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Season Preview – Part 2 04/08/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Mondays, eh?  Four more, four more tomorrow.

AFC BOURNEMOUTH

INS: Callum Wilson (Coventry City, Undisclosed), Dan Gosling (Newcastle United, Free), Junior Stanislas (Burnley, Free)

OUTSLewis Grabban (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Shwan Jilal (Bury, Free), Ryan Allsopp (Coventry City, Six Month Loan), Mohamed Coulibaly (Coventry City, Season Loan), Matt Tubbs (AFC Wimbledon, Season Loan), Andrew Surman (Norwich City, End of Loan), Richard Hughes (retired)

OUR EX-CHERRIES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A deceptively comprehensive 6-1 mauling last August in which Troy Deeney scored the first WFC hat-trick at Vicarage Road since 1996/97, a routine League Cup win a couple of weeks later and a 1-1 draw at Dean Court that saw Gabriele Angella dismissed.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Camp
Francis             Elphick          Cook         Daniels
Ritchie            Gosling        O’Kane           Pugh
Wilson     Kermorgant

VERDICT: After a bit of a wobble towards the end of 2013 the Cherries finished the season strongly, landing up in an encouraging tenth spot.  Another strong season then for a side that, from the outside, looks upwardly mobile.  Hereby hangs the challenge perhaps… after two seasons of success and optimism, how will the Cherries cope if their progress stalls a little?  There are challenges there…  the loss of Lewis Grabban was perhaps inevitable, in Callum Wilson Eddie Howe seems to have procured a sensible replacement but the newcomer will be doing well if he matches Grabban’s contribution and as such tenth might be an upper bar on the team’s aspirations this season.  That and second season syndrome, with teams no longer as surprised by the stiffness of the challenge from Dean Court (or whatever), might test the character as much as the ability of the Dorset side.  Little doubt about the former though, and if the Cherries might find themselves a rung or two further down the table than last season they’re far too good to be involved in any nonsense down the bottom.  Twelfth.

BRENTFORD

INS: Scott Hogan (Rochdale, £750,000), Andre Gray (Luton Town, Undisclosed), Alan Judge (Blackburn Rovers, Undisclosed), Moses Odubajo (Leyton Orient, Undisclosed), Daniel O’Shaughnessy (Metz, Free), Marcos Tébar Ramiro (Almeria, Free), Alex Pritchard (Tottenham Hotspur, Season Loan)

OUTSClayton Donaldson (Birmingham City, Free), Farid El Alagui (Hibernian, Free), Shaleum Logan (Aberdeen, Free), Luke Norris (Gillingham, Free), Liam O’Brien (Dagenham & Redbridge, Free), Scott Barron, Will Grigg (Franchise FC, Season Loan), Martin Fillo (Vikoria Plzen, End of Loan), George Saville (Chelsea, End of Loan), Marcello Trotta (Fulham, End of Loan)

OUR EX-BEES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Jack Bonham, Toumani Diagouraga, Richard Lee, Bob Oteng (kit man), Mark Warburton (manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A brace of victories in our successful 1997/98 season comprising a 3-1 victory at Vicarage Road in which Lars Melvang scored, and a noisy, dramatic 2-1 triumph at Griffin Park that featured one of those Johnno goals.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Button
O’Connor             Tarkowski          Craig          Bidwell
Odubajo       Douglas         Forshaw           Judge
Hogan       Gray

VERDICT: It’s been a while since we’ve faced Brentford competitively, albeit plenty of ex-Orns have passed through Griffin Park in recent years.  It seems unlikely that many of the Bees’ current crop of former Hornets will be regular first choices next season however, and as ever with newly promoted sides it’s difficult to judge quite how well they’ll do – both based on lack of familiarity with the players, and on not knowing how they’ll make the step up.  There’s a lot to be said for a club that responds as positively as the Bees did to what must have been choking disappointment eighteen months ago as one of those ex-Hornets, Marcello Trotta, hit what would have been a title-winning penalty against the crossbar in the dying seconds of the regular season only to see Doncaster escape downfield, claim the title and condemn Brentford to the play-offs (in which they lost).  We had a similar disappointment and saw at first hand the impact that it can have.  So… the Bees aren’t to be taken lightly;  consensus is that there’s a lot of pace about the side and a few gems in the likes of Bidwell, Tarkowski and Forshaw (should the Bees resist former manager Rösler’s advances).  There’s not an awful lot of higher level experience however, and that might cost the Bees, particularly up front where the loss of Donaldson means upheaval.  Brentford should stay up, but not much more.  That would do, one suspects.  Nineteenth.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

INS: Chris O’Grady (Barnsley, Undisclosed), David Stockdale (Fulham, Undisclosed), Aaron Hughes (QPR, Free), Nzuki Toko (Grasshoppers, Free)

OUTS: Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City, £7,000,000), Matthew Upson (Leicester City, Free), Peter Brezovan, Will Hoskins, Tomasz Kuszczak, David Lopez, Andreas Orlandi, David Rodriguez, Jeffrey Monakana (Aberdeen, Six Month Loan), Keith Andrews (Bolton Wanderers, End of Loan), Jesse Lingaard (Manchester United, End of Loan), Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers, End of Loan)

OUR EX-SEAGULLS: Keith Andrews

THEIR EX-ORNS: Will Buckley

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A televised draw at the Amex in October, and a 2-0 victory at Vicarage Road which saw the debuts of Park Chu Young and Samba Diakité…

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Stockdale
Bruno            Greer           Dunk         Chicksen
Toko       Crofts
Lua Lua            Ince           Buckley
O’Grady

VERDICT: Brighton made the play-offs last season.  Easily forgotten, since it was purely a function of being closest to the last chair when the music stopped – in stark contrast to a year earlier when Albion had indisputably been one of the top six sides in the division.  This time they were merely the best of a bunch of very similar sides, deserving sixth place by virtue of the accrual of more points than all but five others in the division, but interloping fifth formers at a sixth form party and soon heading home with their tails suitably between their legs, pissed on half a can of supermarket lager.  Out goes Oscar Garcia, in comes Sami Hyypia.  Out go Leo Ulloa and Matthew Upson, both to Leicester, Tomasz Kuszczak, and Gus Poyet’s army of Spaniards.  In came… to date, Chris O’Grady and Aaron Hughes (edit… and David Stockdale.  Still trading down tho for me…).  You can see where this is heading.  For all that Albion made the play-offs they didn’t score a lot of goals – only six in the division scored fewer and nobody above 17th. Now minus Ulloa Albion’s goal threat looks very limited.  Nor, for all Hyypia’s pedigree as an on-pitch leader for Liverpool and Finland does the new boss have  a great track record to fall back on – initially the unqualified partner in a two-man management team at Leverkusen, he was sacked within twelve months of taking over as sole boss.  There’s still quality in the Albion side, and at the time of writing still time to invest some of that Ulloa fee, but they’re going to need to strengthen in several positions.  As it stands, a relegation scrap looks far more likely than another tilt at the play-offs.

CARDIFF CITY

INS: Guido Burgstaller (Rapid Vienna, Undisclosed), Adam le Fondre (Reading, Undisclosed), Kagisho Dikagcoi (Crystal Palace, Free), Javi Guerra (Real Valladolid, Free), Federico Macheda (Manchester United, Free)

OUTS: Fraizer Campbell (Crystal Palace, £800,000), Steven Caulker (QPR, Undisclosed), Don Cowie (Wigan Athletic, Free), Andrew Taylor (Wigan Athletic, Free), Simon Lappin, Tommy Smith, Jo Inge Berget (Celtic, Six Month Loan), Kevin McNaughton (Bolton Wanderers, Season Loan), Ben Nugent (Yeovil Town, Six Month Loan), Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United, End of Loan), Craig Bellamy (retired)

OUR EX-BLUEBIRDS: David Hughes

THEIR EX-ORNS: Martin Hodge (Opposition Analyst), Jordon Mutch

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 2-1 defeat in Cardiff in October 2012 which saw the home side grab a last minute winner against nine men after Nathaniel Chalobah and Daniel Pudil had been dismissed, and an inconsequential 0-0 draw the following April.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Marshall
John               Hudson             Cala                Fabio
Noone               Mutch            Whittingham               Daehli
Guerra          Le Fondre

VERDICT: For all that Malky’s departure upset some at Vicarage Road, there can surely have been few who didn’t sympathise with the manner of his departure from Cardiff.  Who your boss is make such a huge difference to how palatable any job is;  Mackay had to endure Bassini at Watford (and who can blame him for factoring that consideration into his decision to move on) only to find himself working under an increasingly erratic, hands-on Vincent Tan at Cardiff.  Few tears shed in West Herts – or anywhere – when City had their relegation confirmed.  Moving into 2014/15, it’s not unusual to look at a relegated squad and see an intimidating depth that just isn’t present in most squads in the Championship.  Despite high profile departures – those already undertaken and those mooted – this is certainly the case with City, particularly in attacking positions where Kenwyne Jones, Federico Macheda, Joe Mason andNicky Maynard are competing with the two named above.  If there’s a concern it’s further back… Solskjaer’s first six months in charge were characterised by a gung-ho attacking approach and a soft underbelly that saw him concede 42 goals in 18 League games;  his midfield is narrow and the full-backs push up asking an awful lot of the centre backs, an area where City aren’t strong.  We know from painful experience how galling it is to bash your head repeatedly against a limited but organised rearguard action only to be undone on the break…  and there’s some scepticism as to how well equipped Solskjaer and team are to correct this failing.  In the top flight his personality, attacking instinct and the context of the Premier League got him a lot of slack, he won’t get such slack this time around. Given the quality in the squad it’s inconceivable that City won’t challenge, but my money’s on a wobbly start, a departure for Solskjaer with City off the pace in October and a resurgence under a new boss towards the end of the season.  Could end any number of ways, then.  Play-offs my bet.

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