Friday, August 12, 2011

England: SSN's Premier League Mini Preview

If you don't fancy reading those well-researched, well-written club previews in The Guardian, but want to stay informed, there's a chance the EPL will pan out like this: Arsenal will flatter to deceive, Abramovic's interference will fuck up any good work done by AVB at Chelsea, Mancini's lack of courage will keep City less the sum of their expensive parts, Spurs will impress against top teams, stutter against lower teams, Liverpool will improve but lack the quality to avoid too many draws, all meaning Manchester United will win the league despite repeatedly playing poorly. At the bottom the promoted teams will pull off the odd giant killing but be relegated, while the rest of the clubs will stay in the EPL by kicking the ball long distances and running around all.

For those of you who only really care about the top and value brevity over quality:

The deciding factor at Arsenal this season won't be whether Nasri or Cesc leave. It'll be whether someone at the club starts to understand how a good defense works. Many Arsenal fans seem to think all Wenger has to do is go out and buy a commanding central defender [the same fans who think Djourou had a good season]. It'd certainly help, but only an organized defensive unit will stop the team's attacking flair from being squandered. Wenger and defensive coach Pat Rice don't seem to get this. Both seem impressed by players able to make great last ditch recoveries [like Djourou] rather than ones who use positional sense and technique to stop problems occurring. Losing Cesc and especially Nasri would be a massive blow, but a midfield including Wilshere, Ramsey and Mata would still do damage and Gervinho looks decent. The trouble will be keeping RVP and Vermaelen fit. The start of the season, including a mean Champions League tie, will be crucial.

Bringing in Villas-Boas was a bold, if unexpected, move by Chelsea. Stagnation was setting in and things needed changing. But while there's been a change in manager there's been no real change of players, and as past managers have found, most of the team only know one style of play. Fans will fear that not only has £50 mil been wasted on the next Shevchenko , it's money AVB could have used to introduce a more attacking style. Instead he's left forcing square pegs into round holes. Above all he needs to get Torres scoring and to do so he needs to get him the ball. Sneijder would do this, but he seems too rich even for Chelsea. If they don't get Modric either, AVB could be screwed even before he gets started

Shrugging off valiant efforts from Malaga and Paris Saint-Germain, The Reds have been determined to prove they can overspend better than anyone else. It seems £75mil only gets you Henderson, Downing and Carroll. Are you taking the piss?! But that aside, Liverpool could be quite effective. Not effective enough to win the league, but a CL spot is possible. Unlike Man City, there's a logic to their huge cash outlay: if you've bought Carroll it makes sense to buy Downing, if Gerrard is always injured it makes sense to have Adam. And they have Luis Saurez, who tore up the Copa America like a Londoner tears up his city. The defense still looks suspect, where, unless they buy, they could be relying on an aging Carragher and promising youngsters at full back. But if Arsenal lose the plot Liverpool look well positioned to take fourth.

Manchester City
A rich, shopaholic friend claims leaving the house with a lot of cash is never a good thing. Instead of coming back with what you need, you end up with a lot of expensive, flashy crap you can't offload on Ebay. And to an extent this applies to Man City, who, while buying some real quality, have stockpiled a shed load of average players no one wants to buy. What's more, even some of the better players don't seem right for the EPL. They have Clichy, Lescott, Kolorov and Zabaleta at left back while most football fans would swap all of them for Leighton Baines. That said, any team with Agüero, Toure, Balotelli, Kompany, De Silva, Dzecko and possibly Tevez and Nasri should be excepted to challenge for the title. Mancini would be better off admitting this, forgetting the cheque book, and concentrating on how his team make the next step up. Expectations are now higher and there's the CL to deal with, so they need to improve by becoming more expansive against lesser teams. A good start, with Kun settling in quickly, could see City pushing Man U all the way.

Manchester United
It's plus ca change at ManU. They've made some good signings, have a really good team and will probably win the league. What they still don't have is a top quality creative midfielder. Despite the cost it's a surprise they've not gone for Schneider. Buying him wouldn't be a Real Madrid type vanity signing. It'd fill the one obvious weakness of the squad: a proven performer able to bring the best out of other players. But even without him the unconvincing state of Chelsea and Man City mean it's still easy to see them being good enough to win the league. Were Chelsea able to get Torres scoring or Mancini to find some balls then United's lack of quality in midfield could cost them. But it's unlikely.

Maybe Arsene Wenger's aversion to spending is spreading across North London. That Redknapp hasn't brought in a striker or a central defender by now is baffling. Scoring was Spurs' major weakness last season and with Woodgate's departure and King's knees they're light at the back. They've players they can sell to raise funds and there are players in both positions out there. Whether Modric stays or nor is obviously important, but Spurs need consistency in these positions either way. Presuming he gets that sorted Rednapp will be hoping Kyle Walker, who had a good U21 Championship, will be a plus at right back, that Bale stays fit and that Van der Vaart doesn't slip into the moody player he became at past clubs. If these things don't fall into place Spurs could again struggle away from home, drawing games they should win, and stay bottom of the top six.

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