Turns out the end of Summer took me by surprise. I have not posted my summary from last year and comparison to Mark Lawrenson aka Lawro (he did better than me I think), my banner still has Burnley and QPR and is missing Norwich and Watford. These are all things that should have been done but were not.
That said, if a team like Manchester United can’t take care of business properly, why should I?
(And please no sexual jokes or puns related to the post title which clearly is wide open for comments – you know, one swallow a summer does not make etc..)
It’s a new season and once again it starts with things moving so much that I have no idea how to rate the new year. Last year I predicted André Schürrle would be the young player to watch. I would argue he was for the 14 games he played (enough to win a medal). Worse? I predicted that 2 of the 3 top scorers would be Daniel Sturridge and Van Persie – that’s almost enough to make anyone second guess even doing predictions this year. Worst of all? I predicted that Spurs would win the F.A. Cup! And that was before “My Name’s Kane, Harry Kane” joined the squad.
I have no right to try this again this year! But yet here I am.
I tried to keep track of who was moving in the transfer market to help me start the season strong but it quickly became clear that scouting is a full time job. There is no way I can watch 3 premier league matches on a Saturday, another on a Sunday, work a full time job and live, and still know that Alessandro Diamantiis a good signing? Liverpool helped by focusing on Premier League signings with Clyne, Milner, Ings and Benteke but what am I supposed to know about Yohan Benalouane, Enes Unai, or even Memphis Depay. Of course, if you read the Manchester United comments on the various forums they all can tell you what Memphis eats for breakfast and why this is a better signing than Newcastle getting Georginio Wijnaldum or Stoke picking up Jakob Haugaard from FC Midtjylland. Me though, quite honestly? I didn’t even know that was a team.
Young Player of the Year
As I get older the players seem to get younger. I’m sure Raheem Sterling should be considered a front-runner, Hazard will be good again but I read someone say that Aleksandar Mitrovic is brilliant on Football Manager and that has me sold. This despite the failings of Darren Caskey, Daren Edie and Nii Lamptey (early 90s were good for games).
My pick is thus:
1st ,Raheem Sterling
2nd, Hazard (again)
3rd, Aleksandar Mitrovic
Goalkeeper of the Year
I actually played in goal once for a school team. Didn’t have the ability to pull it off but I’ve always had a fondness for the position and so I wanted to have a review of who I thought was worthwhile. I thought the best goalkeepers last year were De Gea, Begovic, and Lloris. I thought Cech was, despite getting up in age, still playing well (and not starting). But things have changed a lot – De Gea won’t play for Manchester United, Begovic trading in being the most important player for Stoke to being on the bench at Chelsea and Cech probably moved in one the better summer signings to Arsenal. The England #1 is not on the list because he’s not good enough to be on the list.
1st ,Hugo Lloris
2nd, Asmir Begovic
3rd, Petr Cech
Hugo is obviously going to have the most practice and is the most directly a positive impact on his team. I think that Begovic is the best goalkeeper and will eventually win over his place from Thibaut Courtois who is just too tall and made a couple of blunders Mourinho won’t allow to happen too often.
Sergio Aguero, when healthy, packs a powerful strike and the best first touch in the league. Between 6-12 yards out he’s deadly and while Manchester City aren’t necessarily going to dominate the league it’s clear that they intend to score a boat load of goals. It’s clear that Arsenal will put them away but I’m not actually sure who will be dominant in the count as I expect to see them shared. That leaves me with Harry Kane (even I’m tired of the “he can’t keep doing this can he” argument) and the most dirty player Diego Costa.
2nd, Diego Costa
I didn’t contradict myself there. I just don’t believe Harry Kane can keep doing this and someone has to score for Liverpool this year and I think while he’s no Drogba, a strong central striker who can finish will push the ball over the line 20+ times.
I don’t know much about many of the players signed but Petr Cech looks like a good and solid improvement for Arsenal. Not as young as he was, he’s a goalkeeper and experience and confidence goes a long way. James Milner was one of the most ordinary of players that repeatedly stood out as quality. He seems to have player at a good level for a long time but he’s only 29 years old. He’s a perfectly adequate player for any system. I will also say Pailinho was a great signing – that Spurs recouped anything for that guy was a miracle.
First manager to be fired is a close call between Brendan Rodgers (who will not be given much leeway this year) and Tactics Tim at Aston Villa. Tim Sherwood took over at the end of the season and turned things around; however, the summer would have been spent building up a coaching stuff and scout team and watching the man who saved Villa travel up the motorway to Liverpool.
And finally…..The Table
1 ,Arsenal (this is more hope than a real prediction)
3 ,Manchester City
4, Manchester United
6 ,Tottenham Hotspur
8, Crystal Palace
9, Stoke City
10, Newcastle United
11 ,Swansea City
12 ,West Bromwich Albion
14 ,AFC Bournemouth
15, Aston Villa
16, West Ham United
19, Leicester City
20, Norwich City
So today is the official last day of the season and it ends with the grand old trophy, the F.A. Cup, being played for at the historic Wembley.
Some say it has lost its prestige as the advertisers force us to focus on the Premier League and the new improved Champions League cup. To hear people talk you would think that the knock-out challenge events are old hat and without magic.
But let’s look at tradition.
The Cup is old, really old. It was hand crafted by the finest silversmiths in London back in ’14. Wembley is iconic and has seen a number of finals and events since ’07. That’s right, the stadium is steeped in 7 years of tradition and handed out the new cup at least once.
But let’s look at history, though.
In 1981 over 100,000 people watched Man City play Spurs to a draw and over 90,000 paid for the extra replay that featured Ricky going walkabout through the defense. It’s a classic moment cherished by lots of people that remember when shorts were short.
Then there was just a few years later the final where Andy Gray cheated Watford out of a Cinderella cup. Everton were favorites to win but it was the F.A. Cup where anything was possible! Everton won.
Then there were the finals that no one would ever forget. Kevin Moran being the first player sent off in a Final for a professional foul against a strong Everton team… it looked all over until a young Norman Whiteside scored a classic curler in extra time down a man.
Then in 1987 the heavily favored Spurs played the small Coventry city who featured such stars as Dave Bennett, Trevor Peake, and Keith Houchen? Probably the big O (Ogrizovic) in goal was their most famous player along with big Cyrille (Regis) up front. The game was a classic featuring 5 goals including the tying, extra-time producing, diving header by Keith (who relived winning the holy grail with the Daily Fail. ) But it will always be famous for the perfect own goal by Gary Mabbutt to win the game for the opposition and historically being the first two score a goal for two teams in one final.
1988 Featured the “Crazy Gang” of Wimbledon in what some called the most shocking final result ever. I don’t think it really was that surprising: Wimbledon were crazy but organized and people forget they finished in the top 10 that year (I think).
But it was still memorable for the moment when a lanky mop or a skinny goalkeeper with a perm was the first to save a regular time penalty.
Since then there have been many more finals including a Crystal Palace versus Manchester United final and replay, Arsenal, Chelsea winning a few and the impressive fixture of Portsmouth against Cardiff. Then there was Wigan beating Citeh….
So the F.A.Cup is important!
At least to the 1980s when football was played by men in short shorts for a good income, pride and for the fans. In the days of Subbuteo and Panini stickers. Back in the days where the playground had supporters of lots of teams: Oxford, Leicester, Liverpool, Wolves, Forest, Liverpool, Aston Villa and we didn’t just worry about Chelski, Man Cetihad or follow success and money.
This week we get Grandpa Wenger taking on Tactic Tim in the final and the biggest topic of conversation is… whether Liverpool will get to the group stages in the Europa League automatically. Yes the F.A.Cup has lost the magic for the young kids of today but to me it is still magic… I still get a smile thinking of the aforementioned Coventry win.
Maybe I just don’t like new magic. I watch the French Open wishing Henri Leconte and Yannick Noah were still playing (and Lendl losing). I watch Wimbledon and wish Becker and Edberg were dueling it out. Sometimes I listen to Duran Duran but to the pick.
My pick is Arsenal to win 4-1 with this trophy being enough to keep the old man for one more year.
I picked them every round and haven’t been wrong on that front so far! Tactic Tim will go looking for heart and guts… he will look into the crowd and see the empty seats given to 17,000 Wembley members. He’ll find the slightly under 20,000 Spurs fans and similar number of Villains. He’ll even see a disappointed Prince William in the stands and realize the game is about the wealthy, the kickbacks, and not the fans.
Prince William allegedly didn’t like that all his Etonian friends supported the big clubs so he scoured the map looking for an area that might have a team with which he could kindle an emotional relationship… on his map he discovered that there was an area to the North known as “the midlands” and deep in the this area was another city that many of the common people would support. Birmingham City would have been the obvious choice but “claret and blue” sounded at least a little less “blue” collar and it was a match made in fake sincerity ever since.
This is it. We’ve reached the end. And NBC is trying to live up to their mission statement by broadcasting all 10 games simultaneously so we can see who will win the league, who will go to the Champions League and who will be relegated. Oh, and I guess some people care who might go to the Europa League.
How disappointing it must be to the executives at NBC that this year’s Soccer Superbowl broadcast over 10 stations is all about a USA Networks Newcastle game and another Manchester United fixture (I’m not going to pretend that people are wanting to watch Hull City)
So here are my predictions for the week:
Chelsea will win the league
Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester will qualify for Champions League
West Ham will qualify for Europa League and two of Liverpool, Spurs, and Southampton (pending the F.A. Cup result)
QPR and Burnley will be relegated – and one of Hull or Newcastle
But seriously, here is the week in football according to someone who has not done very well this year making predictions. I will provide a full breakdown soon as I prepare my strategy for next year.
Queens Park Rangers
West Ham United
West Bromwich Albion
A few weeks ago it seemed like it as going to be a last weekend nail-biter but then Leicester started playing like they thought they were still in the running for a title! Leicester’s end of season relegation saving run finally runs out at the same time that the old start at Q.P.R. turn up for their paycheck. Leicester are still stronger and Q.P.R. fail to get a shot on goal in the second half.
Manchester City finish a solid 2nd. Southampton a solid no-man’s land.
Newcastle are facing a West Ham team that have fallen off a cliff since Christmas where they were challenging for a Champions League spot. It’s great timing for the Geordies who will finally win. When all is said and done the fans should look at each other and admit that they only reason they stayed up is because Alan Pardew got them points in November and Sam Allardyce has been collecting his brown paper bags and looking to move back North.
It’s fair to say that one of the reasons this blog started is because a few years ago Stoke beat Liverpool. I walked into the office and as I walked by the work cube of my Liverpool worshipping office chum I just muttered “Stoke” in a whisper. I did this all day. So yes, “Stoke”.
Hull are bad (as evidenced by their end of year position) but Steve Bruce is friends with Ryan Giggs and called in a few favors so Manchester throw the game.
Everton have been disappointing. Roberto has been disappointing as a manager . Harry Kane has been banging in the goals. I continue to rate Roberto and I’m still convinced Harry is over-achieving. So Everton in an obvious pick.
A few weeks ago it seemed like it was going to be a last weekend nail-biter for Aston Villa but now it’s just a warm up for the FA Cup Final. How Tim has turned the team around. It will be interesting to see how Tim copes with the off-season activities that most of us fans take for granted (trips, training, signing, dropping, selling, scouting). Oh the result is unimportant but I’m sure there is a result.
Chelsea lost to West Brom in a meaningless game. They won’t lose the last home game. They will prove they are deserving.
Crystal Palace have been made into a decent team. Swansea are a decent team. Draw.
Arsenal have more or less qualified for the Champions League’s automatic spot but they make sure of it with a win. If it wasn’t a “gimme” on goal difference, I’m sure Manchester United would have played their best squad and beaten Hull.
Analytics coming soon that will prove how bad I’ve been.
Southampton have gone absent and all of a sudden Tim Sherwood is manager of the year and Benteke is the Aguero of Birmingham! Technically, not yet safe it’s hard to see them pull a FA Cup and relegation double of Wigan.
West Ham and Everton have nothing to play for but pride and I’m not sure either team have any left, especially the underachieving team of Martin-ez. They’re at least safe but that’s falling short of beginning of the year expectations.
Big Six pointer at Sunderland against Leicester city who are on an unbelievable run of seven wins in eight games. While that should have left them safe they started so many points back that they are still in the thick of the relegation bubble. A loss to Sunderland drops them back into the final day consideration for the drop.
Harry Kane and the rest of Spurs are absent and have been for a while … it’s hard to see them winning unless you are on the A503
Burnley have been trying hard all year so it’s only fair that after the final bell and the fight is over they can collapse and take stock of how beaten up they have become. They punched above their weight but the bigger men are always stronger but there’s a couple of minutes left so they’re going to go down swinging.
QPR are a mess that we can look forward to going down – overpaid, overprivileged, and looking around at each other trying to figure out what to do. Last week their hammering came in part because no one on the team were ware that they wereon a team.
Liverpool will win the last home game of Stevie G. A loss would be inexcusable.
West Ham United
Queens Park Rangers
Both Manchester City and Arsenal want to wrap up an automatic European spot for next year. Aguero also wants to wrap up his scoring title and that should be easy (especially as Harry Kane is out of the purple and into the will it continue for him patch).
Arsenal were the best team in the country until they lost to Swansea. You ever get the feeling that Arsene doesn’t want to feel comfortable in his job? I’ve got 2nd wrapped up but maybe the fans enjoy more if we finish 3rd? A draw in the old toilet game makes the game in hand a must win but do you deserve Europe if you can’t get a must win at home against Sunderland? I don’t think so either but I still prefer the European cup old style- Champions in a knock out. The fact that Stevie G has a European cup but not title doesn’t compute in my universe.
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom will beat Chelsea for the simple reason that it doesn’t matter. Both have managers who like the defensive side of the ball when it’s not necessary to push so it should be 0-0 but I have this feeling West Brom want to win more.
It’s a game in hand that Arsenal win and leaves Sunderland still looking down at the teams below them for the final week.
Well I’ve been absent for a three weeks traveling abroad (for work) where I checked out a couple of different forms of sports.
One was called football but it looked more like rugby.
One was called rugby and it looked like rugby.
Anyway… I did make picks and they are included below. I think it is clear that there is no cheating going on here – in fact, if I didn’t know better I would assume the picks may have been part of an experiment.
At an interesting point in the season where we’re left to be excited about a Manchester derby, relegation battles, and the potential automatic European spots. In other words everyone outside of SW doesn’t care about the Premier League anymore. That is, of course, for those of us not watching the battle at the top of the old second division.
If Bournemouth hadn’t beaten Brighton today it would look even closer but it’s definitely tight at the top.
But this is Premier League picks and not a “fingers crossed for a Watford victory” post!
Really only one interesting game today as the former Spurs manager Mr Guts and Hearts shows up at White Heart Lane (yes that was deliberate) with his new team and hat trick hero Benteke in tow.
Everton have finally quashed the notion that they could relegation fodder and should be looking to make an end of season surge to mid-table mediocrity. Swansea are already positions there and will be looking to not fall to bottom half mediocrity. It’s hard to imagine anything less than a hotly contested game when the level of mediocrity is at stake. Everton playing in Wales will bring it home.
Leicester feel the excitement of a win and then immediately feel the disappointment of the teams above them matching their 3 points. Deflated, I expect them to fall to a team that is eager to show improvement after being whipped last week at home against QPR.
West Ham have shown their true class since the Christmas period – lower and falling. Stoke has not been much better. Tied on 42 pts which is typically the pre-season relegation avoidance target, both will move to the safety of 43 pts.
And then we get to Spurs taking on their former manager:
“Saw my mate,
the other day,
said he saw, the White pele,
said to find him at White hart lane
goes by the name of Harry Kane”
Eventually he will be found wanting but not by Aston Villa.
Pardiola has kept up both Crystal Palace and Newcastle this year – individually those are feats of merit. Together he should be considered a lock for manager of the year. Sunderland with a big derby win last week will carry momentum into the game and walk away with a boring one niller.
Southampton are slowly falling out of European contention and desperately need a win and some favorable results to keep them alive. Hull on the other hand are slowly falling out of any contention and into the relegation danger area and need favorable results to keep them alive. Southampton win.
Arsenal are the in form team and will continue to put some pressure on Chelsea.
West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
Chelsea meet a decidedly stubborn QPR but will once again come away with a victory and Hazard will continue to amass popular opinion points that he is player of the year by scoring a penalty. The commentator will amass popular hate points by pointing out that he looks at the goalkeeper when scoring the penalty…*yawn* … did you know that Panenka….*zzz*…. some stories get old.
Old Toilet. It’s where Manchester United play (officially located outside of Manchester) and describes Manchester City’s defense. Citeh look like they’ve given up. Ya Ya runs around like he’s still looking for his birthday cake and belting the ball mostly off target (yes, I know he scored). Manchester United have continuously over achieved and they will continue to do so with a lack luster draw.
Queens Park Rangers
Brendan manages to figure out how to make Sterling, Coutinho, and Sturridge play together. Result is a respectably scored massacre.