Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Keeping up with the Joneses

It’s a good job David Bernstein sold to Thaksin Shinawatra when he did. It’s a bloody good job Thaksin then sought after and then sold to Sheikh Mansour. It’s a good job we spent money on the first team to project us forward at a rapid rate; got Roberto Mancini and then spent further on the team with our new Manager, Manuel Pellegrini. Why? Anything less…ANYTHING less and we’d have been a mid-table team at best by now for sure.

(First of all I apologise; I've been having some formatting issues with this Blog piece. Blogger, it would seem, didn't like what doing with some 'cutting & pasting' 'n' stuff and has been throwing a bit of a wobbler...)

Fighting just to stand still

Not wishing to sound arrogant but by spending big, as we did, and making all others sit up and take notice, we may well have inadvertently been the architects of our own very strong competition in the Premier League; a league, which, the likes I have never seen looking so strong.

Relegation fodder teams are now becoming sure-bet mid-table teams; mid-table teams are now challenging for and flirting with European places. Europa League team hopefuls are now fighting for Champions League finishing positions and those who are usually happy with a 4th place finish are now going for the Premier League title. It’s getting tougher…and those who are standing still are on the slide.

It’s a mad, mad time…

I’m not going to pour over every single transfer that happened yesterday - I just don’t have the time to hyperlink every single team and player! J But I will say this…

  • Tottenham, despite their defeat to Arsenal in the Derby on Sunday, have spent really well and despite, again, their loss of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid; they are looking a very, very strong and dangerous team indeed. With their signings - and with Andre Villas-Boas at the helm - they must now be seen as title contenders

  • For me Liverpool have gone from also-rans in terms of a European finishing place to strong challengers for a Champions League slot. Strengthening very well indeed at the back as they have gives them a really solid foundation to win games; with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez up front popping in the goals.

  • Chelsea already had a very strong squad before the arrival of Jose Mourinho; they’ve added good players to that…and they have Jose Mourinho.

  • Everton have shifted from a team that I saw being stuck in mid-table at best after their change in Manager to one who could well find themselves making a challenge for a Europa place. Despite losing Fellaini to Manyoo, they’ve been very astute indeed on the final day of the transfer window; bringing in the very useful James McCarthy, the very solid (and our very own) Gareth Barry and the strong, dangerous and exciting Romelu Lukaku.

Of course supporters of those teams and others in the Premier League will - and quite rightly should – be looking at us and seeing a very, very strong team also. We are a team that is certainly capable of winning the league but, for me, not if we plough all of our efforts into the Champions League competition.

With the likes of Hart, Zaba, Clichy, Demichelis, Kompany, Toure, (Fernandinho?), Silva, Nasri, Navas, Jovetic, (Dzeko?), Negredo and Aguero – and with Pellegrini at the helm – we are a bloody good side. But all of that notwithstanding, I just don’t think we’re quite strong enough in all areas to be a REAL European force just yet.

Although I’m still (probably with some bias) tipping us for the league title this season; if the other teams hadn’t have strengthened the way that they have I’d be putting us down as title certainties this season. And this is my very point; we’re now building a team not just to challenge for silverware but to make sure that we keep up with the elite pack. And one of the problems is that 'the pack' is getting stronger and a little larger year on year. It’s both exciting and a little nerve wracking at the same time…

The others

Despite the signing of Mesut Ozil I still see Arsenal as a little fragile when it comes to really challenging for silverware and a top-4 finish this season. In fact, if they continue to be hit by injuries as Wenger’s team seems to be they might well be scrapping just to get into ANY European finishing place. 'All your eggs in one basket' springs to mind with the signing of (just) the German midfielder.

As for Manyoo; of course they have a frightening duo in Rooney and van Persie and in Marouane Fellaini they have a threat to goal from midfield too. They have a sprinkling of talent elsewhere throughout the team and in David Moyes they have a Manager that makes his team very difficult to break down at times (he did at Everton at least).

But I say this as an observer of football and not as a rival Manchester fan; they have shown in the summer transfer window - with their failed attempts to get both key and last-minute-panic signings - that they are no longer the force the world has come to know and fear.

From all of the ‘top teams’, it is THEY who are standing still and are, therefore, are on the slide…

So, for a bit of fun in an article on the 4th of August, I predicted that this would be the final table of the 2013/2014 season:

  1st Manchester City
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  2nd Chelsea
  3rd Manyoo
  4th Tottenham Hotspur 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  5th Arsenal
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  6th Liverpool
  7th Swansea City
  8th Sunderland
  9th Southampton
10th West Bromwich Albion
11th West ham United
12th Everton
13th Norwich City
14th Newcastle United
15th Aston Villa
16th Cardiff City
17th Fulham
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
18th Stoke City
19th Crystal Palace
20th Hull City

Now that the teams have concluded their summer transfer business – and again for a bit of fun – I have made some adjustments by trying to, once again, accurately predict the final outcome for this campaign. And why not look at this predicted league table while listening to the 'Top of the Pops' opening credits theme from the 70s...

2013/2014 league finishing places:

  1st Manchester City (Same)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  2nd Chelsea (Same)
  3rd Tottenham Hotspur (UP from 4th and now in the auto Champions League place)
  4th Liverpool (UP from 6th and now in the qualification Champions League place)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  5th Manyoo (DOWN from 3rd and now out of Champions League)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  6th Arsenal (DOWN from 5th and now not in any European competitions via the league)
  7th Everton (UP from 12th and the biggest mover)
  8th Swansea City (DOWN from 7th)
  9th Southampton (Same)
10th West ham United (UP from 11th)
11th Sunderland (DOWN from 8th)
12th Norwich City (UP from 13th)
13th West Bromwich Albion (DOWN from 10th)
14th Aston Villa (UP from 15th)
15th Cardiff City (UP from 16th)
16th Stoke City (UP from 18th and now safe)
17th Newcastle United (DOWN from 14th)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
18th Fulham (DOWN from 17th and now relegated)
19th Crystal Palace (Same)
20th Hull City (Same)

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