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Season Preview Part 5 14/08/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Part Five. And we’re only at Leicester.  How does that work?  Last chunk on Thursday…

LEICESTER CITY

INS: Ritchie de Laet & Matty James (both Manchester United, £2,000,000 combined), Jamie Vardy (Fleetwood Town, £1,000,000 rising to £1,700,000), Jacob Blyth (Leamington, Undisclosed), Marko Futacs (Portsmouth, Undisclosed), Anthony Knockaert (Guingamp, Undisclosed), Zak Whitbread (Norwich City, Free)

OUTS: Sol Bamba (Trabzonspor, £750,000), Matt Mills (Bolton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Lee Peltier (Leeds United, Undisclosed), Steve Howard (Hartlepool United, Free), Oliver Norburn (Bristol Rovers, Free), Matt Oakley (Exeter City, Free), John Paintsil (Hapoel Tel Aviv, Free), Matt Robinson (Luton Town, Free), Chris Weale (Shrewsbury Town, Free), Elliott Chamberlain, Franck Moussa, Aleksandar Tunchev, Darius Vassell

OUR EX-FOXES: Mark Yeates

THEIR EX-ORNS: Danny Drinkwater

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A comprehensive defeat at the KP Stadium in October which, with the benefit of hindsight, featured the green shoots built on in subsequent games, and the now customary thriller at Vicarage Road (November 3rd this year, boys and girls), concluded with a belter from Craig Forsyth.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Schmeichel
de Laet        Whitbread     Morgan        Konchesky
Marshall        Drinkwater      Danns          Knockaert
Nugent          Beckford

VERDICT: Last year was supposed to be City’s year… big investment in the playing squad, Sven in charge, the Foxes were amongst the favourites for the title.  Instead, they fizzled out badly and finished the season just two points above ourselves. Sven has departed, Nigel Pearson has returned, a whole load of players have been shipped out, a whole load more shipped in, and City again look to have a strong squad, albeit that once again there might be a period of getting-to-know-each-other before things bed in.  There appears to be better balance in the squad… the presence of genuine wide players in midfield is a popular development, French youngster Knockaert having shown up well in pre-season, and there are options and cover in every position.  Their challenge should be a little less peripheral this time around, but it all feels a little humdrum to me… much will depend on how well Pearson blends the elements, since no area of the team jumps out as outstanding of its own right.  Seventh.

MIDDLESBROUGH

INS: Mustapha Carayol (Bristol Rovers, Undisclosed), George Friend (Doncaster Rovers, Undisclosed),  Grant Leadbitter (Ipswich Town, Free), Emmanuel Ledesma (Walsall, Free), Jayson Leutwiler (Basel, Free),Jonathan Woodgate (Stoke City, Free), Christian Burgess (no club), Stuart Parnaby (no club)

OUTS: Jonathan Franks (Hartlepool United, Free), Jonathan Grounds (Oldham Athletic, Free), Tony McMahon (Sheffield United, Free), Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps, Free), Danny Coyne

OUR EX-BORO: John Eustace, Mark Yeates

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A slightly unfortunate defeat on the telly in November, and a season-closing victory that confirmed all sorts of inconsequentially pleasing statistics on the final day.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Steele
Hoyte         Williams      Woodgate      Friend
Bailey         Thomson      Leadbitter    Carayol
Emnes       Jutkiewicz

VERDICT: Boro have gradually improved under Tony Mowbray, to the point where they arrived at Vicarage Road at the end of last season harbouring hopes of breaking into the play-off picture.  Those hopes were to be dashed, first by events elsewhere and then by Troy and Big Chris, and it may be that Boro’s best chance of promotion went with them.  Whilst Boro have hung on to their key players thus far – not least the coveted Rhys Williams – they don’t appear to have solved the goalscoring problem that ultimately blighted last season’s promotion campaign.  They’ve adopted the strategy of trying to cherry pick from the lower divisions, and all power to them for that, whether adopted out of choice or necessity.  They’ve also brought back Jonathan Woodgate, who should be an asset if he stays fit… but that’s rather a big if.  In what looks like a very open division, Boro will finish top half but no cigar.

MILLWALL

INS: Scott Malone (AFC Bournemouth, Part Exchange), Karleigh Osbourne (Brentford, Free), Danny Shittu (Queens Park Rangers, Free), Chris Taylor (Oldham Athletic, Free), Maik Taylor (Leeds United, Free)

OUTS: Tony Craig (Brentford, Undisclosed), Danny McQuoid (AFC Bournemouth, Part Exchange), Ryan Allsop (Höttur, Free), Hameur Bouazza (Omonia Nicosia, Free), Chris Hackett (Northampton Town, Free), Jake Gallagher, Connor McLaren, Jordan Stewart

OUR EX-LIONS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Joe Gallen (Assistant Manager), Darius Henderson, Kenny Jackett (Manager), Danny Shittu, Jack Smith, Darren Ward

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Another double over the Lions: a rare early season triumph and an improbable, hugely impressive win at the New Den on the last day of the transfer window in the wake of Sordell and Mariappa hurly-burly.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

  Forde
Dunne     Robinson      Ward        Malone
Henry        Abdou       Trotter       C.Taylor
Keogh      Henderson

VERDICT: After a bolshy first year back in the second tier, the Lions slipped back into the bottom half morass last season.  Never really in danger of going down – and pulling away from the bottom after a strong finish – Millwall never quite looked capable of doing more than just holding their own.  The signing of Andy Keogh, who has been around for ever but is somehow still only 26, proved inspired with 10 goals in 18 as the season closed; the Lions could be heavily dependent upon him if Darius Henderson’s trial next week doesn’t go well.  Otherwise the Lions have been cherry picking in the transfer market whilst Liam Trotter is still being mentioned in transfer gossip columns, a loss that would leave Millwall particularly light in midfield.  They’ve got enough to stay up – you’d always back Kenny Jackett to come up with a tough defence.  But not much more than that.  Which is good, ‘cos with four wins in two seasons we’re doing quite well out of them.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST

INS: Danny Collins (Stoke City, Undisclosed), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion, Undisclosed), Adlene Guedioura (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Greg Halford (Portsmouth, Undisclosed), Dan Harding (Southampton, Undisclosed), Simon Gillett (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Daniel Ayala (Norwich City, Season Loan)

OUTS: Chris Gunter (Reading, £2,300,000), Paul Anderson (Bristol City, Free), Luke Chambers (Ipswich Town, Free),Joel Lynch (Huddersfield Town, Free), Garath McCleary (Reading, Free), Danny Meadows (Alfreton Town, Free), Marlon Harewood

OUR EX-FOREST: Joe Garner

THEIR EX-ORNS: Steve Hodge (U16 Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A horrible September defeat to an appalling Steve McClaren side, and a much more creditable point at the City Ground in February.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Camp
Halford       Ayala       Collins         Harding
McGugan    Guedioura     Moussi                Reid
Cox           Blackstock

VERDICT: A season after making the play-offs, Forest were a train crash last season.  The Steve McClaren thing was a catastrophe followed up by the bizarre recruitment of Steve Cotterill  who does a good line in looking desperate and/or affronted in post match interviews but hasn’t had a good season in the Championship for at least five years.  Two shocking appointments in one season, then, and Forest were a point off the bottom in mid-February although  Pompey’s points deduction took the pressure off and it was comfortable enough in the end. The big news of the summer has been a Kuwaiti takeover following the death of Nigel Doughty in February.  The appointment of a big-name manager was promised, so the arrival of Sean O’Driscoll, part of Cotterill’s team, was perhaps a surprise.  I’d have been encouraged, frankly… some frankly terrifying names were being knocked around and more generally you’d have worried about owners that favoured big-name grandstanding over, you know, a decent manager.  Won’t be easy or rapid for O’Driscoll though… some key players, key players in a side that was very bottom half for much of the season, have left and Lee Camp will be playing behind a brand new back four.  I’m not overly convinced by those names to be honest… Halford,in particular, is a wild card, Collins is a solid bit-part player at best.  No revolution at Forest, although I suspect that comfortably mid-table would do just fine for the time being.  Work in progress.

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Comments»

1. Lloydinio - 14/08/2012

Loving these season previews. well written and loving the little sections such as transfers and recent encounters. thanks. COYH!

2. Iain Jordan - 14/08/2012

Great reviews and knowledge, I would probably pick a number of clubs to do better than you have predicted but then I’m always surprised when some teams perform well short of pre season expectations.

With Posh, Sheff Wed, ourselves and Wolves to come, the final installment will make an interesting one with an automatic spot and playoff place still up for grabs!

Matt Rowson - 14/08/2012

Ha. You are assuming, of course, a degree of planning and consistency which may not be entirely appropriate…

Re predicting teams to do well… there are actually quite a lot of ostensibly half decent teams in the division this year. When we used to do surveys in the BSaD days and asked people where they would finish, you would CONSISTENTLY find that at least half the division was predicting a play-off place, on average. You’d get at least that this year, cos people confuse “could” with “will”. And naturally assess their team in isolation. And are wildly optimistic about new signings. I still remember a friend in Germany looking sceptically at me when I explained how Stuart Rimmer was going to save us from relegation in 1988…

Conscious of this, I may have overcompensated…

Ian Lay - 15/08/2012

A few weeks ago I went back and looked at your predictions for last season Matt. Apart from the top two (which I don’t think many would have predicted) you got most right or there abouts. It’s normally easier to predict which teams are going to be mid table fodder I suppose. However, this season seems a very difficult one to predict. Like you have said there aren’t many obviously poor looking teams in the division.

3. Ralph Jackson - 25/08/2012

Great previews as always Matt.

Hoping Nigel Pearson screws it up after his sour grapes when we beat his Leicester side last season.


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