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Monday, August 08, 2005

Prediction for the Premier League Season Ahead - Chelsea to be Champions Again

Captivating, exhilarating, dramatic, thrilling etc etc – No, not the Charity Shield, the result of which is as meaningless as ever, and definitely not the football off-season which was one of the dullest in recent memory - but the Second Ashes Test at Edgbaston. I have probably used up my quota of superlatives for one article in the first four words, but what the hell – England v Australia was simply breathtaking.

But as this is Elite Football Talk, I had better write something about football I suppose. And as any self respecting commentator on football is doing at this time of year – I thought I would roll out the old “prediction for the upcoming season” article – always a guaranteed winner. Because of time and space constraints, I will have to restrict it to top 6 and bottom 3 – I am not being lazy (honest!) So here goes…

The top

1 Chelsea – will prove that championships are just like buses, you wait around for one for ages and then two come along at once. The Chelsea squad has the most depth in Europe and in Mourinho they have a manager who knows exactly how to get the best out of it. Chelsea have the meanest defence around and a tireless midfield. This combination means that the Blues are incredibly difficult to beat. Add Hernan Crespo to the frontline and you have all the ingredients of champions.

2 Manchester United – The first season in the Glazer era and with it, no doubt, the chants of “USA, USA” at away grounds across the country , Man United will as ever be in the spotlight. United will need to find a way of successfully accommodating both Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney - something which Alex Ferguson failed to do last season. They will be too strong for most teams in the league and Park Ji Sung and Van der Sar are excellent signings – but they will fall short again because of lapses at crucial times and Ferguson will be fighting for his job by June next year.

3 Arsenal – Patrick Viera’s departure is a big loss, but the Gunners have proved in the past that they can sell big name players and make advances (see, Anelka, Overmars, Petit). In Fabregas they have a great talent, but my fear for him is that he will be taken ill with the dreaded SSD (Second Season Syndrome). I hope my diagnosis is wrong because Cesc is a great player to watch. Still the most fluid team in the league and boasting the best player in the world, Arsenal will push Chelsea and United all the way, but Jose’s team will have the edge.

4 Liverpool – another season of domestic transition for the European Champions me thinks. Rafa Benitez is clearly building the foundations of a title challenging team – but he knows that this will not be their season. Liverpool made the best signing of the summer when Gerrard finally learnt to trust his heart and commit himself to Liverpool and they will improve on their abysmal away form last season. Crucially though, despite signing Crouch who has a great touch for a big man (has somebody already said that?), Liverpool lack quality up-front.

5 Bolton – Sam Alladyce’s tactics may not be to the liking of everyone, but does he care? Of course not. Bolton have become one of the most savvy teams around and every player understands exactly what is required from him in every game. Big Sam pulled off two great sigings last year in Jaidi and Diouff- Could Borgetti and Faye have a similar effect this season? Europe for the Trotters!

6 Tottenham – Europe for Spurs as well! After talk of Rivaldo, Vieri, Figo and every other aging world superstar arriving at the Lane, Spurs have finally signed one, Edgar Davids. Spurs showed signs of major improvement under Martin Jol last season and they boast a great forward line led by the indefatigable Jermaine Defoe. But Davids could be the catalyst for a great campaign. Do not forget that Davids was the man who almost single-handedly propelled Barcelona from ruin to Spanish champions two seasons ago – and I think he will be up for a challenge in North London.

The bottom

18. Charlton - Everything else in this article is pretty predictable so I thought I would throw this one into the pan to spice things up a bit. Yes, Charlton have become an established Premiership side over the past few years but complacency can be a terrible thing and last season there were signs that Alan Curbishley’s magic was wearing off at The Valley. No major signings this summer and an un-inspiring strike force will mean that Charlton, not their London Rivals West Ham or West Brom will be relegated. Curbishley needs a new challenge but after next season his stock will have taken a rapid nose-dive.

19. Sunderland – I am unlike Roy Keane in many ways - I am not one of the most tenacious midfielders who ever played the game, I don't take my poor dog out for walks in Cheshire every hour of every day and I have great respect for Mick McCarthy. McCarthy has proved himself to be a very astute and knowledgeable manager – in the Championship. The Premier League is a whole different ball game though and Sunderland will struggle. However, Stead, Stubbs and Le Tallac are shrewd signings – perhaps they’ll prove me wrong.

20. Wigan – This will be one of those seasons where Wigan fans will be saying “we’re just glad to be in the top flight”. Unfortunately, they will not be saying that by the time season 2006-2007 comes around. Oh how I would love someone nicknamed “The Duke” to finish as the Premier League top scorer though. Ellington and Camara will ruffle a few Premiership defences, but at the other end Wigan’s backline will be ruffled, dishevelled, beaten up and left for dead. Oh well. Wigan - please prove me wrong.

4 Comments:

Blogger T said...

Nice one Abdul.

First off, when will Chelsea put in a bid for Flintoff and Harmison?! Simply the best test-match I have seen, and what a finish!

I don't like jinxing my team so it is impossible for me to put in proper predictions for the top three.

My outside tip for fourth is Spurs. Jol is a revelation; their four strikers complement each other better than Liverpool's; Routledge is a nice addition; they play a good attacking game; and in Ledley King and Paul Robinson they have a centre-back and keeper that merits inclusion into any Premiership team.

The bottom three will be West Ham, Sunderland and Wigan- they are weak defensively, offensively, and everything in-between.


P.S. I like the way you put your team in front of the Gunners for runners-up spot. This is a make-or-break season for Ferguson.

8/08/2005 11:18 am

 
Blogger RedsMan said...

Very nice summary, Abdul. The winner of the title comes from a small group of one. Or is that meant to be one group of smalls? Some say Chelsea will retain the title, formidably, while I say it isn't as clear cut as that. The Blues certainly look good, perhaps a little more than last season, but the British public only need to see one wonderful moment and they are compleletly mesmerised, only to be grumpy when that moment fails to last long enough.

The likes of Chelsea will achieve where others fail, notably Drogba's dominance yesterday. Note the amount of chances by either side, Arsenal were clearly in front. If Arsenal and Man Utd look to claim the title, then obviously they need to be in shape and so far, for me, neither are. Wenger admitted himself yesterday that Arsenal were not as sharp but remained adamant they will strengthen in good time. They need to work on their central midfield, where they hold a good majority of possession, and train their central defence that much more. The Community Shield served as a good template on what to focus on within the team since Vieira's departure. Henry should have Bergkamp or Reyes as his regular partner upfront that helps take some attention of him.

Utd currently have Van Nistelrooy back and in some form, Wayne Rooney eager while Louis Saha is uncertain how his future lies at OT. At the back their kingpin in Ferdinand as spoken about challenging well this season but is also uncertain of his OT future, having still not signed a contract. One wonders why, if he is confident of Utd's challenge this time round. As Keane seems to have upset Sir Alex, that would a serious war of wits but needs to be over with very quickly. This season is the one to impress the new board.

Talk has been made of Liverpool's challenge, because of the Champs League win, because it is the one Gerrard wants and the club has been missing for so long, because Benitez has purchased further and the team look to be strengthening to be a challenger. The media are impressed with Benitez's change of the team at half time in Istanbul and figure he could can get the kind of inspiration and determination out of his players needed to be winners. The 2nd leg against FBK Kaunas was somewhat lethargic until the introduction of players who love to run, in Cisse and Gerrard. That serves to emphasise to Benitez that the hunger needs to be raised within his squad much more.

Prediction: Too tight to be possible, injuries pending.

Spurs certainly look a better team now than last season. Martin Jol has changed the spirit of the squad from half-alive to a higher level of zest. Defoe and Keane can be exciting upfront, Kanoute can be a matchwinner with more effort, while both he and Mido have the skills, height and vision to score many goals. With a central midfield of Carrick and Davids, a lot of creative passing would be key. I imagine Carrick being the defensive one as Davids breaks forward. Spurs' weakness is their defence. Ledley King showed he can hold the position well for England alongside John Terry, but with Spurs his game can falter if he is partnered with another not on the same wavelength. They have a good keeper and with the addition of a winger in Routledge Spurs can go even higher in their expectations. They are my team to watch this season.

Wigan look odds on to drop having broken into the top flight since their election to the Football League in 1978. Paul Jewell is seeking to strenghten the squad but with Nathan Ellington injured so far and not signing with 12mths left, the team could become stuck with too much pressure from the heavyweights to maintain composure.

Another I fear for the drop is West Ham. Again the strength in the squad will be thoroughly tested and Alan Pardew's stance within the players will be tested too to cajole them into regular wins. He aims high and he will need to push his players to do likewise, droppong down again is NOT an option.

Finally, I feel that one out of Sunderland/Middlesbrough or Portsmouth. Boro will lean on Yakubu for their goals though Nemeth and Job could provide a surprise in their playability alongside the Nigerian. Viduka has become too cumbersome to injury and they cannot rely on the big Aussie, while Malcolm Christie unfortunately cannot recover fully yet from his injuries. Defensively, Southgate will lead the back but Ehiogu needs to be a regular partner. Schwarzer is key to Boro's fortunes.

West Ham did well enough to make the play-offs but for me that doesn't give you full pedigree, not even winning the Championship does that. The Hammers have restored their tenacy in the Premiership and need to form a rugged defensive four to keep out the attacks and gain confidence. We have seen Rio, now we'll see Anton. Key for the Hammers is Repka's performance and attitude, Sheringham and Reo-Coker, and Marlon Harewood, who has the opportunity finally in the top flight others were saying he deserves.

I concur with Abdul his opinion on Sunderland, practically identical to my own and so I need not comment further.


RedsMan.

8/08/2005 12:28 pm

 
Blogger Skippy said...

I don't think that Chelsea will win the title this year. Like Arsenal in the past, they will learn that it is a lot tougher to defend your Crown.

I believe Liverpool will finish in the top two this season. This tip will no doubt surprise you all, but in time you will see that I am always right with my predictions.

8/09/2005 11:47 pm

 
Blogger T said...

Skipper, I can't let your Liverpool prediction get away without you explaining the basis of it. A team that has finished 5th, 5th, and 4th in the last few seasons is now going to go to 2nd?

Redsman, when talking about Boro have you momentarily forgotten the presence of JFH? I find it difficult that you put them in the same category as Sunderland and Pompey for the drop.

8/17/2005 1:06 pm

 

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