Hello to anybody who happens to stumble upon this blog. I'm trying to forge a career in either sports or music journalism, or just writing stuff in general. I was told by someone to maybe set up a blog to hone my skills at writing. Anyway, I digress. One of my huge passions in life is of course football. I'm a Chelsea fan, but i'll try to be as impartial as possible. If anyone wants to leave a comment please feel free, and do tell your friends about this if it's any good.
So, I decided to give my predictions on the fate of the 20 Premier League clubs, with just over two months of the season remaining. Here goes:
Have certainly improved a great deal this season, with the prominence of Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri particularly noteworthy. I believe the constant accusations of having a less than watertight defence are a little unfair: behind Chelsea, they have conceded the fewest goals this term. In Wojciech Szczesny they look to have found a decent young keeper. Where Arsenal fall down, however, is simply the lack of quality in reserve and the mental strength of the majority of their players. To this day, they still lack a real leader, and do they really believe that they can actually win the premiership title? Wenger has done so many good things in his time, that it is difficult to criticise him, yet it smacks of real stubborness and possibly stupidity to believe that his current squad is strong enough to challenge across four fronts. They certainly need another defender, and a real leader in midfield for next season. Whether or not Wenger spends the money he certainly has at his disposal remains to be seen. It is difficult to see that Arsenal have enough in reserve after the crushing two weeks they have just suffered. Having said all this, though, Arsenal do still have an excellent chance of winning the Premier League title. They certainly have the easiest run- in of fixtures; however I do believe their lack of mental toughness and ability to dig out of a hole will ultimately see them coming up just short.
A strange season for Villa this year in many ways. Obviously rocked by the departure of Martin O'Neill just days before the commence of the season, they have struggled to capture the heights they achieved in the past few seasons. I am still unconvinced about Gerard Houllier- he will keep Villa in the division, but this is way down on what the Villa fans expect, particularly after two trips to Wembley last year. However, perhaps Villa fans got a tad greedy during the O'Neill reign, and this season has been a sobering lesson of the challenge of consistently trying to make the top 6. The signing of Darren Bent shows promise, and Villa are still difficult to beat on their day. A few shrewd signings in the summer should see Villa back in the top half next season.
What a marvellous achievement for the Blues to deservedly defeat Arsenal in the Carling Cup final a few weeks back. It was just reward for Alex Mcleish, an oft underrated manager who sets his teams up to be hard to beat. With the addition of exciting forwards Nicola Zigic and Obafemi Martins, Birmingham look a very good side on paper. However, they have really struggled in the league this season. Are they victims of their own success from last term, or has the league just got closer this year? Probably a bit of both, but Birmingham must be looking over their shoulders and were diabolical in defeat to West Brom a fortnight ago. However, I think they have enough about them to comfortably survive and improve next year.
The sacking of Sam Allardyce has to represent one of the biggest blunders of the season so far. Extremely comfortable, and an established Premier League side again after the experiment of Paul Ince backfired, Allardyce's sides are always hard to beat and will always stay in the top division. The new Indian owners seem to have confused a lot of people by installing Steve Kean as manager, which is undoubtedly a backward step. If you are going to sack Big Sam, surely have a top class replacement waiting in the wings. Blackburn are a worse side since Kean took over, and with some difficult fixtures coming up, their fans must be more than a bit worried. However, they probably have just about enough to stay up, with the likes of Ryan Nelson, Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn experienced enough to prevent a catastrophe.
A real success story and Ian Holloway must be commended for keeping Blackpool above the drop zone all season. Everybody, including myself, wrote them off, giving them no chance whatsoever of survival. Some excellent performances and results later, and they still have a fighting chance of staying in the top flight. I have always been against lower league teams "playing nice football" but without results getting more praise than the likes of Stoke who perhaps aren't as easy on the eye, but get the job done. Saying that, though, I don't believe Blackpool can play any other way except for all out attack. This makes for exciting games, but they are extremely vulnerable at the back, and they have hit a really rough patch of form at just the wrong time. Most fans will be sad to see them go, but I believe a return to the Championship is beckoning.
There were a few raised eyebrows when Owen Coyle moved from Burnley mid-way through last season, but he has undoubtedly had the last laugh. Bolton are undoubtedly a top half team here to stay, and look like achieving the dizzy heights they enjoyed under Sam Allardyce. Again, you win no prizes for "nice football", (Arsenal take note), but Bolton are definitely more eye catching under Coyle, but can be direct if they have to. The Reebok is again turning into the sort of place where no team likes to go and play. Coyle is the sort of manager you can tell gets the best out of his players- see Jack Wilshere last year and Daniel Sturridge this. They may have dwindled a bit in recent months, but with a visit to Wembley coming up, the future looks bright for the Trotters.
It was inevitable that Chelsea were going to defend their Premier League crown at a canter wasn't it? Someone obviously hadn't read the script, because Chelsea have been painfully poor at times this year. The departures of Ballack, Cole, Deco, Belletti and Carvalho didn't appear to harm Chelsea's chances all that much, but it has left the squad extremely stretched. As a result, Chelsea have been forced to continue playing out of form players such as Mikel, Malouda, Essien and Drogba simply because there hasn't been anyone else to come in and replace them. There seems to be a sense of complacency about Chelsea this year, with more than a few players dining out on last season's success. It seemed like there was no hope for any silverware this year, with Manchester United moving 12 points clear, and Chelsea out of the FA cup. However, Abramovich was obviously not keen on losing out on Champions League revenue and so splashed out on Torres and David Luiz; suddenly there seems a renewed vigour, a winning mentality and competition for places. Coupled with Man Utd's loss of form, there is more than an outside chance that the Blues could retain their crown, which had looked like falling out of their hands so tamely. However, it looks to me like Chelsea still have too much to do, with a win in every game an absolute must now on in. Even the Chelsea of last season wouldn't have won 10 on the bounce, so I feel Chelsea have more of a chance in the Champions League than domestically.
David Moyes must be so frustrated at another lacklustre season, particularly given their good end of season form last term. Their FA cup defeat to Reading must have been so disheartening that I feel he must be considering his position as they have not really made much progress in the last couple of years. This is a shame as they are excellent to watch, and have some brilliant players namely Arteta, Fellaini and Saha. That said, Everton are extremely short of any decent money, and so are destined to remain as a mid table side until a takeover is forthcoming. Bill Kenwright is undoubtedly an excellent chairman who evidently loves the club, but if he wants to see the club he loves really challenging for the top prizes, he may have to step aside. Whether or not David Moyes will still be there when that happens remains to be seen.
A strange season for the West-Londoners. After such a good 2010 and getting to the Europa League final, fans could have been forgiven for thinking further improvement was just around the corner. Roy Hodgson's departure will have been a blow, but in Mark Hughes they have an excellent manager who has done reasonably at every club he has managed (including Man City who were wrong to sack him), and some excellent players, namely Duff, Murphy, Zamora, Hangelend and Johnson. They struggled earlier in this season, but during that time, they were still hard to beat, and their plight will be put down to being a team in transition. Fulham are undoubtedly a part of the Premier League furniture and it looks like this is where they will stay for a long time,
After a horrendous first half of the season, Liverpool finally look like they are heading in the right direction. Roy Hodgson was the wrong man for so many reasons, but he wasn't helped by the financial issues and a serious lack of form in a number of first team regulars. Now the money woes are over, the Reds can finally rebuild and the return of Kenny Dalglish has only strenghtened hopes that some dark days are finally over. Horrendously over priced he may have been, Andy Carroll looks an excellent prospect, and Luis Suarez could be the new Torres. 50 million was a lot of money to get for a player who hasn't been at his best for 18 months, and so it was the right decision to sell. The performances have definitely improved, with the wins over Chelsea and Man Utd being thoroughly deserved; yet defeats to West Ham and Braga have confused the Anfield faithful somewhat. The speculation over Dalglish's future should be brought to a swift conclusion, and of course he should be kept on. Anyone with half a brain knows that. If he stays, and one or two marquee defensive and midfield signings are made, the future looks bright.
Looking at the league table, this season is a marked improvement for City, but I would argue they have actually gone backwards this term, and their position belies their performances. Too often, they are scared stiff of actually going forward, leading to some pretty tedious stuff at Eastlands this year. A team that deploys 3 defensive midfielders regularly are never going to be entertainers, and the defensive mindset could cost them come the end of the season. Their insistence on buying players from word of mouth and reputation rather than form has led to a few blunders (Adebayor, Santa Cruz, Lescott) and they still do not look like a "team"- more a collection of individuals. Their best performer last season, Craig Bellamy, was shipped out on loan to Cardiff- a decision that boggled the minds of many. Mario Ballotelli is an expensive risk, and Kolo Toure's drugs failure will have been a major headache for Mancini. In fact, City are so reliant on Carlos Tevez, that, if he doesnt turn up, City are very beatable and easy to contain. I believe the negativity and uncertainty will cost them and they will finish outside the top 4.
It has hardly been vintage stuff from Utd this year, but they have done enough to sit at the top of the table. The one real highlight has been their defence, with Vidic and Van Der Sar in particular outstanding. Scholes and Giggs have rolled back the years at times, and Hernandez looks like another barnstorming piece of business from Sir Alex. However, this is a Utd side that is very beatable, and one that won't go down in the history books. The midfield is at times extremely average, with Carrick and Fletcher looking pale shadows of themselves. Rooney has been a major disappointment as well, his stunning effort against City aside. But, Nani has impressed, and Berbatov is looking something like a Utd player at last, although his form has dipped in recent weeks. The unbeaten run set out the foundations for the success in the league, albeit one that had numerous draws. The defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool would have hurt, and with a crunch match against Arsenal to come, the season is far from over. But, Utd know how to win league titles, unlike the current Arsenal side, and it looks like Chelsea are too far behind to really challenge. I'm predicting a historic 19th league title for Fergie's boys.
A reasonably comfortable return to the top flight for the Magpies, although it wouldn't be Newcastle without a few dramas along the way. Chris Hughton looked an excellent manager who had helped Newcastle when they were at a low moment, and was performing well, and so to dismiss him was a ludicrous decision. If Mike Ashley wanted to get the Geordie faithful on side, this was the wrong way to go about it. Heads were scratched at the appointment of Alan Pardew, but to be fair, he has performed okay and Newcastle should survive comfortably. 35 million for Andy Carroll represents great business, and his departure shouldn't harm them too much. A few more strikers and defenders are needed, but they are more than competent in midfield, Barton, Tiote and Nolan being particularly impressive. Newcastle will also undoubtedly be remembered for the game of the season- the astounding comeback in the 4-4 draw with Arsenal.
Long criticised, I actually have a soft spot for Stoke. The preachy attitude of Arsene Wenger of others about how the game should be played does not sit easy with me. The fact is this: Stoke have comfortably survived in the Premiership for nearly three seasons. Who decides how Football should be played? The beauty of the game are the different styles of different sides, and I actually enjoy a Delap long throw with the pandemonium it causes in the penalty area. Stoke are built to be hard to beat and difficult to defend against, and good sides have come unstuck at the Britannia before. Tony Pulis should be commended for adjusting to the demands of the top flight so quickly, and they don't look like going away any time soon.
A marked improvement for the Mackems this term, though they will have been hurt by the departure of Darren Bent, both personally and in a footballing sense. It underlines the fact that Sunderland, along with a plethora of others are susceptible to bigger clubs poaching their best players. Despite this, Sunderland will still finish in the top 8 which is a brilliant achievement for Steve Bruce who finally looks to have found a club to match his ambition. Asamoah Gyan looks a great prospect for the Premiership, and in a defensive and goalkeeping sense, Sunderland are more than adequate. They will cause headaches for the big clubs for many years to come.
Still the entertainers of the Premier League, its unclear whether or not Spurs have moved forwards or backwards this term. Getting into the Champions League was a fantastic achievement for Harry Redknapp, and it is in that arena they have excelled. Rafael Van Der Vaart is probably the signing of the season, leaving other clubs in Europe scratching their heads wandering why they didn't snap him up. Gareth Bale has carried on his world class wing play, and they have a true world class performer in Luka Modric. Where Spurs have fallen down is their inconsistency and inability to turn possession into goals. Some dreadful losses, namely to Blackpool and Wigan, have been followed by victories over Arsenal and AC Milan. They have been vulnerable to injuries at the back, although William Gallas has filled in well. Going forward they are really deprived of a true world class finisher. Jermain Defoe's injuries have prevented him from being any more than a bit part player, and the jury is still out on Crouch and Pavlyuchenko. I do believe, however, that they will pip Man City to fourth spot.
West Bromwich Albion:
Yet another case of a stupid sacking of a highly talented manager, but this one makes slightly more sense, considering Roy Hodgson's solid start as manager. Roberto Di Matteo's Baggies were exciting, but were always vulnerable at the back and so Hodgson should sort them out in that respect. With some massive fixtures to come, West Brom looked to have found a manager who knows what it takes to stay in the top division. I believe they should have enough about them to finally end their yo-yo reputation.
West Ham United:
After looking for so long like they were doomed, Avram Grant finally looks like he has turned it around at Upton Park. After the furore over his imminent departure loomed over the Arsenal game like a bad smell, the Hammers have actually turned in some good performances of late, notably against Liverpool and today at Spurs. The transfer window came at a good time for West Ham, and Grant has been shrewd in the market, with Robbie Keane, Wayne Bridge and notably Demba Ba looking excellent acquisitions. Football is all about momentum and West Ham look to have it at exactly the right moment, and so should have enough to stave off relegation.
Wigan have earned many plaudits for their style of football, but I believe this masks their shortcomings in defence and attack. They are sometimes painfully easy to open up, and are always susceptible to a mauling. Some of their players look horribly out of their depth at this level, and they lack any kind of goalscorer, which is an absolute must in the top flight. Roberto Martinez is a good young manager and will succeed at this level, and I think he should be retained by Wigan, but it looks like he may be doing his managing in the Championship next year.
One of the surprises of the season, for me. After last season's success, it looked like Wolves would improve and comfortably survive for seasons to come. They have some excellent young players and a decent manager in Mick McCarthy, and on their day can beat anyone. Indeed, they have recorded victories over Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool, and so it remains a mystery why they have struggled so much against the so called "lesser teams." It almost seems like some of the players find it difficult to get up for these lower league clashes, which doesn't bode well for survival. They have won plenty of fans during their stay, but I believe it will be one which lasts for just two years.
I hope you have enjoyed this post, and if you want to, tell your friends or workmates about it, and please be honest about what you think about it. Any feedback is welcomed, both good and bad. Cheers until next time.