Pre-season report - form players, first XI's, tactics, injuries and more


Pre-season has come and gone in the blink of an eye and the start of the Premier League is almost upon us.

When we come to build our initial squads, pre-season is one of many different factors we use to make our decisions.

It should be taken with a pinch of salt sometimes, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on who has made the best transition from the beach to the pitch in the friendlies.

We can also begin to see how managers are going to shape their squads this year, the systems they may use, and who’ll be first choice.

I’ve spent time looking over all the clubs in pre-season and am delivering all you need to know here.

It’s a long old read so why not put the kettle on and get stuck in – or save for lunchtime reading.

I hope you find some of the snippets useful, whether they reaffirm your team decisions, or force a rethink for the good of your team.

And please do add your comments if I have missed anything!

Arsenal

Arsenal had a mixed pre-season and blew leads in typical fashion. Robin van Persie scored in the last 3 games against Boca Juniors, New York Red Balls and Benfica, while Aaron Ramsey impressed, scoring a couple, and was employed in the attacking central midfield role against New York Red Bulls.

Ramsey and Wilshire’s fantasy potential looks heavily linked to the possible departures of Nasri and Fabregas.

Kieran Gibbs also stood out at left back. He wasn’t afraid to take on opponents and get into the box, instead of just crossing from deep, and assisted van Persie in the Benfica game.

New signing Gervinho has impressed in his first appearances and would seem set to play in and around Van Persie.

Walcott looks to be favoured over Arshavin on the other flank when fit.

Thomas Vermaelan has re-established himself in defence but is struggling with a back problem. When Vermaelen is fit, he’ll take his place in the centre of defence with either Johan Djourou or Lauren Koscielny. Djourou looks favourite.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa have settled on a defence of Given, Young, Warnock, Dunne and Collins, but the attack is less clear, with Ireland, Albrighton, Heskey and Agbonlahor competing to play alongside N’Zogbia and Bent in a likely 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape.

Blackburn

Blackburn gave young Argentinian Mauro Formica plenty of action. The attacking midfielder, signed last season, scored a couple of goals and is worth monitoring at £5.5m in FPL.

First choice centre backs Ryan Nelson and Chris Samba have been struggling with injuries and are doubts for the start of the season.

Bolton

Bolton continue to use Gary Cahill and Zat Knight as their first choice centre backs, so David Wheater remains a bench player.

Darren Pratley, signed from Swansea, impressed in midfield with 3 goals, while Ivan Klasnic was on fire with 5 pre-season goals.

Klasnic will likely start up front with Kevin Davies in a 4-4-2, but Coyle has also tried a new 4-2-3-1 system, with Mark Davies and Darren Pratley taking it in turns to play off the striker.

Martin Petrov and Chris Eagles have impressed out on the wings.

Chelsea

Chelsea won all 7 pre-season games and only conceded 1 goal. Villas-Boas looks to prefer 4-3-3 with Malouda, Sturridge, Anelka and Kalou competing for roles either side of Drogba or Torres.

Yossi Benayoun and Daniel Sturridge impressed. Sturridge scored 3 goals, including 2 against Glasgow Rangers in their final game, but will have to sit out the first 3 Premier League games through suspension after being sent off on the final day last season.

David Luiz hasn’t played any part of pre-season because of the Copa America and a little knee problem.

Bosingwa and Ferreira have been competing for the right back spot, but Ivanovic may dislodge them both if Alex or Luiz partner Terry in the centre.

Everton

Everton had an unspectacular pre-season. Seamus Coleman was often used at right back before his injury.

Leighton Baines was the form player, scoring a free kick and offering a big goal threat in most games.

Louis Saha has eased back to fitness and scored against Birmingham.

Fulham

Fulham started their pre-season at the end of June and have been playing Europa League qualifiers ever since.

Andy Johnson has emerged as a real prospect, scoring in all 3 home legs and looking very lively up front with Bobby Zamora.

Young left back, Matthew Briggs, has seen lots of action, but John Arne Riise looks nailed on at left back.

Briggs did spend some time at left wing while Dempsey and Dembele were injured, but Dempsey has now returned to that role.

Jol seems settled with a 4-4-2 system with Zamora, Johnson and Dembele competing for the roles up front.

The defence of Schwarzer, Baird, Riise, Hughes and Hangeland looks fairly settled, although Jol did move Hughes to right back (benching Baird) and partnered Senderos with Hangeland in their last European game.

Liverpool

Liverpool have used a mish-mash of starting XI’s in their pre-season and they conceded 3 goals in all but 1 of their 6 games.

Andy Carroll looks in good form. He’s over his injuries and bagged 3 pre-season goals. Daniel Agger is also looking good and fit again in defence. He scored a brace against Valerenga.

Dalglish seems settled on a 4-2-3-1 shape with Carroll the focal point and the likes of Kuyt, Downing and Henderson supporting him in an attacking three.

Suarez played no part in pre-season because of his Copa America exertions but will definitely come back into the team. It’s likely he’ll take his place in the three just off Carroll.

Liverpool’s left back slot remains unclear. Fabio Aurelio played left back against Valencia, but Jose Enrique has been strongly linked with a switch to Anfield, so we need to wait and see.

Martin Kelly has been used in a bench role but got a chance at right back against Valencia when Glen Johnson picked up a thigh injury.

Johnson has been ruled out of the opening fixture against Sunderland so Kelly looks odds-on to start at right back.

Man City

Man City have a real gem in David Silva. He’s continuing his great form from the end of last season and was Man of the Match in an impressive 3-0 win over Inter Milan.

Lescott and Kompany look first choice centre backs, while Kolarov and Clichy will compete for the left back slot.

It seems Dzeko and Balotteli will have to play second fiddle up front to Aguero and possibly Tevez if he remains at the club. Aguero has yet to kick a ball for his new club.

Man United

Man United started their pre-season with a tour of America and looked in good form with some thumping wins, including 7-0 over Seattle Sounders.

Rooney scored a hat-trick in that game and looks sharp. Park Ji Sung has also stood out, scoring 3 goals, but will struggle to get a first team place with the likes of Young, Nani and Valencia around.

United line-ups would suggest Rafael is first choice right back, but Fabio, Smailling and Jones are considerations too after spending time at right back.

Welbeck started the Community Shield ahead of Berbatov, who only made the bench. Indication that the Bulgarian remains out of favour.

Ashley Young looks the preferred left wing option, so Valencia and Nani will likely compete for the right wing position, with Nani looking the early favourite after his double in the Community Shield.

Ferguson has confirmed Nani will start against West Brom this weekend.

Newcastle

Newcastle have endured a tricky pre-season with the Joey Barton saga and players failing to get VISA’s to travel on tour.

New signing, Yohan Cabeye, has played in a midfield holding role, while Cabeye, Sylvain Marveaux, and Barton have been taking the set pieces.

Demba Ba has made a quiet start to Toon life but looks first choice up top.

Tim Krul looks to hold the keeper jersey.

Norwich

Norwich have looked lively, particularly the strikers. Grant Holt bagged 5 pre-season goals, Simeon Jackson scored 4, while new signings Steve Morison and James Vaughan (who is injured now) bagged 5 between them.

Richie De Laet, on loan from Man United, has shone out in the centre of defence, along with fellow new signing, Kyle Naughton.

The Norwich back four isn’t entirely settled. Russell Martin (who is an injury doubt) and Marc Tierney will be the full backs, but De Laet’s partner in central defence is up for grabs, with Zak Whitbread and Elliot Ward the leading contenders.

Wes Hoolahan has also looked lively at the tip of the Norwich midfield diamond.

QPR

QPR continued to play in their favoured 4-2-3-1 system with new signing Jay Bothroyd leading the line.

The likes of Adel Taarabt and DJ Campbell will provide attacking support just off Bothroyd.

Kieren Dyer has played in various positions, including right back, holding midfield, and as part of the attacking three off the striker.

QPR, like Norwich, have question marks over the centre of their defence. Danny Gabbidon, Kaspars Gorkss and Matt Connolly are the contenders. Gorkss has been linked with a move away from QPR, but would be expected to play, while Gabiddon may edge out Connolly.

Bradley Orr and Clint Hill should fill the full back roles.

Stoke

Stoke have made some alterations to their defence. Robert Huth has moved to left back and Jonathan Woodgate is now partnering Shawcross in the centre of defence. Woodgate has looked very impressive.

Jonathan Walters and Kenwyn Jones have shown promise in attack, which remains similar to last season, with the likes of Etherington and Pennant creating from the wide areas.

Sunderland

Sunderland have used pre-season to bed in all their new signings, including Seb Larsson and Craig Gardner, who’ve looked impressive in midfield, particularly Larsson’s set piece delivery.

Stephane Sessegnon has been a real star in the role just off a lone striker in Steve Bruce’s preferred 4-4-1-1 formation. Sessegnon has scored 3 pre-season goals and offered lots of creativity too.

It looks like Simon Mignolet will start the season in goal, but Kieran Westwood has featured in games too. Craig Gordon remains injured.

Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea and Turner are considered favourites for the back four slots, but Richardson, Bramble and Ferdinand are in contention too.

Swansea

Brenden Rogers has used 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 systems. New signing, Wayne Routledge, was used as part of the three behind the striker, in the most advanced role, while Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair have remained out wide.

If Rogers looks to use Routledge out wide, Dyer’s place would come under threat.

Swansea will likely start the season with Jose Moreira in goal, but he doesn’t look very secure with Dutch keeper Michel Vorm set to sign for around £1.5m.

The defence looks settled once captain Garry Monk returns from injury (he’s given himself 50-50 chance for the opener). He’ll partner Ashley Williams in the centre, while Neil Taylor and Angel Rangel will be the full backs.

Tottenham

Tottenham saw a rejuvented Nico Kranjcar light up their pre-season with a couple of goals, and he also provided 3 assists in the 5-3 win over MK Dons.

Rafael van der Vaart looked sharp too, before an ankle injury, and scored 3 goals.

Redknapp has continued to use the 4-4-1-1 and 4-4-2 systems from last season, and the Spurs striker situation remains fuzzy.

Defoe, Crouch and Pavlyuchenko will all get reduced game time.

Lennon and Bale have looked bright on the wings.

West Brom

West Brom have been playing a 4-4-1-1 system with Somen Tchoyi, a £5.5m midfielder in FPL, playing just off Peter Odemwingie.

Tchoyi scored a couple in that role, the latest against Parma, and Hodgson has said he’ll consider using him there in the Premier League.

West Brom are close to signing Reading’s striker Shane Long, so perhaps Tchoyi will be chucked up front every now and again, instead of being regularly up there.

Wigan

Wigan have seen Victor Moses emerge as their star man of pre-season. Moses has been playing in N’Zogbia’s left wing role. He’s scored 5 goals, his latest against Villarreal, and also provided a couple of assists. Moses could be an absolute steal at £5m in FPL, and is up against the 3 promoted teams first up.

Wolves

Wolves have seen new signings Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara excel in their pre-season.

Johnson, the new captain, has been as solid as ever, while O’Hara scored a free kick and created from midfield.

Wayne Hennessey looks to have held the keeper jersey, but new signing Dorus de Vries will be waiting in the wings to pounce on any Hennessey mistakes.

Wolves look set to play 4-4-2 with Jarvis and Hunt on the wings, O’Hara patrolling the centre, and Doyle and Fletcher partnered up front.