Premier League preview: Queen´s Park Rangers, Reading, Southampton, Stoke, Sunderland
Published: 16.08.12 / Written by: David Gold
Queen´s Park Rangers survived by the skin of their teeth last time around as they came close to relegation back into the Championship.
In the end they were indebted to Stoke for drawing with Bolton on the final day, and a questionable penalty given to the home team in that match. Given a stay of execution, Mark Hughes, who tends to talk a better game than his teams produce, has been busy reinforcing his squad. Ji Sung Park is a superb signing from Manchester United and will add energy and class in midfield. Fabio da Silva on loan and Junior Hoilett are similarly sensible signings, but the rest of their moves have been for journeymen like Andrew Johnson and Ryan Nelsen. They have the quality to stay up, but not much more than that.
Reading come into the Premier League on the back of a superb run in the second half of last season but Brian McDermott will face a significant challenge if his team are to sustain such form in the Premier League. Unlike West Ham or Southampton, they were not consistent for the whole season and a serious question mark must be placed as to how they will react when they lose a couple of matches. Pavel Pobgrebnyak is an inspired move, but their other recruits are journeymen with little quality, and a limited squad may find the going too tough in their first season back at this level.
Southampton, on the other hand, came into the Premier League following a remarkable season. Having been promoted from League One the year before, they have won two successive promotions playing stylish and attractive football, and can be expected to put up a good fight against demotion this time around. Norwich will be the blueprint for Nigel Adkins' side, and they have made useful signings. Nathanial Clyne and Jay Rodriguez, as well as Steve Davis, show that they are taking the Norwich route and buying players from the lower leagues with the quality to produce at the top level. That is in contrast to Reading's policy of buying players with experience at this level but little quality. It should be enough to see them finish a couple of places clear of the bottom three.
Stoke are, as ever, most clubs' bogey team. One of the only long ball teams remaining in the league, Tony Pulis has had a quieter summer than usual. He tends to buy a player for near to £10 million who is tall and can play up front, but not this time around. Stoke have probably reached as high as they can go under Pulis and are entering the phase Charlton reached under Alan Curbishley before their decline. They should comfortably stay up whilst irritating the top teams, but not much more than that.
Sunderland are probably the only other team in the league who will play direct long ball football this year. If they sign Steven Fletcher that will signal their intent and the way they intend to go. Martin O'Neill will get his team playing high energy attacking football, but only using wide areas of the pitch, feeding wingers and crossing into the box. Like Stoke, it should be good enough to survive with room to spare, but not much more than that.