Tuesday 28 June 2016


The first and last time Southampton won a major trophy was 40 years ago, when they beat Manchester United 1-0 in the 1976 F.A. Cup Final, but their form in recent Premier League seasons has been outstanding. In fact, in 2015/16, the Saints finished in sixth place, their highest position ever in the Premier League, and so qualified for the group stages of the Europa League.

Of course, manager Ronald Koeman has been headhunted by new Everton owner Farhad Moshiri, while Sengalese winger Sadio Mane and Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama have also left St. Mary’s, so it remains to be seen if the team can continue its recent progress. On the plus side, Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis, fellow midfielder James Ward-Prowse, defender Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Fraser Forster have all recently signed new contracts and 22-year-old Norwich City winger Nathan Redmond has joined the club.

At the time of writing, Frenchman Claude Puel, who previously won the French league title with Monaco and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with Lyon, is poised to become the new Southampton manager. The club is also reportedly working on other transfer targets so, while 150/1 to win the Premier League is probably one for diehard Saints’ fans only, 14/1 for a top four finish and, certainly, 11/4 for a top six finish, looks far more realistic. That said, Italian Graziano Pelle has excelled at Euro 2016 and may well be on his way to Juventus after the tournament, tempted by the lure of Champions League football, so much will depend on Saints’ transfer market activity.

Monday 20 June 2016

West Bromwich Albion

west brom
West Bromwich Albion last won a trophy in 1968, when a Jeff Astle goal was enough to beat Everton 1-0 in the FA Cup final, but manager Tony Pulis has committed his future to the Baggies and said that he would like at least three or four years at the Hawthorns to move the club forward.

Despite several lacklustre performances in January and February, including failure to register a single shot on target against Aston Villa and Newcastle, who were both subsequently relegated from the Premier League, and a shock FA Cup fifth-round defeat by Championship side Reading, Albion recovered to finish 14th in the Premier League.

Technical director Nicky Hammond, who joined the club at the end of April, has said that Tony Pulis will have the final say on transfers during the summer. Midfielder Stephane Sessegnon, 31, and striker Victor Anichebe, 28, have already left the Hawthorns after reaching the end of their contracts, but veteran defenders Gareth McAuley, 36, and Jonas Olsson, 33, have signed new one-year contract extensions.

Albion scored just 34 goals in the Premier League in 2014/15 – only bottom side Aston Villa scored fewer – so, while midfielder James Morrison is likely to sign a new contract, Pulis will, no doubt, be looking to bolster his attacking options during the summer. QPR winger Matt Phillips is one possible target, Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes is another, and Palermo midfielder Franco Vazquez is yet another, although Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan are also interested in the latter.

West Brom are rank outsiders at 1,500/1 to win the Premier League title in 2015/16, and just 5/2 to be relegated but, with Pulis at the helm, a top six finish, at 50/1, doesn’t seem entirely out of the question and staying up, a 4/11, may well be a foregone conclusion.

Tuesday 14 June 2016


Everton may have reached the semi-final stages of both domestic cup competitions in 2014/15 but, even without the distraction of Europa League football, their Premier League season was one to forget. After flirting briefly with relegation, the Toffees recovered to finish 11th in the Premier League table, but it was a case of too much too little too late for manager Roberto Martinez, who was sacked just before the end of the season.

Martinez has long been known for his positivity, but some of his rhetoric during the season, not to mention his team selections and substitutions, was bordering on the absurd. Following a 2-0 home defeat by Sunderland, he told journalists Everton ‘completely controlled the game’ and described them as ‘tactically outstanding’ in the second half of a home match against West Ham, in which they conceded three goals in the last 12 minutes to lose 3-2. His description of Gareth Barry as ‘one of the best English players ever’ was another gem in a season that saw the Toffees win just five home games in the Premier League.

Anyway, the Martinez era is over, with Everton confirming Ronald Koeman as their new manager. Former Dutch international Koeman, 53, takes over at Goodison Park after two years in charge of Southampton, who will receive around £5 million in compensation. Obviously, it’s early days for the new boss, bit on the way out of Goodison Park are Tony Hibbert, 35, Leon Osman, 35, and Steven Pienaar, 34. Of course, Everton still have plenty of talent to draw on, including Ross Barkley, John Stones, Luke Garbutt, Phil Jagielka and Romelu Lukaku, to name but a few.

In truth, the 125/1 on offer from Boylesports about the Blues winning the Premier League title is probably a true reflection of their chances but, with up to a rumoured £100 million in the transfer kitty, a top four place could be within reach and, after that, who knows?

Monday 6 June 2016


Sunderland finally secured their place in the Premier League for 2016/17 with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Everton at the Stadium of Light in their penultimate fixture, but manager Sam Allardyce is determined to avoid another relegation fight next season. The Black Cats failed to win any of their opening eight fixtures of the 2015/16 campaign, leading to the resignation of former boss Dick Advocaat and the appointment of Sam Allardyce on a two-year contract.

A five-game losing streak at the end of 2015 once again put a tenth consecutive season in the Premier League in doubt, but Sunderland finished the season with just one defeat in their last 11 games. Allardyce was the first to acknowledge that his side were heavily reliant on former England striker Jermain Defoe, whose 15 Premier League goals made all the difference in the relegation struggle.

However, Defoe is now 33, Fabio Borini has been transformed into a winger, rather than an out-and-out centre forward and Steven Fletcher, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Marseille, has accepted that this Sunderland career is over. It’s no surprise that ‘Big Sam’ has spoken openly about his desire to add another striker to his squad and West Ham striker Diafra Sakho is likely to be high on the list of transfer targets he’s due to discuss with owner Ellis Short.

Sunderland have won the League Championship twice and the F.A. Cup twice, as well as finishing runner-up in the F.A. Cup and League Cup twice apiece. However, their only major trophy since World War II remains the F.A. Cup in 1973 when, as a Second Division team, they recorded a shock 1-0 win over Leeds United. Sam Allardyce has never been relegated and has said that the Black Cats must learn from their mistakes this season so, with consolidation the name of the game, 1,500/1 for the Premier League title is unlikely to see many takers. However, stranger things have happened, haven’t they?

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Tottenham Hotspur

Of course, the 2015-16 Premier League season was all about Leicester City, but the Foxes’ exploits overshadowed Spurs’ best finishing position since the start of the Premier League era. Indeed, Mauricio Pochettino’s side were title contenders with only a few weeks of the season remaining and, despite a bizarre 5-1 defeat by ten-man Newcastle United at St.James’s Park in their final fixture, the Lilywhites have plenty to look forward to next season.

Their third place finish in the Premier League means that they automatically qualify for the Champions League group stage, albeit not as a seeded team, and they have reached a deal to play their Champions League home games at Wembley next season.

Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, Tottenham have won the Football League Cup twice and finished runner-up in the same competition three times but, two years into a five-year contract, Pochettino must surely have his sights set on more prestigious silverware next season.

The former Argentine centre-back has built a team full of energy and desire, with Harry Kane, who scored 28 goals in all competitions in 2015-16, well on his way to establishing himself as England’s first-choice striker. The emergence of Dele Alli who, at the age of 20, set a Premier League record by becoming the youngest midfielder to score 10 goals in a single season, provides further cause for optimism. It’s no secret that Pochettino wants more attacking options, but the club is well positioned to attract the crème de la crème of striking talent.

At the other end of the pitch, the addition of Belgian international Toby Alderweireld to an erstwhile ‘leaky’ back four had the desired effect, with Tottenham conceding 0.92 goals per game, against a league average of 1.35.

None of Pochettino’s first-team players are out of contract so, if he can secure the services of the striker he wants, the 9/1 available with Paddy Power for Spurs’ to win the Premier League might prove a little generous.