Saturday, August 16, 2008

WHAB's EPL Preview!

Thinking about laying some money down on the upcoming EPL season??

Want to know who to back for the title, and who for relegation??

We have tried to put together a nice bias free post where we discuss each teams chances and give a suggested set of final standings.

Arsenal: League leaders for the first half of the 07/08 season, the Gunners are one of the serious contenders for the title. New signings include Bischoff and Nasri and you know these guys will be good; Arsenal are very good at unearthing and nurturing talent. They have lost Hleb and Flamini but should be able to make the necessary adjustments to their lineup. The Gunners play attractive, attacking football and are always great to watch.
Players to watch: Adebayor was second only to Ronaldo in the goal scoring tally last season and will be right up there again. It all looks so easy for him; expect him to nonchalantly knock in 20+ goals this season. A healthy Rosicky always makes for good viewing and van Persie is another to keep an eye on.
Prediction: 3rd. They will likely be the best to watch up front but will be tested by the better sides in defence and will let in some sloppy goals to bottom half sides.

Aston Villa: Villa have added defender Carlos Cuellar, Steve Sidwell and keeper Brad Friedel. They also look like hanging on to Gareth Barry. It has the makings of a very good season at Villa Park. My perception of Villa fans as the world's best drunken larrikins comes from my trip to Manchester last season to see the City vs Villa game. The train back to London went through Birmingham to drop off all the hammered Villa supporters and was wildly entertaining.
Players to watch: Carew, Young and Agbonlahor will be dangerous in front of goal while Sidwell, Petrov and Barry provide a solid midfield.
Prediction: 5th. They have what it takes to jump ahead of Everton in the pecking order but it will depend on getting a good start to the season.

Blackburn: It will be interesting to see how the Rovers go without Mark Hughes. Hughes is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the Premier League and Blackburn will miss him greatly. Paul Ince takes over and there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm about his appointment. All they have done in the player market is change goalkeepers and lose David Bentley to Tottenham, and there is also talk of Benni McCarthy moving on.
Players to watch: Roque Santa Cruz. Has the game to match his cool name. A constant threat at set pieces. McCarthy joins him up front in one of the better striker pairings in the league.
Prediction: Will possibly struggle at the start of the season adapting to the new manager but their class should should see them finish in the top half once more. A 9th place finish sounds about on the money.

Bolton: Have lost some of their key players from last year but you could argue that last year's players weren't getting the job done. Bolton were able to stave off relegation in 07/08 but will need to fight hard to avoid it once more. The signing of Swedish striker Elmander is a positive one but perhaps, given the players they released, the Wanderers could have been more active in terms of player signings.
Player to watch: Elmander. He'll need to fire up front.
Prediction: 15th

Chelsea: Chelsea have added right back Jose Bosingwa and classy midfielder Deco to an already impressive list.This should really be Chelsea's year. They have tremendous depth stemming from the tremendous amounts of money they have at their disposal and there will be competition for places across the park. Their 07/08 title bid was thwarted by a very average beginning to the year, something which they will surely not repeat. John Terry has claimed that Manchester Utd have peaked and time will tell if that is the case. Scolari takes over the easiest job in world sport as Blues manager. With those resources I reckon I could almost steer them to the title.
Players to watch: They are all good. Drogba is probably the best of the best. Deco should also shine.
Prediction: 1st

Everton: Injuries look to be the Toffees main concern going into the new season with Steven Pienaar and Aussie legend Tim Cahill to miss the opening matches. They also offloaded Andrew Johnson to Fulham (lucky Fulham) so will look to Yakubu and James Vaughan for the bulk of their goals. In addition to their strikers, they have the most prolific goal-scoring defender in the EPL in Joleon Lescott. Solid all across the park but might lack a bit of run through the midfield early in the season without the aforementioned injured players.
Players to watch: I'll never forget Simon Hill's call of "Tim Cahill's done it again!!!" at the World Cup after his second against the Japs. He is a hero to all Australians. We love you Tim Cahill! Get well soon!

Fulham: After a turnaround that was nothing short of remarkable to save their asses from relegation, Fulham should be safe from the drop this season. And let's hope they don't get relegated or we'll be subjected to loony tunes owner Mohamed Al Fayed's conspiracy theories.

Could the Royal Family be plotting Fulham's demise?

They've also picked up Australia's other football hero Mark Schwarzer and a host of other handy players. They took the hint and brought in new faces, knowing they were lucky not to be playing Championship football this year. You can have nothing but admiration for Roy Hodgson and the miracle he managed to conjure up in 07/08 and things look a lot brighter for the upcoming season at Craven Cottage.
Players to watch: Andy Johnson. A gifted striker, just what Fulham needs. And Aussie legend Schwarzer in goal!
Prediction: Could be the big improvers and push towards the top half of the table. We'll say somewhere around 12th.

Hull: Simply have not done enough to stay up.Will be down battling with Stoke and West Brom in the bottom three. I read somewhere that "Windass is a great striker of the ball...but not a great striker". Very true. Hull will struggle to score goals against the more organised defenses in the top tier. Their best pre-season move has been the signing of Geovanni but they'll be needing a lot more Brazilians to stay in the Premier League.
Player to watch: Geovanni was unable to crack into Manchester City's starting side and it will be interesting to see what he can do with more time on the pitch.
Prediction: 19th

Liverpool: What can we expect from Liverpool this season? The same as usual; a crappy start to the season leaving them no chance to win the Premiership, but a solid back end seeing them clinch the final Champion's League spot. They seem to have put all their eggs into the one basket with the signing of Robbie Keane; that said, if you can pick up Keane and a staunch defender like Phillip Degen for the loss of Crouch the misfit, Kewell the unfit, and Riise, I'd say that's good business.
Prediction - 4th. If you can find a market where you can bet on Liverpool's exact finishing position, snap up the short odds of a 4th place finish.
Players to watch: Torres. And Torres. And Keane. Oh, and Torres as well.

Man. City: Firstly, fuck you Thaksin Shinawatra for bringing your personal turmoil to the blue half of Manchester. I'm turning a blind eye to the disturbing reports I'm hearing about a mass exodus of players and coaching staff; I'm just going to pretend that everything is ok for now. So, City have added two players to last season's squad, former Chelsea defender Tal Ben-Haim, and the Brazilian striker Jo. They started experimenting with Brazilians last year and surprise, surprise, found it very rewarding with Elano being one of the Citizens best in 2007/2008. Cries of "Go yourself, you're Brazilian!" echoed around the City of Manchester Stadium whenever Elano got within 60 yards of goal. So having a Brazilian striker is going to be ever so much fun. Great pre-season form with a couple of easy kills in the UEFA Cup, a 1-1 draw with Celtic and a 1-0 win over AC Milan no less... oh, and a 1-0 loss to Danish superpower Midtylland...
Prediction - another clean sweep over Man. Utd, getting hammered twice by West Brom, maybe taking a point off Hull and Stoke, a horrible form slump followed by an unexpected thrashing of Arsenal at the Emirates, culminating in missing out on Europe by one spot but getting into the UEFA Cup again via the much easier "fair play" route. Around 8th.
Players to watch: Jo, Elano, and in particular Bojinov and Petrov. That is, if they actually stay at City. We may end up finishing 2008/2009 with all the uncontracted Olyroos rather than Brazilian and Bulgarian internationals. No-one ever seems to know what's going to happen with this clown Thaksin.

Man. Utd: Now that Ronaldo has been enslaved at Old Trafford as Sepp Blatter would have you believe (oh, the hardships of getting paid a billion dollars to play for one of the best teams in the world), United line up for 2008/2009 as equal favourites with Chelsea. They're looking to add Dimitar Berbatov before the August 31 transfer window closes, otherwise their first team squad is unchanged.
Players to watch: As well as Berbatov, United have Ronaldo, Rooney, and Tevez, all of whom I would kick square in the nuts if given the chance. I can't stand those three, Tevez in particular, I would kick him again in the nuts as he was writhing in agony on the ground. They also trot out old-timers like Giggs and Scholes as well as the younger brigade of Nani, Evra, Hargreaves etc and have one of the world's best keepers in van der Sar. Take your pick as to who to watch.
Prediction: 2nd. I slightly favour Chelsea this season on the off chance they add Kaka to their squad. And whereas Chelsea will pound City unmercifully, United may slip up again.

Middlesbrough: Boro are going for the less is more approach this season, offloading a heap of players and bringing in a couple of young unknowns. They are one of those teams who you never know too much about; they never buy any really big names and finish 12th-17th every year. They have a tendency to spring a massive upset before slinking back into mediocrity for a couple of months until their next big scalp. Now that Mark Schwarzer has moved on we will probably hear even less of Boro.
Players to watch: They do have a couple of handy strikers in Tuncay and Alves who will be fed crosses from Downing on the left side.
Prediction: 12th to 17th.

Newcastle: After dropping manager Sam Allardyce and recalling King Keegan last season, the Magpies narrowly escaped relagation. With an ineffective midfield, Keegan's first signings were Argentine Jonas Gutierrez and Danny Guthrie. This came at the expense of Emre despite keeping the two worst midfielders in the Premier League - Joey Barton and Alan Smith. With Obafemi Martins, Michael Owen and Ameobi, the Duke will be struggling to win many starts. If they are to be any sort of threat this year then Keegan will have to get this bunch playing as a team. Irish international Duff needs to step up after a run of disappointing seasons at St. James' Park. To be honest I don't think that this year will see the Pies do much more than stay clear of relegation especially with Barton and Smith. With Everton rumoured to be circling around Smith there remains hope of a top half finish. The Toon Army are hoping that Gutierrez can bring something to their maligned midfield but not too many are thinking he will. With a late win over Spanish cup winners Valencia under their belt in the preseason, expectations, as always, are high from their Geordie fans.
Prediction: 11th

Portsmouth: FA Cup winners one year, likely back to mid-table obscurity the next. For the past couple of seasons Pompey have focused on identifying African talent and have finished in the top half. This year their big signing is Peter Crouch. I can't say I'm sold on that one. Thankfully for "the 'Smouth", as I like to call them, they signed Jermaine Defoe in last season's transfer window and won't have to rely on said beanpole to try to head home more than 5 goals in the 08/09 campaign. How can a man who looks like a cardboard cut-out play in the Premier League? Does he live on tofu and salad or something? I can just see them calling for the masking tape a la Bruce Reid after he gets snapped in half by an over-zealous tackle.
Prediction: Let's say 10th. They will miss Muntari but they still have a very capable squad, a cunning manager in Redknapp, and have been top half material for the past two seasons. Can't see lightning striking twice in terms of the FA Cup...
Players To Watch: Defoe and the classy Kranjcar. And definitely watch for the most ungainly striker in the world to make an A Grade assclown of himself on numerous occasions.

Peter Crouch being swept away on a windy day at Anfield.

Stoke: Newly promoted and expected to go straight back down. Their key signing is Dave Kitson who is a handy striker but is certainly not going to hammer 20+ goals home. And that's how many they'll need from him. Haven't done nearly enough to prevent them returning from whence they came.
Prediction: Pain, relegation and a 20th place finish. A couple of almighty hammerings to boot.
Player to watch: Kitson will be top goalscorer for the club barring injury but his 5 or 6 goals won't be come close to saving them.

Sunderland: Sunderland play in the Stadium of Light, a misnomer if there ever was one with such a dreary team. There's not much to get excited about on the field for the Black Cats so the fans make up for it with drunken tomfoolery; their fans were voted loudest in the Premier League last season. One of those teams who should have just enough to stay up but will be battling relegation if they aren't careful.
Players to watch: Hmm...I haven't been able to sit through a Sunderland game from memory...New signing Chimbonda perhaps? They must be boring if all I can come up with is a defender. But seriously, Diouf is always good value, not in terms of his play but his exemplary sportsmanship. I give him 20 minutes into the season opener before he spits on someone or gets sent off.
Prediction: 15th

Tottenham: The 07/08 season saw Spurs sign Darren Bent for a club record 16.5 million from Chalton Athletic, they brought in Spanish manager Juande Ramos, finished 11th on the table and won the League Cup beating Chelsea in the final. It's 08/09 and the Spurs have lost Keane to Liverpool with Bent pairing with the Mexican Giovani dos Santos from Barcelona up front. White Hart Lane is pretty happy with the pairing, with goals coming easily in their pre-season matches. New goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes is being tipped as one of the star South American imports in the Premier League. Coming from PSV Eindhoven, the Brazilian will have plenty of pressure on him to turn the attacking play of the Spurs into points on the table. After losing strike weapon and long time club talisman Keane, the Spurs may also lose Berbatov to Manchester United and have lost French centre back Kaboul to Pompey. With Dos Santos and Bent the Spurs will again look dangerous upfront and worth watching but ultimately won't be threatening the top 4. Will look to improve on last year's 11th but don't expect them to get further up than 6th - at best. Developing a new striker partnership to replace the Keane-Berbatov show from last year will determine the club's ultimate standing.
Prediction: 6th

West Brom: Another of the newly promoted teams, West Brom look to have recruited smartly with a limited budget. So they probably haven't done enough to stay up but have done more than Hull and Stoke. It's a familiar story for the Baggies who have been up and down like Amy Winehouse' moods for as long as I can remember. You would have thought they might try a different approach; maybe just buying one really good player instead of many okay players. They might get it right one day and actually stay up.
Players to watch: All their players are about as alright as each other. I honestly can't pick a standout.
Prediction: 18th. Should put up more of a fight than the two noobs. After all, they've been in this position numerous times before.

West Ham
: Snuck into the top half in 07/08 and should finish between 10th and 14th in this campaign. Have signed defender/midfielder Behrami but lost a couple of players to Fulham and look to be just trying to consolidate on last year's efforts.
Players to watch: Ljundberg and Ashton if they can both stay healthy.
Prediction: 13th. A handy squad but perhaps over-achieved a little last season.

Wigan: Another team that have made a few changes but nothing of note. Given they were nearly relegated last year you would think some bigger changes would be in order. Like Sunderland and Bolton, Wigan can't afford to slip up to the bottom three teams or they might find themselves being in the bottom three. Not a particularly exciting team to watch; I won't be picking many matches involving Wigan on Viewer's Choice.
Prediction: 17th

So that leaves us with a league ladder at season's end looking like:

1. Chelsea
2. Manchester United
3. Arsenal
4. Liverpool
5. Aston Villa
6. Tottenham
7. Everton
8. Manchester City
9. Blackburn
10. Portsmouth
11. Newcastle
12. Fulham
13. Middlesbrough
14. West Ham
15. Bolton
16. Sunderland
17. Wigan
18. West Brom
19. Hull
20. Stoke

Chelsea champions, all three newly promoted teams taking the drop, and Fulham the big improvers.

Enjoy the season and best of luck to your team!



Professor Chaos said...

Thanks lads!
I was away on a 24 hour race this weekend!

Captain Carnage said...

Apologies to all with the pictures in this post. My computer is being a total poofter. Will fix them this evening.