Premier League Team Capsules, Part 1


Part 1 (of 3) early season Premier League team capsules to help familiarize the teams & what might to expect.  Part 1 includes Arsenal through Chelsea

Can Arsene Wenger’s long-term investment in his youth policy finally bear the fruit promised in this coming season?  This policy was almost completely undone with Cesc Fabregas’ shock announcement he wanted to move to Barcelona following the end of last season.  The move itself was always known that it would happen but most Arsenal supporters & even Wenger himself likely thought it was a few years away from happening.  But now it seems Fabregas will remain at Arsenal for this coming term at the very least.  Morroccan forward Marouane Chamakh signed on a free transfer from Bordeaux to add more experience to the frontline & Laurent Koscielny was bought from Lorient to replace William Gallas in the heart of defense.  Rumors also abound that Wenger is in the market for a ‘keeper to replace inconsistent Manuel Almunia as Arsenal’s #1.          

Aston Villa
Villa is currently in a state of flux withthe surprise resignation of Martin O’Neill just prior to the EPL campaign beginning.  Stand-in manager, Kevin MacDonald made a pretty emphatic statement to remain as full-time manager, however, with their solid 3-0 win over a hapless-looking West Ham.  But England international midfielder, James Milner, seems to be on his way to Manchester City & would be a big blow to Aston Villa’s European place ambitions.   John Carew & Gabriel Agbonlahor would have to carry the team at this point but Villa seem to have an exciting prospect on the wings to step into Milner’s place in Marc Albrighton who gave West Ham a torrid time on the flanks this past Saturday.

Birmingham City
Ben Foster was bought from Man U to come in as Brum’s #1 in goal & 6’9” Serb Nikola Zigić was brought in to bolster the attack but the Blues probably lack the quality overall to finish any higher than mid-table.  City is a side that plays a compact, organized style but like a lot of British-style teams lack that flair that’s pleasing for neutral fans.  Former Arsenal man Sebastian Larsson, stout Barry Ferguson & hardman Lee Bowyer patrols the midfield for Birmingham but the latter two are in the twilight of their careers.  Spaniard Michel was brought in last year to give the midfield a bit more versatility going forward & they have the promising Liam Ridgewell in defense but mid-table is most likely Birmingham’s best case scenario.

Blackburn Rovers
Sam Allardyce teams are generally tough ones to play against.  Known for their physical style & straight-forward long ball styles, even if you beat ‘em, you generally know you were in a battle.  Rovers have several players that can be tricky up front in El-Hadji Diouf, Nikola Kalinić, Morten Gamst Pedersen & new on loan signing from Man U, Mame Diouf but Allardyce’s system is a fairly rigid 4-5-1 (or a really defensive 4-3-3 depending on how you want to look at it) that relies heavily on long balls that often look to bypass the midfield, so their midfield which includes the likes of David Dunn, Irishman Keith Andrews & Aussie Brett Emerton can be often very average-looking.  Long-ball style teams can be very erratic, so Blackburn could finish anywhere from 6th to having to fight off relegation.

Blackpool no doubt delivered the shock result of the opening round with a 4-0 win over Wigan.  The Tangerines were dubbed in some circles to be possibly “the worst Premier League team ever.”  Led by charismatic manager, Ian Holloway, Blackpool no doubt will have an uphill struggle all season long to avoid relegation but with the likes of forward Marlon Harewood leading your strikeforce, the hill is a steep one indeed.  New signing, defender Dekel Keinan of Israel was brought in to help shore up the back but to say that Blackpool remaining in the EPL for another year would be a minor miracle, is somewhat of an understatement.  

Bolton Wanderers
Bolton is another club that plays a more straight forward British-style & is managed by Scotch-Irish Owen Coyle (Coyle was born in Scotland but capped by Ireland).  Man City castoff Bulgarian Martin Petrov can add some skill to Bolton’s midfield along with American Stuart Holden & with Swede Johan Elmander & Serb Ivan Klasnić & Kevin Davies up front to choose from, Wanderers can be dangerous in the air.  But like so many other sides, Bolton just lacks that top level quality to push on for European placings or to be a consistent threat over the course of a full season.  They can be the type of committed team you don’t like to face in the cups though.

Their 6-nil thrashing of West Brom on opening day says otherwise but does an aging Chelsea side have the legs to outlast the EPL competition & retain their title?  Michael Ballack is gone, moving back home to Germany & Drogba will be 33 this season, though he looked pretty good on opening Saturday bagging a hat-trick & Lampard will be 32.  Chelsea’s good but aging squad will no doubt be boosted with the return to full fitness of rock-solid defensive midfielder Ghanaian, Michael Essien.  Chelsea is also trying to land the next Brazilian hotshot, in their never-ending production line of them, in the form of attacking midfielder, Neymar.  Compatriot midfielder, Ramires, has already signed which will also help with Chelsea’s depth in midfield.  But is left back Ashley Cole off to reunite with José Mourinho at Real Madrid soon?