such is the case with City at the moment.  Steve Coppell’s extravagance at the start of the season before last, when he committed the club to a considerable wage bill for players of questionable ability hamstrung the Robins and even now, two years on and with many of those players now departed, you get the feeling that decay has set in.  Nicky Maynard departed in January and hasn’t been replaced, and there isn’t a whole lot of threat in that side as it stands.

In fairness to Derek McInnes, the most fundamental failing of the shocking City side that the Hornets beat effortlessly at Ashton Gate towards the end of the season has been addressed.  City’s full backs that night were both in their mid thirties and completely unable to push up to support the consequently isolated wingers – Adomah, probably the side’s most talented attacking player, was being expected to do it all himself, which never looked likely.  Greg Cunningham has been brought in for the departed McAllister, and surely stalwart centre back Louis Carey has played his last game at right back.   Nonetheless… definitely the wrong end of the table for City, who will be strong relegation candidates unless they can find some goals from somewhere.

BURNLEY

INS: Jason Shackell (Derby County, £1,100,000), Luke O’Neill (Mansfield, Undisclosed), Sam Vokes (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Undisclosed), George Porter (Leyton Orient, TBC), Joseph Mills (Reading, Season Loan)

OUTS: Jay Rodriguez (Southampton, £6,000,000), Joe McKee (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Andre Amougou, Clarke Carlisle, Brian Easton, Zavon Hines, Tom Anderson (Barrow, Six Month Loan), Joe Jackson (Barrow, Six Month Loan)

OUR EX-CLARETS: Chris Iwelumo

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: More symmetry – almost – as we surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw on the opening day at Turf Moor and the Clarets went won better, losing 3-2 at the Vic having been 2-0 up shortly after half time.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Grant
Trippier        Edgar          Shackell         Mills
Stanislas       McCann         Bartley        Treacy
Ings           Austin

VERDICT: The Clarets ended the season on wobbly form, and the most eye-catching transfer they were involved in over the summer was the big money departure of Jay Rodriguez.  Despite these portents, the mood around Turf Moor seems positive – Eddie Howe is building a handy-looking side and if Rodriguez was the big departure then the incoming much-travelled Jason Shackell, who oddly spent only a year with Derby County, is a leader at the back.  The side is young, has options in most positions and has plenty of pace – they won’t be threatening the play-off places, but won’t be troubled either.  Work in progress, and a side that will probably be quite fun to support.

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