JAMES SHIPLEE casts his eye on City’s preparations for the upcoming Premier League campaign, and makes a couple of predictions.
As August 13th is quickly coming along and the Football League is finally underway it`s exciting that we`re just about underway in the Premier League Survival Push 2012. So for the final countdown this is my pre-season review.
Fairly simple one to be honest and I think most people would agree; survival! Anything more than that would be amazing but survival is the only thing we should be aiming for. Don`t get me wrong, I`m not saying 17th is what we`re aiming for, but there shouldn`t be too many high expectations of 13th or above.
Relegation. It wouldn`t be the end of the world as we`re ahead in the seven year plan but it would mean going back into an ever strengthening league and none of us wants that. The only thing that could be worse would be losing Paul Lambert. THAT, isn`t even worth contemplating as I think you`d struggle to find many better.
Opinion on transfers
James Vaughan: Top prospect, began his career with a lot of promise and I hope he starts to show why in his time here. He will be a big part of this season I think and will find his scoring boots under Lambert.
Steve Morison: His rise through the leagues has been amazing and will be out to prove to everyone why. Should be able to get a few goals and will have competition on his hands with the other strikers but he`ll give it a good go!
Elliott Bennett: The most exciting player brought in this summer for me and I think he may end up being the main playmaker. Comes with fantastic reports and I can`t wait to see him play. He`ll work wonders wherever he plays.
Ritchie De Laet: Good loan signing who has shown a lot in pre-season. Will give us versatility across the back four if needed but will be pushing for a starting spot at centre half.
Bradley Johnson: Solid central midfielder from Leeds and will certainly be involved I think from the start. Fairly defensive though scored a cracker for Leeds against Arsenal. Will be main competition for Andrew Crofts and David Fox I think.
Anthony Pilkington: Like Bennett, he`s arrived with great reports and I can`t wait to see him play. Seems to be getting over his injury well and I think once he`s fully fit he`ll be pushing for a starting place and will help to get a lot of goals. Very exciting signing.
Kyle Naughton: Good young defender who will provide cover and left back and right back. Will push Russell Martin and is more than capable to step in if needed.
Predicted Top 3 players
The three players I think will have the most impact towards the season:
Grant Holt: As he has been for the last two seasons he will be massive. I don`t think he`ll get up to 20 goals this season but I think he`ll still get a fair few. His goals aren`t the only reason the team needs him; his leadership and work rate are integral to the team pushing on and he can keep them going right to the final minute.
Leon Barnett: Great centre half who I think will be solid at the back, breaking down attacks and keeping the likes of Rooney, Torres and co. at bay.
Elliott Bennett: Pacy winger who can play behind the top two, can take players on, will get plenty of balls in and is capable of chipping in with goals himself; how can he not end up being one of the top performers this year? I think he`ll be vital to survival.
Paul Lambert: Regarded by many as the best young manager in the country and it`s hard to disagree! His decisions over the last two years have been great and have made a lot of game changing subs showing he knows how to affect a game from the touchline.
The focus on fitness levels, confidence and playing until the last minute showed last year and it will be important to keep this going into the Premier League.
The use of the diamond to best suit Wes Hoolahan was incredible but he has said himself that there may need to be changes in the formation this season, which he`s backed up by buying two wingers in Pilkington and Bennett.
His job is almost guaranteed at the moment and probably on a par with Sir Alex Ferguson in terms of job security. After turning down the chance to join West Ham, Burnley and his old club Celtic he`s shown loyalty to the club but you have to worry what happens if the worst does happen and the club gets relegated.
Teams to beat
Obviously you want to win them all but there are some teams who you just want to beat that little bit more than anyone else. With Ipswich not in the Promised Land (as you`d expect!) these are the teams I want to beat more than the rest:
Manchester United: A team I dislike just as much as Ipswich. Arrogant players, an arrogant manager and arrogant “fans” beating them again would be fantastic. A rocking Carrow Road in February after upsetting Wayne Rooney would be the icing on the cake of this season.
Wolves: As the song goes “We only hate Wolves and Ipswich”, although they`re not the only teams for some of us they`re a team that we have a good history against in recent years and another thumping of them would please everyone.
QPR: What ended up as a petty fine for them over the 3rd party transfer last season was seen by many, me included, as a farce by the FA. However, an even bigger reason to beat them is not only did they beat us to the title, not by much in the end, but also the chance to get one over on Neil Warnock. A great manager in my opinion but he is so easy to wind up and so funny when he is. Will be a great match again and can see a Norwich win with all the unrest there at the moment.
Predicted Finish – 14th
In an ultimately tough season I think survival will be accomplished. It`ll be good to see a comfortable finish but anything 17th and above is great. I do think that we will be the top promoted team and that we`ll get a few points and goals on the board. Of the top teams I think scalps of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham will be achieved.
The Premier League is closing in and after a long summer I think we`re ready. All that`s left to do now is kick the first ball. In Lambert We Trust. OTBC!
Feel free to add comments if you think I`ve missed anything or disagree and I`ll try to respond to them.
You can follow James on Twitter via @James_Shiplee
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