Premier League 2012/2013: Team by Team Preview


Key Player: For me, Alex Song was second only to Robin Van Persie in terms of Arsenal’s best players last season and I think that they must do absolutely everything in their power to keep him at the club amidst rumours that Barcelona are on the verge of a securing a move for the dynamic midfield player. I think that losing Song would represent a greater loss to Arsenal than losing Van Persie as the Dutchman’s departure was always expected and therefore planned for whereas Song’s departure would leave Arsenal requiring some quick-fire work in the latter stages of the transfer window.

Alex Song Barcelona

Signings: Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud

What they still need: If Arsenal are planning on offloading either Marouane Chamakh or Nicklas Bendtner then I think they need to invest in another striker but Arsene Wenger seems to think otherwise. They will also need to line up a very decent replacement for Alex Song if he is to be lured to the Nou Camp.

Prediction: 5th

Aston Villa

Key Player: Villa had a pretty dire season last year in almost every way but they certainly had their reasons. I can remember very few Premier League sides ever having endured such a terrible season of injury woe than Villa last year and the major loss of the bunch was Darren Bent who missed the most crucial part of the season as they were sucked into the relegation dogfight. With Bent back on the field they will stand a far greater chance of avoiding relegation worries this season as he remains their only major goal threat.

Bent Villa

Signings: Karim El Ahmadi, Brett Holman, Ron Vlaar, Matthew Lowton

What they still need: Villa could do with someone to help Bent out on the goal scoring front as Gabriel Agbonlahor’s contributions have never been consistent enough. Last season Villa also looked desperately short of creative sparks in their midfield and they would benefit from adding a creative player out wide. Someone like Matt Jarvis of Wolves or Gabriel Obertan of Newcastle would prove a decent addition to their squad and they are prbably both available at the right price.

Prediction: 13th


Key Player: Fernando Torres has struggled for form and fitness over the past few seasons but towards the end of last season there seemed to be a bit of an upturn in form for the once prolific Spaniard and this form followed him unto Spain’s successful Euro 2012 campaign where he won the Golden Boot. In the wake of Chelsea hero Didier Drogba’s departure Torres will need to step up to the plate and take on the bulk of their goal scoring burden and I think we will see something more like his old self in this campaign.

Torres Chelsea

Signings: Oscar, Marko Marin, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard

What they still need: Chelsea need a right back to compete with Branislav Ivanovic and perhaps they could also do with another holding midfield player as Michael Essien seemed to struggle to reach his former heights last season. Don’t rule out a move for a striker either as they aren’t exactly over-stocked in that department.

Prediction: 3rd


Key Player: Everton are always brilliantly drilled and organised by their fantastic manager David Moyes but the only area in which they have truly struggled during his time at the club is in the goal-scoring department. Never before have they had a striker with such an eye for goal as Nikica Jelavic and if his first half season at the club is anything to go by then they may well have finally found themselves a 20 goal a season man.

Jelavic Everton

Signings: Steven Pienaar, Steven Naismith

What they still need: They were surprisingly active in the January transfer market and have already brought Steven Pienaar back to the club this summer so expect little more movement from Everton. Having said that though, I think a rumoured move for Michael Owen would represent the sort of low-risk move which might take David Moyes’ fancy and he could prove a decent addition if he can keep fit.

Prediction: 8th


Key Player: Fulham’s star man is Clint Dempsey. He is far and away their best player and his ability to score a huge haul of goals from midfield has been the difference between them being a mid-table club rather than a side battling to avoid relegation in recent times and it is of paramount importance that they hold on to him if they are to have any chance of progressing. It does however sound like he is at the top of Liverpool’s wanted list and one would have to think that the move will probably go through.

Dempsey Fulham

Signings: Mladen Petric, Hugo Rodallega, Sascha Reither, George Williams

What they still need: If Dempsey decides to move to Liverpool then Fulham will need to either invest in a striker who can take on the task of replacing the void left by Dempsey’s departure in their goals tally or alternatively a midfielder in the Dempsey mould who can score and create goals on a regular basis.

Prediction: 12th


Key Player: He may well be the most, or at very least one of the most, maligned players in the league but Luis Suarez is undoubtedly Liverpool’s best offensive player and they will rely heavily upon him to try and re-assert themselves as a real Premier League force this season. In terms of his contribution in purely football terms Suarez has enjoyed a very decent first season and a half in English football but he needs to score a greater bulk of goals than he has done so far if he is to be truly regarded as one of the most highly revered strikers in world football.

Suarez Liverpool

Signings: Joe Allen, Fabio Borini

What they still need: If Daniel Agger moves to City then Liverpool will definitely have to replace him with someone like Steven Caulker and they could also do with adding more bite to their midfield. It sounds as if they are keen to secure a deal to sign Clint Dempsey and I don’t think there are many sides in the league who wouldn’t benefit from adding him to their squad. Christian Tello and Nuri Sahin are both very firmly on their radar also…

Prediction: 6th

Manchester City

Key Player: Yaya Toure had a sublime season last year and was  arguably the key component of their first ever Premier League winning side. He has adapted his game so easily since joining the club and he has transformed himself into one of the most dynamic roaming midfielders in world football. If City are to make it back-to-back titles then they will need Toure to keep fit and to reach the same levels as last season.

Toure Man City

Signings: Jack Rodwell

What they still need: Do City really need anyone? They could perhaps do with some more competition in central defence as replacement centre half Stefan Savic didn’t look up to the task last season and Daniel Agger would be a great signing if they could pull it off.

Prediction: 1st

Manchester United

Key Player: He may not seem the obvious choice but I think Michael Carrick could and should have a huge part to play in United’s season. At his best he is one of the Premier League’s finest distributors of the ball and he possesses the ability to relieve his defence of an enormous amount of pressure with his very efficient positioning and shielding of the back four. When he is high on confidence he is a totally different player than when he is in and out of the starting lineup and I think it is of little coincidence that United are at their best when Carrick is thriving in the heart of their midfield.

Carrick Man Utd

Signings: Robin Van Persie, Nick Powell, Shinji Kagawa

What they still need: Signing Van Persie has given their chances of gaining revenge on City a huge boost. They could however still do with some more defensive cover and perhaps a holding midfielder.

Prediction: 2nd


Key Player: Since joining Newcastle Cheik Tiote has become one of the most sought after midfield players in English football as his destructive and combative talents have proved completely vital to Newcastle’s successful return to top-flight football. It seems as though Newcastle have done a fantastic job of keeping him happy at the club as I’m sure there would be a whole host of suitors for one of the Premier League’s best holding midfield players if he was ever to declare anything other than his enormous affection for the club.

Tiote Newcastle

Signings: Curtis Good, Romain Amalfitano, Vurnon Anita, Gael Bigrimana

What they still need: Newcastle still need some defensive cover having looked threadbare at the back throughout the second half of last season, other than that though their squad is looking pretty well set for a challenge at securing European qualification for the second season running.

Prediction: 7th


Key Player: Last season Grant Holt not only realised his dream of playing Premier League football but he also became perhaps the surprise success story of the entire Premier League season as he banged in the goals which kept Norwich clear of danger. If Norwich are to avoid danger again then Holt will surely again have to reach a similarly decent goals tally.

Holt Norwich

Signings: Michael Turner, Robert Snodgrass, Jacob Butterfield, Javier Garrido, Steven Whittaker

What they still need: Norwich need to bring someone in who can share the goal scoring burden with Grant Holt and they would benefit from investing in a quality centre half.

Prediction: 20th


Key Player: One of the more interesting transfer deals of the summer has seen Park Ji-Sung leave Manchester United for Queens Park Rangers. Not satisfied anymore with life on the periphery of the United side Park decided to ‘up sticks’ and he signed for Rangers in what could prove to be a great bit of business for the West-Londoners. He became well renowned for his tremendous attitude and work ethic at United but when he was at his best he was more than just a dedicated squad member. He has terrific off the ball movement and if he can just make more of his uncanny ability to pop up in great areas then I’m sure he’ll prove to be a big hit at Loftus Road.

Signings: Park Ji-Sung, Fabio, Ryan Nelsen, Samba Diakite, Andy Johnson, Rob Green, Junior Hoilett

What they still need: QPR need to make improvements in defence having looked very leaky at the back last season and they would be wise to add further defensive recruits as they have the potential to become a top-ten side if only they can find a bit more stability throughout their squad.

Prediction: 10th


Key Player: Any new Premier League sides desperately need a striker who can reach at least double figures on the goals front and in signing Pavel Pogrebnyak Reading way well have found themselves one. Pogrebnyak’s arrival at the club appears to be a real coup as a couple of more established Premier League and European Clubs were after his services and if he can re-create his start whilst on loan at Fulham last season then he will prove to be a crucial part of Reading’s bid for survival.

Pogrebnyak Reading

Signings: Chris Gunter, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Guthrie, Adrian Mariappa, Nicky Shorey, Gareth McCleary

What they still need: Reading have done pretty well in the transfer market so far having beaten more established sides to the signatures of Pogrebnyak and Guthrie but they could still do with adding some Premier League experience to their squad right across the board. Many are tipping them for the drop but I think they could have a pretty good season.



Key Player: Rickie Lambert has proven himself to be a lethal marksman at football league and championship level but it remains to be seen whether he can emulate the likes of Grant Holt and make a success of himself in the Premier League. Southampton haven’t invested much in new signings so far this summer so if they are to re-establish themselves as a top-flight side then they will be reliant once again on Lambert finding the back of the net on a regular basis.

Lambert Southampton

Signings: Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Nathaniel Clyne, Paolo Gazzaniga

What they still need: Southampton must add greater numbers and a greater amount of experience to their squad as they look a little lightweight in every department at the minute. The signings they have made so far have actually been pretty good but they definitely need to invest more if they are to have any hope of staying up.



Key Player: Tony Pulis put a lot of faith in Peter Crouch last summer when he splashed over £10m on the ageing England international but his faith was repaid as Crouch led the line admirably for the Potters. Hopes will be high again for Crouch to deliver and if he scores ten to fifteen goals then Stoke should be in decent shape to avoid being lured into a relegation battle.

Crouch Stoke City

Signings: Michael Kightly, Geoff Cameron, Jamie Ness

What they still need: Stoke have done a great job establishing themselves as a Premier League club and now they need to ensure that this remains the case. If they are to steer clear of any flirtations with trouble then I think they need to sign a creative central midfield player as they are short of genuine playmakers.

Prediction: 14th


Key Player: Last season Stephane Sessegnon was far and away Sunderland’s best player. The diminutive midfielder is an elusive off the ball runner and he has the ability to unlock doors in any opposition’s defences so he will always be a major threat. If they can keep him sweet and team him up with a new front man then he could well continue to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s finest playmakers.

Sessegnon Sunderland

Signings: Louis Saha, Carlos Cuellar

What they still need: They may have added Saha to their ranks but they still desperately need another striker and it sounds as if they are trying their utmost to land Steven Fletcher from Wolves. They could also do with more cover across all positions at the back.

Prediction: 9th


Key Player: In the wake of Joe Allen’s departure from the club, Swansea are left without arguably their best player from last season but up until now at least they have managed to hold on to Scott Sinclair who has also been fantastic for them over the past couple of seasons. In his attacking midfield role Michael Laudrup will need Sinclair, his star man, to contribute heavily both in terms of goals scored and assists made otherwise the Swans could struggle to remain a Premier League club come the end of the season.

Sinclair Swansea City

Signings: Michu, Jose Manuel Flores, Jonathan De Guzman, Itay Shechter

What they still need: Swansea could do with replacing the playmaking talents of the departed Joe Allen and it wouldn’t hurt them to try and sign a new striker to compete for a place with Danny Graham as well. If Scott Sinclair is tempted away in the coming weeks by Manchester City then it would also be of paramount importance that they find a suitable replacement.

Prediction: 17th


Key Player: New signing Jan Vertonghen has impressed greatly in his time at former club Ajax and Spurs will need to him to settle very quickly in London if they are seriously challenge for the top few places in the league. Now that their defensive rock Ledley King has finally had to call it a day for his injury-plagued career there is a huge void left in Tottenham’s defence which creaked at times last year and Vertonghen will be required to fill it.

Vertonghen Spurs

Signings: Jan Vertonghen, Gylfi Sigurdsson

What they still need: A replacement for Luka Modric is a must and they could do with a couple of strikers also. They will still be hoping they can make a deal for Emmannuel Adebayor work and they may also try to land either one of Loic Remy or Leandro Damaio who have both been on their radar for quite a while. Andy Carroll could also be an option…

Prediction: 4th

West Brom

Key Player: Ben Foster has proven himself to be a very decent Premier League goalkeeper at a few different clubs now and though he is a keeper with an error-prone streak in him he is also a keeper capable of match-winning performances. Sometimes there seems to be absolutely no way past Foster and West Brom will need him to have several of these days in the forthcoming season if they are to avoid a post-Roy Hodgson era hangover under new manager Steve Clarke.

Foster West Brom

Signings: Markus Rosenberg, Ben Foster, Yassine El Ghanassy, Claudio Yacob

What they still need: West Brom’s squad could do with the addition of a striker who could bag them 15-20 goals a season and a midfielder capable of providing the service necessary to make this possible. Matt Jarvis might be a good option as he is a proven creator and scorer of Premier League goals from wide positions.

Prediction: 19th

West Ham

Key Player: James Tomkins has already had a taste of Premier League action having featured regularly in West Ham’s relegation season but this time he will be hoping to prove that he has developed his game sufficiently to help West Ham avoid the drop this time around. He has been the recipient of a lot of praise since West Ham found themselves back in the Championship and he will be desperate to continue his strong rate of development at the highest level this season.

Tomkins West Ham

Signings: Modibo Maiga, James Collins, Alou Diarra, Mohamed Diame, Stephen Henderson, Jussi Jaaskelainen, George McCartney

What they still need: The Hammers have recruited very well so far this summer but if they have aspirations of doing more than just staying up then they could do with one or two more faces. Their midfield now looks packed with strength and combative players but they still look slightly lightweight in terms of creative forces.

Prediction: 11th


Key Player: New signing Arouna Kone notched an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances for former club Levante last season and if Wigan are to steer clear of their now annual relegation battle then he will need to be similarly potent for his new club. Wigan have always struggled to find a consistent goal scorer in their years as a Premier League club but in Kone they may finally have found one. We’ll have to wait and see…

Kone Wigan

Signings: Arouna Kone, Fraser Fyvie, Ivan Ramis

What they still need: They could do with strengthening their defence and adding toughness to their midfield, they ideally would like to add players who already have Premier League experience. Another must for Wigan is either holding onto Victor Moses or alternatively spending the money made from any deal involving Moses wisely on a player or a couple of players who are capable of replacing his considerable talents.

Prediction: 16th


Beware of the Drog: Premier League Icon Seeks Pastures New

In the wake of Didier Drogba’s announcement that he is to leave Chelsea this summer I have pondered about just where the Ivorian ranks amongst the Premier League’s best ever front-men. 


Drogba has been one of the true entertainers of the Premier League era

In eight years as a Chelsea player, Drogba’s record matches up with most and he is leaving Stamford Bridge having accumulated an impressive haul of 10 major trophies, the most hard-earned and most significant of the lot of course being last Saturday’s Champions League win.

From the moment he signed for a seemingly over-inflated fee of £24 million to the moment he slotted the decisive penalty in the Champions League final and momentarily appeared to be worth that money a hundred times over, Drogba has been a captivating footballer to watch and I would almost certainly rank him as the best signing of the Roman Abramovic era.

To be labelled such a success is hugely complimentary given the enormous sums of money that Abramovic has poured into transfers and the following players provide just a small sample of the high profile and high valued signings which I would rank him above in a list of Roman’s greatest captures at Chelsea:Arjen Robben, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Fernando Torres, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda, Nicholas Anelka… the list could go on….

Indeed, there are few more flattering things that you could say about Drogba’s time in England than to label him “the best Abramovic-era signing” and perhaps the only greater context in which he could be placed as a Premier League footballer would be to rank him amongst the finest front-men ever to grace our top flight.

The bad side of Drogba:

I am in no doubt as to whether or not he deserves to leave behind him such a lofty legacy from his time in England. He has been phenomenal for Chelsea and though I have not always been particularly fond of him I do and always have rated him very highly indeed.

Below is my list of the best strikers ever to grace the Premier League…


The Top 10 (Not in Order):


1. Thierry Henry: The classy Frenchman combined raw pace with great technical ability and lethal finishing.

  1. Didier Drogba: Drogba has proved himself a master in the art of playing as a lone striker.
  2. Wayne Rooney: Rooney is arguably the most technically gifted centre-forward ever in the PL.
  3. Alan Shearer: Goals by the bucket load and an inspiring and down-to-earth demeanour.
  4. Eric Cantona: Goals, creation, skill, arrogance beyond compare and an overwhelming presence.
  5. Ruud Van Nistelrooy: Probably the best goal-poacher the PL has ever seen.
  6. Denis Bergkamp: Rooney’s rival in the technical ability department, oozed class.
  7. Fernando Torres: Prolific for Liverpool, not so far Chelsea thus far but could still be.
  8. Andy Cole: Great movement, great finisher. Shame he couldn’t re-produce it at international level.
  9. Michael Owen: If it weren’t for a string of long-term injury problems then he would have broken records.


Honourable Mentions: Robbie Fowler, Dwight Yorke, Nicolas Anelka, Robin Van Persie, Gianfranco Zola, Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham


For me Drogba is definitely one of the top five strikers to have played Premier League football and his contributions for Chelsea have been unrivalled throughout his time at the club. He may not have endeared himself to all Premier League fans given his penchant for a manic outburst at officials and for an over-dramatic collapse to the deck but few can question the enormity of his contributions to Chelsea and to the Premier League as a whole.

The great side of Drogba:

It was entirely fitting that Drogba not only scored the decisive spot-kick in the Penalty Shoot-out triumph against Bayern but also the thumping header deep into the ninety pre-planned minutes of play, and though he hasn’t always been my cup of tea I was thrilled to see him contribute more than any other in Chelsea’s success.

I would argue that even at the age of 34 that there is still no better player in world football at playing as a lone striker than Drogba and though I never thought I would say this… I will miss you Didier.

The Key Head-to-Head battles in Munich

This evening’s Champions League final pits firm-favourites Bayern Munich against underdogs Chelsea both of whom have had to defy the gods en-route the final.

Heynckes Di Matteo

Bayern’s Manager and Chelsea’s Interim Manager will have a huge say in tonight’s final

Bayern Munich, who I tipped as my Champions League winners in a blog post at the start of the season, will have the huge advantage of playing the final of European football’s showpiece event on their own pitch, in front of a lot of their own fans and in the comfort of their own stadium.

As nice as it is for Bayern to be playing on home turf, if some were to level criticism at them for winning the trophy in favourable circumstances then that would be grossly unfair given that they have overcome the likes of Real Madrid en-route to the final.

Madrid who early in the second leg of their Semi-Final clash had a 3-2 aggregate lead and a 2-0 lead on the night, were eventually out-gritted and out-done by the kings of German football who somehow found the strength to claw their way back into the tie and win it on penalties.

It is also hard to estimate just how much of an advantage it will prove to be for the giants of German club football to be playing at the Allianz Arena given that their home fans will theoretically have a far smaller ticket allocation than they would usually have for matches in their own ground. However, given that Munich are hosting the final it is more than likely that the ‘neutral’ sections of the ground will be awash with the red shirts and this anticipated wealth of support should give them the edge if they didn’t already have that in terms of their arguably superior playing personnel.

Opponents and ‘visitors’ Chelsea have endured a very strange season indeed. They have already slumped to a pretty dismal sixth-placed finish in the Premier League but they have also managed to land themselves some silverware in the FA Cup.

The other major positive in Chelsea’s season of contrasting fortunes has been their rise from the ashes in this season’s Champions League which has seen them recover from 3-1 down against Napoli after the first leg of their Second Round tie and from 2-1 down and a man down half an hour into their Semi-Final against a much-vaunted Barcelona side.

The man who must receive the most credit for dragging Chelsea’s season up from the cusp of a crisis is undoubtedly their Interim Manger Roberto Di Matteo. The young Italian has led the side he once played for with admirable calmness and confidence and should he fulfil the Chelsea Owner, Roman Abramovic’s, dream of landing the Champions League then surely he will be named the full-time boss come next week.

The outcome of the final could well be result of the team selection’s which both of the manager’s make and the reason for this is that both of them will be without several key players due to suspension.

Bayern will be without youngsters Holger Badstuber, David Alaba and Luis Gustavo who all would have been probable starters and Chelsea are missing their captain, John Terry, the ever-reliable Branislav Ivanovic and energetic midfielders Raul Meireles and Ramires who performed brilliantly against Barcelona in the Semis.

The probable line-ups for tonight’s game are as follows:

FC Bayern: (4-2-3-1)













Chelsea FC: (4-2-3-1)













I think the key battles to look out for tonight at the Allianz Arena will be as follows:


Bosingwa Vs. Ribery

Chelsea’s probable selection at right-back will be Jose Bosingwa who isn’t exactly renowned for his exemplary defensive strength and discipline but in the absence of the suspended Ivanovic he has to play ahead of Paolo Ferreira as he has the pace to try and deal with the rampaging runs of Franck Ribery.

Ribery Robben

Ribery and Robben will give Chelsea a lot of problem’s down each flank

Ribery is one of the the most talented players in the Bayern side and although he has failed to truly prove himself on the very biggest stages of world football thus far, maybe tonight will provide him with the chance to shine. Going up against Bosingwa will have it’s difficulties in terms of Bosingwa’s speed which should help him keep with the Frenchman but Ribery’s craft and dribbling ability could cause the Portugese full-back to have a torrid evening. If Bosingwa keeps Ribery in his pocket then much of  Bayern’s threat will be negated.

Boateng Vs Drogba

In the absence of first-choice centre-halves, the versatile German international Jerome Boateng provide’s Bayern with their only obvious option to command the central area of their back-line and the task ahead of him could hardly be more difficult than having to deal with Drogba.

Drogba Boateng

Drogba looks to have the beating of Boateng but the young German could emerge as the star for Bayern if he keeps Drogba quiet

There is arguably still no better player on the planet than Drogba when it comes to playing up top as a solitary front-man and if he is at his best then I would be surprised if Boateng and co keep him quiet for long. If Boateng is partnered at centre-back by an out of position and perhaps more importantly rather short Anatoliy Tymoschuk then much of the defensive burden may fall on his shoulders and he could be almost solely reliant for taming the undoubted threat which Drogba poses.

Schweinsteiger Vs. Lampard

Two of this final’s veteran players could have a huge say in the outcome of the match as both of them hold the key to their side’s passing games.

Lampard Schweinsteiger

Could these two decide the outcome of the final with their possession-play in midfield

Both Lampard and Schweinsteiger are seen as their side’s dictators of play and much will rest on each of their shoulders as they seek to win the possession battle which could prove very significant on the night.

Cahill Vs. Gomez

Having played very little football over the past few weeks due to injury, tonight could go one of two ways for Chelsea’s January recruit Gary Cahill. One possibility is that this short-term absence has kept him fresh and ready to take on Bayern tonight, but the other possibility is that he may be under-cooked which he simply cannot afford to be when taking on the likes of Mario Gomez who has already scored 41 goals this season in all competitions.

David Luiz

Gary Cahill will need to be at his very best after a brief injury lay-off

Gomez has some similarities with Chelsea’s target-man Didier Drogba in that they are both part of a rare-breed of tall and strong strikers who aren’t merely physical presences but who are also very mobile and very technically sound footballers. If Gomez performs to something like the best of his abilities then Cahill will have to produce an epic performance to try and keep him under wraps as his likely parter at centre-back will be David Luiz who in spite of an improving level of awareness still represents something of a liability.


My Prediction:

I think that both sides will provide a threat due to their respective absences of key players in key positions but I think Bayern will come out on top and deny Chelsea from winning a first Champions League title.

Score: Bayern 2 – 1 Chelsea:

Scorers (In order) : Gomez (First Half), Robben  (Early Second Half), Drogba (15 minutes to go)



Who will step into the AVB shaped hole at Chelsea?

After a tumultuous few months of charge Andre Vilas-Boas has run out of time and Roman Abramovic has once again wielded his managerial axe. Yet another league defeat has left Chelsea sitting uncomfortably in fifth place and after Arsenal’s near-miraculous ‘smash and grab’ win over Liverpool they are fast losing ground on those competing with them to secure Champions League qualification.

Now that the pressure of poor results has finally told on Andre Vilas-Boas the focus turns to who Roman Abramovic deems worthy of stepping into the breach on a permanent basis. In the wake of AVB’s tricky tenure at the club it seems likely that he will turn his attentions towards more experienced and more high profile candidates in a move to appease the sections of the Chelsea support that hold him firmly responsible for the stuttering period of time that the club has endured since Abramovic opted for Vilas-Boas’ rather wildcard appointment last summer.

Some of the names being touted by the press and the many varied betting companies include Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez, Fabio Capello, Pep Guardiola and then some far less glamorous and high profile candidates such as Brendan Rogers and David Moyes who wouldn’t exactly fit the mould of a classical Abramovic appointment but that isn’t to say they wouldn’t do a fantastic job. Below I have taken a closer look at the favourites to land the job and have analysed key factors such as their availability and their suitability to the role.

Rafael Benitez:

Benitez is arguably the strongest contender of those being most closely linked with the job. He has a great wealth of managerial experience both in England and abroad, he has a Champions League win under his belt (something of great appeal to Mr.Abramovic) and as a result of his experience and successes he would certainly come with the sort of reputation that a certain Russian oligarch tends to take a liking to.

Availability Rating: 9/10 He is currently not managing and has barely done so since parting company with Liverpool in acrimonious fashion back in 2010. Only a very brief stint at Inter Milan has served to fill part of this absence from regular management and you would imagine that an offer from a big club like Chelsea would be very hard to turn down.

Suitability: 9/10 In spite of a a shaky time at Inter, Benitez has been a very impressive and successful club manager and with his CV boasting a Champions League victory he appears to be an ideal fit. Chelsea are undoubtedly in a spot of bother at the moment, but one would imagine that Benitez is media savvy enough to handle the tough times having spent several years in front of the media’s gaze at Liverpool in what was a tricky period off the field for the club.

Mourinho and Benitez both have great track records in English football

Jose Mourinho:

As is always the case when a big English club needs a new manager, Jose Mourinho is being linked with the role. I myself can’t see it happening given his past with the club and with the owner in particular but stranger things have happened and I would stop short of completely ruling out the possibility of the ‘Special One’ making a return to his beloved Chelsea.

Availability Rating: 7/10 It is hard to see Jose leaving Real Madrid when he is on the verge of securing a first La Liga title since joining the club but he has often shown signs of major frustration in his time in the Spanish capital. If he were to leave Madrid it would surely not be until the summer but perhaps the act of breaking Barcelona’s stay of power at the top of the Spanish footballing charts would be the perfect way for him to bow out.

Suitability Rating: 6/10 There is no doubt that the Chelsea fans would love him to return to the club and there is no doubting how brilliant a job he did for the Blues but a move back to the club while Roman Abramovic is still calling the shots might just provide the impassable stumbling block. He left the club on poor terms with the powers that be and one would think his pride and tremendous ego would convince him not to re-trace his managerial footsteps under the current conditions at Chelsea.

Roberto Di Matteo:

The man charged with taking care of the club on an interim basis has a great history with Chelsea after a successful period as a player for the club and he is certainly a popular man amongst the Chelsea faithful. Having said that though it would be hard to see Abramovic backing another very young manager in the wake of AVB’s tough few months at the helm. If things go well during his stint in charge of the team though then who knows if he can force his way into the reckoning?

Having never managed a 'big club' this opportunity might have come a little too early for Di Matteo

Availability Rating: 10/10 Already at the club formerly as a player and as Vilas-Boas’ assistant and now as the caretaker boss, he would surely love the chance to take on the job on a full-time basis.

Suitability Rating: 6/10 His place in the Chelsea fan’s hearts puts him right up there and he is the man in possession in a way but it really does seem farfetched that Abramovic would consider another young and fairly inexperienced option.

Pep Guardiola:

Guardiola fits the bill but is he remotely available and could he really be tempted?

He may be young but boy has he been successful. I guess you could have said that about Andre-Vilas Boas but he hadn’t quite produced the football or the scale of success that Guardiola has since taking charge at Barcelona.

There have been plenty of murmurings about Guardiola’s future at Barca given their recent ‘struggles’ in their pursuit of Real Madrid in La Liga but he is a proud young manager and he might find it too hard to leave the club on a bad note. He has built a dynasty at Barca and perhaps Chelsea could provide the ideal platform for his second managerial project?

Availability Rating: 5/10 There is a chance he may leave Barca at the end of the season whether they bag themselves a major trophy such as the Champions League or not but I would be surprised if he actively decided to leave the club for a team who are currently a world away from the successes that he has enjoyed over the past few years.

Suitability Rating: 9/10 He has a great pedigree for a young manager and his youth and inexperience is hardly comparable to that of AVB seeing as he has already managed a super-power of world football for several seasons and that he has taken them to Champions League glory. He now comes with great form and a reputation for building a successful dynasty at a club with great building blocks in place and this makes him an ideal candidate for the job if there was any way of convincing him to give up sunny Spain for the Royal Borough of Chelsea.

Fabio Capello:

In the wake of his tough time as England manager, the prospect of managing a big English club might not be

Would the 'Iron Sergeant' fancy his chances of proving himself in English football?

entirely tempting for Capello. He was subject to some fairly intense media pressure in his time in charge of the national side and this alone might put him off setting up base in London again.

Having said that, Capello has an absolutely fantastic reputation when it comes to club management and he would come with the right sort of experience and profile for someone of Abramovic’s particular tastes. Could Fabio honestly face such swift return to the English capital?

Availability Rating: 8/10 He is unattached having recently walked out on the national side but Capello might just fancy a little period out of the game before taking on one last big challenge in his managerial career.

Suitability Rating: 7/10 He is a proven top-class club manager and he has won the Champions League with Milan just as previous Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti had done and in truth he would make for a very similar appointment. It is only his strained relationship with the English media and his reputation for being such a stern and defiant man that defies his suitability to the role.

David Moyes:

If Abramovic is looking for a down to earth manager with a great wealth of English managing experience then he should look no further. Moyes has done a terrific job in his many years at Everton and has proven the value of sticking with a manager for a long period of time something which isn’t exactly typical of an Abramovic appointment. Could Roman be ready to change his ways though?

He wouldn’t be a type-cast new manager for Chelsea but could he be the right option? I personally think that Moyes could do a very good job at any English club given his Premier League experience and the stellar job he has done on a very limited budget in his time at Goodison Park.

Moyes would be a surprise given Abramovic's penchant for glamorous appointments

Availability Rating: 7/10 He is fairly happy at Everton in spite of the limited financial support he has received in his time at the club, but he could be tempted by a big challenge like Chelsea and Everton would be fairly powerless to stand in his way given the tremendous service he has given to the club over a long period of time.

Suitability Rating: 7/10 I don’t doubt Moyes’ ability to manage Chelsea on a week-to-week basis in the Premier League but he has little to no experience of Europe’s premiere competition, the Champions League.  This may not effect his performance in the role if he were given the opportunity but such uncertainty may effect Abramovic’s judgement when it comes to deciding upon AVB’s successor. I think Moyes could be brilliant for Chelsea but I just can’t see him tickling Roman’s fancy.

English Super-Powers preparing to save their European lives

Who would have thought that going into the last round of group stage fixtures that the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea would be in serious danger of falling at the first hurdle? Not many I can assure you, but alas this is the case and arguably England’s three strongest sides are right up against the metaphorical ‘it’.

Of these three giants the side in the most grave danger of failing to progress are Manchester City which is rather unbelievable given their contrastingly magnificent league form. Week after week they are continuing to churn out formidable domestic displays, which, have seen them race five points clear of their Manchester rivals at the top of the Premier League, whilst also seeing themselves through to the last four of the League Cup. However, their stunning form outside of Europe has been belittled by their lacking performances on the continent so far this season and it has left them in an incredibly precarious position.

Manager Roberto Mancini is usually an enormously confident man and has already this season said that he believes that he is in charge of a side that are on a par with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. City’s fairly dismal European form has  seriously contradicted their manager’s assessment of their standing in world football though, to the point where going into Wednesday’s game against Bayern Munich he has conceded that they have a “60% chance” of an early exit.

Mancini’s concession that his side are facing an unenviable task must have been a really bitter pill to swallow. Having guided them to their first piece of silverware in their wealthy new-era and their first ever qualification to the Champions League, Mancini will have no doubt dreamt that his charges would venture out into the unknown and lay down a serious marker. Along with their passionate fans he will have let his mind wander freely to thoughts of making the Etihad Stadium one of European football’s most feared fortresses whilst moulding his squad into ferocious battlers when travelling away on the continent. Sadly, the blue side of Manchester have seen little of these dreams becoming a reality and their team have looked every bit a rookie side in this year’s competition.

It is quite often the case that one of England’s teams struggle en route to first round qualification but this year has provided us with two additional strugglers in the form of Manchester United and Chelsea, who in recent years have established themselves as two of the most consistently strong European performers. Manchester United must go away to Basle on Wednesday and get a point to secure qualification and though this would usually be run of the mill for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, this season has seen them repetitively stuttering through their group matches to the point where they have only achieved victory over whipping boys Otelul Galati.

Though they will undoubtedly go into Wednesday evening’s game as big favourites to progress, their Swiss opponents have already proven their ability to compete with United in their thrilling 3-3 draw at Old Trafford. This game saw United cruising as a result of a first half brace from Danny Wellbeck, but then they suffered a dramatic second half collapse nearly losing all three points only to be saved by Ashley Young’s most crucial United goal to date in the dying embers of the game. Maybe the fact that they know not to be complacent against their inferior opponents will aid them in their quest to secure qualification, but win, lose or draw Sir Alex will know that his team have drastically under performed throughout a group which they should have topped with some spare left in the tank.

The third English offering on this year’s list of under-achievers in the Champions League groups are Chelsea whose struggles have extended to all competitions under new boss Andre Vilas-Boas. Having raced to seven points from their first three games Chelsea looked to set to win the group with comfort, but since then they have suffered a major dip in European success that has coincided with a rotten run of results in the Premier League. Their previous two games have seen them play out a stale draw against Belgian minnows Genk and an immensely disappointing defeat away to Leverkusen having taken the lead in Germany. These equally damaging results have seen them slump to a position in the group where they must either achieve victory or a scoreless draw against a very decent Valencia side. They, like Manchester United, will be expected to make their class and experience show on a huge night for the club but there are perhaps greater doubts about their ability to do so than United’s when taking into account their poor recent form and their manager’s limited experience of facing up to serious adversity.

If all three of the aforementioned sides fail to qualify for the knockout stages then it would probably make for just about the greatest shock in the history of the competition given each of their standings in world football. Though Manchester City are in their rookie year in the competition they are fast establishing themselves as one of England’s strongest outfits, and the quality and depth of their squad is well in line with their lofty ambitions. For some reason though they, along with United and Chelsea, are performing with a lack of resolve and at times a complete lack of imagination in this year’s competition and as such have found themselves on the verge of an embarrassing early exit.

The fallout from the these three sides’ potential failure to progress could be enormous in terms of their finances and their reputations and if the rumour mill is to be trusted then it could even cost them the services of their managers. If Chelsea were to fail this evening then it is entirely feasible that Andre Vilas-Boas could be given his marching orders just months after taking the reigns at the club. Mancini too, in spite of his domestic success thus far this season, could face serious scrutiny if City don’t qualify for the next round. Probably the most strongly positioned manager of the three is Sir Alex Ferguson given that he has twenty five years of great success at United, but even he may have to re-consider his remaining value to the club if they were to be knocked out on Wednesday.

As it stands things look fairly dire for three of our major forces in European football, but just what will be the outcome of this week’s huge matches? We await the results with enormous anxiety and anticipation and soon we will know if  English club football is set for a crisis of confidence on the European stage.


My Predictions:

Chelsea win and take second place, United win and take second place, City draw at home to Munich but are eliminated as a result of Napoli defeating Villareal.


Noisy Neighbours still have much to learn after Super Sunday in the Premier League

Yesterday afternoon was a fine exhibition of just why Manchester United must be considered the favourites to win the Premier League. That isn’t to say Manchester City can’t challenge strongly or indeed Chelsea, but the performance levels of each of the sides and the results that came with them are indicative of United’s favourable chances of retaining their title.

Nani was electric against Chelsea

On a fantastic afternoon of Premier League football there were several fixtures and results that caught the eye. Not only were the combined winners of the last seven titles going head-to-head, but there were several huge games going on around the country and each of them produced four goals apiece.

In the North East there was the battle of two sides who having invested heavily over the summer should really be aiming to go one step better than a mid-table battle this season. Sunderland and their visitors Stoke have brought in high quality buys from some of the league’s stronger clubs and will both hope to challenge for European qualification via their league placing. Big names such as John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Nicklas Bendtner have flocked to the Stadium of Light this summer and yesterday was maybe just the beginning of things to come as they trounced their in-form opponents 4-0. It is fair to say that Stoke’s big signings such as Peter Crouch,Wilson Palacios and Jonathan Woodgate (all formerly of Spurs) are still settling in following their moves to the Brittania but yesterday was a defensive nightmare, something not often associated with Stoke performances.The Black Cats will certainly hope to carry this form into their upcoming matches after a poor start to the season.

Sunderland's new boys seem to be settling in at last

Another 4-0 win was registered yesterday, and this was by Spurs. They like Sunderland have struggled for form thus far this season amidst the unsettling Luka Modric transfer saga, but new signings Scott Parker and Emannuel Adebayor continued their great starts yesterday as they provided a real freshness and willingness against Liverpool. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was once again left upset by the performance of the referee in his side’s humbling but I would go as far as to say that the referee handled the key incidents perfectly. For me Charlie Adam’s red card was a dead-cert and Martin Skrtel was sent off for offences which are without question worthy of yellow cards in the modern era.

Could Adebayor be the signing of the summer on loan from City

Maybe the most significant result of the weekend was the 2-2 draw between Fulham and Manchester City. Having controlled the game and taken a seemingly comfortable initiative at 2-0 up City lost their way and with it the two of the three points they had firmly in their grasp. As has been the pattern this season Manchester City had the opportunity to lay down a marker for their more illustrious neighbours and up to this point they had done a good job of it. Yesterday though was the first plain indication this season that City do indeed have some frailties. Rather than the unbelievable claims of Roberto Mancini that he lacks midfield resources at present, I think the concession of their lead has much more to do with pressure and a lack of experience at leading the pack.

City are indeed dealing with notable absences such as Nigel De Jong and James Milner in the heart of their midfield but it is hardly a nightmare to have to cope with playing Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure in this role. After all they have won the Champions League, La Liga and FA Cup titles between them so they aren’t exactly mugs are they? It must be simply terrible to have the likes of Kolo Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Adam Johnson, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli on your bench mustn’t it? Give me a break.

Mancini's excuses were hard to stomach, but City are a huge threat under his guidance

On a more serious note it has to be said that Mancini must have been desperately upset with his team’s second half display to have lowered himself to such nonsense. However, City and in particular their new star striker Sergio Aguero are continuing to look a serious attacking threat and one which could cause Sir Alex Ferguson a few sleepless nights as the season goes on.

In stark contrast to City’s inability to turn a decent performance into three points was Manchester United’s rather erratic display which earned them a massive 3-1 win over major title rivals Chelsea. It was so hit and miss from United on the day but they still managed to down a Chelsea side that were playing with far greater purpose than they have done so far this season. In attack it was wingers Nani and Ashley Young that were once again in an extremely dangerous mood and they gave the Chelsea defence a torrid time. Though Rooney wasn’t his usual self in front of goal his contribution to the exciting build up play was once again magnificent and it was this that combined beautifully with the wide men’s persistent torment to provide an outstanding counter-attacking display which was reminiscent of Chicago Bulls in the 90’s. Not all the pieces of the jigsaw were quite there for United and a heck of lot was lacking at times but their winning mentality and attacking flair once again did the trick. Sir Alex Ferguson claimed  that the game was “painful” for him to watch, but even he must be staggered by the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling as they continue to hush fears of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic’s absence in the heart of the United defence.

On a Super Sunday of Premier League football United once again asserted their authority and continued to deal with their absences without fuss, whilst this time City came up short. The Noisy Neighbours are gaining momentum and are a huge threat to United’s crown, of that there is no doubt, but yesterday suggested that they are still playing second fiddle in the City of Manchester for now. Tons of goals and tons of entertainment mean that I haven’t even got the time to mention Fernando Torres’ horrible miss…

Is Torres on the road to ruin or recovery?

Eighteen months ago he was arguably the most coveted centre forward in World football, but Fernando Torres is now the name on every football fans lips for the wrong reasons.

In his pomp at Liverpool

No matter whether you like a player or their respective club it is always immensely disheartening to see fading genius and there is nothing quite like it in football for causing widespread compassion. There are of course people who can’t put aside silly prejudices and fail to have sympathy for players like Torres, but I think it is fair to say that the majority of real football fans would love to see ‘Nando’ firing on all cylinders once again.

Many are attributing his lack of form to the pressure he has felt under the burden of a huge £50 million price tag. This is of course a staggering valuation of one single player’s potential contribution to a football club, but in the modern era you would expect one of the most able footballers of a generation to live up to the expectation rather than collapse under it. Also, it must be said that his form was ailing long before his switch to Stamford Bridge and this begs the question of whether he stayed with Liverpool for too long? Given his injury troubles towards the end of his stay and the lack of silverware won in his time at the club, it is not out of the question that an earlier move away from Anfield could have prevented his continuing slump. There certainly would have been plenty of takers had he expressed a desire to seek pastures new a little while before his eventual departure.

The other buzz-word attributed to Torres’ plight is ‘confidence’. Everyone (myself included) who has voiced an opinion on the topic has been guilty of using this cop-out of a reason for his apparent downhill slide and of course everyone is probably right. Of course he is low on confidence and of course it is inhibiting his play, but really this confidence issue is probably more a symptom than a cause. His lack of confidence is in my opinion just the most prominent knock-on effect of the frustrating period he has endured where he has struggled to avoid injury and to produce his best football.

The first time that Torres appeared to be drastically short of sharpness and form was the World Cup last summer when he begun the tournament as one of the stars of the World’s best side and ended it as the flop of the tournament (along with the England, France and Italy.) It is curious how one so talented can seem to burn out and drop from the pinnacle of World football so quickly, but it is worth baring in mind that he would be far from the first to do this if he never recaptures his finest.

Warming the bench in the World Cup final

If you think back to other greats of the past ten years then names like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka might come to mind. Ronaldo looked to have lost it on a couple of occasions due to weight gain, injury and mental deficiencies before the age of 26 and eventually slipped off the top of the World stage by the time he reached his thirties. Ronaldinho, despite having recently begun to find a little form back in his homeland had already seen easily the best days of his career by the age of 28 (just two years after winning World Player of the Year for the second time). The story unfolding for Kaka appears to be similar also. He too won World Player of the Year in 2007 and has failed to live up to this moment of glory ever since. He is still at Real Madrid but injury and a consequent lack of form seem to have put pay to his chances of lighting up the World again and he is just 29.

These are all sad stories of players losing their touch and their fitness well before their expected use by dates and there is a recurring theme. They are all successful Brazilian internationals, and they certainly aren’t the first players from this nation or South America as a collective that have fallen into premature decline having made it to the very top of the game.

Of course Fernando Torres isn’t South American so his development as a man and a player has been immensely different from the majority of the aforementioned players and his home nation of Spain  have managed to produce several players of enduring quality. Current Real Madrid Captain Iker Casillas, current Barcelona Captain Carlos Puyol, and ex-Galacticos Raul, Michel Salgado and Fernando Hierro all provide great supporting evidence having enjoyed long and fruitful careers at the top of the game. The three ex-Madrid stars amongst them all managed to continue as top-class players up to the age of thirty five and beyond, in fact Raul and Michel Salgado are still playing first-team football in the Bundesliga and Premier League respectively.

If Torres needs motivation to work his way back to something like his best and to seek long-term success then he need look no further than his illustrious compatriots and the legacy left in their wake. It is entirely foolish to write Torres off as a spent force and Chelsea fans and management alike are right to keep faith with their man. His performance on Tuesday night was something more like his old self even if his significant contributions were more team oriented than self-glorifying, and maybe just maybe, the appreciation of his team mates on the night will go some way towards repairing his fragile state of mind.

Torres will look forward to trying to terrify United's defence once again

This weekend sees Torres come head-to-head with Manchester United (if selected) and he has enjoyed more success than most against the Red Devils. In the past he has given the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic a torrid time with his unrelenting probing runs in behind and towards the last line of defence and he will hope to be given the opportunity to do so again. If he plays, and if he scores then perhaps the re-building of his game will really gain some momentum. “Right him off at your peril”. “Form is temporary, class is permanent”. They are cliches for a good reason.