Monday, 29 August 2011

Young, Talented, and Hungry for Titles

From the title, most you would've had 'Arsenal' on the top of your heads. But no, the team I'm actually referring it to is Manchester United.
Pic 1. Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal
How could this all come to this? United the other day just outclassed Arsenal with an 8-2 scoreline. You would argue that Arsenal were playing with a young team if this was 2007, but its 2011. They are not actually "kids" anymore and United were playing a relatively young team as well.

Lets go back to the beginning, shall we?
Pic 2. Arsenal 2003/2004
Arsenal has just won their 13th League title in 2004 after going the whole season unbeaten. The team had the likes of Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, and Dennis Bergkamp. After seeing how successful his "Invincibles" was, Wenger decided to take a whole different approach and start developing youth with the old players slowly being removed from the team.

Wenger started this project in 2004 as he signed young players from other teams such as Gael Clichy, Jose Reyes, Johan Djourou, Phillipe Senderos, and most notable a young Catalan in Francesc Fabregas. During that period as well, he started developing players from his own academy like Sebastian Larsson, David Bentley and Justin Hoyte.

Wenger believed that if he sticked to young players for a course of at least 5 seasons, these players would become amazing and will be legends for Arsenal. He believed this young team will learn by experience and will one day win most of the trophies there is to be won. In other words, Wenger wanted to build his version of another "Invincibles".

Fastforward to August 2011. What has happened? The only silverware they have won was an FA Cup in 2005 with most of their older players in the team. They did though come close to a Champions League in 2006 only being beaten by Barcelona 2-1 in the final. But besides that, they havent won anything after that.

You could argue thats because Arsenal used a young team, but its 2011 now. 7 years of first team experience should've at least bring back 1 medal. And all those 18 year olds are now 25. Not so young now, are they?

Where did all those young players mentioned above go?
Pic 3. Johan Djorou and Phillipe Senderos
Gael Clichy is now an established leftback for France, but he moved to oil kings Manchester City earlier this season. Jose Reyes never lived up to his potential at Arsenal, but now he is a regular starter for Atletico Madrid. Johan Djorou is still at Arsenal, while his Swiss compatriot Phillipe Senderos went to Milan on loan once but now is at Fulham.

David Bentley, who was once touted as "The Next David Beckham", is now struggling to get a game at a packed midfield in Tottenham Hotspur. Justin Hoyte had a nice run at Arsenal but now is playing in England's 2nd tier with Middlesbrough, and Sebastian Larsson now shows up each week for Sunderland.

Pic 4. Francesc Fabregas
The best of the 2004 and 2005 signings was Cesc Fabregas. He eventually became Arsenal's captain and star player. But the lure of coming back to his boyhood club Barcelona was to big to handle, he eventually moved and Arsenal is now without a leader.

Lets rewind it a little, shall we? Lets say... February 2011? Arsenal was challenging for the 4 major trophies and looked likely to win at least one of them. It looked like the "Wenger project" was about to pay off, but it all came to an abrupt end.

Arsenal failed to win the Carling Cup after a mixup between young Goallie Wojciech Szczesny and young defender Laurent Koscielny allowed Obafemi Martins to slot in the winner for Birmingham in 2nd half injury time. Inexperience in finals showed for both players and blew it for Wenger because he knew that this cup was the most realistic one to win.
Pic 5. The probable nature of the Mixup (
By March 2011, after winning against a strong Barcelona in the 1st leg, they eventually got knocked out of the Champions League, and Arsenal got taught a lesson by a weird looking Manchester United line-up in the FA Cup. By the end of the season, Arsenal finished 4th in the Barclays Premier League and ended up with no trophies. Stars players such as Fabregas, Clichy, and Samir Nasri switched clubs at the end of the season. Fabregas moved to fullfil his dream, Clichy moved because he wanted to win stuff, while Nasri moved for the money.

Where did it all go wrong?
It wasn't wrong to trust on the kids, but Arsene was just to cheap to invest. He had tons of money from the sales of Henry, Reyes, Vieira, even from the sales of Kolo Toure and Adebayor (not to mention money from Arsenal's own bank), yet he only used small portions of them. He did though bring in quality players like Andrei Arshavin, Eduardo, Samir Nasri, and the recent signing of Gervinho, but they are no where near the "Invicibles". Also, Wenger has refused to spend heavily on Blackburn defender Phil Jones and ended up signing unproven Charlton's half-Finn defender Carl Jenkinson.
Pic 6. Kolo Toure & Emmanuel Adebayor at ManCity
Also, Wenger has always been unkeen to invest in positions he knew needed improving. Everyone knew they needed a new goalkeeper when Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski keep fumbling balls. He got lucky when he struck gold with Szczesny which he had to use because both Almunia and Fabianski were injured, but reinforcements is well needed in defence and in midfield, which until now Wenger hasn't bought anyone.

Is there any bright light?
Pic 7. Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott
Of course there is. Alongside *slighty* veteran Robin van Persie, there is much promise in Theo Walcott who seems to be the real deal now. Thomas Vermaelen is one of the best defenders in the league, while Tomas Rosicky will add experience. "Handsome" Bacary Sagna is also France's best rightback and he will add consistency.
Pic 8. Kieran Gibbs, Henri Lansbury, Jack Wilshere
Arsenal also have a new wave of exciting youngsters in the form of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emmanuel Frimpong, Henri Lansbury, Kieran Gibbs, and Wojciech Szczesny. Add these players  with the players I mentioned in the paragraph above, its not actually that bad of a team. Besides, this club has always played beautiful football, so even without their star players, it's an enjoyable team to watch.

What should Wenger do now? and who to buy?
Despite yesterday's horrific defensive display against ManUtd, Arsene is closing in on Korean Park ChuYoung, which is a striker. Personally, I think they are already stocked up front and scoring twice against a strong United defense yesterday seems to me look like a strong enough attack.

What they really need is cover in defense. With Vermaelen, Gibbs, and Sagna injured yesterday, they conceded 8 from United. It could've been more if United took their chances and Szczesny saving a couple of other shots. Carl Jenkinson simply isn't good enough yet, while Koscielny and Djourou needs more coordination. They need someone who has been consistent in defence and has the ability to cut it at a big team like Arsenal. Presumably English. 3 names though come to mind: Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, and Michael Dawson. The latter might not want to move because he's at rivals Tottenham, while Jagielka stated hes more than happy to stay at Everton. Gary Cahill was offered £6M by Wenger but Bolton refused because it was too low of an offer. Wenger of course being the cheap Frenchman that he is thought he could sign him that much.
Pic 9. Gary Cahill
With more or less £70M in the pocket for transfers, he of course needs someone to replace both Nasri and Fabregas and he needs to spend fast. He needs someone who can lead from the middle and another one who has flair to ignite the whole team. Age not a factor this time. Sadly the only ones that come to mind are Scott Parker, Yoann Gourcuff, Wesley Sneijder, and Juan Mata. The latter just moved to Chelsea and scoring on his debut, while Sneijder's situation is more like "move to Manchester United or no move at all" type. Yoann Gourcuff would cost a lot, while Arsene will not like to gamble on someone like Scott Parker. Wenger might just stick with the players he has, but most of his players are prone to injuries so he obviously needs more bodies in the team.

Arsenal needs to be more patient and needs to minimalise injuries. Having said that, even a blind man can see that Arsenal needs more players in the squad, and hopefully signings that changes the whole squad to become better. It is alright to put faith on youth, but be sure to also put faith on winning. After all, this is Arsenal right?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

BPL Underperformers XI 2010-2011

I would like to name the article "Worst XI" but that would be an overreaction. This article will consist of players who many thought would perform well but they actually flopped. Players who are expected to shine yet to no avail and make you wonder where was the hype in the first place.

Here would be my Underperformers XI!
Formation: 4-4-2
Goalkeeper: Manuel Almunia (Arsenal)
 From knocking Jens Lehmann's berth, being named captain, to eventually being 3rd choice behind 2 young Polish Goalkeepers in 1 season, Almunia has been through it all. Committing fatal blunders cost him his place in the Arsenal team and trust from manager Wenger. A great case of Top to Flop.

Rightback: John Pantsil (Fulham)
 After experiencing a great World Cup with Ghana, he went back to England only to score owngoal after owngoal, blunders galore, and disappointing outings. This left him to be behind Chris Baird in the pecking order. Even when Baird gets injured, centrehalf Aaron Hughes is preferred to deputize. 

Centreback: Sebastien Squillaci (Arsenal)
Gunner fans were excited of the prospect that a French International defender was to pay for Arsenal and Squillaci already made a name for himself back in Sevilla. Turns out he was more of a Boumsong rather than a Desailly as he never looked convincing with lapses of concentration even Titus Bramble would be ashamed of.

Centreback: Ian Evatt (Blackpool)
 In a season where Blackpool showed a great case of attacking play, their defence has been wobbly. Sure, Evatt wasn't the blame for the whole bad Blackpool defence, but he did have his bad moments. Particularly the standout mistake was when he almost made sure Blackpool were relegated as he scored an own goal against Manchester United, only for Michael Owen to relieve his blushes.

Leftback: Paul Konchesky (Liverpool)
 Liverpool fans were cautious over the move and they had every reason why. A player who hasn't been a standout for Fulham but consistent enough was bought by Roy Hodgson to solve their left-back case. Instead he failed to play well and eventually loaned for 6 months to Nottingham Forest. Bad luck.

Right Wing: Bebe (Manchester United)
 When the headlines read "ManUtd signs young unknown Portuguese winger for £8M", everyone expected someone like a Cristiano Ronaldo or Nani mould who has been a success in their home country. Sad thing is, Bebe was a stranger in Portugal as well, and it showed in his handful of appearances that he lacked any quality of a football player, let alone a ManUtd player.

Central Midfield: Christian Poulsen (Juventus)
It was a curious case when Liverpool signed a Juventus reject when Juve themselves had one of their worst seasons in 09/10, and during his time in Anfield he even lost a starting berth to an unknown quantity of Jay Spearing. He's lucky he cost for a relatively cheap price of £4.5M otherwise he would be an expensive flop.

Central Midfield: Aliaksandr Hleb (Birmingham)
Many thought Birmingham did a fine piece of business to lure in ex-Arsenal star Hleb on loan from Barcelona after a successful spell at Stuttgart. Gosh how everybody was wrong. He barely could break into Birmingham's starting XI and when he did he became non existant on the pitch. Pity.

Left Wing: Joe Cole (Liverpool)
Signing an England International on a free? Couldve been signing of the season if it worked out. He got sent-off on his debut, got injured a lot, and when fit he never shown his quality that made him a star back at Chelsea. Burnout I suppose.

Striker: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)
I feel bad for putting him here on the Underperformers XI, but what can I do? only 4 goals all season? Certainly not his usual Defoe. Yeah he did get injured early on, but he never found his old form since. At least Peter Crouch has been a handful in Europe.

Striker: Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
He wasn't that bad early on with Liverpool. 9 goals when out of form wasn't a bad return. But ever since his surprising £50M big money move to Chelsea, he also became surprisingly horrible. His inability to work well with either Didier Drogba or Nicolas Anelka and only scored 1 goal in 14 appearances, he made himself a laughing stock because of his performances.

Certainly theres more underperformers than these 11 players, namely John Obi Mikel, Andrei Arshavin, Abou Diaby, Jonny Evans, Heurelho Gomes, Pablo Barrera, even Jerome Boateng

Agree? Disagree? This my team, don't know yours.

Monday, 23 May 2011

My Barclays Premier League Awards

Its the end of the 2010/2011 season where Manchester United won their record 19th trophy to beat Liverpool's record of 18. We also witnessed a relegation battle that went down until the last minute to determine who would go down. A great season overall where nothing could be predicted.

This post is to give out mentions to people who deserved the recognition because face it, the awards given by the PFA and the FWA were a bit lousy to give "Player of the Year" awards to sicknote Gareth Bale and relegated Scott Parker. Good thing Barclays themselves gave the award to someone who deserved it, Nemanja Vidic. Here are "MY" notable mentions:

Player of the Year: Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)

Manager of the Year: Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)

Young Player of the Year: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)

Best Transfer Signings:
5. Asamoah Gyan (Rennes to Sunderland) £13M
4. David Silva (Valencia to Manchester City) £25M
3. Luis Suarez (Ajax to Liverpool) £27M
2. Rafael Van der Vaart (Real Madrid to Tottenham) £8M
1. Javier Hernandez (Guadalajara to Manchester United) £7M

Worst Transfer Signings:
5. Paul Konchesky (Fulham to Liverpool) £3.5M
4. Christian Poulsen (Juventus to Liverpool) £4.5M
3. Sebastian Squillaci (Sevilla to Arsenal) £5M
2. Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea) £50M
1. Bebe (Vitoria Guimaraes to Manchester United) £8M

 Best Loan Signings:
5. Nedum Onuoha (Sunderland from Manchester City)
4. Tom Cleverley (Wigan from Manchester United)
3. Danny Welbeck (Sunderland from Manchester United)
2. Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan from Bolton)
1. Daniel Sturridge (Bolton from Chelsea)

Worst Loan Signings:
5. Michael Bradley (Aston Villa from Moenchengladbach)
4. Aliaksander Hleb (Birmingham from Barcelona)
3. Wayne Bridge (West Ham from Manchester City)
2. Robbie Keane (West Ham from Tottenham)
1. Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn from Manchester City)

PFA Team of the Year:
Goalkeeper: Edwin Van der Sar (Manchester United)
Defenders: Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Midfielders: Nani (Manchester United), Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri (both Arsenal), Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
Strikers: Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

My Non-PFA Team of the Year:
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Defenders: Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea), Gary Cahill (Bolton), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Leighton Baines (Everton)
Midfielders: Rafael Van der Vaart (Tottenham), David Silva (Manchester City), Luka Modric (Tottenham), Florent Malouda (Chelsea)
Strikers: Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Darren Bent (Aston Villa)

Top Goalscorer: Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United) & Carlos Tevez (Manchester City) - 21

Most Assists: Nani (Manchester United) - 18

Champions: Manchester United
Relegated: Birmingham City, Blackpool, West Ham United
Champions League Qualifiers: Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal (Playoff)
Europa League Qualifiers: Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke City (FA Cup Runners-up), Birmingham City (Carling Cup Winners)

Thursday, 3 February 2011

January Transfer Roundup: Conversation Style

Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan) loan to Twente
Milan fan: "What? has he even played yet?"
Neutral: "No, I dont think so. He's got a great physique, sad for him not to play much."
Milan fan: "I know! Why didn't Twente sign (Daniele) Bonera instead?! We'd rather have him out!"
Neutral: "Well even Twente knows he's crap, thats why they've taken Onyewu instead!"

Edin Dzeko (VFL Wolfsburg) £27M move to Man City
Neutral: "Okay he's great, and a fair amount of money considering his talent. But don't they have 5 strikers already?"
Man City fan: "Yeah; Tevez, Adebayor, Balotelli, Jo, and Santa Cruz. Sadly we only play 1 up front."
Neutral: "Thats their problem! What a waste though... unless you sell 2 or 3 of your strikers everything will be fine..."

Roque Santa Cruz & Emmanuel Adebayor (both Man City) loan to Blackburn Rovers & Real Madrid respectively

Man City fan: "We've just sent 2 of our strikers on loan. Is that enough for you? now they can be happy with their respective clubs."
Neutral: "Unless if Dzeko does become signing of the season and they flop in their new clubs then great move, Arabs!"

Darren Bent (from Sunderland) £24M to Aston Villa
Neutral: "Ain't that too much for someone of Bent's calibre?"
Sunderland fan: "Well if James Milner costed as much then I say hes a bargain... yet why would he want to play for Villa? Sunderland's doing better than them!"
Villa fan: "I don't care how much we paid at least we got someone better than Emile Heskey!"
Neutral: "And another overrated England player goes on the list..."

Steven Pienaar (From Everton) £3M to Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs fan: "I can't believe we got someone who was almost certain to move to a team like Chelsea!"
Neutral: "Yeah but I can't see how Pienaar would improve the squad. They've got enough players in and across midfield anyway. He ain't bad, but I can name about 4 players similar type to him who are better than him in this very squad!"
Spurs fan: "Come to think of it, we actually didn't need Pienaar here... but we'll see what will he offer."

Ryan Babel (from Liverpool) £6M to Hoffenheim
Liverpool fan: "Hoffenheim? What kind of team is that?"
Neutral: "Thats an uprising club in Germany. It would do him great after being underplayed at Anfield where he will go straight into the first team."
Liverpool fan: "I wish he'd stayed, David Ngog is absolutely horrible and I can't believe Hodgson put him over Babel! I hope now he's happy and can tweet more often..."

Antonio Cassano (from Sampdoria) free to AC Milan
Neutral: "Wasn't he supposed to move to Juve?"
Juventus fan: "Naah we don't need a troublemaker, besides I think we're going to sign Toni"
Milan fan: "Cassano over Toni anyday! Great signing in Rossoneri's eyes."

Luca Toni (from Genoa) loan move to Juventus
Juventus fan: "Screw this signing. Only 2 matches into his deal and already he gets a knee injury. Why didn't we sign Cassano in the first place?"
Milan fan: "I bet Cassano's glad he moved to the right team. LOL."

 Giampaolo Pazzini (from Sampdoria) £10M + Jonathan Biabiany to Internazionale
Neutral: "Both of Sampdoria's strikers both has left for teams in Milan. But nice signing for Inter! Finally an Italian striker since Christian Vieri would play up front for them."
Inter fan: "He could be our savior! When Milito and Eto'o aren't cutting it, he'll be there! AC Milan, here we come~"

Ibrahim Afellay (from PSV) £3M to FC Barcelona
Neutral: "I've seen him play at PSV and for only 3 Milli hes a real bargain!"
Barca fan: "He will definitely improve an already squad!"
Neutral: "Really? I don't know how will he play because Mascherano can't seem to take Busquets place. Everyone know Mascherano is better than him!"
Barca fan: "Well Afellay can play in Xavi's position or even Iniesta's. You'll just have to believe someone of his talent and age can only improve in time. And don't be hating on Busquets..."
Neutral: "LOL sorry I forgot he's a world champion though!"

Mark van Bommel (from Bayern Munich) &a Nicola Legrottaglie (from Juventus) both free to AC Milan
Milan fan: "Great players with great experience and we didn't spend a penny. Just what we needed though... but why sign old players like them?
Neutral: "They are only contracted until the end of this season so if they're crap Milan wont extend their contracts. Besides they're still too young to join Milan..."
Milan fan: "Very funny my friend."

 Andrea Barzagli (from Wolfsburg) £250K to Juventus
Neutral: "I thought they needed a striker. Why would they sign another defender?"
Juventus fan: "Even I'm not pleased. I respect Barzagli and think he's awesome, but we need a striker more than another defender!"
Neutral: "I bet refusing Cassano is still a mistake isn't it :D"
Juventus fan: "I know! I think it's goodbye Champions League..."

Luis Suarez (from Ajax) £27M to Liverpool
Liverpool fan: "Yeah! finally we have someone to duet with Torres up front! Ngog is certainly not good enough... He will change our season around!"
Neutral: "But have you heard Torres is pushing for a move to Chelsea?"
Liverpool fan: "What?!!"

Fernando Torres (from Liverpool) £50M to Chelsea
Chelsea fan: "Finally we have a caucasian striker who is actually good!"
Liverpool fan: "Damn Torres, how could you leave us in the worst ever situation?!"
Neutral: "Hey at least you have enough money to buy a new striker, right Liverpool fan?"
Liverpool fan: "But who?!"
Neutral: "Just wait a for couple of hours before the window ends..."

Andy Carroll (from Newcastle) £35M to Liverpool
Liverpool fan: "Wow! Great signing, Kenny! He's a talent and I know he can help us forget about Torres!"
Neutral: "Yeah but the money's ridiculous. 35M? That means hes more expensive than David Villa, Carlos Tevez, Karim Benzema, Wayne Rooney, even his new teammate Luis Suarez for Christ sake!"
Newcastle fan: "Poor management though from (Newcastle owner) Mike Ashley. I can't believe the club allowed him to leave!"
Neutral: "I say this was a good piece of management though. Newcastle actually made Liverpool buy a player with only 4 months of Premier League experience... who is actually injured at the time he was signed!"
Liverpool fan: "Blablabla and your criticism, he'll be a great signing and you will want to take your words back!

End. Which of these conversations most intrigued you?

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

BPL title race; and why Chelsea may finish outside the Top 4.

Long time no write, eh? Here goes nothing.

Fig 1. Chelsea's attackers celebrates... but not for long.
To be honest, I am a Manchester United fan to the bone and I thought this season was going to be a bad one considering the bad start of the season and Chelsea to win it again. The first 10 games, Chelsea were the most feared team and won games by thrashing their opponents home & away. Drogba hitting form, Malouda's & Anelka's rejuvenated, and Kalou beginning to shine, I thought this would be THEIR season.

But now its 2011 with 21 matchdays played. Manchester United are surprisingly still unbeaten and top of the league while Chelsea's form has dipped lower than George W Bush's IQ level. What has been the reason of their downfall? Rotation policy failure.

Chelsea has the one of the best starting XI you will see in the world, but when 2-3 players are suddenly unavailable no one can fill in. When you look at Manchester United & Arsenal, they have players who can offer a lot from the bench when the starters are having an off-day. Then you see Manchester City & Tottenham Hotspur building their squad for a couple of seasons and see they both have great squads and will only improve with gametime.

In this article I will compare the starting XI and 7 substitutes of the top 5 teams (Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur) in the BPL standings as of January 4 2011.

Manchester United
-----------------------------------------Van der Sar-------------------------------------

Most frequent subs: Hernandez, Anderson, Scholes, Giggs, Smalling, Macheda, O'Shea

Fig 2. Park Ji-Sung and Dimitar Berbatov.
This team is a great one, especially when you still have players you can't mention in subs bench such as Valencia, Owen, Obertan, and Evans. This squad has depth but sadly not the consistency though. Fortunately Ferguson has that winning mentality installed in the team which brings his team unbeaten up until now.

Manchester United has the quality to win anything if they clicked more with each other and I'm not being biased. What will even be creepier is if Wayne Rooney rediscovers his old form.

End of season expectations: 1st


Most frequent subs: Walcott, Rosicky, Van Persie, Bendtner, Djourou, Diaby, Eboue

Fig 3. Samir Nasi hugging Cesc Fabregas.
After years in the waiting, finally Arsene Wenger's plans of breeding youngster have paid off. What's even better is they can chip-chop their squad like crazy and still form a great team. Like ManUtd, they have more players than the ones being mentioned such as the injured Vermaelen, Vela, Denilson, and Gibbs.

Based on quality, Arsenal have a great attack, nice hard-working midfield, and a competent defence. The only thing lacking in the squad maybe the Goalkeeper as Fabianski and Almunia aren't that commanding. But their weakness isn't all that "weak".

End of season expectations: a close second 2nd

Manchester City
--Boateng-----------Kompany-----------Kolo Toure-------------Zabaleta-
----------------Yaya Toure---------De Jong---------------Barry------------------

Most frequent subs: A. Johnson, Balotelli, Richards, Kolarov, Lescott, Adebayor, Vieira

Fig 4. Carlos Tevez & David Silva
I've said this before and I will say it again - Money can't buy you happiness, but we will have to see if it brings you a good football team. Manchester City and Roberto Mancini has certainly wanted to try that philosophy as City has the depth in every position. Other players such as Wright-Phillips, Bridge, and Santa Cruz could impact any team as well.

How money can change a mediocre mid-table club into a dark horse to win the title is outstanding, but Man City has sometimes never lived up to the big games which causes them to drop points to often. Unless they start playing the big games, they will only achieve Champions League qualification zone.

End of season expectations: 4th


Most frequent subs: Kalou, Zhirkov, Ramires, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Sturridge, Benayoun
Fig 5. Didier Droga & Florent Malouda

Yes, yes. This is a strong Chelsea squad. But have you seen them play lately? When Alex, Ivanovic, Lampard & Essien went missing, this team suddenly becomes another mediocre midtable club. Ferreira & Bosingwa ain't the players they were before their big injuries while Ramires haven't excelled in Lampard's absence. Besides the players mentioned as subs, basically there are only reserve players in the squad.

Their youngsters are not bad, just inexperienced and doesn't mix that well with the seniors which forces Ancelotti to rely on first-team players or dive into the market this month. Unless they buy someone with the wealth they have, they may be disappointed come the end of the season.

End of season expectations: 5th

Tottenham Hostpur
Lennon----------------------Van der Vaart---------------------------Bale

Most frequent subs: Crouch, Palacios, Pavlyuchenko, Kaboul, Keane, Corluka, Bentley
Fig 5. Rafael Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale screaming.

The squad Harry Redknapp has built in Spurs were down to great signings and awesome trust in his players. What's amazing also is the surprising depth in the squad which runs from the goal up to the strikers. They have the luxury of 6 above average centrebacks and 3 rightwings with international credentials.

Sure Redknapp hasn't rotated his side much, but when one gets injured/suspended, the backup players can stake a claim for Harry. What's amazing with Harry is he can trust players and bring the best out of them like what he did with Gareth Bale and Alan Hutton. With the talent in this team and consistency, they are the better of the dark horses in the league.

End of season expectations: 3rd

Conclusion: Consistency and how back-up players will deliver in games will determine the end result of the league. United, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, and City will need their subs to deliver when their teams needs them the most and now this title race will be the most interesting to watch because virtually 5 teams are in it.

Meet me in May and see if I got my predictions right ;)