Who will be relegated from the Premier League?

Relegation from the Premier League can be tough on any team and it is the magic 40 point mark that a lot of teams aim for first even when they are not expected to get relegated. Even mid table teams don’t want to get dragged into a battle so they aim to get their as fast as possible and then build on that.

Inevitably the promoted teams are always the favourites to go straight back down and there is no change this year, with Reading being one of the teams that need a good start to the season or it could be a very long year for their fans. They have however some good signings in the summer which will surely give them a better chance in the always reliable Danny Guthrie and striker Pavel Pogrebnyak who had a very good goal scoring record at Fulham last year. They do lack a little experience in the Premier League throughout their squad so Jason Roberts and Ian Harte will both be essential to their side.

Norwich City have a new manager this season in Chris Hughton and he has the difficult task of following in the footsteps of Paul Lambert. But, he has inherited a good team that was comfortable in the Premier League last year and there will be a lot of talk of second season syndrome but Hughton has performed minor miracles before at both Newcastle United and Birmingham City so I am sure he will be a success here too.

Nigel Adkins hasn’t changed much at Southampton in the close season so he obviously believes that this team are good enough to stay up but I think they need a little more especially considering the start to the season they have. In the opening five games they have to play both the Manchester clubs and Arsenal so like Bolton last season they may be demoralised before the season has even really begun. The signings of Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne would have been very impressive in the Championship and even though I rate both of them highly they just might not be able to cut it in the Premier League.

Wigan Athletic will always be considered as one of the favourites for relegation no matter how they finish the previous season. At the end of last season they were one of the most in form teams in the whole league but that have lost Hugo Rodallega and Mohamed Diame who have both been influential in the past for them. The signing of Arouna Kone may show their intent of finishing a lot higher up than they have in previous seasons but they will always be considered as the underdog in the Premier League but maybe they like it that way.

Swansea City are one of many teams with a new manager this year and a lot of people are already writing off Michael Laudrup before he has even took charge of them for the first time in a competitive game. They won’t have to change their style much under the new manager but maybe this is the problem because a lot of teams will have now worked out ways to stop them and they still don’t really have an option B so it will be a tough task for them to stay up.

For me it will be Swansea City, Southampton and Reading that go down.

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Will Matt Phillips sign for a Premier League club this summer?

Blackpool winger Matt Phillips could be set to leave the club in the next few weeks with a number of clubs looking to sign him.

Phillips scored 11 goals in 35 games for Blackpool last season

The 21 year old had a fantastic season last year both at Blackpool and during a loan spell with Sheffield United early in the season where he scored five goals in just six games. But, it was his performances in the Championship that are making him one of the hottest properties in the division. There is no doubt that manager Ian Holloway will want to keep him but he is a very good manager and if he thinks a player deserves a move then he will let them go at the right price. However, another year in the Championship wouldn’t do Phillips any harm and under the guidance of Holloway he could become an even better player. Six teams are heavily linked with him and they are Wigan Athletic, Reading, Sunderland, Everton, Aston Villa and Stoke City and he could do a very good job for all of this teams. But which team would he have the most success at?

I think Aston Villa could be a good move for him as they are largely underachieved last year and didn’t play to their full potential and with them likely to play 4-3-3 again next season he would easily fit into their team. A front three of Agbonlahor, Bent and Phillips would be frightening to any team as they have the pace to punish teams on the counter and would link up brilliantly. New manager Paul Lambert also likes to take young players from the Championship and give them a chance in the Premier League and most of his players at Norwich City succeeded and he has to be given a lot of praise for this.

If he is allowed to leave Blackpool then he will also have to take a look at Stoke City because they are now an experienced Premier League side and they will help him become a better player and maybe push onto the next level as he will learn a different way to play. Obviously, Stoke still have Jermaine Pennant but he didn’t seem too happy last year and could be moved on if they get in a replacement. Sometimes people are harsh on the way Stoke play but if you watch them properly they do try and get the ball wide and cross the ball which Phillips will enjoy.

Finally, out of the teams linked with him Everton are probably the best team and have the best manager in David Moyes so this will help his career and a lot of players have progressed from Everton and been sold on for a lot of money. Plus, they are always up there challenging for a place in Europe when it comes towards the end of the season so this will obviously interest Phillips. If they bring in Steven Pienaar it may be difficult for him to get in the side as Moyes likes to play Leon Osman on the wing a lot of the time and with Ross Barkley set to feature more this season he may not be guaranteed a start every week and this may put him off.

Who will Sebastien Bassong play for next season?

Sebastien Bassong has had a tough time since joining the Premier League but will he get another chance to show he has enough quality to stay in England?

The central defender is currently at Tottenham Hotspur but it looks as though his time at the club is coming to end after being shipped out on loan to Wolves for the second half of last season. In his three seasons at White Hart Lane he has only played 44 league games and has had to settle for a place on the bench a lot of the time with manager Harry Redknapp preferring others like Ledley King, Michael Dawson, William Gallas and Younes Kaboul. The 25 year old does have time on his hands but he hasn’t quite lived up to the potential he showed at Newcastle United where in his only season there, he was voted their player of the season, however this was in their relegation season and nobody performed that well and it can’t have been such an honour to win the award. In his loan spell at Wolves he also suffered relegation and did not perform that well, although he cannot be blamed for their relegation, he still has to take some of the blame as he did not look good enough for the Premier League.

So will anyone in the Premier League take him on or will he have to go back abroad or into the Championship? I think any of the three promoted teams should have a look at him as they all lack a little bit of experience in that area. West Ham currently have James Tomkins and Winston Reid as their starting pair but after releasing Abdoulaye Faye, they will need some competition and cover. Reading are also suffering from a lack of experience in that area with both Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss hardly kicking a ball in the Premier League so Bassong would at least have a little more knowledge, and personally I think he is slightly better than Gorkss. Southampton have two good centre backs in Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld but they do lack cover so they will need to bring in someone so why not Bassong, I cannot imagine Spurs wanting a big transfer fee for him but his wages maybe a stumbling block.

Other teams that are already in the Premier League may also like the look of him because of how well he did at Newcastle and the talent he has shown at times at Spurs. Stoke City may be interested in signing him as he will add a slightly better ball playing defender to their team. With Matthew Upson and Jonathon Woodgate not exactly performing as well as manager Tony Pulis expected he may be in the market for another defender.

Finally, I believe QPR should be looking at him as they struggled terribly at the back at times this season and he is a much better player than Clint Hill and is arguably better than Anton Ferdinand so I believe he would walk into their team.

Who will be the next Swansea manager?

Swansea City are looking for a new manager after Brendan Rodgers decided to leave for Liverpool and will be hoping their new man can continue the good work of Rodgers.

Swansea finished 11th in the Premier League

It was a bit of a shock to me how well Swansea did in the Premier League this year and the problem with success is that your best players will get linked with moves away from the club and on some occasions like this, the manager also gets offered new jobs. Liverpool must have been difficult for the Northern Irish man to turn down and I’m sure all the Swansea fans will wish him every success but personally I believe he has took the job too early and could be yet another flop at Anfield. He should have stayed with the Welsh side and tried to keep them up for another season because of a few reasons. One being they gave him a chance in the Championship and Premier League after he failed at Reading and another reason being second season syndrome. Towards the end of last season, Swansea were getting found out and teams knew how to beat them for example Newcastle United set a blueprint of how to beat them when they won at the Liberty Stadium 2-0 and they may struggle next season.

So I think the next manager has to get it right and not only continue the work that Rodgers has started but also develop a little bit more of a plan B. Graeme Jones has been made the favourite, this seems strange to me as he has no experience of managing in the Premier League and even though he is a very good assistant we have seen recently that it doesn’t always mean you will be a good manager. Terry Connor failed to win a single game when he was appointed Wolves manager and a few years ago when Sammy Lee took over from Sam Allardyce at Bolton he ultimately failed. So I think this would be very risky and they should look elsewhere.

Personally, I think they should try and get Ian Holloway, he has proved he can overachieve with teams in the past and it was very impressive the way he has got Blackpool challenging for promotion again after losing many key players in the summer. However, he has only managed one season  in the Premier League and it obviously ended in relegation which would be quite worrying for the fans. Holloway, would follow the same style of football as Rodgers and may even make them more adventurous which would add something to their game.

Gus Poyet, is also linked with the job and he also likes to play a passing game at his current club Brighton so it would be easy for him to adapt his tactics to the way Swansea already play. At Brighton he has won 46.15% of his games which is quite impressive considering they only just gained promotion to the Championship and were close to getting into the playoffs last season. It may be too early in his career to get a Premier League job like this but he could still succeed as I think he will become a very good Premier League manager in the future so could just need a chance.

Dave Jones is also one of the favourites for the job and I just think this is a very strange one as he has just got Sheffield Wednesday promoted and will not want to leave them so soon and I cannot imagine the fans taking too kindly to a former Cardiff manager being in charge. He does have Premier League experience and does like to play good short passing football but other than that, I don’t see why he is even linked with the job.

This could be one of the most important managerial decisions Swansea will have to make as staying in the Premier League is a must not only for them, but for English football, as more teams that get promoted will feel that playing football can keep them up, instead of long ball tactics as a lot of teams revert to when they gain promotion.

Who will Paul Scharner play for next season?

Paul Scharner could be leaving West Brom this summer and would like to play in the Premier League next season.

Paul Scharner has also played for Wigan Athletic

It is not 100% confirmed that he will leave the club at present and if he does stay the new manager may want him to be a key member of the squad which would obviously convince him to sign a new contract. He can be valuable to the squad as he is a versatile player and has got quite a lot of experience in the Premier League now which is very vital especially for teams in the bottom half of the table so they don’t get sucked into a relegation battle. Scharner has played 61 league games for the Baggies and scored seven goals but unfortunately could not trigger a clause in his contract that would give him an automatic new 12 month contract because he did not play enough games in the season just gone.

But looking to the future, he may leave the club because he may want a longer contract and may feel that it is time to move on as he hasn’t been used as much as he would have liked this year. He is coming towards the end of his career and will want to finish it by playing a lot of games and contributing regularly. So who would need him and who would want him? Personally, I think he could do a good job at any of the newly promoted clubs. Reading have quite a young team and his experience in the middle of the park or even in the centre of defence could make the difference between them staying up and going down. With Jem Karacan also being injured, they may need another midfielder in there just to boost their options. Southampton are in a similar position and he would pass on useful tips to their younger players like Adam Lallana and Jack Cork who will certainly benefit from his experience. West Ham have the experience but maybe not a player as much quality, in my opinion he is a lot better centre back than Winston Reid and Abdoulaye Faye and would slot in alongside James Tomkins. He would be a good talker and would even improve Tomkins as a player, Tomkins has a lot of potential and has played alongside some good centre backs, and another one in Scharner would only help him develop further.

A rumour I heard was that Newcastle United were interested in him. This would be a strange one although it could possibly true as they will be playing a lot of games next season with them qualifying for the Europa League so will need more options. Added to the fact that Danny Guthrie has yet to sign a new contract with the club, he may be a good choice especially as he would be a free transfer and could easily slot into the team. The fact he can also play centre back also adds to appeal. However, I can’t see this happening as he doesn’t fit into Newcastle United’s policy of buying young and developing them, plus they may be looking for a slightly better standard.

So would your team be interested in signing him? Or is he going to drop into the Championship or go abroad?

Who will Andrew Johnson play for next season?

Andrew Johnson’s contract is up at the end of the season and it is looking increasingly likely that he will be not be a Fulham player next season.

Johnson has scored 147 goals in his career

Fulham rejected a bid for him in January from QPR which suggested that they wanted him to stay or maybe they just felt that QPR would come in with a better offer if they rejected it. He has played over 100 games for Fulham in all competitions in his four seasons at the club but has only scored 27 goals with a lot of them coming in the Europa League against opponents who Fulham should have beaten anyway especially in the earlier rounds of the competition. His 13 league goals have not been enough although he did suffer a serious injury in his second season at the club which may have hampered his progress. The transfer fee they bought him for was rumoured to be over £10 million and he certainly hasn’t lived up to that price tag.

But could he still do a good job in the Premier League for Fulham or should he be looking elsewhere? In my opinion he has to leave as Fulham have started to play a different way under Martin Jol and I can’t see where he would fit in. Also the form of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey has made it difficult for him to force his way into the team when he is fit.

So the next question is whether he is still good enough for the Premier League? This is a little harder to answer because he is getting towards the end of his career and he may not quite have the same attributes as he used to but it does also mean he has a lot more experience. He will have to adapt his game slightly as he does not have the pace he used to have, although he should still have his clever movement and will cause teams problems. At Everton, he wasn’t a consistent goal scorer but I thought that he showed enough quality to be a very good Premier League player. However, yet again the goals weren’t exactly flowing and 17 in two seasons in the league was possibly not good enough for the money they paid.

At Crystal Palace he got 21 league goals for a team that eventually got relegated which shows that he must have been a good player seen as though he almost kept them up on his own. This is why I believe one of the promoted teams should take a chance on him as he can score goals from few chances like at Palace and he might just give one of the teams a little bit more experience. Reading would be a good fit in my opinion and would be a slightly different option to Noel Hunt and Jason Roberts. Although he is quite similar to Adam Le Fondre.

I also think he could do well at Wigan as he would fit into their hardworking ethic and Johnson never stops running and works hard for the full 90 minutes and the one thing that is missing from the Wigan side is a clinical and proven goal scorer. Johnson could just be the man to take them from a battling relegation side to a mid table team.

Will Reading succeed in the Premier League if they get promoted?

Reading are timing their run perfectly to gain promotion to the Premier League after beating Leeds United and moving to the top of the Championship.

 

Adam Le Fondre may have the strikers instinct to score goals in the Premier League

After beating West Ham 4-2 last weekend the whole team must have been very confident going into the game especially when Leeds were reduced to 10 men after 13 minutes. But they were made to work hard for their win as Leeds stuck at it and defended very well and also attacked on the counter to good effect which made the home fans very nervous towards the end of the game and maybe 2-0 flatters the Royals slightly. Adam Le Fondre stepped off the bench to score twice and prove that he can be the man to fire the team into the Premier League. The signing from Rotherham United hasn’t quite settled in as quickly as the fans would have hoped but these two crucial goals will give him the belief that he deserves to be playing Championship football at least next season. He was expected to score the goals this year but that hasn’t quite worked out, however in his defence, nobody has hit double figures for Reading this season so they have had to rely on goals from all over the pitch with even centre back Alex Pearce chipping in with five goals this season.

If Reading do get promoted, do they have a good enough squad to compete in the Premier League or are they just very good Championship players? In goal they have Adam Federici who in my opinion is very underrated outside of the Championship but he is one of the best in the league and has made some heroic saves this season. Including an important one against Leeds when Robert Snodgrass had the opportunity to score but Federici stood up for as long as he could and palmed it away.

The defence is a mixture of potential and experience. Ian Harte is one of the best footballing left backs and has been his whole career, as it is worth remembering he once played in a Champions League semi final. How many players can say that in the country never mind the Championship? As mentioned previously they also have Alex Pearce who not only defends very well especially in the air, he also adds an attacking threat from set pieces which are usually precisely delivered by Harte.

The midfield is where I think they are at their best, especially out wide where they have many options with Hal Robson-Kanu and even Michail Antonio good enough to make most teams which is remarkable seen as though Antonio is out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday. But their first choice wingers are fantastic in Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff, they are both very direct and force full back onto the back foot as soon as they get the ball. In the middle they also have quality in Jem Karacan and Mikele Leigertwood who at every opportunity look to feed the wingers and provide a good screen for the back four as well as get into the box to grab goals.

The strikers is where I think they may fall down as they have good players but maybe not Premier League standard. Jason Roberts has came in and done magnificently but there is a reason why Blackburn didn’t feel he was good enough when they were in desperate need. However there were contractual issues there so maybe he would have played more of a part if that was sorted out. Noel Hunt works hard and has a great leap on him but he was easily marked out of the game by a second choice Leeds defence so they would need to invest in a striker if they do go up.

I really like the way Reading play as they look to cross the ball a lot and force defenders into mistakes. Brian McDermott deserves a lot of credit and seeing his celebration after the first goal showed how much it meant to the whole club. I would like to see them go up and them to achieve some success as the fans have been fantastic over the years and the stadium deserves Premier League football once again.

Brian McDermott rejects Wolves by signing a new contract at Reading

Brian McDermott has signed a new contract at Reading which puts an end to the speculation that he will be leaving the club.

Wolves were rumoured to be interested in McDermott to take charge of the team after sacking Mick McCarthy but this now must show the Royals fans that he is determined to succeed at the club and would rather have a go in the Premier League with his own team rather than trying to keep up a team that are one of the favourites for relegation now with players that he does not know very well.

Some people may criticise his decision as football can change very quickly and if Reading fail to get promoted this season and have a bad start to next season he could be shown the door and then will have missed his opportunity to manage in the Premier League anyway. But, I have a lot of respect for him because of this decision because he is trying to build something and managers are too quick to leave jobs in the lower leagues just to have the chance to manage at a higher level. Eddie Howe at Burnley is an example of this as I thought he should have stayed at Bournemouth and basically learnt more about the role there but he decided to move on and he didn’t have a great season last year and had a bad start to this one and there were rumours he was going to be sacked. Thankfully the board stuck with the young manager and that is now paying off because the team are now challenging for the playoffs.

Back to McDermott, he has had some great games as manager of Reading and probably none more so than his first victory which was against Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup thanks to an extra time goal from Shane Long and this victory was also the first time that Reading had won at Anfield so he the gaffer was always going to be in the record books no matter what. He has had more good days than bad days with a win percentage of 47% but unfortunately one of his defeats was against Swansea in the playoff final and this seemed to damage moral at the club, leading to them having a poor start to the next campaign but obviously McDermott raised the spirits of his young players and brought in some experience and has guided the club to fourth place, only six points behind table toppers West Ham.

The players seem to love playing for him because he gives them a blueprint of what he expects and makes sure everyone knows their job defensively. But when his team have the ball it is a joy to watch as he takes the shackles off the attacking players and lets them express themselves however they want which is paying dividends at the minute. It’s not surprising to see his name linked with arguably bigger jobs but he knows success will come in time at Reading and he wants to be there when they are back in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday sign Reading winger Michail Antonio

Sheffield Wednesday have signed 21 year old winger Michail Antonio to help get their promotion charge back on track after a miserable couple of weeks.

The winger has signed on loan from Reading until the end of the season after it was revealed that Jermaine Johnson is currently struggling with an injury which could keep him out of action and with the Sheffield Derby just round the corner, the Owls fans know they need some creativity in the midfield if they are to beat the Blades at Hillsborough and this is exactly what Antonio will give them. Megson would have loved to have been able to play both the wingers as they would have scared the life out of any defence in the division with their direct running and pace.

The young winger has played in League 1 before with both Southampton and Colchester and performed quite well, impressing in many games and looking like he could make the difference in crucial games. The fans of every club have taken to him very well even though he has only had short spells there with managers wanting to take him off Reading permanently. But the Royals have rejected any enquiries as they see him as a player with massive potential and one for the future at their club.

He is at Wednesday now and they will be hopeful that between now and the end of the season he can replicate what Ben Marshall did in the first half of the season. He does have the potential and will not be worried about playing in front of large crowds as he has already experienced these in his short career so far. This season he has played 16 games in League 1 and scored four goals which isn’t a bad record for a winger and shows that he can put away chances when he gets the opportunity and is not only in the team to provide assists.

The player and club will be hoping that the team can get themselves into the automatic promotion places by the end of the season but if they don’t and have to go through the playoffs then it could be another chance for Antonio to score on a big stage because he has already scored one goal at Wembley when playing for Southampton in the JP Trophy final in a comfortable 4-1 victory.

The Owls fans needed a lift more than anyone before the Steel City Derby and hopefully this transfer will excite them and make them more confident of victory. The last few weeks have been close to disastrous but maybe this can be the catalyst to a brilliant end to the season and dispel any rumours that Milan Mandaric is losing patience with Gary Megson.

It is getting closer and closer to the big kick off and now United have another player to worry about which they didn’t expect and may have to change their game plan so Antonio doesn’t have a debut that the Wednesday faithful will be talking about for years to come.