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EPL Preview II: Mid-table madness

With less than a week to go before the beginning of the 2011/12 English Premier League season, Tom Midwood previews nine teams that will most likely be jostling for position in mid-table, in the second of upstart’s EPL previews.


It may be a new season, but sadly, it’s the same old story for Everton.

Due to a lack of funds, manager David Moyes has been unable to add any notable additions to his squad, and has spent the summer trying to retain his biggest stars.

Moyes has been successful so far, but interest remains high for Jack Rodwell, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka.

Expect a repeat of last year – comfortably better than those below, but not good enough for Europe.

Predicted Position: 7th


Fulham may have lost manager Mark Hughes, who bizarrely quit a month ago, but have been quick to replace him by signing former Ajax and Tottenham boss Martin Jol.

Jol is an adequate replacement for Hughes, and with several new faces, including former Liverpool left back John Arne Riise, Fulham fans have plenty of reasons for hope this season.

Striker Bobby Zamora, returns from a broken leg after missing the majority of last season. Expect 30-year-old Zamora to push for international selection and spearhead the club towards another solid top 10 finish.

Predicted Position: 8th

Aston Villa

After a controversial off-season – which included selling their two best players, delisting several popular squad members and then hiring the boss of their arch-rivals – it’s difficult to know what to expect from Aston Villa this season.

However, the club isn’t in as much turmoil as it seems. The appointment of manager Alex McLeish will bring efficiency and structure to Villa’s play, something that was lacking last year.

The losses of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing aren’t catastrophic either, with young star Marc Albrighton, and new signing Charles N’Zogbia, ready to fill the void.

N’Zogbia was one of last season’s underrated stars and looks to be a steal at $15.6 million.Villa will be hard to beat if N’Zogbia can form a partnership with goal machine Darren Bent.

Predicted Position: 9th

West Bromich Albion

West Brom was among the bookies’ favorites for relegation last January. Fast forward seven months and now their position in the EPL is so strong that being relegated isn’t even a consideration.

Manager Roy Hodgson has put his Liverpool nightmare firmly behind him. Hodgson has the Baggies playing organised and efficient football, and has nurtured the talents of Chris Brunt and Peter Odemwingie to great effect.

Expect another solid season, especially if they can maintain last year’s home form.

Predicted Position: 10th


The best of Sunderland’s new signings is underrated former Blackpool midfielder David Vaughan.

While Vaughan is not a household name, and did not receive the media attention of Charlie Adam and D.J. Campbell, this guy was the glue that held Blackpool together in the midfield. Signing him on a free transfer may just be the steal of the season.

Expect an inconsistent season from the Black Cats, with great wins marred by disappointing losses.

Predicted Position: 11th

Stoke City

Tony Pulis has taken a lot of criticism over the years for his team’s physical approach, but his critics were silenced last year after Stoke made the FA Cup Final and qualified for Europe.

It will be more of the same this season, and I expect Stoke to go quite deep in the UEFA Europa League.

The only danger with European success is that it gives players less time to recover for EPL league games, and for this, I see them just missing out on the top 10.

Predicted Position: 12th

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton came on leaps and bounds last year, holding a top 10 position for the majority of the season until they were ousted by a late-season slide.

Much of the decline in form was in part due to key USA midfielder Stuart Holden’s knee injury. Unfortunately for Bolton fans, he is still struggling and is unlikely to be back before October, meaning it could be a difficult start to the season.

The loss of Johan Elmander and Daniel Sturridge has also left Bolton light up forward. Manager Owen Coyle needs to bring in someone to help complement the evergreen Kevin Davies if he hopes to meet Bolton’s aspirations for this season.

Predicted Position: 13th

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves were probably the most unfortunate team in the entire division last season.

Their performances were brave and admirable, and yet, they still found themselves barely holding onto their EPL status.

This season, the Wolves should be able to assert themselves within the mid-table and avoid the relegation dogfight. They lost key man Kevin Doyle for large parts of last season through injury, but with him now seemingly fit and raring to go, their chances have never looked so good.

Predicted Position: 14th

Queens Park Rangers

QPR won the nPower Championship last season and look to be the best bet of the newcomers.

Their defense was tight last year and manager Neil Warnock has bolstered their attacking threats over summer with the inclusion of proven goalscorers Jay Bothroyd and D.J. Campbell.

It will be interesting to see how last season’s nPower Championship Player of the Season Adel Taarabt performs. The QPR captain is a huge talent, but his mentality has been questioned throughout his career.

Taarabt seemed to put it together last season, but has spent much of the summer talking to other clubs in search of a bigger wage packet. He could still be a big success, but his heart doesn’t seem to be in the club, and his track record doesn’t suggest that he will simply pull up his socks and let his ability do the talking.

Tom Midwood is a first-year Bachelor of Sports Journalism student at La Trobe University.  You can read his English Premier League relegation preview here, and follow him on Twitter: @tommy_midwood.

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