Arsenal's new season preview...

Exploring the world of Premier League clubs’ news is currently like spotting the proverbial tumbleweed bouncing through a deserted village. With the eye of the media solely focused on South Africa, I’m sure clubs appreciate not being probed every week about their intentions for the upcoming season. We should thank the World Cup Tournament then, for limiting the amount of asinine stories that usually spatter our nation’s sport pages.
But combine the media distraction with football clubs’ caution of the British press, and you’re left with fans having very little idea of what’s going on behind the walls of their beloved stadia. Just for the record, I’m not necessarily saying that’s bad.
Anyway, what should a writer use for subject-matter when there’s so little ‘official’ news to report and comment upon? I’m going to take a punt and suggest having (an admittedly very premature) look ahead at the forth-coming 2010/ 2011 Premiership campaign. The fixtures are out, so what harm can a little speculation do…?
It seems logical to start at the top so, of these 20 proud competing clubs, which one will be sitting atop the pile come May 2011? Being an Arsenal fan writing an Arsenal blog for an Arsenal website, it’s a little tough trying to be objective about the title race. What I do believe though, is that the top-spot will be contested, in the long run, by the same three teams that battled for it last season. I can appreciate the ‘work’ done at clubs like Manchester City and realise they’ll chuck around the cash again, but I still don’t think you can look beyond Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United as the genuine title contenders.
Yes, our squad is probably four centre-backs down from last season and we’ve only signed one striker – but call me optimistic or foolish, I still think we’ll have a stronger team, come kick-off, than we did this time last year. Our goalkeeping options don’t seem to be getting revamped any time soon unfortunately; but that frustration could be slightly soothed if we saw two new centre-backs arrive with, maybe, another holding midfielder? If you think that’s too much to hold out on, how about the prospect of Robin Van Persie completing a season without a major injury? He must be due a shot at that Golden Boot sometime soon.
The financial situation at the Salford boarder leads me to suspect that, for the time being, United won’t be making any big-name marquee signings. Their current midfield badly lacks a creative spark and if Rooney brings his South African form back to the Premiership, they’ll be in serious trouble. Ofcourse, we all know that underestimating an Alex Ferguson team is potentially suicidal – but I doubt any Gunners (or Gooners) would do that.
At the time of writing, Chelsea are again favourites to lift the trophy, and you can’t blame the bookies for tipping them – they are, currently, the strongest team in England. But before you stop reading because you think I’m an undercover Blue, let me express again that this is a hazardously early preview. That means; I may hold the opinion that Chelsea are superior at the moment, but I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t think the gap could be closed by August 14th. The transfer window opens in two days and while Ancelotti has the funds, Wenger has the scouting nous and a ‘bespoke’ squad.
As you probably all already know, Arsenal kick off their 10/11 campaign against Liverpool at Anfield. It’s not exactly the match many Gooners would have chosen for an opening game but, barring a managerial miracle, The Reds will likely be in a bit of a mess. Even if both Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres remain at the club, and face us on the 14th, the prospect of us taking all three points is more than plausible. In fact I seem to remember us travelling back from Merseyside, after an opening game, with three points and a rather hefty five goal winning margin. I don’t think it was that long ago either…?
On the subject of Liverpool, I expect another impressive brawl for that fourth spot. Personally, I have a soft-spot for Liverpool and would hope that they don’t continue their descent down the league. Sadly though, I don’t believe they’ll steal that position from The Spuds. Our “dear neighbours” will have to fend off Aston Villa, Everton and Manchester City to retain their Champions League play-off position and ofcourse I “wish them all the best”. That being said however – Man City will finish fourth.
I think City will start brightly and initially get talked-up as title challengers, but I just can’t see a sustained season-long bid from them. Unless one of the fellow teams gunning for fourth strengthens significantly this summer, I reckon only Everton could hassle City. As for ‘Arry’s lads, if they make it through their play off, I think the strain of the Champions League will hamper their domestic campaign.
I could go into detail on where I’ve placed every team to finish this season – but doing something like that before the transfer window even officially opens is somewhat futile. There will undoubtedly be changes made to various squads that will alter their odds in the competition. Nonetheless, I said at the beginning I’d take a punt on looking ahead to this season. I’ll end then, with some of the slightly more interesting conclusions I’ve reached over a long weekend of stat-checking, coffee and World Cup humility.
Bolton to be the biggest movers. (14th last season, could end 10th)   Fulham to finish top-half.   Everton with strong chance of finishing above Liverpool.   Newcastle to avoid relegation.   Manchester City to finish fourth.   Manchester United to finish third?   I think when Arsenal arrives at Stamford Bridge in October; we arrive ahead of them in the league. But I daren’t make a score prediction!

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