Wednesday 19 August 2009

The new Premier League season

The football season’s a couple of weeks old now and the Premier League began last weekend. I haven’t even got round to writing down my thoughts and opinions on how this season might turn out yet! Well I’m putting that right now with my slightly late preview to Premier League season.

I have to say I quite enjoy having a bit of a break from football during the summer. Football dominates so much these days, that it’s good to have a bit of a rest, take in a few summer sports,(I’m well into the Ashes at the moment) recharge your batteries.

My attentions are now slowly returning to football. I’ve been impressed by some of the attendances so far, both in the Championship and the first Premier League games. It goes to show that despite the current economic climate fans are not going to give up on football.

It’s probably because life these days can be so stressful and complicated that football along with other major sporting events offers people some form escape and excitement from the realities of everyday life! Even the predictability of the Premier League doesn’t seem to be putting fans off.

Anyway back to the football, my assessment on the Premier League goes like this, one league made up of three or four mini leagues.

‘The Big Four’

Out of the so called Big Four only 3 of them can win the title this season. We all know how good Arsenal can play football, but they’re no longer good enough to win the title. They might just have enough to hold off the challenge for 4th place but they could be run close by Man City who will surely push them all the way.

That leaves Chelsea, Liverpool and Man U for the title. All 3 appear weaker than last season. Any team is going to miss Ronaldo, but it may give Rooney the chance to really be the main man at Utd.

Liverpool may regret letting Alonso go, I’ve always thought he was a superb player. Can Torres and Gerrard play enough games together? If they can they're in with a shout.

Although Chelsea have an ageing squad they're still really strong and will be difficult to beat. I’d personally like to see Liverpool win it this year after a 20 year wait, but I think the title will go to Chelsea.

The next big four (Everton, Villa, Spurs, and Man City)

In this group you've got Everton and Aston Villa, who arguably have been the two best performing teams in the League over the last couple of years in terms of management and the resources at their disposal.

In saying this they're going to find it tough to finish in the top 6 again as both look weaker in terms of their squad. Villa’s is too small, and they’re really going to miss Gareth Barry as well as Martin Laursen at centre back.

David Moyes continues to do a brilliant job, but obviously something is not quite right following their humiliating 6-1 defeat at home to Arsenal on the opening day. They might as well sell Joleon Lescott as he clearly now wants to join Man City. In modern football as soon as a player makes it clear they want to leave, you’re only fighting a losing battle by trying to keep them.

Everyone will naturally be looking at Man City, and obviously we’ll have to see how quickly the squad can gel. There’s a huge amount of pressure on Mark Hughes and I think anything less than 5th will be seen as failure. They really need to be pushing Arsenal for 4th spot.

That leaves us with Tottenham. They’re a funny club Spurs, but I think they could really do something this year (we say this every year about Spurs), they certainly deserved to beat Liverpool last Sunday, and they have real strength in depth, and I’m expecting them and Man City to replace Villa and Everton in 5th and 6th place.

Mid table (West Ham, Fulham, and Sunderland)

These 3 clubs are in a little league of their own, I can’t see them challenging the likes of Villa, Spurs, Man City and Everton, but they certainly shouldn’t be anywhere near the relegation battle.

Zola’s doing a great job at West Ham in difficult circumstances, and Roy Hodgson has turned Fulham around after they were almost relegated a few years back. Sunderland should be ok, they’ve got quite a bit of money behind them, Steve Bruce knows what he’s doing, and Darren Bent should prove a good signing.

The rest

The rest is basically half the division who could all potentially be involved in a relegation battle. The two least likely to be so are Bolton and Blackburn. They’re not pretty but they’ve got too much battling qualities to see them go down. I might include Stoke with them as well.

This is a big season for them, it’ll be interesting to see if they adapt their style of play and try and play more football. I don’t mind Stoke, they did brilliantly last season. Too many people were a bit snobby about how they played their football.

That leaves another 6 clubs to go down, which includes my own club Birmingham. Well I’m not tipping Blues to go down as I’m going to remain positive and say we’ll stay up, but it’s going to be tough and not very pretty! (That’s how it always is with Blues) We beat Pompey tonight with an injury time penalty in a game described as awful!

Pompey are in real trouble, they’ve spent the last few years living way beyond their means and are now paying the price for it. I can’t see who’s going to score their goals and their whole squad looks poor.

I’m tipping them to go down along with Hull who were dreadful in the second half of last season, almost as bad as Derby were a couple of seasons back. They just don’t have the quality and have difficulties attracting decent players.

Wolves should just survive. As fellow West Midlanders I want them to stay up. They’ve got a young squad which might work against them at times, but if Ebanks Blake and Kevin Doyle score goals that should keep them up.

That leaves Wigan and Burnley. Wigan are always going to find it tough in the Premier League. They don’t have the fan base there in terms of support, and they’re one of those clubs that players and managers either use as a stepping-stone to better things or a stop off point in resurrecting careers. Once players and managers move on it’s always difficult to keep finding good enough replacements.

So that leaves Burnley filling the last relegation spot. Now I know Burnley have just beaten Man Utd this evening, and yes it’s a great result but I still think they’re going down.

I’ve been surprised by the amount of people who think they’ll stay up. They’re getting carried away with the whole romance of the story. Again their squad it very thin, and once the novelty of the Premier League wears off, and things become a bit of weekly grind they’ll find the going tough.

So there you have it. Probably quite predictable, but then the Premier League has become predictable in many ways.

It doesn’t matter though as we all still love it!

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