Ozi Gooner's Season Preview Pt 1
I'm sure you'll all read plenty of season previews between now and next Saturday, including one from one of my fellow writers here at Vital Arsenal.
But I think, no, I know that his piece is still more than worthy of a read.
I'll hand over to Vital Arsenal member, Ozi Gooner:
So another season beckons, and as is often the case in life, all we have are our hopes and dreams.
Glory or disaster maybe waiting around the corner, which one you feel is in store for the Arsenal is a matter of personal opinion, and much debate. The glass half full or 'rose tinted' section of Gooners is cautiously optimistic after a good showing in pre-season games against reasonably tough opposition and the quick integration of our two summer signings of note, Eduardo and Sagna. Also cause for optimism are the rejuvenation of Hleb, the continued growth of our new generation of stars such as Robin, Gael, Denilson, Diaby and Eboue as a right winger and even the shift in attitude of last seasons stuck record Willy Gallas.
The pessimists amongst us are left bemused by our lack of transfer activity (through the entrance rather than exit door anyways) while everyone around us goes spending crazy, throwing money at players like they were strippers at a bucks night. Other points of debate for those inclined towards life's half empty glass are the perceived lack of depth and experience in the team, an obsession with the left wing position in our squad and the continued disgust at how Song, Hleb and for some even Big Phil still remain Arsenal players. I think i can safely say all of us are wondering what the f**k Almunia was thinking when he bleached his hair.
With the new money coming into the Premier League via the new Sky deal at the end of this season almost all clubs, with the exceptions of some of the more relaxed of top flight managers such as our own Professor and Villa gaffer Martin O'Neill, have been spending money they may or may not have to spend like an 18 year old who just recieved their first credit card. Some of the spending looks smart, such as Man City's purchase of class players like Elano, Petrov and Bojinov for cut prices, while some looks more of a gamble such as T*ttenhams purchase of Bent for more money than we just sold the greatest player to ever grace premiership pitches for. All this money flying around has led most 'pundits' to go prediction crazy and lose control of the part of their brains that enables reasoned thought, and have thrown better judgement out the window. All sorts of prophetic estimations are being made, the most insane and ill considered of them what have to be the fact that our submission of a Champions League spot to our less fortunate North London neighbors is a fore-gone conclusion. The most likely and least controversial of these Nostradamus like prophecies would be that Derby will not be in the top flight come next May, in my opinion their fate will more likely be decided by mid January.
Many a pundit or sports journalist has predicted that the stink of new money in the Premiership will lead to a Renaissance of sorts for a league that has been at best a 3 horse race for the better part of its existence, but not many have been brave enough to predict a shake up of the top teams, with the noteable exception of comments on the probability of our relinquishing 4th spot to the club formerly known as the 'best of the rest'. This series of articles point is to take an in depth look at the competition and maybe what to expect, but mostly what i expect from the rest of the top flight for 07/08.
ARSENAL: Nothing here that we haven't discussed before. Barring an injury crisis like last seasons we should remain comfortably in the top 4, hopefully with a reasonable challenge for the league and our season not to be over by January. I'd guess we will finish in 3rd, pushing 2nd. Another finish twenty points back from the champions will be totally unacceptable as Le Gaffer noted himself. The signing of a striker or a winger, or (quietly) both would go a long way toward helping this talented group of youngsters to push for second place.
ASTON VILLA: Martin O'Neill is a very astute manager - a good tactician, man manager and normally a reasonable spotter of talent but you have to wonder if the Irish man isn't stuck in a Glasgow state of mind with the lack of transfers in at a club that just received a large financial boost from the pockets of Randy Lerner. One could be lead to believe O'Neill still thought he had to convince a player to come to the SPL rather than the EPL. Carew, Young and Petrov seemed wise enough purchases for his first season in charge and looked like something to build around (though the latters form last season was nothing to get excited about) but I'm not sure how happy the Villains fans would be with merely the signings of Harewood and Reo-Coker, two over rated Englishmen (is there any other kind in football), tasked with returning the club to its former glory. If progress up the table isn't made this season or Villa endure another lean spell like they did in the middle of last season O'Neill may be one of the first managers shown the door, which would be sad cos i like the man and his relaxed attitude towards the game which is a refreshing change from whingers like Mourinho, Allardyce and Benitez and muppets like Ferguson, Jol and Warnock (thank god the FA didnt intervene and let that twat back in the premiership). Shedding the dead wood, which there was a lot of, most notably Djemba-Djemba (had to have that dig at Fergie, what was he thinking? This man makes Cygan look a master stroke), was a smart decision and should open up the door for a few more signings still.
Agbanlahor is an exciting youngster who can score and create goals from any position in a front three or two and if he improves on last season could be a shout to head on to bigger things. Gareth Barry had a blinder at the start of last season and was key to everything good Villa did before Christmas, more of the same from the captain could inspire the club to a jump up the table. I always expected better things from young Luke Moore who hasn't looked a shadow of the player that he was supposed to become, could he still develop into a star with fellow youngsters Young and Agbonlahor taking the spotlight? Improved form from Young and more goals from Carew, who looked like he'd been playing in England for years after his transfer in January and who knows where they'll end up come May.
I think the proud Villains will end up bang in the middle at tenth place. to much spending going on around them and not enough quality outside the first team to compete with the likes of Sp*rs, City, Newcastle or Everton. A few quality aditions before September 1st could push them to 8th but I don't see them getting any higher, even with a quality manager like O'Neill.
BIRMINGHAM CITY: Which brings us to the Villains local rivals, well one of them anyways, and probably their most hated ones. Two very different clubs, one a Premiership fixture the other one of the most regular of yo-yo clubs up their with the Hammers. Also both have had almost total opposite transfer policies this summer. While O'Neill has kept the yanks cheque book almost totally closed, Steve Bruce (is he still their manager? No, seriously???) has bought just about anyone he could afford and who was willing to live in Black Country. Some interesting buys in there such as former Gunners Fabrice Muamba and Seb Larsson who both did well there on loans last season but didn't show Wenger enough to retain them as did Bendtner, but one always thought that was going to be the case. I wish them well, as i do all ex-gunners except for a select few twats like Cole, Reyes, Anelka and Sidwell (just for playing for Chelsea). Richard Kingson the Ghanaian keeper is a very quality shot stopper and i would think will displace the young Doyle as No. 1 at some stage. Daniel de Ridder could either be a huge success or an utter failure as could Olivier Kapo. Both have the talent and technique but have not shone at previous clubs (although Kapo showed glimpses at Levante last season). Garry O'Connor and Rafael Schmitz are both even stanger signings, the former a largely unknown Scot playing in Russia who has had a nightmare in Moscow and just wanted to get out of Russia to the first club interested and the latter a Brazilian born, French centre back on a years loan from Lille who I must say i'd never heard of before his move was announced. Quedrue, Ridgewell and Parnaby are all average players bet then Birmingham are an average team. The funniest transfer story of the summer has to go to Hossam Ghaly who had himself sent back to Sp*rs when his signing seemed to have been completed for days because he comlained at training that he had never had to do so much running when he was at T*ttenham. Bruce alledgedly replied, 'You mean T*ttenham reserves?', a comment that should go down as one of the quotes of the season before its even begun.
Clemence's departure will hurt them, selling your captain is rarely a good idea (unless of course his name is Henry). Upson's departure has already hurt them as was evident in their end of season slips on the run in to sealing promotion. Rumors still persist linking Birmingham with moves for both Flamini and Djourou, neither of which i see happening but he does like our Arsenal boys doesn't he?
I'm going to go out on a limb and risk being called an idiot by anyone who reads this and predict a 14th place finish for the Brummies. I have a lot of time for Birmingham as a club, maybe because they have a collection of ex-Arsenal boys, maybe just because they have never been any sort of threat to us what so ever but i hope they achieve survival and with the signings they've made, overlooking their obscurity, i think they'll do well. Then it's back down again in 08/09!