The football column
Hello sports fans, we are now three months into the season. Did you know that before even a ball was kicked this season that Aston Villa and Arsenal were proudly sitting in top position of the Premiership, as these positions were courtesy of the alphabetical order, which will continue with our clubs, as I take a look at each club’s prospects for the season.
ARSENAL: The loss of Fabregas and Nasri has weakened the gunners considerably with a top four finish not attainable any more, with Wenger’s new signings being unable to offer the same quality of the departed players. Shaky in defence and long term injuries to key players in the midfield department, particularly Jack Wilshere, with Captain Robin van Persie looking increasingly isolated up front on occasions. Wenger will not change their passing game, but need to show more solidarity. A top eight finish, most important player Vermaelen. ASTON VILLA: Will again have a mediocre season, internal strife will become evident on the pitch alongside fan unrest, will fail to deliver. The loss of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing leaves Villa’s resources lacking squad depth, particularly in the midfield areas with the loss of the two players mentioned as they now lack real quality. But on their day they can raise the bar, consistency is not Villa’s forte, I suggest a mid-table finish bordering on relegation fears during the season. Star player forward Darren Bent, but needs the service. BLACKBURN ROVERS: The owners need to change their mindset and readdress all areas of the club in a professional manner; main player is the overworked goalkeeper Paul Robinson. Rovers will be facing a relegation battle. BOLTON WANDERERS: Have many problems coupled with the last season’s poor finish with the Trotters showing relegation form. Manager Owen Coyle needs to find an extra ingredient in his management skills and needs to rejuvenate his side, but will continue with the same physical approach coupled with a passing game. No real strength in depth; key player the robust Kevin Davies. Will stay above the bottom three, just below a top-ten finish which is probable.
CHELSEA: New manager Andre Villas-Boas has already shown himself to be a innovative coach, his tactics and coaching methods have been fascinating to see, with Boas’s major signing being Spain’s Juan Mata who can link the defence, midfield and forward line with quickness and great efficiency. Fellow Spanish compatriot Fernando Torres is striving to rediscover himself, with the Boas at the helm, I am sure the real Fernando will return. Boas will eventually recapture the team’s soul with his inventive coaching ethos, which I believe could lead Chelsea to the title. Starman Torres, depending on his return to former glories. EVERTON: This summer’s English press crusade, as they have suggested that the Toffee’s are a club in crisis, is nonsense. The Club has responded in their usual dignified manner, I suggest an internal siege mentality will develop at the club and again they will prove the sceptics wrong. A push for the fourth place is possible depending on whether the manager David Moyes can implement a more expansive approach by reverting to a 4-4-2 system more regularly. Keyman Louis Saha when fit. FULHAM: New manager Martin Jol will instill a more continental style of play which will be matched with a ruggedness. A strong solidarity exists at the club, will maintain a respectable position, important player is Captain Danny Murphy. LIVERPOOL: Have made some major signings, a return to major glories is the message they are sending out to the leading clubs, a fast track approach is being implemented. The marked change under King Kenny Dalglish’s management is their fast counter-attacking, free-flowing football, encouraging his players to attack in numbers while still maintaining the team’s balance. A top four finish is certainly achievable. Player to watch is Luis Suarez, a Premiership star in the making.
King Kenny’s return has recaptured the imagination of former glories returning.
MANCHESTER UNITED: Current Champions united again start as favourites for the title; they can arguably be termed as a more workman-like unit as opposed to previous united teams. Sir Alex is endeavouring to change this with his new signings; the shackles have been removed from his spending. A 20th league title looms large on the horizon. Most exciting player, “Chico” Hernandez, who last season was the first United player ever to score 20 goals on his debut season for the club. MANCHESTER CITY: Another top 4 finish; in my opinion City will have to wait for one more season before they can break the monopoly of their neighbours in red. A more positive approach is being adopted as manager Mancini has decided to unleash his technical gifted players into the opposition with some ferocity. Most important player to City’s team structure is Yaya Toure, an imposing player. NEWCASTLE UNITED: I suggest the Magpies will have a similar season to last season where they will continue to accumulate the required points to sustain their Premiership life. Manager Alan Pardew will need to make new signings in January’s transfer window; the need to reinvest in an accomplished top flight striker as well as an intelligent centre-half alongside a combative midfield player are key areas of the team which Pardew has to strengthen. Lacks the required qualities to maintain their early season form, a possible finish of twelve. Manager watch, can Alan Pardew keep his players performing to a high level?
NORWICH CITY: One of the promoted clubs who will struggle to adapt to the unforgiving world of the Premiership. The Canaries have a fine manager in Paul Lambert who will instill an open passing game; but will need to show more defensive solidarity to have a chance of survival. Can their goal-scoring machine, club Captain Grant Holt convert his previous high ratio Championship goals into Premiership goals? The East Anglians will find it very difficult to avoid the exit door; player watch, the talented Wes Hoolahan. QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Alongside the other two promoted clubs, they have a real battle to stay afloat; their manager Neil Warnock who I profiled in an earlier edition will use all his experience by using a system of controlled football, while maintaining the spine of the team making them difficult to break down. The Hoops have some serious spending power in their armoury which could be their safeguard from relegation particularly in January’s transfer window. The signings of football’s bad boy Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips have reflected this. I expect the Londoners to possibly close the relegation door firmly shut and remain in the premiership. Star player, the multi-talented temperamental Moroccan international Adel Taarabt, who scored 19 goals in 43 appearances last season. STOKE CITY: The Potters are now an established Premiership club who will have no relegation fears; onwards and upwards for Stoke with their big aerial threat which is aided with the longest throw in football, courtesy of Rory Delap. Manager Tony Pulis is trying to instill more open football into their play where the Britannia is an intimidating stadium for any visiting team, where the fans with their theme song My ‘Delilah’ have the highest decibel level in the Premiership. Player watch, Matthew Etherington who on his day can be unstoppable. A top eight finish will almost certainly be achieved. SUNDERLAND: Recently has been a sinking ship, but manager Steve Bruce hopes he has addressed this problem with his signings of john O’Shea and Wes Brown from Manchester United to add strength and experience to his squad, where last season there was too much of an imbalance in this department, which created too many inconsistencies in their performances. They will survive in the Premiership, but not without experiencing some frailties as the season progresses. Manager watch, can Steve Bruce strike the right balance into his team?
SWANSEA CITY: The Swan’s manager Brendan Rodgers is regarded in the game as a very talented coach, but he will need the players at his disposal to carry out his coaching methods; like Blackpool last season, I expect the Swans to cause some upsets and also suffer the same fate. Player watch, forward Scott Sinclair who will find it difficult to reproduce his goal-scoring prowess in the top flight. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Failure to obtain a top four finish last season could possibly have a negative effect on the club, manager Harry Redknapp will have to dig deep and use all his managerial expertise to avoid this possible scenario. Spurs are the only club in the Premiership to play continental style football alongside English passion. The shaky goalkeeping position has been solved with the signing of veteran Brad Friedel; I expect Redknapp to rejuvenate his side and challenge for the fourth position. Star player, the kryptonite-factor man as featured in an earlier edition, the flying winger, Gareth Bale. WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Will again struggle. Wolves play a rigid system without the technical quality required throughout many areas of the team; can they keep the Wolves outside the exit door, maybe not this time. Manager Mick McCarthy will have to make sure his team shows his fighting spirit. Player watch, forward Steven Fletcher who always battles for his team. WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Play open attacking football and the work of previous managers Tony Mowbray and Roberto Di Matteo should not go unnoticed where many of their signings are still at the club; unfortunately defensive problems led to their departures. The current incumbent Roy Hodgson had added defensive strength while still maintaining their attacking instincts. The Baggies could be the surprise package this season. In my opinion a top seven finish is achievable. Starman, forward Odemwingie who bagged 15 Premiership goals last season, an amazing stat for a player who was performing in a struggling side. I expect Hodgson to change the club’s landscape and achieve more.
W.B.A. Manager Roy Hodgson whose team could spring a surprise
WIGAN ATHLETIC: Had an amazing escape from relegation last season, will they survive again, possibly not. Manager Roberto Martinez’s philosophy is to play an expansive passing game, but he does not have the required qualities through his team for this to show any consistency. The defence department is on occasions forgotten, hence the alarming ratio of goals conceded. Will Martinez change his mindset, I suggest not. Another season of struggle lies ahead for the Latics. Quality player, the feisty forward Rodallega who always gives 100% effort for his manager.
It is important for all the clubs to have a fast start to the season, did you know that the fastest goal scored last season came after just 31 seconds, courtesy of Liverpool’s Maxi Rodriguez vs. Fulham, whose forward Andy Johnson has scored the quickest goal this season vs. QPR in 1 minute 29 seconds. The quickest goal in Premiership history belongs to a defender, Tottenham’s Ledley King scoring in a quick-fire 10,20 seconds vs. Bradford City who are now playing in league two, amazing stats. In the League and FA Cup competitions my tips for success are Arsenal and Tottenham respectively with the Gunners’ Robin van Persie possibly claiming the prestigious Golden Boot Award for the most Premiership goals scored in a season. Last season’s Golden Boot was shared in Manchester between the City’s Tevez and United’s Berbatov on 20 premier goals each.
Onto Fethiyespor who are now 5th in Spor Toto League 2 Red Group, with 12 pts from a possible 21 pts, a home match report will follow in my next edition vs. Adana Demirspor.
Bye for now. CHESTER MANERO