So the Olympics are finally over in London and we can all get back to not watching NBC at all and not caring about sports like dressage and water polo. As an added bonus, the English Premier League is back this week! Rejoice, one and all! This season brings all manner of new diversions to get excited about: the Manchester Arms Race! Swanseapool! Fat Sam! The rebirth of AVB!
Here at Four Five Two, we hope to discuss all these things and more in an epic four day blogathon of season previews. Lots were cast, and today’s group fell to me. Hit the jump for my pearls of wisdom regarding Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Southampton, and Manchester City.
Last year, Arsenal managed a third place finish in spite of their best efforts to fail. Surprisingly, there were relatively few injuries, and Robin Van Persie had his first injury-free season in a decade, resulting in an impressive goal-haul. This of course led Arsene Wenger to suspect that his physio staff might actually be practicing modern Western medicine, which is strictly interdit. Rumor has it he’s replaced the team doctor with an Amazonian shaman. Jack Wilshere was expected back in the squad by October, but don’t hold your breath; the leeches work slowly.
So it seems RVP will be staying with the Gunners this year, but if he does get snapped up at the last minute, Wenger will have the services of French gay wet dream Olivier Giroud and German eurotrash popstar Lukas Podolski. Andrei Arshavin has been dragged back from Russia to sulk on the bench until another loan deal can be worked out. Expect more of the same from Arsenal this year: they’ll draw Barcelona in the Champions League playoffs and go on to finish somewhere in the top 4 in the Prem. But not at the top, obviously.
Also, purple Where’s Waldo kits.
Roman’s boys acted like spoiled prep academy schoolchildren and forced the boss to fire Andre Villas-Boas (don’t feel bad for him, he landed at Spurs), but it all worked out great because they all love Roberto Di Matteo, who led them to an FA Cup title and the long-awaited Champions League glory. Mr. Abramovich rewarded RDM by not firing him, and has even lent a hand over the off-season by signing several new players. In fact, Chelsea deserve a gold medal in the Summer Transfer Games after winning the Eden Hazard sweepstakes and landing Oscar from Brazilian giants Internacional. Let’s hope he insists on going by his full name at all times: Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Junior.
Buuuut, Didier Drogba’s move to Shanghai leaves Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge in charge of the scoring duties at Stamford Bridge. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. The Blues are totally screwed. It may be just a hunch, but I think RDM gets the axe midway through the CL group stage. Oh, and did I mention they started the season by losing the Community Shield?
Still, they’ll probably finish better than fifth in the Premiership.
Think fast: where did the Cottagers finish in the EPL standings last year? Tenth? Twelfth? Who knows, right? Somewhere in the middle, probably.* And that’s probably where they’ll finish this year, too. As of this writing, Clint Dempsey is still with the squad and has not been signed by Liverpool or anyone else. This is good for Fulham on the pitch, because they have a pretty thin squad, but probably bad for Fulham’s blood red finance ledgers.
Martin Jol has a difficult job trying to get Fulham back to the glory days of Europa League final appearances under Roy Hodgson. The good news is that if the season ended today, they would qualify for the Europa League by virtue of being fifth in alphabetical order. The bad news is they’ll actually have to play 38 games and win a lot more of them than they’ve done recently. Jol has brought in Mladen Petric from Hamburger SV, and perennial fantasy disappointment Hugo Rodallega from Wigan, but that’s about it. Keep an eye on young Turk Kerim Frei, though. He looked pretty good last year coming off the bench.
*checks standings, “9th? Oh, sorry.”
The Saints are finally marching back into the Prem after seven long years in the lower divisions, thanks to the direction of Nigel Adkins, who has a very English name. And that’s about everything I know about Southampton, so here’s some copy-paste from Wikipedia:
“The club has won the FA Cup once in 1976, and their highest-ever league finish was second in the First Division in 1983-84. Southampton were relegated from the Premier League on 15 May 2005 ending 27 successive seasons of top division football for the club.”
A quick look at their summer transfer dealings brings up little of interest, though I like that they’ve signed Argentine keeper Paulo Gazzaniga (full disclosure: neverheardofhim).
That’s that, then. Can Nigel Adkins keep Southampton from a one-and-done EPL season? It’s a bit of a crap shoot, so we shall see. There will be several clubs aiming for the bottom this year, and only three spots available.
Manchester City F.C.
Last but not least, the defending champions. This post is already getting kinda tl;dr so I won’t say much. For starters, Mancini has spent the summer whinging in the press about the lack of signings and blaming the front office. Oh, boo hoo. How will poor little Man City get along with just 31 WORLD CLASS PLAYERS? Seriously though, if Chelsea get a gold medal for their summer transfer business, Manchester City deserves a dunce cap and an hour in the corner. So far, they’ve signed Jack Rodwell from Everton. That’s it. They managed to loan Wayne Bridge out to Brighton, but there’s still players like Roque Effing Santa Cruz collecting a paycheck for doing absolutely nothing. It seems Citeh’s policy of paying players ridiculous wages has blown up in their face this summer. There’s little room to bring in new blood, and no other club can afford to take their castoffs.
All that said, this team is too good not to compete for the Premiership title and a Champions League title and whatever else they want to win. It only took 12 minutes in the 2nd half yesterday to land the Community Shield, which is a nice way to open the season.
That wraps things up for me. More previews tomorrow.