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The Farm Club Preview: English Premier League Part II

August 15, 2012

Soccer

The English sure love lions.


Yesterday I previewed the top 4 clubs from the 2011-12 EPL season in Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. If you haven’t read it just yet, you can click here to check it out.

Today something happened that I thought, you thought, we all thought was going to happen. Let’s be honest, when Manchester United sets her eyes on a player, they usually get them. And when I mean usually, I mean pretty much always. Like 99.9% of the time. Today was nothing different, as the swoop for Robin van Persie, the Golden Boot winner of the last season is almost complete awaiting a medical and personal terms with the Arsenal captain. It will be even more interesting to see what happens if Alex Song as well gets bought as it seems more likely even after reports denying the previous reports that denied the reports before that. Let’s be honest: European sports press is utter shit. Rumors are all over the place and I’d rather go forward without paying much attention to them outside of what is stated by the clubs. This is the only way it seems one can stay sane in the business.

Let’s continue with the next, and in my view, even more interesting clubs in the English Premier League. If you’re an avid fan or even just a casual watcher of football, I’m sure you have noticed how set in stone the table seems in certain leagues and although the EPL is better than others (see Italy, Greece, Scotland, Spain, etc.) in this regard, they still have their wealthiest clubs really taking some of the top spots annually. That’s why I find the next clubs I’ll be previewing for their 2012-13 seasons so much more interesting. They could be the wild cards. Chelsea, who finished in 6th in the EPL last season, is surely a club that has done it before and could make a run for the title this year. No one can ever count out Liverpool, who was dismantled by injuries and some devastating losses in the previous season, from getting into the top of the table. Everton and Newcastle United could have overachieved last season with strong late runs, but who could really be certain as Everton seemingly always makes their way into the top 8. Newcastle went 7-0-1 between March 18th and May 2nd in their second season back from relegation. Let’s just say, these clubs could find a way into the top four and some could even have a shot at Champions’ League appearances or even the elusive EPL title.

Newcastle United

2011-12: Newcastle United truly outdid themselves last season. The cash from the Carroll deal the previous January (which hasn’t exactly panned out for the buyers just yet…if it ever does), has been thought to have been used wisely by Newcastle. A pairing of Senegalese strikers brought them 29 goals combined last season and truly showed an ability and connection that bought exciting football back to St. James’. The club was able to climb the table with a strong goal scoring presence that was there against the clubs the Magpies were supposed to beat, but seemed to waver in the eyes of some of their tougher competition. Sure, a 3-0 win against Manchester United was quite the match, but it sure seemed that Newcastle’s overall play was spotty at times and came in waves. Nevertheless, a string of eleven unbeaten matches in the EPL is tough enough and you can’t argue with the final results.

2011-12 made a statement that a strong Newcastle United is here for the future as their squad enjoyed a complete makeover, sending top goal scorer Kevin Nolan out, as well as Joey Barton and Jose Enrique.

AGF: 1.5 AGA: 1.3

Offseason: The Magpies have been building for the future so far this offseason. They’ve brought in young, promising talent in the form of Curtis Good and Gael Bigirimana while shipping off Leon Best and Fraser Forster to Blackburn Rovers and Celtic, respectively. The club also released Peter Lovenkrands earlier this summer that had been displaced by the newcomers and couldn’t make his way onto the pitch much last season, in addition to letting Danny Guthrie walk. It is in my belief that we’ll see a couple more signings of developmental young players, but the only major signing this offseason could be Vurnon Anita from Ajax. Reportedly, everything is about settled with the deal and he could be coming to St. James’ Park as early as next week for a fee of around £9m. The 23-year-old would provide an essential boost to a defense that was overwhelmed during points last season and could be a valuable contributor to a growing Newcastle for years to come.

2012-13: As I have said before, Newcastle United is a growing team. I think they find some more consistency this year as they come together and Premier League Manager of the Season Alan Pardew finds even better ways to employ his new weapons and talent. Look for more in the long season form of consistency rather than their short spurts of wins and tough fought matches this season. However, as everyone knows, with growth and learning comes rough patches and issues. Don’t expect Newcastle to finish as highly as they did last season. While they certainly did not have the defensive issues that Norwich had (and still overcame largely), they truly gave up goals when they couldn’t afford to. Look for some of that to take place all season long.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 8th

Chelsea

2011-12: A disappointing season in Chelsea’s standards saw an end to new manager Andre Villas-Boas’ short career at the Fulham club. Roberto Di Matteo, his assistant, came in and won the Champions’ League title. But, honestly didn’t fair any better than his predecessor in the English Premier League, the Blues posting a 5-3-3 record under his reign, and taking tough losses to Newcastle and Liverpool down the stretch. Under AVB, Chelsea drew with much lesser talent in Wigan, Fulham and Norwich City, while even taking a loss against the near-relegated QPR. So who really knows.

Will Di Matteo be able to bring Chelsea back to the top class in the Premier League? Will £50m man Fernando Torres, who had a dreadful year overall as well, appearing in 32 matches with only 6 goals, finally come into his own in Stamford Bridge? Will Romelu Lukaku fit in with the Blues or will his loan to West Brom be his eventual ticket out? There are plenty of negatives and questions to take out of the 2011-12 season for this club. But, again, this is by Chelsea’s standards of excellence.

On a positive note, Juan Mata really shined in the EPL and is looking to be quite the player in the future for Chelsea.

AGF: 1.7 AGA: 1.2

 

Offseason: The team won the Champions’ League and I’m sure with all the money they spent on Torres they want to see some results before buying large again. Well, maybe for Chelsea’s standards it’s been kind of quiet. In late July, the club was able to secure a deal for Oscar, a 20-year-old Brazilian with fantastic midfield presence. The deal reportedly came out to around £25m. In addition, if you watched the World Cup in 2010, you’re sure to know of Marko Marin, the 23-year-old German winger who unfortunately hasn’t been shown anything but flashes of the brilliance he showed during that tournament. Hopefully a change of scenery for the young player will help him finally reach his potential.

The signing of the Hazard brothers on the cheap seems like a great move by the club. I really feel like they are going to develop into some great young players for the Premier League side, both coming from the French leagues.

Chelsea didn’t lose any players that would have otherwise benefitted them in the next campaign besides Didier Drogba, who followed long time teammate Nicolas Anelka to China to make some FAT cash. But his real opportunity in the first team at his age would have probably been off the bench as Chelsea looks to move forward.

2012-13: Chelsea will make a rebound this season and at points could see themselves at the top of the table. Their upside is that high, as they have shown in the past and certainly last year in tournaments outside the Premier League. However, while the team seems focused to make a run at the EPL title, with their interests in Europe, it begs the question whether or not they will continually be focused on that goal.

Fernando Torres will need to shine this year. I am a believer. His goal in the Community Shield and his fantastic play for Spain in the EURO shows me his confidence is back. We all know the class that Torres is capable of when unleashed. Drogba is gone, this is his time.

I am well aware that many have Chelsea winning the whole thing. Here’s my take: the Blues make an early surge but falter late as they finish respectably, but not at Chelsea standards.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 4th

Everton

2011-12: Another season in which Everton struggled early to overcome their pitiful offensive attack, even when their defense was quite solid. Early on, low scoring matches were the name of the game, and Everton either won or lost by one goal in many. However, losses to QPR, Stoke City and the to-be relegated Bolton really showed the lack of firepower that the Toffees possessed. The move for Rangers’ Nikica Jelavic and the January loan of old-friend Steven Pienaar from Spurs finally brought a bite to an Everton attack that for years had no teeth and lacked a real goal scoring presence up front. In the 4-5-1 formation that Manager Moyes tends to employ for its necessity of teamwork and the formations ability to grind out hard wins, always played to Everton’s advantage with their strong midfield players, but only came alive truly when the scoring threat Jelavic came into play with the elusive and cunning Pienaar feeding him. This newfound scoring ability pushed Everton to win matches against formidable sides down the stretch in Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and play possibly their best match on their last day versus Newcastle United taking a 3-1 victory. The Toffees were able to finish 7th and above their inner-city rivals, Liverpool. Merseyside she did weep.

AGF: 1.3 AGA: 1.1

 

Offseason: Usually Everton offseasons and transfer windows are marked by agitation and heartbreak by followers of the club. The club is in debt and always carries a small squad comparatively to others within their stature within the Premier League. David Moyes has really done a lot with this club as their most famous and talented players are often sold off when the banks come calling (ie: Rooney, Arteta, Pienaar).

The losses of Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell seem massive, as Cahill has been the face of this club for quite a while, but they were completely smart decisions. Cahill found it hard to be picked to start later in the year as the loss of his skills in his age seemed more obvious. His move to the MLS where old players go to die was a smart move on his part and the part of the Everton board.

The move of Jack Rodwell, a promising midfielder who has moved through the ranks of the Everton youth academy comes as a surprise for many as Toffee fans hoped to see more of the youngster this year, but the selling outright at £12m with an additional £3m later will help the club instantaneously.

Everton has held onto their most prized possessions, including the loaned-in Pienaar by purchasing the player who worked so well for them down the stretch. In addition, Everton made a move to take advantage of the “more in-debt” Rangers club and took the versatile Steve Naismith, Jelavic’s old striking partner, off their hands on a free transfer. Naismith has made quite the entry, scoring a hat-trick in his first friendly with the club and can play at virtually any attacking position.

Finally, it looks like Moyes has made his way into the Greek leagues once again to take a striker. Kevin Mirallas looks to be heading to GoodisonPark for a £5.3m fee. For once, Everton may have some wiggle room with their lineups.

2012-13: If Everton can continue with what the kind of form that they ended the 2011-12 season on, look for this club to do some damage in the Premier League. They’ve been in top flight for almost 60 years straight, so it’s a club with history and promise. With a manager like Moyes who gets so much done with so little spending, it will be quite interesting to see what he can do with some or if it may throw things out of whack for a club so used to being strapped for cash and working hard for everything they might get. I figure Everton finishes right around where they are known to on the table but have a lot of success in the Cup tournaments.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 7th

 

Liverpool

2011-12: The word for Liverpool’s season is injuries. Seriously, who wasn’t injured at the club? Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Craig Bellamy, Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson, Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly, Charlie Adam, the list goes on. Point is: Liverpool didn’t play up to expectations or ability in 2011-12 and finished behind their inner-city rivals, Everton, for the first time in a long time. From what I hear, the city hasn’t been quiet since.

Liverpool, when away, was hit or miss. 10 losses stick out, but they also won more matches away than at home. To be honest, the splits are quite interesting, because through all that and only losing 4 matches at home, they nearly about halved the points they earned in the EPL between home and away.

The first half of the season had Liverpool playing like a top 5 club, which I will equal to their health issues, while the last half, they posted up the kind of results that were so adversely different you didn’t really believe you were watching one of the “Big 4” play. (I understand that saying is moving along with the investment in other teams, but whatever, I still think in its terms.) I mean, take for instance their February and March months in which the club were able to capture 4 of a possible 21 points. Hello Brendan Rodgers.

AGF: 1.2 AGA: 1.1

Offseason: The offseason so far has been full of so many rumors for this club, it’s unbelievable. One that finally came true was the acceptance of a bid from newly promoted West Ham United for Andy Carroll valued at an eventual £15m or so less that the club has paid for him just a year before. Carroll declined the move and seems adamant about staying in Anfield and making a huge difference like he’s being paid to do.

Outside of the Carroll drama, Liverpool have made some moves of their own. Selling aging Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez leaves some room and brings some more cash to the table for new, younger talent like 21-year-old Fabio Borini who scored 9 goals in 24 appearances in Serie A last year. In addition, the selling of the oft-injured and oft-loaned Alberto Aquilani in addition to the million team man, Craig Bellamy who suffers from the same injury bug, leaves Liverpool with some movement room for some interesting transfers, such as Swansea’s Joe Allen who played a huge part in their mid-table finish in 2011-12 and will rejoin his old manager, this time playing for the Reds.

Look for more signings for the club in the near future. They’re not close to being done yet, even if Rodgers has spoken of not over-spending.

2012-13: Rodgers starts making positive changes for this club. I think he can really move Carroll into shape and get him to start moving out there. I’m not saying this will be the year for Carroll to show up in a Reds uniform, but I wouldn’t exactly bet against it either.

Rodgers has worked with less-talented clubs throughout his short career as a manager and gotten some good results out of them. At Watford and Swansea City he won more than 40% of his matches, which is quite superb to say the least…and that’s why he was able to get this high-class job at Liverpool. If Rodgers is really about what he says he is, it seems that we will have two tough managers looking for hard work and dedication out of their squads every match in the city of Liverpool. That makes for a great rivalry and great game overall.

Look for Liverpool to return to their winning ways and improve on last season. But the competition is getting harder than ever and more dispersed in the EPL, and the club won’t make it past the likes of the Manchester clubs, Tottenham, Chelsea or Arsenal.

Predicted Final Table Standing: 6th

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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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4 Comments on “The Farm Club Preview: English Premier League Part II”

  1. Stefan Jagot Says:

    Eden Hazard will be a signing to remember, he helped make Lille actually relevant, and did it without the help from Gervinho.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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