Chelsea: 2014-15 Team Preview

Chelsea Bus

Mourinho insisted that Chelsea were the least favoured of the three clubs vying for the championship. “Two horses and a little horse. A little horse who needs milk and to learn how to jump,” he said.

He sure was right! I guess that’s why they call him The Special One.

Team Profile: It’s year two under Jose Mourinho. That usually doesn’t bode well for the rest of the Premier League. Jose Mourinho revamped his Chelsea squad during the summer by bringing in a handful of excellent signings and ditching the old guard around Stamford Bridge. Long-time starters Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole have new addresses and goalkeeper Petr Cech may soon have one himself.

Thibaut Courtois and his nine-foot frame have been recalled from loan from Atletico Madrid and he is likely to become the Blues new #1 keeper. Courtois is arguably the best keeper in the world without the last name Neuer so the transition from Cech should be smooth.

The lone Englishmen left in the squad are the tandem of John Terry and Gary Cahill at the center of defense. Those two have formed such a strong partnership over the years that David Luiz became expendable and was sold for an astronomical amount to PSG. Seriously, David Luiz cost £50 million. Picture that when you watch the highlights from the World Cup semifinal.

Chelsea went out and bought Felipe Luis from Atletico Madrid as a replacement at left back for Ashley Cole. Luis should see some time as a starter with Cesar Azpilicueta slotting in at right back. Don’t forget about mouth-breathing heaten Branislav Ivanovic either. He is too talented to sit on the bench so Luis or Azpilicueta might not be a regular.

Now to the midfield. Geez is this midfield loaded. Cesc Fabregas comes over from Barcelona after being deemed surplus by both them and Arsenal. Fabregas may sit in a deeper role with all of the forward options available but he will no doubt be a focal point of the attack and rack up the assists. Eden Hazard’s game was taken to another level last year as he bagged 14 goals and 7 assists on his way to winning PFA Young Player of the Year. It’s easy to forget that Hazard is still only 23 years of age, but he belongs in the category of world class with Messi, Ronaldo and others. Mourinho can also play Oscar, André Schürrle, Willian and Mohamed Salah in attack with Nemanja Matic, Ramires, Marco Van Ginkel and Jon Obi Mikel as holding options. It’s really getting annoying complimenting Chelsea.

Striker Diego Costa arrives as another signing from Atletico Madrid to lead a line that was meager at best last season. Costa was third in La Liga last season with 27 goals trailing only Messi and CR. Fernando Torres is still a Chelsea player to the joy of Chelsea haters while Didier Drogba has made an emotional return to the club to score approximately seven goals against Arsenal.

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Chelsea XI

Underrated Player: Matic came as a bit of a shock transfer in January as Chelsea paid £21 million to bring him back from Benfica. He immediately became a boss in the midfield winning Man of the Match in his return debut against Manchester City. With many top sides lacking a spine in the center of the park, Matic is a luxury unlike most in the Premier League.

Overrated Player: What positive things can we say about Ramires? Looking for help. Ramires is made from two parts yellow card, one part rash challenge, and one part diving.

Best Hair: Look at the full head of hair on Thibaut Courtois. He needs to take over for Joe Hart in the Head & Shoulders commercials.

Thibaut-Courtois Hair

Worst Hair: Let it be known that Cannons and Cockerels takes no enjoyment at the fact that Cesc Fabregas has gone from this up top (left), to this up top (right). Well, not a lot of enjoyment.

Fabregas Arsenal Hair Habregas Chelsea Hair

Watchability Rating: This all depends on who Chelsea is playing. Against a weaker side, they are an 8/10 with all of their attacking talent. Against a top side when Mourinho is playing for a draw, Chelsea can be a 2/10.

Kit Rating: 7/10. Adidas strikes again. Chelsea’s home is their standard blue kit with the addition of some subtle horizontal stripes. The yellow away kit is literally Arsenal’s from last season. The third jersey kind of looks like an upside-down, blue version of the opening credits of The Matrix.

Season Outlook: All the pieces are here. Chelsea have a devastating midfield, a stalwart defense and a brand new striker capable of 25 goals. Mourinho said all of last season that this was the year they would challenge seriously for the Premier League title. All signs are pointing to The Special One being right.

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Burnley: 2014-15 Team Preview

Burnley Going Up

C&C: We’re going to preview Burnley today.

Readers: Who?

C&C: Burnley FC. You know, one of the promoted sides from the Championship.

Readers: [Give confused look and just shrug]

Burnley are the Ann Veal of this season’s Premier League.

Team Profile: Burnley are back in the EPL for the first time since 2009 after a shocking second place finish in the Championship last season. Under manager Sam Dyche, the Clarets rely on defense, unity and the mantra of team.

Burnley allowed just 37 goals in 46 matches last season, the fewest in the Championship. Jason Shackell is the captain of the club at center defense and will get his first taste of Premier League football since a stint with Norwich in 2005.  The real talent is on the wings. Kieran Trippier was the best back in the Championship last season providing 12 assists and his ability to overlap on the right will be crucial for Burnley’s offense.

The midfield is the area on the pitch that the Clarets seem to be lacking most. Michael Kightly comes over from Stoke City as a veteran presence along with Matthew Taylor from West Ham but those names hardly strike the fear in opposing teams. Without a true playmaker in the midfield, the style of play for Burnley may include long balls from the back to try and get their strikers touches. Oh no it’s a new Stoke City.

Danny Ings carries a boatload of responsibility up front as the leading goalscorer. Ings scored 26 goals a season ago in all competitions and won Championship Player of the Year over Leicester City and Game of Thrones midfielder Danny Drinkwater. He will have to be the main source of offense while fellow striker Sam Vokes recovers from his knee injury and his adaptation to the Premier League is vital for the team’s success.

Additions: Michael Kightly (Stoke City); Marvin Sordell (Bolton Wanderers); Matt Taylor (West Ham United); Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion); Lukas Jutkiewicz (Middlesbrough)

Subtractions: David Edgar; Brian Stock; Keith Treacy; Nick Liversedge; Junior Stanislas; Chris Baird (West Bromwich Albion)

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Southampton: 2014-15 Team Preview

Koeman Tweet

Sigh. This tweet by new manager Ronald Koeman sums it up well. One of the Premier League’s most attractive sides last season was gutted, robbed and left for the dogs by Champions League teams this transfer window. It’s been shown often this summer, but it’s worth looking at yet again just what Southampton have lost since May.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino

Luke Shaw £30m

Adam Lallana £25m

Dejan Lovren £20m

Calum Chambers £16m

Rickie Lambert £4m

Dani Osvaldo (Loan)

Southampton’s summer has been the combination of the following:

-a scene in a comedy movie where there’s a large group listening to someone and then once that person turns around and the camera pans back, everyone is gone

-the Animal Cruelty commercial with Sarah McLachlan

Team Profile: The cupboard isn’t completely empty going into this season despite the mass exodus of talent. Goalkeeper wasn’t necessarily a position that needed addressing but Fraser Forster comes over from Celtic to take over for a capable Artur Boruc.

Even with the loss of Shaw, Lovren and Chambers, the back four does not look as 6’s and 7’s as you may expect. Captain Jose Fonte will be in charge of central defense with either Nathaniel Clyne or new signing Florin Gardos sitting beside him. Ryan Bertrand’s tour around the Premier League stops at St. Mary’s this season on loan to most likely slot into the left back spot.

As this is being typed Morgan Schneiderlin is still a Saint but that could change at any second. It will if he has his way.

Schneiderlin Tweet

Schneiderlin took to Twitter to express his anger once it was said he would not be sold and is looking for any possible way to get the hell outta Dodge. If Schneiderlin does leave in the next two weeks, Southampton at least has Victor Wanyama as a capable holding midfielder.

Koeman’s ties to the Dutch football and the Eredivisie helped him land budding midfielder Dušan Tadić from FC Twente. Tadić has a lot of flare and excitement to his game and it will go a long way to filling the void left by Lallana. He’ll be joined in attacking mid by one of the main youngsters that Southampton was able to hold on to this summer, James Ward-Prowse. Ward-Prowse is a member of England’s U-21 National Team and has featured in 49 games at senior level for the Saints. The wait for his first goal with the club should not take too many matches.

Talisman Jay Rodriguez is hanging in the same midair lounge as Schneiderlin in regards to an exit transfer. The fact that he’s coming off a serious knee injury leads me to believe that he’ll stay but as this summer has shown, anything is possible. Shane Long was brought in from Hull City as “reinforcement” up front in what could be the worst value buy of the summer. Southampton paid £12m for a guy who has never scored more than eight goals in a Premier League season. Woof. They better keep Rodriguez.

In: Dusan Tadic (FC Twente); Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord); Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea) Loan; Saphir Taider (Inter) Loan; Fraser Forster (Celtic); Florin Gardos (Steaua Bucuresti); Shane Long (Hull)

Out: Andy Robinson (Bolton Wanderers) Danny Fox (Nottingham Forest); Rickie Lambert (Liverpool); Luke Shaw (Manchester United); Adam Lallana (Liverpool); Calum Chambers (Arsenal); Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Inter) Loan; Dejan Lovren (Liverpool);

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West Ham United: 2014-15 Team Preview

allardyce_1790598c

Team Profile: Somewhere in London, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is eating a turkey leg plotting his next move. At odds with ownership over the playing style of the team, Big Fat Sam (henceforth known as BFS) has been given an ultimatum: conform to a style that excites the fans or risk losing his job playing the boring style that led the Hammers to a 13th place finish last season.

BFS is already skating on extremely thin ice. There have been numerous incidents over the summer suggesting that his sacking could be near, including a spat with ownership over the role of Ravel Morrison, and the infamous instance of co-chairman David Gold favoriting a tweet that suggested the firing of the manager was near.

In principle, the club is doing its part to give BFS the necessary tools for a more exciting brand of football. Ecuadorian star Enner Valencia was brought in to inject some much-needed athleticism in the side, while the diminutive Mauro Zarate was added for further spice.

When (if) Andy Carroll ever returns from his latest injury spell, West Ham should have some decent attacking options. In the mean time, he can nurse his aching ankle and sip the tea that Diego Poyet has sworn to brew to make amends for a very cheeky use of social media.

The West Ham midfield should again orbit around the uninhabited planet that is Kevin Nolan. A steady, yet un-flashy performer, Nolan should be one of the Hammers’ key players once again, provided that he cuts down on idiotic bookings. He’ll be joined by ‘superstar’ Stewart Downing, who has played all over the field, including right wing back, in the preseason. Can’t imagine why BFS wouldn’t want him playing in an attacking role…

West Ham’s defense, which posted 14 clean sheets a season ago, could be exposed by the team’s shift to an attacking brand of football. Outside of Winston Reid, who’s cool because he’s a Kiwi, the Hammers’ back line is deputized by mouth-breathers like James Tomkins and James Collins, who seem a better fit for the boring style that the club desperately wants to change.

Additions: Enner Valencia, F (Pachuca); Mauro Zarate, F (Velez Sarsfield); Aaron Cresswell, LB (Ipswich Town); Cheikhou Kouyate, DM, (Anderlecht); Diego Poyet, MF (Charlton Athletic); Carl Jenkinson, RB (Arsenal, loan).

Subtractions: Joe Cole, CAM (Aston Villa); Ben Sheaf, MF (Arsenal); Matt Taylor, MF (Burnley); Stephen Henderson, GK (Charlton Athletic).

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Queens Park Rangers: 2014-15 Team Preview

1

He’s baaaaccccckk. Rejoice fans! Just look at that face! Harry Redknapp returns to the Premier League after a year in the Championship but don’t fret, he’s back with all his antics, facial reactions and profanity-laced tirades. Oh yeah and he’s bringing Queens Park Rangers with him.

[NOTE: We discussed it briefly during our first podcast but the “Range of Redknapp” facial recations is currently being worked on and processed. The end product should hopefully be more exciting than his droopy face in the photo above.]

Team Profile: After a spending spree in 2012 more irresponsible than a child in a candy shop, QPR was sent down in disgrace only to find their way back to the EPL via a Championship playoff victory over Derby County last season. Sigh, poor Derby.

The promoted side with the most cash sticking out of their pockets, QPR flexed some muscle this summer by signing defenders Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker to sure up an already stout back line. Caulker was one of the few bright spots for Cardiff City last season and although Ferdinand’s best days are well behind him, his experience will be important to a side fighting for another season of top flight football.

Somehow ‘Arry was able to swing a loan deal with Juventus and has brought in Chilean winger Mauricio Isla. QPR play a similar style to that of Louis Van Gaal with three central defenders and a pair of wing backs and Isla will fill that role perfectly on the right.

Jordon Mutch also comes over from Cardiff after an underrated season for the Bluebirds. He came a bit out of nowhere to finish second on the team in goals (7) and chances (32). Mutch should sit next to noted-asshole Joey Barton in the center of the park with either Alejandro Faurlin or Junior Hoilett playing in the #10 role.

The striker situation is still very much unsettled since Loic Rémy is still technically a QPR player after his failed transfer to Liverpool. The Frenchman still seems destined to leave Loftus Road for greener pastures after scoring 14 goals for Newcastle last campaign. If Redknapp can convince him to stay, that will take the pressure off the team’s leading returning scorer Charlie Austin.

Also, let’s not forget that Robert Green is their starting keeper unless Redknapp elects to go with Brazil’s Julio Cesar. To the defense of Green, seeing Joe Hart play in goal the last two seasons makes me understand better why Green was England’s number one keeper for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Additions: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United); Steven Caulker (Cardiff City); Mauricio Isla (Juventus); Jordon Mutch (Cardiff City)

Subtractions: Aaron Hughes; Stephane Mbia; Andrew Johnson; Luke Young; Hogan Ephraim; Yossi Benayoun (Maccabi Haifa); Samba Diakité (Al Ittihad)

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Crystal Palace: 2014-15 Team Preview

Crystal Pulis

Team Profile: From EPL doormat to plucky survivor in their first season in the English Premier League since 2004-05. All thanks to…Tony Pulis? Thanks a lot Crystal Palace. You turned the Roose Bolton of the Premier League into a hero and a saint.

The former Stoke manager inherited the reins on November 23 and slowly worked his magic to propel Palace from the bottom of the table to an astonishing 11th place finish, leading many people to choose the Eagles as their secondary team in the league. While that was one of the better stories last season, it’s now about establishing stability at Selhurst Park and making sure it’s not a one-year wonder.

Advanced statistics had Julian Speroni as the 8th best keeper in the league last season but despite that, his place in the starting XI could be in doubt. Rumors are that Pulis wants to start former Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessey in goal, which could start a divide in the squad.

One of the few transfers brought in by Palace was the Norwegian redwood Brede Hangeland who should slide right into center defense with fellow giant Scott Dann. Joel Ward doesn’t get forward much but is a good defensive option on the left or right and Jamaican Adrian Mariappa is a similar soldier that can trot out there wearing the sigil of the flayed man.

Crystal Palace’s midfield is hilarious. It is filled with a bunch of names that you could be put together at random and the standard fan wouldn’t look twice—and that’s the case even without Kagisho Dikgacoi. Mile Jedinak is the heartbeat in the center of the park and has the responsibility of breaking up the opposing attack. On the wings, Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon provide pace for a side that relied heavily on the counter attack last season. The Eagles don’t have much technical ability in the midfield to see them dominate possession consistently so a successful counter attack is vital for their ability to score goals.

The striker cupboard is pretty bare even with the addition of Frazier Campbell from Cardiff. Campbell scored 13 goals for the Welsh side and should lead the line with Marouane Chamakh either dropping to the midfield or out of the starting XI entirely. Under a Tony Pulis managed team, it is almost as important for the striker up front to keep possession as it is to score goals. Oh and Dwight Gayle deserves a shout out because Dwight Gayle is awesome.

Additions: Chris Kettings (Blackpool); Frazier Campbell (Cardiff City); Brede Hangeland (Fulham)

Subtractions: Some more amazing names; Kagisho Dikgacoi (Cardiff City) nooooooo; Daniel Gabbidon ; Dean Moxey; Jose Campana (Sampdoria); Jack Hunt (Nottingham Forest)

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Stoke City: 2014-15 Team Preview

Brek Shea Guns

Here’s Brek Shea preparing for The Purge. Okay now that we got that out of the way, let’s preview Stoke City! Hey, where are you all going?

Team Profile: Yes, yes let’s all try and get excited for Stoke City. The team who’s ultimate dream is a 0-0 rugby fest that ends 10 v 10. Some of the rust has been removed from that stereotype thanks to Mark Hughes taking over for the medieval Tony Pulis. More importantly for the Potter faithful, the club finished 9th in the Premier League last season, their best ever finish in the BPL.

Stoke did not become an attractive team to watch by any means. Their staple will still be on defense and in goal where Bosnian Asmir Begović is still one of the best around. The guy even scored a goal last season. Unconfirmed reports say Begovic was Stoke’s third leading goal scorer after that strike. The Slag Brothers, a.k.a. Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth still patrol the center of defense with questionable legality. Phil Bardsley has come over from Sunderland and will most likely sit at right back with Erik Pieters remaining on the left. Sorry Geoff Cameron.

The funniest transfer BY FAR this summer goes to Stoke as they signed Barcelona (yes that Barcelona) outcast Bojan Krkic. Krkic is not the bright light he was back in 2008 when he was starting in Champions League matches but for a team like Stoke, Krkic is a sign of change at the Brittania Stadium. The tiny Spaniard will see time in attacking mid with own-goal specialist Jonathan Walters and former astronaut Charlie Adam, who put seven goals home last season. #NeverForget.

Peter Crouch and his stork-like legs are back (for now) up front after leading the team with eight goals last season and as ridiculous as it sounds, he may get some help from Peter Odemwingie. The Nigerian put down his phone and scored five times in 15 appearances for the Potters and even managed a goal in Brazil over the summer for his country. Whoever Hughes decides to start up top should receive a higher dose of chances from the revamped attacking midfield.

Additions: Phil Bardsley (Sunderland); Steve Sidwell (Fulham); 10 yellow cards and 2 red cards that come with Steve Sidwell; Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover) Free; Bojan Krkic (Barcelona)

Subtractions: Juan Agudelo; Matthew Etherington; Michael Kightly (Burnley)

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Aston Villa: 2014-15 Team Preview

Randy-Lerner-001

Team Profile: 16th, 15th and 15th: the order of finish for Aston Villa in the last three Premier League seasons is uglier than Franck Ribery’s smile. Owner Randy Lerner tried to sell the club at the end of last season, but nobody wanted it; now he’s stuck with a losing product that he can’t afford to improve. With a roster full of decidedly average players, manager Paul Lambert is a good bet to be the first coach sacked in the upcoming season. Villa’s preseason results have been highly discouraging (4-1 loss to Groningen, 3-1 loss to Chesterfield) and there’s a growing feeling that relegation might not only be inevitable, but necessary to complete a much-needed rebuild.

With Lerner in a financial crunch, the club was unable to really make an impact in the summer market. Villa’s best move was probably the acquisition of Joe Cole, who should slot right into the starting XI because, let’s face it, the team has no better option in the attacking midfield. That in itself should ring the alarm bells in the Midlands, but it actually gets worse. For some curious reason, Phillippe Senderos was brought in to bolster a back line that has conceded 130 league goals in the last two seasons. Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker look like Hummels and Chiellini when compared to Senderos, who is to center backs what Chad Kroeger is to musicians.

The future of fellow center half Ron Vlaar is still a bit murky, but it appears likely that he will at least start the season with the club. Vlaar had an excellent World Cup with the Netherlands and will be relied on heavily by goalkeeper Brad Guzan to keep Villa’s patchwork defense in order.

Up front, the lineup will be bolstered by the eventual return of Christian Benteke, who is battling his way back from a ruptured achilles’ tendon. Benteke is a beast when in form, and truthfully deserves to be playing for a bigger club. In the meantime, Aston Villa will rely on the increasingly useless Gabriel Agbonlahor, who is in the final year of his contract with the team. The returns of Charles N’Zogbia (oh yeahhhh, him) and Libor Kozak from injury might help a bit, especially if youngster Andreas Weimann continues his pattern of inconsistent play.

Additions: Joe Cole, CAM (West Ham); Kieran Richardson, LB (Fulham); Phillippe Senderos, CB (Valencia).

Subtractions: Nathan Delfouneso, ST (Blackpool); Marc Albrighton, FW (Leicester City); Jordan Bowery, ST (Rotherham United); Antonio Luna, LB (Hellas Verona, loan); Yacouba Sylla, MF (Erciyesspor, loan); Nicklas Helenius, ST (Aalborg, loan); Jed Steer, GK (Doncaster Rovers, loan).

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Sunderland: 2014-15 Team Preview

Sunderland Comic

Team Profile: Contrary to what you may have heard, Sunderland fielded two sides during last year’s campaign. There was the Sunderland that was led by PaoLOL Di Canio and stumbled out of the gates and spent most of the year at the bottom of the Barclay’s Premier League table. Then there was the other Sunderland. The Sunderland side led by Gus Poyet that played like possessed demons and took 13 of a possible 18 points to end the season and climbed from the pit of despair into a comfortable 14th place finish. Poyet is now viewed as a savior near the River Wear but that will quickly [puts on sunglasses] wear off [yeahhhhhhhhh] if the Black Cats suffer another dismal start.

Costel Pantilimon arrives to form a Former Backup Club with Vito Mannone in goal. Mannone was statistically one of the best keepers in the entire league last season and the addition of Pantilimon will provide some firm competition. The defense, which was already creaky last season, might be even shakier this time around. Wes Brown and John O’Shea provide a softer center than a Three Musketeers bar. It’s a surprise that they didn’t go for the hat trick of washed up United defenders and sign Rio Ferdinand. Patrick van Aanholt was a nice pickup at left back from Chelsea to replace Phil Bardsley but right back is a shaky position now that Ondřej Čelůstka returned to Trabzonspor after his loan spell.

Somehow Lee Cattermole is only 25. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Sunderland’s midfield general can be controversial with his challenges but his style of play is necessary thanks to the team’s center defense. Jack Rodwell’s signing could help the Black Cats immensely in the middle of the park if he can manage to stay on the field, which is easier said than done. Adam Johnson was very un-Adam Johnson like down the stretch with consistently strong play and he ended up leading the team with eight goals.  Couple him with Italian Emanuel Giaccherini and Sun’lun has two capable players on the wings.

Connor Wickham’s end of the season tear went hand in hand with Sunderland’s surge from the depths of despair and fans will look for him to continue that same run of form this season. Reports are saying that teams including rival Newcastle might try to pluck Wickham for a modest fee. If Sunderland do decide to cash in on their young talent, they would be A) idiotic and B) relying on the corpse of Steven Fletcher and the hamstrings of Jozy Altidore, which mostly resemble overcooked pasta. With little money spent yet this summer, look for Sunderland to pony up for a full return of Fabio Borini.

Additions: Jordi Gomez (Wigan Athletic); Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion); Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City), Jack Rodwell (Manchester City)

Subtractions: Billy Knott (Bradford City); Phil Bardsley (Stoke City); Craig Gardner (West Bromwich Albion); Carlos Cuellar Released; Andrea Dossena Released; Kieren Westwood Released; Jack Colback (Newcastle United)

Projected Starting XI (4-1-4-1):

Sunderland XI

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Hull City: 2014-15 Team Preview

bruce-396925

Team Profile: Hull City’s legendary 2013-14 campaign will not soon be forgotten along the banks of the North Sea. The Tigers not only staved off relegation, but also achieved something that had never been done in the 110-year history of the club: qualify for a European competition.

That tiny Hull was able to achieve such a feat must be chalked up to the manager, Steve Bruce (pictured above), who instilled a real sense of belief in his team. Just ask Arsene Wenger, whose Arsenal side went 2-0 down to Hull within eight minutes of a thrilling FA Cup Final that nearly cemented the Tigers as a cinderella team for the ages. Even though the Gunners rallied to win the trophy (ugh) in extra time, Hull’s place in the final ensured that they would compete in the 2014-15 Europe League for the very first time.

Hull City had a much better Premier League season than their 16th-place finish would suggest. The Tigers were never really in danger of dropping down, and only fell to their final resting place after the added matches of the FA Cup (and the head of Alan Pardew) wore down an already thin squad.

With improved depth high on his list of priorities, Bruce has done well this summer to position Hull for another successful spell in the top flight. The signing of Robert Snodgrass from Norwich City gives the team added quality on set pieces and a no-nonsense tackler in the midfield. Jake Livermore, who starred on loan from Tottenham, was acquired on a permanent basis and looks primed to continue his upward swing (and keep the dunce hat squarely atop Daniel Levy’s noggin).

The English papers have been drooling over new signing Tom Ince like a doberman in a PETCO, but expectations should be tempered for his first full year in the Prem. Ince didn’t exactly set the world on fire with Crystal Palace last year (one goal in eight appearances), but his offensive upside should eventually propel him into Hull’s starting XI.

If Hull is to stay up for a second straight year, they will have to score more goals. The Tigers did their best Greece impression in 2013-14, netting only 38 times (a measly one goal per game), while being held off the scoresheet in 16 matches. Having strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long on board for a full season will definitely help, as will the return of winger Robbie Brady, who was scoring for fun last year before injuries derailed his season.

Additions: Jake Livermore, CM (Tottenham); Robert Snodgrass, LW/RW (Norwich City); Tom Ince, FW (Blackpool); Andrew Robertson, LB (Dundee United); Harry Maguire, CB (Sheffield United).

Subtractions: Matty Fryatt, ST (Nottingham Forest); Paul McElroy, LW (Sheffield Wednesday); Conor Henderson, MF (Crawley Town); Cameron Stewart, FW (Ipswich Town); Joe Dudgeon, LB (Barnsley, loan).

Projected Starting XI (3-5-2):

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 8.26.59 PM

Underrated Player: Hull’s best player in 2013-14 was center back Curtis Davies, who probably could start for almost any EPL team. Davies scored five times in all competitions last year, including a goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final.

Overrated Player: It’s almost unfair to overrate a player whose career hasn’t really started, but the hype surrounding Ince is just too much. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong, but I’m willing to bet he’s still a couple years away from reaching stardom.

Best Hair: Since Tom Huddlestone shed his afro, I’ll go with Livermore (left), who does a solid job rocking the faux-hawk.

Worst Hair: Nikica Jelavic’s mop (right) often turns into an oily plate of linguini during games.

jake-livermore-hull-city_3028224Soccer - Hull City Press Conference - Nikica Jelavic Unveiling - KC Stadium

Watchability Rating: 5/10. You could do a lot worse than Hull City when it comes to watchability. The Tigers’ cinderella run to the 2014 FA Cup Final was simply awesome, but their inability to score goals (and propensity to get shutout) makes them average at best.

Kit Rating: 8/10. The Tigers’ striped outfit is a real winner. You can never go wrong with the orange and black combo, and Hull pulls it off with flying colors. Nice job, Umbro.

Umbro-Hull-City-14-15-Home-Kit (1)

Season Outlook: With a year of Premier League experience under their belt, Hull City should do better than their 16th-place finish from a year ago. The Tigers have more depth and skill than last season and with the wily Steve Bruce at the helm, it would be no surprise to see them punch above their weight with a mid-table finish.