Saturday, August 13
They're so nice and friendly that nobody minds when they mount an early season European challenge. And everyone is secretly glad when they fade away in the spring. There is no doubting that Alan Curbishley is an excellent manager, they've got some decent players like Thomas, Murphy and young Spector on loan from Man U - and the club must be applauded for continuing their Premiership status. But really.... they're not that exciting are they?
Key man: Alexei Smertin - Brings a touch of class to the midfield.
For the Fantasy Football team: Erm... well Jason Euell is often listed as a midfielder and he sometimes plays upfront...
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: The Bluetones - Reasonably well liked by all, nice to watch, but ultimately completely inconsequential. Early challenge soon fades into mid-table obscurity.
The best manager in the league, the best keeper in the league, the best defence in the league, the best midfield in the league - all that was missing last season was a top striker, but in the end it didn't really matter. Now they've got Crespo back and the addition of Wright-Phillips and Del Horno mean that they're the only one of last seasons top three clubs to significantly strengthen their squad. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Key Man: Claude Makelele - The best defensive midfielder in the world. A rock.
For the Fantasy Football team: Frank Lampard / John Terry - Both should play every league game if fit and get a few goals. Terry will also rack up the clean sheets too.
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Blur - Cocky, not really cockney and with a seemingly unlimited supply of cash/great pop songs.
Overachievers last season, they never really got over the loss of Thomas Graveson at Christmas and he still hasn't been adequately replaced. Teams will be wise to them this year and it looks unlikely they will be able to repeat their many battling 1-0 wins from last season. A few improvements to the squad have been made, with Per Koldrup in defence and Neville Jnr, but there's nowhere near enough strength or depth to have a tilt at anything more than a mid-table finish, let alone Europe. Plus David Moyes has really scary eyes.
Key Man: James Beattie: Can he settle in on Merseyside and produce a 20 goal season?
For the Fantasy Football team: Tim Cahill - Should bag a few goals from midfield.
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Travis - Scottish workhorses punching above their weight in the charts/league.
What's going on at Fulham? They're letting all their best players leave and not signing any decent ones to replace them. In particular, the sight of on loan signing from Cardiff Tony Warner in goal at the start of the season is unlikely to send shivers down the spine of opposition strikers. If they can keep Boa Morte, Malbranque and Legwinski then they should stay up - otherwise there could be problems.
Key Man: Luis Boa Morte will need to be fit and on song.
For the Fantasy Football team: Sylvain Legwinski is liable get you some points whilst not breaking the bank.
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Kula Shaker - Good in theory, but actually rather crap. Hampered by rambling, insane outbursts from chairman/singer and continued playing of Mark Crossley/a sitar.
With googly eyed Houllier a distant memory, Rafa Benitez delivered a miracle in his first season in charge, but the key to continued success will be getting the most out of talented underperformers like Harry Kewell, Fernando Morientes and Djibril Cisse. A continued influx of continental talent to Anfield should see them manage to finish fourth. A side interest, will be how beanpole freak of nature Peter Crouch copes with the pressure of challenging for honours and avoiding banging his head on that 'This is Anfield' sign in the players tunnel.
Key Man: Steven Gerrard - The hub of the Liverpool midfield and the heartbeat of the team.
For the Fantasy Football team: Steven Gerrard. Guaranteed flow if points if he stays fit.
If they were a Britpop band they'd be: Placebo - Successful in Europe but struggle to maintain consistency at home. League/chart topping unlikely if they maintain excessive use of Djimi Traore/a primary school rhyming dictionary.