A quick glance at the Premier League this season
So, less than 2 weeks till the start of the Premier League and I thought I’d take a quick look at what to expect this time around
Top end of the table
I think this will be business as usual and one of Man Utd or Chelsea winning the league this season and whilst I think Arsenal will be up with these 2 around Christmas & new year time I think they’ll perform their usual trick and drop points they should be getting like they do every season. I also think they will suffer at the hands of Man Utd & Chelsea just like last season and they will struggle to deal with their counter attacking football and the speed of their breaks.
I’m going to put my neck out and say I think United will come out with the title this season. Last season they probably would have had the title had they not ended up playing people like Fletcher & Carrick as centre backs due to the crippling injury crisis they suffered in defence last season. With the spine of Chelsea’s teaming getting a bit older plus missing Drogba & Cech for the start of the season they could have a bit of a struggle and I think with no younger players coming through they might find challenging on 4 fronts a bit tiring. They also have problems with Ashley Cole & Ricardo Carvalho both being linked away with the club and I think that whilst Cole might not leave Carvalho could and that would leave a big hole in their defence. Clearly Gael Kakuta will be a youngster that will be breaking through but that might be about the only new face we see, bar any last minute major signings, if Ramieres comes in it will be interesting to see how he settles with the usual problems of a Brazilian settling in England.
Meanwhile United’s new signing, Javier Hernandez, has looked very exciting and promising in his games for Mexico in the World Cup and his first game in a United shirt against MLS All-stars. He and the returning Federico Macheda could be a new injection that United need, especially given that last season they ended up relying so heavily on Rooney. Berbatov has also apparently had a pretty good pre-season but if he can carry this over to the league or is one to be answered because he has been a bit of a letdown since his move. It will also be interesting to see just how much Sir Alex relies on Ryan Giggs & Paul Scholes given that they are not getting any younger but still managed to keep themselves as vital cogs in the team last season and Scholes has already had one impressive pre-season game against Celtic. Nani is another one who needs to step it up this season, last season we saw flashes of his potential and he was rewarded with a new contract but now he needs to show he’s worth it.
Although I think the deciding factor could well be the run in at the end of the season, with United facing Arsenal, then hosting Chelsea, then away to Blackburn and finally at home to Blackpool, which looks easier on paper compared to Chelsea’s run in of facing Spurs at home, then United at Old Trafford, then hosting Newcastle but, the final day they face Everton away. I think if it comes down to the wire United could look at the last day and be confident they will get 3 points but Chelsea will find it much harder.
The battle for 4th
One of the most over used phrase’s for last season but again this season it will be an interesting tussle, although last season there was four teams that had a clear shot at 4th, Man City, Spurs, Aston Villa & Liverpool this season I think that only the first 2 teams will be pushing for 4th, I don’t think Aston Villa have invested enough on their squad from last year and the same could be said for Liverpool., there aren’t any players in either squad that really jump out and could provide the sort of spark they will need to overtake City or Spurs. Whilst Liverpool can point to Gerrard and Torres being fit as making a difference I don’t think Torres will stay injury free for the majority of the season and with the likes of N’Gog & Babel as backup they could struggle without him. Whilst I don’t feel these two teams will be able to compete with City & Spurs they will certainly expect to hold on to 5th & 6th places.
The battle between Spurs & City will be as intense as it was for the last few weeks of last season for pretty much the whole of this season, starting off with the 2 teams facing each other at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season. I expect Spurs to win this, as whilst they are still essentially the same team as last season City will have at least 2 or 3 new signings in their starting team and will take time to gel. Obviously if City lose this game there will be the usual panic talk but I expect both teams to be close come the last few games and that could make the difference, Spurs have tricky ties away to Chelsea and then at home to Liverpool where as City have games against Everton and Bolton, however this is all after the second time the two teams meet in the league so it could be done and dusted by that point, I think the fact that Spurs haven’t changed their team to much will be to their advantage I think, although it will be interesting to see what effect the champions league will have on them if they make it to the group stages.
I think it’s a pretty fair bet that at least 20th place is already decided, Blackpool don’t have the squad to be able to compete at this level I don’t think, and whilst it would be nice to see them put up a Burnley style fight I think they will struggle from the off and if they don’t finish off worse than Derby’s record breaking low season then that should be considered an achievement. Although a constant source of entertainment I think Ian Holloway could prove to be a problem as well, his style of attacking 4-4-2 football might do the job in the championship but I think in the top division you need a bit more tactical nous about you and this could be a problem. Holloway said he got back in to football because he was tired of seeing boring teams and I don’t think he’ll go back on his word and play defensively even against Man Utd at Old Trafford or Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The other two spots will be battled out between the usual suspects; I think West Brom will struggle in the Premiership and may well find that a lack of a natural goal scorer or a natural ball winner might work against them, although it’ll be interesting to see how Scott Carson deals with being back in the lime light and probably being busier than he was last year. Still, I think the lack of goals could be a big issue and see West Brom finishing 19th. This leaves one more place up for grabs and I think the other promoted team, Newcastle, could face a struggle to stay up. The only thing different from this season and the season they went down is the lack of a top flight striker with Owen, Viduka & Martins all leaving and only Andy Carroll really developing although whether he has progressed in to the 20 goal a season striker they need is another matter. The recent loss of Steven Taylor for 3 months will also be a big problem, as was seen in 07/08 Coloccini doesn’t have the pace to keep up with the faster strikers in the Premier League and whilst Harper is a solid keeper he’s not one of the best and won’t help them win the extra 6-9 points that Shay Given used to earn them. Sol Campbell will obviously bring some much needed experience, but can he do it week in and week out still? Dan Gosling was another free signing to help add some strength to the team but he’s still relatively inexperienced, and he is very similar to what they have already in terms of style, they still lack a creative player that can help unlock defences with one pass.
The other teams that will more than likely be sucked in to a relegation battle will be teams like Wigan, who were close to trouble last season but were saved by the fact they had teams around them that weren’t as good, however with Victor Moses, Hugo Rodellaga, Mauro Boselli, James McArthur & James McCarthy they have good options going forward but there defence could be a big problem like last year, Gary Caldwell isn’t a Premiership player and it will be interesting to see who replaces Titus Bramble who isn’t the best defender but is still pretty solid. Chris Kirkland could also be another key player but with his injury record he will more than likely be in and out of the team instead of a regular fix, Maynor Figueroa is a good defender but that might not be enough to keep them up – I think their saving grace will be stealing sneaky wins by the odd goal.
West Ham could be another interesting one as well; their current owners seem more obsessed with talking about unrealistic targets (Van Niestelrooy, Beckham, and Neymar) or having a go at other teams for trying to buy their players (Spurs & Parker) when they’ve done exactly the same thing previously (Dorrens at West Brom). What they seem to have missed is the fact they need to invest in some sensible squad players to make sure they have enough cover in their team and although Hitzlsperger & Piquionne are good buys the main problem for West Ham last season, well it was pretty much all over, but their defence was shaky at best, Upson isn’t the rock he once was and Rob Green was responsible for more individual errors than any goal keeper last season so they need to improve their defence as people like Jonathan Spector isn’t a good enough defender and they are short of cover from there really. People like Benni McCarthy, Luis Boa Morte & Kieron Dyer are either not good enough or unfit and getting a squad to cover these players should be a must.
I Think Wolves and Bolton are the only other teams that could have problems, although Wolves signing Stephen Fletcher adds more fire power up front and takes some of the pressure off Kevin Doyle, they still need a creative option in midfield although McCarthy is confident the return to fitness of Knightly should provide them with much needed service. Bolton also need some more creative players although Owen Coyle seems keen on bringing back Jack Wilshere back on loan to the club which could help them, I personally think with Coyle in charge they will have a better start to this season and should avoid being sucked in to a relegation battle.
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