Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Post Transfer Deadline Power Rankings

While the transfer window is exciting for fans, it can get a bit much at times. Particularly when your club is involved in deals that go right down to the final minutes. I'm glad it's over now and we can focus on the football till January. Anyway, here is my take on the 20 Premier League clubs as we head into the international break:

20th: Sunderland 

I'm really not a fan of Paolo Di Canio and he is endearing himself to the general public less and less as time goes on. His very public criticism of Ji Dong-Won after the defeat to Palace was something that really should happen in the inner sanctum of the dressing room and not in a post-match interview. Slating the player so publicly will accomplish nothing. This erratic behaviour is real cause for concern for Sunderland fans. Right now I'd say there's a very slim chance of Di Canio still being in charge at the end of the season, it's just a case of how much damage he does before his departure. Knowing his character, he's just as likely to quit in a furious rage brought on by a wayward John O'Shea pass in training than anything.

Honeymoon period definitely over for Di Canio

19th: West Brom

My tip as a team that could potentially challenge the top 6 this year have run Sunderland really close for bottom spot this week. So far this season they haven't won a game or scored a goal and have managed only 4 shots on target over the 3 games. Add to this Nicolas Anelka's sudden retirement and return (bound to upset the camp) and West Brom does not look like a happy place to be right now. Getting Lukaku back on loan would have been great for them but that didn't happen. Steve Clarke has a big couple of months ahead of him now.

18th:  Crystal Palace

Yeah they won this weekend and have brought in more players than anyone in the transfer window but they aren't nearly good enough for this division. To be fair the hierarchy at the club appreciate this and aren't going to overspend and laden the club with huge debt upon their return to the Championship next year. They have taken a very pragmatic approach to this stint in the Premier League. Take the money, live within our means and help the club to grow. I do think they got promoted too soon to make a real fist of things and if they do go down this year they will return soon, much better equipped to make a real fist of things.

17th: Newcastle

Might be a little strange for a team with 4 points out of 9 to be languishing so low in these rankings but Newcastle seem to me like a club in turmoil right now. They looked to be completely devoid of confidence on Saturday against Fulham, a mood shared by both fans and players. The reaction to Yohan Cabaye's appearance really summarised the general feeling of unhappiness around Newcastle at the moment. With the squad they have Newcastle should be aiming to break back into the top 6 as they did in 2012. But taking a realistic look at it, that's about as likely to happen as Mike Ashley being given they key to the city.

16th: Fulham

Every year there is one team you don't expect to get drawn into a relegation fight. Fulham have done some great business in the window bringing in Scott Parker, Taarabt and Darren Bent but they need to wake up and start realising this obvious potential sooner rather than later. I'm sure they will. Despite having what must be the laziest attacking force in football in Berbatov, Bent and Taarabt.

Wake up soon please Dimitar

15th: Cardiff

The win against Man City was fine but Cardiff have bigger (or more relevant) challenges ahead. The fate of teams like Cardiff, expecting to be in the bottom half, is more often than not determined by their record against the teams around them. Anything they get against the top teams is a welcome bonus. Keeping Frazier Campbell fit for the season will be key. I like him. Hope he can establish himself as a Premier League striker this season.

Also I have to say I hate the way they wear red now. It's wrong.

14th: Swansea

The biggest thing for Swansea this year will be how they handle the Thursday/Sunday routine brought on by involvement in the Europa league. We've seen it be the undoing of Stoke, Fulham and Newcastle in reason years. Michael Laundrup had better hope he has a squad capable of meeting these demands. So far they've done OK but the Europa games haven't exactly been taxing.

13th: Stoke

Ugh. I hate Stoke. There's nothing appealing about Stoke. Less so now that Stephen Ireland is there. And the worst part about it is they look like they probably won't have the decency to get relegated this season either. Boring. Efficient. Here to stay.

12th: West Ham

Home defeats to Stoke are generally not recommended. They strengthened the squad quite a bit earlier in the summer with the purchases of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing but the lack of any sort of activity come deadline day was surprising. Right now they look like a typically sound mid-table team which is respectable I guess. I'm sure the fans would rather be challenging for Europe. They have the players to cause problems for some of the teams above them no doubt.

11th: Southampton

The hipster's choice in the Premier League this year. They have done big business in the window and its good to see a club aiming higher than just mid-table. They will probably be slightly disappointed with results so far but have some very winnable home games coming up which are chances to put some points on the board and create some momentum going into the winter months. Follow Norwich's blueprint from last year is what I would recommend. Although try and avoid tailing off in the spring the way they did. I really rate Pochettino as a manager and I don't think Southampton will do any worse than safe mid-table this year. How long it takes Pablo Osvaldo to find his form in the league will be vital to their hopes. Aside from looking like Johnny Depp, apparently he's actually quite a decent footballer too.

The day you almost signed Captain Jack Sparrow... except you did

10th: Norwich

I like Norwich. They have the potential to do really well this year. Nathan Redmond looks like a very talented player indeed. I was more impressed with 'The Bouncer' Leroy Fer on Saturday. A good strong presence in the midfield who can break up play and turn defence into attack in an instant. I do however wish Hughton would be a bit more adventurous. He seems to take a pragmatic approach rather than an adventurous one. I wish he'd pick a more attacking line-up, perhaps utilizing the talents of Wes Holohan and Anthony Pilkington in ways that Giovanni Trappatoni refuses to.

9th: Hull

Go Tigers! Maybe it's because I've seen Hull live twice already this season but I've been more impressed with them than most other teams. Robbie Brady seems to be the most creative player in their ranks which is encouraging for Irish fans. A potential link-up with Shane Long was also rumoured late on deadline day but failed to materialize for whatever reasons. Elsewhere Hull have some vital Premier League experience in Curtis Davies, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore. Combined with the goalkeeping capabilities of Alan McGregor, goal threat of Sone Aluko and the creativity of Brady, Hull should be fine this year. Interesting to see how they do against the lower teams. It's fine losing bravely to City, you're not expected to get anything from trips to Manchester, you are expected however to beat the likes of Crystal Palace and Cardiff at home. Coincidently, its the red-clad Bluebirds up next at the KC Stadium.

Brady: Tekkers

8th: Aston Villa

With an opening three games consisting of trips to Arsenal and Chelsea plus a home game to Liverpool, you wouldn't really be surprised if Villa were still on zero points. As it is they have three, courtesy of a fortunate yet efficient win at the Emirates on opening day. This was followed with 'brave losses' to both Liverpool and Chelsea were the general consensus was that they perhaps deserved a point out of the trip to Chelsea and definitely should have got something out of the game with Liverpool. Next up is a home tie with Newcastle. A game that will tell a lot more about the potential of this Villa side than any of the previous three. Overall though, I think the early signs are positive and Villa won't have anything like the season they had last year.

7th: Everton

Surprisingly still winless (or undefeated if you're a glass half-full kind of person), Martinez has the side playing good football and undoubtedly the goals will follow, particularly now that Romelu Lukaku has been added to the ranks for the season. Throw in Gareth Barry and James McCarthy, retain Leighton Baines and Everton suddenly look a lot stronger than they did 24 hours ago. They have come out of this transfer window with a lot of credibility and I have the utmost respect for them for refusing to be bullied by United over the Baines and Fellaini saga. From an Irish point of view I'm delighted James McCarthy is back in the Premier League and at a great club too. Everton are revelling in their new era it seems unlike another North-West club...

Replacing Fellaini took all of five minutes

6th: Manchester United

There has been a complete culture change at United over the summer and it all seems a little strange. I won't say much here about the off field activity over the past few months, it's all here if you would be so kind as to give it a read too: http://deeplyingplaymakers.blogspot.ie/2013/09/sheer-incompetence-and-broken-promises.html

On the pitch United looked absolutely toothless against Liverpool on Sunday. Never once looked like scoring and rarely even looked like they wanted to. Not the sort of attitude required when you're losing to your fiercest rivals. I don't know why Moyes is persisting with Ryan Giggs in his first choice XI. I don't know why he dropped Valencia for the game at Anfield, I thought he was one of the better players from the draw with Chelsea. There's a lot going on at the club right now that doesn't make any sense to me.


5th: Tottenham

It will take a few months before we see the new-look Spurs I showered with praise recently in full effect. I didn't expect them to beat Arsenal on Sunday and for their sake I hope the derby defeat does not dampen morale too much. Spurs fans have every reason to be excited about the future. Lamela will be a quality signing and definitely prove himself worthy of the hefty price tag. Having a developed Andros Townsend is like another new signing too. After nine loan spells away from the club it's great to see him get a chance at Spurs, and with England too. Spurs look good. Probably still weakest in defence but AVB is building a team here, potentially capable of great things. It will take time.

4th: Arsenal

What an amazing difference a few weeks can make. The situation looked bleak just two weeks ago when they collapsed at home to Villa on the opening day. Fast forward fifteen days they've signed a defensive midfielder in Flamini, beaten their nearest rivals Spurs and smashed their transfer record  to sign a bonafide world superstar in Mesut Ozil, something I never thought I would see Wenger do.

Make no mistake about it.. he's class! His mate ain't bad either

Going forward now, Arsenal look menacing. Walcott is playing really well and Giroud is scoring for fun (in London anyway). There's also Cazorla, Wilshire and Arteta three extremely creative players, and Aaron Ramsey finally looking like the player that convinced Wenger to battle Fergie for his soul in 2008. Add Ozil in there at the number 10 slot and Arsenal will be better to watch than ever this season.

But, there's always a but, the defence is still a problem. Flamini is fine but not the enforcing presence Arsenal have been crying out for. Mertesacker at the back too is particularly suspect. Signing Ozil will appease the fans no end but I don't think the real problem area has been addressed. They need some defensive muscle.

3rd: Manchester City

We may have jumped the gun in praising City lavishly after they destroyed Newcastle on the opening day. They have not looked like world-beaters at all since then. Never more so than on Saturday at home to Hull. Had Sone Aluko been able to finish a simple chance and Danny Graham timed his run a half second better, City would have been 0-2 down after 15 minutes and we would have been looking at a totally different game altogether. As it was they got the rub of the green and Negredo came off the bench to spare them dropping needless home points. I'm a big fan of Negredo. If I was Pellegrini I'd be starting him as the focal point of that attack with Aguero just behind.

Supersub Negredo 

One thing I noticed on Saturday was that practically every City attack was coming down the right hand side. This isolated David Silva a bit over on the opposite flank and he tended to drift inside more and more looking for the ball. Perhaps playing with two out and out wingers would be more prudent for City as it would stretch defences more and create more openings for Aguero, Negredo and Toure to find in the middle. Jovetic on the left wing maybe?

2nd: Liverpool

They haven't played particularly well at all but as the only team with a 100% record and having been particularly active in the transfer market, Liverpool can't be ignored when it comes to this list.

This won't last of course. They are not title contenders by any stretch of the imagination, the squad isn't nearly strong enough. Outplayed by Villa for 45 minutes last week and fortunate to come up against one of the flattest United sides I can remember has seen them pick up some bonus wins.

Keeping Luis Suarez may be the best bit of business they've done all summer or it may be the worst. He's a ridiculously talented player there's no doubt about it. But right now they are winning games without him and Danny Sturridge is the form striker in the country and busy proving that he's every bit as good as he has claimed for years now. Could a returning Suarez upset this balance and the harmony the team now seems to be enjoying? Its up to Rodgers to play this smart and make sure this is not the case. Time will tell if he's up to the job. One way or another having a talent like Luis Suarez at your disposal is hardly a bad thing.

Sturridge is the main man at Anfield right now

1st: Chelsea

The clear best team in the division right now and only real candidate for top spot in the list. They have arguably the best squad, definitely the best manager and have 7 points out of 9 with the trip to Old Trafford out of they way. Things are looking good.

Mourinho came back to England this year under the pretence that he had mellowed and was there as a mentor and a friend to all the other managers. It took about 3 days for this facade to slip and now he's back to his old tricks. One thing he did brilliantly last time around at Chelsea was to create a siege mentality at the club. A case of 'everyone against us'. It serves to unite the squad better. His comments about UEFA victimising him were absolute rubbish. He doesn't even believe that. He's too smart to. His aim is to create the feeling amongst Chelsea players and fans that everyone is out to get them in the hope that this will inspire a togetherness and determination to succeed 'against the odds'. Odds that are of course non-existent.

You miss me? Mourinho is already up to his old tricks

I think Chelsea will win the league this year. Purely because they will drop the fewest number of points out of 'the big three'. History shows that the side that does this tends to win the league. Shocking.

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