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All Things Footie | Sunday, August 27 | Jordan

Predictions

Short and sharp:

(45) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

All Things Footie | Monday, August 14 | Jordan

Warming up

The close season is always a dull time for football news. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been tempted to write something discussing the endless, tedious transfer sagas that have dogged the summer: Ashley Cole’s protracted transfer to Chelsea, the van Nistelroij/Ronaldo/Rooney spats, the inexplicably complicated shenanigans surrounding the Hunchback of Marseille (Franck Ribery) transfer to whoever gets the better of Olympique Marseille’s enigmatic chairman Pape Diouf. The Italian bribery scandals—where unsurprisingly we’re now seeing the initially harsh but fair punishments being reduced to proverbial slaps on the wrist—and the low and dirty tactics of Real Madrid trying to secure a big signing for the summer all do nothing but leave a bitter and unpleasant taste in my mouth.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve simply not had much interest-in or enthusiasm-for football recently, and I didn’t want to reel off inane stock transfer chatter to fill some column inches. You can get that by more dedicated commentators elsewhere, though why you’d want it I don’t know.

The combination of the Championship kick-off, the Champions League qualifiers and yesterday’s community shield have rekindled some of my enthusiasm for the coming season, and I think it’s going to be a more interesting one than most people anticipate.

I fear for Liverpool; at least, I would if I gave a toss whether they do well or not. Steven Gerrard is a wonderful match winner, and a big game player of epic proportions, but he’s not a season long super-man. Xabi Alonso is a very good player, though I actually think Mamadou Sissoko is potentially better, and has the ability to control and dominate games at least as well as Gerrard does. All sounds well and good so far, but … I don’t rate Reina, I maintain that Carragher is an average player who just gives it all for his club, and the rest of Liverpool’s defence lies somewhere between shaky and awful. From an attacking point of view, they have a Birmingham reject with a penchant for breaking the law and a monumental ego, a few enthusiastic youngsters with no proven quality, a Welsh psychopath who only performs for three to five games a season and who’s had more clubs than I’ve had hangovers, and a huge hole where a strike-force should be. A club with zero capable forwards doesn’t stand a chance of challenging Chelsea, and one with a few gaps elsewhere and a manager who thinks he’s far better than he is, is in serious trouble of embarrassing itself. The only reason Liverpool will likely finish in the top five is because they have three solid, high-quality central midfielders.

As they have done in almost all of their championship seasons, Arsenal could surprise this year. In Jens Lehmann and Kolo Toure they have arguably the best ‘keeper and defender in the league (I think Terry is overrated, but I’ll come to that in a bit), and in Philippe Senderos and Lauren they have a solid centre-half and full back to compliment. With Djourou, Eboue, Almunia and Hoyte they have some very capable backups in all positions. The ability to call Arsenal’s defence ‘World Class’ will be determined by what happens at left-back: Ashley Cole can never play for Arsenal again, the dim-witted star-struck moron has burnt his bridges, and instead of smashing the club he used to supports’ appearance record and becoming an all time legend; he and his agent are chasing Chelsea’s money and strengthening their team, to be remembered as someone who had it all and pissed it in the wind. Gael Clichy is highly rated yet in my eyes a little too raw, Mathieu Flamini is not a left back, and Justin Hoyte doesn’t convince me as a first team regular. A breakthrough from the impressive Armand Traore wouldn’t surprise me, but I think Arsenal will need a world class replacement for Ashley Cole if they are to mount a serious challenge to Chelsea. In Francesc Fabregas, Arsenal could potentially have the outstanding midfielder of his generation, and in Thierry Henry they already have the outstanding forward of his generation; with Thomas Rosicky, Robin van Persie and Alexander Hleb showing serious promise, and the experience of Freddie Ljungberg to back them up, there seems to be plenty of attacking options for Arsène Wenger to challenge Jose Mourinho’s playboys, however it’s another pair of players that could determine Arsenal’s success. Emmanuel Adebayor does not look able to lead the line or give some much needed goal-scoring support to Thierry Henry, and either van Persie needs to deliver, or Arsenal need another forward. Gilberto has been very quiet and unimpressive for the last two years, and in such a crucial position, his club will need an excellent season or a replacement, and quickly.

I’m certain Liverpool won’t present a serious challenge for Chelsea, and while I think there are many factors that could affect Arsenal’s ability to challenge—not least the fact that they’ll likely sell one of their truly World Class players to their direct competition—I do think that they could surprise a few people who think that their youthful team will be no match for the multi-millionaire might of Abramovich’s men.

Stand by for my thoughts on Manchester United and Chelsea later this week.

(45) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

  1. Punishment should fit the crime
  2. Ouch
  3. Tevez and Mascherano madness
  4. Predictions
  5. Warming up
  6. The World Cup II
  7. The World Cup
  8. Thought for the day
  9. Ready children? Then let's begin
  10. Don't say I never give you anything