In the relegation scrap: Norwich City
Last season’s impressive league finish will be hard to repeat with squads reinforced and upgraded across the league. Norwich too have tried to add more punch to their first XI, and while Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker have Premier League experience in England Scotland respectively, Robert Snodgrass and Jacob Butterfield are talent yet untested at this level. With Lambert gone, who settled and motivated the squad though their two years of promotion and Premiership consolidation, the players must focus their heads on the qualities of their new gaffer, Chris Hughton. Grant Holt remains but struggle to recapture the hunger and drive of last year, having handed in a contract request in the summer. His ability to find the net and inspire his comrades is key to Norwich’s hopes of avoiding the drop zone.
Javier Garrido arrives on loan from Lazio while Canary fans will be hoping the experiences of last year will push the likes of Jonny Howson, Wes Hoolahan, Andrew Surman, Steve Morrison and Anthony Pilkington to new heights. If they stick together and rally around Hughton they should be ok but they lack the individual quality to survive without a collective spirit.
Key arrival: Chris Hughton – the best man available following Lambert’s departure. Hughton faces a tough assignment with a squad that, when viewed in the clear light of day without the adrenaline of last year, is distinctly average.
Big departure: Zak Whitbread – while Michael Turner comes into defence as his replacement, Whitbread was a resourceful player for Norwich last year.
In the relegation scrap: Reading
Reading are up against it. Although they won the Championship last term, their squad lacks goals and may not have the firepower to make a mark on the Premier League. Brian McDermott is an astute manager who will put his faith in a rugged 4-4-2 system, but the team will rely greatly on new signing Pavel Pogrebnyak to deliver the goods up front. It’s hoped that Adam le Fondre and Noel Hunt will also be able to contribute in some capacity too however, with the searing pass of Jason Roberts an option against high defensive lines. Simon Church and Hal Robson-Kanu are prospects that can be called upon if needed too.
Danny Guthrie and Adrian Mariappa arrive to shore up the midfield roster lead by Mikele Leigertwood with Chris Gunter, Pierce Sweeney and Nicky Shorey beefing up the defensive options. Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss will be usual duo in the centre however. Adam Fedrici will be hoping that his defense holds out as the likelihood of big scoring comebacks is low.
Key arrival: Pavel Pogrebnyak – the Russian was a powerhouse striker for Fulham last year and will have to toil throughout 2012/13 if Reading are to survive.
Big departure: none
In the relegation scrap: Swansea City
All the good things come to an end, and while Swansea appear to have bought well this summer, the somewhat confusing comments of their new manager Michael Laudrup and lack of a credible plan B may see the Swans sink. Although expected to line up much the same, if Laudrup can tinker and tweak the existing systems with some success, the team may be able to stave off the dreaded second season syndrome.
Alongside Ashley Williams at the back come Jose Manuel Flores and Kyle Bartley, in for the classy out-going loanee Steven Caulker. In midfield, Dutch Canadian Jonathan de Guzman arrives online from relegated Villarreal. Swansea fans will be hoping Kemy Agustin, Scott Sinclair and perhaps Rory Donnelly can help in attack, as Danny Graham is far from prolific in front of goal.
With Leon Britten, Nathan Dyer, Michael Vorm and co, Swansea have the quality to survive, but much depends on the abilities of their new big name manager to prevent their Swansalona style becoming fruitlessly predictable.
Key arrival: Michu – a key player in Rayo Vallecano’s La Liga survival last season, scoring 15 goals, Laudrup hopes that the Spaniard can pick up where Sigurdsson left off.
Big departure: Brendan Rodgers – a big departure due to the worries surrounding his replacement. It’ll be interesting to see how much of the infrastructure created by Martinez and Souza and board influence was a part of Rodgers success last season.
In the relegation scrap: West Bromwich Albion
A managerial debut at a supposedly safe club is always a recipe for disaster. Steve Clarke is well-respected and experienced having worked at Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool in recent years as a defensive coach but this is his first foray into management proper.
The squad doesn’t look especially weak but neither does it appear particularly strong. Peter Odemwingie and Shane Long will need to rediscover the form and goals that created such a great first impression amongst Baggies fans as chances may not be forthcoming. Loan signing Yassine El Ghanassy will hopefully add quality and trickery on the flanks and Zoltan Gera can pop up with the occasional strike, but it’ll be up to captain Chris Brunt to take control of the midfield and give direction.
Clarke will probably be taking a safety first approach to tactics, but action at the other end will be just as important for West Brom.
Key arrival: Romelu Lukaku – Steve Clarke is a defensive coach first and foremost so any potential livewire recruits in attack will help with the task of West Brom scoring goals.
Big departure: Simon Cox – Cox looked like he had the qualities to become a good Premier League striker.
Wigan: the great escapologists of the Premier League. Their placement here isn’t a vote of no confidence in their chances this year, but a resignation that they’ll be flirting with the drop zone all season regardless of the end result in May.
For once, Martinez’s squad has not suffered any major plunders, although if Moses does leave for Chelsea Wigan will once again have to rethink their strategy such is the lack of depth at the DW. Yet again the roster doesn’t look to have enough quality to compete, but if the team remains largely intact, they may be able to pick up where they left off last year with their dangerous 3-4-3 formation.
New signings Arouna Kone (crocked but potent striker), Ivan Ramis (experienced centre-back from Mallorca) and Fraser Fyvie (midfield prospect from Aberdeen) will be interesting acquisitions and Wigan look to be finally making progress. Considering their past erratic antics however, such hope and promise is not enough to offer Wigan a more positive prediction than favourites in a year long relegation battle.
Key arrival: Ryo Miyaichi – another year, another intriguing loan signing from a top table club. Martinez is a good marshal of his limited resources and will put the Japanese to good use.
Big departure: Hugo Rodallega – scorer of many important goals for Wigan, his presence up front may well be missed.
Who do you fancy for relegation this season and what do you make of the predictions for this year’s Premier League season?