CHI’s English Premiership 2007-08 Season Preview, Teams 1-10

1. Manchester United (1)

manchester_united_fc.png

Man Yoo has strengthened their squad significantly over the summer and has begun to trim off the excess fat – in the form of Kieran Richardson to Sunderland, Alan Smith to Newcastle, and striker Guiseppe Rossi heading to Villareal – as they try and make room for their new acquisitions. With Nani and Anderson coming in, the young talent looks to learn from the best in Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes with the hope to one day inherit their everyday spots. The price was steep, but an injection of renewed competition and youth into the line-up is probably the best thing Sir Alex could do for them. For an added veteran presence, Ferguson picked Owen Hargreaves out of Munich and the England international should fit easily into center of the field with Carrick, Scholes, and Darren Fletcher. A solid back-up for keeper Edwin Van der Sar in Tomasz Kuszczak arrived on a permanent basis. Their efficient off-season, however, has been tarnished by two pending disturbances, the Gabriel Heinze saga that still pushes on and the Carlos Tevez transfer, who for all intensive purposes IS a Red Devil but it’s just a matter of when he arrives and for how much. If the Heinze to Liverpool issue doesn’t escalate and the Tevez legal issues don’t infiltrate the locker room, we could see a repeat Championship year out of this squad.
Because I Think’s Player to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo, last season was nothing short of phenomenal. No Champions League glory, though, and it will be interesting to see if Ronaldo can follow up last season with another of respectful proportions. He’s got added support this year so look for the snazzy playmaker to take more chances.

Predicted Line-up
GK: Edwin Van der Sar
LB: Patrice Evra
CB: Nemanja Vidic
CB: Rio Ferdinand
RB: Gary Neville
LM: Ryan Giggs
CM: Michael Carrick or Paul Scholes
CM: Owen Hargreaves
RM: Cristiano Ronaldo
ST: Louis Saha (it is most likely Ronaldo will be up here, with Anderson at RM)
ST: Wayne Rooney

2. Chelsea (2)

Chelsea

Undoubtedly, based on the strength of their line-up, the Blues should win this year’s Premiership title. Unfortunately, it comes down to…..what do you call it…..chemistry. Chelsea’s morale drops at the hint of failure and this year could be no different. Mourinho has good faith in new striker Claudio Pizarro, who has impressed in recent preseason matches. The Portuguese skipper has also added Tal Ben-Haim from Bolton to bolster the backline, especially since Khalid Bhoulahrouz has been sent on loan to Sevilla. If Andrei Shevchenko can improve ever so mildly on his “botched” freshman season (it really wasn’t THAT bad, it just wasn’t 40 goals in 35 matches good), Chelsea can win it all. John Terry has signed on for good at a hefty price while Frank Lampard announced his intentions to do the same. A framework has been set and the roster turnover is lighter this year with the other acquisitions keeping tame monetarily, including Reading project, Steve Sidwell and former Lyon wing midfielder Florent Malouda. Malouda should influence this team more than oft-injured and speculated-to-leave winger Arjen Robben. Didier Drogba will need to have help this year on the scoring end – if he receives it, we could see Chelsea lifting the Premiership title among other things. To do that, tremendous progress will need to come from the young’uns Jon Obi Mikel and Solomon Kalou. Injuries to Frankie Lampard, Didier Drogba, and John Terry have hindered squad progress, but their showing against a stronger ‘on-paper’ Manchester United should have them somewhat hopeful. Before this weekend, I wouldn’t expect any more signings…but once the first games pass and Mourinho can assess the squad in competitive fashion – we could see one or two more faces. Their failed bid to sign Franck Ribery earlier in the summer could prove key to Chelsea’s fate this season as his tenacity and ‘balls-to-the-wall’ nature is really something they could have used.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Florent Malouda, we saw his skill and technical prowess in the Community Shield but he has been known to be fragile in his Lyon days and fragility is not something that Jose Mourinho can endure right now. He needs to start investing in some hard-nosed, durable players.

Predicted Line-up
GK: Petr Cech
LB: Ashley Cole
CB: John Terry
CB: Ricardo Carvalho
RB: Tal Ben-Haim
LM: Florent Malouda
CM: Michael Essien
CM: Frank Lampard (if injured for the beginning of the season, Jon Obi Mikel)
RM: Joe Cole or Shaun Wright-Phillips
ST: Andrei Shevchenko
ST: Didier Drogba

3. Liverpool (3)

Liverpool

The Hicks and Gillett era began with a bang with stadium plans, roster turnover, and BIG, expensive transfer targets. Key players shown the exit were Robbie Fowler, the volatile Craig Bellamy, Jerzy Dudek, Bolo Zenden, attacking midfielder Luis Garcia, and striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle. Rafa Benitez did his homework, though, and picked up what he thought necessary to rescue this Reds franchise from Premiership title purgatory. The biggest of the bunch was Fernando ‘el Nino’ Torres, who had a up-and-down year for Atletico last year, but looks to use his new surroundings to reinvigorate his young career. Yossi Benayoun was brought in to serve as that Ribery-type figure mentioned above, as he has served as the lifesaver many times before with West Ham United. Ukrainian Andrei Voronin will share time with the fearsome foursome of Peter Crouch, Torres, and Dirk Kuyt, while Dutch youngster Ryan Babel will mostly serve his time on the left wing considering that depth at the striker position. Babel was snapped up from Ajax, while Voronin joined in a pre-arranged transfer from Bayer Leverkusen. A host of youngsters have been scouted by Rafa and signed up to join the pool of future stars he’s already got brewing. The list including promising young’uns from Hungary (Andreas Simon and Kristian Nemeth) , Brazil (Lucas Leiva), Argentina (Sebastian Leto), Spain (Miki Roque), Bulgaria (Nikolay Mihaylov), and finally a little domestic flavor, Ryan Crowther. Add that to current Reds young’uns Paul Anderson, who could see some time on the wing this year, and Argentine Emiliano Insua and you’ve got some scary looking future prospects. Javier Mascherano could be the difference maker this year as his productivity was somewhat mired by lack of playing time at West Ham and legal issues involving his transfer to both West Ham and then to Liverpool. Look for him to be a big force this year though. Unfortunately, despite the expenditures – and Liverpool’s normal lack of consistency involving form – I don’t think they’ll be cracking that top two, but I would certainly like to see it happen.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Alvaro Arbeloa, if Steve Finnan falters (although his form near the end of last season proved otherwise) expect this Spaniard to fill in; not quite a ‘Riise of the right side’ but Arbeloa is certainly capable of moving forward, overlapping, and adding an offensive pop every once in a while

Predicted Line-up
GK: Pepe Reina
LB: Jon Arne Riise
CB: Daniel Agger
CB: Jamie Carragher
RB: Steve Finnan
LM: Harry Kewell
CM: Xabi Alonso
CM: Steven Gerrard
RM: Javier Mascherano
ST: Dirk Kuijt
ST: Fernando Torres

4. Tottenham (5)

Tottenham

The Hotspur come into this season with even higher expectations than the last. With Dimitar Berbatov now a proven Premiership goalscorer and Robbie Keane still producing, you would think the offense would be the last on their most-wanted list. Not the case, as Tottenham splashed over $30 million for the prolific Charlton Athletic striker Darren Bent while also holding onto the immensely talented but currently underused English international Jermain Defoe. Defoe was linked to Man Utd for a while, but as of late, the talk has faded. Between Liverpool and the Hotspur you would have to reference child-labor laws as both have deemed themselves in need of significant youth talent. The Spurs sprung for young German starlet Kevin Prince-Boateng from , Southampton wunderkid Gareth Bale, a permanent deal for Lens midfielder Adel Taarabt, Leeds young’un Danny Rose, and Lille native defender Dorian Dervite. The French connection continues, as well, with a more-established French bruiser in the form of AJ Auxerre’s Younes Kaboul. All are 21 years old or younger. You add this to the already burgeoning youth crop of Tom Huddlestone and speedster Aaron Lennon, the team looks poised to make its’ biggest fuss a couple years down the road from now. Stalwarts Ledley King and Wigan recruit turned White Hart Lane success Pascal Chimbonda would like this youth to transition to wins though and with a bolstered defense, this could be the year to make a push for the top three.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Gareth Bale, no one is sure as to how much the Southampton jewel is going to play. A left back by trade, the opening is their but Martin Jol might not want to season the youngster so soon. Ricardo Rocha could fill in their or Paul Stalteri (which might be why they’re hanging on to the Canadian).

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)

GK: Paul Robinson
LB: Gareth Bale or Ricardo Rocha
CB: Younes Kaboul (as Ledley King is out injured for the start of the season)
CB: Michael Dawson
RB: Pascal Chimbonda
LM: Aaron Lennon (who might be out injured, if so expect Wayne Routledge)
CM: Didier Zokora
CM: Jermaine Jenas
RM: Steed Malbranque
ST: Dimitar Berbatov
ST: Darren Bent or Robbie Keane (from the looks of pre-season, Bent)


5. Portsmouth (9)

Pompey

Portsmouth helped themselves to yet another summer shopping spree, one when mixed with the parts already in place could potentially form a squad – on paper – that could compete with the upper echelons of the English Premiership. Sulley Muntari comes in from Udinese and looks to quarterback that midfield with the likes of Pedro Mendes. Preston North End’s goal-hound Dave Nugent finally got his Premiership wish and will join up with Stade Rennes’ recruit John Utaka, and already proven goal-scorer Lomano Lua-Lua. Last year’s sympathy signing of former Man Utd stud Andy Cole was quickly nixed, firmly shutting down any milestone chances Cole has (I think 200 goals was what he was looking for). Charlton defender Herman Hreidarsson joins back up with a Premiership outfit and looks to firmly challenge for best Icelandic defender in the league (extreme competition from Reading). With Muntari, Mendes, and Kranjcar in the middle the midfield is their strong suit. The productivity of the striker crew is what this squad’s league position hinges on. Overall, their strengths are spread out and the weaknesses not particularly glaring. A solid team, if you will. We’ll see if it holds up but a hot start is most likely what is needed to put Pompey in the part of the standings I have them in.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Niko Kranjcar, had a great first season in the English Premiership, supplying most of the creativity seen on the field for Pompey. That, and his rocket shots. The Croatian ‘son of the coach’ will make an even bigger splash this year as he now is accustomed to the physicality of the brutish Premiership defenders.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: David James
LB: Lauren
CB: Sol Campbell
CB: Sylvain Distin
RB: Herman Hreidarsson
LM: Sean Davis
CM: Pedro Mendes (could move out to the left, once Kranjcar comes back from injury)
CM: Sulley Muntari
RM: Gary O’Neil
ST: Dave Nugent
ST: Nwankwo Kanu

6. Arsenal (4)

Arsenal

Emmanuel Adebayor seems certain that the post-Henry years will yield the same attacking style football and the same appeal that they had even before he left. Clearly, as I have the Gunners at 6th, I am a bit of a skeptic. Or maybe not, maybe they’ll play that attractive sort of football but that certainly doesn’t guarantee results. Eduardo da Silva, the Brazilian-Croat, has been brought in to effectively replace Thierry Henry, knowing full well he’s irreplaceable (to the left, to the left). Emmanuel Eboue will most likely shift up to right midfield as preseason results have established. In the back, Bakari Sagna has been brought in from Auxerre to help counter the loss of French influence that left with Henry. He will shore up the defense consisting of trusty William Gallas and Kolo Toure with wildcard Clichy. Fellow Frenchman Armand Traore is one year closer to that left-back position. The 17-year old is slowly growing into his body, but his veteran mentality is already there. If Gael Clichy falters a bit, you could see Traore get a look. Other youngsters on the right track to the Gunner first team include Brazilian Denilson, Dane Nicklas Bendtner, and Spaniard Fran Merida. Theo Walcott will also figure more into the first-team this year as a youthful Arsenal squad looks to take on the world. It’s cliche but not enough veteran presence and ‘lead-by-example’-ness to push them above 6th. And I could be very wrong here, but 6th might even be a stretch.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Kolo Toure will have to man that back four and push maturity quickly or else Arsenal’s defense will continue to be streaky. Gallas and Toure were fantastic last year but it was the inconsistencies of Senderos and Hoyte that hurt them. We’ll see Bakari Sagna can do.

Predicted Line-up
GK: Jens Lehmann
LB: Gael Clichy
CB: William Gallas
CB: Kolo Toure
RB: Bakary Sagna
LM: Tomas Rosicky
CM: Gilberto Silva or Alexander Hleb
CM: Cesc Fabregas
RM: Emmanuel Eboue
ST: Robin Van Persie
ST: Emmanuel Adebayor (if injured, which is possible, then Eduardo da Silva)

7. Aston Villa (11)

Aston Villa

Villa’s chance to upgrade their keeping took a large hit when Sunderland pulled a fast one and grabbed promising Scottish goalkeeper Craig Gordon from the Premiership constants. With Dane Thomas Sorensen out with injury, it will be up to Stuart Taylor to start the year. Also lagging is the arrival of defensive recruits as nothing has been done in that department. With Olof Mellberg exit-to-the-MLS rumors abound, the only other specifically defensive option is Mark Delaney. I am confident Martin O’Neill will not allow this to go on for much longer and defensive upgrades should be expected fairly soon, if not before the end of next week. Nigel Reo-Coker was gifted to Villa from West Ham as he had grown tired of the front office and on-field antics at Upton Park, Marlon Harewood followed. The introduction of them helps an already consistent Villa squad, but with a lack of depth and. These fears are countered by the continued head-turning play of both Gareth Barry and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Regardless, any sort of injuries and O’Neill will be shopping for replacements in a hurry. Big target man John Carew should help alleviate any scoring issues that may arise. Seventh place could be a bit generous for the Villans, but I am banking on the scouting prowess of O’Neill and prompt nature of his selections.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Ashley Young, who endured half a year with Watford last season, was somewhat quiet in the waning moments of last season but he is tipped to shine this year. Remembering back to the Bouazza/Young moments in a Watford uniform, I could not agree more.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)

GK: Stuart Taylor (as Sorensen is out with injury)
LB: Wilfried Bouma
CB: Martin Laursen
CB: Gary Cahill
RB: Olof Mellberg
LM: Ashley Young
CM: Stilian Petrov
CM: Gareth Barry
RM: Nigel Reo-Coker
ST: John Carew
ST: Gareth Agbonlahor

8. Newcastle (13)

Newcastle

We all know the Magpies are in for another injury-riddled year. Just because big Sammie Allardyce is there now, doesn’t mean everybody is magically in pristine condition. One thing, though, that Allardyce seemed to actually think of was depth. Even if a couple fall, there are plenty of serviceable replacements waiting in the wings. The former Bolton boss has already brought in David Rozehnal from PSG, Alan Smith from Man Utd, Mark Viduka on free from Middlesbrough, Michael Owen back from injury and seemingly healthy, and trusty Mr. Versatility Geremi from Chelsea. More recently was the addition of fullback Jose Enrique from Villareal for a cool $12.5 million and Brazilian Cacapa, who was a rock in back for Lyon, taking part in the past 6 consecutive Championships. The injury bug has already claimed starting goalkeeper Shay Given and bad boy Joey Barton while Kieron Dyer and Charles N’Zogbia don’t like the newfangled competition for starting spots. Both could be on their way to out West Ham and Fulham respectively. If the bug isn’t contagious and the throngs of talent mesh well – you could see a finish higher than the projected 8th. If not – I’d say 8th was pretty conservative.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Mark Viduka, he adds a whole different dimension to the Magpies’ offense. Especially with pacy, skilled Obafemi Martins up there with him. Viduka is a source of consistency and despite his age, which is getting up there, if you can ration time between him and Owen. Don’t forget that Albert Luque could still catch fire, which based on potential, could be up there with scariest strike contingent (but Luque will most likely head out on loan, with Getafe a possible destination).

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)

GK: Shay Given
LB: Jose Enrique (recent signing from Villareal)
CB: Steven Taylor
CB: David Rozehnal
RB: Cacapa
LM: Charles N’Zogbia
CM: Nicky Butt or James Milner (until Barton gets back)
CM: Alan Smith (could Sammie bring back Smith’s Man Utd midfield role?)
RM: Geremi
ST: Mark Viduka
ST: Obafemi Martins

9. Manchester City (14)

Man City

The transfer hoopla is somewhat ridiculous now – but it’s nice to see the financial injection into teams other than the big four. Kind of like Portsmouth’s shopping spree last year, Sven Goran-Eriksson has a little more pull than Harry Redknapp which has proven to be a significant difference. Ready for the laundry list of newcomers: Rolando Bianchi from Reggina, young Bulgarian striker Valeri Bojinov, Brazilian midfield workhorse Elano, Serbian wonderkid Vedran Corluka, former Barcelona man Geovanni, star of Swiss league Gelson Fernandes, and last but not least, Real Sociedad defender Javi Garrido. Australian and Serie A standout Mark Bresciano could be on his way as well after Eriksson gets rid of his ‘extras’ Ousmane Dabo, Danny Mills, and Paul Dickov. Nevermind the pricetag as it seems the Thai ex-prime minister can handle it – who cares if he’s got crimes against humanity charges outstanding. New faces will create a new kind of Manchester derby and damn am I looking forward to it. As with all the other transfer overhauls – kind of like West Ham last year – you never know what the final product is going to be. If Citeh’s new boys can learn how to play like a team, Europe is in their sights. I think they’ll start slow and heat up near the end of the season but, ultimately, the Light Blues will miss Europe.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Stephen Ireland, if the 18-year old can continue his development unabated – and learn from these veterans coming in – we could see an English senior international by season’s end.

Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
GK: Andreas Isaksson
LB: Javi Garrido
CB: Vedran Corluka
CB: Nedum Onuoha
RB: Micah Richards
LM: Stephen Ireland
CM: Martin Petrov
CM: Dietmar Hamann
RM: Elano
ST: Rolando Bianchi
ST: Valeri Bojinov or Emile Mpenza

10. Blackburn (10)

Blackburn

A Rover squad searching for consistency should only need to do so on the defensive end this season as the introduction of Bayern Munich outcast Roque Santa Cruz to a Blackburn uniform has mouths salivating at the prospect of a Santa Cruz/Benni McCarthy pairing up front (unfortunately, some news that he might be on his way out has been circulating). Double that with the depth of promising youngster Matt Derbyshire, new signing Maceo Rigters, and Jason Roberts and you have yourself a good set of strikers. I would be very afraid of that. Rising star David Bentley – an Arsenal youth product – looks to again make his name known to English national team scouts and I would certainly expect him to do so. With former D.C. favorite Ryan Nelsen signed on for a couple more years and Dutch international Andre Ooijer in good preseason form, the defense looks serviceable but if the Rovers are to push for a spot in Europe, they’re going to have to bolster – especially with the amount of new, high-powered offensive recruits coming in league-wide this offseason. Expect dead middle.
CHI’s Player to Watch: Gamst and Bentley, their service to Santa Cruz and McCarthy determines the strength of the potentially potent offense. Gamst – a Norwegian international – and the feisty Bentley – who got his first call up recently – could certainly do the job needed of them. All while chipping a goal or two from time to time.

Predicted Line-up
GK: Brad Friedel
LB: Stephen Warnock
CB: Ryan Nelsen
CB: Christopher Samba
RB: Andre Ooijer
LM: Morten Gamst Pedersen
CM: Brett Emerton or Robbie Savage
CM: Tugay
RM: David Bentley
ST: Roque Santa Cruz
ST: Benni McCarthy

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12 Responses

  1. Ha ha ha… I just read your Liverpool ‘review’ and you don’t know shit, mate. Javier Mascherano starting on the right? My arse. Paul Anderson has been out on loan to Swansea City the whole preseason and will continue to be for the rest of the season. Arbeloa the player to watch? Oh dear, did you even watch him play last year? He’s much better at left or his natural position of centre back. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Stephen Darby on the right more than Arbeloa.

    Portsmouth 5th? You are having a laugh.

  2. fair enough man – i call it as see it, as for the paul anderson loan move – that don’t get much press in the states…honest mistake…but guess what? it says he ‘could’ get some time not ‘will’ get some time, plus those loan deals made early can be recalled.

    mascherano at right mid is more of what i would want to see? yes, he’s a def mid, but at corinthians the man played well out there. clearly, the choice is pennant..and sorry for puttin’ that up there, offending all Liverpool masses represented by you. or even Babel could play out there.

    not gonna see darby is my guess…maybe a couple early league cup games. i followed liverpool last year – arbeloa was half decent. but you’re right i am not speaking from a supporter’s p.o.v. instead i am going by friendly results, last season, money spent, and an albeit warbled imagination. but thanks for keepin’ me honest.

    as far as Pompey goes, maybe i am laughing – i like laughing. under-rated and if they do shit this year, i will take the heat. gladly.

  3. Benitez will wait until the start of the season to screw with the lineup like he always does, then change a bunch of people around so he can do his ‘rotating lineup’ he loves to do so well.

    I’m thinking that Right wing is just up for grabs. You can throw out Pennant, Mascherano, Babel, Benayoun or anyone to fill that spot. They’ll let Kewell play out on the other side, but then it’s just a tossup as to who they put on the right. The rest of the lineup is pretty well set, and Babel can have his fight for a spot upfront, but he will be 4th in a pecking order behind Kuyt, Torres and Crouch.

    As the season plays out and players start making an impact, you will see more consistency in the lineup, but I think Rafa will take some chances moving players around in different positions to start to see where they will fit in better.

  4. MAN.U is the best teäm of der world

  5. Hey, you managed to predict Bolton doing badly this season…

  6. Yea…and with Anelka being picked away by Chelsea or Man City in Jan, it doesn’t look good – unless that money can be used wisely…

    I’m doing pretty good with these predictions save Arsenal and Tottenham – who are well on their way up the table though.

  7. lal menchester ok giddddddddddd

  8. bueno olo quieor decir
    k
    es la mejor
    la liga
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    es la mejor a qu en
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    es d eprestigio
    no crees espeor k se cumuniquen
    conmigo
    mi corres es
    gorras_@hotmail.com
    me llamo daniel le voy al amnchester united

  9. manchester is my favorite in premier league.

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