The Big Fat Season Preview

The Big Fat Pre-Season Preview 2016/17

So, here it is. Starved for almost three months: fans across the county, and the world, are agonisingly close to the opening day of the 2016/17 Premier League season. We’ve had a less than gripping European Championships, an even less gripping pre-season and been fed scraps of transfer news to keep us occupied. But now, the wait is over and we at The Bear Pit TV couldn’t be more excited. So much so that we’ve put together a super duper bumper special season preview for you to get your teeth stuck into. The team serving this starter course of Premier League action are TBPTV regulars Ben Cartwright, Ben Rowley, Dan Morris, Dave Crowther-Green, Mitch Adams, Tom Thrower and Zach Evans. We’ve also brought in Rob Doolan, who also hosts ‘The 90s Football Party’. So sit back and indulge in what we’ve got to say, you might need to sit down somewhere comfy.

Before we start, these predictions were made prior to the injury to Jack Butland. #Pray4Stoke.

1) How has the transfer window gone so far?

BC: After an extremely slow start and then an extremely exciting couple of days it has all gone a bit quiet again. Nailing Arnautovic down to a long term contract was something not many dared to dream could happen and it is a huge bonus to the squad that it did. Sobhi looks promising for the future and Allen is another big name signing that will continue to grow our ‘brand’.

BR: Pretty much the way I wanted it to so far! We needed a young, hungry, tricky winger and we finally signed one in Ramadona. With a few weeks of experience I’m sure he’ll be pushing Arnie for a start. We needed a younger, more modern version of Glenn Whelan and we signed Joe Allen. We needed Arnie to sign a new contract and, miraculously, he did. Now we don’t need to sign a new left wing which will free up funds for some other players we’ve been chasing. Ryan Sweeney was a surprise but may be more involved with Hughes’ plans than meets the eye. Although deals have sometimes taken a while to progress, I’m glad we’ve not just thrown ourselves in front of the bus and spent ridiculous amounts of money (yet).

DM: I think it has been a good window, Allen was a good buy, especially after the Euros he had. The signing on Sobhi is not one I will get excited about just yet, but he does look promising. But I think the biggest signing is Arnie for another 4 years. We still need to get rid of some dead weight though.

DCG: I think if you look at the window realistically we haven’t done too badly so far. Obviously the optimists amongst us would have liked a few more before the start of the season but with 3 weeks still to go there’s still plenty of time. The signing of Joe Allen could be a very clever piece of business over the course of the season, providing brilliant competition for places as well as premier league quality. Ramadan Sobhi could be interesting but I expect him to struggle in his first season.

MA: Prior to Arnie signing I would have said that it had been poor, regardless of the acquisition of Allen and Sobhi. But now that Arnie has finally put pen to paper it has bumped it up to a good window. Now if we can bring in a CDM and ST and sell off some dead weight (Looking at you Wilson) then it would be a great window

TT: 8/10 It was key to tie down Arnie, and in doing so everything else is a bonus. Joe Allen could quite easily become signing of the season if he performs as well as he did in the euros, and Sobhi is finally a wing option who has pace and tricky, he provides good quality in depth.

ZA: I think the transfer window has been very strong so far. Obviously getting Arnie to sign a new contract was absolutely massive, keeping our best outfield player from last season is huge. Joe Allen is an incredibly tidy player and I expect him to pair up great with Imbula, pressing attackers and forcing interceptions to transition into counters. Whelan is class but his game is a bit limited for our current playing style, and I think Allen will be able to offer a more dynamic presence in the same area of the pitch. Ramadan was also a good pickup as we desperately need some depth on the left wing. Arnie isn’t indestructible and last season we were forced to play Diouf and Afellay out of position a number of times. If Sobhi is 1% as good as our new Egyptian fans keep telling us then he is guaranteed to win the Ballon d’Or. I can’t pretend to know much about Ryan Sweeney but he was very polite in responding to my Twitter DMs and it’s good that we’re buying homegrown talent for the future.

RD: It’s gone well in terms of players in so far – Joe Allen is a bit of a coup and brings some energy to the midfield, Ramadan Sobhi ticks the much-needed ‘third winger’ box and promises to be an absolute superstar. There’s still plenty of work to be done though.

2) What else do we need in the transfer window?

BC: We don’t need anyone. Need is the key word. It’s almost like we have had a delicious main meal, my stomach is pretty full but if someone was to bring out a slice of cheesecake or a cheese-board I wouldn’t say no. Striker is a cheesecake, centre back is the cheese-board.

BR: Basically, Berahino. Or someone of his ilk. It’s been a long process to try and bring him in and we don’t know if he’ll sign or not but we need a first choice striker. If anything so  that he has an open shot at having a fair run of games in the side, not like our forwards last season. Consistency often leads to goals, look at Vardy for instance, out of nowhere he grabbed that famous eleven game record. We need a versatile hitman and Berahino fits that bill.

DM: I think we need a new striker, an effective one who will get us 15 goals a season. But we have been looking for one of them since Dave Kitson. I don’t think Berahino is the answer if I’m honest. I also want to see our defence improve, but reluctant to change it as I feel all the players are decent. Maybe replacement for Johnson as he is getting on a bit.

DCG: I think the obvious one is a striker and I would hope that it’ll be Saido Berahino, as for me, he fits our system perfectly, would slot in quite easily and score goals for fun. Another position that needs sorting for me is another centre back, mainly to provide cover for Ryan, as I don’t expect Ryan Sweeney to be quite up to Premier League standard just yet.

MA: I just slightly touched on it but a CB and ST are crucial to bring in. Whilst Diouf in my eyes would be a great striker for us, I have no faith in any of our other strikers. So bringing in one more is a must for me (Whether as our starter or as better back up to Diouf). As for CB I don’t think that needs much explaining. In terms of who I would sell I think it’d be the some of the last of Pulis’ Guard (Wilson, Crouch, Walters and Adam).

TT: The obvious thing that nearly every team in the league needs, a 15 goal a season striker. If we are to play a lone frontman then I don’t believe the current crop are good enough right now. Both Diouf and Joselu will need time to get confidence up, and if we want to push into Europe we don’t have that time to give. Also think some people need to move on, especially if you are Irish, fond of a twitter Q&A and called Marc.

ZA: Obviously it’d be nice to get a prolific striker and a center back to compete with Wollscheid (and fill in for the inevitable Shawcross injuries) but I don’t necessarily know if we need any more players. I don’t think Sweeney is the center back everybody has been clamoring for so someone like Kyriakos Papadopoulos would be a good signing. I like Diouf and Joselu a whole lot but I don’t think either of them is the mythical “20-goals-a-season striker” of legend. Finally getting Berahino (or even ending the saga) would be a relief but I’d also be happy to see us swing Wilfried Bony or especially Simone Zaza, who we’ve been linked with in the past. Zaza took an infamously terrible penalty in the Euros but I think he’s a total bruiser with pace who would thrive in our system if Juve would let him leave. I’d also like to see some outgoing players, namely Crouch, Adam, and Wilson. All three can still do a job for a Prem side but I don’t think any of them will get much playing time for us this year and they deserve it elsewhere. At this point I’d rather see some academy kids like Lecygne, Telford, N’Goy, and Taylor get minutes with the first team.

RD: At least one centre half is a priority and it’s slightly troubling we haven’t been linked with many. Maybe another winger too if we’re being greedy.

3) What’s your starting eleven for Boro?

BC: (4,2,3,1) Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; Allen, Imbula; Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnautovic; Diouf. Predictable but the best

BR: (4,2,3,1) Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Allen, Imbula; Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnautovic; Diouf. No contest, what a silly question.

DM: (3,2,3,2) Butland; Cameron, Shawcross, Pieters; Allen Whelan; Shaqiri, Imbula, Arnautovic;

Bojan; Diouf/Walters

DCG: (4,3,3) Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Whelan, Imbula, Allen; Arnautovic, Shaqiri, Diouf – I’d of loved to of fit Bojan into the XI, but with an away fixture, I don’t expect us to go all guns blazing so Joe Allen just gets in instead.

MA: Who do I want to start?… (4,2,3,1) Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Wolly, Erik; Allen, Imbula; Arnie, Bojan, Shaq; Diouf. Who do I THINK will start, the same team but with Whelan over Allen

TT: Going with the False 9 433: Butland – Johnson Shawcross Wollscheid Pieters – Whelan – Allen Imbula – Shaqiri Bojan Arnautovic. This formation will get the best out of our two wide men, and will be one our two centre midfielders will be happy with as Whelan covers the defensive duty.

ZA: This is boring but despite the experimental pre-season 3-4-3 I still think 4-2-3-1 is our best formation with the current squad: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters; Imbula, Allen; Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnautovic; Diouf. Bench: Given, Sobhi, Joselu, Whelan, Muniesa, Cameron, Walters.

RD: (4,2,3,1) Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; Allen, Imbula; Shaqiri, Bojan, Arnautovic; Diouf.

4) How do you think we’ll do this season?

BC: I’m not one for concentrating on finishing positions. It would be nice if we had a push for Europe, but I don’t think our squad has the depth for a season in Europe and the Premier League yet so it might still be early for that. A top half finish with some exciting performances is what I crave.

BR: 9th. No I’m not being lazy, I’ve actually thought about this. There’s an argument that because so many good teams performed so badly, we’re gonna be pushed down again. There’s an argument that so many average teams performed so well, we’re gonna be pushed up. The successful have European football, the top clubs have new managers and new world class teams and I find it difficult to find a way into the top seven. The last remaining eighth spot could be taken by us should we perform admirably all season; but I predict we’ll have another good cup run this year with the strength we have in our squad, even on the fringes, and we’ll sacrifice a couple of league games toward the end to push for silverware again (it happened last season after the League cup loss). We have a fantastic team and would only be made better with a prolific striker. It’s a fourth consecutive ninth for me.

DM: Well I feel like this season maybe a struggle, unless we can find the key to being consistent, we can’t have anymore nightmare games, we seem to lack something, I can’t quiet put my finger on it, I dunno if its spirit or tactics but something is missing from our team. But I’m also optimistic so I’m gonna go 8th plus a good cup run.

DCG: I sense this season could be very similar to the past couple of years. Despite our two very interesting and exciting signings, I struggle to see how we can significantly move forward without the addition of a top class striker. The resurgence of stronger sides such as Chelsea and Everton as well as new competition like Leicester and West Ham also provides even more of a battle for us to progress towards the top 7. So with all this considered, I’m going to go for a stable 10th position.

MA: meh

TT: Really positive about this year so 6th. Think we would have finished in Europe last season if it was not for injuries to key players at pivotal times. This with the cup results away at Liverpool and Palace totally destroyed confidence and stopped us going forward. But with a stronger and deeper squad think this is our year to take a weakened Southampton’s place in the league.

ZA: I’m going to get wildly optimistic and say we finish the season strong and slide into Europe in 7th place. More realistically? 10th. But let a boy dream.

RD: 9th. Always 9th.

5) And finally, does anyone see anything else in their crystal ball?

BC: Shaqiri is going to come into his own this season. He is a player that has shown so much promise and at some point that promise needs to come to fruition. If our back four can stay fit I think our defensive performances will become a lot more secure, despite Marc Wilson’s best disruption efforts.

BR: Like I said previously, we’re gonna have another good bash at one of the cups and may even win one should luck be on our side a bit more than other years. I can see Bojan and Shaqiri fighting for Player of the Season spot and it will be down to injury to decide the winner. We’ll have a period where Hughes will be under pressure like never before, but will stay. Man City to win the league. Kane top scorer again. Leicester to finish mid table. Sunderland will finally be relegated. We’ll break our transfer record (whatever it is at the time) again in January. Imbula will release his own range of Winter clothing.

DM: I think if Stoke don’t have a positive improvement by December we may see the end of Hughes. I think it will be hard to keep the ego’s of Adam, Wilson and Walters all in check. I reckon Bojan will have better season than the last, no more getting lost in the middle, the same with Shaqiri. Afellay returning will boost us greatly. Leicester will struggle. Butland becomes England number 1.

TT: A really big year for Bojan. Elsewhere in the league I think United will walk to the title, West Brom will be in for a turbulent time and I can’t see Pulis being in charge come January. Also feel Swansea are sleepwalking towards the relegation zone as key players are leaving and not being replaced effectively.

ZA: Joint top scorers will be Arnautovic and Shaqiri with 12 each. Utter chaos from the wings this season. Opposing fullbacks will sob with terror when they learn they’ve been named to the starting XI. Player of the season will be Imbula who will barely edge out Bojan. When asked for a statement, Giannelli Imbula will respond thoughtfully with “Giannelli Imbula.”. Both he and Bojan are going to be monsters and then sign lifetime contract extensions and get matching Pottermus chest tattoos. The longer Hughes goes without shaving the better we get. By April his beard is down to his knees and we’re winning every match 8-0.

So, there you have it. See you tomorrow.


Ben Cartwright (@bajcartwright)

Ben Rowley (@Ben_Rowley56)

Dan Morris (@HailManDorris)

Dave Crowther-Green (@Dave_CGr)

Mitch Adams (@MitchAdams2013)

Tom Thrower (@sussexstokie)

Zach Evans (@NOLAStokie)

Rob Doolan (@ChiefDelilah)

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