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Premier League Preview

THERE ARE few conclusions to be settled upon in the Premier League at the end of August. This due in part to the fevered transfer activity of the past week in particular, as the league’s sides address their weakness and seek to shape the destiny of their seasons.

The transfer window will have shut by the time West Ham entertain Fulham in tomorrow’s early kick-off. It remains to be seen if loanee Andy Carroll makes his debut at Upton Park of more immediate concern is the Hammers’ desire to eradicate the defensive errors that cost them so dearly at Swansea.

The east Londoners are favourites to overcome a Fulham team sidetracked by transfer disarray behind the scenes. Michael Laudrup’s rampant Swansea will seek to pose Sunderland problems from the outset but Martin O’Neill has an aptitude for stifling more creative sides. Nonetheless, the Black Cats are yet to face a striker as in-form as Michu.

Tottenham will be satisfied to have finally replaced Luka Modric with Moussa Dembele and the time is now for Andre Villas-Boas to fashion a side that can challenge for Champions League qualification. Chris Hughton returns to his old stomping ground for the first time as Norwich manager and will seek to curb Spurs’ initiative first and foremost. The north Londoners’ Portuguese manager must steward his side to a series of victories if the Chelsea chapter of his career is to be consigned to history.

It remains to be seen how long Everton and West Brom can retain their top-four positions in the nascent Premier League table. Everton travel to the Hawthorns with uncharacteristic but richly deserved August victories under their belts and confidence is high enough to suggest that West Brom’s task could be formidable.

HOMECOMING: Norwich City boss CHris Hughton takes his new side to White Hart Lane on Saturday

It is hard to judge where Wigan find themselves in the wake of Victor Moses’ departure for Chelsea but Roberto Martinez’s side cannot risk another sluggish start and will not find Stoke as accommodating as Southampton last weekend.

Manchester City have been torpid in the transfer market and QPR hyperactive, yet the Citizens are clear favourites in a repeat of the fixture that saw the champions clinch the title in May. Nothing but a convincing victory will quell tabloid tittle tattle about Roberto Mancini’s supposed dissatisfaction and inexpert tactics. It may be just as intense at Loftus Road should Mark Hughes’ side surrender.

Liverpool will use the frustration of failing to dispatch an unbalanced Manchester City last Sunday to overcome an Arsenal squad with 40 shots but no goals to their name this season thus far. The Gunners displayed greater defensive diligence in Sunday’s goalless draw with Stoke than has come to be expected from Arsene Wenger’s team but must find a cutting edge soon if any title hopes are not to fade.

Newcastle were soundly beaten at Chelsea last weekend but Aston Villa would appear to represent a restorative fixture if their early season meekness endures. Expectations are not high that Paul Lambert’s lightweight team can stop the Magpies’ menace.

Manchester United at home is the kind of fixture Southampton fans dreamt of last season but it is difficult to envisage their side unduly trouble a United side bolstered by the burgeoning understanding between summer signings Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie.

It is to be noted that most United fans will not miss the injured Wayne Rooney with nearly as much anxiety as one would have expected.

The only certainty at this stage is that the ill-timed transfer window has been slammed shut until January. Managers must now search for answers beyond the cheque book.

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