Friday, August 10, 2007

EPL Preview 2007/2008 (Part 3 of 4)

Manchester City - Sawadee-krup from the city of Manchester as the blue half has added a pinch of Thai spices into the recipe. Do goto "TomYam Half Of Manchester". Definitely good for a light chuckle.

Between Carson Yeung and Thaksin Shinawatra, I think the ex-Thai PM has gotten the better team to invest in. On paper, Sven Eriksson has definitely a far superior resumé then Steve Bruce. However, given the disastrous track record managing the England team, I do have some reservations over the Swede's true ability.

If Eriksson is really that good as the FA has hoped for when they offered him the England Manager contract, the Swede will be raring to go from Match Day 01 to prove his critics wrong and to redeem himself. Even if his motivation is not for the team's but for his own selfish reasons, it doesn't matter so long as he ring in the points. Much work is needed to salvage the tatters of his reputation.

Anyway, I am glad they got rid of Joey Barton. Violence and ill discipline has no place in the beautiful game. As for inbound players, Eriksson has signed up 7 names so far but all have yet to be tested in the English game. Should they come off as hits, then perhaps a new perspective of the Swede's capability is in order here.

Who to watch out for in ManCity? Surprisingly, it is Thaksin "Frank" Shinawatra. Frank as the fans kept thinking of him as Sinatra. Shinawatra, Sinatra, geddit? Geddit? Right now, Thaksin is riding on the "innocent-until-proven-guilty" ticket as investigations on his corruption charges back home are still ongoing.

What if Thaksin is found guilty at the end of the day? Funds frozen? Warrant for arrest? Assets seized? What fate would lie ahead of Manchester City, should the unfortunate happen?

Stay tuned.

Verdict: Undoubtedly, a top half finish but probably lack the finesse to gain an UEFA Cup spot on Eriksson's first attempt and rightly so as foreseen by Thaksin as he gave the manager 2 years to achieve that, rather than setting it as an immediate goal.

Manchester United - It is ironic that the past 3 seasons when we failed to capture the Premiership title, we spent modestly on new players. Yet, when we finally did recapture the title, we plonked 50 million pounds Sterling into the transfer market.

Perhaps, this is Fergie's determination to want to capture the ECL for the second time while defending the Premiership title. Perhaps yet another treble? Or *gasp!* Grand Slam?

Anyway, I have my doubts on Hargreaves and the 17 million price tag that came along with it. Is he really that good to justify the money? Admittedly, Bundesliga has never been a strong area for me and so I can't really pass judgment on him yet. I guess we would just have to see how it goes as the season progresses. A bit of a deja vu when we brought in Carrick last season.

Another player that I have my doubt is Tevez. Fortunately, it is pre-season now and distractions like this are certainly not welcome. It looks as if the entire club is bending over backwards just to bring in the Argentinian. For a club that is always club above player, this little saga just leaves me scratching my head in bafflement. Our past experience has taught us the South Americans do not stay long at Old Trafford. Look at Veron, Keblerson and soon to be out-the-door Heinze.

I wondered about Nani and Anderson too.

Speaking of Heinze, I think Fergie should let him go. There is no point keeping him around when his heart is no longer with us. If Liverpool wants him, let them have him. We can afford to lose him as Evra is a much better player in the same position. I doubt if there is anything to worry about Heinze scoring the winning goal against us in a Kop shirt. He will be another Phil Neville in a blue shirt. No worries there.

As a whole, the team is strong in all departments but I feel that our defense is a little thin. We will be relying on Vidic and Ferdinand to hold the fort and I am thinking Skipper Gary Neville is ready to hand over his armband for good. As long as we stay free of injuries, we should be ok. Problem is, as we have witnessed last season, this is something that nobody can foresee.

I guess we just have to keep our fingers crossed.

Verdict: We should be able to defend the title this season. However, I fear if Fergie were to be too obsessed with the ECL, like Benitez, that we may end up shooting ourselves in the foot and hand over the Premiership trophy to Chelsea all gift wrapped and ribbons.

Middlesbrough - Boro is by far the most painful team to watch. One word to describe them. Boring. They might as well be renamed as MiddlesBoring.

While the club has enough to stay in the top flight for years to come, I am secretly wishing for them to go down in order to make way for a more exciting team to come up and take its place.

Viduka has left and a good decision at that to save whatever career he has left. Goalie Schwarzer also look certain to leave the club and Boro will really in big trouble should that happens, for over the years, it has been countless times where Schwarzer single handedly saved Boro's ass from one embarrassing defeat after another.

As for Abel Xavier? Good riddance to bad garbage.

A lot of buzz surrounding the arrival of Jonathan Woodgate. Seriously, I don't see how good this player is as he has spent more time in the sick bay then actually on the field. After being shipped out by Leeds following his guilty conviction of affray on an Asian student, he spend a lot of time off the field injured while at Newcastle, then at Real Madrid. The way I see it, he is a liability to the team who will be paying for his wages and medical bill while getting nothing in return. Michael Owen will be my other example but I will come to that when I cover Newcastle.

Verdict: Bottom-half of the table after a successful fight to stay off relegation. Dang.

Newcastle United - Attention on Deck! Big Sam in da house! Things are finally turning around for the Geordies with the arrival of Sam Allardyce. One of my 3 most admired gaffers with the other two namely Harry Redknapp and Alan Curbishley. It is not that Glen Roeder is bad but just that he has done all he could for the club but still not quite enough.

One of the problem with Newcastle last season was that the club was cursed with injury after injury. The biggest ticketed injury would be none other than Michael Owen. Other notable names would be Martins, Dyer, Duff and most recently Given.

Still, Newcastle could have done better last season if not for their constant failings away from St James' Park winning just 3, drawing 7 and losing 9 of their away games. That alone attributed to their failure to secure a place in the UEFA Cup tournament.

One thing I like about Big Sam is his no-nonsense approach. Either the player get with the program or get out. Simple as that. No third option. Hence, the disposal of Captain Scott Parker to West Ham with Dyer not far behind though not West Ham as previously thought to be.

On the inbound side, expect lots of goals from Newcastle this season as they welcome Mark Viduka and Alan Smith. Watch out for these two and if they are able to gel well with each other, they would form a very deadly strikeforce.

On another note, if I could have a word with Big Sam, I would recommend that he sells Owen while he is still able to get some money out of him. Like I said earlier, Owen is another Woodgate. A liability.

Verdict: Like I said, Newcastle needs to improve their away form if they hope to get back to the glory days of ol'. With Allardyce at the helm, I have every confidence that the Toon Army would succeed. As to how I would place them at the end of the season, I am guessing them to park behind Tottenham Hotspur at 6th and a UEFA Cup place to boot. Carling Cup and/or FA Cup success is also a likely possibility.

Portsmouth - What does the group of names of Campbell, Lua Lua, James, Kanu, Traore, Lauren and Distin tell you? You'd be right if you realise that there were all discards from their previous employers.

In a way, Redknapp is like a Karang Guni man but an astute one at that. While the entire squad's total value may only be a fraction of say, Chelsea or ManUtd, it was something short of a miracle to see them climb to as high as second in the league table during the early part of last season. Such is the magic of Harry "Potter" Redknapp.

Part of Portsmouth's success was their excellent goalkeeper, David "Not So Calamity Liao" James, and his record number of clean sheets. Unfortunately, Pompey ran out of steam towards the end of the season and started sliding and conceding goals en route to finish in 9th spot. Defense coach Tony Adams has a lot of work cut out for him this season for as great a goalkeeper can be, goals will still be leaked if the defenders don't pull their act together. More often than not have we see unnecessary goals as a result of the goalkeeper being played out by his own defenders' folly.

I applaud Redknapp's (and Coppell's) decision not to take part in the Inter-Toto Cup to try to get in on the UEFA Cup action. Drawing lessons in the past from Leeds United, Everton and Ipswich Town, if the club does not have the resources to play in Europe (without undermining own domestic form), it is better to just focus on the domestic league and slowly build it up rather then trying to figure it out en route, after jumping in the deep end first.

In football, when you jump into the deep end right away, you drown. Period.

Redknapp knows what he is doing and more important where the boundaries are as far as the limits of his club currently is at. From the looks of his signings this season, it looks like Redknapp is finally ready for Portsmouth to make the push this season.

Watch for Nugent and Utaka to beef up the squad and Kanu continue to score for fun. In case you are wondering what happened to Andy Cole, his contract has been canceled after a dismal showing last season. Time to call it a day for the ex-ManUtd striker.

Verdict: Don't expect another surprising surge to the top like last season. That was a fluke. Instead, watch Redknapp launch a steady charge towards an UEFA Cup spot. Looks like the chase for the second UEFA Cup spot will be much more intense than before. Watch for it, the real race this season would probably be for the 6th spot (or 7th or even 8th if one of the higher placed clubs were to win the Carling Cup or FA Cup).


At 1:40 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous KingMeng said...

Last season 8th placing was Reading, not Man City...

At 2:46 PM, August 10, 2007, Blogger JayWalk said...

KM: Thanks for spotting that. Error duly amended. :)


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