Wednesday, 3 August 2011

TSBV Feature: Premier League preview (Part 1)

As we mentioned yesterday, one feature we are introducing for our readers is our very own preview of the upcoming Premier League preview. We will analyse the chances of each team this season through telling you our opinion on the strengths, weaknesses and predicted positions of these teams. Part 1 includes Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Chelsea.

Will they stay or will they go? Nasri and Fabregas
have been linked with moves away recently
Perhaps we saw a sign of things to come and the phrase "typical Arsenal" comes to mind after surrendering the Emirates Cup last Sunday to the New York Red Bulls. Admittedly it was only a pre season friendly, but it's all too familiar to previous years, and for this, we predict a tricky season for the Gunners this year, and one which will see them drop out of the Champions League places. The imminent departure of captain Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona seems to be drawing ever closer, and if they lose him, you can't help but feel that their midfield will suffer greatly. Whenever he was missing last season, Arsenal just looked unable to break down defences the majority of the time. It also seems that Samir Nasri is on his way out of the door, most likely to Manchester City. Arsene Wenger says he does not want to sell him, but he is playing a dangerous game, considering the Frenchman is out of contract next summer and doesn't look like signing a new contract with the North London outfit. The Gunners are also still weak in defence, with Wenger not strengthening again even though it is clear more steel is needed, and their striking options are limited. An injury prone Robin van Persie and two inadequate strikers in Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh and new signing Gervinho are the only ones present, and we personally cannot see Gervinho grabbing 20+ goals in his first season.

Gervinho does seem like a good buy, and it's looking likely that Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsay are expected to fill the void if Fabregas and Nasri do indeed depart, but is it too big of an ask for 2 players who are still developing? They need some steel badly both in midfield and in defence, and although linked with players, no concrete bids have been made.

TSBV predicts: 5th.

Aston Villa
Owner Randy Lerner caused a lot of controvery by appointing Alex McLeish, previously manager of arch rivals Birmingham City, as the new manager. It only took a few weeks for them to lose some key players as well, with Brad Friedel, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing moving to Tottenham, Man United and Liverpool respectively. They were very much big losses, but McLeish has been able to replace Friedel and prize unwanted Shay Given from Manchester City for £3.5 million, which was a bargain in the current transfer climate. A few years younger than Friedel, and just as good, if not better, he will prove to be an important player in the coming season.

They also bought Charles N'Zogbia last weekend for around £9.5 million from Wigan. We at TSBV are unsure about this signing and believe it's very much a gamble from Aston Villa. Although he is a good player, we doubt whether he'll be good enough to fill the void left by Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. Apart from this, we feel Villa need a season of stability, and this is something that Alex McLeish can bring them. A full season with Darren Bent, and hopefully better seasons from the likes of Stephen Ireland and Marc Albrighton will most likely push them on into the top half

TSBV predicts: 8th

Blackburn Rovers
Another club who need a season of stability after last year's takeover by Venky's and the departure of Sam Allardyce. After promising large sums of money almost immediately after the takeover, Rovers have been very quiet in this transfer window, and only bought their first player a few hours ago, when striker David Goodwillie joined from Dundee United for an undisclosed fee. Goodwillie was also sought after by Scottish Champions Rangers, but for us it seems like a very risky signing. The 22 year old has scored only 29 goals in his 117 appearances as a Dundee United player, in what is a considerably weaker league to the Premiership. 

If there is money available, then it needs to be spent quickly. The departure of promising centre back Phil Jones and the increasing specualation over Christopher Samba's future means they need to find some more defenders and fast. The problem for Blackburn is their strength in depth. They will easily survive this season, but when there are a few injuries they will be hit badly. One thing is for certain - if Venkys want European football at Ewood Park in the next few years, they need to be buying players!!

TSBV predicts: 14th

Bolton Wanderers
Bolton enjoyed mixed fortunes last season under Owen Coyle. They spent most of the season in the top half of the league and got all the way to an FA Cup Semi Final against Stoke. But after being thrashed 5-0 in that fixture, they never seemed to recover, losing 5 games before the end of the season, leading them to finish 14th. So obviously, the key challenge this year for Owen Coyle is consistency, and keeping up the belief in the players. It is no coincidence that their loss in form only happened after their crushing defeat at the hands of Stoke City.

After releasing 4 players and selling three others, Coyle seems to have brought in some good players who will help increase the quality of the squad. He also has a fight to keep young starlet Gary Cahill on his hands, with the likes of Arsenal expressing their interest in recent weeks. You can't help but feel that he must be kept if Bolton want to progress any further next season. Using some of the money gained from the Matt Taylor and Ali Al Habsi sales, he has brought in Tyrone Mears and Chris Eagles from Burnley, as well as bringing in Darren Pratley and Nigel Reo Coker on free transfers. You can't help but think that they need another striker though, with Johan Elmander leaving on a free and Daniel Sturridge's loan expiring. Kevin Davies is getting older, and he cannot carry the burden himself. Although he also has Ivan Klasnic available to him, it seems like he is not one that Owen Coyle will want to rely upon for the whole season, and whilst most of the squad has lots of depth, it seems he is lacking in strikers.

We think that Bolton will certainly learn from their mistakes last season, and equip themselves with that much needed belief going into the final furlongs of the season and eventually gain them a European place.

TSBV predicts: 7th

After appointing their 6th manager in as many years, Chelsea come into this season with high expectations of their new gaffer, Andre Villas Boas. The 33 year old Portugese comes with a high reputation and rumours of being "another Mourinho" after leading Porto to a well deserved treble last season. The question on everybody's lips is whether he is given the chance, unlike many other before him. He definitely will need a bit of time, and the success of Chelsea will depend ultimately on Roman Abramovich's patience.
Can Villas Boas replicate the successes of
'The Special One'?

So far, they have only brought in young 17 year old Thibaut Courtois from Genk, before immediately loaning him back out to Atletico Madrid. However, they have made many attempts to sign Luka Modric from Tottenham, but all of their bids up to now have been turned down. It seems like Villas Boas wants to focus on buying for the future, but this can be understood, due to Chelsea's rapidly ageing side. Modric would bring a lot to the Chelsea side, giving them that creative flair that is sometimes missing when their midfield talisman Frank Lampard isn't on form. One person who could very well be just like a new signing, is Fernando Torres, who has disappointed ever since his big money move from Liverpool in January. He has started to find some form in pre season though, which could provide encouragement not only for Villas Boas, but for the Chelsea fans as well.

We do, however, think Chelsea will fall just short again this season. Their squad, compared to both Manchester clubs, doesn't have the depth that is needed to fight on four different fronts successfully and although they do have experience of this ahead of Manchester City, I believe it will once again boil down to the games against each other, and this is where Chelsea will fall short.

TSBV predicts: 3rd

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