I hope you enjoyed reading part one of this article on clubs Arsenal to Manchester City. Here we go:
Complete Truth: “MUFC defenders still main problem”
Long time listeners and readers are probably rolling their eyes as I have said this for over five years. Sad day, it was true and still is. As per usual, the focus of the fans will be on Rooney and why he should not start, be benched or sold but he will not be the problem. The problem will be the defensive line, again. Will it be better than last year? Absolutely, Mourinho always improves defenders (see Chelsea’s winning season two years ago; John Terry may have been the best CB in the league) but I am not convinced with the back four. When challenged, these defenders crack and the only reason they looked good on paper, last season, was the possession (sideways and backwards passing) and de Gea.
First, Darmian struggled last season but it was his first in the Premier League. Either way, he has not proven anything and the same goes for Shaw. He has yet to prove he play with the so-called ‘big boys’ at Manchester United, obviously due to his injury. Then you have Smalling who, I will say again, is not a world class defender like Rio or Vidic was. As for Bailly, little to no MUFC fans (myself included) know anything of substance about this player as they probably did not watch 38 games when he was with Villarreal. As this is his first season in the Premier League, I am very nervous as the only options if either Bailly or Smalling get injured is Blind or, choke, Phil Jones. Cover will be needed and, hopefully, Pogba, Rooney and either Blind or Herrera can provide it. MUFC should contend for the title and make top three as a minimum.
Utter Bollocks: “Middlesbrough are favourites for relegated”
Last season saw some big clubs go down in Newcastle United and Aston Villa but I am convinced Boro are favourites. Let’s turn to our favourite subject, math: promoted teams (at least two of the three) tend to stay up in their first season and fall in the second. Middlesborough will continue this trend and have strengthened in almost every weak area, signing Valdes, DeRoon, Fischer and Negredo. If these players hit the ground running, they will survive easily around 12th or 13th. The biggest concern if I were a Middlesbrough fan would the approach to the game. Boro has a style and approach (attacking, flowing football) that could spell disaster over a long season. Manager, Aitor Karanka, needs to adjust his tactics for survival, which will include tweaking that attacking/flowing style and, when they get the lead, decrease the amount of attack and defend the lead.
Complete Truth: “Southampton has peaked”
So out with the Koeman and in with the Peul. The new and quite Nice manager, Claude Puel, will have one major task to ensure the wheels do not fall off the Saints: adjust to losing players, adding new ones, and making sure the Saints march in to the season with momentum and confidence. This was a skill that Ronald Koeman demonstrated extreme talent and the question is, can Puel do the same? For me, the answer is ‘no’ and Southampton will not finish in the same position or higher as last season. They will finish between 9th and 11th and will struggle to be the threat to clubs they have been in seasons’ past. The question will be how mad the fans will be for not maintaining a position so high on the table. Oh, how times have changed.
Utter Bollocks: “This is the season Stoke does something”
With the increase in money and fan expectations due to said money, not to mention Leicester, I do not feel anything different from Stoke fans. Could they be the last of level headed fans? For example, with Southampton fans, I get the sense they want to push higher than their capabilities but I do not sense that with Stoke fans. Hughes had one job in the summer: keep Arnautovic and Shaqiri. He has done half of the job, with Arnautovic signing a four year deal while nothing positive on the Shaqiri front. If both stay, they will finish between 9th and 11th. If one of them leaves, they will finished 9th to 11th. Ha, had you going there: Stoke will be the same old Stoke. Aren’t you Stoked?
Complete Truth: “Sunderland are favourites to go down”
Full disclosure, I like David Moyes and feel like he is a great manager, deserved a shot at Manchester United, and got screwed by the club with no funds to spend on players, unlike LvG and Mourinho. That whole scenario baffled me and reminds me of current big budget ‘super hero’ movies. They hire a director that has a ‘vision’ and then rip apart his movie to make it more like recent, successful ones. Why did you hire a visionary director when you can hire a ‘yes-man’ director (looking at you, Brett Ratner). Sorry, just watched a thing on the big called ‘Suicide Squad’.
Anyway, back to Sunderland: this team is screwed. A late start and little in the transfer market to get the team moving forward out of the gate is troubling. The players’ mentalities may not be able to take any more challenges and it will be up to Moyes to get into their heads and keep them positive. That said, four straight years barely hanging on, aging striker in Dofoe, over 60 goals conceded last season, and only nine wins (second worst), this may be the season the club goes down. Sorry, Cory Martin and Derek Aspinall (great name, though).
Complete Truth: “Swansea is in trouble”
Last season, Garry Monk was sacked and there was not much ‘excitement’ over Francesco Guidolin, but the Italian helped guide Swansea to safety. For many fans, it is hard to know how well every single club does in the transfer market because we are not experts in every club, every single position. Pundits believe that Swansea has failed to strengthen in attack due to Eder’s and Paloschi’s departure, not to mention Gomis’ loan move. There are also rumours over Ayew’s future at the club and, although Sigurdsson signed a deal, Swansea goes into the season as one of the favourites to be relegated. For me, they are one of the favourites to go down and whatever talent they have (or have left) will not be enough. The question will be whether there are three worse teams that can save them.
Complete Truth: “I was wrong about Tottenham last season”
Last season, I predicted 5th or 6th for Tottenham and was completely wrong. Where is that “Price is Right” fail music clip? They succeeded in almost every area I thought they were weak like confidence, attack, and pretty football. The biggest surprise for me was confidence. For years, Tottenham looked like a good to above average team that suffered from confidence, especially when playing teams they should beat like West Brom.
The defence looks solid and Dembele will have another very good season so it will come down to a two players. First, Dele Ali had a break through season and, if he continues on that pace, Tottenham will do well. The other is obviously Harry Kane: we have seen so many players have one great goal-scoring season and then fade away. Kane has to replicate his goal scoring record (at least make 20 goals) in order to see Tottenham through to the top four.
Utter Bollocks: “Watford will have second season woes”
Last season, Watford must have brought in and sent out what felt like 50 players and this season is no different. As I write this article, five key players in and eight key players out. I am going to assume they signed or let someone go as I wrote the last two sentences. Also last season, we thought the club would struggle with the amount of new signing and, while they were not lighting up the league, they survived which is the only thing that matters.
Now, they face the dreaded second season curse with a new manager, Walter Mazzarri, who took over for Quique Sanchez Flores, my favourite three name manager. Unlike Bournemouth and Sunderland, Watford does not have a major area (for example, conceding goals) that needs addressing. All their numbers from last season look pretty good for a promoted side. That means that Mazzari can simply improve on the team, as a whole, instead of spending tons of the training in one area. On paper, this team has no excuse to finish 15th or 14th; except statistical history.
Utter Bollocks: “West Brom has a plan”
In our preview show, last season, I had some worries about West Brom’s aging players, wondering if they could last the season. While proven slightly wrong, I do not think I was completely wrong because one has to wonder whether the Baggies were good enough to survive or there were so many really bad teams (looking at you Aston Villa, Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland). I think they are in trouble, again, and the lack of goals (usually an indicator of relegation) will continue to haunt them.
Last season, they put only 34 goals in the back of net, good for second worst next to Aston Villa. The club has not invested in a goal scorer and will be dependant on Rondon and Berahino this season, the later who could easily leave. That said, Pulis is a master at what he does best: boring the crap out of us and surviving. I am just starting to wonder whether the tactics (hoof the ball forward and hope for the best) is actually a plan. I am beginning to wonder whether Pulis can do little else and, when goals are desperately needed and the club cannot depend on worse teams to save them, will he have a real plan.
Utter Bollocks: “Olympic Stadium will have a negative effect”
Listening to our West Ham United contributor, Dave Hautzig, allows for great insight but also a pessimistic outlook. So, bare with me as I discuss West Ham United because my unconscious may be influenced by Dave. Hammers supporters (not Dave) seem a little angry about the lack of targets in the transfer mark. That is one way to look at it: the other would be that they held onto Dimitri Payet. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge is up front in the form of a man-bun (does he still have one), Andy Carroll. I think Carroll is much better than the numbers and punditry-type-people believe but there is no way you can depend on him to provide the goals or lead the attack.
I would also like to address Olympic Stadium and what effect it will have on the squad. For years, we have heard Arsenal fans talk about how the move to the Emirates changed the tone of atmosphere compared to Highbury. So does the tone of a stadium affect performance? While I am no Arsenal expert, they have found success in winning titles and cups in that stadium. The irony is that Arsenal and all clubs need bigger stadiums due to the increase in money in football. Without the Olympic Stadium, West Ham United will not be able to compete to gain top four or a title run.
Last question: will the new stadium affect the players? This is an interesting one as, on one hand, certain fans constantly say that players are greedy and are in it for football but mostly for the money and fame. If that is the case, those players should play very well inside a bigger stadium with a bigger microscope on them because they make more money. Finally, these fans also say that there is no loyalty in football anymore and players come and go with paycheque. If that is true, then they should have no problem with missing Upton Park and play to their capabilities anywhere, in order to make money.
Thanks for reading and be sure to call bollocks in the comments, below.