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Tag Archives: Premier League

who was the 2012/2013 Premier League’s most prolific striker?

The 2012/2013 season has now come to a close and it was a season of many goals and many great goals at that. With fantastic strikers in abundance, almost every team in the Premier League can boast of having one of the best strikers in the League. So the question remains who was the most prolific striker in the 2012/2013 Premier League season?

Here are the statistics. (5 goals minimum)

Player Apps Shots Goals Conversion Rate
Hernandez

9(13)

44

10

22.73

Le Fondre

11(23)

55

12

21.82

Podolski

25(8)

54

11

20.37

Fletcher

28

55

11

20.00

Berbatov

32(1)

81

15

18.52

Van Persie

35(3)

141

26

18.44

Benteke

32(2)

104

19

18.27

Lukaku

20(15)

97

17

17.53

Long

25(9)

48

8

16.67

Michu

35

110

18

16.36

Crouch

28(6)

43

7

16.28

Walcott

24(8)

87

14

16.09

Lambert

35(3)

94

15

15.96

Sturridge

12(9)

70

11

15.71

Pogrebnyak

26(3)

33

5

15.15

Holt

28(6)

53

8

15.09

Dzeko

16(16)

94

14

14.89

Hazard

31(3)

63

9

14.29

Rooney

22(5)

86

12

13.95

Aguero

22(8)

86

12

13.95

Walters

38

59

8

13.56

Bale

33

165

21

12.73

Suarez

33

187

23

12.30

Kone

32(2)

92

11

11.96

Adebayor

18(7)

42

5

11.90

Torres

28(8)

68

8

11.76

Demba Ba

30(4)

135

15

11.11

Tevez

28(6)

105

11

10.48

Giroud

24(10)

107

11

10.28

Defoe

27(7)

108

11

10.19

Cisse

35(1)

86

8

9.30

Anichebe

19(7)

65

6

9.23

Carroll

22(4)

81

7

8.64

Jelavic

26(11)

85

7

8.24

Di Santo

24(11)

65

5

7.69

 

So here we have it, statistically with a goals to shot ratio of 22.73%, Javier Hernandez is the Premier League’s most prolific striker. However when you delve deeper into the Mexican’s season, you will see he has only started 9 Premier League games this season. So whilst 10 goals from 9 starts is commendable, 4 of those goals actually came from his 13 substitute appearances. So to call Hernandez the Premier League’s most prolific striker when he has barely played this season may not be a fair reflection.

So, we go to the next person on the list who is also somewhat of a ‘super sub’, Reading’s Adam Le Fondre. Le Fondre’s 12 goals were unable to keep Reading in the Premier League and astonishingly 8 of Le Fondre’s Premier League goals came from the bench, the most in the Premier League this season. So again I don’t think its justified on giving the award of ‘most prolific striker’ to somebody who barely starts a game.

So what I have done now is set a criterion of starting at least 20 games before you can be deemed as the Premier League’s most prolific striker. So that brings us to Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski who fits the criteria having started 25 games this season. The experienced German who is in his first season in the Premier League has played most of the season in a wide left role; however his contribution of 11 goals earns him a place on this list. A conversion rate of 20.37% means Podolski is the Premier League’s most prolific striker, scoring just over 1 in 5 of his chances on goal. Arsenal will be hoping Podolski can build on this promising goal scoring start and carry it in to next season.

Statistically Franco Di Santo is the Premier League’s least prolific striker who has scored 5 goals or more. Wigan Athletic’s Di Santo only managed to score 5 goals from his 65 shots on goal this term, not giving much support to his striking partner Arouna Kone, who had an impressive start to English football, scoring 11 goals in 32 starts. No doubt Premier League clubs will be taking an interest in him during the summer, not so much in Franco Di Santo.

Out of the Premier League newbies to score 5 or more goals this season, Le Fondre and Podolski lead the way in terms of conversion rates, with Benteke closely behind on 18.27%. Benteke’s 19 goals this term has already triggered interest all around Europe and Aston Villa will do well to keep hold of the young Belgian for next term. Another impressive newbie was Michu, who’s 18 goals showed that you don’t need to splash the cash to find quality in front of goal, Michu costing Swansea just £2m. Olivier Giroud had a slow start to English football after his summer move from Montpellier, but Arsenal will be satisfied with his 11 goal return, however will hope his 10.28% conversion rate will improve next season. Ricky Lambert has received plaudits and calls for an England cap as his first season in Premier League football secured him 14 goals, with a 16.09% conversion rate.

The top 3 goal scorers in the Premier League, Van Persie, Suarez and Bale all had the most shots on goal this season. Suarez with 187, Bale with 165 and Van Persie with 141. All 3 of these players are not renowned for being poachers, their shots on goal tally may be high, but as well as being provided with chances from their teammates, they also make their own chances and score many individual goals.

As you can see, with Manchester United having 2 players in the top 6 of the conversion table, they have simply been far more prolific than Manchester City, and anybody else for that matter this season. Manchester City’s most prolific striker was Eden Dzeko with 14.89%, only two places higher than Manchester United’s least prolific striker, who was Wayne Rooney with 13.95%. Disappointing seasons from both Aguero (13.95%) and Tevez (10.48%), who only managed to muster 23 goals between them this season compared to last season when Aguero scored 23 goals by himself alone, with contributions from Balotelli, Dzeko and Tevez.

For honourable mentions, the most prolific goal scoring midfielders table is below.

Player Apps Shots Goals Conversion Rate
Lampard

29

80

15

18.75

Agbonlahor

28

48

9

18.75

Mata

35

70

12

17.14

Hazard

34

63

9

14.29

Nolan

35

78

10

12.82

Fellaini

31

90

11

12.22

Sessegnon

35

59

7

11.86

Weimann

30

62

7

11.29

Cazorla

38

115

12

10.43

Toure

32

69

7

10.14

Dempsey

29

70

7

10.00

Gerrard

36

93

9

9.68

 

Thanks for reading.

Follow @lewbob91 on Twitter

Arsenal Season Review Part I – Defensive Analysis

Finally after celebrating what felt like a title victory, it suddenly hit home that we had only finished fourth. However at the start of the season, I don’t think many people could have foreseen anything more. Our fantastic run towards the end of the season, really did save face and covered up many cracks in what has been an ultimately disappointing season as an Arsenal fan. However the end run has left us reeling in excitement for next season, finally feeling optimistic about the clubs future.

Second best defence in the league, and haven’t conceded a goal in open play for 9 games since Hal Robson Kanu scored against us at the end of March, certainly sounds very rosy. However early season defensive naivety certainly cost us dear in pursuing anything higher than fourth place. This article will analyse our season in the Premier League defensively, commenting on everything from the goalkeepers, to set pieces, giving statistics as well as my own opinion on our shortcomings, achievements and things to improve on for next season.

Renewed competition or a new number one still needed?

In a season where Szczesny, Mannone and Fabianski have all had at least one run in the team, the jury is still out as to whether we actually have a keeper at the club who is ready to be part of a title winning team. Szczesny undoubtedly has the potential, but at the tender age of 23, who in goalkeeping years is still a baby; mistakes still manage to creep in at vital times. Fabianski came in to replace Szczesny before getting injured and the layoff seems to have worked wonders for Szczesny who has reclaimed his number one spot again. The big question is whether Wenger should bring in an older more experienced keeper to help groom Szczesny’s future. Goalkeepers generally peak at about 27/28, so when you see a young keeper like Szczesny who is only 23, claim the number one spot without any real competition, complacency is bound to creep into a young man’s game, which we saw earlier on in the season.

Starts C/S Win % Conceded p/game
Szczesny 25 10 56 0.96
Fabianski 4 1 100 0.75
Mannone 9 3 33.3 1.22

As our defensive displays improved towards the end of the season, as did the keepers statistics. Fabianski’s run in the team produced 4 wins out of 4 and after getting injured, Szczesny kept the run going with 4 wins from the last 6, making it 10 games unbeaten, keeping 4 clean sheets along the way, making his tally go to 10 clean sheets for the season. The start of the season saw Mannone in goal, who to be fair made some fantastic saves however a few mistakes cost us a few points. Fabianski and Mannone hardly fill you with confidence when you see their names on the team sheet and I think we may have seen these two play their last games in an Arsenal shirt, as Wenger will look to bring in a new keeper to challenge and tutor Szczesny.

The Sagna situation

There can be no doubts about how great a player Bacary Sagna has been for us ever since he joined the club in 2007, establishing himself as one of the best right backs in the world. However in the last two seasons, especially this one, Sagna has found himself scrutinised for poor performances as well as concerns over his commitment to the club. On his day Sagna is still a fantastic right back and among the best, but too many times this season we have seen a Sagna who’s mind maybe elsewhere, and with his contract due to end at the end of next season and no deal being put in place, it could well be that Arsenal will have a new first choice right back next season.

The obvious person to replace Sagna would be Carl Jenkinson who many will say was unlucky to lose his place to Sagna after an impressive start to the season. Jenkinson has clearly come on leaps and bounds this season and silenced critics with great improvements defensively.

Starts C/S Win % Conceded p/game Games v Top 7
Sagna 24 8 62.5 1.08 8
Jenkinson 14 6 42.8 0.78 4

Both Sagna and Jenkinson had sustained runs in the team. Jenkinson’s run came at the start of the season whilst Sagna was injured and was part of an Arsenal defence who found it easy to keep clean sheets in the beginning, but the team weren’t winning enough games.  Jenkinson then lost his place to Sagna, where  we started to win more games but conceded more along the way. It came at a time where Arsenal was going through an inconsistent phase through the season. Arsenal this season have only lost 3 games in which Sagna has started, Sagna having the highest win % ratio of any player in the Arsenal team bar Monreal and Rosicky. The statistics show that even though individually Sagna may not have had the best of seasons, he is a vital element of a winning Arsenal team. Wenger will have to work hard to keep Sagna at the club, or look for a suitable replacement, as it still could be too soon for a Carl Jenkinson full season.

Gibbs v Monreal

When both players are fit, Wenger seems to prefer Gibbs over Monreal, but I suppose that has a lot to do with Monreal’s adjustment period to the Premier League, going with Gibbs who has far more Premier League experience than Monreal. However next season the Gibbs v Monreal debate could prove to be quite intriguing. Here we have two very different left backs, one being very quick, athletic and willing to bust a gut to get forward, and another who is more tactile, methodical and technical. Different opponents could suit different players, but at the moment I don’t think a single Arsenal fan would disagree with Gibbs as being the most improved player at the club this season and very worthy of being the first choice left back at the club.

Starts C/S Win % Conceded p/game Games v Top 7 Goals Assists
Gibbs 23 8 52.1 1.04 9 0 3
Monreal 9 5 88.9 0.55 1 1 1

The statistics show Monreal’s impressive start to his Arsenal career, with 8 wins in his 9 appearances this season. However against Spurs he showed the he hasn’t yet acclimatised to the speed of English football yet, which is why in more recent games against top 7 teams, Wenger has decided to go with Gibbs. From the left hand side we look far better offensively than we do with our right full backs, with both Gibbs and Monreal chipping in with goals and assists. All in all a very nice problem for Wenger to have next season down the left hand side.

World class Kosc

I’ve been saying since last season that Koscielny needs to be the first name on the team sheet. The man is immense and is naturally one of the best defenders I have ever seen. Quick, strong, agile, a striker rarely gets the better of Koscielny, as RVP found out this season. It is no coincidence that our improved defensive record towards the end of the season came about as Koscielny was a regular starter.

Starts C/S Win % Conceded p/game Games v Top 7
Koscielny 20 7 55 0.85 6

All in all the statistics don’t paint a mind blowing picture of Koscielny’s role in the side this season. But upon closer reflection when you consider that Arsenal have only lost twice whilst Koscielny has started this season, you have to wonder how Wenger managed to keep Koscielny out of the team for half the season. Koscielny could be the one world class player we could lose this summer, hopefully Wenger will do enough to keep him to ward off interest from top clubs who will inevitably enquiring about Laurent.

Dependable Mert

A lot of Non-Arsenal fans as well as Arsenal fans still have their reservations about the BFG, still too slow, still not mobile enough, still a liability. I was one of those people up until about mid-way through last season. Mertesacker’s positional prowess and sense of awareness is remarkable and when partnered suitably, has proved he really is up there with the Premier League’s best.

Starts C/S Win % Conceded p/game Games v Top 7
Mertesacker 33 14 60.6 0.9 12

Unlike Koscielny, these set of statistics do paint a great picture for Mertesacker, and show how much of an important factor Mertesacker has been to Arsenal having the second best defensive record in the Premier League.

Vulnerable Vermaelen

The normally dependable Vermaelen has had his poorest season to date since signing for Arsenal. With many individual errors creeping into his game, the captain has since lost his place in team. Vermaelen made the most individual errors leading to goals for any outfielder in the Premier League this season (3).

Starts at CB C/S Win % Conceded p/game Games v Top 7
Vermaelen 23 6 56.5 1.26 8

On his day I’m a great fan of Vermaelen, the passion he shows from match to match is unrivalled. I just feel however that sometimes that same passion, that desire to do so well, hinders his game and this is where mistakes start to happen. Vermaelen’s leadership skills are unquestionable, however his displays of late mean he longer gets away with playing just because he is the club captain. Not a bad back up centre half to have though, however will that spur Vermaelen on to get his place back or will he look to go elsewhere for regular football.

The Unbeatable partnership

After starting 15 games together in the Premier League this season, Koscielny and Mertesacker remain unbeaten as a pair this season. An incredible feat which features 9 wins and 6 draws with only 9 goals conceded. 5 of those 15 games came against sides in the top 7. Surely this partnership is key to Arsenal’s title chances next season, if Koscielny and Mertesacker can keep fit and maintain their impressive form, Arsenal defensively could be a force to be reckoned with next season.

Starts C/S Win % Conceded p/game Games v top 7
Verm/Kosc 5 0 80 1.8 2
Verm/Mert 17 6 58.8 1.12 5
Mert/Kosc 15 7 60 0.6 5

The partnership of Vermaelen and Mertesacker doesn’t fill me with confidence, despite having a good win % ratio. Vermaelen certainly doesn’t bring out the best in Mertesacker like Koscielny does. Whilst Koscielny and Vermaelen on paper would be a dream partnership, it just doesn’t seem to click. Maybe because they are too similar to each other and both want to play as the ball winner, whereas Mertesacker plays as a covering centre back allowing either Koscielny or Vermaelen to be the ball winner. If Wenger can keep hold of both Koscielny and Vermaelen and add a decent 4th choice centre back to the ranks, then Arsenal will have a good crop of defenders to choose from.

Arteta’s influence

Mikel Arteta has been an integral part of Arsenal defence ever since he joined the club in 2011. Arteta’s presence is sorely missed every time he is injured and is probably the only man in the squad, except possibly Cazorla, who is guaranteed to be on the team sheet. When Arteta came off midway through the first half against Newcastle, we all felt the loss in midfield, and shows how important he is to the team that Wenger would start him knowing that he was nowhere near fit.

Starts C/S Win % Conceded p/games Games v top 7
With Arteta 34 14 58.8 0.88 9
Without Arteta 4 0 25 1.75 3

Although Arteta was only missing for 4 games this season, the absence was key; winning only 1 of those 4 games he was missing, conceding 7 goals. Next season will probably see the introduction of a new DM, relieving an ageing Arteta from playing almost every single game, giving Arteta the role of playing in games where we have to be formidable defensively. Having Arteta as a defensive option coming on from the bench would be fantastic, as well as having the option to playing 2 defensive midfielders in games we need to.

Midfielder’s defensive contribution

Starts C/S Win % Conceded p/games Games v top 7
Ramsey (as CM) 18 7 66.6 0.72 4
Wilshere 20 6 55 1.2 8
Rosicky 7 3 85.7 0.57 1
Coquelin 3 0 33.3 2 1
Diaby 10 5 40 0.6 4

Above are the statistics of all the players who have played as the two more defensive central midfielders this season, Cazorla not included as he normally plays as a CAM or out wide. The one player who really does stand out is Aaron Ramsey. Whether you think he is good enough or not, you can’t deny Ramsey’s outstanding record whilst in the team this season when playing through the middle. Out of his 18 games started through the middle, Arsenal have only suffered 2 defeats and conceded only 13 goals.

The trio of Rosicky, Ramsey and Arteta have certainly been a major part of Arsenal’s strong finish defensively. Rosicky has been absolutely outstanding towards the end of the season, instrumental in 6 wins and with some fantastic eye catching individual performances, notably the games against Manchester United at home and Bayern Munich away. If only we could keep him fit for the whole season.

Speaking of another injury prone central midfielder, Abou Diaby started off brightly before injury once again wrecked his season, sadly for the last time in my opinion, as I can’t see Diaby returning in an Arsenal shirt after this latest injury. Diaby’s contribution earlier on in the season defensively was there for everybody to see, when fit Diaby has to play. When Diaby came off against Chelsea after 17 minutes at the Emirates earlier on in this season, you could see the hole that had been left from his absence. A new defensive midfielder in a Diaby mould (just less injury prone) would do Arsenal wonders next season and would aid Arteta greatly.

This season saw the return of Jack Wilshere and whilst his defensive stats may not look that impressive, Arsenal fans know that Wilshere’s greatest talents lie going forward. However with the trio of Rosicky, Ramsey and Arteta doing so well, the latest absence of Wilshere hasn’t been felt at all. This leaves Wenger with a nice problem next season in terms of finding the right balance in midfield with so many options available to him. Personally I feel Wilshere’s best position is playing as the attacking midfielder of the 3 in the centre, the role in which Rosicky has been occupying in recent weeks.

Improved Set Pieces

We have earned ourselves a stereotype of being poor at defending set plays. Over the past few years Arsenal haven’t covered themselves in glory, even the laziest journalists and armchair supporters know that Arsenal in recent history have been weak at defending set plays. However the introduction of Oliver Giroud in defending corners and free kicks have seen radical improvements. With Giroud on the pitch I feel so comfortable with defending corners and free kicks, so much so that when he doesn’t play I get nervous every time the opposition gets a set play The statistics certainly support that, whilst Giroud has been on the pitch Arsenal have only conceded 2 goals from corners and 1 goal from an indirect free kick. Arsenal in total have only conceded 3 goals from corners and 3 goals from indirect free kicks this season, 2 of them coming in the same match against Chelsea at home (incidentally Giroud was not on the pitch at the time). 6 goals conceded from set plays in total, a further 2 were conceded from direct free kicks, surely must be down to the influence of Steve Bould and the presence of Oliver Giroud, who seems to be a ball magnet when the ball is in the air.

Areas for concern

It’s easy to look at the last day of the season and get carried away with the proceedings, at the end of the day we still finished 4th in the League and the last 10 games of the League season really did paper over the cracks of the 28 games previous to that. Hopefully we are beginning to learn from the mistakes that almost deprived us of Champions League football next season.

Individual errors cost us dearly this season, only Liverpool conceded more goals from individual errors this season than us according to @orbinho. 10 goals conceded from individual errors, as well as 5 goals conceded from penalties, in the early part of the season we certainly had ourselves to blame for dropped points. If we are to challenge for the title next season we really do need to cut down the individual errors and give away less penalties, 7 in total were conceded this season.

Our defensive records against the top 7 must also improve. In games against Chelsea (A), Liverpool (H), City (H), Spurs (A) and United (A) we went 2 goals down, which is completely unacceptable if you want to challenge for titles. Winning games against the top 7 is hard enough without giving them early 2-0 leads.  Only in 3 out of the 12 League games against top 7 sides did we take the lead, against Everton (A), Liverpool (A) and United (H). 59% of the goals we concede occur in the first half.

Another area of concern would be our knack of conceding goals just before the half time whistle. We’ve conceded 10 goals in the 30-45 minute time zone this season, either allowing the opponent to take a half time lead or to go in level after scoring first. These lapses in concentration have been costly this season in terms of giving the opponent momentum.

A persistent problem in the early part of the season was the defensive structure when we were being counter attacked. Statistically we only conceded 3 goals from counter attacks this season, however it could have been far more if the opposition in some games had been more clinical. In recent games it has been less of a problem since defensive structure has improved from front to back, however the game against United showed we can still be vulnerable on the counter attack. Something for Wenger to work on.

All in all I think Steve Bould has a lot to be proud of in his first season as Arsenal assistant manager. As we know Arsene Wenger isn’t exactly the most defensive orientated coach and you can certainly see the influence of Bould in this latest Arsenal defensive structure. Some of the goals we were conceding in the early and middle part of the season would’ve made Bould pull his hair out, if he had any to pull out of course. We seem to be defending more as a team now, the midfield are  doing their job, no doubt the influence of Rosicky in there who has been a colossus towards the end of the season has aided that. When the midfield is doing their job, it gives the defence confidence and relief, thus alleviating the possibilities of individual errors, that we saw so many of in the first 2/3’s of the season.

Below is a table of our top defensive performers in different categories this season. (Stats taken from whoscored.com)

1st 2nd 3rd
Interceptions p/game Arteta (2.9) Monreal (2.5) Gibbs (2.4)
Tackles p/game Arteta (3.2) Gibbs (2.8) Jenkinson (2.3)
Clearances p/game Koscielny (4.9) Mertesacker (4.8) Vermaelen (4.5)
Blocked shots p/game Vermaelen (0.7) Mertesacker (0.6) Koscielny (0.4)
Offsides won p/game Koscielny (1.3) Mertesacker (1.1) Vermaelen (0.7)

Thank you for reading, please stay tuned for the next part of the article, which will focus on our attacking performances this season.

Follow @lewbob91 on Twitter

Stats in this blog have either been of my own or via whoscored.com

10 Transfer Deadline Day Deals?

The Transfer Window officially closes in just over a week, we are now entering into the time period where teams will be rushing through signings to make sure they are completed before the deadline. The first round of Premier League fixtures would’ve paid dividends to a lot of managers Transfer plans on where they need to strengthen and where they are the strongest.

It has been a long Transfer Window so far, many moves, many hundreds of millions spent, but the spending is not just about to stop there. In this article we are going to look at 10 players who could be set for a Transfer Deadline Day move away from their club.

Fernando Llorente

The big Spanish striker has made it clear he wants to leave Atletico Bilbao thus attracting a string of European clubs. The favourites are Juventus who seem to have been linked with pretty much every want away striker across Europe. However there has been a number of Premier League clubs also interested in Llorente, including Arsenal and Spurs. Spurs are another club who have pretty much been linked with every striker under the sun, however the asking price, wages and temptation of Champions League football will jeopardise Spurs’ move for him. Wenger has already stated he will not be replacing Van Persie, but if he was to pull a surprise move for Llorente, then it would be a fantastic acquisition for Arsenal.

My Prediction – Llorente to Juventus

Sky Bet Odds – Juventus 2/5, Spurs 3/1, Arsenal 7/1

Nicklas Bendtner

Now what would the Transfer Window be like without ‘one of the best strikers in the world’ being linked with a move away from his current club. Well we are talking about Nicklas Bendtner and whilst he has grown a reputation for being a bit of an ignoramus, Bendtner would still be a quality striker for any club. Bendtner claims there is a lot of interest in him, however how true that is I’m not sure, surely he would’ve moved by now if that was the case. Clubs such as AC Milan, Galatasaray and a host of Premier League clubs have been linked with the Big Dane.

My Prediction – Bendtner to AC Milan

Sky Bet Odds – AC Milan 4/7, Galatasaray 7/2, Sunderland 5/1

Yann M’Vila

The tall gangly Frenchman looked to have been set for a move to Arsenal, then speculation claimed Wenger was no longer interested and now further speculation has claimed Arsenal are back in for him for a lower asking price than before. Well certainly something is not going to plan otherwise Wenger would’ve signed M’Vila already. Spurs have been linked with the defensive midfielder as well as Manchester United. It does look like a two horse race between Arsenal and Spurs, a race that is set to go to the wire, especially if Tottenham sell Modric and have funds to play with.

My Prediction – M’Vila to Arsenal

Sky Bet Odds – Arsenal 4/9, Tottenham 13/8, Manchester United 16/1

Victor Moses

Chelsea’s interest in Victor Moses is no secret, however the hold up in the deal would’ve raised some eyebrows. Claims suggest Chelsea are not matching Wigan’s valuation of the wide man. Chelsea would have got a further look at Moses as he impressed against them over the weekend. There doesn’t seem to be any other interested parties, it just comes down to whether Chelsea are going to meet Wigan’s demands and push this transfer through in time.

My Prediction – Moses to Chelsea

Sky Bet Odds – Chelsea 1/8

Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani is another striker that has been linked with a host of clubs across Europe. After impressing in recent seasons for Napoli, Cavani has certainly become hot property. Chelsea, Manchester City, Juventus, Inter Milan and PSG have all been linked to the Uruguayan striker. However the front runners do seem to be Chelsea, City and Juventus. However City have enough strikers already, but with Aguero injury fears may be tempted into the market, Juventus seem too interested in Llorente, so that just leaves Chelsea. It all depends on whether Chelsea wants to match Napoli’s reported asking price of £32m.

My Prediction – Cavani to Chelsea

Sky Bet Odds – Chelsea 8/11, Manchester City 6/1, Juventus 7/1

Kaka

The former Brazilian World Player of the Year has failed to hit the heights he reached at AC Milan. Real Madrid spent a small fortune bringing him to the club but injury and lack of playing time has hindered the Brazilian’s success. Kaka has thus fallen out of favour at Real Madrid and Mourinho has told Kaka he can move on. Not too many clubs would turn down the chance to sign Kaka, however his valuation and wages would come at a heavy price, a heavy price that not many clubs could afford. Speculation last week suggested United were seriously considering bringing Kaka to the club.

My Prediction – Kaka to AC Milan

Sky Bet Odds – AC Milan 5/6, Manchester United 5/6, PSG 20/1

Daniel Agger

Many people are suggesting that Agger has played his last game in a Liverpool shirt. After continuous speculation linking the Big Dane to Manchester City, it looks as though we could be seeing Agger in a City shirt next season. Daniel Agger is one of the best centre backs across Europe and was part of the Liverpool defence that really impressed last season. Barcelona have also been linked with Agger but after signing Song, who could provide defensive cover, signing Agger would be unlikely.

My Prediction – Agger to Manchester City

Sky Bet Odds – Manchester City 4/7, Barcelona 6/4, Real Madrid 13/2

Hulk

Another striker that has been linked heavily with Chelsea this season, one minute it was reported the deal was signed, sealed and delivered, the next minute Chelsea had revoked their interest. Porto is asking for a huge transfer fee and is certainly testing Chelsea’s resolve. If this deal was to go through, I could see it being a huge deal being done right at the last minute of deadline day, it would be some move if it did happen.

My Prediction – Hulk staying at Porto

Sky Bet Odds – Chelsea 1/2

Clint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey seems destined to wear the Liverpool shirt next season. However after the calamitous scandal of announcing the player on the owner’s website before a deal had been struck, it is clear the two clubs are someway apart at the moment. After Fulham’s 5-0 win at the weekend, they will be quite keen to keep Dempsey. However a move to Liverpool would be hard to turn down for the American, but Fulham certainly do not have to sell. Looks set for Deadline Day.

My Prediction – Dempsey to Liverpool

Sky Bet Odds – Liverpool 1/4, Arsenal 9/2, Everton 10/1

Edin Dzeko

Speculation has surrounded Dzeko’s future especially around the time when City looked set to sign Robin van Persie. However now Van Persie has moved to the other side of Manchester Dzeko looks set to stay at City. However could City be tempted by an offer for Dzeko? AC Milan, Spurs and Juventus have all been linked with the Bosnian international, AC Milan being the favourites whilst trying to replace the void left by Ibrahimovic.

My Prediction – Staying at City

Sky Bet Odds – AC Milan 6/4, Tottenham 4/1, Juventus 8/1

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Brendan Rodgers – A new era for Liverpool FC

The last time Liverpool won a league title my Mum and Dad hadn’t even conceived me yet. Yet because of their occasional European success we still regard Liverpool as one of the biggest clubs in the world let alone England. Liverpool are a club with tremendous history and an incredible fan base, they are a big club within their own right and have established themselves the right way.

However in recent seasons we have seen a steady decline in the great Liverpool Football Club, with a combination of questionable signings, poor managerial appointments and controversy in all corners of the football club. We now come to the 9th Liverpool managerial appointment since Liverpool last won the league in 1991, when King Kenny had a far more successful tenure at the club than his most recent one, in which he established himself as a Liverpool managing legend. 8 managers Since Kenny have failed to deliver Liverpool a league title and have allowed arch enemies Man United to dominate English football since Sir Alex Ferguson took charge at Old Trafford.

The question is will Brendan Rogers be the man to restore pride to the red side of Merseyside and end all the years of hurt and put aside the recent few years of disappointment. Not much to ask from a 39 year old man who has only been managing since 2008.

I am a big fan of Brendan Rogers’ style of football, watching Swansea this season was a joy to behold (apart from the game where they beat Arsenal at our own game at the Liberty). Brendan Rogers, as well as Paul Lambert showed Championship clubs that you can come to the Premier League and survive playing great football. Not only did both Swansea and Norwich survive but they finished comfortably in mid table.

Every Liverpool fan I have spoken to has signalled their excitement over the appointment of Rogers, I too would share their excitement if I was a Liverpool supporter. It is a fresh approach from Liverpool, someone young who they will be looking to build a team that will be competing year in year out. The last few Liverpool managerial appointments have been clutching at straws, Hodgson and Dalglish both employed to restore confidence and support from the fans, relying on experience and know how. Rogers will not give Liverpool experience or know how, but what he will give them is fresh ideas and an opportunity to start again, something that Liverpool should have done as soon as Rafa Benitez left.

This appointment will not work however if Liverpool fans expect results right away and pile on the pressure. I would go as far as saying a top 6 finish for Liverpool next season would be a fantastic achievement for Rogers. Liverpool will not be blessed with huge amounts of funds to spend in the transfer market and have lost a lot of their player pull, therefore they will be relying on either the players they’ve got or using their scouting network for relative unknown players. Something Liverpool have got wrong in the past few years, hence the departure of Damien Commoli was the poor standard of signings they were announcing. If Brendan Rogers can attract the right names to the club and the right players to suit his style of play, then things could work out well for Liverpool.

If for example Liverpool start off poorly and the fans are already getting on the back of Brendan then I can’t see this appointment working, Liverpool fans will have to be patient and not bite off more than they can chew. The reality is that this Liverpool team is not strong enough to compete for the title, the sooner Liverpool fans come to terms with this and lower their standards for the time being, then the better things are likely to work out.

Brendan Rogers has said he only took the job on the promise that he would have complete control over transfers in and out of the club. The Liverpool Board have always had plans of introducing a director of football to possibly conduct transfers on the clubs behalf, Louis Van Gaal was the man who was destined for the job. However with Rogers’ appointment, I’m unsure as to whether Van Gaal will be part of the plan for Liverpool. I have always been of the idea that a manager is at his best when he has full control over who comes in and out of the club, working with other people can lead to disaster, the slightest misunderstanding could lead to the wrong players being signed.

The first job for Brendan Rogers will be to try and get the best out of the squad he already has. That means making the most of the poor signings made in the previous regime of players like Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing. This is never easy as a manager, working with players that wouldn’t necessarily be involved in your plans if you had the choice, however the financial implications dictate otherwise for the time being, unless the club are able to shift them or of course Rogers manages to turn these players into world class footballers.

Rogers will need to keep Suarez, Agger and Skrtel at the club this season, all 3 players have been linked with moves away from the club but Liverpool will need to keep hold of their few world class players. Keeping these players attracts names to the club, that without them they would not be able to attract. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether players will support the managers appointment, so only time will tell if Rogers is able to have a positive impact on the players at the club.

Mourinho saw something in Rogers when appointing him as part of the Chelsea backroom staff and So do I. I firmly believe that Rogers is the right man to steer Liverpool in the direction of success, as long as Liverpool fans and the board stick by him in what is due to be a rocky first few seasons at the club. I firmly believe this will be the case, I think Liverpool have finally wised up to the idea that they need to start over with a fresh approach and will need be patient.

Thanks for reading.

Should Van Persie be more prolific?

What a fantastic season it has been for Robin Van Persie. At times the Dutchman has literally carried the gunners on his own shoulders, scoring 30 Premier League goals, 37 in all competitions. Arsenal fans have been sweating on their talisman’s future this season, with his deal set to run out in the summer of 2013. Personally I feel Van Persie will certainly stay for next season and undoubtedly sign a new contract to seal his foreseeable future at the club.

However despite it being such a fantastic season for Van Persie, it hasn’t been such a great season for Arsenal. Going in to the last day of the season Arsenal must beat West Brom to guarantee a Champions League place, fending off competition from Spurs and Newcastle. As an Arsenal fan I get extremely frustrated by our consistency and inability to defend in pressure situations, nothing new there I suppose. However another thing I have started to get a tincey wincey bit frustrated by was Van Persie’s inability to score relatively simple chances.

Now, I’m not for one second holding Van Persie accountable for Arsenal’s failures this year, nor am I trying to take anything away from the Dutchman, he has been absolutely incredible this year, and has been over the last two injury free seasons. However the game against Norwich on the weekend was a clear example of Van Persie missing relatively easy chances, easy chances which could have won us the game. Granted Van Persie’s two goals kept us alive in the game and almost won it for us, but for some defensive frailties, but Van Persie still hasn’t installed a certainty in my head that when he gets in front of goal, he will score.

So I have done some research into Van Persie’s season. The statistics show that Van Persie has had a total of 140 chances on goal this year in the Premier League, scoring 30 goals. That is a goal per chance percentage of 21.4%, a ratio of just over 1 in 5 chances scored. Now those figures didn’t mean much to me, depending on how you look at it, that statistic could seem fantastic or rather shocking.

In order to gain some sort of insight into that statistic, I analysed other strikers across the Premier League. Van Persie has had 25 more chances to score than his nearest competitor, Wayne Rooney. Wayne Rooney has scored 26 goals from 115 shots on goal, a percentage slightly higher than Van Persie of 22.6%. Not too much to worry about there I suppose, other than the fact that Van Persie has had 25 more chances than Wayne Rooney but has only scored 4 more goals. However in the grand scheme of things, there is a relatively small difference between the two.

Now the player with the highest chances per goal percentage unsurprisingly is Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse, who has scored 13 goals from 32 chances, a percentage of 40.6%. Not too concerned about that statistic because Cisse is a new signing and hasn’t had a full season to be judged fairly and comprehensively. The player who has the best chances per goal percentage, who has played throughout the whole season, is relegated Blackburn striker Yakubu, who has racked up a total of 16 goals from 56 chances, a percentage of 28.6%. In fact there are 4 more strikers who have scored more than 10 goals this season who have a better chance per goal percentage than Van Persie. These players are Javier Hernandez (25.6%), Sergio Aguero (22.2%), Mario Balotelli (24.5%), Grant Holt (22.2%), which is 7 in total when you include Rooney, Cisse and Yakubu. Only 3 players who have scored more than 13 goals this term fall behind Van Persie, they are Emmanuel Adebayor (18%), Edin Dzeko (19.4%) and Demba Ba (20.3%).

Only Wayne Rooney (59.1%) and Papiss Cisse (62.5%) have a higher shot on target percentage than Van Persie (58.6%), which shows that Van Persie has forced more saves from Goalkeepers than any other striker in the Premier League with a total of 82 shots on target. These are the exacy chances that tend to frustrate myself about Van Persie. One of one with the keeper, but somehow the keeper keeps it out, or rather sometimes, somehow Van Persie fails to score.

Understandably there is very little difference in the percentages, but when playing at the top level in the Premier League that extra 1% could be all the difference. I have never thought of Van Persie as an out and out goal scorer, I always held him in a Dennis Bergkamp mould, a scorer of great goals, not a great goal scorer. Of course Van Persie has proven me wrong in that department, but in order to convince me completely and to install an Ian Wright, Thierry Henry esque faith in me that he is going to score when in front of goal, he must improve his ratio and start scoring from more of the chances he gets himself into.

For anybody who is interested here are a few statistics from the other strikers who have scored more than 10 goals in the Premier League this season.

Lowest Goals per chance % – Luis Suarez (10.2%) 11 goals from 108 chances

Lowest Shots on target % – Peter Crouch (42.6%) 20 shots on target from total of 47 shots

Lowest amount of shots – Papiss Cisse (32 shots/13 goals) Javier Hernandez (39 shots/10 goals)

Thank you for reading.

Why Vermaelen is so important to Arsenal

Arsenal have struggled defensively this season, not only conceding goals but in forming a formidable centre back partnership. At the start of the season Arsenal desperately needed defensive cover, so after a humiliating 8-2 crushing defeat at the hands of Man United, Arsenal shipped in the Big German Per Mertesacker. Per Mertesacker had been criticised a lot in Germany and across world football for being too slow and clumsy. We have seen glimpses of this so far in his short time at Arsenal. Mertesacker and Koscielny have played together the most times this season, due to injuries to Vermaelen and when Vermaelen was eventually fit he has had to fill in at full back due to even more injuries. It has been a tough adjustment period for Mertesacker, he has put in some good shifts but I personally still have my doubts.

Mertesacker

Starts – 22 Conceded – 25 Clean Sheets – 6 Win % – 59%

Koscielny last season was criticised a lot, but I am a big Koscielny fan, this season he has proved he can deal with the pace of any Premier League striker and he has bulked up a lot since last season. I personally believe the future of Arsenal Centre Back pairings lie with Koscielny and Vermaelen at the heart of the defence. With the extremely high line Arsenal play, the pace and tenacity of Koscielny and Vermaelen is something that Arsenal need and something Mertesacker can’t give. Koscielny has already shown me this season that he can defend against the best, his epic defensive showing against Man City in the league cup depicted that. Koscielny kept Aguero and Dzeko at bay reasonably comfortably whilst partnering the suspect Squillaci at the back.

Koscielny

Starts – 21 Conceded – 28 Clean Sheets – 8 Win % – 57%

Koscielny and Mertesacker have played together in 15 out of Arsenal’s 33 games so far, they are one of 10 centre back pairings Arsenal have had already this season. Out of those games Arsenal have come out victorious on 9 occasions, however they have shipped 19 goals and have only kept 4 clean sheets. It seems as though however Wenger’s number defensive pairing is Vermaelen and Mertesacker who have only partnered each other 5 times this season. Those 5 games have seen Arsenal concede only 3 goals and are unbeaten with 2 clean sheets.

Mertesacker & Koscielny

Starts – 15 Conceded – 19 Clean Sheets – 4 Win % – 60%

Its understandable why Vermaelen is such a pivotal part of the Arsenal defence, they look so much more assured with the Belgian at the back. Vermaelen has played 12 games at Centre Back this season, with Arsenal being on the losing side on only 2 occasions, keeping 5 clean sheets and most importantly only conceding the 10 goals. With Vermaelen starting, Arsenal have only conceded more than one goal on two occasions which was against Liverpool, where Arsenal were down to 10 men when Liverpool scored their goals and against Olympiakos, where Arsenal fielded a relatively weak team in Greece.

Vermaelen

Starts – 12 Conceded – 10 Clean Sheets – 5 Win % – 58%

The stats do not lie, when Vermaelen plays Centre Back Arsenal are much more resilient defensively. The stats point towards Koscielny as being Vermaelen’s best partner. This season they have started 3 games together, remaining unbeaten and have kept 3 clean sheets, not conceding a single goal in those 3 games. Wenger seems to have a belief and confidence in the pairing of Vermaelen and Mertesacker  who also have an unbeaten record, but I just feel more at ease with Koscielny playing at back. Mertesacker whilst being 6’6 still doesn’t seem to be that dominant in the air.

Vermaelen & Mertesacker

Starts – 5 Conceded – 3 Clean Sheets – 2 Win % – 60%

Vermaelen & Koscielny

Starts – 3 Conceded – 0 Clean Sheets – 3 Win % – 67%

Arsenal at home have the second best defensive record in the Premier League, only conceding 6 goals at home. However its away from home where Arsenal have struggled. Arsenal have conceded the most goals away from home in the whole of the Premier League (25). Interestingly enough Vermaelen has not played at Centre Back away from home in the Premier League so far this season. When you take the 8 goals conceded away to Man United where Koscielny & Djourou played Centre Back, Arsenal would have only conceded 13 goals away from home, which can be bettered only by 4 teams. The introduction of Mertesacker has made a substantial difference to the Arsenal team, which has improved defensively. However yesterday’s defeat against Swansea still shows weaknesses not only at the back, but as a whole defensive unit.

The key to this season being successful for Arsenal will be to keep Vermaelen fit and with Koscielny or Mertesacker partnering him, Arsenal can focus on going forward and scoring goals, knowing defensively they are resilient.

Thanks for Reading

5 Reasons Arsenal will finish above Spurs

For most Arsenal and Spurs fans this season has been the first season where Spurs have been above Arsenal for the whole season. Not only are Spurs above Arsenal but they are at this current point in time only 6 points behind Man City with a game in hand (tonight v Everton), which makes them genuine title contenders. Some bookies have Spurs as low as 9/1 to win the Premier League title, odds that no Spurs fan have seen in the history of the Premier League. Spurs have been playing some fantastic football this season, with Bale, Modric, Adebayor and Van der Vaart stating their claim as being some of the best players in the league. Some claim this Spurs side is better than Wenger’s Arsenal and so far they have been proven right.

However here are 5 reasons why Arsenal will still finish above Spurs come the end of May, I have even put money on it myself.

1. The Henry Factor

Now I know Arsenal only have Thierry Henry until the 26th of February where coincidently his last game of the loan spell could be against Spurs at the Emirates. The arrival of Thierry at Arsenal has undoubtably given fans a boost and the team look excited for him to be back. The devastating prospect of the pairing of Robin Van Persie and Thierry Henry in the forward line will scare teams half to death, even the introduction of Henry from the bench with 20 minutes to go as we saw against Leeds, could make all the difference.

2. Fixtures against ‘Top 6’ clubs

By ‘top 6’ I mean City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool. Both Spurs and Arsenal have 5 fixtures left against ‘Top 6’ clubs, one of them being against each other at The Emirates, which I fully expect Arsenal to win and gain revenge for earlier on in the season. 4 out of the 5 fixtures for Arsenal against ‘Top 6’ clubs at The Emirates, only the game against Liverpool is away. However Spurs have to travel away for 4 out of 5 of their fixtures against ‘Top 6’ clubs, the only fixture at home is United. I believe this to be the most important factor as to why Arsenal will trump Spurs in the end. I expect Arsenal to do well at the Emirates and in their only away game against Liverpool, I expect them to take 9 points from their 5 games with 2 wins and 3 draws. However I just can’t see Spurs going away and getting points from Chelsea, Arsenal, City and Liverpool. I have them down as collecting 0 points from their 5 games against ‘Top 6 Clubs’.

3. Injuries/Players coming back

Arsenal have been hit hard with injuries this season, especially to their back line. However in upcoming weeks Arsenal are expected to welcome back Sagna, Gibbs, Santos, Diaby and of course Jack Wilshere, who has been out all season. These are 5 great players who have been absent for the majority of Arsenal’s season so far. The only positive Arsenal have been able to muster in regards to injuries is keeping Van Persie fit. Spurs so far have been very lucky in regards to injuries, they’ve managed to keep Ledley King fit for most of the season so far. However as we all know come the end of the season fatigue starts to kick in, already for tonight’s match against Everton, Spurs are without Gallas, King, Sandro and Parker. I still expect them to win but if an injury was to happen to Adebayor, Bale, Modric or Van der Vaart it would be interesting to see how Spurs would cope.

4. January Moves

Arsenal are expected to make moves this January window and have already moved quickly to bring Henry back. I expect the signing of a Full back on loan and who knows maybe a shock move for a winger. However with the players who are due back for Arsenal and the prospering form of Alex Chamberlain, I think Wenger may be alright with the squad he has. The problem Spurs have is whether they should bring someone in. Samba and Cahill are two players who Spurs have openly admitted being interested in, as well as Loic Remy from Marseille. Both Cahill and Samba have never been involved in a title race and I’m wondering whether Harry would want to upset the balance of his team, by bringing in Remy. If Spurs were to suffer injuries in the latter part of the season, the decision of Harry to/not to bring in new recruits could prove pivotal.

5. Experience

Arsene Wenger has been at Arsenal Football Club now for 15 years, and never has he failed to bring Arsenal Champions League football to the Emirates. I fully expect Chelsea to push on in the second part of the season and move ahead of Arsenal and Spurs, which makes the fight between the two North London rivals, not only for bragging rights but for Champions League football. The whole of Arsenal’s team squad know what it takes to finish in the top 4, Harry has only been able to guide Spurs to 4th once in his career, missing out several times despite being in promising positions.

It will be close but I expect Arsenal to just sneak it by a few points, I expect it to go right to the wire but Arsenal will have Champions League football and bragging rights over Spurs come May. Below is what the table will look like.

1. Man City

2. Man United

3. Chelsea

4. Arsenal

5. Tottenham

6. Liverpool

Thanks for Reading

Premier League weekend preview

Friday 30th December

Liverpool v Newcastle

This game is a funny one to predict, you never know what quite to expect with both teams. Liverpool have won only once in their last 6 home games in all competitions, with 5 draws in that streak. On the other hand Newcastle experienced their first win in 7 games last week against Bolton. Both teams are lacking in confidence, a good result for either team would surely be a foot in the right direction to putting their season back on track.

Prediction – 1-0

Saturday 31st December

Manchester United v Blackburn

If you look at the form book, this should be a comfortable win for United and I fully expect it to be. Blackburn have really struggled this season and United have been in relentless form of late. This fixture last season saw United run out 7-1 winners, a similar result this weekend may not be too scandalous of an idea. The last time United lost to Blackburn at home was in 2005 where Blackburn ran out 2-1 winners.

Prediction – 4-1

Arsenal v QPR

Arsenal will be desperate to bounce back after their disappointing draw with Wolves at home a few days ago. Who better to play than QPR who have not won a single game since their victory against stoke 5 weeks ago. I would expect a comfortable win for Arsenal who need to take 3 points to keep the pressure on the leading pack.

Prediction – 3-1

Bolton v Wolves

A proper old-fashioned relegation encounter, pure excitement guaranteed and a must win for both teams. The form book goes out the window with these games, but after a draw with Arsenal a few days ago, Wolves surely must carry momentum going into the game. A win for Bolton could see them jump out of the relegation zone, a win for Wolves could see them jump as high as 13th.

Prediction – 2-1

Chelsea v Aston Villa

Chelsea have drawn their last 3 games 1-1, surely a 4th in a row will not occur. Villa have only won once away this season, accumulating another 6 draws on their travels. Chelsea will be looking to gain 3 points to keep the pressure on those above. I think Chelsea will just about scrape it and get the valuable 3 points.

Prediction – 2-0

Norwich v Fulham

Norwich have been a real force to be reckoned with at home this season, whilst Fulham have only mustered 7 points on their travels from a possible 27. On their day Fulham and Norwich can cause any side problems. Norwich have not kept a clean sheet all season, but Fulham have only scored 5 in 9 away games all season. It promises to be a cagey game, both teams would probably settle for a draw.

Prediction – 1-1

Stoke v Wigan

Stoke as per usual have been dominant at home so far this season, racking up 14 points from a possible 27, Wigan have been poor home and away this season, but their away form is slightly better. Wigan have faced a tough spell facing 4 of the top 6 in their last 5 games, the game against stoke could prove to be very difficult for them, I would expect Stoke to get all 3 points.

Prediction – 3-1

Swansea – Tottenham

Tottenham face their 2nd trip to a promoted side within a few days and will hope the same results occurs once more. Spurs will be full of confidence after their win away to Norwich a few days ago, Swansea will also be confident because their home form speaks volumes. Swansea at home have taken a massive 16 points from a possible 27, conceding only 3 goals. This will be a test for the attacking flair of Tottenham.

Prediction – 1-2

Sunday 1st January

West Brom v Everton

This is a 9th v 10th clash, with the winner moving further clear of the relegation zone. Both teams are unbeaten in 3 games, but West Brom have been disappointing at home this season and will be looking to change that come the weekend. A game that will be good for the neutrals, I’m sure both managers will be happy with a point.

Prediction – 1-1

Sunderland v Man City

This Sunderland team under Martin O’Neil will be full of confidence, Mancini’s men have failed to win in their last 3 Premier League games, so after watching the West Brom game against City a few days ago, Sunderland will feel they have a chance. It will be a close game but I expect City to just about get a result.

Prediction – 1-3

Interesting Odds

Arsenal, Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool, Stoke and Spurs to win – 10/1 (skybet)

Chelsea 1 – 1 Aston Villa – 9/1 (skybet)

Bottom 3 to all win – 230/1 (skybet)

Mid Season Analysis

Ok so as we hit the mid-way stage of the Premier League season, the first half has failed to disappoint. With Man City seemingly running away with the title a few weeks ago, we have now seen a slight dip in form and resurgence from Man United. After Arsenal’s worst start under Wenger, they have now started to slowly creep up the league table. Tottenham have been magnificent thus far, the question with them is whether they can maintain their form for the second part of the season. Down at the bottom, things are as tight as ever with only 11 points separating 9th place to 20th place. The relegation scrap is looking just as interesting as the title race.

Arsenal

After such a poor start, Arsenal have finally started to pick up some form. Their season really kick-started after the Transfer Window ended. With possibly the best striker in the world right now, the return of Vermaelen and players like Wilshere still to return, Arsenal will feel that the second half of the season can be very successful. Who knows maybe a return for Thierry Henry could be on the cards?

Transfer Targets – FB (Bridge), CM (Biglia) Winger (Goetze, Hazard & Reus) and CF (Henry & Podolski)

Prediction – 4th

Aston Villa

Villa has been largely inconsistent this season, but whilst currently struggling only 6 points above the relegation zone, I feel Villa have too much to be dragged down in to the scrap. So far Villa have struggled to score goals, with only 19 goals in 18 games, Villa have relied on their water tight defence to muster the most amount of draws for any team in the League(8). Keeping Darren Bent fit and one or two key signings in January could see Villa push on at the end of the season.

Transfer Targets – CM (McEachran, Davis), Winger (Barnetta) and CF (Maynard)

Prediction – 11th

Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn has been the worst team so far in Premier League. If not for Yakubu, Blackburn could well have seen them even further behind the rest of the pack. The pressure of Steve Kean and constant booing cannot help the team. Scoring goals has not been a problem for Rovers (25) but keeping them out has been their issue (39). The fans need to get behind Steve Kean and most importantly Steve Kean to get themselves out of this almighty mess. The return of Ryan Nelsen and the emerging talent of Junior Hoilett, will surely give Blackburn great confidence.

Transfer Targets – FB (Lowry, Onuoha), CM (Fotakis) and CF (Boyd, Sordell, A.Johnson)

Prediction – 15th

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton have struggled a lot so far, with no real outstanding players in the team, Owen Coyle is going to have is work cut out to try and keep this weak Bolton team in the Premier League. With 14 defeats so far this season, Bolton’s inability to win games has been worrying. Also with the worst defensive record in the Premier League, adjustments will have to be made in January to keep this team up. On top of all that, Bolton must be resigned to losing Cahill in January, so replacements will have to be made.

Transfer Targets – CB (Ream, Boumsong), FB (Onuoha) & Winger (Humphrey)

Prediction – 16th

Chelsea

Under Villas-Boas Chelsea has struggled with a formation and tactic that has consistently suited their play. This Chelsea has a touch of stiffness about it, a lack of creativity and with a few players getting to the end of their careers; it could be time for Chelsea to strengthen in January with some fresh new blood. A big winter for Chelsea could be key; I fully expect them to finish in the top 4.

Transfer Targets – FB, (Pereira), CB (Cahill), CM (Rodwell), Winger (Hamsik, Hazard, Goetze, Krasic)

Prediction – 3rd

Everton

Everton have been very mechanical so far this season. With a lack of attacking options, Everton have relied heavily upon their ability to not concede goals. Everton have one of the best defensive records in the Premier League with only 20 goals conceded from 18 games. The lack of goals will surely worry David Moyes, but with Landon Donovan coming on loan for a few months that will certainly give them a boost. The January window could be very frustrating for Everton, with a shortage of funds available, Everton could be forced to sell Rodwell to bring in new recruits.

Transfer Targets – CB (Manolas), CF (Henry, Maynard, De Jong, Pavlyuchenko & Boyd)

Prediction – 12th

Fulham

Fulham have really impressed me this season, playing some great football but have struggled to find the net. Players like Dempsey, Ruiz, Dembele and Zamora have added such great attacking flair to Fulham. If Martin Jol is able to get Fulham to find the net then they will rapidly move up the table. Despite Fulham’s relatively good displays, they have only won 4 matches so far this season.

Transfer Targets – FB (Hanlon), CF (Gignac, Bony)

Prediction – 10th

Liverpool

Liverpool has been largely uninspiring this season and the Kenny Dalgish revival has seemed to have stalled at the moment. Liverpool has been falling even further behind the Champions League places in recent weeks and has really struggled for goals. Liverpool has only been able to muster up 21 goals so far, with expensive flops such as Andy Carroll unable to make an impact. With Suarez facing down the barrel of an 8 match ban, I struggle to see where Liverpool’s goals are going to come from. Their defence on the other hand has been the joint best in the league, but with 6 draws from 9 home games, Anfield is no longer the fortress it once was. If Kenny is going to get Liverpool challenging radical changes must be made to this uninspired team in January.

Transfer Targets – CM (Khedira), Winger (Hazard), CF (Torres)

Prediction – 6th

Manchester City

So far Man City has been the team to watch, the team to beat and surely the favourites to lift the Premier League trophy. Their outstanding attacking options along with a solid watertight defence and seen them muster up 45 points in 18 games, scoring a huge 53 goals. This Man City team has broken numerous records already this season and will be looking to be only the 5th team to have won the trophy. With seemingly unlimited funds, the only thing that could surely stop Man City now is an almighty disaster. We have seen already that a few bust ups within the camp are highly publicised, but as of yet have failed to disrupt the team. If all goes well for Man City for the 2nd part of the season, I think we will see a new winner of the Premier League title.

Transfer Targets – Winger (Hazard, Goetze), CF (Van Persie)

Prediction – 1st

Manchester United

Definitely not the strongest united team we have come across under Ferguson, however the team has shown in recent weeks that they are extremely efficient and have done remarkably well to draw level with City at the top. When you look at United’s squad it could do with a lot of strengthening, especially with injuries to key players such as Vidic. After the 6-1 crushing to City earlier on in the season, United have gone from strength to strength, defensively they have been outstanding and are scoring goals for fun at the moment, surely if United were to win the title, this would be Fergie’s greatest ever achievement.

Transfer Targets – CB (Cahill), CM (Khedira, Sneijder, Modric, Rodwell, Eriksen), Winger (Hazard), CF (Gaitan)

Prediction – 2nd

Newcastle United

After Newcastle’s fantastic start to the season, the last 6 weeks or so has seen them hit a bad patch. Newcastle prides themselves on a watertight defence and with Demba Ba upfront everything is possible. However with Demba Ba going to the African Nations cup, it will hard to see where Newcastle will get their goals from. Newcastle’s last 6 games has seen them collect only 5 points and this has seen them slump to 7th in the League. Alan Pardew will have his work cut out if he is to recapture the Newcastle form from the early parts of the season. However I just can’t see it, I see Newcastle falling further down the league.

Transfer Targets – FB (Taiwo, Clyne), CF (Maiga, De Jong)

Prediction – 8th

Norwich United

Norwich have been the best of the promoted teams so far, sitting handsomely in 11th place, needing only another 19 points to hit that magical 40 point marker. Norwich has shown under Paul Lambert that they are a force to be reckoned with and are certainly no push over. If Norwich is to stay up, they are going to have to sure up their defence. So far they have shipped 33 goals in 18 games, this statistic will have to improve to keep their Premier League status. Norwich are only 7 points above the drop zone, so Norwich are far from being safe.

Transfer Targets – FB (Naughton)

Prediction – 17th

Queens Park Rangers

QPR have been largely disappointing this season and have really struggled to get wins under their belt. A few promising performances gives QPR fans hope, as well as almost certain transfer activity in January. QPR must sort out their home form if they are to push on this season, with only 1 win from 9 games. I fully expect QPR to invest heavily in January and to push on for the second half of the season.

Transfer Targets – CB (Boumsong), FB (Onuoha), CF (Pavlyuchenko, Jelavik)

Prediction – 14th

Stoke City

Stoke are sitting in a relatively comfortable 8th place at the moment, quite a few points ahead of the relegation pack but also quite a few points behind the European places. Tony Pulis has done magical things at Stoke; the big question for them is what effect their Europa Cup exploits will have on their League form. I fully expect Stoke to maintain their good form and cement a Europa Cup place at the end of the season.

Transfer Targets – None

Prediction – 7th

Sunderland

After a disappointing start to the season under Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neil is now in charge and who better to get Sunderland up and running then him. Martin O’Neil is one of the most underrated managers and Sunderland couldn’t have picked anyone better for the job. I fully expect heavy investment in January from Sunderland, as well as a late season surge up the table for Sunderland. So if I was a Sunderland fan I’d expect exciting times ahead.

Transfer Targets – FB (Onuoha), CF (Zamora)

Prediction – 9th

Swansea City Swansea’s football has been a joy to behold in the Premier League this season, one of the best passing teams in Europe at the moment. It is an approach promoted teams have rarely tried, last season we saw it with Blackpool who started off well but were relegated on the last day. Swansea has created a fortress at home, losing only 1 of their 9 home games, conceding only 3 goals. Their away form is slightly worrying, having not won an away game all season. It is going to be a tough ride until the end of the season, but as much as my heart wants Swansea to survive I just don’t think they have enough, I hope I am wrong.

Transfer Targets – CB (Situ), CM (McEachran), CF (Donnelly)

Prediction – 18th

Tottenham Hotspur

Behind Man City, Tottenham has been the most exciting team to watch this season. This has been Spurs best start to a Premier League season ever. Spurs are only 7 points behind the top 2 with a game in hand, and with players like Bale, Adebayor, Van Der Vaart and Modric they are a major force to be reckoned with. However despite their impressive start, I personally don’t feel Spurs can keep up this momentum for the rest of the season. One thing of course that works in their favour is the fact they have no European football to contend with, but that could just add to the pressure to succeed. I think it will be close, but Spurs will just miss out on Champions League football.

Transfer Targets – CB (Samba), CM (Rodwell), CF ( Amauri)

Prediction – 5th

West Bromwich Albion

West Brom is starting to be taken seriously as a strong premier league team. Despite being largely inconsistent so far this season, their away form has seen them rise to 9th in the League. West Brom will be safe come the end of the season and are fully capable of taking points from any team in the league, as we saw from their draw with Man City. If West Brom are to push on, they must improve their home form, 2 wins from 9 games is something Roy Hodgson will be desperate to improve.

Transfer Targets – FB (Onuoha), CM (Allan)

Prediction – 13th

Wigan Athletic

Wigan has shown in recent weeks that a revival could be on the cards; however I just can’t see it. This Wigan team has relegation stamped all over it, with 35 goals conceded so far and only the 15 scored, a dramatic improvement will be needed to get Wigan out of this almighty mess. Wigan has been unable to make their home games count, which is what they will need to change if they are to stay up. Heavy investment is needed in January but with limited funds available, surely it will be not be enough.

Transfer Targets – CB (Chambers), CF (Macheda)

Prediction – 19th

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves have shown so far that they can be resilient at home, as well as away, drawing with Arsenal recently. However Mick McCarthy doesn’t have a fantastic record of keeping teams in the division and I’m afraid this season is going to be no different. Wolves lack the quality needed for Premier League survival and unless that quality can be shipped in during the Transfer Window, I foresee a very poor finish to the campaign for Wolves.

Transfer Targets – None

Prediction – 20th

New era of the Premier League

With the Premier League now entering into its most competitive season since the League was formed in 1992, the big four has now extended to the big six. Manchester United whilst still England’s biggest football club now face tougher opposition than ever. With Manchester City and their seemingly unlimited amount of funds and Chelsea who have also invested hundreds of millions of pounds into their squad, teams like Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham have done extremely well to keep up with the financial big guns. Of course Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham have also invested heavily over recent years but nothing on the scale of Manchester City and Chelsea. So the question I ask today is how long until the big six becomes the big twenty and the whole Premier League will become title contenders.

Almost every club in the Premier League has some sort of foreign based funding or ownership. To most of these outrageously rich billionaires, football clubs are their toy to play with in their spare time. All it takes is for a few more Russian or Arab Oil Tycoons to set their eyes on the Premier League and who knows we could have another few clubs like Manchester City.  To think that only a few years ago Manchester City were relegated from the Premier League, now because of the financial investment of one man, they now have the strongest buying power in the whole world. So it is perfectly possible for a billionaire from Uzbekistan to take an interest in Norwich FC and investment a few hundred million and all of a sudden Norwich are a force to be reckoned with.

Of course just because a billionaire comes in and takes charge of a club does not mean instant success, but it’s a million times easy to do it than with sod all in your bank account. Could you imagine a Premier League where it would almost be impossible to know who’s going to finish where, a league where every single club is backed by the world’s richest people, a league where every club has expectations to win the title? These years may not be that far away.

I watch American sports such as NFL and NBA, where the leagues are set up in such a way virtually anyone could win the title. For a team to win the championship two years in a row it takes something magical. Only four teams in the NFL have won the championship back to back since 1980. Since 1980 over 15 teams have won the NFL championship, with 10 winners coming in the last 12 years. Compare that to Premier League who have had just the 4 winners since the Premier League began in 1992.

However with a new precedent being set in the Premier League this season with six teams competing for the title, we could see a new winner of the Premier League this season. Next season we could see a new winner. Before we know it we could have a US style system where by 2022, we could have another 10 winners of the Premier League. Original powerhouses of Premier League football such as Manchester United and Arsenal could well be finishing outside the top 10, who knows even down at the bottom somewhere.

Personally I am not a fan of the US style system, maybe being an Arsenal supporter has something to do with it, as I hate to see new teams with money destroying the work Fergie and Wenger has done for the Premier League. However from a neutral person or from a lower club supporter’s perspective I can see why the idea could be appealing. After all who wouldn’t want their favourite club winning the Premier League title?

The new UEFA financial fair play rules will have some say in this system, but as Manchester City have shown there are ways around these new rules. Football, not just in the Premier League is entering into a new era of money. All around the world, clubs in France, Russia and Germany are being bought by billionaires. Who knows maybe one day we will see the first European League. The money involved in football these days is a very scary thought, sooner or later the men investing all this money will want the league structure to be ran how they want it to.

Thank You for reading