Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Established in the Top Flight (Sunderland and Stoke City)

These two clubs have a lot of similarities. They both have good managers, they are both coming off solid mid-table finishes, and they have both spent (or are trying to spend) a good deal of money. In fact, Kenwyne Jones just made the switch from Sunderland to Stoke City for £8 million.

Both have solid defenses and a good selection of attacking talent. I doubt Darren Bent will match last season's goal output for Sunderland, but I think he will still be somewhere in the mid to high teens for the season. Stoke don't have one high volume scorer, but whichever two start from Jones, Dave Kitson, Tuncay, Mamady Sidibe, Ricardo Fuller, and James Beattie should reach double digits.

This Sunderland squad is actually pretty close to Steve Bruce's Wigan and Birmingham squads. He always puts a talented group of players together, they always finish pretty comfortably mid-table, analysts always expect them to push on into the top half, and they never do. 11th sounds about right for this club.

Tony Pullis has only been in the Premier League with Stoke City for a few seasons, but he has done a tremendous job bringing them stability. Some even believe they will break into the top ten this season. I am not ready to go that far, in fact I think they may struggle a little bit, especially considering their early season schedule. They start at Wolves, which has draw written all over it. Then they play Spurs and Chelsea back to back, followed by Aston Villa just as they are getting a new manager bump. If they only have one point from their first four matches some supporters might start to panic, but they will recover, so 14th sounds about right for me.

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