Saturday, August 11, 2007

EPL Preview 2007/2008 (Part 4 of 4)

Reading - If Reading can pull off another excellent season, Steve Coppell will be added to my list of managers that I admire which currently stands at three. Granted that they don't bring in the trophies like Fergie, Mourinho, Benitez or Wenger, but the achievements they reach with the type of resources they are getting, even the Big 4 gaffers would accord them the respect that they so rightly deserve.

Reading could have gotten a spot in the UEFA Cup tournament if not for the 2 disaster results in the final 2 matches of the season. A shock defeat at the hands of bottom dwellers Watford and a 3-3 draw with Blackburn Rovers on the final day saw their Euro dreams dashed to pieces. Real heart-breaking drama.

Enough about the spilled milk as a new dawn has arrived. Expect Reading to start of the season from the wrong side of the table as they open the season against ManUtd at Old Trafford, followed by hosting Chelsea, just 3 days later. Still, better to get these big matches out of the way as (1) they have a better chance against these 2 big boys early in the season before they (the big boys) find their groove and kick into gear and (2) clearing them early ensures no disruption to the momentum, should they find themselves surfing on the crest of a winning streak.

In my opinion, Coppell made a mistake spending a bit too conservatively on new players having brought in only 2 players and losing Sidwell to Chelsea in the process. Given that they don't have any worries about players being Euro cup-tied or what-not, The Royals have a good 20 days to open up the chequebook and bring in reinforcements.

Otherwise, I can bet you that they will be desperate by the time the next transfer window in January 2008 opens. By then, it may be too little, too late.

Perhaps Reading's Achilles' Heel would be their lack of depth in the squad. An injury to any player is likely to have a great impact on the team's performance on the pitch. Coppell better pray that his players stay healthy or have a miracle physio on board.

Verdict: Top half of the table but their lack of depth would count against them dearly as they will be written off as UEFA Cup spot contenders as early as Christmas.

Sunderland - Roy Keane, the prodigy of Brian Clough, one of the greatest manager in English football history. The latter being a stickler for discipline has obviously rubbed some of that values on Keane and quickly established himself into the good books of Fergie until his final days at ManUtd. Even when he has retired from the pitch, the disciplinarian streak remained when he left late-comers as punishment for their tardiness.

I personally supported Keane during the "Saipan Incident" just before the 2002 World Cup and fully agreed the Mick McCarthy was a "liar... ...and a f*cking wanker". Before anyone disagree with me here, let me ask you this. Who was the Sunderland manager who finish the season with an all time Premiership low of a mere 15 points? I rest my case. Anyone who finishes with only 15 points for an entire season deserved to be called a "liar... ...and a f*cking wanker".

When Keane took over last season, Sunderland were in the relegation zone of the League Championship. At the end of that very same season, they were the Division Champions. You have got to respect him for that achievement. Keane's record after managing 42 games is 26 wins, 9 draws and 7 defeats (Win% = 61.90%).

Player to watch at Sunderland? None. Watching the gaffer in action is good enough. I look forward to the Fergie-Keane reunion. Granted that both parted under acrimonious circumstances, I believed Fergie is still very fond of Keane. I won't be surprised Fergie takes him under his tutelage and groom him to be his successor as the next ManUtd manager.

Verdict: Probably bottom-half finish but certainly no danger of relegation and definitely finish the season with more than 15 wanker points.

Tottenham Hotspur - The Lilywhites have a Royal Flush on hand. We have Robbie Keane (10), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Jack), Dimitar Berbatov (Queen), Ledley King (King) and No.1 Shirt Paul Robinson (Ace). Ok ok... that was corny but damn, it was stuck in my head for the past week and I was just dying to get it out. Unfortunately, Tottenham Hotspur starts with a "T" and I am doing this review alphabetically. =P

The biggest problem with Spurs is the quality of managers in the past. They haven't had a good one in the last 20 years. Fortunately, Spurs' fortunes is about to turn has Martin Jol has proven to be by far the best manager in the past 20 years, second only to David Pleat in terms of Win% but the latter's cannot be counted on account of the fact that he was only a caretaker manager in 1998, 2001 and again in 2003.

This will be the 4th season under Martin Jol of which he finished 9th, 5th then 5th. Some of the harsher critics are calling for his blood as Jol is still trophy-less and still unable to break into the Top 4. This is where I would come to Jol's defense as I think it is not because Spurs under Jol is not good but rather the Top 4 in the past few years are just too strong. Good news is the Jol's efforts are not in vain as he has been steadily closing the gap. By far, this would be the season the Jol will get closest to the Holy Grail of the No.4 spot and if the planets aligned properly, Tottehnham Hotspur may even nick that spot away from Arsenal, whom the latter is deemed to be the weakest in years as well as among the Top 4. What sweeter than one-up over Spurs' greatest rival?

With the influx of players during the summer, Jol has thrown down the gauntlet at Wenger sounding his intention to replace Arsenal as the 4th member of the Top 4.

All eyes continue to be on Berbatov who, much to the fans' relief, stayed on at White Hart Lane. His brilliant partnership with Keane will be the critical factor to Spurs' success this season. That means that Jermaine Defoe is likely to be available on the transfer market pretty soon.

Verdict: Could this be the year for Martin Jol to finally break into the Top 4? I am afraid not as Arsenal, even without Henry, is still a tad ahead of Spurs. So a No.5 spot for Spurs for the 3rd season running albeit the gap to the No.4 spot will be even closer than before. Perhaps one more season is needed?

West Ham United - The Hammers narrowly escaped relegation with a dodgy victory over Premiership Champions ManUtd. Many speculative fingers pointed towards the special friendship between Fergie and Curbs.

West Ham came into last season with a lot of excitement with the introduction of Tevez and Mascherano. Unfortunately, both failed to fizzle until almost to the end of the season before Tevez showed some sparkle and Mascherano left the building. Even so, it proved to be pointless as Tevez is set to be a ManUtd player by end of August. Granted that West Ham may be able to pocket 2 million pounds Sterling from the Tevez transfer, they nevertheless are still 3.5 million pounds Sterling in the red after being fined 5.5 million pound Sterling by the FA, for transfer discrepancies over these two South American players.

This has not been a proud moment in West Ham history and Alan Curbishley would be more than eager to put that all behind. Curbishley, in my opinion, is a very talented manager and I am sure, he would be able to put in great strides within the club despite needing to clear a lot of deadwood in the locker room.

I look forward to see Ljunberg, Bellamy and Parker as a Hammer. While they may be discards from their previous clubs, they nevertheless still have a good number of years in them and should be able to stir some waves on the pitch.

Verdict: Chairman Magnusson may be looking for a place in the UEFA Cup spot but I think the bloke has been standing in the sun for a tad too long. Curbishley may be good but not THAT good. Survival in the Premiership is expected but bottom half is as good as they are going to get for this season. No chance of relegation as I have already earmarked 3 clubs worse than West Ham.

Wigan Athletic - Chris Hutchings is the new Latics gaffer and he is the manager in the entire Premiership that I am most confident of. I am most confident that he will be the first manager to get the sack before the season is over.

Last season was a heart breaker to see Paul Jewell leave after rescuing Wigan on the very last day. A bit of a deja vu when he heroically led Bradford City to beat Liverpool 1-0 on the final day of the 1999/2000 season, ensuring the club's survival in the top flight for another season. Jewell also resigned shortly after that.

We will see 7 new faces this season as Hutchings is on a do-or-die mission. Sadly, a Karang Guni expert in the likes of Curbishley, Allardyce and Redknapp, he is not. I don't have much confidence in any of the new signings contributing anything positive to the club.

Titus Bramble for his "defensive expertise"? BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!! *snort*

Watch out for new signing Jason Koumas for he is expected to be the club's top scorer. Then again, 10 goals for the entire season is enough to be top scorer at Wigan liao. *shakes head*

Verdict: Bradford survived that memorable season only to go down the next. History will repeat itself as pundits says a 4 in 5 chance for Wigan to be relegated. However, it won't be in last place that is already specially reserved for Derby County. Don't expect to see them back anytime soon either.


Post a Comment

<< Home