Back Of The Net With Ray North: Part 2 – Two Days To Go, The Relegation Fodder

by Ray_North on August 14, 2014

UnknownWell, the first part of my Premier League Preview, saw me hammered, not for the predictions, but for my inability to count up to seven and work out that half of twenty is, in fact ten, not twelve. I’m afraid that I can’t even blame drink for those rudimentary arithmetical errors – I am actually unable to count.

But, enough of this – let’s get back to the footie, and to be specific, the annual heartbreak that is the battle against relegation – and, as was pointed out to me yesterday, I’ve whittled down this years contenders to eight clubs. That will almost certainly mean eight managerial casualties, eight sets of weary supporters who will look for any glimmer of hope amongst the wreckage of another abject performance at Stamford Bridge or, worse, away at Aldershot in the cup, eight anxious chairmen, eight strikers who can’t hit a barn door with a banjo.

But who will still be sitting on a Premier League Chair come next May?

Let’s start with the teams who’ve been promoted -as I said yesterday, I’m confident that QPR will do Ok, which leaves Leicester City and Burnley – I’ve got a soft spot for both clubs – Leicester were strong when I was a kid, whilst Burnley have always had a sprinkling of good Welsh players (well, Brian Flynn and Leighton James forty years ago, but upon such tenuous reasoning affection grows). Of the two Leicester seem to me to be the best prepared – they are strong and athletic and have a good passionate manager in Nigel Peason -Dave Nugent and Jamie Vardy will be fearless up front and Danny Drinkwater looked excellent in the lower division, but will they have enough to stay up? I think they will – they have some experience in Matty Upson and Paul Konchesky (the second worst left back ever to play for Liverpool, more later, when I reveal the worst), and Marc Allbrighton – some afternoons may be long and hard, but, I expect them to pick up enough home points to see them through. Just.

I also expect Leicester to finish above Burnley, which may well mean curtains for Burnley – which will be a great shame. No one fancied them to get promoted last season, and the fact that they did is testament to a great manager in Sean Dyche, but, Burnley’s problem is a fundamental one – they don’t have the money they need to invest in the quality that you need to prevail in the Premier League – true Danny Ings, Sam Vokes (the continuing Welsh connection) and Michael Kightly (who I’ve always rated) will offer a fair bit of attacking flair and goals, and the likes of Ross Wallace and Matty Taylor will work tirelessly in the middle, but, their defence looks naive to me, and their squad small – I wish them every success but they’ll do incredible well to stay.

Another club for whom I wish every success is West Ham – I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hammers and last year I tipped them to have a good season, which precipitated a mixed season where all to often they looked feeble against the big teams (Chelsea apart) – this season, again, they will depend largely on getting Andy Carrol fit and getting their wingers Downing and Jarvis up the line to put the ball on his head, or Kevin Nolan on the end of Big Andy’s knock downs – it’s hardly the stuff that Hammers fans dream of, but, with Sam Allardyce at the helm, I’m afraid that that is the likely fare this season at Upton Park. Argentinian forward Mauro Zarate is an interesting signing, not least because he’s quite slight and doesn’t really fit the Big Sam mould, whilst their other big signing Valencia had a good world cup for Ecuador and looks like a clever footballer. My hunch is that West Ham will do alright, but the fans will continue to grumble.

Fans are already grumbling at Aston Villa and understandably – last season they had a young team that looked fragile, but the attempts to bolster that team have led them to purchase some really dodgy players – I mean Philip Sanderos? Why do clubs keep buying him? Whilst Cissoko is perhaps the worst player I’ve ever seen when he was briefly wearing a Liverpool shirt last year. Joe Cole wasn’t much better at Anfield, and the feeling is that his best days are clearly behind him – the same could be said for Keiran Richardson. At least, I suppose, they’ve managed to keep hold of Ron Vlaar, who is ace, whilst up front, they can’t get Christian Beneteke back soon enough – Villa, alas, will struggle, and much will depend upon Benteke and Weimann and whether they can, reunite these two and get them playing and scoring.

Across the Midlands, West Brom look a little iffy as well – Alan Irvine, the new manager, bless him, is a sacking waiting to happen, particularly if the new signings of Jolean Lescott Christian Gamboa (fresh from World Cup success down the right flank for Los Ticos) and Brown Ideye (no idea about him sorry), don’t work out. They are lucky that in Jonas Ollson, Chris Brunt and Gareth McAuley they have players who will graft and fight, and Andre Wisdom is a good loanee from Liverpool, but, for the Baggies, it may be a long hard season.

As it may also be for Southampton – where almost all their team has deeded to up sticks and sign for Liverpool. It must be sickening to be a Saint supporter, and my heart goes out to them, it is as though as soon as they build a half decent team, along comes a bigger, richer club and takes away, first the manager (Pochettino has gone to Spurs), and then the best players. With the best will in the world they haven’t, yet, managed to replace Lovren, Lallana, Shaw and others – and as such the job for new manager, Ronald Koeman is immense, if he manages to keep them up, then he deserves big bag of sweets.

One manager who took a lot of plaudits last season for his heroics in keeping Crystal Palace up, was Tony Pulis – I like Pulis a lot, and not just because he’s a Welshman – he builds teams who are strong, well organised and passionate, and there is a lot to be said for that. Last year, Palace did extremely well and were more than a match for a number of the so-called big Six (or seven). In Jedinek they have one of the most underrated players in the Premiership, whilst Mariappa, Bolasie and McCarthy are again crucial to the Club’s continued success – why none of the bigger clubs haven’t come in for any of these is beyond me, but good news for the Selhurst Park faithful – Pulis hasn’t been able to add many to his squad, but Frazier Campbell is a good signing with a proven goal record in the top flight, whilst Brede Hangeland, despite being the slowest footballer in the league, has always done a good job and is scared of no one. I expect Palace to survive.

Which is more than I can say for Swansea City – yep, my prediction for the team most likely to plummet like a stone this season, is the Swans – which give me no pleasure whatsoever. But, and I hope I’m wrong about this, there is a fragile look to the Liberty Stadium outfit – new manager Gary Monk, did ok when he took over in the second half of last season, but, this season will be more difficult, this season, he will be without Michu and Ben Davies, and Wilfred Bony seems to have his heart elsewhere, which is never good. Gomis has been signed from France, and he has a fairly good record in their league, but will he provide the goals that are needed to stave off relegation, particularly if Bony gets his wish and moves on? I fear not. Hopefully, Monk will continue to allow the Swans to play good football and allow the likes of Britton, Shelvey, Dyer and Routledge to show their talents, but, after catching the league cold the season before last, and after showing signs of creaking last season, I fear that Swansea may find this season their hardest yet.

So, this is my prediction for next season.

1. Arsenal
2. Liverpool
3. Chelsea
4. Man City
5. Everton
6. Man United
7. Spurs
8. Hull City
9. Stoke City
10. Newcastle United
11. QPR.
12. Sunderland
13. West Ham
14. Crystal Palace
15. Southampton
16. Aston Villa
17. Leicester City
18. Swansea City
19. West Brom
20. Burnley

Players to watch:

Raheem Sterling and Jordan Ibe from Liverpool
Chris Long from Everton
and Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal.

First Managerial Casualty – Alan Irvine.

Now, let the fun and games begin and come on Wrexham!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

alx w August 14, 2014 at 4:54 pm

On Southampton, I note Les Reed is in the background there. He has always struck me as a destabilising and back stabbing type, wonder how much he has been responsible for problems?

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nino August 15, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Very sad your comments on clubs doomed for relegation because they don’t have the funds to buy expensive mercenaries. I hope for the good of the game that certain clubs have a dreadful season and that others do well despite their financial restraints. Unfortunately I can only hope and by the end of the season money will have triumphed yet again.

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George_East August 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm

On a side note on that – Hereford United RIP

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Multiplex August 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Ray,
The Hammers looked very shaky last weekend against an average Sampdoria (especially playing 3 at the back) and Carroll is as likely to score before Xmas as my Uncle Charlie.
The main hope is that the Senegalese triumvirate click, especially Kouyate who could be a star.
I’d settle for 16th.

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