Premier League 2013/14 preview

Premier League 2013/14 preview

What will David Moyes, Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini bring?

David Moyes is clearly the manager who will have to adjust the most because of his rise from a relatively smaller club, Everton, to Manchester United. There aren’t many British managers who have been given opportunities at the top level because club recruiters seem to think that their methods don’t work at a higher level and some managers, such as Roy Hodgson, did nothing to disprove that notion. Moyes is, of course, taking over the reigning champions so should be in a favourable position, but, because of various reasons, United haven’t strengthened their first eleven to any considerable extent. During his time at Everton, Moyes would adapt his strategy for the team game-by-game, which will require a change of approach since the Red Devils will be expected to dominate most matches in the league and only adapt significantly at the highest level. He will have to keep United a lot less boxy in midfield (as Everton sometimes looked) because of their vast amount of creative players.

Mourinho’s return will be close in comparison to his first arrival into the English game but with a few changes. First of all, Mourinho won’t be up against managers who employ the simple 4-4-2s he would come up against when he first arrived. Based on his more adventurous Real Madrid side, he will also have inverted his midfield triangle to make it a 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1, with the lack of a clear deep lying playmaker, unless Oscar is employed in a deeper position. More than likely, they will often look at their best on the counter down the flanks as they did with his first title winning team, depending on players like new boy Andre Schurrle. However one of the main big differences will be that he simply doesn’t have by far and away the best squad or the biggest chequebook as he did last time.

Compared to Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini appears to apply his tactics with a bit more conviction. Mancini had used variants of 4-4-2, 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 but his team often didn’t look to cohesive and it was frequently the individuals he had at his disposal that would win him matches rather than any tactical brilliance. They will attack a lot more methodically in bursts rather than the gung-ho attacks that would sometimes ensue under Mancini.

What will Andre Villas-Boas, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup do with their new recruits?

Andre Villas Boas is in the position of not knowing if his best player, Gareth Bale, will move this summer to Real Madrid, albeit with the caveat that shrewd businessman Daniel Levy will have some sort of replacement lined up. In terms of the new recruits, they will help Villas-Boas implement his vertical 4-3-3 with a high line a bit better, although there are still some notable weaknesses. especially at left back and on one of the flanks if Bale leaves. Last season Tottenham would often play a 4-2-3-1 with no real playmaker, meaning Bale would often have to come to the rescue with individual efforts. Villas-Boas, however, has a preference for a 4-3-3 and a player like Paulinho will allow him to employ it to good effect. A direct passer with bundles of energy who will complement Sandro and Mousa Dembele well, the defensive midfielder should fit into Villas-Boas’ ideal side. Nacer Chadli will add quality from wide and will link up with other forwards more than somebody like Clint Dempsey did and, if Bale stays, allow him to play from the right and come inside onto his left foot. Roberto Soldado, although a very accomplished footballer technically, will mostly look to spin behind defences very early, with will bode well for Villas-Boas’ style of play.

Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool on the other hand, haven’t seemed to improve their first eleven in the slightest. Simon Mignolet, at best, probably isn’t as good as Pepe Reina, although he may be a bit more consistent in his performances. The ageing Kolo Toure, who appeared to only be a back-up centre back at first, now seems to be in a starting place for the opening game against Stoke. Although he’s not a bad defender by any means, is this really much of an improvement on the Agger-Skrtel partnership? Martin Skrtel did make a few mistakes but not as pronounced as some would like to make out, and if he had been allowed to sit as deep as Jamie Carragher was allowed to, he probably wouldn’t have done much worse. Luis Alberto will add some technical quality and intelligence from the bench in comparison to the recently departed Jonjo Shelvey, and Iago Aspas, a forward with decent movement, adds another striking option, but in terms of strength of the first eleven the team doesn’t look improved at all. Obviously claims will be made that this is Rodgers’ chance to further implement his philosophy but at times last season some of his decisions seemed ad odds with this, such as the the introduction of the limited Carragher and the use of Henderson as the more advanced midfielder.

At Swansea the situation is similar to Tottenham in that the players brought in will allow the manager further freedom to do what he wants with the team. The purchase of Wilfried Bony will mean Michu can roam a bit more in a number ten role and, since Bony will be able to occupy the defence better than the likes of Danny Graham previously, Jose Cana will add calm passing on the ball as well as combativeness and Jordi Amat will allow them to pass from the back a bit better.

Saints and Norwich

Norwich are a bizarre case. To be straight, for the last two seasons they have looked like a Championship team: Championship quality players in the Premier League. Although Paul Lambert and Chris Hughton should be given plaudits for what they have had to work with, they have survived because of the incompetence of others. Southampton, on the other hand, last season appeared to have players who are capable of a lot more than most newly promoted sides. The likes of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Gaston Ramirez and Morgan Schneiderlin are by quite a distance a bit better in terms of technical quality than teams such as Sunderland and Stoke, who have been in the league for a longer period of time, have had to put up with.

For Norwich, Javier Garrido will add attacking quality from left back, as well as the more defensive Martin Olsson against bigger sides. Leroy Fer is an aggressive attacking midfielder who will add the pace Norwich were previously lacking and Ricky van Wolswinkel will surely start over Graham since his movement and mobility are much better. Despite his recent impressive international debut, Graham is a bit of a throwback to the old school poacher and there are still some questions as to whether or not he can perform at this level consistently.

In terms of Southampton’s purchase, Victor Wanyama is a physical centre midfielder who could form a considerable pivot with Schneiderlin, while Dejan Lovren is a centre half with a lot of promise if he can become more consistent.

 Season Review

This season was nothing if not exhilarating and unpredictable. Manchester City regained the Premier League title off their city rivals Manchester United, with the rest of the Champions League spots occupied by Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal respectively. Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff had the misfortune of being relegated.

What David Moyes, Mourinho and Pelligrini brought:

This season Manchester United were at times, well most of the time, painful to watch. Online bookmaker had originally given Manchester United odds of 3/1 to win the league. Despite a nod from the bookies, unanimous support from the fans, approval from Alex Ferguson and financial support to buy players from the Glazers, the club recorded their worst ever points tally in the history of the Premier League and finished 7th. Moyes was unsurprisingly sacked, despite signing a 6 year contract. Over on the other side of Manchester Pelligrini waited until the final day of the season to deliver the title back to Manchester City from their neighbours, and in swashbuckling style and on his first attempt no-less. Blue favourite Mourinho returned to much fanfare but guided his team to third, although without much investment.

What Andre Villas-Boas, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup brought:

Andre Villas-Boas brought, or was given, a lot of players that underperformed considering a squad that was acquired for £100 million and the team finished 6th. Villas Boas was sacked for the second time in the EPL and was replaced by reserve team coach Tim Sherwood. Laudrup, brought Swansea the League cup, but was also sacked, following an indifferent run of results. Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side were one of the surprise packages of the season and surprised many by finishing second, boasting real attacking flair and qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since 2010.

Saints and Norwich:

Southampton played exceptional football in the early parts of the season. Helped by English talent in the form of Ricky Lambert, Jay Rodriguez, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana Southampton finished an impressive 8th, although at they climbed as high as the Champions league places. As reflected earlier in this article, Norwich produced championship level football and got relegated.

Updated 11/06/2014

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