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The first Premier League weekend didn’t turn out to be quite the weekend we were all hoping for on the pitch due to rustiness and post-World Cup hangovers and pretty much every other excuse you can think of under the Sun.
However, the same cannot be said of the Guts fantasy football league, which kicked off with a bang and it producing some stunning results. The honour of being ‘Top of the Table’ after week 1 goes to Ludicrous Display managed by Daniel Breeze who managed an impressive 85 points.
Second, 8 points behind is the Panthers managed by Arjun Shivanda on 77 points, I bet you’re regretting your decision not to pick Sterling now aren’t you, Arjun? Of course there is a long way to go yet and Derek Cluderay in third with his Bahia Spartans is only 2 points behind Arjun yet we can never underestimate the effect that injuries and suspensions have on a squad.
At the other end of the table OELoosers managed by Odde Jensen will be bitterly disappointed to be bottom with only 27 points (even if it only the first week) which is a bit soul destroying considering the squad picked – better luck next time Odde.
As for the players that simply need to be included within your teams for next week and the weeks beyond, we point to the obvious – Aaron Ramsay, Wayne Rooney, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa. Of course, Cesc Fabregas had a very good week with 2 assists in Chelsea’s 3-1 win away at Burnley and he is one of the star men. Chelsea teammate Branislav Ivanonic would be a solid pick considering his knack for scoring crucial goals at crucial times as he did against Burnley.
Liverpool players Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge would be sensible picks and as long as Sturridge remains fit he will guarantee goals that will propel your side up the table. Looking at the more unfashionable picks Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson would be a decent choice considering his winner v Manchester United in week one and he is tipped to be a decent goal scoring midfielder throughout the season for Swansea. West Brom’s Saido Berahino may also prove to be a rising star as his 2 goals helped West Brom to a 2-2 with Sunderland.
So get picking those teams for the coming weekend! Good luck everyone!
The second part of our Football XI series, this time we’re creating a football XI based on 1980s pop stars & groups. Footballers featured are all-time stars, some still involved within the game while some have been retired for some time. It will, however, be some XI that steps out over that white line!
Join in on Twitter with the hashtag #1980sXI and let us know who would make your team!
Considered a solid choice in-between the sticks. While he has made some mistakes and does have a habit of flapping at a fair few crosses into the box, he has proved himself a more than able shot-stopper and he clearly loves the big stage at Liverpool.
A solid right-back in his day and one of the very best to ever grace the game of football. A French international and a winner of both the World Cup in 1998 and European Championship in 2000, he graced the game splendidly for Parma and Juventus in Italy before eventually ending his career with Barcelona in Spain, he clearly had a love for the bold and brash clubs.
A much-travelled defender, he has graced a number of clubs’ rosters and after spending his youth career at West Ham United, Hall moved on to clubs such as Barnet, Oldham Athletic, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Wigan Athletic and QPR. He currently finds himself without a club after spending the last few seasons at Watford.
Once considered a highly regarded defender, he seems to be one of those players that have been around for years despite being only 25-years old. He finds himself at French Ligue 1 side Lille after spending a season on loan in Italy at Roma where he put the jagoogoo in Simon Kjaer.
At the age of 40, it is to be expected that he finds himself out of the game and having retired in 2012 after spending the last 3 years of his career at Ecuadorian club LDU Quito where he had spent some time earlier in his career. He had spells in Scotland with Hibernian before moving to England with Aston Villa, then Reading before finally moving to Birmingham City – soul indeed.
Victor is a lot like the Guns N’ Roses in that he performs with a lot of flash confidence while also exploding from time to time with searing pace. However, unlike the Guns N’ Roses, there is not a lot of end product to back up that confidence.
We can see a lot of similarities between George Graham and Boy George. When you think of George Graham’s Arsenal side you immediately think of attractive, flamboyant flair. Only kidding! These two are polar opposites, but we think George Graham could do with a little new romantic pop to liven up his punditry .
Xavi is very Bon indeed (the French version!), forming part of a formidable Catalan line-up, very much in the same manner if Bon Jovi had if he had lined up with Wham, Guns N’ Roses, Boy George, Wham, Queen and Kajagoogoo (!) in the 80’s.
Wilf will be hoping the defenders he faces are singing ‘Take on Me’ while he’s running with the ball as that is what he loves to do. However, he’ll also be hoping they’re not humming the Living Daylights..
Need we say more?
Hasselbaink is one of those strikers that didn’t seem to fit into the Dutch way of doing things due to his power and strength over skill, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A highly proven goalscorer at pretty much every level, he displayed his ability for numerous clubs including Leeds United, Chelsea and Atlético Madrid.
Well, here we are and the Barclays Premier League is back. However, it wasn’t quite back with the back we were all hoping for, as there seemed to be a bit of a post-World Cup slump from most of the teams. Players were tired and teams seemed more content on not losing rather than going for the win.
The biggest surprise did of course occur at Old Trafford where Swansea City managed to spring a shock and inflict upon Manchester United, a first home opening league defeat since 1972 when Ipswich Town went back home with a 3-2 win under their belts. Manager Louis van Gaal seemed as downbeat as everyone leaving the ground on Saturday afternoon and he quickly acknowledged responsibility for the defeat while assertively reminding vice-chairman Ed Woodward of the need for reinforcements.
Meanwhile, there were wins for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City who all made hard work of their victories but ultimately managed to get the 3 points to kick-start their league campaigns. There was mixed emotions for two of the promoted sides while Leicester managed to hold Everton to a 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium while QPR fell to a 1-0 home defeat against Hull City.
Lambert deserves this award, as before the season started no one would have given his side a win against the local Sunday league side, never mind against Stoke City. However, Lambert skilfully managed his side to a tough away victory, which ensured Villa started the season with a vital win.
The goal came from Andreas Weimann, Villa need him to have a good season and while Villa need to desperately have a season that is progressive, they began it in the right way. The appointment of Roy Keane as assistant manager may prove to be another masterstroke from Lambert.
Another coming of the Messiah for United fans and another…defeat at home. Louis van Gaal is clearly a world class manager and while there is belief he will get it right and there is a clear vision for how he wants United to play, in vast comparison to David Moyes it has to be said, ditching his 3-4-1-2/5-3-2 formation after only 45 minutes represented something of a desperate act from the Dutchman.
The formation change seemed to represent that what needs dispersing at Old Trafford – the idea that United cannot play any other way. Any other formation, tactics are useless due to the need to play 4-4-2/4-4-1-1. While it’s true van Gaal needs help with new signings, he needs to instil his solid blueprint, as there is evidence for it working rather effectively at his previous club's and with Holland at the World Cup.
As much as United were disappointing, Swansea were equally solid and at some points industrious. While they didn’t really have to do much to successfully get at United, what they did do, they did very well. The finish from Ki Sung-Yeung was exquisite while the build-up to the goal was also very good.
They defended the sporadic attacks from United well while nullifying the 3-4-1-2 formation to great effect. Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez were hardly given a sniff all afternoon and while it is only the first game, Swansea have claimed the first shock of the season and great credit to them.
A surprising recipient as he usually is on the end of a gripe somewhere! However, Lee Cattermole pulled a rabbit right out of the hat with this strike as he picked the ball up around 25-yards from goal and proceeded to arrow the ball right into the top right-hand corner. Splendid.
A major gripe for all concerned was the apparent rustiness from all involved throughout the weekend. While there were periods of good play and flourishes of brilliance, there wasn’t anything to really make the opening weekend stand out.
All teams seemed to be suffering from a post-World Cup hangover and the major sides with the exception of Manchester United, seemed to be content to grind their way to victory rather than go all out. We can only hope that its get back to the Premier League we know and love soon.
You have to worry slightly for Swansea. Garry Monk did just enough to earn himself the managerial job permanently, but the style and swagger which won over so many neutrals seemed to disappear somewhat as the club flirted with being pulled into the relegation fight last season.
The summer has seen a player exodus, with first teamers Ben Davies, Michel Vorm, Michu, Chico Flores and Pablo Hernandez all departing. While some transfers can be easily absorbed – for however talented Ben Davies was, they have a ready made replacement in Neil Taylor – there still seem to be major holes developing in the squad. They have so far held onto star striker Wilfried Bony, which will give fans hope they can replicate recent cup success.
The signing of Lukasz Fabianski from Arsenal may help to bridge the gap that Vorm has left, while Garry Monk has also managed to significantly strengthen his striker department with the signing of Bafetimbi Gomis and the permanent signing of Marvin Emnes from Middlesbrough.
For Swansea, certainly after the departure of Michu, it is important that Monk not only finds support for Wilfried Bony but also finds goals from other areas of the team.
Lukasz Fabianski (free, Arsenal), Bafetimbi Gomis (free, Lyon), Marvin Emnes (Undisclosed, Middlesbrough), Gylfi Sigurðsson (Undisclosed, Tottenham), Jefferson Montero (Undisclosed, Monarcas Morelia)
Ben Davies, Michel Vorm (Undisclosed, Tottenham), David N’Gog (Released, Michu (loan, Napoli), Chico Flores (Undisclosed, Lekhwiya), Pablo Hernandez (undisclosed, Al-Arabi)
It’s safe to assume that Tottenham underachieved last season, especially considering the money they had spent in the summer of 2013. A total of £105m was spent on seven players where Christian Eriksen was the only true success story.
For 2014/15, Spurs have yet another new boss in the form of ex-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino and for the time being they have been relatively quiet on the transfer front bringing in Ben Davies and Michel Vorm from Swansea and England U-21 international Eric Dier from Sporting Lisbon.
Pochettino has also overseen a clear out of the squad, consisting mostly of first-team fringe players such as Jake Livermore, Iago Falque and Heurelho Gomes. Pochettino will be confident that he can get all of Tottenham’s talented parts functioning as one with the aim of a serious assault on the top 4.
If Pochettino can get as much from Spurs’ attacking players as he did Southampton’s, the North London club could be one of the most exciting teams to watch this season. Eriksen will surely be a delight to watch, embracing the attacking freedom much as Adam Lallana did, but it will be how Lamela and Soldado settle which could decide whether a Champions League place is possible.
Ben Davies (P/Ex, Swansea City), Michel Vorm (£3.5m, Swansea City), Eric Dier (£4m, Sporting Lisbon)
Gylfi Sigurðsson (P/Ex, Swansea City), Jake Livermore (£8m, Hull City), Heurelho Gomes (free, Watford)
Judging by the transfer activity of new West Brom manager Alan Irvine during the summer transfer window, it is clear where his priority lies. Of the eight players that have been signed by Albion this summer six have been defenders.
The recruitment of proven Premier League experience in Chris Baird and Joleon Lescott may prove to be inspired moves by Irvine as he looks to consolidate West Brom’s position within the Premier League.
Irvine has also plumped for youthful and vibrant options in the fullback areas with the signings of Australian Jason Davidson, Andre Wisdom on loan from Liverpool and Costa Rican World Cup star Cristian Gamboa.
While Irvine is an experienced coach, he is not so experienced with the rigours of Premier League management, which may count against the club if West Brom find themselves in the midst of a relegation battle. A change to 3-5-2 has mooted, which could be advisable considering the lack of real attacking talent in the wide areas.
Craig Gardner (free, Sunderland), Joleon Lescott (free, Manchester City), Chris Baird (free, Burnley), Brown Ideye (Undisclosed, Dynamo Kiev), Andre Wisdom (loan, Liverpool), Jason Davidson (Undisclosed, Heracles), Cristian Gamboa (Undisclosed, Rosenborg)
Steven Reid (free, Burnley), Liam Ridgewell (free, Portland Timbers), Diego Lugano (Released), Zoltan Gera (free, Ferencvaros), Billy Jones (free, Sunderland), Scott Sinclair (loan return, Manchester City), Morgan Amalfitano (loan return, Marseille)
The mission for Sam Allardyce at the beginning of the summer transfer window was to inject some much needed vibrancy and creative flair into his West Ham squad for 2014/15.
West Ham fans have been fairly critical of Allardyce’s reign and the way he sets his teams up to play football. To be fair to Allardyce, West Ham must have known who and what they were hiring when they approached the former Bolton manager.
However, his summer signings so far show some marked improvement. Diego Poyet from Charlton Athletic is a signing that signifies a little shift in the mentality for neat and tidy footballers at West Ham, whereas Cheikhou Kouyate is a big powerhouse standing at 6ft 4in.
Ecuadorian World Cup striker Enner Valencia should provide pace and power up front for the Hammers while Argentinian Mauro Zarate is more of a poacher and should provide Allardyce with something a little different.
Allardyce has never been anything less than ambitious in the transfer market, as his time at Bolton will attest. Moves to bring Alvaro Negredo and Mathieu Valbuena to the Boleyn Ground may have come to nothing, but it does at least demonstrate ambition.
For 2014/15, Allardyce will be hoping he can inspire his team to produce better football as well as better results. If he cannot produce more enjoyable football with these new signings, we could be seeing a new face at West Ham sooner rather than later.
Mauro Zarate (Undisclosed, Velez Sarsfield), Cheikhou Kouyate (Undisclosed, Anderlecht), Aaron Cresswell (Undisclosed, Ipswich Town), Diego Poyet (Min. Fee, Charlton Athletic), Enner Valencia (Undisclosed, Pachuca), Carl Jenkinson (loan, Arsenal)
Joe Cole (free, Aston Villa), Jack Collison, George McCartney, Alou Diarra (Released), Matthew Taylor (free, Burnley)
Queens Park Rangers find themselves back in the snake pit that is the Barclays Premier League and with Harry Redknapp in charge, they will be fairly confident that they can beat the drop this season.
Redknapp has in fact bought shrewdly this transfer window, adding the vast experience of Rio Ferdinand to his squad while signing Steven Caulker and Jordan Mutch from Cardiff. Their tactical options may improve their hope of coping with Premier League opponents while providing added attacking impetus. Mauricio Isla has arrived on loan from Italian champions Juventus and if he rediscovers his Udinese form he could add some real attacking impetus to Redknapp’s 352 system.
Key to their survival though is their striking options and with the returning Loic Remy and Charlie Austin, they have natural goalscorers.
However, there is no guarantee that Remy will stay after a move to Liverpool fell through at the last minute, which would leave only Bobby Zamora as the recognised backup to Austin in the squad. ‘Arry will surely look to recruit in the striker position before the window slams shut on September 1st.
Rio Ferdinand (free, Manchester United), Steven Caulker (Undisclosed, Cardiff City), Jordan Mutch (Undisclosed, Cardiff City), Mauricio Isla (loan, Juventus)
Yossi Benayoun (free, Maccabi Haifa), Aaron Hughes (free, Brighton & Hove Albion), Estaban Granero (Undisclosed, Real Sociedad), Ji-Sung Park, Luke Young (Retired)
How do you think QPR's 2014/15 will shape up?
I think we will be competitive, play decent football and hopefully and ultimately stay in the Premier League to fight another day. Adopting a new system brings with it an element of risk, particularly when the personnel that suit the system have yet to be fully recruited. I hope that QPR can get off to a positive start, unlike last time in the top flight, and secure a respectable 15th to build on.
How do you rate your summer signings so far?
I would rate our signings as good, 'so far' being the operative word. I think one or two are still required to complete the squad, particularly in light of the system we are trying to impose. Caulker, Ferdinand and Mutch are three quality additions, blending youth and experience - and another forward or two would help to bolster and support a strike force propped up by Charlie Austin.
Is there anyone in your current squad that you think could provide a surprise and be the standout player?
If Charlie Austin plays to his ability and scores the amount of goals he is capable of producing, he could not only raise a few eyebrows among the elite, but also court the attention of Roy Hodgson - which along with keeping Rangers up will be an aim of his coming into the season I'm sure.
What do you think Glenn Hoddle will bring to QPR's season?
Hoddle could be the acquisition of the summer, and his tactical acumen will undoubtedly be put to good use in the coming weeks. 3-5-2 is a formation that Hoddle is no stranger to and having a coach of his caliber on board can only serve to benefit the team, veterans and youngsters alike.
For outsiders, it has appeared a fairly depressing summer when viewing a promising young Southampton team be ripped apart. Never has the glass ceiling of the Premier League been more visible. It is not all doom and gloom on the south coast, however, as new imports seek to make their mark.
With numerous key players leaving as well as a new manager in the form of Ronald Koeman, who is unproven in the Premier League, Southampton will make for fascinating viewing as the season unfolds. Facsinating is also our Guts casino bonus, cause it's pretty huge.
A decent pre-season, with the only blotch being a 1-0 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen, seemingly took a turn for the worse when midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin professed his wish to leave for Tottenham. However, with a number of players leaving St. Mary’s already this summer, it is unlikely Southampton are going to let him go barring an astronomical offer.
The signings of Dusan Tadic, Graziano Pelle, Ryan Bertrand and Saphir Taider look to have filled in a few gaps within the squad while Fraser Forster may prove to be a shrewd buy but ultimately it will be a big ask to replicate last season’s final position.
Duaan Tadic (Undisclosed, FC Twente), Graziano Pelle (Undisclosed, Feyenoord), Fraser Forster (Undisclosed, Celtic), Ryan Bertrand (loan, Chelsea), Saphir Taider (loan, Inter Milan)
Rickie Lambert (£4m, Liverpool), Adam Lallana (£25m, Liverpool), Dejan Lovren (£20m, Liverpool), Luke Shaw (£27m, Manchester United), Calum Chambers (Undisclosed, Arsenal)
Stoke City will be looking to improve upon 9th place which resulted in Stoke’s best placed finish in the league since 1974/75. Mark Hughes is looking to instil a more possession-based game, which ultimately he has done, although he will be looking for improvement this season.
Hughes must find a way to incorporate more goals into the team while pre-season has been tinged with a lack of goals in all seven of the games. Plus points include new signings Bojan and Mame Diouf scoring while they have generally looked solid.
Marko Arnautovic and Peter Odemwingie will hopefully provide the same spark and pace as they did last season while Hughes will be hoping Stephen Ireland can remain fit to provide his team with a creative spark in the final third.
For Stoke to improve upon their brilliant 2013/14 season, Hughes ideally would like to get new signings Diouf and Bojan firing on all cylinders right from the kick off.
Phil Bardsley (free, Sunderland), Steve Sidwell (free, Fulham), Mame Diouf (free, Hannover 96), Bojan Krkic (Undisclosed, Barcelona)
Matthew Etherington (Released), Michael Kightly (Undisclosed, Burnley)
How do you think Stoke City's 2014/15 will shape up?
Stoke finished ninth last season and, realistically, there isn't much room to improve on that. Eighth is certainly achievable given Southampton's summer exodus but another top-10 finish and a cup run or two would more than satisfy the club's fans.
However, a kind set of opening fixtures provides the chance to build up a real head of steam - Stoke face only one of last season's top seven in their first 10 games. If Mark Hughes' men can start well, who knows what they're capable of when the tougher encounters come around - confidence and momentum can have a huge effect in football, and Stoke have a habit of upsetting the top clubs anyway, certainly at the Britannia Stadium.
Without getting too carried away, there is a real feeling in the Potteries that this could be a special season.
Who within your squad would you tip for a good 2014/15 and is one to look out for?
Everyone outside of the club is focusing on the arrival of Bojan, and rightly so, but Mame Biram Diouf could have an even bigger impact. Peter Crouch has done well as the lone striker but he lacks the pace to really stretch teams. Diouf has that in abundance, and if he can maintain the sort of goalscoring form he produced in Germany, he could be the difference this season.
Bojan is obviously an exciting prospect behind him if he can realise even half the potential he showed as a teenager at Barcelona, while Marko Arnautovic is certain to be attracting admiring glances from the top clubs if he can maintain or improve on the sort of performances he was producing in the second half of last season.
How do you think Mark Hughes' style transformation is going?
The style has changed more and much quicker than most fans expected. There were plenty of teething problems in the first half of last season, but Peter Odemwingie made a huge impact after signing in January. He added the pace that had been missing, and Arnautovic either coincidentally or as a result sparked into life at the same time. Suddenly, Stoke started to cut teams open on the break and make the most of the extra possession they had been having.
With Bojan and Diouf on board, a right-back that provides a good delivery in the shape of Phil Bardsley, and at least one more forward player likely to arrive before the end of the window, Stoke should finally be able to shake off the lazy stereotypes that still persist.
With regards to the rest of the PL, who do you think the surprise package will be in the race for the top 4 and the relegation battle come May?
It's unlikely there will be a real surprise package in the race for the top four, but very few people seem to be tipping Tottenham to challenge for the Champions League in Mauricio Pochettino's first season in charge. However, the Argentinian is a top-class manager and, with Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and co. benefitting from a settling-in period, Spurs could do a lot better than many people are expecting.
At the other end, I expect Southampton to be a surprise in that they're not involved in the relegation battle - they still have plenty of good players - while Swansea may be the ones dragged into trouble that nobody is expecting.
Sunderland will be hoping for a more settled season and they will be hoping to achieve PL safety much sooner that last time around. Ultimately, Gus Poyet managed an outstanding job getting Sunderland to 14th considering they were bottom of the league at Christmas.
The signings that Poyet has made within this summer transfer window show he is shaping the squad to his desires and while they have let a number of players go, it is hard to argue that he hasn’t strengthened.
The signings of Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt from West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea respectively show that Poyet is perhaps looking for more from his fullback positions while Costel Pantillimon may finally get his chance to impress in a no.1 spot while Connor Wickham ended the season in stellar form.
All eyes will be on Jack Rodwell though as his career at Manchester City stalled badly due to various factors, notably injury and competition for places. Sunderland will be hoping that his injury worries are behind him as £10m is quite a gamble for a player who hasn’t played regularly in well over a year.
Billy Jones (free, West Bromwich Albion), Jordi Gomez (free, Wigan Athletic), Costel Pantillimon (free, Manchester City), Patrick van Aanholt (Undisclosed, Chelsea), Jack Rodwell (£10m, Manchester City)
Phil Bardsley (free, Stoke City), Jack Colback (free, Newcastle United), Carlos Cuellar, Andrea Dossena, Kieran Westwood (Released), David Vaughan (free, Nottingham Forest)
Manager Brendan Rodgers hasn’t been afraid to splash the cash ahead of the 2014/15 season. It has been necessary considering the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona for a cool £75m and with Liverpool returning to the holy grail of Champions League football for this coming season, the squad needed some serious strength in-depth.
Rodgers has seemingly targeted the defence as a source for improvement with the acquisitions of Dejan Lovren from Southampton and Atlético Madrid right-back Javier Manquillo providing competition for Glen Johnson, with Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno on the brink of joining a new-look backline. Adam Lallana and Ricky Lambert, further recruits from Southampton, provide a sense of continuity and are proven Premier League level.
The signing of Emre Can however could prove a shrewd signing by Rodgers as he embarks on his first European season as Liverpool manager.
Rickie Lambert (£4m, Southampton), Adam Lallana (£25m, Southampton), Dejan Lovren (£20m, Southampton), Emre Can (£9.75m, Bayer Leverkusen), Lazar Markovic (£19.8m, Benfica), Javier Manquillo (loan, Atlético Madrid)
Luis Suarez (£75m, Barcelona), Pepe Reina (£2m, Bayern Munich)
How do you see Liverpool's 2014/15 season shaping up?
Another title run would always be nice, but the realistic hope and expectation for most Liverpool fans is securing another top four finish. Easier said than done, perhaps, with Luis Suarez heading to Barcelona, Manchester United widely expected to be back in the running, and Tottenham fans hoping Mauricio Pochettino will be the man to put all their talented but under-performing pieces together.
Still, even without Suarez, Liverpool would have been the league's third top scorers last season. This year, with hopes for a more solid defence led by new signing Dejan Lovren and a few extra goals from the likes of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, and Adam Lallana, the expectation will be that even if the club take a step back, it won't be nearly as big a step as some might think.
Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?
Last season, Roberto Martinez proved he was the real deal with Everton. This summer, they've used the windfall that is the Premier League's new television deal to tie down the second striker Chelsea will end up kicking themselves for losing. With David Moyes' United failures showing that perhaps he was holding them back rather than propping them up, it might be time to start expecting more from Everton.
When it comes to the other end of the table, it's hard to see too far past the usual suspects that are this season and last's promoted sides. Looking a little further afield, though, with Tony Pulis' success with Crystal Palace it might be tempting to look towards Stoke and ask if their attempts to find success with more pleasing style of play under Mark Hughes could instead lead to their downfall.
Who within the Liverpool squad do you think could be one to look out for?
With Luis Suarez' departure, youngsters Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho are either going to take the next step in their development and become true global stars or stumble now that they will be the targets for opposition defences. They have the chance to show that for as much as Suarez helped Liverpool, the quality of the players around him helped Suarez. It's a tough task, but in pre-season the signs have been promising.
City are entering the new season as champions and with new signings strengthening supposed weak spots within the squad, City are well placed to defend their title in 2014/15.
The signing of Bacary Sagna from Arsenal provides City with proven quality and experience in the right-back area but it also sheds doubt over Micah Richards future at the club. The burden on Pablo Zabaleta in recent seasons has been heavy and the arrival of Sagna on a free transfer looks an inspired squad-strengthening move, whilst also weakening a title rival.
Fernando’s eventual arrival from Porto offers the Blues a solid midfield base, if Pellegrini decides that a midfield three of Fernando, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure be required for some of the tougher fixtures. Although Javi Garcia improved during his time at the Etihad, there is the sense that the Spaniard never truly settled, with the arrival of Fernando and youngster Bruno Zuculini paving the way for the former Benfica man’s exit.
The centre of the City defence has also been strengthened with the acquisition of France international Eliaquim Mangala from Porto. Although Martin Demichelis proved the doubters wrong over the second half of the season, playing an integral part in the Citizen’s title win, his age meant that finding a long-term partner for Vincent Kompany was one of the Club’s top priorities.
Joe Hart faces real competition in the form of Wily Caballero after the City manager returned to his former club to pick up the goalkeeper for £6 million.
Frank Lampard will be plying his trade in a lighter shade of blue this season, joining MCFC on loan for five months before his eventual transfer to sister club New York City FC. Contrary to Arsene Wenger’s belief, it is unlikely that the New York club was founded in order for the Manchester Blues to sign a 36-year-old midfielder on a short-term loan. How much Lampard plays for the champions remains to be seen, but such is the strength of the squad it would not be surprising if the former Chelsea man sees his playing time limited to a few cameos and cup appearances.
Bacary Sagna (free, Arsenal), Fernando (£12m, Porto), Eliaquim Mangala (£32m, Porto), Frank Lampard (loan, New York City FC), Wily Caballero (£6m, Malaga)
Joleon Lescott (free, West Bromwich Albion), Gareth Barry (£2m, Everton), Costel Pantillimon (free, Sunderland), Jack Rodwell (£10m, Sunderland), Javi Garcia (£12m)
How do you see City's 2014/15 season shaping up?
It will be a tough fight for the title with multiple contenders. City have gone about their business quietly and efficiently and will be there or thereabouts and I think Chelsea will be the strongest threat, as they have certainly strengthened their squad over the summer, though if Costa gets injured they are still light up front. Arsenal are certainly strong enough now to challenge also and whilst United are weaker they do not have the distraction of a European campaign and have the confidence of not having an inept manager anymore. I can't see Liverpool being quite as strong again but all the teams mentioned will be expecting a top four finish so something has to give.
But for City, they have great squad strength now, as strong as it has ever been and have cover in every position. The main concern right now is that we will start the season with certain players lacking match-fitness and with a fairly tough opening set of fixtures, City could spend much of the season playing catch-up again. You should definitely avoid playing cath up with this Guts bonus sports. Almost guaranteed to make your betting life easier.
Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?
I don't think my tips are really surprises. I expect the teams already mentioned to fight for the title and I expect Spurs and Everton to be in the pack below. I don't really see anyone breaking that top 7, as Southampton's new-look team will take time to gel. At the other end of the table, I have a hunch Leicester will do quite well (although I thought the same of Norwich last season) and I fear for Aston Villa & West Brom. And Burnley. And QPR.
Who within the City squad do you think could be one to look out for?
Well he isn't new or low-profile but I pray for an injury-free season for Stevan Jovetic - he was the signing I was most excited about last summer and I think he will be a star if he stays fit. If.
The good thing about the squad is that we have kept all the star players and it will be a case of the existing squad carrying on where they left off. I think Caballero is not inferior to Hart so the battle between those two should be interesting as will the effect on formations that playing Fernando has, and how it effects Yaya and Fernandinho. The big one to look out for is Mangala of course -a protracted transfer saga and a hefty fee means all eyes will be on him. He is an athletic, powerful and composed player but is also known to have his off-days so I hope the likes of Kompany can help him develop further as a player.
There is a new-found optimism at Old Trafford following the appointment of Louis van Gaal as manager. The disastrous reign of David Moyes was quickly consigned to history once he was shown the door in April following defeat to his former club Everton at Goodison Park.
Now, many of the United faithful see the 2014/15 season as the season that should have been following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. The signings of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw bring optimism as well as vibrancy to a team that looked to be lacking so much energy at vital times last season.
Of course, Louis van Gaal may prove to be the most important signing of the summer, as his will to win and world-class pedigree were things that also were abundantly missing last season. The pre-season couldn’t have gone any better for van Gaal with six victories out of six and a 3-1 win over Liverpool to boot. Even Fellaini scored a stoppage time winner.
However, but as his United squad, the fans and van Gaal himself will well know, it’ll count for nothing if United don’t turn it on against Swansea on the 16th August.
Ander Herrera (£29m, Athletic Bilbao), Luke Shaw (£27m, Southampton)
Rio Ferdinand (free, QPR), Nemanja Vidic (free, Inter Milan), Alexander Buttner (£4.4m, Dynamo Moscow), Patrice Evra (£1.2m, Juventus)
1.) How do you see United's 2014/15 season shaping up?
I'd be delighted if we finished in the top 3, but that might well not happen.
Van Gaal is undoubtedly a world-class manager, and it's barely believable how quickly he's been able to change the style of United's play, but right now there are still worrying weaknesses in the squad and a startling lack of experience at the back.
If we do make any major signings before the end of the window, it could take them a while to settle. If we don't, that could mean opportunities for some of the younger players; ultimately, that could be the best thing for the club, but it could make for a turbulent first season under Van Gaal.
We also know that he values good performances over good results - this commitment to his philosophy should pay dividends in the long term, but, again, the first season might not be such an easy ride, with modern fans and the media notoriously short on patience. Having said that, the complaint of most supporters last season wasn't the results, but the lack of entertainment, and the absence of any clear philosophy or vision from Moyes. As long as we're fun to watch again, and there's a sense of a masterplan unfolding, however gradually, that will be enough for me.
Quite frankly, though, we couldn't have asked for a much easier opening 6 games - if we take advantage of that and keep the momentum going, who knows where we might end up!
2.) Do you think there is a surprise package to look out for in terms of both the top 4 and relegation?
I don't know how surprising it would be, given the excellent progress they made last year, but I certainly think Everton could challenge for a top-4 finish. Martinez is a great young manager, and the Lukaku signing was a powerful statement of intent.
In terms of relegation, I think Newcastle have made some potentially decent signings, but I'm not sure Pardew is the man to get the best out of them. I can see them imploding spectacularly, but I've also got Janmaat and Cabella in my Fantasy Football team, so I hope I'm completely wrong.
3.) Who within the United squad do you think could be one to look out for this season?
I think the obvious answer is Januzaj. He was a revelation in the first half of the 2013/14 campaign, but was then used far more sparingly in the latter stages of the season. Comparisons have been made with Sterling, who made a massive leap forward last year. I'm really excited to watch Adnan develop.
I'm also keeping an eye on James Wilson, and I think Darren Fletcher could be a big player for us this season, especially if we don't sign another CM - would be great to see him back to his best!
Newcastle will be looking for a relatively stress free season, without incident and without boardroom shenanigans. However, with Newcastle and in particular, Mike Ashley, that is never certain. As we all know, Ashley is no stranger to controversy and he does like to rub the Newcastle faithful up the wrong way from time-to-time.
However, it does seem that Pardew has bought wisely in the summer transfer window and a successful pre-season is all that the Newcastle fans could have asked for before the start of the season. The Toon have a tough opening match though at home to champions Manchester City which may not be ideal with so many new faces hoping to hit the ground running.
With his buys, Pardew has bought youth as well as creativity and his has added firepower up front in the form of Dutchman Siem de Jong, Frenchman Emmanuel Riviere and Spaniard Ayoze Perez from Tenerife.
Remy Cabella represents a significant purchase as his pace and creativity was very much lacking at times last season but Pardew will look to take Newcastle to the next level this season, especially in the cup competitions as these represent Newcastle’s best chance of silverware.
Jack Colback (free, Sunderland), Remy Cabella (£12m, Montpellier), Emmanuel Riviere (£6m, Montpellier), Daryl Janmaat (£5m, Feyenoord), Siem de Jong (£6m, Ajax)
Dan Gosling (free, Bournemouth), Shola Ameobi (free, Gaziantep B.B.), Mathieu Debuchy (£12m, Arsenal)
How do you think Newcastle's 2014/15 will shape up?
We have done some great preparation for the new season and so we should be comfortably in the top ten.
Is there one player within your current squad who you think will be one to watch out for throughout the season?
Cabella is one that could stand out for me but I have a feeling that Siem de Jong could be the star performer.
Do you think Alan Pardew can replicate the team's fortunes in 2014/15?
Pardew should be fine achieving what he did last season as long as key players aren’t sold with any replacements in place.
With regards to the rest of the PL, who do you think the surprise package will be in the race for the top 4 and the relegation battle come May?
The surprise package could be QPR. Harry is a top manager. I have a feeling the top 4 will be Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City and Man United, in that order! The relegation battle is a little trickier to call but I would go for any 3 out of Southampton, Villa, Leicester and Burnley.
Palace manager Tony Pulis worked wonders last season when he managed to inject some much needed confidence into a squad that was desperately lacking. Palace had made a terrible start to last season winning just 1 of their first 11 games in the league season but the arrival of Pulis sparked a revival in fortunes.
The team picked up valuable points at home as well as away and they began to climb the table to eventually reach a solid mid-table position. For 2014/15, Palace fans will be hoping for more of the same from Pulis and his team. The signings of Fraizer Campbell from Cardiff and Brede Hangeland from Fulham may prove to be shrewd signings but the Palace squad could do with some proven quality
Central midfield where a creative player could make the difference and left-back will be areas Tony Pulis will look to improve upon should he get the chance before the transfer window slams shut.
Brede Hangeland (free, Fulham), Fraizer Campbell (£900k, Cardiff City)
Kagisho Dikgacoi (free, Cardiff City), Jonathan Parr (free, Ipswich Town), Danny Gabbidon (Released)
Everton are looking to build on a superb 2013/14 that brought them so close to the top four and resulted in Everton’s best performance in a Premier League season.
Manager Roberto Martinez has added Bosnian midfielder Muhammed Besic to the squad while securing Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku on permanent deals after they were on loan in 2013/14. The signing of Lukaku especially raised a few eyebrows after the £28m fee was announced, shattering Everton’s transfer records. However, his signing is a significant one for Everton on the eve of 2014/15.
With a few players returning after injury such as Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson, the Everton squad should be as competitive if not more compared to last season although they could do with another top notch striker with only Steven Naismith and the unpredictable Arouna Kone as back-up for Lukaku which they will need if they’re to go far in the Europa League.
Gareth Barry (free, Manchester City), Muhammed Besic (£4m, Ferencvaros), Romelu Lukaku (£28m, Chelsea)
How do you think Everton's 2014/15 will shape up?
I believe that Everton’s hopes rest on how are injuries pan out this season. If we can go through the season relatively unscathed with the odd small injury to first team players they can finish 5th again, if not challenge for top four. We proved last year that we can beat any team in the top four with the exception of Liverpool who have a hoodoo on us. Anyway, with the youthful talent of Lukaku, Barkley, Mirallas (not so young) McCarthy (unsung hero) and Coleman with a nice blend of seasoned pros – Distin, Baines, Jagielka & Barry -- we have a team capable of consistency against the lesser teams home and away. But also mixing it with the likes of Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool & United. We need more additions to the squad before the end of the transfer window, ideally a striker, winger and defender but I’m happy with the preparations in pre-season despite the poor form.
Is there one player within your current squad who you think will be one to watch out for throughout the season?
The obvious player is to say Barkley, therefore I will pick him. The one thing he lacked last year was consistency. On his day he is unplayable, but he has shown through inexperience (or being rushed back from injury due to his importance to the team) he can be equally as poor. Nonetheless his precocious talent is undeniable. He will only get better and there isn’t a better manager he can thrive under than Martinez. He gives him the opportunity to express himself in a position where he is able to make mistakes and learn from them. If he can handle the pressure he will be a great Everton player and a great England player. Fingers crossed.
Do you think Roberto Martinez can replicate the team's fortunes in 2014/15?
As a pessimist I see everything through a negative view, however, seeing the way Martinez wants to play his football I believe he can emulate Everton’s fortunes of last season. The only possible downside is the pile up of fixture and travelling in Europe. It’s a big test for a relatively small squad, which doesn’t have the greatest luck with injuries. I’m still in shock with Everton spending £28 million on one player – but this seems to be a new Everton that wants to invest in players rather than sell them. If we can keep hold of our current crop of players (which with all of the new contracts it seems we will) and make a couple more additions I think that we will be able to cope with the rigors of Europe & domestic competitions.
With regards to the rest of the PL, who do you think the surprise package will be in the race for the top 4 and the relegation battle come May?
The past few years there’s only been 5-6 teams fighting for top four (Everton included in that) and this season I think it will be much the same. I believe Arsenal will be a strong bet for the League with Manchester City and Chelsea as favourites. Liverpool will be up there along with Everton, Spurs and a potentially a resurgent Manchester United under Van Gaal. With regards to relegated teams I think 2 of the promoted teams will go back down with Leicester having the best of the season of the promoted teams. They are well drilled, organised, with some talented players and an intelligent manager. Possibly Villa, Swansea and West Brom being pulled into the dreaded 18th position. I fear for Villa, with their main striker being injured still and not being replaced. It’s be a shame as they are a long serving top flight team.
Hull have made solid signings in preparation for the 2014/15 Premier League as well as their first ever-European campaign in the Europa League. Manager Steve Bruce has added proven Premier League players and with Tom Huddlestone in midfield, they will be hoping he can control matches for them domestically and in Europe.
Securing the signature of Tom Ince proved to be something of a coup, amid speculation linking the promising young attacking midfielder to Internazionale. Instead, he chose to link with Steve Bruce and prove his ability in England.
Robert Snodgrass (Undisclosed, Norwich City), Tom Ince (free, Blackpool), Jake Livermore (Undisclosed, Tottenham)
Matty Fryatt (free, Nottingham Forest), Robert Koren (free, Melbourne City)
Leicester have been in splendid form throughout pre-season, winning six out of seven games and drawing the other. Although you can never read too much into pre-season, a morale-boosting win over Everton in Bangkok in July would surely have given manager Nigel Pearson reason to believe they have what it takes to make it in the Premier League.
Experienced PL campaigners Matthew Upson and Marc Albrighton have joined in a relatively understated transfer window. Pearson may still sign a ‘marquee’ player, but time is running out. It looks more likely that the manager will keep faith in a team which illuminated the Championship.
Marc Albrighton (free, Aston Villa), Matthew Upson (free, Brighton & Hove Albion), Leonardo Ulloa (£8m, Brighton & Hove Albion)
Sean St. Ledger, Zak Whitbread, Lloyd Dyer, Neil Danns (all released)
We’re delighted to announce the Guts fantasy football league ahead of the new English Premier League season!
Our league is free to enter and there are some wonderful prizes on offer.
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You don’t have to wait until the end of the season to win prizes with Guts! Each month, the three teams which have gained the most points over the course of the month will win free bets from Guts!
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With the Guts manager of the month awards, you can still win if you’re out of the running for the end-of-season awards!
Simply register a team on http://fantasy.premierleague.com and enter this code to join the Guts league:
Our league is completely free to enter and incredibly simple to join.
1. The deadline to join this league is 30th of August at 12.45 PM GMT.
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3. If you are one of the lucky winners (monthly or annual) you should contact email@example.com and write the subject to: "Fantasy League" and in the e-mail you write your username at guts.com and your team name in the fantasy league. Then we will credit the winnings to you the following weekday after the last game of the Gameweek is played. We will also write a note about who the winners are in the league chat, so check this frequently. If you have won you need to contact us within 14 days after the last game was played for the monthly or annual prize, otherwise you will not be eligable for the prize.
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6. If there are two or more teams on the exact same score, the winner will be decided by the highest gameweek score for the month (or highest gameweek score of the full season if it's the annual prize). If this score is also the same, the prize will be divided amoung these winners.
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The signings of Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers seem to have strengthened a backline that was in need of numbers. However, question marks remain over the left-back area and whether Kieran Gibbs can stay fit, while Nacho Monreal has so far failed to convince he's capable of filling in when required.
In the midfield and up front, the Arsenal squad is arguably stronger than last season with the signing of £30m Alexis Sanchez providing the star quality that Arsenal fans crave. Costa Rican World Cup star Joel Campbell has returned and if he can continue his World Cup form then Arsenal have struck gold. However, there is a doubt over whether Yaya Sanogo provides adequate back up should anything happen to Olivier Giroud.
Keeping Aaron Ramsay fit would be a step in the right direction as he has the potential to be Arsenal’s star man for years to come. Jack Wilshere also needs to stay fit in order to fulfil his undoubted quality. Another centre-back would be a welcome addition to the Arsenal squad but another position that Arsenal have also strengthened is the goalkeeper department where Colombian David Ospina should provide significant competition to Szczęsny.
Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona, £30m), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle, £12m)
Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona, £15m)
Villa have not been as active in the transfer market as they should have been this summer while the on-going sale of the club by current owner Randy Lerner has been nothing short of a complete disaster for both parties. The signings of Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson and Aly Cissokho (two on free transfers) have done little to impress the Villa faithful.
The appointment of Roy Keane as assistant manager should provide some much needed experience and winning mentality to a young squad while doing little to cover Paul Lambert’s obvious tactical and strategical failings. He may have to become a marvel in the loan transfer market if he’s to provide much needed strength and in-depth.
While bringing players back in from the cold such as N’Zogbia and Darren Bent, Lambert has a tough job this season and it remains to be seen if he can stop a slide that has been carrying on for around four seasons.
Securing Ron Vlaar and Brad Guzan to new long-term contracts would go a long way to helping Villa’s cause this season. Getting Christian Benteke back would provide a huge lift but as he’s not due back till November, Lambert must provide Bent with a much-needed injection of confidence to provide the goals Villa desperately require.
If Joe Cole can remain fit for any length of time then he could provide a certain creative element that the Villa squad lacks. However, his injury record is less than impressive.
Marc Albrighton (free, Leicester City)
Pre-season couldn’t have gone any better for Burnley and their likeable manager Sean Dyche. In Danny Ings and Sam Vokes, they have two strikers who have proved themselves capable of scoring goals while they have also strengthened their striking options in the form of Marvin Sordell from Bolton and Lukas Jutkiewicz from Middlesbrough.
However, there is a question in quality of replacements. While signing Matthew Taylor and Steven Reid from West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion respectively provide experience and much needed Premier League know-how, their ability to drag the squad to a level where they’re in a position to consolidate their place in the Premier League remains to be seen.
Dyche is looking for more players and before the transfer window closes on September 1st, there should be more arrivals at Turf Moor but will they be the right ones?
Steven Reid (free, West Bromwich Albion), Lukas Jutkiewicz (undisclosed, Middlesbrough), Marvin Sordell (undisclosed, Bolton Wanderers)
Chris Baird (free, West Bromwich Albion)
Fan’s View: Tony Scholes @clarets_mad
How do you see the season panning out for Burnley?
It will be tough but I think we will surprise a few people during the season and give ourselves a chance of staying up.
Is it good to see Burnley back in the Premier League?
You want your team to be the best it can be and that means getting to as higher league as possible. Yes, good to be back.
Who would you tip as one to watch in your squad?
Marvin Sordell. He has had a difficult time at Bolton but I just have a feeling, given the opportunity, he might come good.
Chelsea have conducted their summer transfer business relatively quietly, quickly and efficiently. Jose Mourinho has strengthened area of his squad that last season, he viewed as suspect while also acquiring huge sums of cash for players who were no longer needed.
Cesc Fabregas should provide a suitable replacement for the now departed Frank Lampard who will join Manchester City on loan till January 2015 before his move to the newly formed MLS franchise New York City FC. The signings of Diego Costa and Filipe Luis also provide welcome quality and strength in key areas as well as the returning Didier Drogba providing something a little different.
However, the squad is still a little light up front and the form of Fernando Torres remains a worry. It is possible that the weight of expectation on Diego Costa could prove too much.
Cesc Fabregas (£27m, Barcelona), Diego Costa (£32m, Atlético Madrid), Filipe Luis (15.8m, Atlético Madrid)
Frank Lampard (free, New York City FC), David Luiz (£50m, PSG), Samuel Eto’o (Released), Ashley Cole (free, Roma), Demba Ba (£4.7m, Besiktas), Romelu Lukaku (£28m, Everton)