Season preview. Norwich – Sunderland

August 14, 2013

Norwich City

Defensively, Norwich were pretty solid last season, keeping 10 clean sheets. Up top, they were a little shot shy. So – how to solve this problem…get rid of the old strike force, and invest in a totally new one. Holt, Morison and Jackson sounds like a Championship wet dream. Norwich have established themselves as a competitive Premier League club, and needed a strike force to match. Hence. In comes club record signing, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, who scored 45 times in two seasons for Sporting Lisbon. He is joined by his international teammate Leroy Fer, an attacking midfielder with 22 goals in his last two seasons for FC Twente. Fer had been courted by several other clubs over this summer and last. As had Nathan Redmond, whom Hughton had at Birmingham, He also put pen to paper on a 4 year contract with the Canaries. And completing the new look forward line is Gary Hooper. Hooper bagged 82 goals in 138 games for Celtic, and probably has his eye on sneaking into England thoughts ahead of World Cup year. Simple, sensible, common sense management. If all these players bed in, and start forming partnerships on the pitch, Norwich could be dark horses this season. And well worth a look for the mid priced needs of a FPL squad.

Buy:- Robert Snodgrass. One that won’t be ousted by the new signings.

Avoid:- Luciano Becchio. Always though he should have played Premier League sooner, but actually looked a bit out of his depth.

Bargain:- Nathan Redmond. Young, quick, skillful. Could be a revelation.


No-one expected much of Southampton at the start of last season. They were favourites to go straight back down, as most promoted clubs are. And it didn’t start well. They lost 8 out of the opening 11 games, including a 6-1 humbling at the hands of Arsenal. And subsequently there wasn’t much interest in any of their players in fantasy land. By May, they had secured safety with weeks to spare, had the top scoring English striker, the 9th best player overall, and some of the best low to mid priced options in the game. And those slip in values over the first few months may have benefits for this season. Most players valuations have risen, but there still seem to be some generous prices available for the Saints regulars. Not least Rickie Lambert who will still only cost you 7.5 million. Lambert takes penalties and most direct free kicks too. Southamton’s first seven home games are against Sunderland, West Ham, Palace, Swansea, Fulham, Hull and Villa. There’s goals there. Creative midfielders Adam Lallana and Gaston Ramirez are both valued at 6 million. Victor Wanyama will only cost you 5 million. A defensive minded midfielder he maybe, but he’s of the Yaya Toure ilk, and will power in headers from corners at every opportunity. He scored 9 times for Celtic last season. Claude Makelele never did that. Considering he actually cost 12 million, and was courted by United, Everton, Spurs, Arsenal and Inter Milan, 5 million just seems to good to turn down.

Buy:- Rickie Lambert. 7.5 million would enable you to buy two other big name strikers and play all three, with a decent midfield back up.

Avoid:- Jos Hooiveld. The defence needs work. Hooiveld scored 3 own goals last season.

Bargain:- Victor Wanyama. Expect his 5 million starting value to be closer to 6 in May

Stoke City

Stoke might be the team most likely of the non-promoted sides to get sucked into a relegation battle this season. Last season was a season of two halves. In the first half, they did what Stoke have done for the last 5 seasons – hanging around mid table – winning the games you’d expect them to win and losing the games you’d expect them to lose. What made them an unusually attractive fantasy proposition were the amount of clean sheets they were keeping. Huth, Shawcross and Begovic in particular were topping their respective player position tables. They were keeping more clean sheets than United, City and Chelsea. That lasted until December. After that, goals flooded in. Pulis’s insistence on playing four centre halves across the back looked more and more foolish week after week. There was no attacking flair. Goals were hard to come by in the first half of the season, but by the second half, they were as rare as hens teeth. So this season, with Mark Hughes at the helm, can things improve? There’s the idea that they’ll play a more fluid game. Hughes has invested in an attacking full back at least – Dutch international, Erik Pieters. Pre-season has delivered varying results. Yet again, this Stoke defence looks worth investing in, as they haven’t conceded. But, in one friendly against Houston Dynamo, they failed to register a single shot on goal.

Buy:- Asmir Begovic. Even when they start shipping goals in the New Year, he’ll still get plenty of save bonuses

Avoid:- Stephen Nzonzi. The curse of the defensive midfielder, of which Stoke have many.

Bargain:- Michael Kightly. Impressed in brief glimpses last season, and maybe wasn’t given enough game time. Hughes’s idea of more fluid football might see that change.


The team that lines up against Fulham for Sunderland’s first game of the season will bear little resemblance to the one that started the last season. Unfortunately fantasy fans, Titus Bramble has been shown the door. Paolo Di Canio has also, it seems, dispensed of Phil Bardlsey, and walking red card, Lee Cattermole. Cattermole has many admirers, but from a FPL point of view, he is bad news. Of the 10 new players brought in by Di Canio, several look like worthwhile punts. Particularly Emanuele Giaccherini who starred for Italy in the Confederations Cup this summer, and Jozy Altidore, who scored 31 goals in 41 appearances for AZ Alkmaar last season. Pre-season has been promising, and included a 3-1 defeat of Spurs in Hong Kong. Any worries fans may have had about bedding so many players in have probably dissipated. Cabral, signed from Basle, has impressed, and he’s a dirt cheap 4.5 million. And there are still old heads – the likes of Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon and Seb Larsson – who have praised the new work ethic, training regime and style of play that Di Canio has introduced, and the impression is that they have been rejuvenated under their new boss.

Buy:-  Stephane Sessegnon. Simply put, he’s their best player

Avoid:- Lee Cattermole. As long as he’s still listed as a squad member, he has to be the one you avoid

Bargain:- Wes Brown. If they get the defensive side of things right, and he stays fit.


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