July 9, 2006
The 2006/07 English Premier League Way Too Early Preview: Part 1
Last Season: 3rd in the Championship
Defining Moment of Last Season:
Was there any player who better represented Watford’s season than the American defender considered worse than Eddie Pope by Bruce Arena? Probably, but the parallels are astounding. Watford were supposed to struggle with players not good enough for the Championship. They stunned all observers by finishing third under first year manager Aidy Boothroyd. DeMerit came out of nowhere to cap a magnificent season by scoring the opener in the play-off final.
Transfers In and Out: Watford have thus far secured two players for the new season, and to say they are Premiership quality is pushing the limit. Claude Seanla was signed from Spurs at little expense, and seeing as he has never played a competitive match, it is hard to judge him too harshly. Ancient defender Chris Powell, who actually played for England at some time in the distant past (actually 5 years ago), signed on a free transfer as well, but signing for Watford was really his only chance to stay in the division. The Hornets have also been linked to West Brom defender Paul Robinson, who spent six seasons at Watford earlier in his career, who may be desperate to leave the wasteland that is Midlands football.
The departure of on loan goalkeeper Ben Foster was inevitable once they gained promotion. With Richard Lee set to start between the posts, goalkeeping looks to be a major issue.
One Sentence Description of Playing Style: Lump it up to Marlon King and hope something happens.
Best Case Scenario: Finishing 17th would be a dream for them in their second go at the Premiership. They will have to hope that there are three other clubs that do not belong in the league to have a shot at survival.
Realistic Goal: 16 points, one more than Sunderland acquired in the ultimate show of futility in the Premiership. Really, they can’t be any worse than the Black Cats can they?
Last Season: A brilliant start was followed by near epic collapse as they backed their way into second spot in the Championship.
Defining Moment of Last Season: A local councillor and Sheffield Wednesday fan hitting “Reply All” when sending a response to an email describing Blades fans as pigs.
Transfers In and Out: After spending most of their anticipated promotion money in January on aging (Geoff Horsfield), useless (Ade Akinbiyi) strikers that hardly played, Neil Warnock has still managed to sign five players. Christian Nadé was a backup striker on a Troyes side that barely avoided relegation from Ligue 1. Claude Davis, a Jamaican defender who cost £2.5 million from Preston, is there to shore up the defense. Mikele Liegertwood who decided mediocre play at Crystal Palace was not worth his time when he could struggle in the Premiership. David Sommeil, released by Manchester City because he was paid too much. And the newest signing, former Everton defender Li Tie, who was released because of his Kirkland-esque time on the treatment table.
Leaving the club were a striker and a goalkeeper to lower division sides, but were not noteworthy enough to have their names placed here.
One Sentence Description of Playing Style: Lump it up and hope someone gets on the end of it. Like Watford, Sheffield United don’t play the prettiest football. It is slightly better to watch than the absolute pragmatism of Bolton, but not by much.
Best Case Scenario: 17th, like Watford they do not look good on paper and will have to hope to be among several clubs fighting it out for survival in the final matches of the season.
Realistic Goal: Survival is a more realistic goal for the Blades as they do have talent in some positions. The summer signings may actually make a difference in their bid to stay up.
Last Season: Won the Championship in dominant fashion
Defining Moment of Last Season: It is hard to describe it as a moment, but the 33 match unbeaten run to begin the season set a new record for the second tier of English football. The Royals were expected to be good, but they reigned over a mediocre division last term.
Transfer Ins and Outs: Reading have only successfully signed former Nike marketing star for the Korean market Seol Hi-Kyeon from Wolves. They have also had a bid rejected for the only player from Sunderland who increased his reputation last season, Dean Whitehead.
With football giants the likes of Manchester City and Charlton circling overhead, midfielder Steve Sidwell has decided he wants to leave as soon as possible.
One Sentence Description of Playing Style: An attack-first mentality which saw Reading score 99 goals in the league last term.
Best Case Scenario: A top-half finish in the club’s first ever season at this level is possible with the amount of talent in the side. The problem may lie in whether their attacking style can be adapted to the Premiership.
Realistic Goal: 12th-15th, the Royals really should not have a problem avoiding relegation and this is a side that can hold on to good form for months.
Last Season: Struggled, Got a ton of cash, still struggled, then finally remembered they were better than the likes of West Brom and Birmingham to finish 17th.
Defining Moment of Last Season: Pompey looked like they were going to have to settle for a point at home to Manchester City until Pedro Mendes did this:
The great escape was on as Portsmouth finally gained some momentum.
Transfer Ins and Outs: Portsmouth have been attached to a whole slate of players including Celtic’s Stilian Petrov, West Brom’s Curtis Davies, and former Pompey striker Yakubu among others. However, they have only lined up Chelsea defender Glen Johnson on loan for the season. There are still plenty of holes in this side that need to be filled.
Most of the departures were players who were on loan. However, Andres D’Alessandro’s departure to Real Zaragoza must hurt most out of these because they were hesitant about the Argentine’s wage demands.
One Sentence Description of Playing Style: A side that can play attractive football whenever it wants too, but the midfield accounts for too many of their goals.
Best Case Scenario: Qualification for Europe. With as much money as Alexandre Gaydamak brings to the club, they should be able to basically purchase a UEFA Cup spot this coming season.
Realistic Goal: A top-half finish should be an achievable goal for a side with as much money as Portsmouth.