Tuesday, 31 December 2013

How 2014 Is Shaping Up

- Top of the league going into 2014
- More points than any other team in 2013

Ozil arrived on deadline day for £42m

2013 was:
Great. The year they've rejoined the Premier League's elite and re-established themselves as a major force, now they are sitting pretty at the top of the table having secured more points than any other side over the calendar year. They've also finally got the marquee signing fans had been craving when Mesut Ozil arrived on transfer deadline day in September. The squad is better than it has been, arguably since the Invincibles when the likes of Henry and Vieira were in their pomp and Arsenal now look like legitimate title challengers for the first time since the 2007/08.

2014 will be:
The year they look to secure their first trophy since the 2005 FA Cup. Being knocked out of the League Cup so early on will have irked the fans no end as it was probably their best chance. They are top of the league but only by a point from a strong looking Manchester City who took them apart only a few weeks ago. A daunting tie with Bayern Munich awaits in the Champions League but having won their last year, Arsenal will know if they can knock out the holders they could well go on to win the prize for the first time.

Transfer Window:
They need a striker. Olivier Giroud is not good enough for them and the only alternative Wenger has at his disposal right now is Niklas Bendtner. There's not a whole lot of big name strikers on the market right now and given the fact it took Wenger so long to actually shell out a lot of money on a player which is what he did to get Ozil, don't be surprised if he looks for the cheaper option. Hertha Berlin's Adrian Ramos, leading scorer in the Bundesliga this season would likely fit the bill

Manchester City
- Runners-up in the Premier League and FA Cup.
- Perfect home record in the league in 2013/14.

City are yet another side under new management

2013 was:
Not good. Lost the league title they had spent so much money in wresting from the other half of the city and ended the season without any honours following a shock FA Cup final defeat to Wigan. Steps were taken to correct this immediately. Roberto Mancini was removed from his post within two days and in excess of £100m was spent on strengthening the squad. This season they've looked unstoppable at the Etihad but vulnerable at times on the road. The strength of their squad is what makes them title favourites right now.

2014 will be:
Their first full year as the undisputed dominant force in Manchester. It will also be the first time the fans can look forward to knock-out Champions League action, even if it is a nasty tie with Barcelona awaiting them in February. If they don't end 2014 as Premier League champions at least, they will be very disappointed.

Transfer Window:
Their biggest problem is how different they look defensively when Vincent Kompany is not in the side. Great sides in Premier League history have been built on the foundation of a solid triangle of goalkeeper and two centre backs. Think Schmeichel-Pallister-Bruce, Seaman-Adams-Keown, Cech-Terry-Carvalho, Van Der Sar-Ferdinand-Vidic etc. At the moment City have only one clear element of this in place in their Belgian captain. Sorting out one of the other two positions in January would be start

- Europa League winners and 3rd place in the Premier League in 2012/13
- Only 2 points off the top of the table going into 2014

The Special One came home in June

2013 was:
Pretty vintage. Turmoil and controversy galore,  Fernando Torres not scoring, multiple managers and a trophy. The highlight would probably not be the Europa League victory in Amsterdam but rather the long-awaited second coming of Jose Mourinho a few weeks later. This time however he has not been able to bring instant success. He hasn't got the players he wants at his disposal and it may take him time to build a team this time around. Turns out he is human after all

2014 will be: 
Hopefully, the first since 2010 (when they won the double) and only the second time since 2006 that they can start a year and end the year with the same manager. Mourinho will be given more time than his predecessors owing to his larger than life persona and reputation amongst the fans but he will need to produce trophies. They'll probably win the FA Cup again this year. The Premier League might be slightly out of reach and the Champions League would be a huge ask for any of the English sides right now.

Transfer Window:
This is perhaps the most obvious one. They need a striker. Six league goals between Torres, Ba and Eto'o in the first half of the season is a pathetic return. Hard to know exactly whom Mourinho will look to and it may be hard to find a long-term fix in January. Madrid are unlikely to want to lose Benzema, and Napoli won't be parting with Higuain. Falcao might be an option in the summer but they'd have to break the bank. I think it's unlikely they'll renew their pursuit of Wayne Rooney which took up most of their time and attention during the summer. They seem to be lining up a move for Inter Milan's Fredy Guarin who is another attacking midfielder and exactly what they don't need.

- First season under Martinez after 11 under David Moyes
- In a Champions League place going into 2014

Season salvaged on deadline day

2013 was:
Awesome. They'd reached as far as they could under Moyes and now Roberto Martinez has breathed new life into the club and with the help of some new signings, they are making a real push for Champions League football next year

2014 will be:
Even better I'd imagine as the Martinez era reaches full swing. The whole culture of the club looks very different to a year ago and it's hard to believe they would not continue to prosper greatly in 2014. They'll be fascinating to watch too with the new style of football implemented by Martinez.

Transfer Window:
In the long run, they need to either secure the permanent signatures of Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku or else sign suitable replacements. This may not be a job for January but rather the summer. A more reliable back-up to Lukaku would do in the short term and  they are also pretty lightly resourced at centre half.

- Led the league on Christmas Day 2013
- 11 points better off than one year ago

A relationship that has been put to the test in 2013

2013 was:
Very good. The best calendar year they've had since 2009 probably. They signed two amazing talents in Daniel Sturridge and managed to keep hold of Luis Suarez for a whole year despite his best efforts. Peace seems to have broken out between him and the club after the conflict over the summer. The side looks good at the moment, if a little over dependant on Suarez, and they've a wonderful manager in Brendan Rodgers whom the players and fans seem to have the utmost faith and belief in. The club is in good health right now.

2014 will be:
Getting back into the Champions League having been absent since 2009 would be a huge success for the club and would mark incredible progress. A title challenge is a bit beyond this squad but challenging for the top 4 is a viable aim. Hanging on to Luis Suarez for the entire year would be as big a result for them. His recent new contract and rumours of a get-out clause would indicate he might be off in the summer. The inevitable huge cash windfall if and when it comes must be invested wisely by Rodgers.

Transfer window:
There's no danger of Suarez leaving in January so additions will be the main focus for Brendan Rodgers. Another winger might not go amiss. Word is he intended to buy a new number 10 during the summer but did not for whatever reason so he may look to rectify that this time around. The defence is leaking goals at an alarming rate so could do with being beefed up. He may have to clear some names off the wage bill first though.

Manchester United
- Won their 20th title in April
- Have not been in the top 4 since August

Rooney stole the headlines this year

2013 was:
Forgettable and unforgettable in equal measures. United secured their 20th Premier League title with ease in April but just two weeks later news broke of Sir Alex Ferguson's impending retirement and the club was left facing the inevitable scenario, prolonged for some time now, of life without English football's greatest ever manager. David Moyes was always going to have a difficult job and the transitional period so far has been tough for United. Rooney wanted to leave, they were embarrassed in the transfer market and have struggled in the league so far, currently languishing in sixth place.

2014 will be:
Tough and far from vintage. United won't challenge for the title. Not without Cristiano Ronaldo and a Roy Keane-esque dynamic central midfielder showing up at Carrington in January. Qualifying for the Champions League is now the aim along with maybe a cup competition to give Moyes a trophy in his first season. The importance of Wayne Rooney to this side has become more and more evident over the last four months. If he's still a United player at the end of 2014 he will probably be one for life. If he hasn't signed a new contract by the summer, he'll be wearing different colours this time next year.

Transfer window:
The squad needs a bit of an overhaul but that's probably more of a summer project than a January one. For now a box-to-box centre midfielder would appease the fans and help the team fight back into the top 4. The type of player they should have targeted in the summer. I don't think another window spent chasing Leighton Baines is the answer right now although David Moyes may disagree.

- Received a world record fee for Gareth Bale in August.
- Spent £107m on seven new players during the summer

Levy hasn't been far from the headlines all year

2013 was:
The end of Gareth Bale's time at White Hart Lane, Spurs' talisman departed for Madrid a season earlier than most people expected for a fee no one really expected of £86m after a very prolonged transfer saga. This was after they had missed out on Champions League football for the third year running, once again having been in the top 4 for a good chunk of the season and they've ended the year in disarray somewhat with the sacking of Andre Vilas-Boas and the appointment of Tim Sherwood as manager.

2014 will be:
It's hard to tell. Already they look much more adventurous and attack minded under the new manager so hopefully that continues. If Sherwood even lasts until next season. Hopes of a title challenge have long since evaporated but they are still going very strong in the Europa League and given the unpredictability of this season so far, I wouldn't write them out of contention for the top 4 just yet.

Transfer Window:
Unlikely to be very interesting. Having just spent over £100m this summer on new recruits, the chances of Sherwood being given further cash to bolster his squad in January seems highly unlikely

- Finished 16th in 2012/13
- Now 8th, 4 points off 4th

Newcastle's talisman Yohan Cabaye

2013 was:
Very mixed. The year began with them on a Europa League run that would end in the quarter finals and a very real flirtation with relegation following heavy home defeats to Liverpool and bitter rivals Sunderland. Summer and Autumn brought unrest from the fans as Mike Ashley hired Joe Kinnear in a director of football role. On the pitch results have picked up since August and the drama surrounding Cabaye's potential departure. Newcastle are one of the in-form teams in the league right now, sitting in 8th place just four points off the Champions League.

2014 will be:
Interesting. The club has been very unpredictable for the past few years. This has ranged from relegation in 2009 to near-Champions League qualification in 2012. It seems they are on an upward trajectory once again and stability at a good level would be something to aim for in 2014.

Transfer Window:
Holding onto Yohan Cabaye for the month of January would be a success for them. Even if Arsenal don't renew their interest, Man United and PSG among others look to be lining up the midfielder. Elsewhere it's up to self-proclaimed transfer window expert Joe Kinnear to work his magic and bring in some new faces.

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