Friday, August 13, 2010

English Premier League Preview

Tomorrow is the start of another English Premier League Season. Exciting. I now know what I will be doing most Saturday mornings. This year due to the World Cup, we did not have much of an off season, but I am excited nevertheless. Last year my picks were pretty good, picking Chelsea to win, Tottenham and Man City to challenge for a Champion's League spot (but I predicted it at the expense of Arsenal, not Liverpool), and picking two of the three relegated teams.
Here are my predictions for an exciting season.

I believe things at the top are the most exciting they have been in years. In years past you really only had two or three times that could legitimately challenge for the title. This year, I think there are 5 - Chelsea, Man U, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool. And then you have the second tier of teams that could finish in the top 4 and will consistently challenge the big boys - Tottenham, Everton, Aston Villa.
After that top 8, though, there is a large drop off.
You have your comfortable midtable teams - Fulham, Stoke, Birmingham
And them pretty much everyone else is in the relegation battle.

1. Manchester United - I'm really sure why, but I'm not feeling like Chelsea will win it again. Terry is getting old. Lampard cannot repeat his performance of last season. Man United hasn't really added too much, but they always seem to be having lots of young players coming up at all times. Look for Berbatov to finally tally some goals in Man U shirt. I think it comes down to depth, though. Man U has much more than Chelsea. Look at defense - Vidic, Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Smailling, Raphael, Fabio, Wes Brown, Gary Neville. These are all competent defenders. And the midfield is much of the same.

Player to Watch - Chicharito

2. Chelsea - Took take the title again. Drogba coming back from injury, Anelka getting old, Terry getting old. Chelsea will need a few more additions to fully stake the claim as favorites.

Player to Watch - Solomon Kalou - I'm thinking Drogba or Anelka get injured.

3. Arsenal - One of the few top teams to really better themselves in the offseason. Van Persie will be mostly healthy to start the season. Chamakh provides a reliable 2nd striker. Fabregas did not leave. Gallas, Campbell, and Silveste left. There is a little uncertainty in the central defense, and a lack of a true defensive midfielder, but look to Arsenal to play their normal brand of exciting football - scoring lots, losing the occasional game to a bad team, losing to the best teams, playing well in Europe.

Player to Watch - Nasri - I'm feeling a breakout season for the Frenchman Nasri.

4. Manchester City - Lots of money, lots of players. A few more additions in the weeks to come. Uncertainty among who will actually play, they have so many players. It's kind of ridiculous. Two great keepers, loads of midfielders, strikers for days. I see talent only getting them so far. They will not gel until the end of the season.

Player to watch -Adam Johnson, one of the few unproven players at City.

5. Everton - Might be a bit of a homer pick here, but Everton has their strongest side in years. They have depth and competition for places. Look for breakout seasons for Jagielka and Arteta. Hopefully Everton can consistently beat the lower level competition and keep up the high level of play against the top teams. The lack of European football will actually help them. Look for a FA Cup or Carling Cup final as well as a strong league finish.

Player to Watch - Jack Rodwell - future England star.

6. Liverpool - They have the quality and are bringing in good players, but I don't think their defense is where it was a few years ago. Torres has had lots of injury problems. Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic are good additions, but I think Liverpool are on the way down.

Player to Watch - Jovanovic - Young attacking talent, scored against Germany in the World Cup

7. Tottenham - Champions League will have an adverse effect on Tottenham. They'll be a bit stretched and will not be able to recreate the form of last year. They are a quality team, but not top 4 material.

Player to Watch - Michael Dawson - young(ish) defender, played great last year. Look for him to get better and be the only real rock on that defense.

8. Aston Villa - Loss of coach a week before the season. Their best player will soon be leaving. Things are going downhill fast for Villa. Lucky for them the teams below them are not really strong.

Player to Watch - Stuart Downing - Was a great young English player, but missed much of last season with an injury. He will have to step up with the impending loss of Milner.

9. Fulham - Nothing really excites me about Fulham. Last year the made it to the UEFA Cup final. Wild. I don't think they have a strong enough midfield to really challenge the big boys.

Player to Watch - Andy Johnson - Missed much of last season with injury. Can he return to his Crystal Palace/early Everton form? If so, Zamora and Johnson will be a dangerous combination.

10. Stoke City - Stoke are one of the few teams on the rise. The addition of Kenwyne Jones definitely signals this. Stoke know the brand of football they play, and in England, in the current EPL, it really works (at least against the bottom half of the table.)

Player to Watch: K. Jones

11. Blackburn - Much like Stoke, Blackburn play hard, physical football. Blackburn lack the quality strikers that Stoke have, but hard nosed midfield and defense will have them be a clear mid table team.

Player to Watch - Steven Nzonzi - Young midfield prospect, scored a cracking goal against Everton, so that's how I know him.

12. West Ham - Not too much to get excited for in Avrem Grant's West Ham. Charlton Cole is a quality striker and Scott Parker runs things well in the midfield. Defensive and consistent scoring are suspect.

Player to Watch: Barera

13. Bolton - Another industrious, physical, unimpressive on paper side. Kevin Davies epitomizes this team. They often times give teams like Liverpool and Arsenal problems, yet lose to Hull the next week.

Player to Watch - Matt Taylor - flair for great goals

14. Birmingham - I don't see Birmingham following up on their success from last year. They just don't have enough quality players and some of their best performers from last season are getting old.

Player to watch: Cameron Jerome

15. Newcastle - Back in the top league. I think they will struggle, but ultimately be safe. They want to be a big club again, but that will have to wait a few years while the maintain secure Premier League footing. Oh, and their players don't have the look of a big club, except the Big Sol Campbell.

Player to Watch - Andy Carroll - Exciting young striker, great in the air. Switching from number 39 to 9, though.

16. Sunderland - Some people are tauting Sunderland to challenge for the top 10. I see them barely avoiding relegation. They do have Darren Bent and young talent like Cattermole and Frazier Campbell, but their defense does not measure up and look for their offense, much like their striker Bent, to be dreadfully inconsistent.

Player to Watch: Frazier Campbell - will get lots of chances with Jones moving on.

17. West Brom - West Brom is the ultimate "yo-yo" club, but I think their EPL experience will help them hang on for another year.

Player to watch: Chris Brunt

18. Wigan - I have picked Wigan to go down for about 4 straight years now. I feel this will finally be the year. Rodallega cannot possible have a year like last year and their best midfielder N'Zogbia will be leaving.

Player to Watch: Alcarez

19. Wolves - Lots of bad teams around the league this year.

20. Blackpool - They have about 17 total players.

Player to Watch: Charlie Adam.

There you go. Enjoy the start of the season.

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