All entries for Saturday 19 August 2006

August 19, 2006

Birming City 2 v 1 Crystal Palace

I get the feeling that I cause Palace to lose, I've seen them 3 times and they've lost all 3 games. Today they were the best I've seen them and both teams should be in the mix when promotion places are dealt out in May.

The Blues failed to get anywhere near Jobi McAnuff as he mazed his way towards goal and then hitting a deflected shot in from 25 yards after just 10 minutes.

Birmingham equalised soon after when Nicklas Bendtner found himself on his own 6 yards out as the ball rebounded to him from a corner.

Birmingham then had a lot of pressure producing 3 cracking saves from the pyjama–ed one in the Palace goal. He spent most the game screaming at the Palace defence who seemed to lose concentration on more than one occasion.

In the second half Palace had most the pressure but not really reulting in any danger on Taylor's goal. In fact the closest they got to a second was an intruiging 25 yard overhead backpass that was bound for the top corner.

In the last few minutes of the game Both teams had shots which went wide, Matty Lawrence from Palace and Mikeal Forsell for Brum who should have done better. Then David Dunn made a great run and played in Sebastian Larsson, on loan from Arsenal, who stuck it just inside the post and put the Blues at the top of the table.

The other major incident of the game was the 80th minute substitution of captain Damien Johnson who, responding to ironic boos from the crowd, threw off his top and stormed down the tunnel. Steve Bruce later said he would speak to the player on Monday and release a statement on the website so watch this space.

Gary McSheffrey made his debut on the left wing and looked lively but well dealt with by the Palace defence.

Premiership Predictions 06/07

I think maybe the Premiership is harder to predict this season than every before. We all know who the top five will be, but in what order? And beyond that virtually anyone is vulnerable to the drop. Anyway here goes:

(1) Chelsea

As much as I would like to say Liverpool will be champions, it’s impossible to look past the West Londoners (or should that be international all–stars?). Man for man they outstrip every other squad in the Premiership by quite some distance and really the trophy is theirs to lose. Obviously keeping all the egos in check will be a challenge and there is always the possibility they will get distracted by the Champions League, just don’t bet on it.

(2) Liverpool

Probably the side best equipped to challenge Chelsea for the title. Last season a slow start and a slightly lightweight frontline cost them dear. Benitez has addressed this by signing Bellamy and Kuyt and has also added quality elsewhere in Mark González, Jermaine Pennant and Fabio Aurélio. For me, though, Bellamy is the key – if he stays fit and out of trouble Liverpool should do really well.

(3) Manchester United

If Hargreaves arrives to compliment Carrick in midfield United’s summer spending is likely to approach the £40m. Hardly a lack of commitment then from the Glazier’s, however the lack of a strike partner for Rooney could cost them dear this season. Good, but not quite good enough.

(4) Arsenal

As in previous seasons Arsenal start with a slimmer squad than the other big three sides. The move to Ashburton Grove will help them compete in the long run, but unless Wenger makes another big signing before the transfer window closes Champions League qualification (more comfortable than last season) and a decent cup run would see the Arsenal faithful relatively happy.

(5) Tottenham Hotspur

After coming so close to Champions League qualification last season expect Tottenham to be challenging again. Jol has brought in a real goal poacher in the form of Berbatov, however only Lennon will provide the side with genuine pace. Spurs also still lack a proper left sided player so don’t be surprised see them get very narrow in some games.

(6) Everton

Every season since David Moyes has been manager of Everton they have continually struggled to score, rarely winning by more than one goal. However the £8.5m purchase of Andrew Johnson to partner Beattie up front should have solved this problem. Indeed if the Johnson/Beattie combo can hit it off and the rest of the main eleven can stay fit I can see Everton causing a few surprises this season.

(7) Manchester City

After a dreadful finish to last season Stuart Peace has been quietly assembling a much improved squad for the upcoming campaign. In goal James has been replaced is by Swedish international Andreas Isaksson and in midfield Hamann comes in from Liverpool (via Bolton) to give a solid base to what was already a decent attacking side.

(8) Newcastle United

Despite the fact that at the time of writing Shola Ameobi is the only striker on the Newcastle books it seems likely that they will sign somebody before the transfer window closes. If not it could be a long season for the Toon Army given that no Newcastle side in the history of football has ever been able to defend a 1–0 lead.

(9) Aston Villa

Despite adding nobody to the squad Villa, Doug Ellis has probably done the best business of any Premiership chairman this summer by replacing manager David O’Leary with the much sort after Martin O’Neil and then selling out to American business tycoon Randy Learner. The first half of the season may be a struggle, but expect major transfer action at Christmas to secure a respectable finish.

(10) Blackburn Rovers

Mark Hughes has spent the summer trying to fill a very large Craig Bellamy shaped hole in his squad. Benny McCarthy and Jason Roberts are the new men, but it remains to be scene if they can deliver the goods. Certainly Rovers fans will be hoping for a better start that last year.

(11) Bolton Wanderers

Big Sam has been very quiet in the transfer market this summer despite clearly having quite a bit to spend (given that Bolton were able to match Everton’s offer for Andy Johnson). Nevertheless Bolton now specialise in the solid mid–table finish, and whilst the top half may be beyond them this time around, they will be as combative and as organised as ever.

(12) West Ham United

West Ham astounded everyone with their league and cup heroics last time around. This season should also prove quite comfortable for the Hammers, especially if they get a strong start like last year. Expect, however, for Alan Pardew’s smirk to be just a little less wide as his team will get found out on one or two occasions.

(13) Portsmouth

Now under the full ownership of Alexandre Gaydamak, Porstmouth have apparently armed Harry Redknapp with a transfer kitty of £30m. As yet, however, there has been little sign of it and the arrivals at Fratton Park have been decidedly low key. Nevertheless Portsmouth should have enough to beat the drop again this season. Unless of course the conspiracy theories are true in which case expect automatic demotion.

(14) Reading

Although Reading have spent considerably less than many thought they would, I still think Steve Coppell’s side have the best chance of any of the promoted teams of staying up. It could even be that having a settled line–up will play into their hands as they have a relatively friendly selection of early fixtures. No real stars, but as everyone’s tipping Sidwell, I’m going to go for Convey to shine.

(15) Charlton Athletic

Undoubtedly Charlton were beginning to under perform under previous boss Alan Curbishley. Unfortunately I don’t see Ian Dowie being able to address the slide straight away. The signings of Hasselbaink and Reid will help, but the East London side are still very weak in defence.

(16) Middlesbrough

Rookie manager Gareth Southgate will have his first match as the man–in–charge against Reading. It’s impossible to really say how the season will go for Boro, but given the current success of the football league’s other first time managers expect progress to be quite slow. The quality of the squad, however, should save Southgate from the embarrassment of relegation.

(17) Wigan Athletic

Last season I thought Wigan would go down because their defence was too weak and because they lost Nathan Ellington to West Brom on the eve of the campaign. As it turned out they could both score and defend and as a result finished very respectably. This season, however, will be a different story. Roberts, Bullard and Henchoz have gone, De Zeeuw is a year older and the replacements will hardly strike fear into the rest of the Premiership. Expect a struggle.

(18) Fulham

Chris Coleman has done an excellent job down at the Cottage. Not only has he worked for years on a virtually microscopic budget, but he has also had to deal with Mohammed Al Fayed as his boss. This season, however, could be a step too far. With star man Steed Malbranque in the process of freezing himself out of the team the pressure will be on from the start. If the home form cracks relegation will definitely be on.

(19) Watford

Whichever way I look at it Watford should not stay up this season. Man for man they had a weaker squad than many in the Championship last year and have failed to really add to it. Boothroyd will put out a well organised side with a good team ethic, however I just don’t think this will be enough to keep them up.

(20) Sheffield United

After several failed attempts Neil Warnock’s side have finally returned to the big time. Unfortunately it would seem their stay might be a short one as Warnock’s policy of signing large numbers of football league journeymen comes back to haunt them. Akinbiyi and Hulse are not going to be scaring too many defences. Mind you they do have Keith Gillespie……..

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