July 13, 2006
The 2006/07 English Premier League Way Too Early Preview: Part 5
Last Season: In their last season at Highbury, Arsenal appeared to be struggling with a rebuilding side. They recovered in time to finish fourth and make the Champions League final.
Defining Moment of Last Season: The second leg draw at Villarreal showed that Arsenal could get results in Europe even when not at their best.
Transfer Ins and Outs: Sol Campbell has announced he is leaving the club, whether he is going to Portsmouth or Fenerbahçe or anywhere else has yet to be determined. Robert Pires took up Villarreal’s offer of a two year deal to go to Spain, while Tomas Rosicky will likely become an important part of the side after his transfer from Borussia Dortmund.
One Sentence Description of Playing Style: The Gunners undoubtedly play the most attractive football in the league even if it costs them points from time to time.
Best Case Scenario: 1st, Any of the teams in the top 4 have a shot at the title. With the new stadium, Arsenal have been able to splash some cash recently although the defence has to be an area of concern for Arsene Wenger.
Realistic Goal: 3rd, Arsenal showed signs of rapid improvement at the end of last season which may correspond to an improvement in league finishing position.
Last Season: The five-time European champions spent most of the season in third spot and came so very close to catching Manchester United for second in the end.
Defining Moment of Last Season: Peter Crouch’s opening goal against Wigan symbolized how little they were getting from their strikers.
Transfer Ins and Outs: Liverpool have brought in a relative load of players. Winger Mark Gonzalez finally secured a work permit, Craig Bellamy came in to add some finishing ability and the combination of Gabriel Paletta and Fabio Aurelio were brought in to add depth in defense.
The most notable departure was Fernando Morientes to Valencia and rumors of a loan deal for Djibril Cissé continue to have legs.
One Sentence Description of Playing Style: Lump it up to Crouch, have him flick it over to Gerrard, who then shoots from range and scores.
Best Case Scenario: 1st, Rafa Benitez overachieved in guiding Liverpool to the Champions League title 14 months ago and maybe they can overachieve to win their first league title since 1990.
Realistic Goal: 2nd, Liverpool look set to pass Manchester United this season for reasons that will be explained below.
Last Season: Sir Alex Ferguson overcame being knocked of out Europe by slowly catching Chelsea in the final few months of the season before finally collapsing to defeat at Stamford Bridge in May.
Defining Moment of Last Season: The Carling Cup final, While in the past the Red Devils would have cared less about winning the League Cup, they looked happy to win it this time around. The final also marked the beginning of a public fallout between Ferguson and Ruud van Nistelrooy who was left on the bench.
Transfer Ins and Outs: They have yet to bring in a single player due in large part to the massive debt they find themselves in. That has not stopped them from being linked to Michael Carrick and West Brom goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
There has been a steady flow of players leaving the club with eight players leaving. Most prominent were Jonathan Spector to West Ham and John Obi Mikel, who never actually played a game for the club, earning them a £12 million fee from Chelsea. Cristiano Ronaldo is desperate to go to Spain and has probably played his last game for Manchester United, and Ruud van Nistelrooy has likely played his last game as well.
One Sentence Description of Playing Style: It can best be described as total dominance of midfield with deadly finishing in front of goal.
Best Case Scenario: 1st, Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times since its inception and they should have the expection to get that trophy back.
Realistic Goal: 4th, I don’t even think fourth may be as low as they go. The starting midfield currently looks like this: Kieran Richardson, Paul Scholes, John O’Shea, Ryan Giggs. Basically two aging players, a defender and a guy who only played well at West Brom on loan. Not a title winning formula. At striker, talented youngster Giuseppe Rossi may be forced into a heavy role should Louis Saha and Wayne Rooney suffer injuries.
Last Season: Utterly dominated the rest of the league until February when the title was already out of reach. First with authority.
Defining Moment of Last Season: Didier Drogba’s admission that he sometimes dives followed by a quick retraction.
Transfer Ins and Outs: Jose Mourinho prefers to have a set squad size and as a result four players have left to be replaced by four new faces. Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel have seen the almighty £££ signs and joined the Blues. Defender and occasional striker Robert Huth has gone to Middlesbrough today joining Eidur Gudjohnsen, Glen Johnson and Carlton Cole in leaving the club.
One Sentence Description of Playing Style: Despite having a pool of talent that is unmatched anywhere on earth, Chelsea play with plenty of pragmatism.
Best Case Scenario: 100+ points, With the league seemingly too easy, a high point total may become their new opponents.
Realistic Goal: 1st, If they do not win the league heads will roll at Stamford Bridge.