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)Categories: Premier League