Thursday, 1 August 2013

Premier League 2013/14 season guide: Part 2

In the second part of our season guide we take a look at the newly promoted Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham and Hull City.

Crystal Palace:
This will be Palace's fifth season in the top flight returning after an eight year absence having beaten Watford 1-0 in the Championship play-off final in May. It could be a season of struggle for Ian Holloway and his men who are already favourites to go straight back down. Holloway will be without top scorer Glenn Murray, who is unlikely to make any sort of return until Christmas time having suffered knee ligament damage in the play-off semi final first leg against Brighton. Having lost Wilfried Zaha as well to Manchester United, eyes turn to Dwight Gayle who signed from Peterborough United for around £4.5 million this summer. The striker scored 13 goals for Posh last season which saw them relegated, so Eagles fans will hope the former non-league forward will settle in the top flight.

As well as Gayle, Holloway has brought in the more experienced Kevin Phillips who signed a one year deal having scored the only goal in the play-off final. As well as Phillips, midfielder Stephen Dobbie has signed a permanent deal having spent the last four months of last season on loan at Selhurst Park. Having seen the likes of Victor Moses, Nathaniel Clyne and Wilfried Zaha rise from the club's academy to better things, Palace fans are hoping for similar things from Jonny Williams who is tipped to be the next big thing. The attacking midfielder featured heavily in the club's success last season and having made two caps for Wales, is one to look out for this year.

Key Player: Mile Jedinak

Predicted finish: 20th

It's been all change this summer at Goodison Park as Roberto Martinez replaced David Moyes as manager. One of the first things Martinez made clear was that he would get Everton into the Champions League. A big statement and one if he achieves will be quite remarkable. A good start to the season will certainly ease Martinez who saw his Wigan Athletic side relegated from the top flight last season. Despite this he still saw the Lactics win the FA Cup against Manchester City, which also saw them humble Everton 3-0 at Goodison in the quarter finals. So far the Spaniard has drafted in a number of players including three from Wigan. Arouna Kone, Joel Robles and Antolin Alcarez have all been brought in and are joined by the highly rated Gerard Deulofleu who joins on a season long loan from Barcelona. With plenty of arrivals, Evertonians will be hoping they are able to hold onto defender Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini who have both been linked with moves to Old Trafford following in the footsteps of their former manager.

If Martinez is to become a success this season then he has a great opportunity in his opening three fixtures. With trips to Norwich and Cardiff and a home game against West Brom, three wins from three would do no harm at all. A poor start for Martinez though and his first season on Merseyside could end up with a mid table finish, which after successive top six seven finishes in the last two seasons, would be very disappointing for the Goodison Park faithful. Another thing the new manager will have to expect is the rivalry with Liverpool who have finished behind Everton in the last two seasons.

Key Player: Steven Pienaar

Predicted finish: 9th

Fulham have become one of the teams who you regularly expect to have an average season and finish mid table. They did this last year finishing in 12th with 43 points. The astute signing of Dimitar Berbatov by Martin Jol last season for £5 million from Manchester United saw the Bulgarian become the spear head for Fulham's attacks scoring a respectable 15 goals. Jol has a small squad but one that contains some good talent. In particular Bryan Ruiz and central defender Brede Hangeland who is going into his seventh season at Craven Cottage. With the arrival of a new owner this summer, Jol should be given funds to further strengthen his squad. So far he has brought in Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenberg for £3million replacing the ever reliable Mark Schwarzer who made the short move to Chelsea. Spanish defender Fernando Amorebieta is also another arrival making the move from Athletic Bilbao and one that will see him partner Hangeland in the back four.

Until the owner finds his feet in England, Fulham fans won't expect much more than a mid table finish with any hopes of a European finish a long way off. The owner Shahid Khan's American football team Jacksonville Jaguars have struggled since he bought them in 2011 so the Fulham faithful will hope he can give Jol money to spend. There is a number of talented youngsters at the club with Alex Kacaniklic in particular as the winger has caught the eye with some good performances in a Fulham shirt last season. Kerim Frei is another winger who like Kacaniklic adds some much needed pace on the wings.

Key Player: Dimitar Berbatov

Predicted finish: 14th

Hull City:
Hull City are back in the Premier League but go back to the final day of the Championship season and you would have questioned whether they really wanted to be here. Leading 2-1 against Cardiff going into stoppage time, Hull had a penalty and a chance to confirm their promotion to the top flight. However having missed the penalty and seen Cardiff equalise with a penalty of their own, Hull had to rely on Watford not winning at home to Leeds. To their relief Watford were beaten and saw Steve Bruce's Hull make their return to the top flight. Bruce's side will be favourites to go down as the newly promoted side, and with a lack of options upfront, have a tough season ahead of them. Things don't get easier for Hull as they face a trip to Chelsea on the opening day of the season followed by a home game against Norwich and then a trip to the Ethiad to face Manchester City.

With limited options in attack, Bruce has bought in Danny Graham from Sunderland on loan. The striker signed for Sunderland in January and failed to hit the net in any of his appearances for The Black Cats. Graham was the sixth player Bruce had signed this summer with other arrivals including goalkeeper Steve Harper and defender Maynor Figueroa. Former Manchester United graduate Robbie Brady is one to look for this season, with the 21 year old having made 13 assists last season from midfield.

Key Player: Robbie Brady

Predicted finish: 19th

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