English Premier League Preseason Power Rankings

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 9, 2011

English Premier League Preseason Power Rankings

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    With the beginning of the Premier League season upon us once again, it is time for the speculation to begin on who is the best and worst of the English top flight.

    Going into this season, Manchester United are defending champions and Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Welsh side Swansea City have replaced the relegated Birmingham City, Blackpool and West Ham.

    There have been some high-profile transfers within the league, mostly involving Manchester United and Liverpool as well as some high-profile international transfers thanks to Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.

    With more transfers to come until the end of August, who knows how that will shape the league table? For now, here are the preseason power rankings before play starts on Saturday.

20. Norwich City

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    Paul Lambert led Norwich City to the Premier League after finishing second in the Championship last season.

    The East Anglian club are back in the Premier League after a six-year absence and as a founding member of the league will look to stay in the top flight for a few years, but it will be difficult for the Canaries.

    Lambert has brought in the often-injured James Vaughan from Everton to bolster the attack and has brought in the services of young defenders Richie De Laet and Kyle Naughton on loan from Manchester United at Tottenham respectively.

    It will be a tough season for the Canaries and if Vaughan stays healthy, it may be a different result than last place.

19. Swansea City

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    The Welsh side enters the Premier League after winning promotion through the Championship playoffs.

    The Swans have an lesser experienced squad than others in the relegation race and could be in line for a one-and-done season under manager Brendan Rogers.

18. Wigan

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    After barely surviving relegation last season, the Latics have to have a better start than their atrocious start to last season, and if Roberto Martinez wants to hold on to his manager position, he better have the team ready to play from game one.

    The Latics lost one of their best players in Charles N'Zogbia to Aston Villa but did hold on to Hugo Rodallega and secured the services of goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi on a permanent basis from Bolton.

    Wigan's schedule to open the season pits them against the three promoted sides, so it give the Latics a chance to gain points against unexperienced Premier League squads.

17. Newcastle

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    Newcastle ended up finishing 12th in the Premier League table last season, but they lost their two main goal scorers from last season.

    Andy Carroll left for Liverpool in January and Kevin Nolan made a surprise move down to the Championship to play for West Ham.

    The Magpies have brought a trio of French players in Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Gabriel Obertan who along with fellow new signing Demba Ba will look to replace those goals that Carroll and Nolan would have scored if they were still around.

    The goal-scoring question is the key one to ask about Alan Pardew's club, and we will see if they handle big games as well with the home opener against Arsenal in Week 1 and then a trip to the Stadium of Light in the Tyne-Wear derby with Sunderland in Week 2.

16. Queens Park Rangers

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    Of the three promoted sides, Queens Park Rangers have the best shot to stay in the Premier League for another season.

    The club has money behind them from their ownership and have brought in some Premier League veterans in the form of Kieron Dyer and Danny Gabbidon, as well as former Blackpool forward DJ Campbell and Jay Bothroyd has been brought in from Cardiff City.

    Manager Neil Warnock will have a ton of pressure on him to perform this season, and he will get help from want-away forward Adel Taarabt, who after a long transfer saga, is staying with the club, and that could prove to be the most important move of the transfer season for the Hoops.

15. Blackburn

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    Blackburn finished in this exact position last season after a crazy eventful season that saw a surprise sacking of Sam Allardyce, new ownership from India and rumors of big-name stars like Ruud van Nistelrooy coming in to play for the club.

    This summer, Rovers have been a bit quiet in fixing up their squad as they have brought in young star David Goodwillie from Dundee United but lost a young star in defender Phil Jones as he departed for Manchester United.

    If defender Chris Samba stays at Ewood Park this season instead of his rumored move to Arsenal, the club will be better off and may have a shot at a top 12 finish.

14. Wolverhampton

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    Wolves barely survived relegation last season with a stunning end of the year run which culminated in a loss at Blackburn, but thanks to other results around the league, Mick McCarthy's club stayed up for another year.

    Jamie O'Hara, who was loan at the club from Tottenham last season, was signed on a permanent basis as well as Roger Johnson from relegated club Birmingham City.

    Mick McCarthy has built a solid squad at the Molineux Stadium since he took over in 2006, and the club should have no problem avoiding relegation this season.

13. West Bromwich Albion

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    After taking over on February 11th, Roy Hodgson worked miracles at West Brom and took the club to an 11th place finish after sitting in the relegation zone for most of the season.

    Hodgson's main weapon is forward Peter Odemwingie who finished fifth in the Premier League in goals last season with 15.

    Hodgson has brought in Ben Foster to be the first choice keeper after the English goalie was relegated with Birmingham last season.

    The Baggies have the same main core of players for the upcoming season and start by hosting Manchester United and then traveling to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea in the first two weeks of the season.

12. Fulham

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    Fulham has a new man in charge as former Tottenham boss Martin Jol takes over for Mark Hughes at Craven Cottage.

    The club has already started their season in the Europa League by advancing into the playoff stage, a route they took to the Europa League final two years ago.

    John Arne Riise joins the club from Roma as well as teenager Pajtim Kasami from Palermo, while Jonathan Greening and John Pantsil both left the club over the summer.

    A healthy Bobby Zamora will be up front to partner Moussa Dembele and Andrew Johnson, and of course, American Clint Dempsey will be there in the midfield providing balls to the three talented forwards.

    Look for the Cottagers' Premier League form to drop off a bit due to the crammed Europa League schedule as it did two years ago.

11. Stoke

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    After venturing into the FA Cup Final last season and finishing 13th in the Premier League, Tony Pulis and company now have an added task of the Europa League to add to their plate thanks to their FA Cup run.

    The Potters have brought in veteran defender Jonathan Woodgate to add to their strong back line that includes Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross.

    The concern in past preseasons for Stoke was who will score the goals and even though a transfer for Carlton Cole fell through, Pulis still has last summer's signing Kenwyne Jones to go along with Ricardo Fuller and Jonathan Walters, who scored a flurry of goals in the end of the season.

10. Sunderland

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    Sunderland salvaged their season last year with a 10th place finish after dropping near the relegation zone in March and April.

    Steve Bruce's squad last season was hurt by injuries, and to fight that, Bruce has added a good amount of players to the squad to bolster its depth.

    John O'Shea and Wes Brown were brought in from Bruce's old stomping ground, Manchester United as well as young Englishman Connor Wickham from Ipswich Town just to name a few.

    The Black Cats did lose Jordan Henderson and Steed Malbranque over the summer, but they should be able to contend at mid-table like they usually do.

9. Everton

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    Everton has been the quietest club in the Premier League this summer regarding transfers, and with a squad that knows how to play together, David Moyes could be headed back for European qualification in his 10th full season in charge at Goodison Park.

    All the regulars are back for the Toffees including Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines, Phil Neville, Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka and others.

    Everton is a dark horse contender for the top four and will definitely be in the fight for Europe.

8. Aston Villa

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    Aston Villa had a disappointing season in 2010-11, eventually finishing ninth for a club that had expectations set high.

    This season, Alex McLeish takes over as manager of the Villians from crosstown rival Birmingham City.

    More new faces will grace the pitch at Villa Park as Shay Given is the new goalkeeper, and Charles N'Zogbia will replace the departed Ashley Young and Stewart Downing on the wing.

    The moves of Young and Downing should open the door for Marc Albrighton to have a breakout season and look for Gabriel Agbonlahor to have a bounce-back season in goals as well.

7. Bolton

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    Bolton's 14th place finish in the table does not represent their achievement last season at all, and manager Owen Coyle knows that and is out to finish in the top half.

    With Stuart Holden coming back from injury, the Trotters midfield is depleted by injury again because Lee Chung-Yong has been ruled out for nine months with a leg injury.

    Also, the loss of Johan Elmander is crucial to the club, but with Ivan Klasnic ready to step up as the main goal scorer this season and with plenty of support from the midfield thanks to new additions Chris Eagles, Darren Pratley and Nigel Reo-Coker as well as returnees Martin Petrov, Fabrice Muamba, Holden and Ricardo Gardner...

    Coyle's club will be in the group of clubs that will fighting for Europa League spots including Everton, Aston Villa, Stoke and Fulham.

6. Tottenham

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    Now, for the curious case that is Tottenham Hotspur.

    The summer transfer window has been one to follow at White Hart Lane for rumors swirling around Luka Modric and some around Roman Pavlyuchenko and even Peter Crouch about their departures from the club.

    Souleymane Coulibaly and Brad Friedel are only two players being brought into White Hart Lane to begin the season, and one would think if Modric is not sold, no more players will come in.

    Harry Redknapp and company, just like Fulham and Stoke, face a difficult number of fixtures to deal with involving the Europa League, and that could cause Tottenham not to qualify for next season's European competitions.

5. Arsenal

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    Arsenal have been somewhat quiet in the transfer market until Monday when they locked up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton, who is following in the footsteps of Theo Walcott, when the English winger made the move a few years ago.

    Oxlade-Chamberlain will join the young core led by Jack Wilshere as a new era officially begins as the last of the Invincibles team, Gael Clichy, left for Manchester City.

    Alongside other young stars like Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Samir Nasri, the Gunners could be a year or two away from winning the Premier League again, but this year, it is time to fight with Liverpool and Chelsea for the last two Champions League spots.

4. Chelsea

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    Chelsea brought in yet another new manager in the form of Andre Villas-Boas from Porto, and the Portuguese manager has been quiet in the transfer window until he brought in Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht this past weekend.

    Lukaku will add to the aging attack that includes Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka as well as the underperforming Fernando Torres.

    Lukaku could be paired with fellow youngster Daniel Sturridge if the stalwarts up front fail to produce.

    Players like David Luiz, Ramires and Gael Kakuta will be able to add a youthful flow to the game alongside veterans like John Terry, Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel.

3. Liverpool

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    The so-called British Invasion has hit the midfield position at Anfield with Kenny Dalglish bringing in three British midfielders to add to team with the most depth at the position in the league.

    Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson add to a midfield that already includes Raul Meireles, Maxi Rodriguez, Steven Gerrard and Lucas.

    Dirk Kuyt will most likely play up front more with Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.

    With the depth in the squad that you need to keep the squad fresh, Liverpool will be in contention all season long for the title.

2. Manchester City

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    Manchester City, yet again, had an eventful summer of signing players and letting them go.

    The most notorious saga has been with Carlos Tevez, but it looks like the Argentine will stay in Manchester for time being with fellow countryman Sergio Aguero, who is a new face at the newly named Etihad Stadium.

    Also joining the Citizens are Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic with Shay Given, Jo, and Jerome Boateng all on the way out.

    City keeps getting better each year, and it looks like this year is their year to contend with rivals Manchester United for the title.

1. Manchester United

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    Manchester United are defending champions and favorites to win again—at least in preseason.

    United has brought in Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David De Gea to replace the retired trio of Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Edwin van der Sar.

    Sir Alex Ferguson's club is also rumored to be in a fight with Manchester City over the services of Wesley Sneijder.

    With Wayne Rooney and Chicharito up front along with Dimitar Berbatov, the attack is strong, as well as the defense.

    The only question really for United this season is in net with De Gea, who is only 20 years of age.