EPL Preview: The Lower Mid Tablers

Welcome back for Round 2 of the ATJ EPL Preview. Today I look at Stoke, Sunderland, Bolton, Blackburn and Aston Villa. You can read part 1 of the preview here.


Manager: Tony Pulis

Last season: Premier League 13th

Transfers in Jonathan Woodgate (Tottenham, free); Matthew Upson (West Ham, free)

Transfers out Abdoulaye Faye (West Ham, free); Eidur Gudjohnsen (AEK, free)

Feelings: I dont like Stoke. They play like thugs and support pricks like Ryan Shawcross. They rely on set pieces and play a brand of football more throat slittingly boring than a documentary about the life and times of Justin Bieber. That being said, they will stay up. Their combative style will generate points and lower mid table obscurity will be obtained. What will be interesting to see is how they do in the Europa League and what European commitments impact on their premier league form.

First 5 Fixtures and Expectations:

Chelsea (h) – 1 point

Norwich (a) – 3 points

WBA (a) – 1 point

Liverpool (h) – 3 points

Sunderland (a) – 1 points

Total expected – 9 points


Manager: Owen Coyle

Last season: Premier League 14th

Transfers in Chris Eagles, Tyrone Mears (Both Burnley, combined fee c. £2.75m), Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa, free); Darren Pratley (Swansea, free)

Transfers out Ali al-Habsi (Wigan, £4m, after loan); Matthew Taylor (West Ham, £2.2m); Johan Elmander (Galatasaray, free); Dan Shittu, Tamir Cohen, Joey O’Brien, Jlloyd Samuel (all released)

Feelings: Bolton have a good manager and for the first time in the post Sam Allarydce era play some attractive football. Owen Coyle has also in the past two seasons made some wonderful loan signings in Jack Wilshere and then Daniel Sturridge and many of the big boys would happily send a developing youngster to Bolton for the season. Last year they were pushing for Europe and then fell right back off the pace. At the end of the day, they will be disappointed with that finish and will surely be aiming for higher. Chris Eagles is a good signing and its unfortunate that Tyrone Mears has broken his leg now as they return to work for their old boss!

First 5 Fixtures and Expectations:

QPR (a) – 3 points

Man City (h) – 1 point

Liverpool (a) – O points

Man Utd (h) – 1 point

Norwich (h) – 3 points

Expectation – 8 points.


Manager: Steve Kean

Last season: Premier League 15th

Transfers in Miles Anderson (Aberdeen, undisc)

Transfers out Phil Jones (Manchester United, £16.5m); Zurab Khizanishvili (Kayserispor, free); El Hadji Diouf, Benjani Mwaruwari, Maceo Rigters (all released)

Feelings: Blackburn are a difficult team to take seriously. They have just stared in a chicken advert for their owners (Venkys). If you haven’t seen it, youtube it now! Its hilariously bad and its hilariously embarrassing. They have spent no money to improve an average side and lost their promising centre half. I can see only one way for them and that is down.

First 5 Fixtures and Expectations:

Wolves (h) – 3 points

Aston Villa (a) – 1 point

Everton (h) – 1 point

Fulham (a) – 1 point

Arsenal (h) – 1 point

Total Expectation – 7 points



Manager: Steve Bruce

Last season: Premier League 10th

Transfers in: Connor Wickham (Ipswich, £8.1m); Wes Brown (Manchester United, undisc); John O’Shea (Manchester United, undisc); Craig Gardner (Birmingham, undisc); Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham, undisc); Keiren Westwood (Coventry, free); David Vaughan (Blackpool, free); Ahmed Elmohamady (ENPPI, £2m, from loan)

Transfers out Jordan Henderson (£17m rising to £20m, Liverpool); David Healy (Rangers, free); Steed Malbranque (St-Etienne, undisc)

Feelings: They have done a lot of shopping. Steve Bruce has been like a women who gets her husbands credit card around a Woolworths sale and goes crazy. They made ridiculous money off of Liverpool for an unproven youngster and have spent it all over the place. O’Shea and Brown will add experience, Larsson was great with Bruce before and Craig Gardner looks exciting. They also secured the much sought after Wickham. This with Gyan and Cattermole already there and I think Steve Bruce has a squad capable of a top 8 finish. They just need to keep their home form as deadly as always.

First 5 fixtures and expectations:

Liverpool (a) – 0 points

Newcastle (h) – 3 points

Swansea (a) – 3 points

Chelsea (h) – 1 point

Stoke (h) – 3 points

Total Expected – 10 points

Aston Villa

Manager: Alex McLeish

Last season: Premier League 9th

Transfers in Shay Given (Manchester City, undisc); Charles N’Zogbia (Wigan, £9.5m)

Transfers out Ashley Young (Manchester United, c. £20m); Stewart Downing (Liverpool, c £18m); Brad Friedel (Tottenham, free); Robert Pires, Moustapha Salifou, Nigel Reo-Coker, Isaiah Osbourne, John Carew (all released)

Feelings: There is a certain storm rising in Villa. They reward Alex McLeish for being the worst manager and a ginger in getting Birmingham relegated by offering him the job at Villa. Arguably they have made two good signings in Given and N’Zogbia (N’Zogbia for Downing and 10million essentially is ridiculously good business), but the discontent at signing the manager of your bitter rivals is evident. They are no longer the team from the Martin O’Neill era and will have to overly rely on a quick but limited Gabby Agbonglahor to win them games and points. I don’t see them going down, but I cant see them returning to the heights of the Europa League again.

First 5 Fixtures and Expectations:

Fulham (a) – 1 point

Blackburn (h) – 3 points

Wolves (h) – 3 points

Everton (a) – 0 points

Newcastle (h) – 3 points

Total Expected – 10 points

That’s all for today, see you tomorrow when we look at the mid table obscurities (Featuring Liverpool of course!)


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