Season preview

It’s been 18 years since Liverpool won the Premier League and I honestly believe they have the strength to challenge for the title this year.  I’m not writing off the Arsenal, nor Man U, nor Chelsea, these teams will comprise the top four again, no doubt: merely I am suggesting that Liverpool should have all the resources they need to win the title this year.  And all it took was the addition of one man.

The team with the best defense usually wins the title.  Last season that was Man U and I see no reason for them to drop more than a few goals down the totem pole here.  But drop they will, because this year Liverpool will score at least a few goals against them, I suspect. I’m putting Liverpool’s goals for at about 80, which is 13 more than they scored last year.  It’s a big change, I know, but that’s how much I respect Keane’s ability to put the ball into the net.  I hate they guy, personally, but he’s a good footballer and a great goal poacher.

I also suspect we’ll see more goals from Chelsea with Scolari in charge; he’s not going to force a sea-change at Chelsea, they’ll still be the dirtiest and most despised team that money can buy, but he will have a significant impact on their style and I see Chelsea scoring at least 10 more goals this year than last.  That puts them at 75 goals scored and as long as their old men in defense can handle the added pressure of attacking football they shouldn’t drop too many goals.  But that’s the difficulty with picking Chelsea to win the title: as the team plays a more open style, they will become vulnerable at the back and their defenders will be left exposed.  I know, because that’s exactly what happens to Arsenal.  Can Carvalho and Terry play the role that Gallas and Toure have to do, for a whole season?

And what of Man U, the traditionalists favorite?  They are the same team as they were last year.  Certainly Ronaldo would be a huge distraction on any other team but with Sir Alex Ferguson in charge I would be surprised to hear of even the slightest infighting.  No, the question they have to answer is; can they do it again?  Can they get 15 goals each from Tevez and Rooney and 30 goals from Ronaldo while holding the stingiest defense in the EPL?  It will be a very tough act to follow.

And then there’s Arsenal, we had the trophy in our hands last year and it slipped away in the murky, wet, gray days of spring.  With the tightness of this year’s competitiom, Arsenal cannot afford to ship goals against lesser clubs.  I know, I’m an “arrogant Arsenal” fan for calling clubs like ‘Boro and Birmingham “lesser,” but they are and Arsenal must win most of those matches if they are to have any chance of winning the league.  I think they have the team to do it, too.  If Wenger can keep van Persie healthy, get Rosicky back and keep him healthy, and then add in Eduardo and a few goals from Walcott I don’t think 85 goals is unrealistic.  What I am worried about, and the reason I don’t just straight pick Arsenal for the title, is defense.  Arsenal did not improve that area, in fact most would say they got worse.  I am very concerned with Diaby as the replacement for Flamini, I don’t think he can do the job.  And so, while Arsenal may score 10 more goals they might just also let in 10 more goals than last season, which would keep them firmly in 3rd place: challenging for the title but, without a lot of luck, not likely to take it home.

And so, I’m predicting a 1988/89 type finish, except instead of two clubs super tight at the end, I see all four clubs just one or two points from the title.  Which makes this year’s end of season schedule where matches amongst the big four are crammed in together that much more important.  It will be a test of fire, and the best team will come out on top.  Let’s hope it’s the Arsenal.

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