Writer: Ozi Gooner
Date:Tuesday August 7 2007
Two days ago I brought you the first part of Vital Arsenal member Ozi Gooner's season preview.
It made for some excellent reading, and I'm pleased to say that you wont feel let down by this piece either.
Over to Ozi Gooner:
Back again good people, for part two of my season preview. It would’ve been done yesterday except when I returned from the pub I was in no state to be looking at a computer let alone typing on one.
Up first today are two northerners that we have had more than a bit of trouble with in the past few seasons, in the form of Blackburn and Bolton.
BLACKBURN: Mark Hughes is one of those guys that you absolutely despised as a player, but for some reason just can’t bring yourself to hate as a manager – even when he is having little spats with our feisty young Spaniard Cesc Fabregas (how funny was that Barcelona comment? Well, I laughed). Blackburn are a tricky one as they are not a bad side, they have a good mix of grit and technique that will keep you afloat in a league like England but one might think there are to many variables to predict a really strong season, and challenge for UEFA Cup spots from the Rovers. As far as signings go there has not been much action. Maceo Rigters, the young Dutchman signed from NAC Breda, looked an exciting prospect to anyone who saw him play in Holland’s successful European U-21 campaign. He appears strong, reasonably pacey, tall and has a decent shot on him. On closer inspection though the young Oranje’s record does not look so impressive, scoring only 5 times in 61 appearances for his club side Breda in a league that is of a much lower standard than England. Roque Santa Cruz is another odd one. Technically very sound, and another big lad but has never really delivered on what was expected of him at Bayern Munich, we will have to wait and see if the Peruvian striker can deliver, now out of the Bundesliga giants permanent spotlight. Gunnar Nielsen is simply a back up stopper for the veteran American keeper Brad Friedel and you feel that if Friedel can keep the same form he has shown over the last three seasons we won’t be seeing much of the young Faroe Islander – maybe one for the future, with Friedel growing older and uglier with every year that passes.
On the positive side for Hughes he would appear to have retained the services of class acts such as Pedersen and Benni McCarthy in the midst of much transfer speculation linking them with moves to bigger clubs inside of England. Neill is still a big loss and Warnock is, in my completely unbiased Ozi opinion, not an adequate replacement for the former captain. Derbyshire seems to be becoming a class act, as is former Gunner David Bentley and (again completely unbiased) Emerton is a useful player either at right back or right wing. Ryan Nelsen is an incredibly under rated centre back and after a shaky start Oojer proved to be a steady defender for Hughes’s side. Khinsanashvali, is a reasonable if not an excellent replacement. In the middle of the park Blackburn have two of the most despicable players, and certainly the most disgusting midfield pairing, ever to grace a premier league pitch in the form of veteran kickers Robbie Savage and Tugay. Tugay has redeeming qualities as a footballer, which may make him worthy of that description, such as excellent vision and a mean shot. The same can not be said for Savage, who one can only hope suffers a similar fate to what he did last season – a broken leg is to good for this man. Tugay though maybe getting to old to cope with an entire season of top flight football and Savage’s injury last season may leave them severely under-strengthed in that department if he has a reoccurance, and I don't think fans of any other clubs will be to disappointed. If either or both of these players suffer long injury lay offs they will struggle. Dunn, Mokoena and Sergio Peter are in my opinion all incredibly average players.
I expect more of the same from Blackburn this season, and think that they should remain in the middle of the league with little to play for come April, and finishing 9th. An 8th place finish is the best Mark Hughes boys will get in my opinion as the squad lacks the depth of a kiddy pool, and this will hinder any challenge for European places.
BOLTON: Which brings us to the Orc’s. It just won’t be the same hating Anelka, Diouf, Nolan, Campo, Davies and Hunt – the whole f**kin’ team actually – without Big Sam there to hate too. If Savage and Tugay are indeed the most despicable central midfield pairing in football history then the award for the most offensive ever first eleven would have to go to this current Bolton squad. With Okocha gone, there truly isn’t a decent human being amongst them.
Little Sam has taken over from Big Sam and has already indicated that the premiership will be seeing much more ‘football’ played by his Bolton side than we witnessed under Allardyce and I have to say this sounds like the beginning of the end for Bolton to me. Honestly, who would try and play football with that squad? Anelka, Diouf and Vaz Te are the only three players at Bolton that are capable of playing football, the rest just stand around waiting for someone to kick. I really feel that the days of European football for Bolton walked out the door with Fat Sam Allardyce and under Sammy Lee the Trotters are really going to struggle. Christian Wilhelmsson and Daniel Braaten who have been brought in from Nantes and Rosenborg respectively are two young wingers with class, both very good technical players, but I don't see them fitting in to this Bolton side. Mikel Alonso is not half the player that his brother Xabi is and will find it even harder to get out of his shadow in England than he did when they played together in Spain. J Lloyd Samuel and Gavin McCann couldn't get a game at a Villa side that finished 11th last season, which says more than I ever could about their averageness and Heidar Helgusson has not exactly struck fear into the hearts of defenders on a regular basis in his time at Fulham. Gerald Cid hasn't played competitively for about 7 months as he could not get a game for Bordeaux after agreeing a free transfer to Bolton in the January window while Allardyce was still at the club and is surely more rusty than is the norm for a player returning from summer holidays with a hangover and a case of the crabs.
In Anelka and Diouf though, Bolton have two players capable of magic and Nolan and Campo are solid if not exciting midfielders. The sad thing for Wanderer’s fans is the fact that is about all I have nice to say about the current squad. In my humble opinion Bolton are gonna have a very tough time without that insidious muppet Allardyce at the helm, they are on a downward slope that started with his resignation – who knows where it will end (at least they can’t get as bad as Leeds). My prediction for the Orc’s is a lowly 16th. The outlook could get better if they pull a miracle out of their arses and somehow convince Marcelo Lippi or Fabio Cappello to come out of retirement and take over as manager after ridding themselves of Sammy Lee very quickly, after all if anyone can turn a long ball team like Bolton into a winning side again it is one of those two.
CHELSEA: In CSKA London we have yet another group of hideous twats who are the best team on the planet at making themselves hard to like, managed by possibly the biggest c**t in football today (he shares the nomination for that award with Kia Joorbachin, Alan Hansen, Joan Laporta and Ramon Calderon). Joe Cole has all the intelligence of an under nourished, three month old foetus, Drogba is pound for pound the softest player in England (especially now Baptista is gone), John Terry makes me feel nauseous as both a footballer and a person and the less said about Cashley C**t the better. That said, Essien, Makalele and Cech are all immaculate professionals who I would’ve at Arsenal in a second, or in Makalele’s case if he were a few years younger (I still can’t believe they stole Essien from us).
Chelsea have made some interesting signings this summer, spending dramatically less than they have in the past – even pre-Abromovich – and less than most other top flight clubs. What they have saved financially becomes obvious when you look at what their signings lack in quality. Sidwell, Ben Haim and Pizzaro are not ‘champions’, in the individual sense of the word (but neither were Luzhny or Cygan I spose) and will only be squad players, nothing more. The purpose of these players is simply to give depth and avoid the injury crisis they suffered last season, which is why Roman told Mourinho to look for free agents. Malouda is a class player, as was witnessed in the way he took his goal in the Charity Shield. He would add something to any team, but I still finds it an odd signing as the Russians seem to be doing everything they can to hang on to Robben, leaving their left wing position very crowded with that also being Joel Cole’s best position. If Chelsea sign Alex he will be the one player to some in who instantly improves their first XI, though wether or not Mourinho will start him in place of his compatriot and long-time servant Ricardo Carvalho is anyone’s guess. Perhaps Chelsea’s two biggest signings this summer though, will actually be their two biggest signings of last summer, the sleeping giants Andrii Shevchenko and Michael Ballack. Both are players that came to England with impressive resumes and endured nightmare first seasons but I can’t help feeling that players of their calibre (especially Shevchenko) will come good at some stage.
It pains me to say this but I think Chelsea will probably take the premiership title back this season. The opposing argument to that would be, with Terry and Lampard missing the start of the season with injury and their two best players (Drogba and Essien) off to the ACN for a month they could find themselves suffering another bleak period at the beginning and middle of the season giving the other big 3 a chance to catch up or take advantage. Well, we can always hope.
Date:Tuesday August 7 2007
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