Thursday, August 11
Forget all those so-called football pundits. The Danger! High Postage Premiership Preview is all you need for the forthcoming season.
The Gunners are strengthened by the signing of the exciting Alexander Hleb from Stuttgart, but severely weakened by the departure of Viera. The loss of Edu too leaves their central midfield area woefully short of experience, with them likely having to rely on work experience kids Fabregas and Flamini. The rest of the team is still strong and Sanderos should continue to mature into a top class centre half in the continuing absence of Sol Campbell. Unhinged German Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann still remains a weakness.
Key man: Thierry Henry - If he can keep scoring then they can still challenge. If not, or he succumbs to injury, then there could be problems.
For the Fantasy Football team: Phillipe Sanderos - Should be reasonably priced and likely to get alot of first team action, especially if Campbell stays cropped.
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Suede - How will they cope with the loss of their inspirational midfielder/guitarist? Young replacement recruited through the small ads in Shoot Magazine/NME is unproven at top level and seems to have an unhealthy liking for pies.
Villa are so boring, I can barely think of anything interesting to say about them. Again the close season has seen them treading water, with Vassell leaving to be replaced by the older, slower Kevin 'relegation' Phillips. And Doug Ellis continues to cling on to power like some kind of aging tribal warlord. Patrick Berger, Aaron Hughes and Stuart Taylor are all solid signings, but it's clear that Villa are a club going nowhere and if O'Leary continues to let talented youngsters like Thomas Hitzlsperger, Stefan Moore and Stephen Cooke leave, then the future will remain distinctly mid-table.
Key Man: Juan-Pablo Angel - Can the moody Columbian produce a 20 goal season?
For the Fantasy Football team: Patrick Berger - Should be cheap and chip in with a few goals from midfield.
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Ocean Colour Scene - Dull as dishwater and think they're much better than they actually are.
Could this be the season that Blues make the breakthrough and qualify for Europe? I think it could. After a disappointing injury-hit season last year, there's a little bit of restlessness at St Andrews. Steve Bruce has invested wisely in the close season, bringing in known quantities in previous loanees Mikael Forssell, Jermaine Pennant, Medhi Nafti (now crocked for the season!) and Walter Pandiani - Plus wildcard Nicky Butt. Brucie has a habit of getting the best out of players who have underperformed at other clubs and this squad has plenty of potential. The return of Muzzy Izzet and particular David Dunn from injury will be crucial, as will be the fitness of 'The Forse' and holding onto Matthew Upson, plus keeping up the fragile confidence of the enigma Ivanhoe Heskey.
Key Man: David Dunn - It's no coincidence that when he is fit and plays, we usually do well. He's the creative spark in midfield that we need.
For the Fantasy Football team: Muzzy Izzet - Will probably take set pieces if fit, so should pick up a lot of assists.
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Terrorvision - Ugly and unattractive, but get the job done and have a large, passionate fanbase. Have a habit of sustaining unfortunate injuries at inopportune moments.
Could be a disappointing year for the Trotters. The usual flood of signings hasn't been forthcoming and many squad members are now past their peak. Europe could also prove to be a big distraction for Big Sam and his boys and I can see them sliding back to a comfortable mid-table place. Phlegm-filled amusement arcade El Hadj Diouf should continue to entertain and irritate in equal measure.
Key Man: Jay-Jay Okocha - Again much will depend on the Nigerian midfielder.
For the Fantasy Football team: Jay-Jay Okocha - Involved in most goalscoring moves by the team.
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Pulp - Northerners led by twinkle-toed Nigerian midfield maestro/lanky wordsmith with NHS specs, who've come from nowhere to challenge at the top of the league/chart. Could struggle to maintain lofty position if they continue to rely on aging squad of European mercenaries/ write 8 minute songs about pensioners.
There are signs that this could be a much improved season for Rovers after previous underachievement. Mark Hughes has installed a fighting spirit in the team along with Robbie Savage. The signings of Craig Bellamy and Shefki Kuqi should give them some firepower up front and in Brad Friedel they have one of the best keepers in the league. Unlike teams like Villa, Man City and Charlton, they appear to be progressing and should challenge for a European place.
Key Man: Craig Bellamy - Will he shut up and just play football? Mark Hughes could be the man to get the best out of him.
For the Fantasy Football team: Brett Emerton - The Aussie is always likely to pop up with a goal or an assist
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Stereophonics - Dour, miserable and think they are hated all other bands/teams. They are actually hated by all other teams/bands. Welsh.