The Fight For Fourth


Dunno who this bloke is but he won the league so he must be handy. 

Even though we all like to think, somewhere deep in our hearts, that there is a true element of competition in the Premiership the top three are pretty much cemented at this non-stage of the season. While it would be superb to see an English version of what happened in La Liga this year with four teams going right down to the wire and two teams able to win it on the last day, it will more than likely be Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in some variation at the top with one team in particular crowned Champions in early April. So, what is left to predict? Many people would include Arsenal in a guaranteed top four but to be fair, the North London outfit have been shaky over the past few seasons and while they will definitely be there or there abouts come may next year, it is by no means a certainty. Now the rest of the teams in the premiership talk of a league excluding the so called Big 4. Fifth is usually top of that league but it appears that Arsenal have slipped into the “second tier” and are involved in this fight for fourth. So who are the contenders?

Arsenal

Seem obvious contenders considering their status as one of the best footballing sides in Europe. They’re pre-season went well and if they play the way they did for their first ten minutes against PSG then they will win everything going. They lost their way though and the lack of an experienced head was telling. If they hit a rough spot along the way it is hard to pick out the players who will drag them out of it. Wenger obviously has faith in his squad and everyone could be eating their words this season but their lack of activity in the transfer market, player exits and the unsettled nature of the boardroom could see the Gunners turn into the Liverpool of a few years back. Will Arsenal fans be talking about the glory days of old for the next few years?

Tottenham Hotspurs

Spurs are next in line for the throne. They have been pushing their North London rivals for some time now and over the past two seasons have been looking more and more capable of ousting the Gunners. Martin Jol is certainly not shy when it comes to spending money and this summer he has brought in a number of both promising and proven players. Gareth Bale, who was arguably one of the best players in the Championship last season, is likely to solve Spurs left-back problem while Bent will provide even more competition up front for Berbatov, Keane and Defoe. Three more signings including French U21 defender Younes Kaboul, the finalising of Adel Taarabt’s loan deal from Lens and Kevin-Prince Boateng from Hertha Berlin make the full package an attacking midfielder, a defensive midfielder, a left-back, a centre-half and a striker. What more could you ask for? If they get the right breaks at the beginning, expect Spurs to be pushing the top three hard this season.

Newcastle United

New man, new fortunes? Big Sam seemed to breathe new life into the sleeping giant that is Newcastle United when he was appointed a few months back and already he has attracted the type of players which the club deserve but previous managers couldn’t quite capture. As well as bringing his scientific outlook from Bolton, Allardyce has imparted his personality on the board, demanding transfer activity and one can only wonder why Newcastle didn’t hire him two or three years ago. Having brought Bolton from nothing to a decent premiership side with top six aspirations the possibilities at Newcastle are far wider. A bigger club in all aspects means that Sam will be desperate to be considered a top manger and make newcastle a top club again. An already decent squad has been supplemented by new faces and much needed defenders. Geremi, Cacappa the Lyon captain, Rozhenal from PSG and Enrique, a left-back from Villareal have all arrived to bolster the back four. Add this to the arrival of Joey Barton, Alan Smith, Mark viduka and the presence of Obafemi Martins and Michael Owen and never ever forgetting Shay Given and Newcastle have a strong team which could easily compete in Europe. They lack slightly in midfield  but if Duffer is back and Emre continues his fine run of form from Pre-Season into the new campaign then they shouldn’t have to worry too much about it. Newcastle could prove to be more than a match for anyone in the premiership this season.

Everton

After a great season three years ago when they qualified for the Champions league, Everton have been struggling slightly. A good solid campaign last season has lifted spirits in the blue half of Liverpool and Moyes is hoping to improve again but it is difficult to see it happening considering their transfer activity. Granted, Moyes did well in getting Baines but his other signings leave a lot to be desired. Jagielka from Sheffield United and Steven Pienaar on loan from Dortmund. Both could turn out to be very astute buys but Moyes isn’t really inspiring confidence among the Everton faithful. A new striker should be on the cards for the toffees with Johnson, and youngsters Vaughn and Anichebe the only strikers at the club. Everton have been accredited with an interest in Middlesbrough’s Yakubu but things have been going so slowly it appears unlikely to go through. One of the main things Everton have going for them is Moyes himself. A great manager who knows how to motivate and get results from a team, Moyes has had Everton punching above their weight for quite some time now and this season should be no different. Expect some good results against supposed better teams but slip-ups against sides they should be beating.

Portsmouth

Pompey have been steadily improving under Harry Redknapp’s guidance and the chairman’s money. They had a great spell last year where they were tipped for Europe before inconsistency let them down. A couple of great signings last year in Sol Campbell and Lauren have set up Portsmouth’s back line and this has been added to this summer by Distin from Manchester City, Crainie from South coast rivals Southampton and Charlton’s Hreidarsson. Muntari in midfield and the exciting prospect of Nugent and former Rennes hitman, Utaka, up front means that Portsmouth can only be stronger for their experiences last season and build on that with new blood from the summer window. Inconsistency could prove the downfall once more for Redknapps men but if they can create a never-say-die attitude in the dressing room who knows what they could achieve.

Blackburn Rovers

Mark Hughes has been turning Blackburn slowly into a good solid team which doesn’t lose easily and knows hoe to keep a lead. After getting a reputation for being a bit heavy in the tackle, Blackburn were suffering from having a lot of heart but not very much in the way of class. Pedersen’s form over the past few seasons has been outstanding and all credit to Hughes for keeping him at the club. An inspirational signing last summer in Benni McCarthy gave Rovers an attacking outlet to rival Didier Drogba at Chelsea and the emergence of Matt Derbyshire has given Blackburn great attacking options and after this summer’s activities, Hughes has an embarrassment of riches up front. Rigters, who finished top scorer at this summer’s U21 European Championships and Roque Santa Cruz who scored a hat-trick this summer against Colombia in the Copa America, have been thrown in the mix with Nonda, Roberts, McCarthy and Derbyshire. Bentley is continuing to impress on the right and with Reid and Savage both coming back from injuries which took away most of last season from them, Blackburn look to be in a promising position. Another one for the motivation, Hughes does not like to lose and Ewood Park may be one of those places teams don’t like to play at this season. The capture of Santa Cruz signals intent from Hughes and this season they will be pushing hard for Europe again.

Manchester City

6 months ago I would have whispered this so nobody would hear me and think I was mad. Having spent over £40 Million on new players, however, City could be a revitalised outfit this season. It always takes time for new players and especially foreign players to gel at a club and make themselves comfortable but if this can happen sooner rather than later then City fans could be in for a treat. To be perfectly honest thefc100 isn’t too familiar with some of his signings but the captures of Elano and Martin Petrov are gems. Whether they will suit City is another thing but Elano is a player who did well in an unorthadox Brazil side at the Copa America this summer and will add some creativity to the team and Petrov is a player who was in huge demand around Europe after an impressive season at Atletico Madrid before Sven whispered in his ear. Sven has the capabilities to succeed at City and he has the ability to attract big players. A good season and a top-six finish this year and I shudder to think who they will be linked with next year! The English and other players who were there before Sven arrived mustn’t know what to do with themselves. If thefc100 spoke a bit of Italian we could probably have been signed for City! The money which has changed hands at eastlands means that instant results will be expected by Shinawatra. It is difficult to see them doing it this year but they will certainly be exciting. 

There is also Bolton, Villa, West Ham if they play their cards right and reading. Can’t really see any of those sides breaking the dominance of the other challengers though. Bolton will miss Allardyce’s influence. Villa haven’t brought in enough players and Reading may well “pull a Wigan” and be fighting relegation this season.

Ok, hand on heart this is how we think it will go down:

4. Tottenham

5. Arsenal

6. Newcastle

7. Blackburn

8. Portsmouth 

9. Manchester City

10. Everton


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