Runners & Riders For 2009/2010
Wswilly3 sent us the following...
Although it is a bit early to start making predictions for next season, I still couldn't resist the temptation of doing just that.
Yes, there hasn't been a tremendous amount of transfer activity to date but one can still get a feel of how much clubs are likely to invest in their pursuit of success. Going with the adage, that money doesn't guarantee success but it bloody well helps and assessing the relative strength of the current squads, I have divided the Premiership into five sections of four teams:
We are the Champions (League) Section - It's Our God Given Right To Be Here. Man. United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal
The issues for the 'established' four have as much to do with losing players as to acquiring them. The Rags have lost Ronaldo and Tevez; Liverpool look likely to lose Alonso and maybe even Masherano; Arsenal may well lose Adebayor, Gallas and Toure or even Fabregas; whilst Carvalho and Deco will probably depart Chelsea. All, with the possible exception of Chelsea, are significant or potentially significant losses and in return there hasn't been any startling additions or even rumours of startling additions.
Given the imagination of the British press, this lack of sensationalism does say a great deal about the lack of available world class talent and in the case of Arsenal and Liverpool the lack of financial clout. The most exciting additions quoted so far are Valencia and Owen to the Rags, Zhirkov to Chelsea, Veraelen to Arsenal and Glen Johnson to Liverpool.
Now I don't know about you but none of those makes me tremble in my boots and neither does it give me the impression that any of these teams are going to be any stronger next season. The type of signing that would show real strength and intent would be a Ribery, an Eto'o or a David Villa and I for one don't see that happening (probably famous last words and the Bookies will be queuing up for my mug bets!!).
So, one has to conclude that these teams are treading water after having lost a bit of buoyancy in the close season. As such, they are going to be far more vulnerable to losing their top four status and the attendant pretensions. Sorry Mr Wenger that means Arsenal in particular, with its Board of upper class traditionalists plus a dash of revolutionary Russian and flamboyant American to boot. A volatile and unpredictable mixture, likely to explode at any time both on and off the pitch.
Prediction: 1= Chelsea, 2=Liverpool, 3= Manchester United, 6=Arsenal
The Anti Establishment Section - Move Over For The New Order. Aston Villa, Everton, Spurs and Man City
The good news from this section of 'pretenders to the throne', is that Man City not only have the financial clout but are using it well to significantly strengthen their under-performing but strong squad from last year. Already Gareth Barry and Roque Santa Cruz are on board and hopefully Carlos Tevez and Lescott, Toure or equivalent will follow to give a real feeling of squad strength in depth. Spurs via 'Harry's Universal Traders' will wheel and deal but more at the level of Bulgarian cast-off handsets rather than designer Nokia ones.
Still, one gets the impression that Spurs will have a far better season than the one salvaged by Redknapp last term. Everton and Aston Villa have shrewd managers, able to optimise performance on the limited talent available to them but both have yet to strengthen and also have the distraction of an energy consuming European competition, without large budgets to deepen their over-performing squads.
In this regard Randy Lerner would be better named Teaser Lerner (or worse) given the way he seems to hang on to his assets. Thank goodness we don't have American owners.
Anyway, judged on the above criteria, City has the best chance of gate-crashing the top four party and I think Spurs will not be far behind. Unless they invest significantly, Everton and Villa will, I believe have to for top eight and maybe a decent run in Europe providing they are mainly competing against unpronounceable Eastern European opposition.
Prediction: 4=Man City, 5= Spurs, 7= Everton, 8= Aston Villa.
I'm Smaller Than Them But Bigger Than Them Section - Mid-Table Mediocrity - West Ham, Fulham, Portsmouth and Blackburn
'Money, money, money, it's a rich man's world' would be a good anthem for these teams. They will be trading in the mid area bargain basement or in loan signings with players that we have probably never heard of but from clubs that we probably have. Some of the signings will be more than adequate; some will sink like stones and return to their native countries, to be quickly forgotten by the majority of fans.
Any excellent players they have or do acquire will become the target of the 'moneyed vultures' in the January transfer window and so mid-table mediocrity will be a reasonable reward for them. West Ham did well under Zola but he has little room for manoeuvre given Icelandic thrift; whilst Blackburn will be well organised under Allerdyce but will play less attractive football than the 'Ammers.
Fulham over performed last year, under the wise old Owl, 'Olly Odgson' but will be unlikely to repeat this, particularly with Europe on their mind and a slender depth of resources. Pompey will hope to have a bit of Middle Eastern 'oofle dust' at their disposal but definitely not at the level of our Sugar Daddy and they need to retain the Crouches and Distins. They also have a manager who is an unknown quantity - remember Gross,Venglos, Perrin, Frank Clark?
No, I hardly do either and I choose to forget the last one! A lot will depend on how the Manager settles and an up and down season could well be the outcome, with mid-table safety the best reward. Yes I don't expect either fireworks or damp squids from these four and a good FA cup run would be a useful bonus for them.
Prediction: 9=West Ham, 10=Blackburn, 11=Portsmouth,12=Fulham
The Thankful For What We Get Section : Pick Us Up But Don't Scare Us, Please
Sunderland, Wigan, Bolton and Stoke
Not the prettiest quartet but they have a bit of personality and shouldn't be ignored at the dance, especially when the lights get dim and their flaws get covered up. Sunderland under Steve Bruce has money to spend but needs to invest it more wisely than a certain Mr Keane. This will be an interesting test and if he can at least achieve Premiership consolidation and no relegation scares, it would be a reasonable return for his first year.
Wigan probably over performed, with good early season results last season and now with a new manager may have to be satisfied with Premiership survival, achieved without to many relegation worries. Stoke have to avoid the second season syndrome but if Tony Pullis can keep their home form burning, they look likely to survive but only just.
Similar sentiments for Bolton where they too will need to show grit and determination with a focus on results and not performances or beauty. Yes not the prettiest quartet and I am not just talking about their managers.
Prediction: 13= Sunderland, 14=Wigan, 15=Bolton, 16=Stoke.
The Auctioneer's Section : Going, Going, Gone - Hull, Birmingham, Wolves and Burnley
Is there a big gap between the Premiership and the Championship? You betcha there is.
How does one bridge the gap? Grit, determination, some shrewd signings and a few hail Mary's. So do we see Burnley having much chance of survival? In a word, 'Yergottabejokin'. They did well against Premiership opposition in cup competitions but the intensity of a league season plus an average squad and some average Scottish signings doesn't seem to add up to more than 25 pts - sorry Alistair Campbell, 'spin but no win'.
Wolves might do a little better and have some good potential in Knightley and Ebanks-Blake and have signed Doyle but 30 pts max and a quick return for Mick and the boys, looks on the cards.
This leaves Birmingham and Hull, who I believe could well be scrapping for the last survival space. Hull have a bit more experience but the second season syndrome and a few more half-time team talks on the pitch have to be overcome; whilst Birmingham's owners (and not their manager) have begun investing in unknown South Americans and also loan signings, like Joe Hart, who might get a lot of practice. A good under card contest this, with Birmingham (who replace Alex McCleish with Alan Curbishley at Christmas) the narrow winners; on points of course!
Prediction: 17=Birmingham, 18=Hull, 19= Wolves, 20= Burnley
Now are these predictions of the calibre of Russell Grant on an off day, Mystic Meg on a good day or the ranting of a lunatic on his second bottle of Chilean Red, (three for £10 at Asda,) a wine that gets better with ageing, provided you drink it all in one session? Answers on a post card to Vital Manchester City.