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****Offical 2007-08 Barclay's Premier League Thread******

Discussion in 'General Sports Forum' started by royalfan5, Aug 11, 2007.

  1. royalfan5

    royalfan5 Superbia in Proelio

    Man City started off with a nice win over West Ham this morning. Bianchi and Geovanni had nice goals, and Casper Schmeichel had a good debut in goal. Michael Richards played a hell of a game on defense too. It was worth my time to get up early to drive to Lincoln to watch the game.
  2. GrapevineSooner

    GrapevineSooner SoonerFans.com Elite Member

    Steven Gerrard is my new hero.
  3. Scott D

    Scott D SoonerFans.com Elite Member

    psst Rf...it's Kaspar, and he's got the unfortunate circumstance to have anything he does professionally be compared to his father Peter, who was one of the top keepers in EPL history.

    But it's all about Big Sam defeating Little Sam 3-1 today :D

    I'm enjoying my freeview of Setanta Sports....not enough to throw down an additional $15/mo for it, but enjoying it while it's free.
  4. royalfan5

    royalfan5 Superbia in Proelio

    The mentioned his parentage every time he touched the ball today. They just never showed his name on screen, and I've only started to get serious about soccer this past week, so you'll have to give me sometime to get up to speed.
  5. Scott D

    Scott D SoonerFans.com Elite Member

    hehe, truthfully the only reason I know it's Kasper is because I have Championship Manager 03/04, and he's the backup to Shay Given for Newcastle for me.
  6. Cam

    Cam Uber Dad

    Man Utd not able to finish again today. In the 64th minute and still 0-0 with Reading.

    Giggs has hit the post a couple of time.

    There's only one Schmeichel, Peter Schmeichel. Kind of feel bad for his son, no matter how good he is, he'll never live up to the standards set forth by his dad.
  7. Cam

    Cam Uber Dad

    Man Utd - Reading 0-0

    Marcus Hahnemann had a phenomenal game and made some tremendous saves. Dude's got great hands.

    Good to see Sunderland get 3 points from THS.
  8. Scott D

    Scott D SoonerFans.com Elite Member

    the irony of Sunderland getting their 3 points via the lone goal by a former Newcastle Academy player is just soooo thick.
  9. ArkanSooner

    ArkanSooner New Member

    Here's the preview I wrote for the season this week. Let me know what you think...do you agree with me, or are my predictions complete bollocks?

    1. Manchester United Red Devils

    Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo led the great Satan better known as Manchester United to their ninth Premier League title last season. Rooney is 21 and Ronaldo is 22, so they are going to be fixtures at Old Trafford for many many years to come. Ronaldo is one of the most classless, whiniest, dives-every-time-he’s-touched players in the world…which is why it sickens everyone that isn’t a fan of Manchester United or Portugal to admit that he is one of the three best players in the world. Add to the fact that the Red Devils are led by Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been at the helm since 1986, and are surrounded by tons and tons of talent, and hopes are again high in England’s third-largest city for yet another league title. They seem to have the perfect mixture of old veterans (Giggs, Scholes, Neville, Solskjær, etc.), and young bucks (Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, etc.) Let’s go a little deeper to see if old Newton Heath L&YR FC (the original club name) have what it takes to continue their sickening success.

    Edwin van der Sar has been a stalwart in the net the past two seasons; however, the Dutchman will be 37 in October, and his age is showing, albeit rarely. Backup Ben Foster has amazing potential, and played strong for lowly Watford last season. However, he recently had surgery, and will be out eight months. In his place, Thomas Kuszczak will be van der Sar’s understudy.

    The Manchester defence is known for being strong, and that will continue this season. Captain Gary Neville has been Manchester United’s right back since 1992. Rio Ferdinand is said to be one of the best centre defenders in the world, and he is joined at centre back by English international Wes Brown. Young Argentine Gabriel Heinze is a strong left back, but whether he will be at Old Trafford by season’s end remains to be seen; he wants to go to Liverpool, and is wanted by Juventus. The Red Devils’ backup defenders would be first-teamers at most squads, with Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, John O’Shea, and Mikael Silvestre all more than capable backups.

    Manchester United have the greatest collection of midfielders in the world. At the wing, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have a combined thirty-one years at Old Trafford. Remarkable. Michael Carrick made a tremendous debut last season, and English teammate Owen Hargreaves was signed from Bayern Munich this summer. And of course, they have Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the greatest player in the world, and certainly the most obnoxious. That is five world-class midfielders. Sick, right? Well, it doesn’t end there. As with the defence, Manchester’s backups would start at most squads. Anderson and Nani were signed this summer for a combined £30 million; only Manchester United would pay that much for reserves. Ji-Sung Park is the best Korean football player in the world, and a solid backup. Darren Fletcher can play a number of positions in the midfield, but could suffer from the logjam of talent.

    Up front will be ManU’s most curious position. Wayne Rooney is England’s preferred striker, and possibly the most famous player in the world outside of Becks and Ronaldinho. If the hot-tempered young lad can avoid getting carded every single game, he should score around twenty goals again. Joining him will be one of the other great young forwards in the world, Carlos Tevez. In one of the most controversial events in English football ever, ManU stole Tevez away from West Ham United this summer for something like £2 million, an absolute steal. Rooney and Tevez form the strongest striking duo in the Premiership. However, if Rooney or Tevez is unable to go, it gets thin in a hurry. Upon Tevez’ arrival, Alan Smith was sold to Newcastle. Louis Saha has been oft-injured, and, one of the holdovers from the ’99 treble squad, will be 35 by season’s end. Certainly ManU fans should be hoping that Rooney and Tevez are fit all season, because if Saha or Solskjær have to become regulars, goals could be hard to come by.

    2. Liverpool Reds

    Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard are living legends in Merseyside. Both are local boys (Scousers), both are just now entering their prime (late 20s), and they have helped return Liverpool among the world’s elite football sides. After a lull in the late 90s, the Reds are once again respected throughout the world. However, the most successful club in English history is now desperate to win the league, something they have not done in 18 years. True, the Reds have won numerous silverware in the Gerrard/Carra era, including two UEFA Champions League Cup appearances and one championship, but it is the league title they desire most. Finishing twenty-one points behind the champions, as they did last year, just isn’t good enough. Hence, manager Rafa Benitez went on an unparalleled spending spree. Will it be enough? Well, let’s look at each aspect of the Reds’ game.

    In net, Pepe Reina is arguably the greatest goalkeeper in the League (and by arguably, I mean Petr Cech is the only other person worth considering.) At just 24, the Spaniard has established himself as one of the elite keepers in the world, and he should patrol between the pipes for Liverpool for at least the next decade. Liverpool’s second-choice will be 24-year-old Frenchman Charles Itandje, who has been at RC Lens the past six years.

    In front of him, Liverpool’s defence is possibly the best in Britain. Steve Finnan is an absolute rock at right back. Like I mentioned above, Carragher is godlike at centreback, and he is joined by 23-year-old Daniel Agger, who should be a Liverpool staple for the next decade as well. Veteran Sami Hyypia is on the decline of his career, but still a capable backup should Carra or Agger ever need a rest. While Finnan, Agger, and Carra are rocks, the left back position is the weakest part of the backline. A three-man rotation of John Aarn Riise, Alvaro Arbeloa, and Fabio Aurelio will rotate there at left back, assuming that Liverpool aren’t able to wrestle Gabriel Heinze away from Manchester ****ing United.

    Well, clearly the defence is strong, but what about the midfield? This may sound repetitive, but again the Reds excel. The centre midfield is the best in the world. Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Momo Sissoko, and Javier Mascherano. GOOD GOD. That would be an excellent lineup for a national squad, much less a club team. All four are pure class. Stevie has balls of steel. Xabi is majestic at doing what he does. Though he lacks offensive prowess, Sissoko is quite possible the best defensive midfielder of the squad. And the young Argentine Mascherano proved to be one of the best transfers of the season last year.

    On the wing, the Reds aren’t quite as strong, but still capable. On the right wing, Jermaine Pennant will probably see most of the action. New signing Yossi Benayoun, the Israeli national captain, will certainly see plenty of action on the right side also. Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard often plays right wing, too, when not in centre. On the left wing, hopes are high that Aussie national hero Harry Kewell can finally return from injury. When healthy, he is one of the better left wings in the league. New signing Ryan Babel, a twenty-year-old Dutch international who can also play up front, has been compared to Thierry Henry by some pundits, so naturally he comes with high expectations. Finally, John Arne Riise can come up from defence and be a formidable presence on the left wing, too. The 26-year-old Norwiegan has made over 300 appearances for Liverpool and is known as having the strongest left foot and work ethic in the EPL.

    Okay, so, it’s been settled that Liverpool’s goalkeeping, defence, and midfield are clearly among the best in the world. So, why are they the only one of the Big Four (Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal being the others) NOT to win the Premiership this decade? The answer has been poor play up front by the strikers. The Reds have not had a twenty-goal scorer in three years, and even then it was midfielder Steven Gerrard. As a result, major changes were made. Craig Bellamy and Robbie Fowler were let go; Fowler was a fan favourite and a Liverpool legend, but at 33, he was past his ability to be world class. Bellamy was disappointing, and caused a lot of trouble. To replace them, Rafa brought in two players. One, Andriy Veronin, was a free transfer, quite a bargain indeed. The Ukrainian star has already endeared himself by displaying a strong work ethic and team attitude. But of course, all eyes in Stanley Park this year will certainly be on Fernando Torres. Torres is Liverpool’s most expensive signing EVER, joining the club for £20.5 million this summer from Atletico Madrid, where he scored 99 goals in 214 appearances. Just 23, Torres has also scored 14 goals in 42 appearances for the Spanish national side. Anything less than twenty goals will be considered a disappointment for “El Niño.” Liverpool’s other two strikers were their best two last season: Dirk Kuyt, the Dutchman who lead the team with twelve league goals, and 6’7” cult hero Peter “Mr. Roboto” Crouch. Crouch is a specialist at headers and bicycle kicks, yet I think I might have better footwork and agility than the English international. Nevertheless, all four strikers (Torres, Kuyt, Crouch, and Voronin) will be demanded to score, score, score, the only thing Liverpool has been lacking in recent years. IF they can follow through…then Liverpool may finally capture that league title they so desire.

    3. Chelsea Blues

    African Footballer of the Year Didier Drogba won the EPL Golden Boot last season after scoring twenty goals in the Premiership, and 33 in all competitions. He is quite possibly the world’s best forward at this time. If Chelsea are to regain the title from Manchester United, Drogba will surely have to be explosive again.

    And speaking of Africans, that’s one of the main reasons why I have Chelsea outside of the top
    2. Now, before you label me racist, it has absolutely nothing to do with that. Drogba (Cote D’Ivoire), Salomon Kalou (Cote D’Iovire), Michael Essien (Ghana), and John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) will all miss considerable time to compete in the 2008 African Cup of Nations in January. Compare that and Arsenal (Adebayor, Eboue, Toure, and Song) to Liverpool (uh, Sissoko) and Manchester United (uh, no one), and you can clearly see which teams will be most affected by this.

    Owner Roman Abromavich and obnoxious manager Jose Mourinho, self-described as the “Special One,” have assembled quite possibly the world’s greatest collection. But as the New York Yankees prove, you can buy talent, but you can’t always buy championships. There’s no better proof of that than Drogba’s mate up front, Andriy Shevchenko. Sheva, who had performed brilliantly for AC Milan and Ukraine, was bought for a record-breaking £30 million. Consequently, he rewarded the fans at Stamford Bridge with an amazing….four goals. Perhaps it was just a rough transition to the English game and he will score twenty this year, but that remains to be seen. Just in case, Chelsea have strong second options. 22-year-old Saloman Kalou is Drogba’s teammate at Cote D’Ivoire and chipped in six goals for Chelsea last season. Peruvian star Claudio Pizarro, who had scored 71 goals in six seasons for Bayern Munich, was obtained as a free transfer this summer and figures to play a prominent role in the club this year. 18-year-old Scott Sinclair was a second-half substitute in the Community Shield and will have to fight for time.

    On the other side of the pitch, Chelsea’s defence is quite good. The most obvious example of that is centre back John Terry, captain of England. Even the most ardent Chelsea hater can’t find a whole lot bad to say about Terry (other than his awful haircut). He has been named to all-star squads of the Premier League, the Champions League, FIFPro, and the World Cup, among others. He is one of the few Chelsea players who are a) English, and b) came up through their youth system. However, Terry is injured the first month of the season, so it will be important for Chelsea’s other defenders to step up in his absence.Joining Terry in the central defence is Portuguese international Ricardo Carvalho, who has been with the Blues since 2004. Carvalho was nominated for Premiership player of the year last season, his best yet. Centre back Tal Ben Haim, an Israeli superstar, joined the club from Bolton this summer and figures to play a key role. There is fierce competition for the first-choice left back: Andy Cole, a staple on the English squad since 2001, came over from Arsenal in the much talked about Gallas transfer last year. They also have Wayne Bridge, another regular for the English national team. Carvalho’s Portuguese teammate Paolo Ferreira is solid at right back, but he can play any position in defence. He is backed up by the discontent Glen Johnson, who has been with Chelsea since 2003 but is not very happy to be there.

    Behind the defence, goalkeeper Petr Cech, Chelsea’s first-choice since 2004, is possibly the best keeper in the world at the age of 25. He appears to be fully healed from the horror head injury he suffered last October. When Cech arrived in 2004, he stole the job from Carlo Cudicini, who had been their regular since 1999 and was voted player of the year in 2001. Third-teamer Henrique Hilario was forced to be number one for three months last season when Cech and Cudicini were injured, and he performed admirably.

    Despite the strengths of Chelsea’s forwards, defence, and goalkeeping, it is perhaps their midfield that is their biggest advantage. Goal-scorer Frank Lampard rules the centre of the field and has since 2001. German captain Michael Ballack had a disappointing injury-riddled season last year, but hopes to return to form this year. Defensive midfielder Michael Essien is probably the best at that position in the world, and he can also score goals or move back to centre defence. He broke the hearts of Americans in last year’s world cup as he led Ghana to a stunning victory. Fellow defensive midfielder Claude Makelele has been a staple of the French national team since 1995. At 34 he is on the downside of his career, but is still quite serviceable. Left winger Florent Malouda, another French international, is a heralded signing from Lyon who is expected to make an immediate impact. Attacking midfielder Joe Cole is known for his footwork and is a regular starter for England. Arjen Robben, “The Flying Dutchman,” always plays an important role in Chelsea’s attack. Rght winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, only 5’5 ½”, is constantly the speculation of transfer rumours, but appears to be settled in at Stamford Bridge. Steve Sidwell, one of Reading’s best players the past few years, was acquired in July. Lassana Diarra, yet another French international, is expected to fight with Nigerian John Obi Mikel to be Makelele’s replacement when he retires.
    royalfan5 likes this.
  10. ArkanSooner

    ArkanSooner New Member

    4. Arsenal Gunners

    Robin van Persie will have to fill the shoes of departed legend Thierry Henry, the Premiership’s all-time leading goal-scorer. Van Persie was having a fine season last year until getting injured. He will have to play an integral role if Arsene Wenger and crew hope to stay in the top four. Fierce rivals Tottenham are confident this is finally the year, and other sides like Portsmouth and Newcastle are hoping to challenge for fourth as well. This, of course, is assuming the top three are secure with Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool, which is probably dangerous thinking. Nevertheless, those three look to be set to qualify for Europe, so Arsenal is said to be fighting for fourth.

    As mentioned before, Thierry Henry is gone. He was pretty much a one-man show the past few seasons. You would think this would be devastating to the Gunners, and it may very well be, but some insiders have said that his teammates relied far too much on him and that he wasn’t the best teammate, so we’ll see how that plays out. So can anyone possibly replace him as a striker? Van Persie is the logical choice. The young Dutchman has shown flashes of brilliance and if he can remain healthy should be a strong scorer up front. With he and Henry both injured last year, Togo star Emmanuel Adebayor was the first option for the second half of last season. Croatian forward Eduardo da Silva was signed in the offseason. Da Silva scored 73 goals in 104 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb, so there is no doubt that he has the touch to score. Of course, the English Premier League is about fifty steps above the Prva HNL (Croatian League). Nicklas Bendtner is supposedly a very good young talent from Denmark. And don’t forget about wunderkind Theo Walcott, the 17-year-old who was named to the 2006 English World Cup squad. Between van Persie, da Silva, Adebayor, Bendtner, and Walcott, surely someone can score.

    In the midfield, Swede Freddie Ljunberg is gone. Like Henry, he was said to be rather selfish and also oft-injured, so maybe it’s a good thing. Aliaksandr Hleb, surely the best Belorussian football ever, returns at right wing. Young Spaniard Cesc Fabregas (he just turned 20) is one of the best centre midfielders in the world, and he is joined in the middle by Gilberto Silva, who at 30 is the old man of Emirates Stadium. Czech left winger Tomas Rosicky is vastly underrated. Nineteen-year-old Brazilian Denilson is coming into his own. Mathieu Flamini will see action in the midfield as well.

    German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann will be 38 before Thanksgiving and may be on his last legs, but he is still one of the top five keepers in the league. Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski is supposedly the team’s keeper of the future. In defence, the Gooners figure to see a strong rotation of Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure, Phillippe Senderos, Emmanuel Eboue, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna, and Justin Hoyte. None would be named among the world’s best just yet probably, but they are obviously very deep and have a lot of quality.

    5. Tottenham Hotspur Spurs

    Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov are two of what could be the greatest collection of strikers in the league this season. Irish star Keane and Bulgarian hero Berbatov join new signing Darren Bent (the third leading scorer in the League last season for relegated Charlton) and English international Jermaine Dafoe as a foursome of forwards that figures to be feared by all (how’s THAT for alliteration?). On paper, this team should score more goals than just about anyone in the league. But of course…the game is played on grass, not paper. Will that collection of talent be able to convert to success on the field? Many pundits think this is finally the year that Mortin Jol and his Spurs finally oust bitter London rivals Arsenal from the top four and gain a spot in the Champions League, but time will only tell.

    We know that Berbatov/Bent/Keane/Defoe are probably the best group of strikers in the league, but what about the rest of the team? In net is Paul Robinson, the English national keeper. He is often steady and when he’s on his game is one of the best, but his downflaw is his lapses in concentration and disappearing under pressure (see: allowing a goal to Watford KEEPER Ben Foster last year after Foster kicked the ball out of his box). If Robinson is steady, he can help keep Tottenham in contention for that elusive Champions League birth.

    Ok, so what about defence? That will most likely be Spurs’ weakness…not good when you have inconsistent Robinson between the pipes. English international Ledley King, Tottenham’s captain, anchors the unit at centre back. He will be joined in the first team by Canadian star Paul Stalteri, Pascal Chimbonda, and Anthony Gardner or Younes Kaboul. Hardly a world-class unit, but hopefully for the fans of White Hart Lane it will be enough. 17-year-old Welshman Gareth Bale is one of the most hyped players of recent times and some fans will surely be anxious for him to make his debut.

    The midfield is considerably better, and should be one of the better ones in the league. Didier Zokora is a great defensive midfielder. Jermaine Jenas and left wing Aaron Lennon are both young English internationals. Steed Malbranque is not exactly a fan favourite, but he is serviceable. Teemu Tainio is probably the best Finnish footballer in the world, and young English U-21 star Tom Huddlestone has shown promising flashes as well. Wayne Routledge and Kevin Prince-Boateng can provide help in the midfield as well.

    Many think the story of Tottenham’s season will be written by their crew of talented strikers and midfielders. However, I feel it is the defence that is the most important part of the team this season. Berbatov, Keane, Bent, and Defoe will certainly score their goals. However, if the team wish to lodge Arsenal out of the top four, it is up to Robinson and his defence to keep goals out.

    6. Portsmouth Blues

    Matty Taylor is a long-range specialist and scored several of the league’s top goals last season. Manager Harry Redknapp helped lead Portsmouth to a surprising ninth-place finish last season. With having more signings this summer than anyone other than Manchester United or Liverpool, Pompey look to be even better this season.

    Former English goalkeeper David James proved last season that his career was anything but dead, displaying the skill and intensity that made him one of the game’s most famous netminders in the 1990s, but without the mistakes of youth. At 37, he is still the same age as Lehmann and van der Sar, and a lot of teams are kicking themselves for giving him up for finished. Last season he recorded his 142nd clean sheet, the most ever in the Premiership. Many are begging new England manager Steve McClaren to recall James, after none of the current English keepers (Robinson, Foster, Green, etc.) have lived up to their predecessor.

    James was helped out last season by an outstanding, experienced Pompey defence. Former English star Sol Campbell, the veteran Hermann Hreiðarsson (newly signed from relegated Charlton), and 6’4” Sylvain Distin (who has been a rock for Manchester City the past five seasons) will anchor the back line. Helping them out will be: Djimi Traore, who was at Liverpool for seven years; Noe Pamarot, who has been called up by the French national team; Linvoy Primus, who has been a central defender for Pompey since 2000; Dejan Stefanovic, who has been at Fratton Park since 2003; and Lauren, who was Arsenal’s right back the past eight seasons

    In the midfield, the aforementioned Matty Taylor is one of Pompey’s best, and like John Aarn Riise of Liverpool, he is a long-ball specialist who can play either left back or left wing. Ghanian central midfield star Sulley Muntari was Portsmouth’s record signing this year, being signed away from Serie A side Udinese for £7 million, and comes with high expectations. Gary O’Neill has been a Pompey fixture since 1999, but is still just 24 years old. Pedro Mendes is one of Portsmouth’s best players. Croatian star Niko Kranjcar has a dandy future, and Sean Davis will see action in the middle of the pitch, too.

    Hoping to score the goals at Fratton Park will be new signing, David Nugent. Nugent, an English international, comes to Portsmouth from Preston, where he was one of the Championship Division’s top players. Other forwards include Zimbabwean Benjani Mwaruwari, who has been solid at Auxerre and scored eight at Pompey last year; the Nigerian John Utaka, a star in the French leagues the past five years; and Nwankwo Kanu, Utaka’s Nigerian teammate who scored ten goals for Pompey last season and was a solid contributor at Arsenal from 1999-2004 . Portsmouth is obviously a top destination for Africans.

    7. Blackburn Rovers

    Brad Friedel should be a legend in American soccer. The 36-year-old has been one of the best goalkeepers in England this decade, and has played for Liverpool and Blackburn. At Blackburn, where he has been since 2000, he is a legend. He has made 251 appearances for the Rovers. In addition, he was a member of three U.S. World Cup squads before retiring from international football in 2005.

    Left winger Morten Gamst Pederson is a dynamic young Norwegian who simply makes big plays and spectacular goals (he had six goals and eleven assists last season). He is very fun to watch. Right winger David Bentley is a great young midfielder who many want to see called up to the English national team. Last season he scored seven goals and thirteen assists, and was voted by fans as the club’s player of the year. Central midfielder Robbie Savage seems to be universally hated by fans, players, and referees alike. Despite his eccentric personality, he is a solid player. Savage is joined in the central midfield by David Dunn, who returns to Blackburn after some good years there from 1997-2003. Defensive midfielder Tugay is 36 and near the end of his storied career but probably still has a few good games left in him. Irish international Steven Reid, Aaron Makoena can play in the central midfield or defence.

    Up front, Rovers are led by controversial South African superman Benni McCarthy, who scored 19 goals in his first season at Ewood Park last season, good enough for second in the league behind Drogba. At 29, he is in the prime of his career. Paraguayan hero Roque Santa Cruz is just 25, but had played at Bayern Munich since 1999 and scored 31 goals there while fighting through injuries and competition. 21-year-old Matt Derbyshire is a solid young striker who scored 10 goals in 16 games on loan at Wrexham last year. Paul Gallagher, Maceo Ritgers, and Jason Roberts are the reserves.

    Blackburn’s defense should be very stingy. Protecting Friedel will be the likes of Christopher Samba, a HUGE young Congolese international; Stephen Warnock, a 25-year-old who was at Liverpool for nine seasons; Andre Ooijer, a veteran Dutch international who is returning from a brutal leg injury; Brett Emerton, a star for the Australian national team; Zurab Khizanishvelli, a proven veteran and the only member of the Georgia national team in the EPL; captain Ryan Nelson, also the captain of the New Zealand national team and who played at Stanford and in the MLS for six years before moving to Blackburn and is also returning from injury; and Stephane Henchoz, a former Liverpool hero who is now in the decline of his career but still serviceable if needed.

    This team is an enigma. I see them being like Bolton were last season. They have no true superstars or world-class players, but they play together tremendously well, are well managed by Mark Hughes, and will be just scrappy enough to fight for a top six spot and beat some of the major contenders. The team’s motto, “Arte et Labore” (by skill and hard work), is definitely true this season.

    8. Newcastle United Magpies

    Michael Owen continues his health troubles. After missing the better part of the past two seasons with various injuries, the 27-year-old hero of the 1998 World Cup is again out. He is like the Ken Griffey, Jr. of the EPL: sign with a new team during his prime, and become crippled with injuries. It really is quite tragic. If Owen can finally stay healthy after this latest setback, he could help Big Sam Allerdyce lead the Magpies to a coveted Champions League appearance. Like Portsmouth, Newcastle desperately tried to improve their team this summer by making a number of big signings.

    Up front, the main story is obviously Owen. Before his injuries, he was one of the most-feared strikers in the entire world. Newcastle made some waves recently by signing former Leeds United and Manchester United striker Alan Smith. The similarities between Smith and Owen are remarkable. Both were stars at two clubs before signing with the Toons; both are English forwards; both should be in the primes of their careers; and both are more feeble than my 80-year-old neighbour. IF IF IF those two were to stay healthy, Newcastle would surely be a force to be reckoned with. In addition to Smith and Owen, Big Sam is hoping for goals from newly-signed Aussie Mark Viduka.

    The problem at St. James Park in recent years, other than the woeful injury plague, has been the even more woeful defence. The Toons have recently displayed a defence that would make the French National Army look good. Consequently, Big Sam made a number of changes, releasing several players (among them Titus Bramble, Oguchi Onyewu, and Craig Moore) and brining in some others (David Rozenhal and Jose Enrique). Look for Rozenhal and Enrique to shore up the defence with Geremi, Stephen Carr, and Steven Taylor. Veteran Irish international Shay Given returns as goalkeeper, where he has been since 1997. The little 5’8” Irishmen deserves more help than he’s been getting.

    The Magpies should have a fairly strong if not dysfunctional midfield. Charles N’Zogbia, Nicky Butt, and Damien Duff are pretty normal, but then it gets fun. Obafemi Martins was almost killed in a Nigerian driveby and then lied to police. Discontent Kieron Dyer should be fine, assuming he doesn’t get in a fistfight with a teammate during a game, expose himself to a hotel staff member, or gang rape a 17-year-old girl again. Newly-signed troublemaker Joey Barton was arrested for assaulting one of his teammates at Manchester City last year, and for assaulting a cab driver. Turkish star Emre was banned by FIFA for four matches after a brawl against Switzerland in 2006, and has been charged three times by the FA for using racist language in matches against Everton, Bolton, and Watford. And you thought the Cincinnati Bengals were screwed up.

    Two ifs this year will determine the course of Newcastle’s season. IF their strikers stay healthy, and IF their midfielders stay out of prison.
  11. ArkanSooner

    ArkanSooner New Member

    9. Everton Blues

    Tim Howard should have been the first-choice American goalkeeper years ago. One of the best keepers in the Premiership, it’s a shame that some of his best years have been spent stuck behind Kasey Keller for Sam’s Army. He is definitely a bright spot for the Blues, who would delight in nothing more than keeping crosstown rivals Liverpool away from a title.

    So, who do they Blues have in defence helping out Timmay? Well, they made a couple of great signings this year that will significantly improve their backline. Phil Jagielka from Sheffield United and Leighton Beines from Wigan will finally get the chance to play for a top-half side. Nuno Valente is a stalwart for the Portuguese national team. Tony Hibbert has been plagued by injuries for the past two years, but was a rock for the boys from Goodisan Park the first half of the decade. Joleon Lescott was a revelation last season after signing from Wolverhampton, and was voted by his teammates as Everton Player of the Year. Nigerian international Joseph Yobo played every minute of every game last season. Captain Phil Neville is a regular on the English national team, with his brother Gary. Old Alan Stubbs rounds out the solid Toffee defence, which should be one of the best in the league.

    The midfield is above average but nothing outstanding. Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill are of top quality, but after those two nothing really spectacular. Lee Carsley and Leon Osman has been steady for a number of years.

    Andy Johnson has seen a lot of time as a striker for the English national team lately with the injuries to Owen and Smith and Rooney’s discipline problems. However, he is Everton’s only striker of note. In case you’re wondering, their other forwards are James McFadden, James Vaughn, and Victor Anichebe.

    Of the teams hoping to compete for the Champions League, Everton’s lack of quality scorers and quality depth will surely be their downfall.

    10. Reading Royals

    Nicky Shorey was possibly the biggest surprise in the Premiership last season. His brilliant form was enough to be named as a starter for the England national team. His performance reflected that of his team; newly promoted Reading enjoyed a dream-season in which they finished eighth. A similar finish will be more difficult to attain this year at Madejski Stadium, but they should be good enough to stay up another season.

    For some odd reason, Reading gave Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell (seriously; he was a free transfer). The Royals’ midfield will still be okay. Americans will recognize Bobby Convey, a fan favourite for the past few years. Other players to watch in the midfield include Irish international Stephen Hunt, notorious for his hit on Petr Cech last season that almost killed Cech; Icelandik international Brynjar Gunnarsson; 6’3” Glen Little, who is closing in on his 100th first-team appearance; Korean star Seol Ky-Hyeon; James Harper, who has played almost 250 games for Reading since 2001 and was elected to the 2006 Ghana World Cup squad (he declined); John Oster, who recently signed a contract extension; and Emerse Fae, who had over 100 first-team appearances for Nantes between 2003-2007.

    The main reason for Reading’s success was the outstanding play from their forwards. Leroy Lita (14 goals last season), Kevin Doyle (13 goals), and Dave Kitson (4 goals despite injury) provide a lot of excitement and are a lot of fun to watch. That trio could help Reading staying in the top half. Shane Long is a solid fourth option. All four are homegrown, too: Kitson and Lita are English, and Doyle and Long belong to the Irish national team. The forwards are the team strength, and if they continue to score goals, Reading should remain in the Premiership rather easily.

    Reading’s backfield is fairly strong. Shorey is outstanding at left back. Captain Graeme Murty will have 300 appearances for Reading by year’s end, and was voted by fans as Reading’s best-ever right back. Icelandik national Ivar Ingimarsson has been at Reading since 2003 and was voted by fans as Player of the Season last year. He is joined by Ecuadorian hero Ulises de la Cruz in central defence. Ibrahima Sonko would usually play a key role, but he will miss the entire season due to knee injuries. Backup defenders include Cameronian Andre Bikey and Michael Duberry.

    In net for the Royals is the American Marcus Hahnemann, who was in amazing form last season. Hahnemann is a folk hero in Reading, where he has been the first-teamer since 2002. He even further proved himself in an amazing 0-0 draw at Manchester United on opening weekend. Howard, Freidel, and Hahnemann are representing American keepers brilliantly in the Premiership.

    11. Manchester City Citizens

    Sven-Gören Eriksson returns! Everyone please try to contain your excitement. But seriously, maybe the old Swede is exactly what the Citizens need. The proud fans are longing for a top half finish this year. The talent probably isn’t that good, but if they have some good chemistry, good managing, and good luck, they might pull it out. Perhaps more intriguing than new manager Sven-Gören is new owner Thaksin Shinawatra, a former Thai prime minister and mobile phone mogul who was usurped by a military coup last year, is facing human rights violations, and has been told by the new government he will be assassinated if he returns to Thailand.

    Strikers abound for ManCity, with more forwards on the roster than any other side in the Premiership. Belgian international Emile Mpenza was signed in March, and scored three goals in ten games for the Citizens last year. Darius Vassel, a 27-year-old who has 22 caps for England, has never lost in a league game in which he’s scored. Highly heralded Italy U21 striker Rolando Bianchi joins the team from Reggina. Georgios Samaras is a young star for the Greek team, and scored 11 goals for ManCity last year. Valeri Bojinov has started at Fiorentina and Juventus, and plays alongside Dimitar Berbatov on the Bulgarian national team. Old man Paul Dickov (soon to be 35 years old) was a star for the club from 1996-2002, but since returning last season has yet to score a goal. Finally, former Italian international Bernardo Corradi and young English prospect Daniel Sturridge complete the EIGHT forward options.

    So what about the midfield? Well, two Brazilian internationals (Elano and Giovanni) were bought this summer, so expect them to see a lot of action and make an immediate impact. Bojinov’s Bulgarian teammate, left winger Martin Petrov, was bought from Atletico Madrid for £4.7 million. Former Liverpool hero Dietmar Hamann is still around at 34. Young Irish international (and appropriately named) Stephen Ireland is known for his volleys. 19-year-old Michael Johnson has been linked with a move to Liverpool but for now is still in Manchester. Sven-Gören has said that his new signing Gelson Fernandes is the best young talent in Swiss football, whatever that’s worth. Ousmane Dabo is probably most famous for being on the wrong end of former teammate’s Joey Barton assault last season, resulting in a detached retina.

    Many people believe that Andreas Isaksson is the most underrated keeper in England. Plus he’s the first choice for the Swedish national team, so you know he’ll get close to Sven-Gören. At just 25, he has a bright future. That is, if he can keep his job after breaking his thumb this summer. Ever heard the name Schmeichel? Well, it’s not Peter, ManU’s keeper during the 1990s and who retired at ManCity four years ago, but rather his son Kasper this time. Starting in place of the injured Isakkson, young Schmeichel recorded a clean sheet in the first match of the season on August 11, against West Ham. England U21 backup Joe Hart suits up for the powder blues, too.

    In front of the keepers will be a diverse bunch of defenders. At just 19, young Micah Richards has already been capped four times by England’s senior team, so expect a bright future for him. Team captain Richard Dunne has been named ManCity player of the year three years in a row, so you know he’s quality. Sun Jihai is arguably the best Chinese player in the world, and has made been a prominent fixture for Manchester City since 2002. Javier Garrido was signed from this summer Real Sociedad for £4.5 million, and Vedran Corluca was brought in from Dinamo Zagreb for £8 million. Young Nedum Onuoha has been a part of the Citizen program for three years, and has made 45 appearances for the first team, and 8 for England U21. Michael Ball made headlines last May for stamping the stomach of Cristiano Ronaldo. Danny Mills is full of experience for both club and country, but has been transfer listed by Sven-Gören.

    12. Middlesbrough Red Lions

    Yakubu Aiyegbeni has been phenomenal since his arrival at Riverside two seasons ago. In 71 Premier League games, he has 25 goals. In 15 FA Cup games, he has 8 goals. He has scored wherever he’s played, be it for Maccabi Haifa, Portsmouth, or the Nigerian national team. He does it in big games too, scoring for Boro in wins over Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United, and once scored four goals in a single game against his current club while playing for Portsmouth in 2004. Consequently, he has been subject to constant rumours of bigger clubs wanting him, most recently Everton for £10 million. But, as long as he’s at Middlesbrough, expect him to be their catalyst.

    Boro seems to hang around the same position every season. Always safe from relegation, yet quite never good to make a serious challenge for the top six. Seriously, their finishes this decade, since the 1999-2000 season: 12th, 14th, 12th, 11th, 11th, 7th, 12th, 12th. How in the world was Steve McClaren named England manager after a run like that?

    Outside of Yakubu, Boro have limited options at forward, especially after selling Mark Viduka to Newcastle this summer. They brought in former Arsenal backup Jeremie Aliadiere, who has played a total of fifty games and scored three goals in eight years (which apparently was good enough for a £2 million transfer?). Turkish scorer Tuncay Sanli was brought in for free this summer, but might be used on the wing. Korean reserve Lee “Lion King” Dong-Gook has the coolest nickname in the Premiership.

    In the midfield, the star is left wing Stewart Downing, the young English international. Team captain George Boateng has been the team’s defensive midfielder since 2002. Like Downing, young Britons Lee Cattermole and Adam Johnson are products of Boro’s proud youth academy, and possible English internationals of the future. Versatile Argentinian Julio Arca and Brazilian Fabio Rochemback can play a number of positions.

    Australian Mark Schwarzer, soon to be 35, has been a staple at Boro since 1997 and is one of the most steady keepers in the game. He is backed up at both Middlesbrough and Australia by 25-year-old Bradley Jones. In front of the Aussie keepers will be a ragtag collection of defenders you’ve likely never heard of if you live outside England. The best is German international Robert Huth, known for his canon leg. Two fringe English internationals are on the squad: Luke Young, who was a star at Charlton before being sold to the Teesiders for £2.5 million this July, and injury-prone Jonathan Woodgate, who played for Boro on loan from Real Madrid last season. Other defenders include fan favourite Emmanuel Pogatetz, Chris Riggott, and three players under 21: Andrew Taylor, Andrew Davies, and Matthew Bates.

    All in all, this team is not especially void on talent. However, unless they can find a scorer other than Yukubu and some of their extremely young talent can grow up in a hurry, they will again struggle to finish in the top half.

    13. Fulham Cottagers

    Forward Brian McBride is joined by American teammates midfielder Clint Dempsey and defender Carlos Bocanegra to make this side MLS-East. Sadly, that’s about the same type of quality that will be seen at Craven Cottage this season, as many people believe Team America (**** Yeah) will be relegated by season’s end. The team, owned by Mohammed Al-Fayed (ever heard of Dodi?) and managed by Lawrie Sanchez, will likely be one of about five who have to worry about getting that last relegation spot.

    Brian McBride has, somewhat surprisingly, become a Fulham legend. After spending eight years as a member of the Columbus Crew, he moved to Fulham in 2003. Since then, he has scored 28 goals in 123 games, voted player of the year in 2006-2007, and was recently named captain. But, he is 35, and not getting any younger. Other options for Fulham include: David Healy, the Northern Ireland striker who has been dominating Euro 2008 qualifying; Diomansy Kamara, who has done well at West Bromwich Albion and was signed for £6 million; Collins John, who has scored 20 goals for Fulham over the past three years; and former Watson first-squader Hameur Bouazza.

    Clint Dempsey endeared himself to Fulham fans last season when he scored the goal (against Liverpool) that kept Fulham in the Premiership, avoiding relegation. The 24-year-old Texan is one of the USMNT’s best players, and hopes to continue that pace in west London. The team is anxiously awaiting the return of central midfielder Jimmy Bullard from injury. Northern Ireland international Steven Davis reunites with his former manager Lawrie Sanchez. Right midfielder Simon Davies has a wealth of experience, having started for Everton and Tottenham before joining Fulham last winter. Defensive midfielder Alexey Smertin was once captain of the Russian national team. Papa Bouba Diop is surely the most famous Senegalese man in the world (with the possible exception of teammate Didi Kamara). New signee Lee Cook has been a star in the Championship for QPR in recent years.

    It has been mentioned several times that Carlos Bocanegra scored more goals last season (five) than Andrei Shevchenko (four). The left back, who arrived from Chicago Fire in 2004, is a likely choice to be named captain of the USMNT. At right back, the tandem of young German Moritz Volz and young Brit Liam Rosenior is outstanding. 6’6” centre back Zat Knight has been with the team since 1999. Paul Konchesky, signed away from West Ham this summer, can play anywhere in the back. Ian Pearce, Philippe Christenval, and Aaron Hughes will figure into the rotation, too. Fulham’s defence will almost certainly be their team strength.

    The 35-year-old retired Finnish keeper Antti Niema will likely be the first-choice in net, backed up by 33-year-old Trinidadian Tony Warner and 20-year-old Portuguesa Ricardo Batista. Goalkeeper is a position of utmost concern for Fulham this season.
  12. ArkanSooner

    ArkanSooner New Member

    14. Sunderland Black Cats

    Stern John and Dwight Yorke join Carlos Edwards as a trio of Trinidadians for the newly-promoted northeast side. And you thought Shaka Hislop was the only good member of the Soca Warriors. Sunderland, who won the Championship division last year, are hoping for a better showing in the EPL this year than two years ago, when they managed to score just 15 points. This is their fourth time in the Premiership, with previous spells in 1996-97, 1999-2003, and 2005-06.

    Hopes are high that the Black Cats will stay up this year though, with the least of reasons being manager Roy Keane, former star at Manchester United. He is quickly becoming one of the most respected managers in England after retiring from Old Trafford just two years ago.

    Stern John has more international goals (67) than anyone else in the Premiership, including Rooney (12), Owen (37), Drogba (28), Sheva (33), Berbatov (35), Solskjær (23)…you get the idea. Joining John and 35-year-old Soca Warrior teammate Yorke in the attack will be their top scorer from last year, Irish striker David Connolly, who put in 13 goals last season; newly signed Michael Chopra (£5 million from Cardiff City); and young Irish internationals Anthony Stokes, Darryl Murphy, and Roy O’Donovan.

    Carlos Edwards is in the prime of his career and performed exceptionally well in the World Cup. 22-year-old Kieran Richardson is a fringe English international who played five years for Manchester United before being signed for £5.5 million this July. Fellow 22-year-old Ross Wallace is a superb Scottish prodigy at left wing, a position he competes for with Tobias Hysen. Captain Dean Whitehead has over 120 first-team appearances since joining Sunderland in 2003. Central midfielder Liam Miller and Graham Kavanagh are two other Irishmen for Keane to work with. 21-year-old Grant Leadbitter has said he never wants to play for anyone but Sunderland, whom he has been with since 2003, and Dickson Etuhu was signed from Norwich for £1.5 million this July.

    Defensively, the Black Cats are led by yet another young Irishman, Paul McShane. Vice-captain Nyron Nosworthy is a very dependable centre back, and he is joined by Welsh international Danny Collins and backed up by the elder Slovakian Stanislav Varga. The first signing of the summer was the versatile England U20 Greg Halford from Colchester United for £3.5 million. Former Aberdeen star Russell Anderson, who was nominated for the 2006-07 Scottish League Player of the Year, was signed for £1 million this summer.

    24-year-old Scottish international Craig Gordon was signed on August 7 from Hearts for up to £9 million, which would be the highest-ever transfer fee for a goalkeeper in England. It was quite a coup for Sunderland to get him, as he was also considered by Arsenal, Rangers, and Manchester United. Gordon is backed up by last year’s first-teamer Darren Ward and former Coventry City keeper Márton Fülöp.

    15. Aston Villa Villains

    Olof Mellberg is becoming one of the legends of Villa Park. The vice-captain has been at the club since 2001, and was captain of the Swedish national team for years. The defender will have to play a key role if Villa is to challenge for the top half this season. Joining him in defence are the much-maligned Martin Laursen, Gary Cahill, Wilfred Bouma, and veteran Welshman Mark Delaney.

    Tom Hanks and other Villa fans should have an exciting group of young forwards to watch. Three of them are members of the England U-21 squad: Ashley Young, Luke Moore and Gabriel Agbonlahor. Two others are recent 27-year-old signings in the primes of the career: Norwegian international John Carew has already been a star at clubs like Lyon and Valencia, and Marlon Harewood has scored over 100 goals for Nottingham Forest and West Ham. Those five should give Villa plenty of scoring options for years to come.

    Other than Harewood and Carew, the Villains’ biggest signing this year was Nigel Reo-Coker from West Ham. The young midfielder is known for his strong balanced game and greatly improves AV’s otherwise bland midfield. Other midfielders that figure to make an impact are Gareth Barry, Patrick Berger, Stiliyan Petrov, and Craig Gardner.

    Aston Villa recently obtained Liverpool backup and English international goalkeeper Scott Carson on loan, something which was desperately needed. Normal keeper Thomas Sorenson is injured, and the only other option is Stuart Taylor.

    The defence is weak, the forwards are young and improving, and the midfield is average to okay. This fits right in with a predicted middle-of-the-pack finish.

    16. Bolton Wanderers

    Gary Speed is one of the rare-breeds in English football; a player-coach. The 38-year-old is one of the only players remaining who was born before 1970, and has played more Premiership games than, well, anyone in the history of the game. Speed and Giggs are the only two players in the game to score a goal in each of the past fifteen seasons. He has had tenures at Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle, and since 2004 Bolton.

    Last year, Bolton surprised everyone to finish fifth in the league, and give both Arsenal and Liverpool a scare at challenging for the Champions League. All of this for a team with no world-class player. However…they did have a world-class manager, Big Sam Allerdyce, who is now at Newcastle. That’s not good for the Wanderers. They will finish nowhere near fifth this year. In fact, they may fight for relegation instead of the Champions League.

    Joining old man Speed in the midfield are captain Kevin Nolan, Ivan Campo, Christian Wilhelmsson, Stelios Giannakopoulos, and Mikel Alonso (Xabi’s brother). The midfield will probably be the team strength.

    Up front, Nicolas Anelka is the star of the show. He is joined by Kevin Davies, El-Hadji Diouf, Heiðar Helguson, and Zoltan Harsanyi.

    Jussi Jääskeläinen returns in net. The Icelandic international (obviously) displayed strong form last year and hopes to repeat that performance. Protecting him in defence are Jamaican captain Ricardo Gardner and a host of mediocre players whose names I can’t come close to pronouncing correctly(Abdoulaye Méïté, Abdoulaye Diagne-Faye, Ľubomír Michalík, and Jlloyd Samuel).

    They won’t win the Premiership, but they sure as hell win for players with ridiculous names.

    17. West Ham United Hammers

    For West Ham United, it’s not a matter of who is going to be on the squad at Upton Park this season, but rather who isn’t. Carlos Tevez single-handedly kept the Hammers in the Premiership last season, going absolutely crazy in the last few weeks of the season. He leaves a void that most certainly cannot be filled. Expect some extra security to be around when Manchester United comes to visit Upton Park.

    One of the players trying to replace Tevez is Dean Ashton, who is one of the up-and-coming players in English football. The 23-year-old has been successful at every level, scoring 60 goals in 159 games for Crewe Alexandria, 17 in 44 for Norwich, 4 in 9 for the England U-21, and 3 in 11 for West Ham. Last summer, he was called up to the England national team for a friendly against Greece; however, in training, he broke his ankle, and injury that kept him out all season.

    Not only did the Hammers lose Carlos Tevez, they also lost Marlon Harewood, their second option, to Aston Villa. In an attempt to replace those two, the Hammers signed Craig Bellamy from Liverpool. Now THAT is a step down if there ever was one. Bobby Zamora has scored 29 goals in four years at Upton Park. As mentioned before, the Hammers are praying that Dean Ashton can return to prowess up front and maybe ease the pain of losing Tevez. To a lesser extent, Carlton Cole could also see some time up front.

    It isn’t just the forwards who will have a new look; West Ham also sold Nigel Reo-Coker to Aston Villa. To replace him, they signed long-term Arsenal winger Freddie Ljungberg. Luis Boa Morte was a star at Fulham the first half of the decade, and assumes the left wing role. Matthew Etherington has been solid at West Ham since 2003, and is returning from injury. Scott Parker was signed from Newcastle for £7 million this summer. Also figuring in the midfield will be Lee Bowyer (best known for getting into fisticuffs with then-Newcastle teammate Kieron Dyer in 2005), Nigel Quashie, Mark Noble, and Julien Faubert, a highly-heralded Frenchman who will be injured until after Christmas.

    The Hammers will use a number of defenders; none are outstanding, but all are good. The defence should be decent, led by captain Lucas Neill. American Jonathan Spector, Anton Ferdinand, Matthew Upson, Christian Dailly, George McCartney, Daniel McGabbidon, and James Collins will all see significant time as well. Goalkeeper Robert Green, a hopeful for the English national team, will patrol the box

    18. Birmingham City Blues

    Gary McSheffrey has an interesting history. He was the youngest-ever player to play in the Premiership, making his debut for Coventry City at the age of 16 years and 198 days in 1999. He is also eligible to play for England, Ireland, OR Scotland at the national level! More importantly for the fans in the West Midlands, though, he is going to be relied upon to score goals for newly-promoted Birmingham City.

    The Blues first need to figure out who their keeper will be. 35-year-old Northern Ireland goalkeeper Maik Taylor has loads of experience; he is 6’4”, and was voted by fans as the goalkeeper of the Premiership in 2003-04 when Birmingham were in the top flight. He faces stiff competition, though, from the 21-year-old Irish keeper Colin Foyle, who did well for the team last season.

    Experienced defenders Liam Ridgewell (Aston Villa) and Franck Quedrue (Fulham) were signed to help protect whoever the keeper is. Radhi Jaidi is a specialist at scoring on headers. Martin Taylor played at Blackburn for many seasons, and is one of the longer tenured Blues players. Young Johann Djouru is on loan from Arsenal, and the Gunners expect big things from him.

    Fabrice Muamba and Sebastian Larsson are two young midfielders who came up through the Arsenal system. Look for them to be Brummies for a long time, or at least until a bigger club offers them a lot of transfer money. Olivier Kapo is another young player with experience, having played many years at Auxerre and then for a spell at Italian giant Juventus. Captain Damien Johnson is an icon in Northern Ireland and has been at Birmingham for five years.

    So who is going to score the goals, other than McSheffrey? Expect the strikers to be by committee. Gary O’Connor has been solid in the Scottish League and national team for many seasons. 20-year-old Cameron Jerome scored 24 goals in 37 appearances for Cardiff City, and 7 for Birmingham last year. Mikael Forssal is loaded with experience (has played over 30 games for HJK, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, and Birmingham), but still not yet in his prime (he’s 26). And finally, Rowan Vine was dynamic for Luton Town, scoring 22 in 57 games.

    Birmingham have a ton of valuable experience, but no particular players that stand out; the players were just utility/role players for the major sides in the past, no true impact players. If these guys can come together with some good chemistry, they may prove to be good enough to stick around.

    19. Wigan Athletic Latics

    Emile Heskey is definitely the big name for this squad. The veteran striker has been around, having successful spells at Leicester City, Liverpool, Birmingham City, and also scoring five goals for the English national team. If Wigan is to be successful this year, it is crucial that the 29-year-old have a big year. Wigan narrowly missed out on relegation last season; this season, they probably won’t be so lucky. But it’s okay, Wigan fans are more concerned about their rugby team.

    Titus Bramble was brought in from Newcastle to improve the defence; Newcastle fans have been hoping for years he would leave. Do the math. The Latic defence is not going to be very strong. Accompanying Bramble are captain Mario Melchiot, Andreas Granqvist, Paul Scharner, Ryan Taylor, Fitz Hall, and Emerson Boyce. Chris Kirkland, who has been capped once by England and was a backup at Liverpool for a few years, is the man in front of the net.

    The midfield is expected to be led by Antoine Sibierski and Irish international Kevin Kilbane, who are joined by Jason Koumas, Denny Landzaat, and Antonio Vallencia. Heskey had better score a ton of goals, because otherwise the options are likely slim. Other forwards include Henri Camara, Julius Aghahowa, and Caleb Folan.

    Pretty boring and mediocre to bad team, very boring fans, not much of a history. Not a whole lot to cheer for about this team.

    20. Derby County Rams

    “Yessss!!!! Yessss!!!! Benny! Feilhaber!” The great young American Benny Feilhaber recently signed with newly promoted Derby County. I, personally, am thrilled to see my favourite American player sign with a Premiership side, granted one that everyone expects to finish dead last.

    After they qualified for the Premiership by finishing third in the Championship and winning the promotional playoff, manager Billy Davis and the Rams went on a spending spree trying to get the necessary players. Striker Robert Earnshaw (Norwich) was signed for a club record £3.5 million, and he is joined by new signings defender Tyrone Mears (West Ham), defender Claude Davis (Sheffield United), defender Andy Todd (Blackburn) and a keeper Lewis Price (Ipswich Town). They have also announced plans to expand their stadium to 44,000.

    Joining the three new signees in defence are Darren Moore and James McEveley. Steve Howard and James Fagan are joined by Earnshaw up front. Captain Matthew Oakley and Feilhaber are the ones to watch in the midfield. Joining them are young Giles Barnes, Stephen Pearson, and Gary Teale.

    The Rams have a very proud history, but have fallen on lean times. No offense to any Derby County fans, but the odds are against them for relief this season. On paper, this team doesn’t stand a chance. But, I’m sure some said the same thing about Reading last year, and they ended up eighth.

    Personally, I hope they do stay up. They seem to have great fans, a great history, a good coach, and a great American in young Mr. Feilhaber. It’s a long-shot, but I will be cheering for them throughout the season (except, of course, when they play Liverpool).
  13. Cam

    Cam Uber Dad

    ArkanSooner = Liverpool supporter?
  14. ArkanSooner

    ArkanSooner New Member

    My blood runs Liverpool red....was I too biased? Haha.
  15. Cam

    Cam Uber Dad

    It took two sentences of the Man Utd and Liverpool reviews for me to figure that out. :eek:

    Does that answer your question?
  16. Scott D

    Scott D SoonerFans.com Elite Member

    Now now Cam, his review of the Manc Wanks was far nicer than mine would have been.

    However, since ManU plays a 4-4-1-1 most of the time, it's usually Brown/Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Heinze at the back.
  17. Paperclip

    Paperclip SoonerFans.com Elite Member

    Bad news for ManU today with Rooney breaking his foot.
  18. the-boulder

    the-boulder New Member

    Ark- good write up and review. I think maybe Fulham is a bit high and I would have thought Sunderland was high until I saw them knock off the Spurs. I agree that Liverpool can finish 2nd with all the Chelsea injuries and the players who will leave and player in Africa Cup in January.
  19. Scott D

    Scott D SoonerFans.com Elite Member

    Ahh....counter arguments.

    Chelsea did just fine last year getting minimal contributions from Shevchenko, so his absences won't hurt as much as it could..Ballack and Terry are the ones that as long as they are short term, not as bad. Also, UEFA/FIFA/African Nations don't always see eye to eye on who is playing in what (see the saga of Frederic Kanoute late last season for Sevilla)

    Liverpool, despite what they should and may accomplish, are still managed by Rafael (I get too conservative when it matters) Benitez. I wouldn't at all be surprised if despite the talent they still manage to finish 3rd or 4th.

    As for the Sunderland "Smoggies", Sheffield Wed. started fast last year and look what it got them.
  20. Cam

    Cam Uber Dad


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