2012-2013 English Premier League Preview Part One: New Kids on the Block
In a four part series, Jay Sanin will be breaking down the upcoming English Premier League season. For an introduction to the series, go here.
With each new season in the English Premier League, three new teams join the fray after being promoted from the Championship division, with three Premier League teams from last year being sent down to the lower division.
This has to be the best idea in all of sports. Shouldn't the Houston Astros be in AAA ball by now? Or aren't the Charlotte Bobcats worthy of a spot in the NBA Development League? Yes. Yes they are. Every sport should employ the promotion/relegation policy. It's too smart not to use, but I digress.
Our crop of promoted teams this year features varying levels of experience at the Premier League (which has only existed since 1992). One side has been there for all but three years in the Prem's existence. One is back after a six year spell in lower leagues, while the third has only spent two seasons in the league. So who are this year's new additions to the EPL? Let's introduce them.
Nickname: The Royals
Seasons in Premier League: Two (2006-2008)
Last Year: 27 W, 8 D, 11 L (89 points, Winners of Championship Division)
With only two years of Premier League experience, many will predict that Reading will be sent straight back down to the Championship following this season. It is entirely possible that they will be. However, they do boast some experience at the Premier League level in strikers Jason Roberts (36 career Premier League goals) and Pavel Pogrebnyak who scored six goals for Fulham last season. Roberts is 34, but could have a positive impact on 25 year old Adam Le Fondre, who banged home 12 goals last year in the Championship for Reading.
Defensively, there was no one better in the Championship than Reading, who allowed .89 goals per game last season. Obviously the competition is going to be tougher this year, but defense will be a must, and they've got it.
In the end, they simply don't score that many goals. Le Fondre led them in scoring last year with 12 goals in 46 matches. That's just not enough to hang with the big boys. I think another appearance in the Championship is on the way.
Seasons in Premier League: 13 (1992-2005)
Last Season: 26 W, 10 D, 10 L (2nd in Championship)
An original member of the Premier League, Southampton are back after 7 years in lower divisions in English football. They enter the Prem with some solid pieces, including the Championship's leading scorer Richard Lambert who banged home 25 Championship goals last season. Teamed up with Steven Davis, who had 14 assists in the Scottish Premier League for Rangers (whose recent financial troubles have prompted a number of talented players to walk out the door), Lambert could be a big time scorer in his first taste of Premier League action.
Southampton also boasted the best home record in the Championship last year with 16 wins, 4 draws, and 3 losses in St. Mary's Stadium, which holds over 32,000 spectators. That's the most amazing part of English football to me, by the way, it doesn't matter where you stand, your stadium holds a large number of people compared to something like a basketball arena. Their home field advantage, with an average attendance last year of over 26,000 fans a game in a lower division, and the potentially potent combination of Lambert and Davis will keep them up this year without a doubt, in my opinion.
West Ham United
Nickname: The Hammers
Seasons in Premier League: 17 (all but 2011-2012, 2002-2003, 1992)
Last Season: 24 W, 14 D, 8 L (3rd Place in Championship, won four team playoff for promotion)
Thanks to yet another idea that should be used in American sports, West Ham gained promotion to the Premier League by winning the Championship's annual four team playoff between the teams in 3rd through 6th place to determine the third promoted team. This is like the NCAA's play-in games on steroids. Could you imagine a 4 team tournament to determine the eighth seed in the NBA playoffs, or the NFL's sixth seed? It would be unreal.
Anyway, it's great to see West Ham back in the Premier League. They're a team that is synonymous with the Prem in my opinion. They led the Championship in attendance last season as the only team in that league to average over 30,000 fans per game. They hold right around 35,000, and one would expect the place to be close to capacity every match day in the top flight of English football.
With that said, West Ham wants to move into London's Olympic Stadium, stating that the stadium would be costly and without much use if they are not given permission to do so. That is a gutsy move for a team that has struggled staying competitive in the Premier League for years, but I would love to see them do this and make more money to become more competitive in the transfer market.
As for the team itself, West Ham are hoping that experience Premier Leaguer Carlton Cole can deliver some goals as he has in the past for West Ham during their EPL days. They are also going to rely on Ricardo Vaz Te, a Portuguese player, to try and get them on the score sheet this season after his 22 goal performance was good for second most in the Championship last year. Having West Ham in the Premier League is just good for football as far as I'm concerned. I think they have what it takes to stay up.
So there you have it. Three new teams, three new dreams of Premier League glory. Actually, forget that, three new dreams of avoiding relegation. That's more like it.
Tomorrow, a look back at this summer's transfers in (and out) of the Premier League, and debating whether or not the current transfer system is making football unsustainable.