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)
Categories: Premier League