The Premier League Transfer Window Review.

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The transfer window slammed shut at 11 p.m. on Monday night (sort of) and once again somehow three months of transfer activity was left to the last minute as clubs across Europe tried to get that one extra (or several in some cases) player that would take them to the next level.

I have always been of the opinion that all the clever and savvy workers of the transfer window get their work done in June (before the window opens), July and August (before the season starts).  However as I have already said, inevitably most clubs leave it to the last minute to get their transfers in (with very few exceptions).

Nothing really changes from year to year when the transfer window is about to close; inevitably Sky Sports News will big it up to be more exciting than it actually is, some idiots will jump about behind reporters and give the camera the fingers and Jim White will get super excited over very little because he has been given a pack of Haribo Tangfastics and an espresso before going on air.  It is the same formula every year and for some reason it works.

The review is going to be pretty simple; it will break down each club in the Premier League’s signings and how that will affect their league position and whether or not the club has done good business.  So let’s get started.

 

Arsenal

When Arsenal were beaten by Villa on the first day of the season almost any who watched football would tell you that Arsenal needed to spend that money they bang on about having all the time because they are being left behind.  Since then Wenger has steadied the ship and shock horror actually managed to break Arsenal pitifully low transfer purchase record (Sylvain Wiltord for £13 million in 2000 [yes teams like Sunderland had a higher transfer fee paid record than Arsenal, not that you could tell from their league positions]).

Ins:  Yaya Sanogo (free), Mathieu Flamini (free), Emiliano Viviano (Loan) & Mesut Ozil (£42.5m)

Outs:  Gervinho (£8m), Chamakh (free), Arshavin (free), others of varying insignificance.

Arsenal didn’t lose anybody of importance; all the players that either left or were sold never managed to develop into the players Wenger was hoping for.  On the flip side, Arsenal brought in Sanogo who is very much one for the future and will have a limited impact on the first team this year, Viviano is really just there to give back-up depth in nets and Flamini who wasn’t good enough for Arsenal when they were actually good but all of a sudden after five years away, he’s good enough even though he hasn’t improved as a player (after finding himself released from AC Milan because he wasn’t good enough for them either).  Flamini very much seems like the desperation signing that everyone thought Arsenal was going to be partaking in before the window closed, and that is what he is.  I’m not saying he is an awful player, but he isn’t that good.  He does give Arsenal a holding midfield type of player that is more capable of tackling than most of their other central midfielders, but he isn’t good enough to start and should very much be a stop gap type of player.

The big signing of course was Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for an Arsenal record £42.5 million, hold on did I just say that Arsenal spent lots of money all on one player?  Surely I meant to say that they got him on a free transfer or something?  No?  Wow, who saw that coming?  I certainly didn’t.  Ozil is quality (read that again, it said QUALITY) player; he is the sort of player that Arsenal have been criticised for not being able to purchase anymore.  Ozil is in his prime, is a starter for the excellent Germans and is arguably one of the best attacking midfielders in the world.  In recent years you haven’t seen superstars move from La Liga to the Premier League (usually the other way about) but in this case he has.  It is a very good signing…..but (wait for it) they overpaid for him (by at least £12.5m), don’t they have a guy called Santi Cazorla who is pretty damn good and plays the same position? (I imagine one is being played out of position, and I get the feeling it isn’t going to be the record signings [poor Santi]), he is very inconsistent (shows up in about 1 in 5 games and is unplayable in those but it happens to rarely) and I’ve heard people say that he is the best no.10 in the world but if he were the best no.10 in the world, would Real Madrid be selling him?  The answer is no, they are selling him because they believe that he is surplus to requirements and they obviously don’t think that he has developed into the player they thought they were buying all those years ago.  It sounds like I don’t like this signing, which is not the case I do; however when a club has so many holes to fill (I wrote about it here) to use a lot of that money on a position that you are actually quite strong and not fill the gaps that are more concerning (defence and up front) is papering over the cracks.

Have Arsenal improved their squad?  Yes they have, Flamini gives them more depth in midfield and Ozil is a quality player that will instantly make them a better team, I see 4th on the horizon.

 

Aston Villa

Ins:  Libor Kozak (£5m), Jores Okore (£4m), Leandro Bacune (£3m), Aleksander Tonev (£2.5m), Nicklas Jensen (£2m) & Antonio Luna (£2m)

Outs:  Nobody of significance (squad players at best) although Bent (Loan) left….yeah nobody of significance

Hm…..I don’t really think I am educated to give my opinion on any of these players because to be honest I don’t know very much about them and have never seen any of them play (outside of sparingly since they joined Villa).  I will say this however, Villa didn’t lose any of their side from last season (mainly Benteke) and it was a young side.  This season is setting up to be a marked improvement on last year, and with a number of cheap additions to the squad I expect Villa to do well in Lambert’s second year.

Have Villa improved their squad?  Yes I think they have, they have more depth and that is vital (and was a major issue last year) if they are to push on from last season.

 

Cardiff City

Ins:  Gary Medel (£9.5m), Steven Caulker (£8m), Andreas Cornelius (£7.5m), Peter Odemwingie (£2.5m), Kevin Theophile-Catherine (£2.1m) & John Brayford (£1.5m)

Outs:  Nobody of significance

Cardiff were the best equipped (in my mind) of the promoted clubs this season, and they have also had the best (of those clubs) dealings in the transfer market.  Gary Medel is surely too good for Cardiff if it weren’t for the fact that he was a total lunatic (there’s a reason he’s nicknamed pitbull).  Steven Caulker is an England international and has good potential (possibly future of centre back position with Phil Jones) and I really don’t understand why Spurs sold him in the first place.  Cornelius is only 20 but Cardiff obviously saw enough potential in him to pay £7.5m for the Danish hot prospect, and he will get plenty of chances in a Cardiff side that lacks a standout striker (sorry Fraizer).  Odemwingie is a weird one, because if you get the Odemwingie that was making standout appearances for WBA then you have signed a very good player, although then again you might get the odd Odemwingie who takes drives to London try and leave you club.  Is he worth £2.5m?  Not based on his conduct at WBA but then again I guess it is relatively low risk when you might receive a good player who is proven in the league in return.  Good window for a club that I see doing very well in their first season ever in the Premier League.

Have Cardiff improved their squad?  Obviously yes, they have added at least two first team players who are going to contribute straight away and also added some other nice pieces.

 

Chelsea

Chelsea’s biggest signing during the transfer window was Jose Mourinho who made his long awaited comeback to the team that he ‘supposedly’ loves……

Ins:   Willian (£30m), Andre Schurrle (£18m), Marco van Ginkel (£9m), Christian Atsu (£3.5m), Mark Schwarzer (free) & Samuel Eto’o (free)

Outs:  Courtois (Loan), Marin (Loan), Romeu (Loan), Atsu (Loan), Moses (Loan), Lukaku (Loan) and many others who are insignificant.

If you had broken down the Chelsea team at the end of last season, you would have commented that they had a wealth of attacking midfielders but were weak in defence and up front.  Naturally you would then assume that most of Chelsea’s transfer activity would relate to and fix those areas; well if you did then you were wrong.

First off I’d like to say that I love the signing of Mark Schwarzer, a player who is still good enough to start in the league and will make an excellent back up to Cech.  Atsu was clearly signed for the future (hence why he was sent out on loan directly after signing), van Ginkel is also one for the future but will have more of an impact on the first team.  I like the signing of Schurrle, because he gives Chelsea width (something they lack) and is also a very good player, who was an established veteran of the Bundesliga in a very good Bayer Leverkusen side.  Paying £18m for him is an absolute bargain and was a great get for Chelsea.  However that is where it ends for me in praising Chelsea’s transfer dealings (here we go, you ready for this?).

Why did Chelsea sign Willian?  A player that plays in a position that in no way did they need to fill, fix or improve depth.  Chelsea now has six players (Willian, Mata, de Bruyne, Hazard, Schurrle and Oscar) who are all vying for three positions in the starting line-up, plus they let Moses (who had a very good year last season) go on loan to Liverpool because there was too much competition.  So why in the hell did they sign Willian?  Was it just to piss off Spurs?  Because it sort of feels like it was, because he was in no way needed by Chelsea.  I think Willian is a good player (not a £30m player though) but he was a luxury in a team that still lacks so much up front (hello Man Utd game, 4-6-0 WTF?) and has serious question marks defensively.  Anyway Chelsea managed to fulfil their silly transfer dealings by signing a player that has been sitting in insignificance in Russia for the past number of years, because he would rather receive a big pay cheque than gain prestige (sounds like a nice guy).  Yes Eto’o has once again found himself at a big club (who knows why).  What does Eto’o bring to the club?  Well he brings attitude issues, dressing room disharmony and your brightest young striker being loaned out to Everton (so good for his amazing season, ay Chelsea fans).  What are the positives about Eto’o?  Well he was free…..hm……the last time he was good (Inter Milan) Mourinho was his manager, but then again that was three years ago and this is not the same player as then.  Regardless of the fact that I think this is a bad signing, if there is one manager who can get the best out of an old player that is past his best, it is Jose Mourinho, and he is going to have to hope he does because Chelsea have only three recognised strikers (Torres, Ba and Eto’o), and they all suck (good luck with that).

Have Chelsea improved their squad?  The answer is yes, but if the question was have Chelsea improved their first team?  The answer would be no because the players they have signed aren’t better than the players they already had in these positions.  They have however improved the manager, because Benitez sucks and Mourinho doesn’t.  Third all the way bayby!!!!!

 

Crystal Palace

Ins:  Lots and lots and lots and lots (aka too many for me to be bothered listing)

Outs: Wilfried Zaha, Nothing of significance

It doesn’t really matter who Palace signed because they are going to get relegated regardless of what they do (unless they signed amazing players……which they didn’t).  Gayle looks like he has potential but £6m was a steep price to pay.  Bannan is a good passer and will fit beautifully into the Palace first team, excellent passer and set piece taker (bit like a thin Charlie Adam).  Chamakh is rubbish and he will fit in well with the other Palace players because they also on the main are shit as well (for this level).  Look all you crazy Palace fans that came and gave me lots of abuse for saying you sucked, well you do suck and when you are signing players who played for Reading (the worst squad in the league last season) and they’re some of your biggest signings, you have relegation written all over yourself.

Have Palace improved their squad?  Hard to tell because they weren’t very good to begin with and they still aren’t very good; so I’d say maybe marginally but not noticeably (doesn’t help when you sell your best player, Zaha).  20th is calling and Palace is singing the tune, enjoy the Championship next year guys!

 

Everton

Ins:  James McCarthy (£13m), Arouna Kone (£6m), Joel Robles (£2m), Antolin Alcaraz (free), Gerard Deulofeu (Loan), Gareth Barry (Loan) & Romelu Lukaku (Loan)

Outs:  Marouane Fellaini (£27.5m) & Victor Anichebe (£6m)

Wow Man Utd should take note and listen to Everton on how to handle the last day of the transfer window, because they aced it.  Prior to the window closing they had signed Kone and Alcaraz from Wigan as well as Deulofeu (really hard name to spell), nothing to get excited about.  However throughout the window speculation had been rife about them losing their two best players (Baines and Fellaini) to Man Utd, and if they were to lose these two players their squad would not be anywhere near good enough.  Going into the last day of the window they stood firm over Baines (poor Baines, Utd were never going to pay £20m for a 28 year old left back regardless of how good he is) and were willing to let Fellaini go for the right price (£27.5m apparently).  Well Utd came in with the sufficient bid for Fellaini and Everton didn’t faff about and went straight out and got their man in James McCarthy (the best Scottish talent in 20 years, that doesn’t represent Scotland internationally….).  Now they overpaid for McCarthy but did so because they really wanted the player and were willing to pay that little bit over the odds because of that (are you watching Utd).  This was then followed up with the excellent loan signings of Barry from City (although not good enough for City, he could have an excellent impact at Everton) and Lukaku from Chelsea (just look what he did at WBA last season, and then look at how well Everton’s strikers played last year, great signing).  Put on top of that, somehow Everton were able to get £6m for that big lump Anichebe and you get the perfect formula (the Heisenberg formula) for a transfer deadline day success (ARE YOU WATCHING UTD!?!?!?!?!?).

Have Everton improved their squad?  Yes they have; despite losing arguably their best player (I would say Baines is their best) they have also improved their first team.  McCarthy is a better scheme fit (to Martinez) than Fellaini, Barry will be a good anchor and Kone and especially Lukaku will give Everton some much needed striker goals.  I think they are set for a big year.

 

Fulham

Ins:  Maarten Stekelenburg (£4.76m), Scott Parker (£2m), Darren Bent (Loan), Adel Taarabt (Loan) & others.

Outs:  Schwarzer (free), a bunch of ordinary

I still am not sure how Fulham managed to sign Stekelenburg, why weren’t Arsenal in for him? (why is Julio Cesar still at QPR?  So many questions, not enough sensible answers).  Parker, Bent and Taarabt all add quality to the Fulham first team and are all good signings, but Fulham haven’t done enough.  After looking like they were going to have no problem staying up this season, I am beginning to doubt that.  The squad is too old, and although that means you have lots of experience, it also mean that you don’t have that youthful exuberance that only young players possess.  The perfect mix for a team like Fulham is half youth and half players past their best that can still do a job; just now Fulham only have the second half, and that is very worrying when they are contesting a long season.

Have Fulham improved their squad?  Yes they have, but they are ignoring the long term future by signing players who are past their best and this will come back and haunt them in the long run if not by this season.

 

Hull……something

Ins:  Tom Huddlestone (£5m), Ahmed Elmohamady (£2m), Allan McGregor (£1.8m), Curtis Davies (£2.25m), George Boyd (free), Yannick Sagbo (£1.5m), Maynor Figueroa (free), Danny Graham (Loan) & Jake Livermore (Loan)

Outs:  Corry Evans (£750k), lots of others

Unlike their other highly likely fellow relegation candidates (Palace), Hull have managed to make (for them) quality signings.  Boyd and Elmohamady were at the club  last season (on loan) but the real improvements have come with Hull’s other signings; Huddlestone is way too good to be playing at a relegation struggler (should be at a mid-table side), McGregor has already shown his worth so far this season and is a bargain at £1.8m, and Hull have also done very well in the loan market, picking up Livermore (who will compliment Huddlestone nicely) and Graham (who showed capabilities in Swansea’s first season in the league).  When you consider the additions that Hull has made, plus the fact they lost none of their significant players, it is a good transfer window.

Have Hull improved their squad?  Yes they have because they added quality that wasn’t there last season and have added maybe four starters to their first team.  Although Hull have gotten better, I still don’t see them really doing anything but getting relegated (at least you’re better than Palace).

 

Liverpool

Ins:  Mamadou Sakho (£18m), Iago Aspas (£9m), Simon Mignolet (£9m), Luis Alberto (£6.8m), Tiago Ilori (£7m), Kolo Toure (free), Aly Cissokho (Loan) & Victor Moses (Loan)

Outs:  Andy Carroll (£15.5m), Stewart Downing (£6m), Jonjo Shelvey (£5m), Pepe Reina (Loan), Fabio Borini (Loan) & Jamie Carragher (Retired)

It hurts me so much to say it (because I’m a Utd fan) but what a transfer window Liverpool have had.  It isn’t even about the players they brought in (I’ll get to that in a minute) but also the ones they got rid of; dumping the deadwood of Carroll, Downing, Borini, Reina and Carragher (sorry Liverpool fans he was well past his best [now we have to put up with the worst accent in football every Monday night….yippee….]).  The only player that Liverpool sold that I could questions is Shelvey, who I though looked like a good player and definitely had a future at the club.

It is a clear sign of how well you have done when they go to your stadium/training ground with two hours to go and everyone at the club has left (just in case you didn’t know, it means you’ve done pretty well).  Sakho is a French internationalist (capped 14 times) and is only 23 who only found himself surplus to requirements at PSG because they throw money at everyone and Sakho needed first team football to be called up for the upcoming World Cup; he could be the rock in the heart of Liverpool’s defence for the next 10 years, great signing for the future and for now.  Mignolet was arguably the best keeper in the league last year (he wasn’t, it was De Gea, Mignolet was second though), to pick a quality keeper like Mignolet up for £9m is a bargain and is another quality signing for now and the future.  Ilori and Alberto are good signings for the future and I doubt will have that much of an impact on the first team squad this season.  I don’t think Aspas is that great a player, but £9m in this market is buttons, so even if he does fail it isn’t that big a deal.  I have never been a fan of fatty….sorry Kolo Toure, and I don’t really understand why Liverpool signed him.  Oh well you can’t win them all, and to be fair he has started the season well, but even shit players play well sometimes (just ask anyone that plays for Crystal Palace).  I’m not quite sure what the point of signing Cissokho was (Jose Enrique is a better player) but Victor Moses is a really nice pick up, and if they have an option to buy clause then it is another piece of excellent business.  Oh yeah, they also managed to hold onto their best player, not bad indeed.

Have Liverpool improved their squad?  Yes they have, quite considerably; it isn’t just that they have improved the squad, but they have also added players that have the potential to contribute for the next 10 years, that’s called forward thinking and it is how you are supposed to run a football club.

 

Manchester City

Ins:  Fernandinho (£30m), Stevan Jovetic (£22m), Jesus Navas (£17m), Alvaro Negredo (£16.4m) & Martin Demichelis (£3.5m)

Outs:  Tevez (£10m), Maicon (£3m), Barry (Loan), Santa Cruz (free), Bridge (free) & Kolo Toure (free)

Similar to Liverpool, City got rid of a lot of deadwood this season (so many players that never played but had big wages and bigger egos [I’m looking at you Tevez]).  City smartly did most of their business early on in the window and picked up four players before adding Demichelis later on (after recognising they had a lack of central defensive cover).  The Demichelis signings is clearly a squad signing (because he is slow and past his best) but he plugs a gap in an area of concern and is a smart signing.  Jesus Navas is a nice pick up for £17m and will give City the width they were severely lacking last season (although there are questions about his size, lack of versatility and homesickness).  Alvaro Negredo was a bit of an odd signing because he is almost the exact same player as Dzeko, and you can’t really see them playing together because they do the exact same thing (so far this year he looks better than Dzeko, let’s see how it develops).  Stevan Jovetic was another odd signing because I don’t see him currently being able to start for City and contribute to an acceptable level; if he was signed to play a squad role then he is a very good signing, but if that is not the case he is not a great signing (then again I am probably being harsh because he is only 23 and could develop nicely if given the chance, but will he be given that chance to develop?  I guess we will wait and see, currently I doubt it).  Fernandinho is the worst of the signings; not because I think he is a bad player (before this season I had barely seen him play at all) but because a guy that is 28, played the majority of his career in Ukraine and has only been capped 5 times for Brazil, doesn’t scream £30m player.  He still has time to prove that his transfer fee is legitimate and he is that good, but I have seen him play three times and each time I have thought to myself that ‘this doesn’t look like a £30m player’, in fact he doesn’t look like a £15m player.  Maybe it is too quick to judge him, but when you have such a big transfer fee you are always going to be scrutinised to a greater degree.

Have City improved their squad?  Yes they have, they are a much better team, with a much better manager and with much less baggage than they did last year.  Things are looking up at City and the club is beginning to be run in a more professional manner.

 

Manchester United

Ins:  Marouane Fellaini (£27.5m) & Guillermo Varela (£2.4m)

Outs:  Nothing

Let me sum up to you in one word Utd’s transfer window conduct, embarrassing.  How about another word?  Shambles.  Another one?  Pathetic.  Yes the once savvy transfer kings Manchester United had a transfer window that everyone connected to the club will want to forget.  Utd wanted Thiago, and then they didn’t as he was signed by Bayern.  Utd wanted Fabregas, but he never wanted to move in the first place.  Utd teased signing Ronaldo and Bale, but in the end never came close to do either.  Utd were all set to sign Herrera but weren’t willing to pay a measly extra €6m (approximately £4.5m) so the deal fell through, but not after three men who may or may not be connected to the club (who knows based on how Utd have conducted themselves throughout the window) made a further mockery of Utd.  I know what you’re thinking ‘surely there wasn’t more stupidity?’ well you would be wrong, because Utd with seconds left of the window seemed to have gotten Fabio Coentrao on loan from Real Madrid with an option to buy,  you are now thinking ‘wow great business, he is one of the best left backs in world football, great signing!  What’s that?  You didn’t get the paperwork through in time?  Jesus Christ you guys are fucking idiots, how did you get to run a football club?’  To be honest you could also add the whole Baines thing in here but to be fair to Utd a 28 year old left back isn’t worth £20m regardless of how good he is.

Well onto the positives; Utd didn’t lose any of the players from their 11 point margin championship winning side (even Rooney stayed somehow).  Surely this is a positive?  Well no it isn’t; guys like Bebe (who got loaned out), Macheda and to a lesser extent Anderson and Nani (because Utd didn’t get anyone to replace them) were all deadwood and were supposed to be sold, yet all are still at the club.  Utd got Fellaini though, surely that is a positive?  Well no not really when you consider that a month ago you could have gotten Fellaini for £23.5m but instead Utd ended up paying £27.5m……good business guys.  Now consider that, not only does it clearly show that Fellaini was at best choice five, it also makes you scream into your hands and pull out what is left of your hair (not much after this transfer window and the last two games) as you question ‘so you’re willing to go an extra £4m for Fellaini because of your own stupidity, but aren’t willing to go an extra £4.5m for Herrara?’  It really begs belief, because with such stupidity you have to question what is going on at Utd and what is the future going to be like?  All very worrying.

What makes this worse is that all these idiots are blaming David Moyes for this, read my words (or lips if you can imagine me saying this) David Moyes is not the man who puts in bids or negotiates contracts, the man who does that is Ed Woodward and he has shown his blatant inexperience for this role.  David Moyes tells this man what players he would like to add to his squad and Woodward is supposed to oblige and go out and get them.  I personally don’t see this faffing about being allowed to happen if Fergie was still in charge, but he has more clout than Moyes (not really Moyes’ fault).  The loss of David Gill (a man that used to receive a large amount of abuse from the Utd fans) seems to have had a larger effect than it really should have (wasn’t Woodward shadowing Gill all these years?).  When you look at this, is it really a surprise that Fergie just happened to go at the exact same time as Gill?  I don’t think it is.  Woodward is going to have to learn very quickly, because this kind of conduct is not acceptable at Manchester United, and to be honest he should be a candidate for the sack if this farcical behaviour continues.

Have Utd improved their squad?  It is so ironic but the answer is yes.  Utd didn’t lose any players and added Fellaini (who is a good player, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned) who will give them that nastiness in midfield that they have been sorely lacking.  However Utd really needed a midfielder who could pass the ball in the middle of the pitch (a Herrera type…..why wasn’t he signed?) and somehow still managed to not sign anyone.  I thought all Utd needed was one big signing and they would be deserved favourites for the title, Fellaini isn’t a big enough signing for this to be the case.  Fellaini and Coentrao, Baines or Herrara would have been, but it seems that would have required Utd to have been competent.

 

Newcastle United

Ins:  Loic Remy (Loan)

Outs:  Perch (750k) & lots of mediocrity

If it weren’t for Newcastle, Utd would have had the most shambolic transfer window, but thanks to good old Joe Kinnear (who makes Ed Woodward look competent) Newcastle managed to have another stinker start to the season, not exactly what Alan Pardew needed.  They didn’t really lose anyone but the only player they added was a player that didn’t want to join the club 6 months ago but is stuck joining them now because nobody else wants him (good business Joe).

Have Newcastle improved their squad?  I guess, but barely.  You almost get the feeling that Kinnear has went out his way to not sign anyone so that Pardew gets the sack and he can take over, dark days ahead for Newcastle fans.

 

Norwich City

Ins:  Ricky van Wolfswinkel (£8.5m), Leroy Fer (£7m), Gary Hooper (£5m), Martin Olsson (£2.5m), Nathan Redmond (£2.2m), Javier Garrido (£1.275m), Carlo Nash (free) & Johan Elmander (Loan)

Outs:  Holt (£2m), Vaughan (£1m), Barnett (£500k), others

Norwich are one of many teams who broke their transfer record fee this season, with the signing of van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon.  With the signing of van Wolfswinkel and Hooper, Norwich now have a legitimate striking force that will strike fear (although probably not) into opposition defences.  No longer will Norwich have to rely on the labouring runs of Grant Holt (a man who looks like he would run faster to the chip van than he does into an oppositions defence), and instead they have players who are good goal scorers.  The signing of Leroy Fer is also a very clever signing and it will give Norwich a stud in the middle of the pitch (have to wonder why nobody else wanted him).

Have Norwich improved their squad?  Yes they have by dramatically improving their strike force with three new players, as well as adding an excellent player into their central midfield, they will be easily safe this season.

 

Southampton

Ins:  Pablo Osvaldo (£15m), Victor Wanyama (£12.5m) & Dejan Lovren (£8.5m)

Outs:  Nothing really to talk about.

Southampton only signed three players this transfer window, but they managed to sign three players that will instantly make their first team better.  They probably overpaid for all three players, but if you want to add quality to your team you need to overpay sometimes.  When you consider that Southampton also didn’t lose any of their players from last season, overall a very good transfer window.

Have Southampton improved their squad?  Yes (fell like I’ve said that a lot), they have added three first team players that will make them a better side instantly.

 

Stoke City

Ins:  Erik Pieters (£3m), Marko Aranutovic (£2m), Marc Muniesa (free), Oussame Assaidi  (free), Stephen Ireland (Loan) & others

Outs:  Nothing of significance.

When you are serious candidates for relegation, you need to have a belter of a transfer window to take yourself a couple of steps higher to safety; however these are the hardest steps to take.  Stoke haven’t spent much money (especially in comparison to previous years) this transfer window but have brought in a number of players that could have a positive effect on the team this season.  The biggest problem for me about Stoke and their transfer window is that they needed a striker that could score 15+ a season, they didn’t get that, they also could have done with signing a midfielder who could pass the ball and although Ireland has joined he can never stay fit.

Have Stoke improved their squad?  I think they have, but not to the extent that would make me feel comfortable if I was a Stoke City fan.

 

Sunderland

Ins:  Jozy Altidore (£6.5m), Emanuele Giaccherini (£6.5m), Charis Mavaris (£3m) & so many other players that I can’t be bothered listing them.

Outs: Mignolet (£9m), Sessegnon (£6m), McClean (£1m) & others.

Here’s the thing about Sunderland and their transfer window, it doesn’t really matter what they do (and they needed to do a lot) because they have a lunatic managing the team.  Essentially what I am saying is that Di Canio doesn’t know what he is doing and it amazes me that he would be allowed to have a job never mind manage a football club.  Sunderland lost probably their best player in Mignolet and their only players with something a bit special in Sessegnon and McClean (who I know didn’t have a great year last year).  It also doesn’t help when so many other players who didn’t leave the club are clamouring to get out of the club because they realise that there is a crazy man in charge who keeps saluting at them inappropriately.  Did Sunderland bring in good player though?  It isn’t that they brought in bad players, it is more that they brought in ordinary players, and for a team that needs better than ordinary to avoid relegation, that isn’t good enough.  For instance there is no way that Altidore is a £6.5m player, because he just isn’t that good and has shown that previously in this league.  Another concerning sign for Sunderland fans will be the fact that Sunderland signed so many player, not only because it means your squad can’t be that good but it also means that 16 (or that’s how many I counted) players have to gel with the players already at the club as well as amongst themselves, something that is no easy feat.

Have Sunderland improved their squad?  No they have not (first time I’ve actually wrote that); they have lost their best player and have added regular players to their squad.  It is usually a sign of desperation when so many players are signed in one window, and in this case it is a sign of desperation.  If Sunderland were a ship they would be shooting off their flare guns with reckless abandonment because the ship is going down…..to the Championship.

 

Swansea City

Ins:  Wilfried Bony (£12m), Jonjo Shelvey (£5m), Jordi Amat (£2.5m), Jonathan de Guzman (Loan) & others.

Outs:  Ki Sung-Yeung (Loan) & others

I loved what Swansea were able to do in the summer; they picked up Bony who can link up perfectly with Michu to make a deadly strike force and they made the great signing of England international Jonjo Shelvey for a paltry £5m (which in the football market is like a packet of Smarties to you and me).  Laudrup has improved his first team with these two signings and has made further additions to help the squad get through the tough European calendar.  They didn’t really lose anyone either, with Ki clearly being surplus to requirements.

Have Swansea improved their squad?  Yes they have with two excellent signings which will allow them to push on from another solid season in the Premier League.

 

Tottenham Hotspur

Ins:  Erik Lamela (£30m), Roberto Soldado (£26m), Paulinho (£17m), Christian Eriksen (£11.5m), Vlad Chirrices (£8.5m), Nacer Chadli (£7m) & Etienne Capoue (£9m)

Outs:  (some guy called) Gareth Bale (£86m), Caulker (£8m), Dempsey (£6m), Huddlestone (£5m), Parker (£2m), Assou-Ekotto (Loan) & others.

Well, well, well, well, well (not a Motherwell song).  Spurs were just a bit busy in the transfer window, weren’t they?  Nobody spent more than they did, and nobody brought in more than they did, remarkably almost breaking even for their transfers overall (go figure).  First I will deal with the players Spurs sold; how they managed to get £86m for Bale is beyond me.  It isn’t like Bale isn’t a good player (he’s one of the best in the world) but you can’t honestly tell me that he is worth more money than Ronaldo when he left Utd and went to Madrid (he isn’t, at that time Ronaldo was the best player in the world, Bale is not).  If I were to evaluate Bale and give him a price that I think he is worth, I would say around £50m, £36m less than Madrid paid.  You have to applaud Daniel Levy who has once again shown that he is one tight bastard and knows how to eek every penny out.  I don’t really understand the selling of Caulker when Spurs don’t really have that much depth at central defence.

On to the big stuff, the signings and oh god was there lots of them.  There is good signings, bad signings and ugly signings…..actually there are only good signings (damn Spurs work their stuff well).  Let’s break it down by saying that Soldado was exactly what Spurs have lacked the last few seasons, Paulinho looks like a steal at £17m, Eriksen is an absolute steal at £11.5m (why weren’t Arsenal and Utd in for him?) and Chadli and Capoue also look like good value for money (haven’t seen Chirrices play but even if he does suck, it isn’t like he cost much).  The only blot on the Spurs copy book is Lamela, who they have paid well over the odds for (probably Bale’s fault) but he does give them another striker and makes them a better rounded team.  Spurs have not only gotten better at a number of positions, they have also gotten younger, which in the long run is vital if they are going to push on and possibly challenge for the league in future seasons.  The AVB revolution continues.

Have Spurs improved their squad?  Incredibly after selling by far their best player they have gotten better.  They have improved their squad vastly (more than any other team) and this will help them not only challenge in the Europa League (which I think they will win) but also for fourth position.  The biggest criticism I can have of Spurs is that they lost a player that was truly special, one who could do something out of nothing, and have not really been able to replace him.  However eight very good players is better than having one outstanding player.

 

West Bromwich Albion

Ins:  Stephane Sessegnon (£6m), Victor Anichebe (£6m), Nicolas Anelka (free), Diego Lugano (free), Matej Vydra (Loan), Scott Sinclair (Loan), Goran Popov (Loan), Lee Camp (free) & Morgan Amalfitano (Loan)

Outs:  Odemwingie (£2.5m), Fortune (free) & others

Can’t help but feel WBA have failed to add to the success they had last season; missing out on the loan signing of Lukaku was just the tip of the iceberg.  Sessegnon is a good signing because he adds creativity and quality to the WBA attack, however beyond that I just don’t get the signings.  Vydra is a stab in the dark (he did well in the Championship but that means very little), they signed a bunch of players on loan which is useless for the long term future of the club (none of who will be starters either), they vastly overpaid for Anichebe (£6m? what were they thinking?) and why the hell did they think Anelka was a good signing?  The only thing Anelka brings is selfishness and chaos (the guy was set to retire on a whim before the season started); very odd signings from WBA, at least they didn’t lose anyone (other than Lukaku of course, who they never actually had).

Have WBA improved their squad?  Not really, when you look at it they had Lukaku last year and now have Anichebe, not what I’d call an upgrade.  The only signing that has improved the first is Sessegnon, and that is not enough to say that the squad has improved.

 

West Ham United

Ins:  Andy Carroll (£15.5m), Stewart Downing (£6m), Adrian (free) & Razvan Rat (free)

Outs:  Nobody of significance, unless you think Carlton Cole is good, which if you do then….I don’t know what to say.

God this is a long list and it is finally finishing (thank god, for me and you); West Ham brought in Carroll (who was there last season) and Downing as their two big signings (Liverpool rejects).  I like both the signings and think that the step down will be good for both of their careers and they should both do well under Allardyce (because of the style he plays).  However that doesn’t take away from the fact that West Ham grossly overpaid for both players,  Liverpool were just wanting both guys off the books and you can’t honestly tell me Andy Carroll is a £15.5m player (some idiots paid £35m for him once, hahahaha).  That is the major concern for West Ham that they blew their entire transfer kitty on two players that they could probably have gotten for half the price, I doubt it will come back to bite them in the arse but you never know.

Have West Ham improved their squad?  Yes but not as much as they should have.  Really only the signing of Downing is a major new addition to the squad, in a squad that is lacking good depth.

 

Overall

It is interesting to note that the only teams that I would say lost players of importance were Spurs, Sunderland and Everton (and sort of Palace although Zaha left last January technically).  Spurs and Everton have become better teams because of the money they received from the players they lost (Sunderland didn’t), but I am pointing this out more because it shows a trend that Premier League players aren’t that desirable (even the English clubs weren’t really buying from each other).  It also shows that English players/Premier League players are massively over-priced, and then the FA wonder why youth players aren’t being developed, that’s why, because they are too expensive (well that and too many old dumplin’s that are well past their best [I’m looking at you Fulham]).  It shows a worrying trend for the Premier League (and England), who are now lacking quality players (after losing Bale) and not really developing home grown talent.

 

Top 5 signings.

  1. Eriksen (Spurs)
  2. Shelvey (Swansea)
  3. Stekelenburg (Fulham)
  4. Mignolet (Liverpool)
  5. Fer (Norwich)

 

Worst 5 signings.

  1. Altidore (Sunderland)
  2. Fernandinho (Man City)
  3. Anichebe (WBA)
  4. Carroll (West Ham)
  5. McCarthy (Everton)

 

Top 5 transfer window teams.

  1. Liverpool
  2. Spurs
  3. Norwich
  4. Hull
  5. Southampton

 

Worst 5 transfer window teams.

  1. Newcastle
  2. Sunderland
  3. Palace
  4. Man Utd
  5. WBA

 

So now that the transfer window is closed (and I’ve seen the teams play a few games), here is what I think the league will look like in comparison to my prediction in the preview.

 

1st— Man City                            0

2nd— Man Utd                           0

3rd—Chelsea                              0

4th—Arsenal                              +1

5th—Spurs                                 -1

6th—Liverpool                         +2

7th—Everton                           -1

8th—Swansea                         -1

9th—West Ham                      +1

10th—Villa                              +3

11th—Southampton             +5

12th—Cardiff                         +2

13th—Norwich                      +2

14th—WBA                            -5

15th—Newcastle                -3

16th—Fulham                       -5

17th—Stoke                          +1

18th—Sunderland                -1

19th—Hull                              0

20th—Palace                         0

 

As I’m sure you can see, I have changed my mind with all but five of the positions (although to be fair I have always thought Arsenal would finish above a Baleless Spurs but wrote this about their current squads and at the time Bale was at Spurs, so I’m counting it as seven).  The amount of changes I have made isn’t really surprising because it is so hard to predict the mid-table that often it is just a guessing game (might as well through a dart at a wall with your eyes closed [this is not recommended for children and should only be partaken when intoxicated]).

I said that all Utd needed was to make one big signing to be my favourites, but Fellaini isn’t that big signing that was required (although Fellaini- Coentrao or Baines would have been enough).  I have decided that Stoke will finish above Sunderland after they have had a good start to the season, and I further realise that Sunderland under Di Canio is a total mess and are going nowhere fast.  I think Liverpool are deservedly higher up (2 positions higher) because they have started the season well (although not 9/9 points well) and I really like some of their signings (especially Sakho [beast], Mignolet and Moses).  Villa and Southampton have both impressed me so far this season and I feel once their new signings settle in (especially at Southampton) it will reflect on their league position.  WBA have plummeted down the table because I have become seriously concerned about who is going to score their goals (Anichebe signing didn’t allay my fears).  Fulham are beginning to look older and older to me and that has also become a serious concern of mine, even though I like their signings I fear that near the end of the year if they are in trouble, the old guys might not have the energy or desire to get them out of it.  Newcastle have dropped down for obvious reasons; one because they didn’t sign any players and two because the club is an utter shambles and there is a good chance of Joe Kinnear taking over (shame they have good players).

 

Teams who raised the most.

  1. Southampton +5
  2. Villa +3
  3. Liverpool, Norwich & Cardiff +2

 

Teams who fell the most.

  1. WBA & Fulham -5

3 .   Newcastle -3

 

 

So there you have it the long winded and hard to read without crying Premier League transfer window review.  What did you think of the transfer window?  How do you think it will affect the league table?  Let me know and leave a comment.  I am going to bath my fingers in ice because man is not meant to type so much for such a long period of time.

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The UEFA Champions League Preview.

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The final 32 of the UEFA Champions League has been decided and they have been drawn into 8 groups of 4 teams (yay arithmetic!).  Thanks to UEFA’s (how can I say this nicely) interesting co-efficient, which seeds teams that made it to the final last year in the 3rd pot (I know how it works, but it doesn’t make it any less ridiculous) and rubbish Portuguese teams in the 1st pot.  The idea that the seeding should be over a shorter period of time than 5 years and the Europa League shouldn’t count for as much as the Champions League would seem sensible to anyone else, but we are dealing with UEFA, and organisation that makes a simple draw of 32 teams last for about 2 hours (or it certainly felt like that).

Anyway onto the draw itself, we had the Lisbon Lion great and captain extraordinaire Billy McNeill up first to draw the first seed teams (I won’t comment on his performance although I felt sorry for him and have to wonder why his family allowed him to be put in that position), followed by the enigmatic Johann Cruyff, for some reason Michael Owen (not what I’d describe as a European legend) and Paulo Sousa to draw out the diddy teams.  We also had Portuguese great Luis Figo drawing the balls for the actual groups the teams would play in.  As I have already said, the draw lasted way too long (as always) but it finished eventually and we knew how each group would line up.

As a side note Franck Ribery picked up the UEFA European player of the year for 2012/13.  I don’t think I am the best person to judge this because I didn’t see very much Bundesliga football last season, but I did see a lot of Bayern in the Champions League and I have to say, not only is he not a top 3 player in the world, but I don’t even think he is the best player in the Bayern team.  Messi should have of course won, even though he didn’t have a great season he was still better than Ribery.  I imagine Ribery won it despite his actual play but rather because Bayern won the Champions League and it seems they tend to favour the winning team with the award (unless of course you are Chelsea, the worst Champions League winning team ever [not that it takes away from the fact they won it]).

 

Group A

There are many groups of death in this year’s Champions League, and this is one of them; with Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad.  If I were to put a ranking on it (based on their pots, 1st-4th) I would say the 4th, 6th, 3rd and 2nd best in their respective pots, so quite a tough group.

Regardless of how strong the opposition is Man Utd should make it through without much bother.  However it is by no means a guarantee, which is probably a good thing for Utd who have, in recent years, found themselves playing rather lacklustre football in the group stages.  Obviously this is the first Champions League where Utd do not have the legendary Alex Ferguson in the dugout and instead have new manager David Moyes, who has no previous Champions League experience.  It will be a quick learning curve with such a hard group for Moyes, and he will have to rely heavily on the experienced Utd squad that he possesses (appeared in 3 out of last 6 finals), but due to the toughness of the group it will keep him on his toes (and up at night) which can only be a good thing because to relax in this situation may spell trouble.  I don’t see Utd as winners by the end of the tournament, because their midfield isn’t good enough, however you never know unless you go to the dance, and the dance begins at the last 16.

Shakhtar Donetsk find themselves in the unenviable position of being the worst team in the group.  It isn’t that they are a bad team, but they as a club have lost so many players this past year (Willain, Fernandinho, Mkhitaryan) that they aren’t the same club that played very well in the group stages last year and made it to the last 16.  Fourth is more than likely, given such a hard group.

Bayer Leverkusen are another resurgent German team and (like many other German teams) have an exciting young squad, that are hungry for success.  Bayer finished 3rd in the Bundesliga (Behind Champions League finalists Dortmund and Bayern) and have already started the Bundesliga very strongly (3 wins out of 3).  Leverkusen could be the dark horse in the Champions League this year, because there is undoubted potential in that squad and their young manager (ex-Liverpool player) Sami Hyypia has so far done an excellent job at the club.  In many ways I see parallels between Leverkusen and Sociedad, but I think Leverkusen has the slight edge and I think they will take 2nd.

Real Sociedad have continued their resurgence since being relegated from La Liga seven seasons ago with a place in the Champions League group stages, a remarkable recovery of Borussia Dortmund proportions.  Sociedad dispatched Champions League mainstays Lyon (who are a patch on the team they used to be) with relative ease in the qualifying round.  Sociedad lost possibly their best player in Illarramendi to Real Madrid this summer, and haven’t really replaced him.  Sociedad are a good team (and a very strong 4th seed team) but I think they will come up just short and finish 3rd.

 

Group B

Another really strong group which has three quarterfinalists from last year’s Champions League; with Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray and Copenhagen.  The rankings of each team from their respective pots would be 3rd, 1st, 4th, and 4th respectively.

Real Madrid are looking much stronger than they did last year; they’ve added Isco, Illarramendi and (although not yet complete) Bale.  Ancelloti is a man with plenty of European experience (2 time winner as manager) and I imagine will be able to bring the squad together better than Moruniho did last season (because he was falling out with everyone).  I think Real are setting themselves up for a big year and will finish 1st here.  Obviously it is too early to decide who I think is going to win (because the draw out of the last 16 is so vital) but just now I really like Real Madrid to win the Champions League, they are my favourites.

Juventus snuck into the 2nd seeded teams and were still the worst team you could have drawn from that pot (go figure).  Juve are a team back on the up, they have dominated Italian football the past two seasons and the Old Lady is back at the pinnacle of club football.  I like Juve as well, but I think there are teams that are better than them in the competition, but in two years this team could be a major threat (if they stay together and add to it).  Juve will finish 2nd in this group, because Real are better than them and the other two aren’t, simple as that.

Galatasaray somehow made the quarterfinals last year, and they won’t be repeating that feat this year.  They were handed two glamour ties in Juve and Real, but realistically they aren’t going to be able to break through and finish in the top 2.  3rd is where they are heading, and could be a threat in the Europa League.

Copenhagen…..I don’t mean to be disrespectful to any Kobenhavn fans, but they don’t have a hope in hell of making the last 16.  At least there are some exciting ties to watch for the fans, 4th it will be.

 

Group C

A really poor group (although not the worst), the kind of group that when you look at it you wonder if this is a Europa League group or a Champions League group; what makes it worse is when you look at some of these groups with lots of good teams in it and then you look at this and you will be getting a team that doesn’t belong to make it to the big stage.  Anyway, the teams from the rubbish group are Benfica, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympiacos and Anderlecht.  In terms of their rankings in their pots; 8th, 2nd, 7th and 5th respectively.

Benfica were the team that everyone wanted, God knows how they managed to become a 1st seed team, because they aren’t even close to being the 8th best team in the competition.  The funny thing is if you were to ask me which 1st seed team I thought wouldn’t make the last 16 (before the draw) I would definitely say Benfica.  The funny thing is that instead of getting one of the ridiculously hard 3rd seed teams, they picked up Olympiacos, who are mince.  Anyway I think they will finish 2nd in the group, but they are very fortunate with their draw.

PSG are for me one of the most over rated teams in Europe.  You can’t throw money at over rated players (Ibrahimovic) and then think that you have a capable enough squad to challenge or even win the Champions League.  Yet I have seen many pundits put them in the semi-finals, something which they are nowhere near just now.  PSG will win this group and were one of the stronger 2nd seed teams (although the 2nd seeds were oddly weak) but much like Benfica they are very lucky they got such a generous draw, otherwise they would have been in trouble.

Olympiacos have a chance because they have such a weak group, but I don’t think as a team they are very good.  When I looked at their squad it was funny to see some of the players they have (Javier Saviola, Roy Carroll, Miguel Torres, Vladimir Weiss) none of whom make you think ‘wow they’re good’, but rather ‘wow they get about’.  It just isn’t a great squad, and to win the Greek league is hardly something worth bragging about.  They’ll have an outside chance of pushing Benfica but they’ll ultimately finish 3rd.

I don’t really know that much about Anderlecht, but I doubt they will have much of an impact on the group stages because they haven’t had an impact for a while.  Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t really know because it must have been like 6 years since I last saw them play.  If they are to do something then they have a soft enough group to do it in, but I doubt they will and will probably finish 4th.

 

Group D

The Champions League champions’ group and it couldn’t get much simpler than this; with Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City and Viktoria Plzen.  Their pot rankings would be 1st, 5th, 2nd and 7th respectively.

Bayern Munich for me are the best team in Europe just now, however I think they have moved backwards under Pep Guardiola.  I have watched them a few times this season already, and this isn’t a patch on the side that won the competition last year, even though they have a better squad.  I think they will finish 1st in this group, but I don’t think that they will win the competition, because no team has done it before (not Messi’s Barca, not the Galactico’s, not Fergie’s fledglings).  I think Bayern have a chance (best squad in Europe), but I think their manager will make it unlikely.

CSKA’s major benefit over other teams in the group is that they play in Russia, and Russia is a hard place for teams to go to.  CSKA also play on a plastic pitch which the other teams in the group may find it awkward to play on.  To go through they are going to have to win their home games against Plzen and City, as well as winning away at Plzen as well as either drawing at City or at home to Bayern.  It isn’t beyond them, but they got a hard draw with two teams that are much better than them and are likely to finish 3rd.

Man City have finally landed themselves a group that they could realistically get out of on the third time of trying.  If City doesn’t get through this group, then serious questions will have to be asked about the City squad.  City should finish 2nd in the group at relative ease.  It’s probably a step too far to think that City could win the competition, because I don’t think they are good enough defensively, but they should be aiming for quarterfinals, anything beyond that is a bonus.

Viktoria Plzen don’t have a chance, questionable whether they will get a point, 4th position is waiting.

 

Group E

Here we go the worst group in the Champions League this season by a country mile (and they’re longer than a regular mile in case you are wondering).  If group C was total mince, then group E would be the shit that they couldn’t sell and just threw out.  This group is rotten.  The group contains Chelsea (who I am sure couldn’t have handpicked an easier group), Schalke, Basel and Steaua Bucharest.  Their rankings respectively would be 5th, 8th, 8th and 6th.

Chelsea will walk this group; they will win 4 games in a row with ease and be the first team through.  The biggest question mark is how well they will do in the competition, I imagine much like Utd and City they should be aiming for the quarterfinals and anything beyond that is a bonus, because Chelsea don’t have a good enough defence or strike force to win the competition, but then again I have said that before about Chelsea and look what happened.

Schalke aren’t an awful team, it is just that they aren’t as good as they were last year.  They have good players (Papadopoulos, Howedes, Draxler, and Huntelaar) but I just get the feeling that they don’t have enough to do anything in this competition.  Schalke were the team that everyone was wanting to draw, not only because it meant you avoided the other German sides but also because they were the weakest 2nd seed team.  Schalke were lucky that they drew such an easy group because otherwise they would be in serious trouble of going out.  I think they will probably finish 2nd but there really is very little separating them and Basel.

As I have already said, I think Basel have a very good chance of finishing 2nd in this group because it is fairly easy.  When you consider that the 3rd pot had teams like City, Dortmund and Leverkusen in them, Basel is a gift.  Again I think they will push 2nd but will ultimately finish 3rd.

Steaua haven’t been good for years and that trend will continue as they finish 4th in this group.  Like many of the smaller teams I haven’t watched Steaua in years but I doubt they will have any impact on the group.  However they couldn’t have picked a better group to be in and you never know maybe they’re better than I am giving them credit for.

 

Group F

For me the most competitive group and probably the group of death contains Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli….ouch.  To rank them in their respective pots 6th, 7th, 1st and 1st.  That is what makes this group so exciting; the top two seeds are at the low end of quality from their pots, whereas you have the best teams from both the 3rd and 4th pots.

Arsenal were probably licking their lips when they saw Marseille placed in their group, happiness soon turned to despair when they then managed to receive the two best teams in the next two pots.  The only way Arsenal could have received a worse draw is if they had gotten PSG instead of Marseille.  Arsenal almost always seems to get through the group stages but I think this is the first time in 15 years that it isn’t going to happen.  This will of course only heap more pressure on Arsene Wenger, maybe a run in the Europa League will relieve it but 3rd place is where I see Arsenal heading.

Marseille couldn’t have gotten much unluckier than Arsenal; similar to Arsenal they were probably rather pleased when they were drawn into Arsenal’s group, but that changed soon after.  I feel sorry for Marseille because (although I doubt it will happen) they could feasibly gain no points in this group, because it is so tough.  4th is where Marseille is highly likely, 3rd would be an achievement or a punishment depending on their outlook.

Borussia Dortmund are in my opinion the 4th best team I Europe (maybe 3rd, it’s tight between them and Real), so any team who picked them up as the 3rd seeded team must be crying themselves to sleep.  I think they will win the group with relative ease because the team has actually improved on last season despite losing Gotze (adding Aubameyang, Sokratis, and Mkhitaryan).  The Champions League runners up last season are looking good to go one step further, and naturally depending on the draw in the knockouts, they are currently my second favourites and will start their campaign with a nice 1st place in group F.

The last time Napoli were in the Champions League (2 years ago), I had a bet on them as my outsiders (had Bayern to win, somehow they didn’t) and I was feeling really smug about myself after they made it through a group stage everyone had written them off for and then took a 3-1 lead over Chelsea after totally out playing them in their first leg.  However often things don’t go your way and somehow (I still don’t know) Chelsea went on and beat them to progress to the quarterfinals.  After a year’s hiatus, Napoli are now back in the big leagues, but not with the same team they had 2 years ago.  They sold their best player in the summer (Cavani) but are probably overall a better side because of the investment they then had after he left.  Napoli are by far the best 4th pot team and I expect them to pip Arsenal to 2nd and once again get back into the last 16.

 

Group G

Another incredibly week group (that’s three if you’re counting), this one contains Porto, Atletico Madrid, Zenit St. Petersburg and Austria Vienna.  To put them in their respective pot rankings 7th, 3rd, 5th and 8th.

Porto are well past their best, they are the Greece of European club football (high ranking because of past exploits leads to high seeding all the time, meaning they always do ok despite being very average).  Once again Porto has picked up a top ranking, and once again they are one of the teams that all the other lower ranked teams were hoping to draw.  It doesn’t help the cause when you sell your two best players to Monaco in the summer.  Quite frankly, Porto aren’t that good (for a 1st seed team) and this year they manage to not get out of the group stages again in what is a very easy group, it’ll be 3rd this year and a trip to the Europa League which we all know Porto love to play in anyway.

Atletico have fallen into the perfect group for themselves, I have said it about some of the other teams, but Atletico would have struggled to handpick an easier group.  I think they are the group winners and although Monaco also bought Atletico’s best player, it won’t hamper them getting out of this really easy group.

Zenit managed to make it into the last 16 the only time they were previously in the Champions League (ironically in an easy group with Porto [who got knocked out]), I expect them to do it again.  This is a solid Zenit side that has been drawn in a soft group; they have the trip to Russia which nobody likes plus the second best squad in the group.  It is funny to note that Zenit have almost as many Portuguese players in their squad as Porto do (bit awkward).  Zenit will take 2nd behind Atletico and head back into the last 16.

Austria Vienna are the worst team in the competition and they didn’t even manage to pick up a glamour tie, gutted for them.  They will take 4th because they haven’t got a chance.

 

Group H

When the word glamour group was invented, it was made to describe a group like this; Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax and Celtic.  Sit and look at that for a moment, imagine the prestige in those four clubs combined, it is incredible.  Each team has won the Champions League at least one time (16 titles between them; wow) and each team is full of glamour and prestige that most other clubs can only dream of.  Think of the venues that will be visited in this group; the Nou Camp, the San Siro, the Amsterdam Arena and Celtic Park (the best atmosphere in Europe on a European night).  Each venue is truly special but Celtic Park is that little bit more special than the rest.  Scotland is a football country through and through and Celtic Park is the pinnacle of that.  The Celtic fans are renowned for being some of the best fans in the world and if you watched the Celtic-Barca game last year you will instantly understand why.  Leo Messi and Xavi said that playing at Celtic Park was an experience they would never forget and that it was one of the greatest atmospheres they had ever played in (yes the two Barcelona guys that are pretty good).  Anyway enough gushing over the Celtic crowds and the rest of the group.  Their rankings respectively would be 2nd, 4th, 6th and 3rd.

Barcelona should walk this group because to be honest the other three teams aren’t really that good.  Barca are the second best team in Europe and shouldn’t really struggle in this group (although Celtic did beat them last year).  Barca showed last season that they aren’t the force they once were in Europe when they were humiliated by Bayern.  It’s been coming for years and it finally happened, you can’t ignore your defence for so long without being punished.  Barca still hasn’t fixed the defence and for that reason I don’t think they will win the competition.

AC Milan aren’t really that good, but to be fair are still a team in transition.  They have a very young squad and have potential but it is still a number of seasons before they will be able to make any kind of major impact.  They have however managed to draw a fairly easy group and should still be able to finish in 2nd.

Ajax are the sleeping giants who seem like they will never wake up again.  I don’t really know what to say about Ajax beyond they haven’t made it past the group stages since 2006 and I don’t imagine they are going to do it this season either, in fact I think they are going to finish 4th because I think that Celtic are just a little bit better than them.

The Celtic team that made it to the last 16 last season against all the odds is not the same Celtic team that has made it to the group stages this season.  They have lost 3/11 first team players and haven’t actually replaced them.  Celtic traditionally have an awful away record (although they did win in Moscow last year) so that combined with needing to win all their home games (unlikely) makes me think that they don’t really have a chance of making the last 16 and instead will finish in 3rd place.

 

Going Through

The teams I have going through are (in order); group A: Man Utd & Leverkusen, group B: Real Madrid & Juve, group C: PSG & Benfica, group D: Bayern & Man City, group E: Chelsea & Schalke, group F: Dortmund & Napoli, group G: Atletico & Zenit and group H: Barca & AC.

 

Conclusion

Naturally I don’t think it is worth making predictions of who is going to win the competition because everything changes in the knock-out stages.  If I were to pick my favourite I would choose Real Madrid and would put Borussia Dortmund as my second team.

I think it is frustrating to see that there are three groups in the Champions League which are quite frankly not the class required for the Champions League (C, E & G), I am not saying that there aren’t clubs in those groups who don’t deserve to go through to the next round (Chelsea, PSG & Atletico are last 16 teams) but I am saying that you are going to get at least 3 teams that don’t belong in the last 16, whereas other teams are going to miss out because their groups are actually difficult (Arsenal for instance).  I know it is a random job, but this surely shows that there is a problem with the co-efficient, because the last few years this has happened too often and everyone wants to see the best teams in Europe play each other in the knock-out stages not the group stages.

I would also like to point out that why the fuck do the Spanish and Germans demand that Dortmund and Bayern and Barca and Real are separated from each other?  You don’t see the English demand that the Manchester clubs are separate or the London clubs, so why are other countries allowed to do this?  It essentially means that they can fix the draw to suit themselves, which is surely unfair for every other country that doesn’t roll UEFA in such a manner.  Anyway rant over.

The draw has worked out quite nicely for me as a fan because I want to watch the Utd games and the Celtic games and they turned out on either side of the draw, so that’s pretty sweet, no need to watch on two screens like in previous seasons.

 

 

So leave a comment on the Champions League draw.  What’s the best or worst group?  What team do you think is going to be left out in the cold when it comes to the last 16 draw?  Let me know and leave a comment.

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.

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.