An Analysis of the New York Jets Roster.

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If you needed any further confirming that the New York Jets weren’t any good and that their quarterback of the future wasn’t a quarterback of the future then the 2012 season delivered what you required.  It wasn’t that the Jets didn’t challenge for the play-offs for most of the season (which they did up to the 3rd last game), it was how poorly the Jets played in a large number of games throughout that season.

Where did the Jets go wrong?  It’s pretty simple; the Jets had an aging and underperforming defence, the offensive line under performed and had Matt Slauson in it, there was a distinct lack of skill players and the quarterback play was hysterically embarrassing.

All of this culminated into a 6-10 season, which seen the firing of the Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, the trading of the Jets best player (Darelle Revis) for a measly draft 1st round pick (plus a conditional 4th/3rd next year) and the awkward marriage of Rex Ryan and John Idzik.

In the off-season the Jets lost their star cornerback (Revis), their pro bowl safety (Landry, who was never going to stay), their loud mouth line-backer (how you doin Bart?), their best skill player (Keller) and a couple of leaders in the dressing room (Pouha and Moore).  It has left a very young roster of players to pick up the pieces of the two previous seasons.  Oh and that guy everyone hates is still there.

This will be a position by position break down.

 

Offense

Quarterback

Mark Sanchez has been the Jets starter for the past 4 four seasons, and it is funny to think that in his first two he delivered and help the Jets to AFC Championship games.  In the play-offs he was like a different player and made it look like he was a winner who could play well under pressure.  However all of those beliefs about his potential have disappeared.  In 4 seasons Sanchez has managed to throw 68 Touchdowns and 69 Interceptions, hardly good numbers for a former 5th pick in the draft.  Add onto that 43 Fumbles (off which 20 were lost) and you have a complete drive killer right there.  Most of the time Sanchez was asked to be a game manager but with a 55.1% completion percentage and a 71.7 QBR (66.9 last season) he just doesn’t have the skill set to do that.  To be a franchise quarterback you need completion number in the 65% region and a QBR in the high 80’s, neither of which Sanchez is.  At times Sanchez shows glimpses of a 1st round pick, but he will usually quickly follow that up with another screen interception, or hold onto the ball too long or not see a defender in the middle.  If the question is what the future of the Jets quarterback position is?  Then the answer certainly isn’t Mark Sanchez.  The sad part is if the question is who will be the starting quarterback in week 1?  Then it probably will be Mark Sanchez.

Geno Smith could be the answer to the Jets quarterback problems, but he could also be another failed project.  Smith was drafted in the 2nd round which was good value for the top QB in the draft (although not worth one of the Jets 1st round picks, still should have been a late 20’s pick).  Smith is an accurate passer that limits his mistakes as much as he can (doesn’t sound like someone else); he is also big and athletic and has decent but not great movement.  The problem with Smith is that he has no professional experience; college is not a great gauge of how well a player will play in the NFL.  There are questions over his leadership and he also has small hands and can be prone to fumbling.  Smith is the great unknown this season for the Jets; however if you consider that there is no doubt that Sanchez would have been cut if it weren’t for his big contract, and that the coaches really don’t want to have to play him again after he has let them down for the past 2 seasons; it says a lot about Smith that he hasn’t won the QB battle at camp, and it doesn’t say anything good, he is clearly not ready.

There is only one way to describe the Jets current situation at quarterback, it is a total mess.  I imagine that Sanchez will be the starting QB by week 1, because Smith just isn’t ready for that role yet.  McElroy will take the 3rd roster spot but won’t challenge for a starting role.

 

Running Back

Chris Ivory was brought in from the Saints to fill the gaping hole the Jets have at running back.  Ivory is likely to be the starter on week 1, but he isn’t exactly what I’d describe as being electric.  He doesn’t really fit a west coast system because he doesn’t have the pass catching ability required, but he is an upgrade on Shonn Greene.

What can you say about Mike Goodson?  The guy is lightning in a bottle.  The problem is that that bottle has seen very little practice thanks to his legal troubles and is a major doubt for the start of the season.  I’m not sure what the Jets plan to do with Goodson, but his roster spot is up for grabs.  Expect him to start the season on the reserve list.   *EDIT* Goodson has officially been banned for the first 4 games of the season, which I doubt if he would have played anyway.

Bilal Powell showed some glimpses of potential at the back end of last season, and it looks like he could well flourish under Marty Mornhinweg’s system.  Although I doubt he will be the starter (at least not at the start of the season) he is likely to be played as the 3rd down back due to his pass catching ability.

Joe McKnight is an anomaly, at times he flashes moments of brilliant as he turns the jets on and avoids tackles, and the problem is that it happens too rarely.  McKnight is primarily a kick returner and if it weren’t for that he wouldn’t be on the team, even with his kick returning ability he is on the bubble and a bad camp hasn’t helped his case.   *EDIT*   Joe McKnight was released after I wrote this, which isn’t shocking to me at all although it does add questions as to who will be doing the kick returns on the team.

The quarterback and running back situations at the Jets are both a mess.  I expect that Ivory will be the starter but we will see smatterings of Powell and that he will take the starting job by the end of the season.

 

Full Back

Tommy Bohanon will fill the fullback role for the team after Lex Hilliard picked up a season ending shoulder injury.  I think he would probably have won the role himself even without the injury to Hilliard, but because of the injury it has made it guaranteed to be his.

 

Wide Receiver

Santonio Holmes is very similar to Mark Sanchez in many ways, not only because they had a falling out in the 2011 season finale against the Dolphins, but also because he only has a place on the team because of his contract.  Much like Sanchez, Holmes has disappointed in his time as a Jet; and this has not been helped by questions over whether he will be ready for the start of the season.  He is the only experienced wide receiver that the Jets have on the roster and that is of course a major concern.  Sometimes you have to question Holmes’ commitment to the cause (like last year when he got injured and just threw the ball away so he didn’t get hit, costing the team a TD) but he is as good as the Jets have.

Big things were expected of Stephen Hill last season, but he showed that he was, although physically gifted, very raw.  Hill has height, speed and strength; but lacks the route running and pass catching skills of a no.1/2 receiver.  Last season he struggled to make separation between himself and defenders and that caused his numbers to be very poor (252 yds., 3TD’s, with 84 yds. and 2 TD’s in one game).  However Hill has had a strong camp and looks like he has improved his crispness and game overall (drops are still an issue) and looks set to have a good season.

Jeremy Kerley was by far the Jets best receiver last year, and showed bright sparks as a slot receiver.  Kerley has that elusiveness, pass catching and yards after the catch ability which will help him thrive in the West-coast system the Jets will be running this season and it could be a break-out year for him (if a QB can actually get the ball to him).  Kerley is also a punt returner and has shown flashes of potential; however he must cut down on the wasteful fair catches from last season.

The rest of the wide receivers currently on the roster are a bit of a mish-mash of veteran players and rookies.  Clyde Gates will make the roster because of his speed and kick returning ability.  Ryan Spadola will also make the roster in the 5th spot because of an excellent pre-season and camp, plus he’s a Jersey boy.  There is potential for another slot to be taken up by a receiver to cover Santonio Holmes’ injury problems and that is likely to fall to Mohamed Massaquoi because he has more than 3 seasons of NFL experience (more than any other of the receivers on the roster, Holmes excluded).  I was surprised to see Braylon Edwards released, but he has had a poor camp and was carrying injuries and clearly was thought as surplus to requirements when Massaquoi was signed.

 

Tight End

Kellen Winslow II was brought in to give the tight end corps some much needed experience.  Although he is unlikely to replicate his form that he showed at the Browns when he dominated the position, he will give the Jets an end zone threat with his height and pass catching ability.  There are obvious questions over Winslow’s durability issues (he played 1 game last year) but the Jets are desperate for skill position talent and Winslow is worth the risk.

Jeff Cumberland has the size and speed that is essential for a miss-matched pass catching tight end.  He has shown (like many Jets) glimpses of major potential, but has never fully been able to utilise that potential.  This season could be Cumberland’s break out year (because of the system) where he finally takes those steps into becoming the threat across the middle the Jets hoped he would be, if it isn’t then there has to be questions if he will ever take that next step.

Konrad Reuland isn’t the exciting flashy player that a Winslow or Cumberland are, he won’t post big numbers; however what Reuland is, is consistent.  Very much a blocking tight end, he will make the roster because he is the only one on the books.  Reuland showed he has the ability to be an effective tight end as well as full back, and his versatility will be very useful for the Jets.

I would add that it is sad to see that Hayden Smith was cut the other day and isn’t quite ready to make the 53 man roster quite yet.  Hopefully he won’t be claimed by another team and the Jets will be able to add him to the practice squad and continue to develop him for the future.

 

Offensive Tackle

D’Brickishaw Ferguson will line up at the left tackle position once again this year and further cement his place as the Jets most consistent player.  D’Brick has probably just dropped off of being an elite tackle in the league (still top 10) but his paly and consistency at left tackle is vital when you either have a rookie or a ditherer (Sanchez) at QB.

Austin Howard showed last season that he has potential to become a very solid right tackle, something the Jets haven’t had since the departure of Damien Woody.  He did well last season, but this season will be much harder, with teams now having tape on his weaknesses and without the experienced Brandon Moore next to him.

Jason Smith was signed by the Jets after he was released by the Saints earlier this month.  He was successful last season in the jumbo tight end packages for the Jets and is a useful pick up with a lack of depth at tackle being evident.

Oday Aboushi was the Jets 5th round pick from this year’s Draft and it looks like he may not be able to make the roster thanks to the arrival of Smith.  Expect him to be signed to the practice squad if he goes unclaimed.

 

Offensive Guard

Willie Colon was a nice pick up for the Jets, and by signing him on a one year deal there is very little risk involved for the Jets.  Colon has been hampered by season ending injuries recently and that is what caused his release from the Steelers.   If he can stay fit for the entire season then the Jets won’t have to worry, however if he can’t (and based on his injury record it is likely he won’t) then the Jets may be in trouble.

Who would have actually thought that I would be sitting here and writing that Vlad Ducasse had actually made the 53 man roster, never mind that he is now projected to be the starter after beating out Stephen Peterman (who looked like a stick on to start, and then got cut) and rookie Brian Winters.  Naturally I am a bit sceptical of Ducasse starting on the line (as anyone who has seen him play previously will be) but he can’t be much worse than Matt Slauson.

Brian Winters (3rd round pick) looked like he may win the starting job at left guard over Stephen Peterman in his rookie season, but has been hampered with injuries through camp and missed the first two pre-season games.  Although unlikely to start now this year (unless for injury or Ducasse regressing) Winters looks like he will be part of the future at offensive guard for the Jets for many years to come.

William Campbell may (6th round pick) have a slight chance of making the roster (similar to Aboushi) but this may become less so if the Jets are able to pick up a more experienced back up to fit on the line.  Definitely a candidate for practice squad if not claimed.

 

Centre

Nick Mangold is one of three elite players on the Jets roster (Cromartie and Wilkerson), and is one (if not the) best centre in the NFL.  You know what you get with Mangold, and although his play his dropped off the past two seasons because of niggling injuries, he is still an ever present and vital member of the offense and more importantly the locker room.

The biggest problem with Mangold is that if he is not on the line then the line falls to bits.  The past two seasons when Mangold has missed time, the Jets have not handled it well at all and this year does not look like it will be any different.  Caleb Schlauderaff is the likely back-up centre (because of his ability to play both centre and guard) but to be honest, he isn’t very good.  The other option is Erik Cook, who much like Schlauderaff doesn’t give you confidence if he were to fill in for an injured Mangold.  Expect the Jets to try their best to look for a more talented and experienced back-up to Mangold after final day cuts, because otherwise we have to keep our fingers crossed Mangold stays injury free.

 

Overall

The Jets have a lot of questions heading into the 2013 seasons on offense; mainly at QB, RB and WR.  There is a distinct lack of quality and experienced players at the skill positions; however what the Jets do have is youth, and with youth comes raw talent, and there is plenty of that to go around, with players like Kerley, Hill, Goodson, Cumberland and to a lesser extent Geno Smith.  These players will all need to have big seasons (Smith excluded because I think Sanchez will start) if the Jets’ offense is going to compete at all.  More importantly Mark Sanchez has to have a big season, and has to cut down on the turnovers that have plagued his NFL career thus far, otherwise he won’t be on the team next year.

 

Starting Line-up

This is what I expect the starting line-up to be on week 1:

Hill—Winslow—Ferguson-Ducasse-Mangold-Colon-Howard—Kerley (slot)—Massaquoi (Holmes if fit)

Sanchez

Bohanon

Ivory

 

Defence

Defensive End

Mo Wilkerson in my opinion is an elite end and is a truly special player.  He dominates the line and the point of attack; he can rush the passer or play the run game, he is a perfect end in a 3-4 system.  I think that Wilkerson (if he stays fit) will be making the Pro-Bowl this year and will finally gain the recognition that he thoroughly deserves.

Sheldon Richardson was a surprising pick in the Draft this year from the Jets (3 D-Lineman in a row in 1st round, and a 4-3 technique end [Jets running 3-4 of course]).  However Rex Ryan obviously saw something special in him to pick him at no.13.  Richardson has shown glimpses of potential in pre-season and in camp, and will line-up across from Wilkerson.  The Jets have two young exciting ends starting either side of each other and unlike in previous seasons have a lot of get up and go on the defensive line.

If the Jets take a 3rd end, then it is likely Leger Douzable will be it (although it is likely some of the nose tackles or outside linebackers may take that spot instead).  Douzable has had a good pre-season and a solid camp and has put himself in contention for a spot on the roster, but the Jets may be unlikely to carry 5 defensive lineman into the season.

 

Defensive Tackle

Kenrick Ellis is similar (although not nearly as bad) to Vlad Ducasse, based on the fact that he was drafted because of his physical rawness and potential but has never been able to develop into the player the Jets were hoping.  However this off-season Ellis has gotten his life sorted out (legal troubles fixed) and has become more focused on his football.  This has been seen in his pre-back injury camp, and he was a stick on to start in week 1 prior to his back injury.  There are now questions about whether he will be ready week 1, but I imagine he will be and him sitting is merely precautionary.

Damon Harrison will be his replacement if Ellis is not ready to go on week 1.  I didn’t understand why Harrison wasn’t given more of a chance last season when Pouha was out injured, because when I seen him play he seemed to do quite well.  This season Snacks (great nickname) has shown his worth (7 individual tackles against Giants) and has developed his game further almost guaranteeing his roster spot.

Antonio Garay will take the last roster spot for the defensive line, and will give much needed experience to what is a very young and inexperienced line.  Although I doubt he will be a starter and he has slowed down since his days at the Chargers, he is still a solid run blocker and his experience is required.

 

Middle Linebacker

When David Harris signed his last contract he looked like he would develop into an elite middle linebacker and would boss the field for the Jets defence.  Since signing his contract he has went on to have two lacklustre seasons, and has slowed down (in terms of speed) drastically.  There are still major doubts about Harris, and he certainly isn’t playing to his contract value, but having young fast Demario David next to him this season instead of old slow Bart Scott, will help immensely.

Demario Davis showed last season that he has what it takes to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL.  He is excellent in pass coverage (vital in the modern NFL) and has excellent closing speed.  He does however lack a little in playing against the run and isn’t the best tackler.  David very much will be learning on the job, and will be helped along immensely by having a veteran like David Harris next to him.

Nick Bellore will act as the back-up at middle linebacker, and although he does not set the heather on fire in terms of ability, he is an incredibly useful special team’s player and will make the 53 man roster no problem because of that.

The final middle linebacker spot is a toss-up between Josh Mauga and Danny Lansanah.  Lansanah has had the better camp and pre-season, but Mauga is the incumbent back-up and is therefore more familiar with Ryan’s system.  Both could potentially make it but more likely only one will, if I were to guess I’d go Lansanah, but honestly I don’t know.

 

Outside Linebacker

Quinton Coples has made the move from defensive end to outside linebacker this year, and naturally there are some growing pains.  Coples made his name as a rusher of the passer, but now he is being asked to operate in space something he has done sparingly throughout his career.  There are no doubts that he will be a deadly force at rushing the passer from the linebacker position (something the Jets have sorely missed for a number of years) but his lack of pass defence ability and his lack of ability in space are worrying.  It will be interesting to see if the Jets will utilise him almost exclusively as a rusher, or whether they decide to use him as a generic outside linebacker.  Coples will also likely miss the first few games of the season because of an ankle injury, which is costing him vital practice time at his new position (another player learning on the job).

Calvin Pace is the old man at outside linebacker and after being released (for money saving reasons) he was re-signed almost instantly.  Pace is a lock for a starting role, and although he has slowed drastically from his heyday, he is still a very useful run stopper and a durable and reliable player.

Garrett McIntyre has shown previously that he is a solid player, he doesn’t do anything flashy but what he does he does well.  Although not the best in space (often found wanting on outside runs) he will start the first few games of the season with Coples unlikely to make it.  McIntyre is also (much like Bellore) an important special teams player, adding further value to himself.

Antwan Barnes was brought in by the Jets in the hope that he would be able to replicate his double digit sack numbers from 2 years ago when he was a member of the Chargers.  The Jets have lacked a consistent pass rusher for years now (2005, John Abraham) and this has been a major problem in recent years (5.5 sacks by Coples most on team in 2012).  The Jets are hoping that Barnes can be a speciality pass rusher and be effective in that role, I don’t see him starting.

Ricky Sapp is another one of those Jets players who you wondered why they didn’t receive more playing time last season (promoted to main roster in November).  He is similar to Barnes as he is a pass rusher specialist, but he is more rounded than Barnes.  Sapp has excellent speed and pass rushing abilities, and although it is unlikely that he will get a start, he could be used very effectively as a pass rusher.  Sapp has had a very impressive camp (albeit against the 2nd string) and is well deserving of earning a roster spot.

 

Cornerback

Antonio Cromartie is the final elite player on the Jets roster, and truly showed his worth last season when Darelle Revis was absent.  It was because of Cromartie’s play last year that Revis was considered surplus to requirements, and it was a deserved Pro-Bowl season.  Cromartie has incredible physical attributes and is both tall and fast.  The major mark against Cromartie is sometimes he is tackle averse and can often be found looking into the backfield (or making the INT) rather than concentrating on his man.  Still the best corner on the team and one of the best in the league.

Dee Milliner (other 1st round pick) has the unenviable job of being the man that replaces Darelle Revis in the Jets line-up.  Milliner has missed much of camp (worrying for a rookie) and also has some injury worries, however the Jets obviously thought highly enough of him to draft him at no.9 overall.  Milliner has the skill set to be a success but nothing is ever a guarantee in the NFL, and the complicated high reliance scheme that the Jets run and the pressure it puts on the cornerbacks, very much put Milliner in a sink or swim situation.  Although he was not impressive in pre-season, it isn’t unsurprising because he hasn’t had the training that he should have up to this point.  He will have to learn quick or the Jets defence will be in serious trouble.

Kyle Wilson does not look like a player that is a former 1st round pick.  He has never developed into the player that the Jets were hoping, and struggles in coverage (not ideal for a cornerback) often giving away a number of pass interference penalties.  Wilson is a slot corner, but if either of the two starting corners were to become injured, he isn’t a player you would want to rely on.

The Jets are then likely to carry another 3 corners; I think Isaiah Trufant and Ellis Lankster are locks because of their speed, nippiness and experience at the position, both are good players and either could be a 3rd corner for another team, truly showing the Jets depth at the position.  The final spot could be a toss-up between Mike Edwards and Darrin Walls; it is highly unlikely that both will make the roster, so it will be one or the other (probably practice squad for the unsuccessful one).  If I were to pick I think that Walls will have the slight edge.

 

Safety

Dawan Landry is the only Jets safety who has any real starting experience which is of course a major concern for a team that relies heavily on safety play.  Landry isn’t nearly as good as his brother (LaRon) but he is familiar with Rex Ryan’s system thanks to him playing with Ryan at Baltimore.  He is a lock for a starting slot, the bigger question is who will be starting next to him.

Jaiquawn Jarrett is the unlikely man who will start next to Landry on week 1.  Throughout camp it looked more likely to either be Bush or Allen starting at safety; however Jarrett snuck up out of nowhere and stole the place instead.  Ryan was impressed with Jarrett’s play in camp and he followed it up with excellent play in the pre-season games, becoming the anointed one.  He is a former 2nd round pick (of the Eagles) so you know he has ability (although never fully achieved obviously).  However his lack of regular season playing time is a major concern, as is the fact that the Eagles gave up on him (something they wouldn’t do flippantly).  He will be the Jets starter, but if his play isn’t up to scratch expect Bush and Allen to be waiting in the wings.

Josh Bush was my favourite for taking the safety role next to Landry because of his ability to play the pass, however he has fallen to being the 4th safety on the roster (behind Allen, Landry and Jarrett).  I don’t think that he is at risk of not making the final roster and could be used effectively in rotation (Ryan loves 3 safety looks).

Antonio Allen is probably the player closest to the bubble of the Jets safeties because his stock has fallen the most out of the safeties.  There is no doubting that Allen has ability, and showed last season that he is a good blitzer.  Allen is a hard hitting safety, has good size and could be effective on covering tight ends (used to play linebacker also).  I honestly don’t think he will be in trouble of not making the roster, and both Bush and Allen should push Jarrett throughout the season which should help keep players on their toes, because there is nothing better than competition for keeping players sharp.

Rontez Miles has the slightest of chances of making the roster; however I doubt the Jets will carry 6 corners and 5 safeties.  Miles is a good candidate to see on the practice squad and could be one for the future.

 

Overall

Rex Ryan said that he believed that this season the Jets would have a top 5 defence, a bold prediction from a coach who is playing for his job.  The Jets certainly have a lot of youthful talent on the D-Line (something they haven’t had in previous seasons), the linebacking corps are much younger also (although question marks about their ability still stand), the corner backs are still very deep even without Revis on the roster and there are still major question marks over the Jets safety positions.  The potential is there, but the young players will have to play up to that potential if the Jets are to achieve a top 5 defence.  One thing that can definitely be said about the Jets defence is that it has gotten younger and faster, a major problem that hurt the team the last two seasons.  By no means do I think that the starting positions are as locked up as they are on offense; with NT (Ellis, Harrison) and FS (Jarrett, Allen, Bush) all still potentially up for grabs.

 

Starting Line-up

This is what I expect the starting line-up to be on week 1:

Cromartie—–Wilkerson—Ellis—Richardson—Wilson (slot)—Milliner

Harris—Davis

Coples———————Pace

Landry—————————————-Jarrett

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Nick Folk should still take this after beating out Billy Cundiff despite the fact the Jets signed Dan Carpenter as further competition.  The worst thing that can happen to a kicker is to relax because there is so much competition for only 32 places in the league.  Folk has kicked for the Jets for 3 seasons (going into 4th) and has been a solid kicker throughout.  The one thing Folk lacks is a strong leg, which is an issue on kick-offs and long field goals (something Carpenter has in abundance).  I expect Folk will be there on week 1 as usual.

 

Punter

Robert Malone had a good year last season (despite the blocks, mainly scheming issues rather than bad punting) and has beaten out Ryan Quigley in a tight camp battle.  Malone could the punter the Jets have been looking for since recklessly letting Steve Weatherford go and much like Folk, expect him to be there on week 1.

 

Long Snapper

Who else could it be but Tanner Purdum?  He has been a solid LS since joining the Jets and hasn’t done anything to make you think otherwise.

 

Conclusion

The Jets are going into the 2013 season with quite a young and inexperienced roster.  There is a large reliance on players who have never had a starting role and that could come back to haunt the Jets in what is shaping up to be a long season.

There is also a distinct lack of proven talent at the skill positions; and although there is potential and decent depth at tight end, running back and wide receiver, there isn’t a player that you could see having an 1k yard season.  All the skill position players will benefit from playing in a West-coast system rather than the 1920’s style of Tony Sparano which was so ineffective last year.  The biggest issue for the Jets of course is at quarterback; where it seems more than likely that Mark Sanchez will be starting week 1.  The problem with Sanchez is obvious, he has had 4 seasons to prove his worth and each time has disappointed.  Geno Smith isn’t ready to start in this league and throwing him to the wolves would be detrimental to his development.  The Jets have a good young defence which contains lots of competition, and with Rex Ryan calling the plays once again expect the defence to up its aggression and cause a lot of panic and turnovers.  The Jets will go as the quarterback goes, and unless there is a vast improvement in the quarterback play from last season (which is doubtful) as I have said already it is going to be a long season.

The way the Jets play in the season (assuming it is a losing record) will define whether Ryan keeps his job or not.  If the Jets go down in the shambles of the past 2 years then he is gone, if the Jets show potential and a fighting spirit then I think he might just hang on once again.

If I were to put a number on the Jets season I would guess 6-10.  I hope it is better than that but I have major doubts over the ability of the roster as a whole.  If Sanchez (or Smith) were to have a really good season then maybe the Jets could pull out a 10-6 (similar to the Seahawks last season but not nearly as talented) but that is a very big if, and one that I can’t see happening.  6-10 is probably generous (with wins over Bucs, Bills, Raiders, Browns, @Panthers, @ Bills) but the Jets do have a fairly easy schedule and if they were able to get hot you just never know.  My heart says just maybe, my brain tells me it isn’t going to happen.

 

 

So leave a comment and tell me what you think about the New York Jets this season (try and be nice as hard as it may be).  Do you think that Rex will see the 2014 season?  Will Sanchez become the next Peyton Manning?  Or more likely the next Jamarcus Russell?  Let me know and leave a comment, all are welcome.

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Arsenal’s Transfer Requirements.

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After an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa, it became truly apparent that Arsenal were short a number of players.  In the typical Wenger style, there has been a lot of talk about signing players without any actual signing of players.  There is a gazillion pounds worth of money in the Arsenal coffers (according to Wenger and Gazidis), yet so far Arsenal’s only signing of the transfer window has been a 19 year old free transfer (hardly something to set the hearts racing at the Emirates).  With less than two weeks now left in the transfer window, the inevitable Wenger rush to sign average players at the last minute is approaching.  The question is what positions do Arsenal need to improve?

 

Goalkeeper

Szczesny isn’t a bad player, but he is an over rated player.  In his first season at Arsenal everyone was banging on about how Arsenal had found their GK of the future, now everybody isn’t so sure.  Szczesny has the ability and he has that cockiness that all great keepers have.  The problem however is that he has way to much confidence and often finds himself conceding goals which he never should be conceding because he is trying to make a save for the cameras or is rushing out trying to be a sweeper (such as against Villa).

What Szczesny needs is competition, Fabianski isn’t good enough to give that; so what Arsenal need is a keeper who will offer a challenge to keep Szczesny on his toes but won’t necessarily need to play first team.  A perfect player for this would have been Mark Schwarzer but he went to Chelsea, but a player of a similar ilk would be perfect (Julio Cesar is available).  This isn’t a position of instant need, but the need for a good back up keeper to push Szczesny is required if he is to develop into the keeper Arsenal thought they had 2 years ago.

 

Right Back

Bacary Sagna is not a great player, and is constantly found wanting when he comes up against fast wingers or better opposition.  His back up Jenkinson isn’t much better but is still only 21 and should push on and take the position from Sagna this season.  This is one of the few areas of serious need for Arsenal, although they could do with improving the position at future transfer windows.

 

Left Back

Kieran Gibbs is another over rated Arsenal player (feel like I may say that a lot), there is a good chance he is over rated because he is English but he just doesn’t add that much to the team.  It isn’t that Gibbs is an awful player (he is not) but he is constantly injured and when he isn’t he doesn’t look good enough to play for Arsenal.  Nacho Monreal I imagine will play if he is fit and is a decent player; the major issue with Monreal is that he isn’t a great defender but he is good going forward.  Similar to right back, left back isn’t a major area of concern that Arsenal need to solve right now.

 

Centre Back

The only way to describe the Arsenal centre back set up is complete mess.  All three are solid enough players when they are fit, but each has their own flaws.  Vermaelen can never stay fit, and hasn’t been the same player he was in his first season since he had all his injuries.  Koscielny is a decent player but he is incredibly clumsy and too often has a rush of blood to the head.  Mertesacker is just really really slow, and that is totally useless up against anyone who has any pace.

The perfect situation for a club is to have around 5 centre backs, to cover any circumstance (suspension, injury, loss of form).  Arsenal has 3, one of which is constantly injured.  Against Fenerbache when Koscielny went off injured, Arsenal had to bring on Jenkinson (a slight but tall right back) because they had already run out of centre back; that is after 2 games.

If I was Wenger I would be looking to bring in 2 centre back before the transfer window closes.  Arsenal has been linked with Ashley Williams the whole of the summer and he would give them a solid, although not spectacular signing to shore up their defence.  Micah Richards would surely be a good pick up and I imagine would be available for a reasonable price (because he surely is looking for first team football before the World Cup).  He does have injury problems, but is a physical beast and could Arsenal a bit of nastiness that they lack.

 

Right/Left Midfield

This is a weird one because Arsenal don’t have any real wide players.  The only two that could be argued as such are Walcott (who claims to be a striker) and Oxlade-Chamberlain (who often plays in the middle).  The only other player that I can see that is a wide man is Ryo Miyaichi who has never played a Premier League game for Arsenal (2 League Cup appearances) and is likely to be loaned out again.

Theo Walcott is an odd player, because he has something but I’m not sure what he has is actually very good, to me he doesn’t seem like a starter.  He seems like he is the perfect sub player, the problem here however is that he is one of Arsenal’s most important and best players.  There is no doubt he is incredibly quick, and he can score from amazingly tight angles.  However Walcott doesn’t have a footballer’s brain; he often struggles to see passes, he doesn’t have the technique required to deliver high quality crosses and when you expect him to score often he doesn’t.  He looks like a track star that plays football.  Chamberlain looks like a really good young player, but for some reason he struggles to start for Arsenal.  It does seem odd (because Arsenal lack wide men) that he doesn’t start more often, but he picked up a bad injury in the game against Villa and could be out for 3 months, which would be a major blow for Arsenal.

This is surely a major problem for Wenger because often against the smaller teams Arsenal struggle to break them down because there is a lack of space, and without width this will allow teams to become even narrower against them.  I know that Arsenal are a team that likes to play through the middle, but as Man City found out last season, sometimes you need a bit of width to change a game and to give you something different..

Again if I were Wenger I would be looking to sign two wingers before the transfer window closes.  Hatem Ben Arfa is an excellent player who for some reason finds himself at Newcastle (I believe he had attitude problems), I am sure he would jump at a chance to go to Arsenal.  He is a talent and has bags of technique and skills that Arsenal is sorely missing.  Georgino Wijnaldum is a 22 year old Dutch internationalist that is ready to take that step up to the next level.  He has played for both PSV and Feyenord and is an exciting and electric winger who loves to dribble the ball.  Both players would add a little bit of electricity to Arsenal and give them the width they are sorely lacking.

 

Central Midfield.

Arsenal have lots of central midfielders, the problem is that they don’t have enough quality central midfielders.  Tomas Rosicky has never quite hit the heights that Wenger would have hoped when he signed him; also is it me or does Rosicky only seem to turn it on when his contract is running out?  Mikel Arteta is a good solid player who I like, but he should be a squad player not the main cog in your central midfield.  Jack Wilshere is over rated (yes I said it!), he hasn’t shown nearly enough to be considered as highly as he is.  There are also major concerns over his attitude (he’s a wee chav) and his body is made out of glass.  If he could stay fit and develop his game he could be a very good player, but at this rate he is destined to be a major disappointment.  Aaron Ramsey has never been able to fulfil the potential he showed at Cardiff, and really is a very ordinary player, reminding me of a less talented Arteta.  Santi Cazorla is the diamond in a team that is struggling for pure quality, he is it and I am surprised that a bigger club didn’t come in for him in the summer because he showed last season that he is better than where Arsenal currently are (sorry Arsenal fans).  Frimpong (33 appearances in 3 seasons) and Diaby (40 games in 3 seasons) are identical to each other because they cannot be relied upon to stay fit.

There isn’t an issue of depth at central midfield at Arsenal, there is however a major issue of quality.  The only players worth keeping in this group are Cazorla, Wilshere and Arteta; that would be Cazorla and Wilshere to start and Arteta as a solid squad player.  Essentially Arsenal need a holding midfielder, a centre midfielder and an attacking midfielder to create enough all round depth.

There are lots of players available for Wenger to sign here; Geoffrey Kondogbia looks like he may be the next big thing for French football.  He has already been capped by the French national side and played an important role in the Sevilla team last season, all at the ripe age of 20.  He would give Arsenal some height and toughness that they are sorely lacking in their midfield.  Kondogbia has stated that he would like to move to the Premier League, Arsenal should be in for him.  Yohan Cabaye is already an established star in the Premier League and has been linked with Arsenal already.  He has got everything you want from a central midfielder; he can pass, tackle, score, take set pieces and has a rocket of a shot.  He would be a great compliment to Jack Wilshere and would help push him to improve as a player.  Finally if I were Wenger I would look at bringing in Fellaini from Everton; much like Cabaye he is a proven Premier League player, and much like Kondogbia he has that toughness and height that Arsenal are sorely lacking.  Fellaini can blow a bit hot and cold, but when he is hot he is almost unstoppable and he is ready to take that step up.

 

Striker

Arsenal don’t have enough strikers, it is as simple as that.  Olivier Giroud is their main striker currently and if that doesn’t start warning lights I don’t know what does.  He just hasn’t been able to recreate his form that he had in Ligue 1, and who knows if he ever will; currently he doesn’t look quick enough or prolific enough to be a successful striker in the Premier League.  Lukas Podolski I like, but clearly he has attitude problems and he and Wenger rub each other the wrong way, which is a shame for Podolski and for the league because he is an excellent player when he tries.  However as was shown when he was at Bayern, he doesn’t try enough.  Yaya Sanogo (only signing so far) I have never seen play but I know he is good in Football Manager, so that must mean something….  The less said about Nicklas Bendtner the better.

They need 2 strikers, but could maybe get away with just signing the one.  Arsenal need someone who can score around 20+ goals a season, currently they don’t have that and much like Tottenham (pre-Soldado) it is holding them back.

If I were Wenger I would be going out to sign Benteke, the guy is an absolute beast.  He has everything; he is fast, good in the air, strong, has a great shot and is prolific in front of the net.  Much like many of the other players that I think Wenger should be trying to sign Benteke would give Arsenal the nastiness and height that they are sorely lacking at the current moment.  The other player I think Wenger should go for is Burak Yilmaz.  I have seen him play several times for Galatasaray in the Champions League and he is very prolific in front of goal (32 goals in 39 appearances last year).  He has never played outside of Turkey though, and could well be another Giroud but it is surely worth a shot for a player who could potentially be a 20+ a season player.

 

Conclusion

If Wenger were to go out and buy all the players that I think he should then he would have to make 10 signings which is never going to happen.  This is however a best case scenario, if Arsenal were able to fix every single position and problem they have.  It isn’t surprising that Arsenal have so many holes in their squad, because Wenger has allowed the squad to deteriorate over the past 5 years.

If I were to pick the 5 signings that I think that Arsenal should make over the others I would say Benteke, Kondogbia, Ben Arfa, Williams and Richards should be the main priorities.

It is interesting to note that very little of the squad is made up of Arsenal academy players.  What happened to Arsenal’s acclaimed youth system?  Only Szczesny, Wilshere and Gibbs are academy products, which isn’t great and there doesn’t seem to be much coming through in the future.

As things stand it looks like it will be a long season for Arsenal fans, as they look at the increasingly likely chances of their arch rivals Spurs finishing above them in the league.  The only way this won’t happen is if Arsenal go out and make a number of quality signings to address the weaknesses in their squad.

 

 

So let me know what you think about the current Arsenal transfer dealings, or rather lack of them.  What players do you think that Arsenal should be trying to sign in the last week and a half of the transfer window?  It would be good to hear from Arsenal fans on how they see the situation and their feelings on the current squad and Arsene Wenger.  All comments are welcome.

The Premier League Season Preview.

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For weeks I have been putting writing this off because I was waiting for the big transfers to go through (Rooney, Bale and Suarez) as it would naturally affect how I wrote this preview.  Here we are sitting a night before the season starts and not even one of them has moved (gutted).  Something almost unthinkable a fortnight ago has surprisingly happened as all three players are still at their respective clubs.  Funnily enough at the current moment it looks like Bale is still going, Suarez is staying and Rooney may be staying (although I personally doubt it).

This year is building up to be the most exciting Premier League season ever, with three out of three of the top clubs bringing in new managers, ultimately giving the league a large amount of uncertainty which is usually doesn’t have (especially on the Man Utd side).  There isn’t only an amount of uncertainty at the top, there is also a large amount of uncertainty at the bottom with what seems like a large number of teams who are too good to go down.

Premier League Champions

Manchester United

The current Premier League champions walked the league last year, winning it by a massive 11 points which in reality could have been around 20 if Utd hadn’t stopped playing after they were certainties for the title.

This is the first ever Premier League season where Utd will start a season without Alex Ferguson in the dugout, and that is where the biggest question mark about their ability to retain their title comes from.  David Moyes has his first season at one of the biggest clubs in the world and he has never won a major title.  Is this an issue?  To an extent yes, because you can have really talented people who are unable to win regardless of how hard they try.  Winning is not something you are born with, winning is something you learn; and as a manager Moyes has won nothing.  I however think that these fears are over exaggerated; people say things like ‘he should have at least have won an FA Cup in all his time at Everton’, but when you look at it only Wigan and Portsmouth (both of whom got relegated soon after ironically) have actually won the FA Cup out with the big teams (Utd, City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea) since 1995 when Everton won it.  I think the concerns over Moyes are exaggerated because he is undoubtedly a talented manager (look at what he did at Everton) and he is walking into a squad that knows how to win.

The other major concern that Utd are suffering from is that of Wayne Rooney.  The Rooney saga has ran and ran, and became the distraction that Utd haven’t really wanted.  I have wrote about it previously and most of the views are still relevant.  I really don’t think Rooney will see the end of the transfer window at Utd, and the perfect time for Utd to sell him would be after the Chelsea game.

When you look at the current Utd squad it is almost identical to the squad that walked the league last year; the natural concern if you are a Utd fan however is the lack of movement in the transfer market.  There is a massive hole in the Utd midfield next to Michael Carrick and Utd have not filled it despite their numerous attempts.  Outside of central midfield Utd are looking good, with a good young goalkeeper, a strong well depthed defence, good young wingers (Januzaj, Lingard and Zaha all look to have great potential) and with Rooney the best strike force in the league.

Utd are one big signing away from being the league favourite and retaining their title.  Whether that be a Ozil, a Ronaldo, a Modric, a Fabregas or even a Fellaini, that is all that would be required for Utd to win their 21st league title.

 

Manchester City

After what was a truly awful defence of their title, Man City are back with a new manager and a new outlook on life.  The best move City made this summer was to get rid of Mancini and bring in Pellegrini.  Pellegrini brings the calmness and tactical intelligence that Mancini never had and he should be able to take City to that next level.  I do find it interesting that nobody is talking about how Pellegrini hasn’t won anything, when everyone goes on about it all the time with Moyes; but much like Moyes I don’t think this is a big issue, because Pellegrini is a talented manager and unlike Mancini (who always got an easy ride from the press) seems like a genuinely nice guy.

City has been very busy in the transfer market; but the area that I think they did the best in was getting rid of the problem makers.  Not only did Mancini leave, Tevez also left (a man who should never have played another game for the club, if the club had any respect for itself), Maicon was sold (always looked overweight) and Kolo Toure (also looked over weight and seemed to cause problems behind the scene).  This is the biggest issue that City still have with the squad, they have a lot of big names and players on high wages that aren’t considered first team; this is fine but when you are half way through the season and these players aren’t happy they cause locker room disharmony and there is nothing worse for morale than this.  The players I refer to are Nasri, Dzeko, Kolarov, Lescott, Pantilimon and to a lesser extent Barry and Richards.  All excluding Barry and Richards have previously shown their displeasure at their position at the club and this will be further heightened because it is a World Cup year, and no player will want to play second fiddle when they believe they have a chance of playing in Brazil.

City have been by far the busiest of all the Premier League teams in the transfer market, spending around £90 million.  With that they have bought Fernandinho (a player who I struggle to comment on because I have never seen him play, but he is 28, has played most of his career in Ukraine and has managed only 5 caps for Brazil; doesn’t sound like a £35 million player to me), Jesus Navas (who I think is a good player and for £15 million seems like a bargain; but he has in the past suffered from serious homesickness and Manchester is no Seville, he is very slight and can only play on one side (without a left foot), he does however offer City the width they were seriously lacking last year), Stevan Jovetic (a bit over rated but a good enough young player who will be reasonably happy to sit and play more of a squad role) and Alvaro Negredo (who is never worth £25 million and feels like a carbon copy of Dzeko, odd signing).

 

Chelsea

The big news this year at Chelsea was the return of Jose Mourinho to the club, in a ‘I wanted the Man Utd job but I settled for you because they didn’t want me and I couldn’t get another job cause I have upset too many people’ and a ‘I wanted Pep Guardiola but didn’t get him and was left with no option but you because I didn’t want to have to keep Rafa Benitez’.

Chelsea are by far the most over rated team in the league.  Could someone explain to me how the signing of Andre Schurlle and the comeback of Mourinho has made Chelsea so many peoples favourite for the league?  They shouldn’t be favourites with their current squad, they will challenge to an extent but by the end of the season they won’t be there.  It isn’t that Chelsea don’t have an ok squad, but for the top that is all they have, an ok squad.  Cech is past his best, there are major defensive questions which are being ignored (poor centre back [Terry is past it, Luiz can’t defend and Cahill isn’t good] and Cole hasn’t been good for about 4 years), they only have one good wide player (Schurlle) which isn’t ideal for a manager that likes to play width, there are no good holding midfielders which is useless for a manager that must play holding midfielders and they have a total lack of strikers (Torres has been guff for years, Ba has shown that he isn’t good enough for this level and Lukaku couldn’t play regularly for WBA last year [although he does have potential]).  The one area that Chelsea do have an abundance of players is in midfield, to the extent that they probably have the best midfielders in the league.  This however shouldn’t make them favourites because the rest of their squad is rotten.

As far as the Rooney thing goes, maybe I am wrong but it very much seems like Chelsea may be getting themselves into another Fernando Torres situation (overpaying for a player past his best).  Until (or if) he moves you can’t really tell if it was a mistake, but even if Rooney were to go to Chelsea it would not be enough to propel Chelsea beyond Utd or City.

 

Overall

It saddens me to say it but as things stand Man City look like they will win the league.  As I have already said, if Utd make that marquee signing then my opinion on who will win the league will change, but as it stands I think City are deservedly favourites because of the signings they have made, the players they have sold and the manager they now have.  Chelsea would have to sign Rooney, Ronaldo and Jesus to even be considered in my opinion.

 

Champions League Place

Arsenal

Could Arsenal have had a more embarrassing transfer window than this?  It seems every year I ask the exact same question.  You know you are doing something wrong when a Brazil international who is desperate for first team football for the World Cup would rather play for a mid-table German side than a Champions League playing one.

Every year Arsenal uses the same line that there is lots of money to spend, but it never actually gets spent; which I know in talking to Arsenal fans is a constant frustration.  Instead Arsenal partakes in the farce that is their pursuit of Luis Suarez.  I find it hard to believe that Arsenal would want a player who has been banned for racism and biting on several occasions, he doesn’t seem to fit the Wenger prototype of a player.  It is sad but it wouldn’t shock me if they actually had no real interest in Suarez but put the bid in because it was public and would make their fans think they were actually doing something.

The biggest mistake which Arsenal made in the transfer market was not firing Arsene Wenger.  What is happening at Arsenal this year (and the last few years also) is why Arsenal need new blood.  When did it become ok for a club the size of Arsenal to finish fourth and that to be considered an achievement?

 

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs’ challenge for 4th depends on one big thing, whether or not Gareth Bale is going to be playing at White Hart Lane this season.  Spurs have done very well in the transfer market this year adding players to strengthen their squad (Soldado, Paulinho, Chadli and Capoue), and all these players have made Spurs a better team, however it all won’t matter if Bale is not there.

Spurs look very strong in midfield, they have a good keeper and if neither Defoe nor Adebayor leaves they have a good strike force.  What I really don’t understand is why AVB has totally ignored the defensive frailties that Spurs suffered so greatly from last year.  To make it even worse, Spurs then sold Caulker to Cardiff in a total bone head move.

 

Overall

If Spurs keep Bale (which I doubt they will) then they will walk to 4th and possibly even challenge higher up.  However if Bale were to leave then it would be a very tight contest which I think Arsenal would just edge.

 

Top Half Finish

Everton

The big change this year for Everton is that no longer will David Moyes be sitting in the dugout; instead they will have the very talented Roberto Martinez.  Everton are interesting because with Martinez there is a great deal of uncertainty.  Will they continue to push into those European places?  Or will they slip down the table under new management?  It is hard to say, because Martinez worked wonders at Wigan (winning the FA Cup, yes the FA Cup) but he also got them relegated with exciting football which lacked in defending.  It will be interesting to see what Martinez can do with a group of much better players, but a lot of this will depend on whether or not he can hold onto his two best players (Fellaini and Baines), either way Everton will finish in the top half.

 

Liverpool

The once great giants of the game have taken another step towards the unknown under Brendan Rodgers this year.  There are so many problems at Liverpool and they are at every level as well; the board has constant infighting and at times doesn’t seem to know what they are doing, the management seem to be headless chickens often unable to handle the easiest of situations (Rodgers seems very much out of his depth) and they have a squad who isn’t fit to wear the shirt.  Unluckily for the Liverpool fans things this pre-season haven’t changed at all, as the club has handled the Suarez situation atrociously.  Have Liverpool fallen so far that a player who slags the team, the players and the fans off so blatantly still cannot be sold?  The answer is yes, and it continues the fall of a once mammoth of the game of football.

 

West Bromwich Albion

West Brom did well last season but tailed off towards the end of the season, I expect them to do much the same this year.  They have a good squad with plenty of depth and a good first team.  They haven’t lost anyone except for Lukaku (who wasn’t first team anyway) and have improved the squad slightly, although I would question the Anelka signing.  It looks like Steve Clarke (good manager) will lead WBA to another strong season.

 

Swansea City

Swansea finished 9th last year, and it felt like they played so much better than that.  Another season into his role as manager, Michael Laudrup has made Swansea a much better squad again.  The signings of Jonjo Shelvey (why did Liverpool sell him?) and especially Wilfred Bony have made Swansea a team which could potentially push for 6th in the league.  With Bony and Michu up front, Swansea could potentially have the most lethal strike force in the league, this combined with a good midfield and a solid defence make me believe that the League Cup holders are heading for another good season.

 

West Ham United

A team that plays a good old fashioned British style and make it work very well for themselves.  Nobody wants to play at Upton Park, the atmosphere is excellent and West Ham play a physical game and Big Sam has helped create a fortress.  Big Sam has also done well in the transfer window raiding Liverpool for their cast offs; adding Downing and Carroll, two players who will fit in at West Ham very well and make the team better.  I expect West Ham to build on their successful season last year with another strong showing.

 

Fulham

Fulham should have finished higher than 12th last season, but somehow found themselves in the relegation mix with 5 games to go.  Fulham took their foot off the pedal (like so many teams do) and paid the price.  Fulham have however bettered themselves through the transfer market with excellent signings such as Maarten Stekelenburg, Adel Taraabt and Darren Bent.  Fulham shouldn’t be threatened by relegation and if they play the whole season should push for a top half finish.

 

Mid-Table

Norwich City

I thought Norwich was a certainty to go down last year and they proved me wrong.  This year I think that with the signings they have made once again they are heading for a mid-table finish.  They don’t have the best squad, but they have cleared out a lot of the deadwood this year and replaced it with good quality signings like Van Wolfswinkel, Hooper and Garrido.  Norwich currently look like they are establishing themselves as a Premier League mainstay.

 

Aston Villa

Villa flirted with relegation all of last season and that experience will stand them in good stead for this season.  Villa has a good young team and by retaining Benteke as well as adding others to the squad they will have improved greatly.  Lambert is a talented young manager and given time I am sure he will be able to take Villa back to the top half of the table where they belong.

 

Newcastle United

The biggest anomaly of the season is what is happening at Newcastle United?  They have a squad that is comparable to Everton and Liverpool, yet you get the feeling that because of how poorly the club is run and the whole Joe Kinnear thing that they will struggle again this year.  I doubt Alan Pardew will see the end of the season, and sadly for Newcastle fans everywhere it seems his most likely replacement is Joe Kinnear, and if that is the case then relegation is a possibility.

 

Cardiff City

Of the promoted teams Cardiff City are the ones who are built most ready for a successful first season of Premier League football.  They won the Championship fairly easily last year, and have a very solid squad.  The squad has only been improved by the signings of Steven Caulker (why did Spurs sell him?) and Gary Medel (bit nuts but a good player).  I think that Cardiff will take the momentum that they gained from winning the Championship and take it into a solid first season in the Premier League.  Look out for the first Welsh derby in the Premier League, could be very tense.

Relegation

Stoke City

I think Stoke are going to really struggle this year.  Tony Pulis has left after a long spell in charge and although he spent a lot of money, he never actually created a very good squad.  Mark Hughes isn’t what I’d describe as a good manager either and has struggled in the past to maximise a large squad to its full potential.  It is made worse by the fact that Stoke haven’t really signed anyone of notable extent.  It is going to be a long season for Stoke, one which I believe will end in relegation.

 

Southampton

Southampton had a good first year in the Premier League, but often the second year is the hardest.  Mauricio Pauchettino replaced Nigel Adkins during last season and made a very good initial impact, however the team dropped off towards the end of the year and it will be interesting to see how well they cope with higher expectations this year.  One of the best signings of the transfer window so far was Southampton’s signing of Victor Wanyama from Celtic.  Wanyama was a beast for Celtic last year and probably should have been signing for a top of the table side; a steal for Southampton.

 

Sunderland

I don’t know what they are drinking up in the north east, but something isn’t right.  Paolo Di Canio is what I would kindly describe as someone who is unstable; it seems that he falls out with a player every fortnight and has some of the oddest rules in football.  As a player I imagine that it is awful to play under Di Canio, because he is very incessant.  He has a good squad and much like Newcastle they should be a top half team, but they are lacking in strikers and are consistent under achievers.  Expect another long season if you are a Sunderland fan.

 

Hull City (or whatever they are getting called now)

Not a great team, were incredibly lucky to be promoted in front of Watford last season.  Hull have signed a lot of new players and released a whole bunch of others; there will be large growing pains for Hull this season and the worst thing that could happen for them is a slow start.  This is not a Premier League squad; expect to see Hull back in the Championship next year.

 

Crystal Palace

I’m not quite sure how Crystal Palace was able to win the play-offs, considering they were the 4th best team in them.  This is a team that should never have been promoted to the Premier League and then on top of that have lost by far their best player in the transfer window.  Palace has by far the worst squad in the league and I think it will show early on.  If Hull are going back down this season, then Crystal Palace will be there before them.  19th would be an achievement.

 

Conclusion

Currently I am leaning towards City winning the league, but all it would take is a couple of transfers and I could have a different opinion on the matter.  Spurs will take 4th if they keep Bale.  Palace and Hull will be relegated and then it will be a tight fight for 3rd bottom and I am thinking that Stoke will be filling that place.

1st –Man City

2nd –Man Utd

3rd -Chelsea

4th -Spurs

5th -Arsenal

6th -Everton

7th -Swansea

8th– Liverpool

9th -WBA

10th –West Ham

11th -Fulham

12th -Newcastle

13th –Villa

14th -Cardiff

15th -Norwich

16th– Southampton

17th -Sunderland

18th -Stoke

19th -Hull

20th –Palace

 

Naturally I wouldn’t be shocked if the teams in the middle of the table all interchanged with each other.  I think it will be a Manchester 1-2, and the champions will depend on how Utd finish the transfer window.  Spurs should take 4th with their current squad but without Bale Arsenal are the favourites.  I don’t see Hull or Palace having a chance, with both struggling heavily.  The 3rd relegation place is much harder to predict but I feel that Stoke are currently the team that look the most likely to go down.

 

 

So let me know what you think about the Premier League season and how you think it will go.  Send me your opinions on who the champions, European and relegation teams will be.  All comments are welcome, and let’s hope for an exciting season.

England vs Scotland The Review.

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So the friendly that is not really a friendly has ended and it is the home team who are taking away the bragging rights from the first Scotland-England in 14 years.  The final score was 3-2 with goals from Walcott, Welbeck and Lambert for England and goals from Morrison and Miller for Scotland.

As far as the game went I think that 3-2 was a fair reflection on how the game played out.  If I was to break it into sectors, I would say that Scotland controlled the first 25 minutes, England had the better of the next 20 minutes taking us up to half time.  The second half was much more level and both sides played well for the first 25 minutes, and England absolutely battered Scotland in the last 20 minutes.  In all honestly Scotland were the better team and deserved to be leading before Lambert scored, but after Lambert scored Scotland seemed to lose all their rhythm and by the end of the game England were deserved winners.

I’ll break it down into analysis from a Scottish stand point and then an English stand point, before rapping it up overall.

 

Scotland

To be honest if you had offered Scotland that they would take the lead twice in the match, I am sure they would have taken it and hoped they won.  They did take the lead twice but still managed to lose 3-2, but in doing so showed a lot of promise for the future. 

What is interesting for Scotland is that since Strachan has become the manager there has been a clear and obvious change in mentality and in playing style.  No longer are Scotland booting the ball from back to front and hoping for the best, instead Scotland are playing a nice passing game and at many times (especially in the first half) totally out passed England.

When you look at the goals Scotland conceded, it really is very disappointing.  The first goal was scored when Hanley was off the pitch receiving treatment for a cut, and the area of the pitch he occupied was cleverly exploited by Walcott’s pace and Cleverley’s excellent pass.  The second goal was just a bit of a mess; I wouldn’t describe Welbeck as a prolific headerer but somehow he managed to pull off of both Hanley and Martin (both of whom are taller) to fire a header into the bottom corner which McGregor probably should have saved.  The third goal was in many ways similar to the second; Lambert’s movement to get off of Brown is very good, but you have to wonder why both Martin and Hanley crash the front post and why neither of them was marking Lambert who is surely a bigger threat to score than a centre back.  The three goals weren’t scored against Scotland with 11 men in open play, which is in many ways a very nice accomplishment.  However Strachan will be disappointed that Scotland lost two goals to set pieces, an area before the game I am sure Strachan believed to be a strength, instead of a weakness.

As far as the players go:

McGregor was solid but poor on the second goal.

Hutton seemed to have a good game and made a number of last ditch tackles and blocks, bur was non effectual going forward.

Whittaker is a player I couldn’t believe got called up never mind started and played the whole game.  Was poor for the 1st goal and added little going forward.

Hanley was poor for the 2nd goal but in open play had an excellent game with many blocks and last ditch tackles.  Was missed for the 1st goal as England exploited his gap.

Martin was poor on the last 2 goals, but played very well in open play with lots of blocks and tackles.

Snodgrass showed signs of life at times but disappeared at many times as well.

Morrison was excellent in the middle and did very well for the first goal.

Brown had a very quiet game and for me was at fault for the 1st goal because he didn’t help Whittaker track Walcott’s run and left a massive gap in defence.  He also allowed Lambert to get away from him on the 3rd goal.  Not a great night for one of Scotland’s more experienced players.

Forrest had little to no impact and sadly only about twice went on a mazy run and both times ended in fouls.

Maloney also had very little impact on the game, although showed touches of nice passes.

Miller played well (for Kenny Miller that is) and scored a very good 2nd goal (even if it did seem to be handled).

All the subs did pretty much nothing and had very little effect on the game whatsoever, which is disappointing when Scotland needed a jolt when they went 3-2 down and none of these guys could step it up.

When you look at the individual performances it is interesting to note that although England didn’t play well, Scotland also didn’t play well.  Scotland played better (for Scotland) than England (for England) did, and that is noteworthy because both sides were in a similar position in terms of fitness.

 

England

First and foremost England wanted to win; anything but a win would have been an embarrassment.  Luckily for England they accomplished their win, regardless of how unconvincing it was.  There are a lot of question marks over the performance that England put in against Scotland and it puts further doubts over where the squad is going.

As far as the players go:

Well what can I say about Joe Hart?  Absolute stinker?  Terrible?  One of the worst attempts at a save I have ever seen from a professional footballer?  The answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes.  Hart had nothing to do and still managed to basically throw the ball into his net once and pick it out the back of the net again later (his positioning wasn’t great for the goal either).  Surely there has to be questions and competition for the England number 1, because Hart recently just hasn’t been doing it.

Walker had a poor game and never really got forward like you would expect and managed to get skinned a number of times.  Should have been sent off for a second bookable offence on an off the ball tackle on Snodgrass (who knows how the game would’ve went then, 2-2 at the time).

Baines was poor in the first 60 minutes but came to life and took the game by the scruff of the neck to finish the game, becoming very deadly down the left.  Assist on the 3rd goal.

Cahill and Jagielka were bossed around by Kenny Miller which is a mean feat indeed, very embarrassing.  Cahill didn’t look great for the 2nd goal.  Surely major questions over the centre of England’s defence.

Cleverley showed some great passing ability and is probably the future at centre midfield for England along with Wilshere.  Set up the 1st goal but wasted two very good opportunities to score himself.

Wilshere was an odd one, he is so over-rated that unless he plays amazing you think he played poorly; and he did play poorly because his passing wasn’t crisp and he clearly isn’t fit (getting hooked at half time).  You wonder if Wilshere will ever overcome these injury problems or ever truly realise his potential, it seems so long ago that he broke through into the England squad yet has only achieved 8 caps.

Gerrard has lost a step, and you could really tell in this game.  His time as being the engine room of the English midfield is over, his role should be given over to a younger player who can actually do the work for 90 minutes.  One thing that Gerrard has not lost is his passing ability and his assist for the 2nd goal was a classic precision ball from Gerrard.

Walcott did what Walcott does, he ran into open space and caused problems.  His run for the ball was very nice and perfectly timed; he did well on the finish.  He was giving Whittaker problems all night (which isn’t very hard); however Walcott has a tendency to bounce in and out of matches and this match was no different.

Rooney looked like a man that hadn’t played for several months, and that is exactly what he is.  At no point did Rooney look threatening to the Scottish backline (by far the weakest part of the Scotland team), in fact England looked much better when Rooney went off and Lambert came on.  He looked unfit and a bit overweight and didn’t really deserve his starting role up front, but it does tell you a lot about England’s limited options.

Welbeck was the man of the match; the boy just didn’t stop running and unlike Rooney was a threat to the Scotland back line all night.  The biggest complaint about Welbeck is he doesn’t score enough, however his scoring record for England is very good and he added to his tally with the 2nd goal.

The English subs fared a lot better than the Scottish subs, with good performances from Zaha and Jones.  However a special mention goes out to Rickie Lambert who I didn’t think would make it onto the pitch never mind score.  He scored with almost his first touch and should have scored two more before the game was over.  His performance shows what picking form over a name (Lambert over Rooney) can do to the team, because there is no doubt (maybe it is coincidental) that when Lambert came on it changed the game, and in 23 minutes Lambert did so much more than Rooney did in 67 minutes.

 

Overall

I enjoyed the match, I thought for a friendly it was a very intense and exciting game and was actually very enjoyable.  Naturally I am not happy about the result (I am Scottish) but I thought Scotland (although not at their best) put in a very respectable performance.  I felt that both teams had almost their full team’s outs (with Scotland missing bigger players than England) and it made for a very good competition.

On the counter to Scotland I thought that England were very poor; I know the season hasn’t started yet but the players looked very unsharp.  England should qualify for Brazil, but by no means is it a guarantee.  With one game away from home against Ukraine (which will be tough) and three home games (against Moldova, Poland and Montenegro) it isn’t an easy stretch.  It is made even worse when you consider Ukraine have to play San Marino twice and then England and Poland at home.  Montenegro also has a home game against Moldova and away games against England and Poland.  It is by no means a guarantee that England will go through and will need to both get a result in Ukraine, as well as to win all three home games otherwise they won’t be making the trip to Brazil.  I imagine that the most likely route will be through the play-offs, with Ukraine winning the group.

In comparison Scotland should be looking at concentrating on Euro 2016 and getting the ranking up.  Old players like Kenny Miller should stop being called up and younger players (the future) such as Johnny Russell, Gary Mackay-Steven and James Forrest should be getting more chances to shine.  By no means do Scotland have easy competitive games left in their group but after a win away to Croatia (4th best team in the world……really?) and a good performance against England anything is possible under Strachan.

Personally I loved the comeback of the England-Scotland rivalry, and would love to see a match played every two years (alternating between Scotland and England, similar to Ryder Cup) when there are no major competitions on (odd years).  Surely it won’t be another 14 years before football’s oldest rivalry is renewed, or I certainly hope it won’t be.

 

 

So what did you guys think of the match?  Did you enjoy the renewal of the rivalry?  What did you think of the performance of England and what their chances are for qualifying to Brazil?  What did you think of the rejuvenated Scotland team under Gordon Strachan?  All comments are welcome and I’d love to hear from both sides.  Thanks.

The 2013 PGA Championship Review.

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The 2013 PGA Championship is over and the champion is first time major winner Jason Dufner.  With a final round worthy of any major champion, Dufner took the PGA finishing on -10, 2 shots clear of Jim Furyk.

Dufner played perfect golf all week (with the exception of the 3rd round, and even it was ok), even breaking the course record with an impressive 63 which could have been much better if not for a few missed putts.

 

Jason Dufner

Before the start of the tournament I tipped Dufner as my top value pick (and personally bet him as well) saying:

Dufner has the ability to go out and play aggressive golf and score very well.  I said it at the Open and I’ll say it again here, if Dufner can put himself within around 4 or 5 shots on the last day he could very well shoot himself to the trophy.

and at the half way point:

it wouldn’t surprise me if the winning score at the end of Sunday was higher than -10

and before the last round:

if I were to go out on a limb and choose one I think it is most likely going to be Dufner

So not bad overall for my predictions

Dufner was imperious throughout the week, and I felt that if he was able to go out today and shoot a couple under he would be the winner.  He kindly obliged and played an incredible 16 holes, before cramping up a touch with two holes to go and bogeying each of them.  However when he bogeyed those holes, he knew that he had the shots to spare and could afford to take those bogey’s.

As I have already shown, I really liked Dufner at the start of the tournament and he delivered as only he can, with a calm and composed performance.  Dufner’s iron play, driving and putting were all fantastic over the whole week.  His only weakness this week was his short putting and even some of the dodgy ones still dropped.  Dufner’s play was fantastic, and his 63 on Friday was just sublime. He very much is a deserving PGA champion and I congratulate him on it.

 

Jim Furyk

I said this about Furyk after the 3rd round:

Furyk Is currently sitting on-9 and I am positive (hope this doesn’t come back and bite me on the ass) that he will not win this

Well I took a risk and got one right, which always feels nice.  I just didn’t see Furyk being able to do anything and he accommodated me and managed to throw away any chance he had of winning.

Furyk was within 2 of Dufner with two holes to play and still managed to finish bogey bogey, making what Dufner did over the last two holes irrelevant.  It is made all the worse by the fact that Dufner also went bogey bogey, meaning that if Furyk had went par par, he would have forced a play-off.  Now maybe Dufner doesn’t make two bogies if he knows he can’t but Furyk didn’t ask the question, and that is criminal.  He bottled it and at his age he isn’t going to receive many more chances to win another major.

 

Henrik Stenson

An odd tournament for Stenson who once again had a good showing without ever really challenging.  That is the thing about Stenson, he finished 2nd at the Open but never looked like winning it, and he followed that up with a 3rd in the PGA but never looked like winning it.  It isn’t that he played poorly in the last round (he played ok), it is more that he never stepped it up a level.  At one point he got within two and looked like he may make a push, but never got any closer.

I doubt it would have mattered what Stenson did, because Dufner went out and won the tournament and Stenson would have needed at worst a 67 to force a play-off.  Still a good result for Stenson once again in his comeback to the top of world golf.

 

Jonas Blixt & Scott Piercy

Both guys will be ecstatic with their performance in the PGA.  Blixt never shot a round over par, which is an incredible achievement when you consider that this is only his 2nd major championship.  I didn’t expect anything of Blixt on Sunday and was pleasantly surprised that he was able to maintain his position in the field, finishing a nice 4th.

Scott Piercy shot the round of the day and came from out of nowhere to finish T-5th.  I’m sure Piercy was more than pleased with his excellent final round, and although he never had a chance to win the title he will go home pleased with his overall performance.

 

Adam Scott

I didn’t like Scott’s chances all week, because as I keep saying it is very rare for someone to win their first major and then win one of the next three in their next attempt (with the last 4 being O’Meara, Seve, Jacklin and Nicklaus).  I also think that although he finally won a well-deserved major at the Masters, there are still serious questions about his bottle.

The reason for this is that if you look at his last round at this year’s Open and this year’s PGA, you see Scott up the top of the leader board going into the last day.  Yet at the end of the day he isn’t lifting the trophy above his head.  Maybe it is harsh, but when you look at it in both tournaments he had a chance to win (especially the Open) and in both tournaments he didn’t show up on the last day.  I think Scott is a very good golfer and he will win another major one day, but I think there are still serious questions about his bottle.  He should have been able to put in a challenge of some kind on Sunday but didn’t and shot 5 bogeys instead in a level par round.

 

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy flattered to deceive in his defence of his PGA title, and although he managed to finish T-8th, the final position was more flattering than his play deserved.  At no point did McIlroy look like he was actually challenging and was very sloppy with his play the whole week.  He clearly is still struggling with his new clubs and it has definitely had an adverse effect on his game  Maybe my comments are harsh but you expect more from McIlroy.

 

Tiger Woods

Why am I including a player that didn’t even compete in anyway throughout the week in my review?  Well I thought that Woods was going to win (and win comfortably) and he went out and played some really poor golf.  In the end Woods finished +4 and in T-40th, not quite what you’d expect from the best player in the world.  It is incredible that this is the same player who ripped the field to bits at Firestone.  Everything was off for Woods, his putting over the first two days was awful and his driving over the last two days killed any slight hope he may have had.  Overall Woods’ performance at the PGA was incredibly disappointing and will only add fuel to the fire of the haters who say he will never win a major again.

 

My Tips

Pre-tournament I made 5 tips for the Open Championship and recommended betting each way.  They were Jason Dufner (1st) who won (yay me), Zach Johnson (T-8th) never really challenged but played the golf I expected him to, Francesco Molinari (T-33rd) thought he would have done better, Paul Lawrie and Branden Grace (MC) they were outside bets but thought they would at least make the cut.

After the 2nd round I made another three picks based on the half way odds.  They were Steve Stricker (T-12th) who had a poor final round taking him out of contention, Martin Kaymer (T-33rd) a 78 on Saturday took him totally out of contention and Sergio Garcia (T-61st) pathetic weekend with a 75 and 76 should really be doing better with his ability after putting in two solid rounds previously.

After the 3rd round I picked a further 3 players; they were Steve Stricker again, Dustin Johnson (T-8th) shot a 69 but really needed a 65 to give himself a chance of challenging (not in the end it would have mattered) and Lee Westwood (T-33rd) who managed to putt like a 25 handicapper and shot a 76, when he also needed a 65.

Overall I had 10 picks (1 double) and didn’t really do well overall except for the fact that I tipped Dufner to win pre-tournament (the Johnson’s also did ok).  I liked Dufner from the start and thought that 40/1 were great odds for a player of the Dufman’s ability.  I thought at the halfway point he was the most likely man to win and I thought with one round to go he was the most likely man to win, and so (luckily for my bank balance) he was the winner, and a deserving one too.

 

Conclusion

I thought that the 2013 PGA Championship was another excellent week of golf and once again showed the depth and quality of players that the game of golf has.  The only major complaint I could have, was over the ridiculous crowds; why is it cool to shout and holler stupid things like ‘mashed potatoes’?  That is not golf.  Why aren’t these people being ejected?  The PGA need to get this sorted out because it is ruining the spectacle and it is also only a matter of time before someone shouts to early and puts a player off his shot and costs them the title.

I also have to complain about the way that the American crowds just cheer if the player hits the ball hard; it is really annoying if you are watching TV and you naturally think it is a good shot, only to see it land in thick rough.  Do these people not know how to follow the flight of a ball?  Or do they think the game is about hitting the ball hard and that is it?  Who knows, but it makes American crowds look stupid and that is not a good article to the rest of the world.

This year, all four majors have been excellent tournaments; and it is nice to see 4 deserving winners of the 4 majors also.  The only thing missing from this year’s majors is the comeback of Tiger Woods which everyone is waiting for.  I don’t even mean that he wins one, more so that he actually goes out and seriously challenges for one.  Golf doesn’t need Tiger Woods, but it is better with him than without him.

 

So let me know what you thought of the PGA Championship.  Do you think that Jason Dufner is a deserving winner?  Are you as disappointed in Tiger Woods as I am?  Or any other views you may have on the tournament, all comments are welcome.