Three games of the season have been played and the clubs have completed their transfer business till the winter at least. This seems like a good time to make predictions but this year I am finding it hard to develop any sort of conviction regarding the hopes of most of the top teams. There have been significant changes at almost all the clubs, the results of which will only be known in due course. But shooting in the dark is part of the fun so here goes…
As we have come to expect with the Gunners, the breadth of opinions is virtually all encompassing. Some people think Arsenal have been abysmal in the transfer window. Others think the squad is actually stronger than what it was last season. The majority is probably in between with infinite permutations about the qualities lost through those who have left to the possibilities gained from the arrivals.
I believe the club have worked hard and done as well as they could in a window that hasn’t been ideal or error-free. When all is said and done though, I think this squad is distinctly weaker than the one from last season. Tactical adjustments, the speed and manner in which the new signings integrate, and the usual concerns like the extent of injuries will ultimately decide where Arsenal end up.
At this time last year I felt Arsenal would finish third but there was a chance of winning the League. This time around I don’t see any way Arsenal can win the big titles, Premiership or Champions League. In this post I don’t want to get into a detailed analysis but broadly speaking the following two issues will trouble the Gunners,
- Defence will be a concern irrespective of the signings and crucial points will be dropped during the season
- Injuries will test and quite possibly expose the depth of the squad
No surprises there. The first point is an extremely complicated one and I don’t see a solution materializing in the near future. The second one will affect the balance of the starting eleven in a number of games – as it already has – and by extension will result in dropped points. The African Cup of Nations in January will stretch the squad further.
Tactical changes will not be easy either and it will take Arsene and his players some time to find the optimal approach.
I have a feeling Arsene will be busy in January and the Gunners will need another signing like Arshavin in 2009 in order to retain a Champions League spot.
Without further additions it’s hard to see another top four finish unless one of the youngsters has a Wilsheresque season and the big guns remain fit. It’s possible but I don’t fancy the odds given the fitness woes of Wilshere, Diaby, and others this early in the season.
If I have to put my neck on the line right now, without thinking about the January window, I’d say Arsenal will finish fifth in the League and the best chance of trophies will come in the domestic cups.
Don’t worry, I am not joining the doom mongers and will not be repeating this ad nauseam. I like to take a balanced view of things and this is just my honest opinion.
From the available options, the Blues have arguably signed a manager with the fastest growing reputation. They have also made some impressive, even if not sufficient, player acquisitions.
I honestly don’t know how AVB will perform in the biggest challenge of his fledgling but remarkable career. It’s hard to see Chelsea challenging for the Premiership or Champions League titles this year but they could pose a threat if they can get back to the collective defensive solidity that won them silverware in the last few seasons.
I expect them to finish 3rd or 4th and be strong contenders for a domestic cup. Getting Torres back to form is the only way they can do better.
Many of the arrivals at Anfield this year have been overpriced and somewhat overrated Englishmen but I feel the Scousers have a very well balanced squad. It won’t be pretty but I see them getting a lot of results just like they did at the Emirates.
Just as with Arsenal and Chelsea, I don’t see it being enough to win the major titles but it will be enough to see them regain a Champions League spot at the expense of the Gunners.
City have the squad to be champions. But I don’t think they have the right experience and Mancini, while an excellent manager in his own right, is not at the tactical level of Ferguson and could just lose some vital points while trying to balance the exertions of the Champions League with the travails of the Premiership.
I believe they will finish a close second and will probably reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. They could do better but anything less will be a monumental failure.
I will be surprised if they don’t win at least one trophy this year, which I guess will considered one of the safest predictions by many.
Clichéd though it may sound, United are favourites to retain the League title in my opinion. I don’t like admitting it but Alex Ferguson is the fastest learning manager I have seen in the Premier League. He has improved their attacking balance considerably and the characteristically strong defensive organization has been the hallmark of his reign. Old Trafford will remain a fortress while their away form will improve.
I can’t see them bettering Barcelona or Real in Europe but domestic triumph is theirs to throw away.
‘Arry will be hailed as a great manager for finishing sixth with the limited finances and stuff like that.
This wasn’t the most optimistic of posts and I can see why many Gooners feel that Arsenal can better the likes of Liverpool and even Chelsea if not the Manchester sides. I am not denying the possibility, just going with my instinct on this one. Let’s see how it looks in May.