Thursday, July 27, 2006
Unprofessional, Completely Biased EPL Preview
Yes yes, one month until kickoff of the EPL. August 13 Chelsea FC will go up against Liverpool FC in the annual FA Community Shield. Chelsea will thus begin their quest for English and European dominance, and Liverpool will begin their quest of catchup (literally two sentences in and I'm already bashing LFC and pimping beloved Chelsea). I am going to try and give a comprehensive preview to the EPL, without sounding too biased. I'm also doing this with one month left of the Transfer Window, which creates a few problems. For example, will Glenn Roeder ever keep his word on bringing 'at least 7 signings' to St. James Park? Does Fergie know that the Transfer Window is open? At what point will Jose Mourinho realise that he cannot sign every superstar in the world? Who kidnapped Sam Allardyce? Does anyone reading this really know or care about what I'm talking of? Anyways, I'll try and put an attempt at doing this, but please remember that I don't know much about half of the teams in the Premiership, and that everything I say will probably be wrong on some level. I'll write as much as I can about the teams, but some teams will literally get a sentence or two, while other will get full paragraphs. Ok, on to the preview.
These teams can all but count on the drop. After sizing up the league there are really only four teams that should be in contention to be relegated. Everyone else should be safe, then again it's never predictable, just ask Birmingham
Nice story coming up from the Championship. They will enjoy their time up in the top flight, Adrian Boothroyd will scream a lot and make some headlines. Other than that, don't expect them to win more than 4 games.
19. Sheffield United
I don't really care for the Blades. I prefer Sheffield Wednesday, and I don't want to see this team succeed. I don't think they're really good either, they haven't done anything during the transfer window. I looked at their history in the Premiership, they tend to come up for a year or two, than go back down for a year or two. The cycle will continue.
Overplayed and overextended themselves last year. Should've been dropped but they got lucky that there was so much garbage floating around the bottom half of the league. This year will be their swansong.
17. Aston Villa
I have them avoiding relegation, but they could slip down. This team is wildly spinning out of control. As of right now, their ownership is in the air, they just fired their manager which is never good, and their players are organizing meetings to tell management that theres not enough time, money, or effort being put out. Yikes. On a positive not though, 2008 will see the Birmingham derby again...too bad it will probably be in the Championship.
These teams will do enough to stay alive, but not enough to make any noise. Wouldn't like to visit them towards the end of the season if it meant anything though.
There is a great article on soccernet.com from last season about Harry Redknapp. Before the last month of last season, a lot of people actually thought he was going to get gunned down in the streets of Portsmouth (from all accounts an awful city in the south). Anyways, the team turned alive the last month, saved themselves from relegation, and he was a hero. This picture of him is one of my favorite pictures ever. Anyways, they still aren't good, and they are really excited about trying to buy Sol Campbell. Too bad it is 2006 and not 1996 for him though.
15. Wigan Athletic
Ok, here is a pretty interesting team. I like a lot of the players on the squad. I like Paul Jewell. I like a couple of the signings they've made. Only problem is..well, they're Wigan. Also, it appears that Pascal Chimbonda wants no part of the team anymore, and he seems to be pretty bad. In all honesty I don't think I have ever seen anyone play in a Wigan uni. One last comment; they signed Emile Heskey. If you don't understand the ridiculousness of that statement, go take a look at his history. There are not many Heskey fans in England.
The record breaking team up from Championship. They destroyed the points record in the Championship last year, I think they had something liek 102 pts, which factors for something like 33 wins or so. I don't know anything about this team really, and I put them at 14 because I figure that they are better than the crap teams out there, but not as good as the quality teams. We will see. I read an article about them trying to get guys with World Cup experience, from smaller teams and such. I'm intrigued.
Middle of the Table
Yeah, these next few spots are basically interchangable. They are all better than the bottom rung teams, not good enough to even think about Europe next year.
I like some of the boys on this squad a lot. I don't like the fact that their new manager is Doogie Howser. Imagine the Eric Mangini of English Soccer. They're going to struggle, and Julio Arca is no replacement for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. They were spared the embarassment of Chelsea boy Huth, who failed a physical and remains on the Chelsea roster. I hate Huth.
They're going into unchartered water down at the Riverside. No Alan Curbishley to come in and finagle a winning season out of overachieving second rate footballers. I still have them finishing 12 because I think the bottom half of the table is a little weak, and I really like Darren Bent (should have gone to Newcastle!) They stole Hasselbaink from Boro, good move, he is a quality player.
11. West Ham United
The Hammers seem to be doing all right for themselves. Excellent pickup in Chelsea trash Carlton Cole. I liked him, but he had no place on the pensioners. Also gotta like Nigel Reo-Coker, and 800 year old Teddy Sheringham. They will compete like last year, and Pardew will make a move here and there, look for him to make some noise in the January Transfer Window. Besides all that though, I don't see them doing much.
I actually think this team could be better than this, but there are so many quality teams in the top half of the table that I don't know how I could squeeze them in, and one of the others out. I really think they have great pace, and they are a young squad that could make some noise. Count on them to prove their worth for 2008 by taking Liverpool out in the Merseyside derby.
I like you, and if you keep it up you may be going to Europe
I think the heading is self-explanatory for the next group of teams. I like something a lot about all these teams, and think they could make some noise enough to play in the 2008 UEFA Cup.
9. Bolton Wanderers
Paging Sam Allardyce, paging Sam Allardyce. Where is he?? Where are his wunderkind from Africa? Isn't he supposed to be signing some unknown from a Guatemalan village right now? No news from the Reebok this year about any signings. I'm not sure what to make of all this, it's a shame too. If you watch this team from last year, you can tell they are really on the cusp of doing something special. They just missed out on the Intertoto to Newcastle this year, I think they are two or three good Allardyce-like signings away from taking the next step. Too bad nobody knows where he is.
8. Newcastle United
Again, where are my signings?!? I don't know what to think of this team. I have only been emotionally invovled with them for a year, and in that year have seen them go from near-relegation to UEFA Cup. I have seen them flirt with Ruud, Beckham, and Bent, only to come up with nothing. I have watched and heard the testimonial of Alan Shearer, and I have watched the shattering of Michael Owen. I have been promised several signings from Roeder, but I am still waiting. Damien Duff is a great start, but Birmingham showed that without strikers, you are no good. I do not know what to make of this team. They could be good enough to play in Europe, they could face the bottom half of relegation. Glenn Roeder seems to know what he is doing, but the jury is still out. If Shola Amoebi can step up to a top role as striker, they could be one of the best teams in England. That is a big IF.
7. Manchester City
Yeah, you read that correctly. I think Stuart Pearce is excellent at his job. He really knows how to get the most out of his team. If Darius Vassell comes around, you could be talking about one of the best striker tandems in English soccer. I think this team will make enough noise, and the things will line up in place for them to make a run at Europe. I also think that the other team in Manchester will slip a little, and that always does good thing for a team's morale.
I'm putting them in the same spot they were last year. I think this team is great, pure hustle. If they get Mido, they will be getting a lethal, underpaid weapon. I'm not sure if he will play as well in Blackburn as he did for Allardyce in Bolton, but I do think he will be a great addition. They sold their two best players from last year, so that is a hit, but when you watch this team you get the feeling that those parts are very replaceable. This isn't an individuals team. They're back four also play as an excellent unit, and they are still in tact.
Competing for Champions League Qualifiers
These next three have a shot at winning the Premiership, but it isn't very likely. They are really probably going to be rotating around all season to see who gets to take 3rd and 4th, which give spots to the extremely lucrative champions league.
5. Manchester United
Two things have to be said before you get outraged at where I am putting the Red Devils. First, this is an unprofessional, completley biased guide to the EPL. I am not an expert, and I don't really care about journalistic efficiency right now. Also, IF the team goes through with the sales of Christiano Ronaldo and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, one has to think that they are going to feel somewhat of an effect. We are talking about two of the most important players on Sir Alex's squad here. Now I know he knows a bit more than me, but you can't tell me he hasn't dropped the ball big time this year. No big signings, no signings at all really. And he has had to deal with a PR meltdown because of Rooney's temper, and Ronaldo's uncanny ability to stab people in the back. With all that said, you can expect Rooney to have the best season of his career, and expect a breakthrough from fellow striker Louis Saha, you know the guy who Fergie believes can replace Ruud. And although it may seem crazy, Fergie has proved he tends to know what he's talking about. If Ruud and Ronaldo stay, this is all ridiculous and you can count on Man U to contend for the title.
I think the Arsenal youth movement will really start to payoff this year. Theo Walcott, 18, seems to have a ridiculous amount of pace, and doesn't get tired. I haven't had a chance to see his finishing ability just yet, but I assume it must be there somewhere. J.A.R. will perform at a higher level then ever, and if you saw him at World Cup off the bench, that is a good sign for Gonners. Of course they have a decent striker...what's his name? Terry something or other. Anyways, he's alright. Also, they apparently signed a goalie named Michael Jordan. If nothing else, that is damn good karma. Bad karma however for the food poisoning incident with Tottenham last year. They are playing European football this year because of a fluke incident, the football gods will not be happy.
3. Tottenham Hotspur
Speaking of youth movements and food poisoning, how excited are you if you are a Spurs fan? Jermaine deFoe is playing with a chip so large on his shoulder that it can be seen from space; Aaron Lennon is sick..too sick..so sick I even considered ordering his shirt, even though he plays for Tottenham. Martin Jol is so Dutch that I'm shocked he doesn't wear wooden shoes and pigtails on the touchline. The Dutch know how to manage football, as witnessed by 4 different Dutch coaches in World Cup. Robbie Keane has been practicing new goal celebrations all year, and Michael Carrick..again so sick. I like this team a lot, they are going to be making legitimate noise. If you play them slow, or lazy, you are going to get beat. I don't care who you have in the midfield, this team is going to make quick work of unenergetic defenses...I'm speaking specifically to Chelsea with this.
The Best non-All-Star team in England
I hate this team. I hate them so bad it hurts. It really hurts to give them this much credit; and in all honesty if Rafa had made a couple more important signings, I'd put them at number one. This team is lethal when they are on the same page. That is the problem though, they are woefully inconsistent. Their FA Cup Final game against West Ham showed exactly what they are all about. Up, down, up, down, and eventually a goal in extra time, take it to penalties, and win the trophy. Have to give them credit for winning two of the biggest trophies in sports in the last two years, but I am not 100% sold on them yet. I think they are questionable in goal, and their strikers are, well, not quite there. They sold Morientes and Cisse, and are going to be starting Bellamy (look at his picture, I swear he lives in a trailer park in Onendoga, New York) and the lean-string-bean, Peter Crouch. In midfield they have the absolutely wonderful, Steven "Please give me the captain's band" Gerard. The best midfielder in England (man that hurts to right, but if you saw the World Cup you know what I am talking about), has the ability to lead this team to the top. Watch out for these guys, they are deadly and if you are the number one team, you have to watch out for them.
Wait, they have who?
1. Chelsea FC
Biased? Probably. But come on, if you make a Premier League preview, and you don't put Chelsea at number one, that is just foolish. I want to list the roster here, but odds are, Jose will make 4 more changes by the time we go to publish. Their midfield is going to be starting Lampard, Ballack, Makalele, and probably Joe Cole. Really they could put Essien in there instead, but they will probably bring him off the bench so they can start Drogba and Shevchenko up front. Just writing that give me goosebumps. What is the ceiling on goals scored? I'd be willing to bet this team breaks any English goal-scoring records that exist. But not everything is rosy in Stamford Bridge. There is a giant, glaring, question mark in the back. The question mark is..who is playing there? Reports are once again linking Ashley Cole with a move to the West End, but Wenger is categorically denying it, saying that there is no way they will sell the England international. With that said, Del Horno is gone to Valencia, Carvalho probably shouldn't stick around to see the treatment he recieves from England fans, and I have no faith in Paulo Ferreira. Of course they have John Terry wearing the Captain's band in the backfield, and he is a lights out shut down defender. And you have to believe with the new stirker/midfield operation setup, Mourinho won't be bringing Terry anywhere near as far up as a deep scoring threat. Still, the defense leaves a lot to be desired, no matter how good Peter Cech is. One last note on Chelsea, it is no secret that Roman & Co. are gunning particularly for the European Champions League. You have to be scared that perhaps this team is not built for English soccer at all, and it is really made to outrun the Italian, and more particularly, Spanish sides that will be out there. This team looks to be built particularly for upending any threat from Madrid or Barcelona, not with keeping pace with Tottenham or Arsenal. The gigantic egos and unproven chemistry must provide for a few worrying thoughts as well.
Well that is it. Watford is dropped, Chelsea wins it all. It's probable that everyone knew where this whole thing was going, but I had fun writing, I hope you enjoyed reading. Leave comments or emails about the list or about your thoughts on the upcoming season.