Football: Prem 2011 Winter Roundup

And Then There Were… Seven?

That glaring yellow 'winter' ball

It might be Man City’s to lose (almost), but Man U and Spurs look to be genuine challengers while Chelski, Arsenal, Liverpool and, amazingly, Newcastle are fighting it out for the remaining Big Cup place. If the last frantic few weeks of football have told us anything it’s that there really isn’t one dominant team out there. Man City have lost out to Sunderland, Man U to Blackburn, Chelski to Villa, Arsenal to Fulham, only Spurs have really maintained their form over the Christmas and New Year period.

New Year Predictions?

Man City – have the strongest squad so should win the Prem, could win the FA Cup and the League Cup and the Europa League (if they take it remotely seriously). At their best, as against Spurs, they are unstoppable, but prevent Silva and/or Yaya Toure playing and you’ve got a chance of beating them.

Man U – the conventional wisdom suggests you can’t write them off, but I don’t think they can genuinely contend without a midfield. My prediction, third.

Spurs – unless they suffer injury to Bale, Van De Vaart,  Modric and/or Brad Friedel they are real contenders. ‘Appy ‘Arry goes to court in January, which might throw a spanner in the works. Runners up.

Chelski – the great rebuilding continues, albeit at a ruinously slow pace (much like their defensive backline). Do Chelski have the desire to fight their way to fourth? I don’t think so. Could potentially go as low as seventh as the clean out continues, but fifth is more likely.

Arsenal – You don’t win anything with no defenders and only one decent striker even if you are Arsenal. Sadly the words ‘Managed Decline’ spring to mind. Can they still eek out a top four place? They certainly have the track record, but they need to recruit more than just old boy Thierry Henry in January. À la recherche du temps perdu on its own won’t cut it Arsène. Gervinio and Chamakh’s trips to the Africa Cup of Nations won’t be as much of a miss as Wilshire, Sagna, Santos and Vermaelen already have been. Could just scrape into fourth, if Wilshire’s return is as miraculous as everyone anticipates.

Liverpool – the loss of their talisman Dirty Suarez will effect them. Suarez and Adam aside, none of their new boys have really hit the ground running. Indeed, Carroll, Henderson and Downing have been ploddingly poor at best. Their best chance for the year is to win their League Cup semi against Man City.

Newcastle – having beaten Man U, you can’t write them off. However, despite a formidable defense, their real strength is striker Demba Ba, but he’s off to the Africa Cup of Nations. This might slow them down. I think the best they can achieve is fifth.

Best Of The Rest

Sunderland – have found new life with O’Neill (what was it about Useless Bruce that dragged them down for so long?).  Still massively handicapped by the presence of the ego driven goal drought that is Nicklas Bendtner. Safely top ten, with no irritating European football to worry about next season.

Swansea – despite Norwich being above them, they’re the best of the promoted clubs. They have a genuine star is keeper Vorm, who one imagines will soon be snaffled by one of the bigger clubs.

Norwich – the East Coast Stoke. Mid-table mediocrity is a notable achievement for a promoted side.

Stoke – still the least entertaining, most unpleasant defence, but it’s good to see a team taking the Europe League seriously. Should be interesting to see how they do now it’s getting serious. If Fulham can get to the final, then why can’t Stoke? Might at least keep the Manchesters honest in the competition.

Not A Good Year For

QPR – Manager Colin W is weaving his magic, turning a team that looked like a real surprise into a plumeting nosediving monster. Needs to invest pretty heavily in January.

Wolves, Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan – along with QPR, the bottom five are currently 5 points adrift and averaging less than a point a game with double digit negative goal differences. It’s hard to see the relegation candidates coming from outside this group, although there’s always the hope that Scottish reptile McLeish will do the double and take another Birmingham team down.


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