Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Premier League half term report: Part 1

As we're half way through the football season, I thought I'd give my thoughts on each club.

It's been a very strange but fascinating Premier League so far. None of the big clubs have been that convincing, and as we come to the end of the year, it's still impossible to confidently predict who will go down.

Clubs A - L

  • Chelsea ...a dip that turned into a slump, now looks like terminal decline for the league champions.

  • Arsenal - Don’t be fooled be the table that says they’re in contention, they won’t win it.


  • Aston Villa - A winter of discontent awaits... As a Birmingham fan there’ll be no gloating from me.


  • Blackpool - What a story this is.


  • Liverpool - In all my years of following football, I’ve never seen Liverpool at such a low ebb


  • Click on the read more link to read my thoughts in full.



    Full report


    Arsenal


    I could write the same thing about Arsenal every single season.

    Don’t be fooled be the table that says they’re in contention, they won’t win it.

    As much as you can admire and respect Arsene Wenger’s achievements, he is unbelievably stubborn. Wenger still refuses to go out and buy a decent keeper and for that reason alone they won’t win the League.

    They’ve had some terrible results at home which makes you wonder whether Arsenal have the mental strength to become champions. I don’t think they do.

    Arsenal will finish third, get knocked out by Barcelona in the Champions League, and might win the League Cup, which after years of thinking it was a run out for the kids, they now feel they have to win.

    Arsenal will always play great football, we know all this. But if I was a Gooner I'd be starting to question how much longer Arsenal can go on playing beautiful football that wins nothing!


    Aston Villa

    A winter of discontent awaits Villa. As a Birmingham fan there’ll be no gloating from me.

    Martin O’Neill leaving just before the start of the season left the club in a real mess. There was clearly an issue between him and Randy Lerner over the club’s transfer policy and the amount available to spend on new players.

    There was also the issue of some of the high salaries being paid at Villa to players bought by O’Neill who were never getting a look in. I know a lot of Villa fans were unhappy that O’Neill appeared to have favourites who he would always pick

    Villa have started to look like a selling club with Gareth Barry and James Milner both going to Man City.

    Gerard Houllier’s come in, and things are getting worse for Villa. Has Houllier been out of the Premier League for too long?

    Certain players in the squad are making life difficult for Houllier (I'm looking at you John Carew) and his assistant Gary Mcallister. They either need to be shipped out fast or Houllier may be on his way out

    Only bright spot for Villa are the young kids coming through, should save the club a lot of money long term.



    Birmingham

    The Blues, my own club

    There’s a number of reasons to believe Blues could go down this season. We don’t score many goals, have little creativity, never win away from home, and our star signing Nikola Zigic has been terrible.

    I’m still confident that we’ll stay up though. Our home form is the key, which by anyone’s standards is impressive, three defeats in the last 18 months.

    Secondly, teams that get relegated usually concede loads of goals. That’s something that Blues don’t do, our defence is our strongest point.

    Ben Foster in goal has been the player of the season so far, and the Scott Dann - Roger Johnson central defensive partnership is still in fine form.

    Staying up this season will be a success, but there are a number of issues that need addressing.

    There’s no pace in the team, particularly on the flanks. Up front, Cameron Jerome is too erratic, and Zigic on present form has struggled to adapt to the physical side of English football. If only Kevin Phillips was 10 or even 5 years younger.



    Blackburn

    Under Sam Allardyce Blackburn fans knew what they were getting. The football wasn’t great or entertaining, but the team would be well organised, competitive and would still be in the Premier League next season.

    The sacking of Allardyce should have been the most ridiculous decision of the season - that honour has already gone to Newcastle. (I'll come onto that later)

    With Allardyce gone there's a big question mark hanging over the club.

    Under their new Indian owners, all that stability has been ripped apart. I can see them flirting with relegation now, but they should still have enough to stay up.

    Just being in the Premier League is an achievement for a club like Blackburn, they’ve been almost a permanent fixture in the league for the last 15 years or so. It shows how well the club’s been run.

    The new owners need to get real quickly or they could find themselves running a Championship club very soon.



    Blackpool

    What a story this is.

    When Blackpool were promoted, I thought there couldn’t be a more ill equipped team to have come up and compete in Premier League history. How wrong I was.

    They’ve had some amazing results, and what’s been even more impressive is the number of wins away from home. They’ve scored goals and haven’t been afraid to come out and play

    Ian Holloway was always one of those lower league managers who was a bit of a ‘character’ the type that journalists love as he was always quotable and good entertainment.

    What’s great is that he’s now in the Premiership and showing the football world that he has some impressive managerial qualities.

    I keep expecting the Blackpool bubble to burst, but just when I think it’s going to happen they produce a result like yesterday, beating Sunderland away.

    It’s hard to see them going down now.


    Bolton


    Bolton the new media darlings, now that they’ve starting passing the ball around under Owen Coyle.

    Having a great season so far, I’d love to know what Coyle’s been doing with Elmander, he looked terrible wheb Bolton first signed him, now he looks world class!

    Perhaps playing a more attractive style of football might tempt more fans down the Reebok. With the likes of Villa and Everton struggling, this might be great chance for Bolton to finish in the top eight.


    Chelsea

    A few months ago it looked like Chelsea were cruising to the Premier League title, but a dip that turned into a slump now looks like terminal decline for the league champions.

    They’ve had too many key players out injured, the likes of Lampard, and Essien have been hugely missed, but there’s suddenly no strength in depth with Chelsea.

    They got rid of a load of players last summer, but haven’t replaced them
    and there doesn’t seem to be much coming through from the youth team.

    The entire squad is too old, and Ambramovich hasn’t indicated he’s willing to spend the sort of money that he was doing a few years back. There's been a lack of long term planning with Chelsea.

    Unless there’s a dramatic improvement, I can’t see Chelsea winning the league this season. Qualifying for the Champions League might be the best they can hope for.


    Everton


    I’ve always admired Everton under David Moyes. To use a boxing analogy, you could argue that ‘pound for pound’ they’ve been the best performing team in the Premier League for a number of seasons now.

    In terms of Everton’s size, resources, spending power, their results and league finishes have been excellent.

    They’re finding it tough going at the moment though – mainly because they don’t have striker. Saha always seems injured, don’t know what’s happened to Yakubu, and Beckford has found the step up from League 1 with Leeds to the Premiership pretty big.

    With the amount of foreign owners in the league it does surprise me why nobody has come in to buy Everton. With some real investment it would interesting to see how well Moyes and Everton could do.

    As it is, I can see them improving but mid table is perhaps the best they can hope for this season.


    Fulham


    It’s going to be a long hard season for Fulham. If the timing had been better, Mark Hughes could have found himself managing Aston Villa, but the Fulham job came up first and he took it.

    I always feel with clubs like Fulham, just keeping them up and competing in the Premier League is a form of success.

    After the achievements of last season it was always going to be hard for Mark Hughes. Fulham’s biggest problem is the loss of Bobby Zamora, their most important and influential player.

    I don’t know how much longer he’s going to be out injured, but without him they’re going to struggle. They should just have enough to stay up but it’ll be close.


    Liverpool

    In all my years of following football, I’ve never seen Liverpool at such a low ebb. It’s going to be years before they really challenge for the title again.

    I thought Roy Hodgson was a really good appointment when he came in, but hardly anything has gone right for him. Perhaps it's a case of the wrong manager at the wrong club, at the wrong time?

    I don’t think Rafa Benitez left the Liverpool in a great state, so many mediocre players that should never have played for Liverpool.

    Fernando Torres has become a mystery. His form has been dreadful at times, and his body language hasn’t been great.

    I wonder whether Liverpool might be better off selling him and using the money to rebuild the squad - get some strenght in depth.

    Home form’s been good, (but lost to Wolves at home tonight) but away they’ve been awful. Hard to say whether Hodgson will last the season.

    Next summer will be crucial for Liverpool, possibly the most important pre-season in the club’s history and a chance for their new owners to show their ambition and plans for the future.

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