Premier League Preview 16: Sunderland
In Steve Bruce, Sunderland have a manager who has a wealth of Premier League experience under his belt, and one who with the backing of a new owner, will be supplied with the resources needed in order to gain stability in the top-flight.
So far this summer Bruce has been able to capture Spurs striker Darren Bent for £10 million, after an ongoing transfer saga in which the 25-year-old vented his frustration at Tottenham’s chairman on social networking website, Twitter. And although Bent has a fair amount of critics, most would agree that if he’s given starts, he’ll score, so he should be a valuable addition to the Black Cats’ squad.
Bruce has also brought former Wigan Athletic defensive midfielder Lee Cattermole to the north-east as well as Manchester United’s Fraizer Campbell. And Sunderland fans will be hoping Albanian defensive midfielder Lorik Cana can adapt to life in the Premier League swiftly, and justify his price-tag of over £5 million.
Before the transfer window is firmly shut on September 1, there is still the possibility of further additions to Bruce’s squad. The most recent players to be linked with a possible move to the Stadium of Light come in the defensive department with Sylvain Distin and Richard Dunne’s names continually being littered across the back-pages. Either should provide former centre back Bruce with the defensive stability he is after.
Last season the Black Cats flirted dangerously with relegation, but Ricky Sbragia guided the Black Cats to Premier League safety. Sbragia’s position at the club was always temporary, and new manager Steve Bruce is a man more than capable of steering the club in the right direction.
Backed by their new billionaire owner, Sunderland were able to break their transfer record this summer with Bent’s signing, and as long as manager Steve Bruce can attract the services of a new defender, one would expect the club to comfortably finish mid-table.
In: Lee Cattermole (Wigan Athletic, £6m), Darren Bent (Tottenham Hotspur, £10m), Lorik Cana (Marseille, £5m), Fraizer Campbell (Manchester United, £3.5m), Paulo da Silva (Toluca, free).
Out: Michael Chopra (Cardiff, £4m), Dean Whitehead (Stoke City, £3m), Greg Halford (Wolves, £2m), Nick Colgan (Grimsby, free), Peter Hartley (Hartlepool, Free), Arnau Riera (released), David Connolly (released), Dwight Yorke (released), Darren Ward (released)
TSR Writers’ Prediction: 10th
Premier League Preview 17: Tottenham Hotspur
Juande Ramos lasted only eight games last season at White Hart Lane following a miserable start securing a mere two points from eight games. Harry Redknapp will be hoping to avoid a repeat this year and begin his first full campaign in charge in bright fashion after steering the club away from danger last term. However Spurs fans beware, Redknapp’s team face a difficult start, encountering Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea before the end of September.
Heurelho Gomes steadily improved under Redknapp last season and will be looking to cement himself as the regular number one, and provide a solid base for his defenders to rely on. It is in defence that Tottenham look weakest with club captain Ledley King unable to train more than a couple of times a week. Redknapp will be looking for Gareth Bale to provide competition for Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the left wing while Alan Hutton and Verdan Corluka battle it out on the right.
The bustling Didier Zokora has left for fresh pastures in Spain joining Seville. Tom Huddlestone will be looking to seize upon the opportunity to cement the vacated midfield role as his own. Huddlestone will have to compete with Palacios and Modric for a starting place.
Aaron Lennon was once the man dubbed to replace the ageing David Beckham on the right wing for England but he has struggled in recent years. David Bentley was also touted as a possible successor to Beckham and he also has a lot to prove this campaign after Spurs have seen little return on his hefty transfer fee.
In attack Tottenham boast a vast array of talent with target men Peter Crouch and Roman Pavyluchenko as well as the gifted Robbie Keane and the electric Jermaine Defoe. A hoast of striking talent for Redknapp to choose from, but can he accommodate four big names in his squad during a crucial World Cup year? Possibly not. Rednapp will have to work hard to ensure the harmony of the dressing room.
Expect Tottenham to be a more consistent outfit this season and impose themselves on opposition with greater authority. Harry Redknapp is renowned as a great man-manager and will get the best out of his team in his adversity. However, there is a weight of expectation at White Harte Lane and Redknapp is more accustomed to a dog fight at the bottom of the league than the dizzy heights of the top end. Tottenham should push for a European spot but may ultimately miss out with the club possibly securing a place in the Europa League via a strong cup run.
In: Peter Crouch (Portsmouth, £9m); Sebastien Bassong (Newcastle United, £8m); Kyle Naughton (Sheff Utd, Undisclosed); Kyle Walker (Sheff Utd, Undisclosed).
Out: Darren Bent (Sunderland, £10m); Didier Zokora (Seville, £8.5m); Chris Gunter (Nottm Forest, £1.75m); Gilberto (Released); David Button (Crewe, Loan); Adel Taarabt (QPR, Loan); Ben Alnwick (Norwich, Loan); Troy Archibald-Henville (Exeter, Loan); Jacques Maghoma (Burton, Loan)
TSR Writers’ Prediction: 8th