The 2016/17 season preview is upon us and, given the amount of money in the league and new/big managers, it will make club predictions that much harder.
Complete Truth: “Arsenal will not win the league”
Despite being the most hated contributor on the show, Morgan (our Arsenal contributor) made key and logical points in our season preview show as he usually does. First, nothing has changed at Arsenal with respect to spending or approach to winning the league. That said, they did sign a player in Holding (from Bolton) that will add cover to a key weak area in the Gunners’ defence. He will clearly have to adapt to Arsenal’s passing style but Wenger has proven that skill as one of his strengths.
Is that enough to win the league? Probably not but Arsenal fans, like Morgan said, need to realize that this is the approach the owners and manager take. Leicester most likely will be a fluke-note (is that a word) in history. That means that Arsenal did enough to beat all the other teams, last season. They will be in the mix and, no doubt, watching the haters explode on Twitter when the new(ish) managers (Pep, Conte and Jose) beat Wenger (and Arsenal), will be entertaining.
Utter Bollocks: “Bournemouth will be comfortable this season”
What I love about so-called smaller clubs is their attitude towards so-called ‘bigger’ clubs. They constantly make comments about Chelsea and the Manchester clubs having too much money but are interestedly silent about their own club. Case in point, Bournemouth: this is a club that has now broken their transfer record for the third consecutive window, bringing Joron Ibe from Liverpool for 15 million pounds. I would bet my mortgage that a fan of this club from 15 years ago would never believe or want a 15 million dollar price tag. That Bournemouth fan from 15 years ago would protest such a purchase, saying that they do not want to be a ‘spending’ club like Manchester United.
Proportionally, compared to MUFC and Pogba, this may be a much bigger gamble of money than Ibe is to Bournemouth. That said, is this a huge amount of money for such a so-called ‘smaller’ club considering the TV money? Only the insiders know for sure but that is a lot to put on a player that lacks end product. Anyway, Bournemouth conceded 67 goals, worst of the surviving clubs. This is something they will have to improve on and watch that second season relegation curse. Nerves will be tested for the manager, players and fans.
Complete Truth: “Burnley will be the Sunderland of 2015/16”
We just finished talking about money and how important it is for survival. Enter Burnley, a club that has, shall we say, a modest allocation, winning the Championship title on a shoestring budget. Currently, the club also had a quiet summer, signing Gudmundsson from Charlton, who had a great Euro experience with Iceland. They also signed the Pope: Nick Pope, that is.
This is a club that will need some prayers and religious intervention as they lack in depth and may have lost a key figure in Joey Barton, as mentioned by our fantastic Burnley contributor, Ryan Holt, in the preview. In a relation fight, you need players like Barton, to a certain extent. They will need to find someone to replace him in that capacity.
Complete Truth: “No one knows what will happen with Chelsea”
This is, by far, the toughest club to predict in the 2016/17 season due to several reasons. On one hand, Conte is clearly a world-class manager but has never managed in the English Premier League. On the other hand, Chelsea does not have European football to contend with. That said, they signed one of the best midfields from last season. Wait though: is he good enough to protect a clearly diminished back-line that consists of John Terry (disaster), Cahill (no where close to world class), Ivanovic (can he rebound from last season) and Azpilicueta (he is alright but a tough name to spell).
Chelsea did well to keep Hazard as he will be the key player in the forward lines. This is a club that, for me, can finish anywhere as high as third or as low as sixth depending on how Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham United perform.
Complete Truth: “Palace will be Pardewed but will survive”
Last season, it was easy for the neutral and Pardew-hating Newcastle United supporters to say that Crystal Palace got “Pardewed” (love that this is now a verb). For me, it is a combination of injuries that delayed any cohesion or flow and Pardew, who needs to find rhythm and especially a striker. Palace only scored 39 goals last season and only 10 in their last 11 league matches.
This is a team that is well balanced in the back with Tomkins, Dann, Delaney and Ward with Mandanda in goal. They are also strong in holding mid-field with Cabaye and McArthur. The key will be whether the wingers (Townsend and Zaha) can stretch the pitch and allow Cabaye, Bolasie and Wickham to have more space.
Utter Bollocks: “Everton are on the up”
So Everton got the antidote to the poison that was Roberto Martinez, who is now the manager for Belgium? What the hell? How do these things happen? I wish I could suck at my job and get another huge position at another business. Martinez recently issued a ‘challenge’ for the Belgium players to ‘impress him’. Should it not be the opposite?
Anyway, focus: Everton brought in Ronald Koeman but he will not be the difference maker, at least at the start of the season. The difference maker will be the brass balls of the owner and board. How thick are they: we shall find out. This club has to keep at least one of the two players who are rumoured to leave: Stones and Lukaku. If they sell both, this team could see themselves in the bottom half and, if they sell one, around 9th. Last season saw, in my opinion, the most negative I have seen Goodison fans in my lifetime. The appointment of Koeman probably increased the positivity but something tells me that if these players go, it will be hard to keep the fans happy this season. It will also be fun to see if Koeman gets booed at St. Mary’s.
Utter Bollocks: “Fans feel sorry for Hull”
From looking at fan reaction, I do not see any high degree of sympathy from neutral fans for Hull City. I have spent much time wondering why this is. Could it be that fans just hate Steve Bruce that much? Does Hull City not have the cinderella feel that a club like Bournemouth has?
Anyway, it feels like an actual tiger was released in the boardroom, causing chaos, and perhaps brain damage to the owners. This team (currently) has no manger, no moves in, and two players out (Diame said, ‘the hell with this, I am staying in the Championship with Newcastle’). Unless this club has a serious intervention and makes significant moves in the transfer market, they will not survive. Easiest bet for 20th.
Complete Truth: “Leicester fans will learn a lesson”
As mentioned in the Bournemouth preview, I really enjoy the hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance with respect to so-called smaller clubs. Much of their identity as fans revolve around the idea that they prefer not to bought out nor spend money to win. Their fans also really (really) enjoy when so-called ‘bigger’ clubs struggle (which is fine) but that is something that Leicester, can we say a ‘former’ so-called small club, will experience this season. You see, it is really tough to be a Chelsea, Arsenal, and (especially) Manchester United. Not tough with respect to money but tough respect to winning constantly over time.
Champions have targets on their back in every game including friendlies or pre-season matches. Opponents play them harder than other clubs and it gets vert difficult, mentally, for the players. This will be the key for Leicester and Claudio Ranieri: keeping the players mentally fit for the season.
Fans of Leicester also shouted from the rooftops that their players cost very little on transfers and wages but also that their players ‘played’ for Leicester. They implied that their players wanted to play for a ‘smaller’ club and that passion led to the title. Well, we will see whether that passion sticks if Leicester is not in the top five and out of the Champions League by the transfer window. We will see whether Marhrez, Schmeichel and Vardy stay with the club.
Utter Bollocks: “Liverpool has done enough for top four”
To save time, I will refer you to my last article. It is amazing the pressure managers have one them in modern football. Klopp will be expected to get Champions League football at a minimum but many of the Liverpool supporters I have seen on the internet machine say the title is also at play.
Without European football, Klopp can focus on the league and, while they have spent big (is $35 and $23 million pounds big anymore), I do not feel like the new players are talented enough to finish in the top four. They are also very vulnerable at left-back (and the left side of the pitch, in my opinion) and are lacking in the striker department. Sturridge has a lot of flair but lacks finishing and, if Benteke was to leave, we would not have an competition, something I believe he needs to be pushed to improve.
Complete Truth: “Manchester City are Favorites”
Earlier, I said it was a negative that Conte was new to the Premier League and he may need a year to figure it out. I guess I have to call myself out as a hypocrite if I say that Manchester City are favourites to win. Maybe not because there is a clear difference in winning and titles. Pep has six league title compared to Conte’s four but has four domestic cups and two UEFA Champions League titles to Conte’s zero.
Manchester City has all the components to win: a world class manager, money, and world class players that, under Pep, can only improve or they will be replaced. Pep also knows how to deal with egos which is something that fans believe may have hindered Manchester City in previous seasons. One worry may be the defending which, while they will not lose a ton of games, may cost them critical points and momentum. Sagna and Kompany are not getting any younger and, if injuries pop up, this club could have a series of tough runs.
Thanks for reading and be sure to call bollocks in the comments, below.