The Premier League Trophy - resplendent in Arsenal ribbons
Arsene Wenger used his press conference today to state his commitment to Arsenal by announcing he is about to sign a new contract. This has met with some mixed views from Arsenal fans. As someone who has believed Wenger has had his time I am unsure what to make of this. The positive is that Arsene has nailed his colours to the mast and demonstrated to the players that he is here for the long-haul, so a bit of reciprocal commitment would not go amiss. The negative is that, if Arsenal's season fails, he faces the ignominy of being kicked out by the Club as the pressure builds in the future. That a new contract has been offered indicates that the Board is happy with the way things are going. The fact is that the fans will NOT be happy if we start to struggle.
As this is the eve of the new Premier League season I have previewed every team and how I think things will pan out. It's just a bit of fun, written by an unqualified no-mark, but I hope you enjoy it. The teams are in no particular order:
They are reliant on supplying chances for Darren Bent. This is a task that becomes harder with the sale of Kenwynne Jones to Stoke. I also think that Lorik Cana will be missed from their, severely weakened, midfield. The pre-season broken arm for a much improved Craig Gordon leaves them vulnerable at the back and I think Sunderland will struggle this season.
I think (I hope!) that it will be "after the Lord-Mayor's show" for Spurs this season. In recent years a decent campaign has usually been followed by a bad start and a change of manager before Christmas. If they do start to go backwards expect Twitchy to prepare the ground for his departure with a moan about lack of players/investment. Top ten for the scum this season, but not much better.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Another yo-yo season for the Baggies with relegation a near-certainty. They have no goalscorer for this level and a weak defence. They must stick with the Manager though and, eventually, the coming and going from the Premier League will result in a stable Premier League presence - just as it did for Charlton.
Their strong and organised defence will again need good assistance from a goalkeeper. Is Ben Foster up to it? I think they'll slip a little, possibly in to the bottom half, but no relegation dangers as long as most of the players avoid second-season syndrome. They won't be able to rely on so many late goals either.
They've had a weak pre-season. I know that Owen Coyle likes his teams to play a bit of football. He sacrificed those values when he arrived at the Reebok as a means to an end last season, but you can't turn cloggers in to footballers. I think they must play to their strengths, which is lots of high balls to Kevin Davies, or they will struggle badly, as they did when Sammy Lee tried to get them passing. And I hope they don't get to have Jack Wilshere in their squad - he needs to play for Arsenal.
A lack of quality all round makes them relegation-fodder. They need a fit Chris Kirkland to play 90% of their matches at the peak of his form to have any chance of staying up. Relegated come May.
Loads of money. Loads of strikers (another one today!) Poor defence. Top goalkeepers. I think that Roberto Mancini is not so popular with the fans or the players and may not last too long. They have a really tough first six matches - bad start, manager sacked - good start, they become the team to catch. Top four this season.
Javier Hernandez looks to be a bit of a goalscoring gem. I think they need a fit Rio Ferdinand to help them defensively though - Brown, O'Shea and Evans are not top-class. Giggs and Scholes can't go on forever so I think United might struggle a little this season - but everything is relative. Slipping backwards, Fergie moving towards the end.
If they have to rely on Big Sol every week they may struggle. They're already weak in every area with a number of players who are just not Premier League class. They certainly don't have a striker of the requisite quality to score goals at this level. Bottom five as another relegation battle looms.
WEST HAM UNITED
The Hammers have seen new owners try to make themselves the stars of the East End show. They have been spending money though. West Ham will need Scott Parker and Robert Green in their best form again. I think they will be better defensively, with Avram Grant bringing some proper organisation at the back. Safely in mid-table.
Poor team. Worse manager. Bottom six thanks to a good work rate.
I think Kenwynne Jones is a superb signing for Stoke. He will certainly suit their game and bring players in to the attack with his hold-up play. Strong and physical (downright dirty in fact) will see them in mid-table again.
Losing James Milner, and possibly Ashley Young. Already lost their manager. Villa will slip back in to the pack.
Blackburn have had a decent pre-season campaign and will be competitive simply due to the way Allardyce sends his team out to play the game. Rovers have a severe lack of pace at the back and I'll be watching young Jones very closely - he looked a real talent last season.
Why do promoted teams waste their money on mediocrity? Why spend money on players who will not be Premier League class as long as they live? I suspect Ian Holloway will talk himself out of a job by complaining at the money he was given (or lack of it in his view). Bottom of the table by some distance come May time.
Unfortunately they remain the team to beat. They could, possibly, miss Carvallho. Michael Essien's return to fitness negates any hole left by Ballack. They also have two World-Class goalscorers. Champions again I fear.
I expect them to be stronger this season - last year's poor start set them back badly. Moyes has kept hold of his top players. However, a lack of genuine firepower makes them a little over-reliant on Tim Cahill. UEFA Cup spot.
I think Fulham will really struggle without Roy Hodgson's organisation. Mark Hughes is not a good manager and I can see Al-Fayed dispensing with his services before the season ends.
Make no mistake, they will be stronger this season because they will be better defensively. Mascherano will be badly missed if he leaves and they need a fit Gerrard and Torres to score the goals. Top five.
So, what about us? I've been previewing our season since the World Cup ended really. I am pessimistic right now because we are short of quality and numbers defensively. We lack organisation and little has been done to change things since the end of last season. Having said that, I think we are two, maybe three, signings away from a Title challenge. If the players are added in the next couple of weeks (and we can get out of Anfield without being beaten) my mood will improve and I can see Arsenal as Champions come May. In the meantime I think we will finish comfortably in the top four - but that is not enough.
So there you have it. The roller coaster starts tomorrow. Strap yourselves in for nine months of joy and despair. Get behind the boys. Give them all your support. More on Monday.
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COME.ON.YOU.GUNNERS. COME ON ARSENAL.