The Transfer Insider – June 24th
Welcome to this the latest column from Ed Darnell of the Smart Betting Club focusing on all the transfer window news with a betting perspective. Ed will be reporting back on all the latest developments every Friday at the SBC Blog.
I’ve covered Manchester United and the other title contenders so this week I’ll turn my attentions to the promoted sides. I’m not a proven tipster, but as this is for the SBC I’ll run through a few odds and have an overall look at the market first off, offering my thoughts along the way.
Personally, I’m not a fan of getting into the outright markets at this stage of things. Too much can happen between now and the start of the season, although we do have the benefit of the fixture schedule, but then again, if you can try and gauge where the market may go then there is money to be made.
I’ve used bet365 for the following odds, but a quick comparison with Skybet and William Hill show very similar trends in terms of favourites for relegation, and Swansea are the massive favourites. They’re 4/7 with bet365 and Skybet, and an abysmal 4/9 with William Hill, but why? Because they came up in the play-offs? That’s the only reason I can see. Swansea have been in and around the top teams in the Championship ever since they won promotion from the third tier in 2008, missing out on the top six by small margins for two years before their success last time out, but more on why I reckon they can make a fight of it later. In contrast Norwich have won two promotions in a row and arguably overachieved last season (based on the fact their squad from League One didn’t change that much), yet, presumably because they finished, they’re a slightly better 4/6 to be relegated with bet365.
This isn’t to say I think Norwich are certainly heading for the drop, but I would argue Swansea stand a better chance of staying up at present. QPR are a different animal altogether and will probably be able to attract a better standard of player, so I’ll deal with them last.
Paul Lambert has done a cracking job at Norwich, make no mistake, and he knows his football – having enjoyed relative success at Colchester and Bristol Rovers previously. A good manager is clearly one of the most important factors in any debut Premier League season as they will almost certainly struggle to attract a decent calibre of player. Blackpool boss Ian Holloway nearly pulled off something remarkable with that ramshackle side, and a few years ago Phil Brown somehow managed to keep Hull up.
Brown is now at Preston and to be honest I think he could have done better than North End (who were League One bound when he took over), maybe the fact he looks like an Oompa Loompa hasn’t done him any favours but I digress. The simple fact is like most managers of newly promoted sides Lambert’s key issue is instilling belief in his squad and trying to get the best out of whoever he can pick up, whether that is in the loan market or as a permanent deal.
So far the Canaries have secured strikers Steve Morison and James Vaughan, from Millwall and Everton respectively, in what could well prove vital bits of business. Vaughan was very highly rated a few years ago and is still only 22, Morison has spent the majority of his career in the lower leagues, and even a spell in the non-league, but impressed with Millwall last season and Lambert clearly thinks the 27-year-old can play in the top flight. The Norwich boss has also picked up winger Elliot Bennett from Brighton and defender Ritchie De Laet on loan for a season from Manchester United.
The squad clearly needs a bit more work, but Lambert seems to be busying himself in the transfer market – he’s also been linked with Leeds’ Robert Snodgrass, but Leeds’ asking price is too high, and Huddersfield’s Anthony Pilkington, but Town claim there have been no bids. It would seem as if Lambert is seeking talent in the lower leagues and this can be a risk, as it remains to be seen whether they can cut the mustard in the top flight.
Stoke City’s home form in their debut Premier League campaign was simply astounding, Swansea’s at the Liberty last year was equally phenomenal, with just three losses and, in terms of points, the best in the division. In their first season in the top flight the Potters managed 35 points at the Britannia Stadium, enough to keep them up (Hull stayed up with 35), and just 10 points on their travels. Home form usually proves the deciding factor in a survival bid, and if the Swans can make the Liberty a fortress again they’ll stand a better chance of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship. It could certainly be well worth making a mental note of this come the start of the season, as they could well spring a few surprises at big prices at the Liberty.
I watched Swansea a bit last season and Scott Sinclair is a Premier League player, and they’ve got talent in other areas too. The south Wales outfit have also been linked with some quality targets and boss Brendan Rodgers has been backed in the transfer market, publicly, by chairman Huw Jenkins.
Rodgers has smashed the club’s transfer record for Danny Graham, who finished as the Championship’s top scorer last season in a very average Watford side. Like Morison, Graham may not be particularly effective in the Premier League but only time will tell and the Swans did beat off some competition for his signature.
Graham is Rodgers’ only new signing so far, although Swansea have lost keeper Dorus De Vries to Wolves after contract talks broke down. Rodgers is now after another shot stopper as the Dutchman was first choice last season and it would appear as if highly rated young Pole Grzegorz Sandomierski, a 21-year-old who has already made three appearances for his country. It also seems as if Neil Taylor and Darren Pratley are heading for pastures new. Both were key players in the promotion push but Newcastle have matched the release clause bid in Taylor’s contract and he can now chose whether to join them or not. Pratley’s contract has expired and Bolton look like the most likely destination, but nothing is signed yet.
One of the most astonishing links to crop up, and it seems to hold water as well, is Spain international Marcos Senna, a ready-made Pratley replacement. Granted, he wasn’t a member of the World Cup winning squad and he is now 34-years-old but Villarreal offered him a new deal, and it looks like he will instead make the move to Swansea. Indeed, the player’s agent even had this to say:
“He phoned coach Brendan Rodgers, who speaks perfect Spanish, who told him they wanted him,” Senna’s agent Eli Coimbra is quoted as saying.
“I was thrilled because he saw they really want to have him on the team. The negotiations are going very fast and could be closed earlier than expected.”
The move for Senna, a Euro 2008 winner, suggests Swansea are ready to fund a survival push, even if the agent is just trying to increase a contract offer or drum up interest. With Rodgers backed by his chairman, expect plenty of new faces at the Liberty, but the nucleus of the squad will remain largely the same I would imagine.
Queens Park Rangers
QPR are 7/4, with bet365, to be relegated and to be honest I can’t see a great reason as to why they’re so far apart from the other two newly promoted sides. They have got a slightly better squad to build on than Norwich and Swansea, but not significantly and they still need some additions. Boss Neil Warnock has been there before with Sheffield United so he is a manager with top flight experience, but he didn’t succeed with the Blades – although there was some considerable controversy surrounding their relegation.
They did have the strongest squad in the Championship last season and demonstrated they could mix it with Premier League opposition in the cup competitions, now the Rs will have to do it week in, week out. QPR have also been handed a fairly decent opening set of fixtures and don’t face any of the probable title contenders until late October, if they do manage a good start their price will drift. QPR face Bolton at home on the opening day, and the Wanderers were one of the worst on the road in the division last season – but of course that may not necessarily be the case in 2011/2012.
One of Warnock’s biggest tasks may well be keeping hold of Adel Taarabt, the Moroccan has announced the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United are chasing him – I doubt this very much, but he could still be heading elsewhere, with Newcastle a possibility. I personally expect him to stay at Loftus Road and I reckon he’s just trying to get a better deal with all these exit hints. Numerous reports have suggested QPR value him at around £10million, if this is correct and someone does offer it I’d take it – they relied on him a lot last season and it remains to be seen if he can be as effective in the Premier League, my guess is no.
Other than that Warnock seems to be playing the waiting game, he’s been linked with plenty but as yet no moves have been made. He’s probably pretty happy with his current squad but they certainly need some strikers – Rob Hulse and Heidar Helguson are not going to keep them in the Premier League, even if they are being supported by Taarabt. .
Other bits and bobs…
Chelsea have appointed Andre Villas-Boas as their new manager, if you caught my first column you’ll remember I said avoid backing Guus Hiddink and a lot of money went on the Dutchman so if you had a flutter on Villas-Boas, good work.
Aston Villa are after Birmingham pair Scott Dann and Ben Foster, but after Alex McLeish’s switch from St Andrew’s to Villa Park I doubt the Blues will be up for doing any business. Liverpool is probably the most likely destination for Dann, although Stoke and Spurs are keen.
Spurs are keen on Gary Cahill and are ready to do a player-plus-cash deal involving either Sebastian Bassong or Younes Kaboul. As yet Bolton have received no concrete offers for Cahill, but they have had enquiries.
Wigan won’t be getting Ali Al Habsi, their vocal chairman Dave Whelan has slammed Bolton for hiking up the price and says he won’t pay anymore than £3million. The Wanderers will turn this down, as they already have, and will either wait for someone to pay their asking price or hang on.
Rangers have made a move for Dundee United’s David Goodwillie and have been quoted £2million, this is probably a goer.
Carlos Tevez is staying at Manchester City, according to agent Kia Joorabchian, probably because no one can afford him.
Sunderland have signed Sebastian Larsson and Kieran Westwood, both as free agents. The arrival of Westwood will probably push Craig Gordon closer to the exit, with Celtic a possible destination for the former Hearts keeper.
Spurs look to be standing firm over Luka Modric and insist they’ll resist any offers. This doesn’t mean the speculation will stop though and it could build steam ahead of the close of the window, especially as Manchester United and Chelsea are the interested parties. The Croat is 4/7 to remain with Spurs, 11/8 to join Chelsea or 6/1 to join Manchester United, all with Victor Chandler.
I’ve rattled on enough now, but transfer rumours will come thick and fast for the new teams to the Premier League so I’ll keep checking back on these three from time to time over the summer.
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