Saturday, August 07, 2010

EPL about to kick off - The Frog gives some insight into who will win the title

We had Ligue 1 kick off, I provided Frog's predictions a few posts ago, clearly read that post since we have similar predictions for the final standings! Couple this with the Community Shield - the first match to announce the start of the EPL season, I figured I would lean on my predictive powers to provide some thoughts on how the EPL will finish this season. By the way, Chelsea won both the FA Cup and EPL title, so why is it Manchester United in the Community Cup? Shouldn't Portsmouth have some claim to the match as well?? They did finish runners up in the FA Cup final...just saying...anyways on to the predictions.

5th Place: Liverpool Football Club: So the Benetiz-less Reds will scrap and fight their way back to knocking on the top 4. The loss of Mascherano will be a difficult hole to fill in the midfield. Granted Hodgson is looking to sign Juventus midfielder Poulsen to slot in that holding spot. However make no mistake, the Argentine was a tough tackling midfielder that gave that team much of its metal in the midfield and provided much needed cover to the back 4. However I think with Hodgson in place, the team will have a better defensive discipline and game. Similar to what we saw from the English manager last season with Fulham, expect him to get the most out what he has on his roster. Unlike his predecessor, I have faith that Hodgson will squeeze the most value out of this roster. The biggest questions will revolve around Torres and his health. The fact he decided to stay with the Reds is clearly a huge plus. Add Joe Cole and I think you will have a revitalized strike force. Maybe Hodgson will be able to do with Kuyt what he did in London with Zamora. Don't laugh, but the Dutch player might fit that mold. A player that can hold the ball allow the Coles and Torres and Gerrards to get into position offensively. Whether or not Hodgson will get the most out of the likes of Babel and Aquilani - some players that have failed to live up to expectations will determine how far Liverpool can go. I think that the Reds finally have a manager that can manage over a championship season and not just for a knock out tournament. Look for the Reds to get back into the picture for potential Champions League.

4th Place: Manchester United FC: What...the Red Devils....4th place!!! Sir Alex Ferguson not in the top 2!!!!! That's right, you read it here first. Manchester United is due for a fall from grace, still get Champions League football but just barely. Why? Simple - Manchester United's age, injuries and heavy work load will final catch up to them. In addition the lack of big name signing over the past 2 seasons will be difficult to overcome. The last time Manchester United won the title it was on the backs of Tevez, Ronaldo and Rooney and their scoring talents that carried the team. Hmmmm, Tevez and Ronaldo gone and that scoring gap is now up to Owen and Berbatov to make up. Mind you this is not Owen from 1998 or Berbatov from his Tottenham days, both strikers' better days are clearly behind them...add to this a Rooney that has clearly shown wear and tear of too many games and being brought back too quickly from his ankle injury (and a number of other knocks) last season. This team played back to back Champions League finals then made it to the 1/4 finals last season over the past 3 years, add to this the amount of international football players such as Evra, Rooney, Ferdinand have in their boots as well. Oh yeah, Ferdinand is clearly succumbing to the injury bug as well, not a good sign. Also how much more can SAF get out of Giggs, Scholes and Neville? Last I checked these three AARP players still seem to play important roles for SAF, especially Neville at right back...frightening.  Not sure what to expect from Nani and Anderson...both were suppose to be the next generation to relief Giggs et al. There is some youth - Macheda, Fabio, Rafael and Cleverly (nice goal from the youngster below) - however not sure if they are ready to really take on a greater responsibility.

Add all this together and I think we are going to see a Red Devil team that takes a serious drop in form. They have not made a big signing, that has worked out, in a few seasons. They are older, the names they signed to replace the likes of Ronaldo and Tevez have not lived up to their billing, Van Der Saar has a lot of wear on those tires, the youth is too immature and this team has played a lot of football over the past 3-4 years. They will go backwards this season.

3rd Place: Manchester City FC: Whooohooo, yup the Frog thinks the Citizens will take a major step up the standings. I think they might have been here last season had they not wasted the first half of the season with Mark Hughes at the helm. I think the Citizens under Hughes dropped at least 15 points due to drawing games rather than winning. Turn that around and you have a team that team gets Champions League football this season. With Mancini in place for the start of the season, I doubt the Citizens will be dropping silly points. Of course with the deep pockets of the Abu Dhabi United Group, ManCity has gone on another shopping spree adding the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jerome Boateng and Aleksander Kolarov to the likes of Adebayor, Tevez, Vieira and Barry to name some of the players added to the roster last season. They have 2 solid keepers - Given and Hart. Their defense should be good and offensively will be carried again by Tevez. If Mancini can convince Robinho to come back and play, I think that will only add to what could be a strong offense. Even if the Brazilian stays at Santos, Manchester City have many other offensive options. The other question is can Stephen Ireland be motivated and convinced to give it his all for the Citizens? If he does leave for Milner than that would be a net positive for Manchester City. Add to this the potential for the Inter striker Ballotelli coming to play at the City of Manchester Stadium and look out! The question still remains if the Italian manager can motivate and manage this assembly of high paid hired guns for an entire season. My bet is yes, well enough to get into the top 3.

2nd Place: Chelsea Football Club: The defending champions will not defend their title. But it will be a good battle between themselves and their rest of the league. I think Chelsea falls into the same dilemma as does Manchester United...which big players have they signed the past 2 seasons? They lost Ballack and Joe Cole. Signed Yossi Benayoun to wear the #10 okay. Ashley Cole might be on his way out to Real Madrid. Essien is back, but is he 100% healthy? Rumors swirl around Drogba leaving to Marseilles....unlikely but still. Anelka? Who knows what to expect after the summer debacle. Carvalho and Terry are not getting any younger, and both started showing signs of decline last season. What about Lampard? Not sure he is not also on the back 9 of his career. Can some of the youth step up such as a Kakuta who was the star for the U19 European Champions - France. Without Joe Cole we might see the young French striker get more time with the first team. Of course much of these issues could be resolved if Abramovich opens his deep wallet and goes out and acquires an Aguero or even goes after Torres. Problem for me is this side has made their runs with the same core for a few seasons - Terry, Drogba, Lampard, Essien, Cech - they have not done enough to refresh some of these pillars. They had enough to make it work last season for the double, but is this a season too far for the core? I think so.

1st Place: Arsenal F.C.: So that leaves us with....the Gunners! Okay okay I might be called a homer since I am a Gunner fan. However here is my reasoning: the Arsenal team has the talent on the rise and talent that has not been as beat up as their other contenders over the past 2-3 years. Let us play a quick game - Nasri, Chamakh, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arshavin, Walcott - what do they have in common? No World Cup. Add to this Cesc, did not log a ton of minutes, Bendtner same and Van Persie yes played a lot for Holland...but he barely played last season so overall he has not logged a huge number of minutes over the past few seasons. Sagna, Clichy and Diaby...well we know they only played 3 games in South Africa and skipped a practice so they are fresh! I think that the 3 headed striker monster of Chamakh, Bendtner and Van Persie will play very well in front of a midfield of Diaby, Cesc, Walcott, Rosicky,
Arshavin, Nasri etc (I realize that Walcott and Arshavin can be seen as strikers but I consider then hybrid midfield wide players and strikers/wingers). The duo of Vermaelen - Koscielny look very strong, and the addition via subtraction aka letting Gallas walk will be a big boost for the team especially in the dressing room. I also think Wilshere is poised for a solid season (so does Capello as he gave the young Gunner his first call up for the England v Hungary friendly). Of course, Wenger will need to make a few more moves prior to the end of the transfer window - get a keeper, fellow podcaster Sam the Gooner made it very clear "If Wenger does not sign a keeper by the end of the transfer window he should be fired on the spot." and second I think Wenger needs to find another central defender. The Gunners always have the talent. I think the core that Wenger has been grooming is ready to make the big move to winning the EPL. Part of that is also the fact time is ticking...on Cesc. Clearly he appears to have one of his Nike boots in Barcelona, so the Gunners better get the most of out of their captain this season. Wenger sign a keeper...even Schwarzer would be a huge step in the right direction of course Eduardo would be better! Over the weekend the rumors of a daring swoop for World Cup champion and Liverpool #1, Riena has picked up some steam, but that might just be that...a rumor. I see Chelsea and Manchester United slipping due to age and too much wear and tear...while Arsenal are ready to hit their stride and have plenty in the tank. Wenger gets back on top!!!

So the Gunners win silverware for the first time since they had Pat Vieira roaming the midfield. Tottenham will be a one and done when it comes to the Champions League, I just did not see the North London club bringing in any talent this transfer season and that will hurt their chances to stay ahead of Liverpool or Manchester City.

Player of the Year: Cesc. The Arsenal captain will mark his last season in the EPL with a player of the year title and lead his club to the domestic title...and then will scamper off to Barcelona.

Manager of the Year: Hodgson. The former Fulham manager will take Liverpool and make the most out of a roster Rafa could never do enough with because he had no "money."

Cannot believe the season is starting, I am looking forward to watching the Gunners get back to the top!


Philip said...

I disagree with Arsenal getting 1st and I am an Arsenal fan. Unless Wenger buys atleast 2 more good centre backs. I don't think that the new french centre back is ready and if Vermaelen gets injured which is likely since its Arsenal they will be screwed.

As much as I don't want to say it I think Man U will win it.

GFC said...

@Philip no doubt if Vermaelen gets injured it will be a tough challenge, but the same can be said for all the other sides - no Vidic and not sure ManU goes far or Chelsea with Terry....I also think you are underestimating the maturity and talent of Koscielny I think he will do very well, especially partnering with the Vermaelen.

I do agree that this will not come to fruition if Wenger does not sign another central defender -latest rumor is Stuggart and German central defender Tasci could be on his way, that would get 3 quality center backs. I also think that Wenger must sign a legitimate #1 keeper otherwise drop Arsenal out of the top 2.

philip said...

I actually think Almunia is a very good keeper. The problem is that the fans have no confidence in him and that can be hard on a keeper. I do agree they need another experienced goalie and they need them quick.

GFC said...

I think Almunia is a great...2nd keeper. However as the #1 Arsenal then has to depend on the likes of Fabianski who cost Arsenal a few games last season. If Arsenal get a legit #1 then you slot Almunia as #2 which I think is a good situation.