Premier League season preview: 11th-15th

The start of the new Premier League season is just three days away and Early Doors continues to bring you its four-part, team-by-team preview ahead of the big kick-off.

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We continue with a mix of big spenders, long-ball merchants and new faces that we expect to fill the positions from 11th-15th.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

QPR and their owner, Tony Fernandes, have not relented in their obsessive desire to sign as many footballers as possible this summer. Already they have brought in seven players in the current transfer window, and there is plenty of talk about manager Mark Hughes acquiring more new faces, most notably his former charge Roque Santa Cruz - presumably to give Kieron Dyer company in the treatment room.

The problem for the Rs is how they plan on handling such a massive squad. At the moment there are 36 senior footballers on the West Londoners' books, and only 25 can make it into their designated Premier League squad.

Given the excellent backing Hughes has had from his chairman, both in the transfer market and in the media, the Welshman can have few excuses for not leading QPR up the table after their narrow escape from relegation last term.

PREDICTED FINISH: 11th

KEY MAN: ADEL TAARABT

The mercurial Moroccan spent much of last season either going on selfish runs down blind alleys or throwing strops, one of which saw him leave Craven Cottage and get the bus home at half-time. However, when the going got tough towards the end of last season he finally began to deliver. If he can do that from the start of this campaign then he will be a central figure for QPR.

ONE TO WATCH: JUNIOR HOILETT

The Canadian is not exactly an unknown gem that QPR have unearthed, but signing one of the most exciting young attackers in the Premier League following the demise of Blackburn was something of a coup. We will likely soon discover whether there is a reason why he didn't join a bigger club.

TRANSFERS IN: Ji-Sung Park (Manchester United, undisclosed); Samba Diakite (Nancy, undisclosed); Fabio da Silva (Manchester United, loan); Robert Green (West Ham United, free); Andrew Johnson (Fulham, free); Ryan Nelsen (Tottenham Hotspur, free); Junior Hoilett (Blackburn Rovers).

TRANSFERS OUT: Paddy Kenny (Leeds United, undisclosed); Heidar Helguson (Cardiff City); Akos Buzsaky, Danny Gabbidon, Danny Shittu, Fitz Hall, Gary Borrowdale, Peter Ramage, Lee Cook, Rowan Vine, Bruno Perone (all released).

FIRST THREE GAMES: Swansea (H), Norwich (A), Manchester City (A).

FULHAM

They may have ended up finishing ninth in the table, but for a long time Fulham were vying with Everton and Liverpool to end last season as the best side outside of the top six — an admirable feat considering their season began the previous June with Europa League qualifiers.

Clint Dempsey inevitably claimed most of the plaudits after scoring 14 goals in 20 games from the turn of the year to the end of the campaign, but manager Martin Jol marked his first season back in England by bringing an entertaining brand of football — and plenty of goals - to Craven Cottage.

Dempsey is still as likely to leave the London club as he is to stay this summer, while Fulham's traditional poor form on the road remains much in evidence. Those are two serious issues which will test Jol in the coming months.

PREDICTED FINISH: 12th

KEY MAN: MOUSSA DEMBELE

The Belgian midfielder has steadily improved since joining the club from AZ Alkmaar two seasons ago, particularly since the arrival of Jol as manager last summer. With Danny Murphy already gone and Dempsey likely to leave as well this summer, 25-year-old Dembele now has plenty of extra responsibility on his shoulders.

ONE TO WATCH: MLADEN PETRIC

England fans may wince at hearing the Croatian's name — it was his late goal which sealed a 3-2 win for the visitors at Wembley that ended their hosts' Euro 2008 qualification hopes — and if he rediscovers the form he had during his season under Jol at Hamburg then he could pop up with some vital goals for the Cottagers.

TRANSFERS IN: Mladen Petric (free); Hugo Rodallega (free); Sascha Riether (Cologne, loan); George Williams (MK Dons, undisclosed).

TRANSFERS OUT: Danny Murphy (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed); Andrew Johnson (Queens Park Rangers, free); Marcel Gecov (KAA Gent, undisclosed); Dickson Etuhu (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed); Bjorn Helge Riise (Lillestrom, free).

FIRST THREE GAMES: Norwich (H), Manchester United (A), West Ham (A).

STOKE CITY

The Premier League's most divisive team are preparing for their fifth season in the top flight, something even the most vehement Potters fan would have had trouble believing if you had told them it would happen when they came up in 2008.

Manager Tony Pulis gets plenty of criticism for his tactics, which give visitors to the Britannia Stadium cricked necks from all the time spent looking upwards, but he can feel thoroughly vindicated in his approach.

However, every passing season sees Stoke stick more rigidly to that blueprint, and last term they were at their most one-dimensional as they finished 14th, their lowest position since coming up. Unless Pulis finally finds a decent 'Plan B', Stoke may have settled into their level.

PREDICTED FINISH: 13th

KEY MAN: JONATHAN WALTERS

The only Stoke player to start every league game for the club last season, Walters has become a key part of the way Stoke play. A veritable battering ram of a forward, the Ireland international can be seen popping up all over the pitch as he tirelessly battles for the Potters' cause.

ONE TO WATCH: MICHAEL KIGHTLY

While Stoke's central midfielders will spend a lot of time seeing the ball sail over them, Pulis likes to use his wingers in the traditional sense. Just as Matthew Etherington is briefed with gaining ground down the left flank and picking out whichever big forward is charging up to meet the cross, so Kightly will be tasked with the same job on the right.

TRANSFERS IN: Michael Kightly (Wolves, undisclosed); Jamie Ness (Rangers, undisclosed).

TRANSFERS OUT: Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough, free); Andrew Davies (released); Danny Collins (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed).

FIRST THREE GAMES: Reading (A), Arsenal (H), Wigan (A).

SOUTHAMPTON

After the surprising exploits of Norwich City last season, many are looking to Southampton to see if they too can successfully make the leap up two divisions in as many years stick.

The conditions are remarkably similar for the Saints this summer as they were for the Canaries this time last year. In Nigel Adkins they have one of the most highly-regarded young British managers at the helm, who is committed to attacking football, in charge of a squad of players who have mostly spent their careers in the lower leagues and a big, powerful striker with an unerring knack for scoring goals.

Also, like Norwich, Southampton are from a one-club town who took part in the inaugural season of the Premier League 20 years ago and there is likely to be a lot of goodwill directed their way from neutrals.

PREDICTED FINISH: 14th

KEY MAN: RICKIE LAMBERT

Any team that comes up to the Premier League with a striker they can rely upon to get plenty of goals has a real headstart on their rivals in the fight against relegation. Having scored more than 20 league goals in each of his three seasons at St Mary's, Saints fans have legitimate grounds for hope that Lambert is the man for the job.

ONE TO WATCH: NATHANIEL CLYNE

Another very encouraging sign for Southampton's survival prospects is that they managed to sign one of the most promising young players in the Championship last season. The right-back is very attack-minded, signalling that Adkins does not plan on reining in his team's enterprising instincts while in the top flight.

TRANSFERS IN: Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace, undisclosed); Steven Davis (Rangers, undisclosed); Jay Rodriguez (Burnley, undisclosed); Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham, undisclosed).

TRANSFERS OUT: Ryan Doble (Shrewsbury, free); Lee Holmes (Preston North End, free); Tommy Forecast (Gillingham, loan); Dan Harding (Nottingham Forest); Bartosz Bialkowski (Notts County, free).

FIRST THREE GAMES: Manchester City (A), Wigan Athletic (H), Manchester United (H).

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Having lost their previous manager to the Football Association, the Baggies have taken what must be considered a gamble in appointing Steve Clarke. One of football's most highly-regarded coaches following spells with West Ham, Newcastle, Chelsea and Liverpool, he now faces the difficult challenge of putting down the bibs and cones and pulling on a suit for the first time.

He will not run West Brom in the manner of a Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger - with respected director of football Dan Ashworth providing important continuity and taking much responsibility for recruitment and strategy - but already Clarke has called on his list of contacts to recruit Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, the Belgian looking set to form a promising attack alongside Peter Odemwingie, Shane Long and another new signing in Markus Rosenberg.

West Brom boast a sprinkling of quality - enough to stave off any fears of relegation - but lack the depth required in defence and midfield to truly challenge for a place in the top 10. In his first season as a manager, with all the scrutiny and pressure that brings, Clarke would probably accept uneventful lower-to-mid-table mediocrity.

PREDICTED FINISH: 15th

KEY MAN: CHRIS BRUNT

The Northern Ireland international possesses one of the best left foots in the Premier League and whether deployed on his natural wing or on the right, he is a constant source of danger with his crossing, long-range shooting and set-piece ability. Much hinges on his creative work.

ONE TO WATCH: ROMELU LUKAKU

An £18m transfer to Chelsea from Anderlecht last season was followed by frustration as the Belgian teenager started only one league game and was not named in the club's Champions League squad. A loan move to the Hawthorns gives him the perfect opportunity to demonstrate just why he was regarded as one of Europe's finest talents prior to joining Chelsea.

TRANSFERS IN: Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, loan); Yassine El Ghanassy (Gent, loan); Ben Foster (Birmingham City, undisclosed); Claudio Yacob (free agent); Markus Rosenberg (free agent).

TRANSFERS OUT: Keith Andrews (Bolton Wanderers, free); Marton Fulop (Astera Tripolis, free); Nicky Shorey (Reading); Paul Downing (Walsall); Joe Mattock, Paul Scharner, Somen Tchoyi (all released).

FIRST THREE GAMES: Liverpool (H), Tottenham (A), Everton (H).

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