Writer: Ozi Gooner
Date:Wednesday August 8 2007
Due to an extended stop over at a local watering hole last night which impaired both my vision and coordination to the point that I could not turn on the computer let alone type a lucid thought, you lucky Gooner’s here at Vital Arsenal get two parts to the season preview in one day to make sure it is actually finished by Saturdays season kick off and is in essence still a preview.
So here goes…
DERBY COUNTY: In the third instalment of my season preview we start off with premiership new boys, and likely soon to be championship new boys, Derby County. Simply put, Billy Davies’ (yes, the backwards muppet who thinks women should have no part in football, even as refs or commentators) boys are bang in trouble. This squad has the look of a side that could make the last Watford and Sunderland sides to be relegated from the premier league look almost decent. Yes, that is how bad I think they are. To call this side workman like would be an insult to any plumber or carpenter who takes pride in what they do. I saw a lot of them last season before it was announced that ex-junior gunner Arturo Lupoli was heading back home to Italy, and more specifically Fiorentina, and I’m very surprised that they came through the promotion play-offs at the expense of sides with a distinctly larger amount of quality in West Brom and Southhampton.
When the sum of a newly promoted clubs ambition is to sign Robbie Earnshaw, Andy Todd, Claude Davis and Derby old boy Tyrone Mears you would bet your house, your mortgage, the car and both your left testicle and right kidney that they will not be hanging around in the top flight for any longer than it will take to embarrass both themselves and their once successful club sufficiently to take the walk out the premiership exit door, hanging their heads in shame. What the hell, I’ll throw in my liver to show I’m serious as I am known to like a drink.
About the only beacon of light at the end of a very, very dark and untalented summer tunnel is the fact that exciting youngster, Arsenal fan and one millionth player to turn down T*ttenham, Giles Barnes appears to be staying. I’d make the same bet mentioned above that with the slightest hint of quality from the lad his stay at Pride Park will last no longer than Derby’s stay in the premiership.
That is all I have to say for Billy Davies side, except for the uncontroversial and unoriginal prediction that Derby will finish dead last, breaking all kinds of unwanted records on the way.
EVERTON: Next up we have the Blue coloured scouser’s, who did well to scrap in to a UEFA Cup place last season when around January/February it looked likely 7th spot on the table would go to Pompey or Reading. David Moyes has over the years done well to get the best out of a limited group of players, working on a tight budget and has recently added some technique and quality to a squad that was desperately short in that department, even when they pushed their red scouse neighbours out of the top four temporarily and unluckily drew a Riquelme inspired Villareal in the 3rd qualifying round of the Champions League.
In the signings department Moyes, as is his way, has not gone overboard but has made some more steady improvement to a squad that, like Blackburn, seems to have found a reasonable middle ground between English grit and foreign Technique. Tim Howard looked a different player to the one we saw at Man USA a few seasons ago and was a key figure in their fight to claim a European place. His permanent signing seems a good move for both player and club and has displaced former Gunner Richard Wright, who packs his bags and heads back down South to the continued home of ex-Arsenal players looking for one last pay day to Upton Park. Phil Jagielka, the out field player who managed to keep a clean sheet for half an hour against a hapless Arsenal for Sheffield United last December, has been brought in from the Blades and although not an exceptional player will be an asset to an Everton squad who are short on quality in depth as he can play almost anywhere on the pitch besides in the front two. Leighton Baines is a very handy left-back but probably still lacks a few aspects to his game that would make the lad a regular for the national team. His signing was apparently sealed from Wigan yesterday and will most likely spell the end of a first eleven position for Portuguese left back Nuno Valente who came to Everton after a very impressive two years in the UEFA Cup and then Champions League but failed to deliver the form that caught Moyes’ eye at Goodison Park. Steven Pienaar has come in from Borrusia Dortmund on a year’s loan and it will be interesting to see if he can complement Mikael Arteta’s right sided magic on the left side for Everton after experiencing a poor, by his standards, season in Germany. He is a player of definite quality, who frequently stood out with Van der Vaart, Van der Meyde, Chivu and Ibrahimovic in a talented young Ajax squad a few years ago. If he can find the type of form that earned him his move to Dortmund a year ago then he will be a good signing for Everton, if he continues to coast as he did in Germany he may find himself going the same way as former team mate Van der Meyde and spending more time warming the bench, picking himself off the floor of night clubs and claiming his drink’s were spiked than kicking a football. Last on the issues of signing, I must say I’m surprised that the loan signing of Manuel Fernandes was not made permanent as he appeared to have been the answer for the weak left side of midfield during his short stay at Goodison Park, maybe Benfica’s asking price was to high or maybe the conservative Moyes just decided he wasn't what Everton needed.
As far as the squad goes in general Everton are okay, but no better than. Johnson and Cahill will continue to score goals - ugly, scrappy goals, but probably a fair few of them. Arteta will continue to be the creative engine of the team, and the more I see of this boy the more I like him. He was good at Rangers and is progressing into an all round player at Everton now he has add some power to his previously slight, if not short, frame. Lescott and Yobo provide a stable defensive partnership and although they may be the ugliest central defensive pairing in England at the moment (what the F*ck is with Lescott’s hair?) will keep clean sheets. Carsley and Stubbs will continue to be bald and Neville will continue to be an utter c**t, as no doubt will his brother. I’m not yet sure what to make of Vaughan and Anichebe, the two young strikers coming through the ranks at Goodison Park. Both show glimpses of a decent player inside them somewhere but have failed to deliver consistently. Both are still young and will no doubt progress, but it is the degree to which they will progress this season that will make a difference to Everton as Johnson will need a break at some stage with 38 games and 3 cups to compete in. As for outgoing transfers there has been some very, very dead wood making space for the new players with ancient Italian Allesandro Pistone, fat and useless striker James Beatie and just plain useless Gary Naysmith along with the afore mentioned Richard Wright.
I’m going for more of the same from Everton this season, with another 7th placed finish for David Moyes and co. I still think they lack the little bit of depth that Sp*rs have to take them closer to the big four and they might see themselves pushed beyond their means by reconfigured Man City and Newcastle sides with Sven Goran Erikkson and Allardyce in charge respectively, two managers who know how to grind results so well you'd think they were Italian.
FULHAM: I still just can’t comprehend why the Cottager’s sacked Chris Coleman, can anyone explain it to me? He may have had a bad season last time round but look it what he had to work with. It is Al Fayed’s cheapness not Coleman’s management that cost Fulham last season and it just doesn't make sense to get rid of a good manager and then pull out the cheque book, it’s looking for two quick fixes and neither are likely to produce results.
I knew nothing of Lawrie Sanchez when I first heard he was Fulham’s new manager, but since I have learned that he worked a minor miracle as the Northern Ireland manager, so will see what he can do at Craven Cottage, as in my opinion saving them from another relegation battle would be in itself a minor miracle. I also have heard that his teams stick firmly to the Bolton, long-ball style of football, so Fulham next year will not like be an exciting team to watch for the neutrals (and we can expect yet another bus parked in front of the goals at the Grove come August 12th).
As for signings and departures there are some average players coming in, and some even more average players going out. The master of the two footed, studs-up challenges Michael Brown is off to Wigan. Helguson and Queudrue, as mentioned in an earlier piece, are off to Bolton and Birmingham respectively. Claus Jensen, who is long past his best, and Tomas Radzinski, who never recaptured the form he produced a few years back with Everton that led to his move to Fulham, are both released and will most likely retire or find clubs in their home countries or other smaller European leagues. Signings in to the Cottage are not much more exciting. Konchesky replaces Queudrue at left back, Steven Davis and Aaron Hughes both come in from Aston Villa, David Healy (who you can’t help but feel is not up to the challenge of top flight football anymore) comes in from Leeds, where the black cloud never seems to leave these days and Lee Cook and Chris Baird come from QPR and Southhampton. The only two signings there that I think are worthy of an extended mention are that of Diamansy Kamara,, from West Brom, and Adrian Leijer, from Melbourne Victory. Kamara had a very impressive year with the Baggies in the old 2nd division and seems like a real handful for defenders with a good mix of size, pace, control and movement. He reminds me of our Emmanuel Adebayor in some ways (which may be a good thing or a bad thing, for either him or Ade, depending on your opinion) and I think it will be interesting to see how he fares in the premiership this time around. Adrian Leijer is, I’m sure, an unknown entity to almost everyone in England. He is a 21 year old, Australian central defender and as a Melbourne Victory fan in our top competition, the A-League, I have seen a lot of him and have been very impressed. Everyone interested in local football in Australia knew this boy was going onto Europe and bigger things, but I thought it would maybe be another year before clubs from the PL would show any serious intrest. He is quick for a big lad, good in the air, has a good tackle and can distribute the ball well for a centre-half and I feel (again in my unbiased Ozi’s opinion) he will prove to be a quality signing for Sanchez, even if he does take some time to build first team appearances as, honestly, he is as good as anything else they’ve got in that position.
In the January they lost a player who had carried them on his back many times before in captain and ex-gunner Luis Boa Morte and have still failed to find a replacement of anything like the same quality. About the only nice thing I have to say for the Cottager’s is that they managed to keep the one man still in the squad who is consistently solid in defence, attack and linking the two sections of the field, Papa Bouba Diop. Why he stayed? Who knows? He deserves a better club with much greater ambition than survival.
I figure Fulham are cursed for the drop this season, nothing seems to be looking to positive for the club at the moment and it is definitely looking much worse at the present than it did at Craven Cottage twelve months ago. Sorry Mohammed, but I don't see Lawrie Sanchez as being the saviour your boys needed. You doomed yourself to relegation when you fired Coleman, 18th place for the West Londoners.
Date:Wednesday August 8 2007
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