Category Archives: Sports = good

Premiership Preview, Part Two

My turn to talk football. Because I’m a jerk, my answers are a bit long.

Is the strength of the so-called “Big 4” a good or bad thing for
the league? Can any team from the second tier of the league break into the top 4 this season?

It’s unquestionably a bad thing. Every professional league needs its aristocrats, the teams that will always be up there, or at least won’t be gone for too long. However, the worth of these dynasties is devalued hugely when four clubs are the only competitors with any chance of winning the league. Nobody outside of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea has any chance of winning the league. When you throw in rising ticket prices, and subsequently a steadily older season-ticket holder, and the game is in trouble. English supremacy in the Champions’ League might keep people happy for now, but the long term health of the game is being neglected.

I’ve already answered the second half of this question then. There is no team that can break into the top four. Everton have been sluggish in the transfer market, Harry Redknapp has brought Portsmouth as far as they’re going to go, and Spurs….. ah, Spurs. Tottenham have to hold on to Berbatov to be relevant this year, or else Modric and Bentley will be playing beautiful passes into nobody. Even with Berbatov, and assuming a big improvement under Ramos, Spurs are fifth at best.

Who will be the best, and worst teams, to watch this season?

Arsenal are an obvious answer, always wonderful to watch, especially for the purist. I’m tempted to say Manchester United as well, but in the last two years Ferguson’s team tends to beat up on small teams and grind out wins against their rivals. Not sure how entertaining that really is. West Ham and Spurs are the traditional entertainers but both will have issues of their own this year. As far as being consistently good to watch, game after game, I can’t go beyond Arsenal.

There are a lot of bad teams in the Premier League. Watching Chelsea can be like pulling teeth, but they do play a bit of football here and there. I think Sunderland will be utilitarian, and Middlesbrough are always painful. Hull could be the worst team to watch if they become the Derby of 2008-2009.

Can any of the promoted teams hope to survive?

Well, they can all hope. People will say that WBA have the ‘experience’ of being in the top division most recently, but I think the promoted teams’ chances rest with how badly the incumbent bottom-half regulars do this year. Hull could be in trouble; it’s been a long time since a team rose through the divisions as fast as they have, and it’s a different footballing world now. Wigan will be in trouble and if Paul Ince doesn’t settle very quickly at Blackburn then Rovers could be a surprise struggler. Stoke and WBA to stay up.

Who will be top scorer and who will be player of the year?

I don’t believe you can look beyond the big four again for this one. Torres will get top scorer. I didn’t expect Cristiano Ronaldo to match last year’s performance anyway, and he won’t be able to catch up from the early injury. Not to mention the fact he may still go to Real Madrid at Christmas. Fabregas will be amazing this season and Torres will be a contender for player of the year as well. I think it will go to Rio Ferdinand though. Manchester United will win the league, nobody will be sure how, and Vidic will continue to make Ferdinand look like a top player.

Who will be champions and who else will make up the top 8?

It breaks my heart but I think Manchester United will win it all. Alex Ferguson understands the league and how it works better than Benitez or Scolari, and Wenger is pushing through with his youth policy. Liverpool will look more likely than at any time since 1990, Arsenal will play great stuff, and Chelsea will be lukewarm.

Outside the top four, holding on to Berbatov make Spurs a sure thing for fifth place, in my opinion. Ramos is a good coach and I can’t see last year’s collapse again. Manchester City will take sixth on the back of strong performances from Richard Dunne and Mark Hughes enhancing his reputation still further. Newcastle will reach seventh thanks to a strong attack with Owen and Duff returning to form, and Villa will finish in eighth with no Barry and dreams of year on year improvements in tatters.

1. Manchester United
2. Liverpool
3. Arsenal
4. Chelsea
5. Spurs
6. Manchester City
7. Newcastle
8. Aston Villa

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Premiership Preview, Part One

Football is coming back!!! It starts up this weekend and I am extremely happy. So happy, that my blog will become completely football obsessed this week. Just warning you in advance. To start with, I have some comments from my friend Gray.

Every year Gray and I get together and talk about the issues we think are really important going into the season. I’ll post my reactions tomorrow but today is Gray’s turn. Questions in bold.

Is the strength of the so-called “Big 4” a good or bad thing for
the league? Can any team from the second tier of the league break into the top 4 this season?

The answer to the first part is a resounding “No”. Spurs came close to breaking it two years ago, and Everton finished 4th in 2005, but its true that the top 4 clubs have to massively under-achieve to miss out. This comes down to money and like most things in English football, money corrupts and money divides between the haves and have nots. This isn’t just a problem of clubs and owners, but with players as well. There is a distinct lack of patience with players who don’t play immediately in the Champions League, feeling that they are somehow demeaning their career and international chances by playing for clubs who finish between 5th and 8th and have to lower themselves to playing in the UEFA Cup. This attitude, exemplified by the likes of Gareth Barry and Robbie Keane this Summer, magnifies the image of a Big 4 whereby playing outside of it is below certain players and not worth their time.

But, clubs like Tottenham have a modicum of ambition in terms of the players they buy. Players like Woodgate, Modric and Bentley are all “top 4” calibre signings, and it doesn’t hurt when you get to play in London as well. Spurs are the team with the ambition presently to challenge the top 4, but as evidenced by the loss of Keane and possible loss of Berbatov, they seem powerless to keep players who want to “step up” to top 4 clubs. It may be a season too early for Tottenham, so in reality the top 4 will probably remain unchallenged in a real conserted way this season.

Who will be the best, and worst teams, to watch this season?

Arsenal are always a joy to watch with the ball, although some of their off-the-ball antics and whinging are hard to take. With playmakers like Modric, Dos Santos, Bentley and possibly still Berbatov I’d expect good attacking stuff from Spurs also, especially at home. Worst teams is a toss-up between half a dozen. Middlesbrough never inspire me, Sunderland equally. All three promoted teams have the potential to be absolutely awful, and a special mention for Chelsea, who have talked a good game all Summer about attacking football but generally revert to playing defensive winning dirge.

Can any of the promoted teams hope to survive?

Yes, but only due to the average nature of the bottom half of the league and not down to anything one of the 3 clubs has done themselves. Despite winning automatic promotion I think Stoke and Hull City are doomed, in a Derby County kind of doomed. Of the three, I think West Brom have the best chance. They’ve been there before, have experienced the pace and extra quality of the top league, and their experiences in the Cup last year will have prepared them for the big games. They can survive, maybe.

Who will be top scorer and who will be player of the year?

Top scorer will be Fernando Torres, this will be his real break-out year because last year he scored the vast majority of his goals at Anfield. If he manages 8-10 goals on the road this year he’ll win the golden boot by a mile. Player of the year will be Steven Gerrard because I’m predicting a real Liverpool title challenge this season. For that to happen he’ll have to be awesome all season. An awesome Gerrard is the best midfielder in Europe, let alone England so he wins it hands down.

Who will be champions and who else will make up the top 8?

Champions: Liverpool
2nd: Man United
3rd: Arsenal
4th: Chelsea
5th: Tottenham
6th: Man City
7th: Aston Villa
8th: Newcastle

We should just elect Bret Favre and be done with it.

Ok, so a couple of things are happening later today. First off, there’s Champions’ League stuff going on. I’m looking forward to the Milan v Arsenal game quite a lot, despite the first leg, and am ignoring years of experience to dare to dream for a Lyon upset of Manchester United. This is occupying the heart of my day.

In other sports news, Brett Favre has retired. I honestly thought he’d never leave. Why would he? He can do no wrong, really, in Green Bay at least. Perhaps he realised that last season was pretty good, and it was tempting fate one time too many to come back. Favre always throws for tons and tons of yards and does crazy things, it’s just the crazy things often involve throwing interceptions. Sometimes it really is better to quit while you’re ahead. I’ll be interested to see how Green Bay do without him though; all the talk last year was of the potential in a young team, but succeeding Favre is one job I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

And now, for stuff that supposedly affects the way we live outside Sundays in winter: it’s voting time in Austin, Texas. And the rest of Texas, for that matter. It’s a weird feeling to start the day, everyone’s talking about voting, or going to vote, and reminding each other to caucus. Personally I think being able to vote twice is a wonderful thing. It’s like Texas is twice as democratic as most places. Take that, France.

I have a lot of work to do, as always, but I think I’ll sit back and take in some good old fashioned election analysis. It’s not as good in the US as it is at home, but it’s a far sight better than ANYTHING else that’s on the news channels. There is something terribly entertaining about well-educated people essentially stalling for time by making guesses and vague statements until the results come in.

That will be my Tuesday evening. I’m looking forward to wallowing in democracy. I’ll miss this, you know, when Bush is gone and all is right with the world.

What I won’t miss is Democrats proving they’re just as dirty and underhanded as the supposedly evil Republicans. Here’s a gem from local TV accentuating the positive aspects of the candidate’s campaign rather than just sledge incumbent State Representative Dawnna Dukes:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctZfUzGoDEs&rel=0″>

Thankfully, Ms. Dukes has risen above petty squabbling and focused on her own good work rather than simply retaliate:

Um…. well…. I like the evil dog in Homer Simpson movie effect on Thompson. He’s never voted in a Texas Primary EVER!!!!

Ugh. Maybe it will be nice to get back to taking absolutely no responsibility for anything as a society.