Soccer: Premier League's hot prospects

By Steve Griffiths

Chelsea's new signing Eden Hazard (right) needs to make a quick contribution to his side's defence of both the Champions League and FA Cup. Picture / AP
Chelsea's new signing Eden Hazard (right) needs to make a quick contribution to his side's defence of both the Champions League and FA Cup. Picture / AP

Manchester City
Manager:
Roberto Mancini

Last season: Premier League winners, FA Cup 3rd round, League Cup semifinals, Champions League group stage, Europa League last 16
In: Jack Rodwell (Everton)
Out: Vladimir Weiss (Pescara) undisclosed fee, Wayne Bridge (Brighton) loan, Owen Hargreaves (released), Stuart Taylor (released)

Outlook: How do you top winning the greatest title race in Premier League history? That is the question Roberto Mancini must answer as Manchester City prepare to defend the English crown for the first time in 44 years. City's status as top dogs will bring greater scrutiny and higher expectations than ever. Only a repeat of their title victory and a prolonged challenge in the Champions League will be seen as an improvement on last season's heroics.

Manchester United
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson
Last season: Premier League runners-up, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup quarter-finals, Champions League group stage, Europa League last 16
In: Robin van Persie (Arsenal) £22m ($42.67m) Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) £12m, Nick Powell (Crewe) £4m
Out: Park Ji-Sung (QPR) £2m, Tomasz Kuszczak (Brighton) free, Paul Pogba (Juventus) free, Fabio da Silva (QPR) loan, Ben Amos (Hull) loan, Michael Owen (released)
Outlook: It's safe to assume the response of Sir Alex Ferguson's United team to the threat from across Manchester will be typically fiesty and vigorous.

United's first season without a trophy since 2005 should bring out the street fighter in Ferguson, who is well aware that City's wealth poses a significant but not insurmountable challenge.
Ferguson has seen off the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea when they've threatened United at various stages of his 26-year reign and even City will be wary of the 70-year-old's response.

Arsenal
Manager:
Arsene Wenger

Last season: 3rd in Premier League, FA Cup 5th round, League Cup quarter-finals, Champions League last 16
In: Santi Cazorla (Malaga) £14m, Olivier Giroud (Montpellier) £13m, Lukas Podolski (Cologne) £11m
Out: Carlos Vela, Manuel Almunia (Watford) free, Denilson (Sao Paulo) loan
Outlook: Not for the first time, Arsene Wenger has spent the summer engaged in an apparently fruitless attempt trying to persuade a star player to remain at the Emirates Stadium with Robin van Persie going to Manchester United.
Wenger will face a tough battle to convince van Persie he has the squad to end Arsenal's seven-year title drought and with midfielder Alex Song also reported to be unsettled, the Gunners may look destined to remain entertaining underachievers. for the foreseeable future.

Tottenham
Manager
: Andre Villas-Boas
Last season: 4th in Premier League, FA Cup semifinals, League Cup 3rd round, Europa League group stage
In: Jan Vertonghen (Ajax) £9m, Gylfi Sigurdsson (Hoffenheim) £8m
Out: Niko Kranjcar (Dynamo Kiev) £5.5m, Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow) £5m, Steven Pienaar (Everton) £4m, Ryan Nelsen (QPR) free, Louis Saha (released), Ledley King (retired)
Outlook: With his miserable reign at Chelsea still fresh in the memory, Andre Villas-Boas has plenty of questions to answer after his surprise appointment as Harry Redknapp's successor at White Hart Lane. Villas-Boas, the 34-year-old Portuguese coach, has already had to deal with Luka Modric's protests over the club's failure to sign off on his move to Real Madrid, and only a repeat of Redknapp's top-four finishes will avoid another painful exit from one of London's major clubs.

Newcastle
Manager:
Alan Pardew
Last season: 5th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 4th round
In: Gael Bigirimana (Coventry) £1m, Curtis Good (Melbourne Heart) undisclosed, Romain Amalfitano (Stade de Reims) free
Out: Leon Best (Blackburn) £3m, Fraser Forster (Celtic) £2.5m, Fraser Forster (Celtic) undisclosed, Danny Guthrie (Reading) free, Peter Lovenkrands (Birmingham) free, Alan Smith, (Milton Keynes Dons) free
Outlook: Nothing summed up Newcastle's unlikely success last season better than the incredulity on Alan Pardew's face when Papiss Demba Cisse scored a goal-of-the-season contender to kill off Chelsea in a crucial clash at Stamford Bridge.
Widely regarded as pre-season relegation candidates, Newcastle ended up narrowly missing out on a Champions League spot. Now they have to maintain that progress and with key players like Cisse, Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote so far persuaded to stay, the Magpies believe they could even steal some silverware.

Chelsea
Manager:
Roberto Di Matteo
Last season: 6th in Premier League, FA Cup winners, League Cup quarter-finals, Champions League winners
In: Eden Hazard (Lille) £32m, Oscar (Internacional) £25m, Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) £7m
Out: Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua) free, Salomon Kalou (Lille) free, Partrick Van Aanholt (Vitesse Arnhem) loan, Rohan Ince (Yeovil) loan, Jose Bosingwa (released)
Outlook: Chelsea's celebrations of a Champions League and FA Cup double were barely under way when their squad overhaul began with veteran striker Didier Drogba announcing he was leaving the club.
Blues owner Roman Abramovich wants to win more trophies while emulating Barcelona's style of football, meaning Roberto di Matteo, finally handed a two-year contract after his success as interim coach, needs to quickly get the best out of new signings Eden Hazard and Oscar if he is to bring Catalan style to a team respected but rarely admired.

Everton
Manager:
David Moyes
Last season: 7th in Premier League, FA Cup semifinals, League Cup 4th round
In: Steven Pienaar (Tottenham) £4.5m, Steven Naismith (Rangers) free
Out: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls) free, Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce) free, Jack Rodwell (Man City), Marcus Hahnemann (released), James McFadden (released)
Outlook: Despite being linked with the Tottenham job, Everton boss David Moyes remains in charge at Goodison Park, where he will continue to balance his and the fans' desire for silverware with the harsh realities of Everton's perilous financial situation.
In the circumstances, Moyes deserves great credit for keeping Everton in the top 10, but he will have to shake off his innate conservatism before the Toffees can start looking any higher up the table.

Liverpool
Manager:
Brendan Rodgers
Last season: 8th in Premier League, FA Cup runners-up, League Cup winners
In: Fabio Borini (Roma) £10.5m
Out: Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce) 1m, Maxi Rodriguez (Newell's Old Boys) undisclosed, Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina) undisclosed, Fabio Aurelio (Gremio) free
Outlook: Kenny Dalglish's second spell at the club ended in a disappointing eighth-place league finish and the sacking of a club legend.
Brendan Rodgers comes in as Dalglish's replacement and has been charged with rebuilding the club after their lowest league finish in 18 years.
His belief in an eye-catching possession game will go down well with the Anfield purists, but the former Swansea boss knows he faces a tough task to restore the 18-time English champions to their former glory.

Fulham
Manager:
Martin Jol
Last season: 9th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 3rd round, Europa League group stage
In: George Williams (Milton Keynes Dons) undisclosed, Mladen Petric (Hamburg) free, Hugo Rodallega (Wigan) free, Sascha Riether (Cologne) loan
Out: Dickson Etuhu (Blackburn) undisclosed, Carlos Salcido (UANL) undisclosed, Andrew Johnson (QPR) free, Danny Murphy (Blackburn) free
Outlook: Under the no-nonsense leadership of boss Martin Jol, Fulham remain one of the Premier League's solid citizens - unlikely to need the silverware polishers but more than capable of troubling even the division's big guns on their day.
In a bid to stop the club stagnating, Jol has opted to sell Danny Murphy, Andrew Johnson and Dickson Ethuhu - all long-serving members of the squad - and bring in several new faces including Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega and Croatian forward Mladen Petric from Hamburg.

West Brom
Manager:
Steve Clarke
Last season: 10th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 3rd round
In: Ben Foster (Birmingham) undisclosed, Yassine El Ghanassy (Gent) loan
Out: Nicky Shorey (Reading), Keith Andrews (Bolton) free, Joe Mattock (Sheffield Wednesday) free, Marton Fulop (Asteras Tripoli) free, Paul Scharner (released)
Outlook: With seasoned campaigner Roy Hodgson lured away by England, Albion have taken a major gamble by giving Steve Clarke his first crack at management.
Clarke, a former Chelsea and Scotland defender, has earned his stripes after spending several years as an assistant at Newcastle, Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool.
Now he has to prove he can cope with the pressure of being the main man at a club where standards have been raised by Hodgson's impressive reign.

Swansea
Manager:
Michael Laudrup
Last season: 11th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 2nd round
In: Chico (Genoa) £2m, Michu (Rayo Vellecano) £2m, Scott Tancock (Cardiff) undisclosed, Jonathan de Guzman (Villareal) loan,
Out: Joe Walsh (released)
Outlook: Brendan Rodgers' departure to Liverpool resulted in Swansea hiring Danish legend Michael Laudrup as their new manager.
After his underwhelming spells in charge at Spartak Moscow and Real Mallorca, whether former Real Madrid and Barcelona player Laudrup can live up to Rodgers' success remains to be seen. The experiment will make for fascinating viewing.

Norwich
Manager: Chris Hughton
Last season: 12th in Premier League, FA Cup 5th round, League Cup 2nd round
In: Robert Snodgrass (Leeds) £3m, Michael Turner (Sunderland) undisclosed, Jacob Butterfield (Barnsley) undisclosed, Steven Whittaker (Rangers) free,
Out: Andrew Crofts (Brighton) undisclosed, Adam Drury (Leeds) free, Aaron Wilbraham (Crystal Palace) free, Zak Whitbread (Leicester) free,
Outlook: Paul Lambert's departure has left Norwich at a crossroads after last season's impressive mid-table finish and it would be easy to fear the worst for one of the league's most welcoming clubs.
Lambert's defection to Aston Villa threatens to disrupt three years of tremendous success for the Canaries, who were playing in League One in 2010, but in new boss Chris Hughton, hired from Championship club Birmingham, they have a man determined to seize his chance for Premier League redemption following an acrimonious split with Newcastle.

Sunderland
Manager: Martin O'Neill
Last season: 13th in Premier League, FA Cup quarter-finals, League Cup 2nd round
In: Carlos Cuellar (Aston Villa) free
Out: Asamoah Gyan (Al-Ain) £6m, Cristian Riveros (Kayserispor) £500,000, Michael Turner (Norwich) undisclosed, George McCartney (West Ham) free, Craig Gordon (released)
Outlook: Steering Sunderland away from the relegation dogfight in his first season has earned Martin O'Neill plenty of respect at the Stadium of Light, but he won't be satisfied until the Black Cats are more concerned with matters at the other end of the table.
However, O'Neill has been quiet in the transfer market so far - Aston Villa centre-back Carlos Cuellar is the only arrival - and more improvements are needed before Sunderland are ready to emulate Newcastle's success.

Stoke
Manager:
Tony Pulis
Last season: 14th in Premier League, FA Cup quarter-finals, League Cup 4th round, Europa League last 32
In: Jamie Ness (Rangers) free,
Out: Danny Collins (Nottingham Forest) undisclosed, Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough) free, Ricardo Fuller (released), Salif Diao (released), Tom Soares (released)
Outlook: Now firmly established after four seasons in the top-flight, Stoke face a dilemma. Do they settle for being the Premier League's perennial bully-boys or introduce a more sophisticated style of play?
In many ways Tony Pulis' collection of rough-and-tumble journeymen are the role model for clubs aspiring to gatecrash the elite but the feeling persists that Pulis needs to tweak their tactics to encourage flair if they are to take the next step.

Wigan
Manager
: Roberto Martinez
Last season: 15th in Premier League, FA Cup 3rd round, League Cup 2nd round
In: Ivan Ramis (Real Mallorca) undisclosed
Out: Hugo Rodallega (Fulham) free, Mohamed Diame (West Ham) free, Chris Kirkland (Sheffield Wednesday) free, Steve Gohouri (released)
Outlook: Once again the future of boss Roberto Martinez cast a long shadow over Wigan's preparations for the new season.
The urbane Spaniard had flirted with a move to Aston Villa in 2011 and 12 months later, after inspiring the Latics to beat the drop with an impressive late run that included wins over Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle, he was approached by Liverpool.
Villa were also back in the hunt for Martinez, but his future, for the short term at least, remains at the DW Stadium, where he will once again he asked to work miracles on a limited budget.

Aston Villa
Manager:
Paul Lambert
Last season: 16th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 3rd round
In: Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord) £3.2m, Matthew Lowton (Sheffield Utd) £3m, Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord) £2m, Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar) free
Out: James Collins (West Ham) £2.5m, Carlos Cuellar (Sunderland) free, Jean Makoun (released), Habib Beye (released), Emile Heskey (released)
Outlook: With Alex McLeish heading for the exit after just one miserable season as manager, Aston Villa were going to need a new boss and Norwich boss Paul Lambert was the populist choice.
The Scot has quickly overhauled a porous defence and mid-table security beckons.

QPR
Manager:
Mark Hughes
Last season: 17th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 2nd round
In: Park Ji-Sung (Man Utd) £2m, David Hoilett (Blackburn) undisclosed, Samba Diakite (Nancy) undisclosed, Robert Green (West Ham) free, Ryan Nelsen (Tottenham) free, Fabio da Silva (Man Utd) loan
Out: Paddy Kenny (Leeds) £400,000, Heidar Helguson (Cardiff) undisclosed, Fitz Hall (Watford) free, Rowan Vine (St Johnstone) free, Peter Ramage (released), Patrick Agyemang (released), Danny Gabbidon (released), Dan Shittu (released)
Outlook: QPR manager Mark Hughes has made wholesale changes after his team's narrow last-day escape at the end of last season.
Hughes is trying to blend a new mix of experienced campaigners, Ryan Nelsen, Park Ji-Sung and Robert Green, and dynamic young tyros like David Hoilett and Fabio da Silva.
QPR, without the suspended Joey Barton for the first 12 games of the season, will hope to ascend to the ranks of the Premier League's middle-classes eventually, but for now survival would still do just fine.

Reading
Manager:
Brian McDermott
Last season: Championship winners, FA Cup 3rd round, League Cup 2nd round
In: Chris Gunter (Nottingham Forest), £2.5m, Adrian Mariappa (Watford) £2.5m, Danny Guthrie (Newcastle) free, Pavel Pogrebnyak (Stuttgart) free, Nicky Shorey (West Brom) free
Out: Michail Antonio (Sheffield Wednesday) undisclosed, Andy Griffin (released)
Outlook: Humble grafters like coach Brian McDermott and captain Mikele Leigertwood helped Reading win the Championship and promotion to the Premier League after a four-year absence.
A series of low-key but astute pre-season signings suggest perspiration rather than inspiration will again be the key as the Royals try to stay in the top-flight.

Southampton
Manager: Nigel Adkins
Last season: Championship runners-up, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 4th round
In: Jay Rodriguez (Burnley) £7m, Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace) undisclosed, Steven Davis (Rangers) free
Out: David Connolly (released), Radhi Jaidi (retired)
Outlook: Under Nigel Adkins' progressive leadership, Southampton have enjoyed a remarkable rise that will reach its climax when Saints kick-off their first top-flight campaign for seven years at champions Manchester City.
Adkins, aided by the goals of Rickie Lambert and the guile of Adam Lallana, has inspired two successive promotions and breathed new life into the moribund club. Staying up will be tough, but Saints believe anything is possible these days.

West Ham
Manager:
Sam Allardyce
Last season: 3rd in Championship (promoted via play-offs), FA Cup 3rd round, League Cup 2nd round
In: Modibo Maiga (Sochaux) £4.7m, James Collins (Aston Villa) £2.5m, Mohamed Diame (Wigan) free, Jussi Jaaskelainen (Bolton) free, Stephen Henderson (Portsmouth) free
Out: Robert Green (QPR) free, Julien Faubert (Elazigspor) free, Freddie Sears (Colchester) free, Ravel Morrison (Birmingham) loan, John Carew (released), Papa Bouba Diop (released)
Outlook: Just 18 months after crashing out of the Premier League in shambolic fashion, West Ham return to the top-flight determined to stick around long enough to make an impression this time.
Sam Allardyce's side will never win plaudits from the purists, but they were able to grind their way out of the Championship under immense pressure. It will be more of the same in the top-flight as the Hammers fight to avoid the drop.

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