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The Farm Club Preview: English Premier League

August 14, 2012

Features, Soccer

The Barclay’s Premier League matches open on Saturday.


The English Premier League (EPL) hosts its first matches on Saturday, the 18th, bright and early here in the States. That’s 10:00 AM EST on Saturday morning for you early birds. It seems kind of unreasonable that 10 in the morning is early to wake up and turn on your television, but, this is a blog by college writers and that is one of the last free Fridays in the summer before classes start back up, so I’m sure plenty of binge drinking will occur.

Nevertheless, here is your first installment of the Farm Club preview of the EPL, complete with predictions of the final table of the 2012/13 season and summaries of each club’s offseason transfers.

Introductory Notes: Before we proceed, I’m going to fill you in with some quick information, since this is going to be a long article and I’d rather be as clear as I can from the beginning. We’ll start off with the champions, Manchester City and end with the promoted Championship sides: Reading, Southampton and West Ham United.

I will be using a very simple arithmetic average for these posts, which is just the average goals for or against divided by the amount of games played in the EPL (38). This will be shown as part of the synopsis of the team’s 2011-12 season as AGF (Average Goals For) and AGA (Average Goals Against). The measure does not translate well to the incoming clubs, so take it lightly when it comes to the sides that played against lesser competition last year. I am currently attempting to find a way to measure team performance in a much more complex and reliable way using home/away matches, substitutes and even formation, so you should hopefully see that project come together as the season goes on or in a review of the EPL season early next year if we don’t all die in mid December.

I’m going to use the word “football.” It just feels more sincere and sounds better in an English accent.

This article will be in 4 parts, ending on Friday night with the last five teams being evaluated. So make sure to come back and check out each part to get your fill.

 Manchester City

2011-2012: The reigning EPL champions and Community Shield winners were set to have a fantastic season, but I’m not sure any one truly predicted they’d beat out their Manchester rivals to win the league. The rich, sky-blued club protected their home stadium in phenomenal proportions: 18-1-0. Yes, that’s 18 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses at home. It’s quite the standard for clubs to, especially in football; play better at home as their fans seem to have a genuine and very important impact on the match. This is definitely seen for City as the club only captured 34 of their 89 points in their away matches. In the end though, we saw a spectacular season from this side, as they were solid enough at home to win the number one spot.

AGF: 2.4 AGA: 0.3

Offseason: City was extremely quiet during the break, bringing in their only transfer so far in the youngster from Everton, Jack Rodwell just on Sunday. But maybe that is what makes them so scary for this next year. They have accomplished their essential task to come back in the 2012-13 season and have another shot at league champions, and that was to hold onto key players that helped them get in this place to begin with. They shipped out some players that were no longer needed in their roster and sent a few of the young ones on loan to grow and learn against lesser competition. Jack Rodwell, in the end, will cost them £15 million. But it’s a fair price for the potential that he has and seems like a good deal on both sides. If Mancini is able to get the most out of Rodwell, who will be at best a substitute this year, he could see the benefit of a great young midfielder in his first-team lineup for years to come.

2012-13: Another year of growth for the long list of young stars playing for City: David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri, Micah Richards, James Milner, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli all come to mind. And all are surely to be even better this year. That’s if Balotelli can keep his head on straight, but 13 goals in 23 appearances is promising to say the least. Carlos Tevez, an important part of this team for the last ten matches last year following his six months of…vacation…will be back and has looked sharp this preseason by all accords. He scored in Sunday’s match against Chelsea for the Community Shield and I have a feeling that he will come back with authority, that’s if he doesn’t look to be shipped out once again in the next transfer window. Look for Nasri’s assists to be in the double figures this year as he continues his development. This team again will be near the top of the table the whole year. But, they’ll fall just short as they can’t keep their play at home at an almost perfect level.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 2nd

Manchester United

2011-12: The most famous and most wealthy football club in the world narrowly missed extending its record 19th league titles early this year. United tied with league champions and city rivals, Manchester City, with 89 points, but the pesky goal differential kept them in second place. Normally, a performance like theirs last season would have sealed the league title for them, but City was able to finally make their mark. Manchester United was able to dominate, as usual, very balanced in their home and away matches. The capture of Ashley Young from Aston Villa proved dividends for the squad, and his quickness and fantastic crosses from the wings allowed for ample chances in the 25 matches he appeared in last year.

AGF: 2.3 AGA: 0.9

Offseason: Biggest story this offseason? The Glazers taking Manchester United public. It hasn’t worked for any sports franchise ever. But they are looking to disprove that seeming truth and hope the brand of the number one valued sports entity in the world at $2.3 billion will allow for some extra cash to be brought in for more talent to be unleashed at Old Trafford. One of these signings could be Angelo Henriquez, the youth player from Universidad de Chile. Speculation is surrounding the deal that supposedly has Henriquez taking a physical with United shortly. Not much else is known, but he would be a fabulous addition to take on and develop.

The team, and manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, have also been courting the only player to score more than Wayne Rooney last year in the EPL: Robin van Persie. The golden boot winner would be a fantastically delicious (or devastating, depending on your allegiance) addition to the already historically best squad in the league, if not world. The question isn’t whether United can afford what it will take to make him theirs; it’s whether or not Arsenal will let him walk. The bid looks to be moving upwards to £20 million for the player whose contract runs out next season with his home club. But, that’s not something United should have an issue paying. My thoughts: The deal will happen.

2012-13: This team will continue to dominate the league as it has since the EPL was born back in the early 1990’s. There’s no question they’ll be annual top five finishers for the foreseeable future with their cash on hand and Sir Alex at the helm. If my feelings are correct and the van Persie move comes along, you can expect the fallen out of graces Berbatov to be sold. He’s already been overtaken by Mexican international Javier Hernandez who seems to work much more nicely with Rooney up front. And he’s nine years younger.

They’re the Yankees of the EPL, except they win a lot more. The question isn’t if they can win it. It’s who could possibly overtake them. City did it last year, robbing United of their 20th league title. I don’t think City will be able to do it again this year, and the favorites for the last 20 years running will take it again.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 1st

 

Arsenal

 2011-12: Arsenal enjoyed a good season last year, landing at 3rd in the final table by one point above 4th place Tottenham and a full 19 behind the Manchester clubs. If that doesn’t show you how lopsided the top end of the table was, I’m not sure what else could honestly. While 3rd is always a disappointment for a club that shoots for the title every year and is the second richest in the EPL, they still managed to secure a spot in the Champions’ League for the 15th consecutive year. Quite impressive to say the least! A nice run was put together at the end of the season, but they simply couldn’t overcome some losses against weaker sides. Wigan, Swansea and the relegated Blackburn were able to steal points from them (although in the home match versus the ‘basement of the table’ Blackburn was won 7-1). Notably, Arsenal also drew with Wolves and Bolton, two clubs also relegated to the Championship for this season. If Arsenal wants to play with the big boys, as their spending and HUGE fan base around the world demand, then points must be taken from these matches.

AGF: 1.9 AGA: 1.3

Offseason: The Gunners were able to steal Santi Cazorla from the in-debt Malaga a week ago to bolster their strong midfield presence. He can play anywhere along the midfield and by all accounts has been one of the most consistent players in not only his football life in Spain but off the pitch as well. Malaga paid £21m for him last year, and at 27 he still has some great years ahead of him.

Outside of that swift move, Robin van Persie, who scored 30 goals for the squad last year in the Premier League and the Golden Boot winner, has been courted by Manchester United this whole transfer window. Sir Alex has even been in the chase and I truly think he could be sold a few matches into the season if not sooner. Arsenal hasn’t signed his replacement and it’s safe to say he truly isn’t on the roster just yet. 30 goals is a huge hole to fill and I’m not sure they could fill the Dutchman’s role so easily. We’ll have to see how this plays out, but as of now, Arsenal has hold onto van Persie and the rest of the squad that has gotten them this far.

2012-13: A realization of talent and good form could have them back fighting for the top again this year, as usual. 3rd is about where Arsenal would be considered to finish for most people, but I’m not sure second place was thought of being 19 points away. Don’t expect the table to be so kind to the top two places this year, but also don’t expect Arsenal to push them either. If Arsenal loses van Persie, look for a stumble in the beginning close to or worse than last year, definitely. If not, look for Arsenal to start off a little hotter, but I really don’t think it will make a difference in the end results. I’m betting they’ll lose him this season. If not now, the next transfer window. And they’ll feel it. This feeling isn’t because Arsenal isn’t full of talent and class. They just won’t be able to overcome the growing clubs under them they haven’t had to deal with until the last few years.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 5th

 

Tottenham Hotspur

2011-12: It seems like just a few years ago Tottenham was annually a mid to lower table finisher. ENIC International, the company by which Tottenham was finally brought private through this year has been pumping cash into the North London club for the last few years, and financial security usually means great things in football. They’ve been able to secure large funds and even larger talent through this, the Spurs has been able to rise to one of the top class clubs in English football. White Hart Lane is being redeveloped as we speak to bring a better stadium to their improving fan base, as success always brings. The home stadium was their sanctuary as they performed as brilliantly as could be dreamt, but performed only adequate away for these kind of standards at 7-6-6. The club narrowly missed out on a Champions’ League bid this year, one point behind Arsenal in the final table standings with 69 points. The acquisition of 2010-11 England’s player of the year, Scott Parker, paid dividends to the team as his motor is simply unequaled at this level.

AGF: 1.7 AGA: 1.1

Offseason: The offseason for Tottenham Hotspur has been truly centered on the talk of Luka Modric’s possible acquisition by Real Madrid and other even larger clubs. The 26-year-old Croatian was signed back in 2008 by the English side, and he has grown since to become simply one of the most skillful and promising midfielders in the game of football. Rumors seem to be settling that Modric is on his way out and this could leave a gap in the midfield for Tottenham, but in my observation, much lesser than the loss of van Persie to Arsenal would be as I spoke about previously. It may be a bit of a long shot, but the way that Tom Huddlestone has shown up in friendlies would lead you to believe that he could step up and take the place of Luka Modric if he was sold for what is rumored to be in the £25m ballpark.

Old man Brad Friedel probably has another year until he leaves, and it seems that Tottenham have been keen to find his replacement sooner than later with a potential bid for Hugo Lloris that was turned down earlier this summer. They may still look to sign another young goalkeeper to have ready for when Friedel steps down.

The Spurs have also shipped out another Croatian in the midfield, Niko Kranjcar, in early July, but have signed the young Icelandic footballer Gylfi Sigurdsson who played an important part during his loan stint in the EPL in SwanseaCity’s mid-table performance last season. The 22-year-old could be a potential replacement for Modric as well, but it seems that with the kind of cash that Spurs possesses, a move for a more established player would be in order and seems primed to happen in the near future.

2012-13: Tottenham is looking no where but up as Huddlestone and Jake Livermore push for more starting time. Livermore subbed into 17 matches the season before, and as he is used more off the bench, his starts will top 10 this season. Tottenham again shows off their plethora of scoring options and strong midfield presence. They win away more often than not this season, which will push them into the third place this year in the final table standings. 3rd, I do believe, would be the highest this club has ever finished within the English Premier League. And trust me, I’m not a Tottenham fan in the slightest, quite the contrary, I just believe in the talent and promise their players possess, with or without Modric. These predictions are loftier than a non-football watcher would imagine, I promise you.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 3rd

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About Mike Gazdik

Born in Detroit, raised in Warren, MI and now located in Grand Rapids, Mike has lived in Michigan his whole life: totaling 22 years. He currently is Vice-President of The Farm Club, a blog that is growing daily with new writers and readers. He enjoys offering research driven articles on many different subjects, but mostly American football. The goal of The Farm Club is to give aspiring college writers the ability to write on what topics really get them ticking, while sharing their insight and feelings with a large reader base. www.thefarmclub.net If you think you'd like to contribute to The Farm Club, contact the blog on Twitter, Facebook or through email. Information is listed on the blog's webpage.

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