Hello, lovelies. Did you miss us? Sorry, we’ve been busy. Ian decided that he wanted to get married and then cart the newly-minted Mrs. Harrison all around Turkey. No Galatasaray or Fenerbahce for him though… unless those are also varieties of kebab. Meanwhile, I was doing my best to produce quality news programming about the sh!t show in Tottenham. How many times can one person talk to Bradford University’s Professor of Peace Studies? As many times as you like, it turns out.
With the labour troubles in Spain and Italy, and the always ridiculous August spending sprees, I decided to wait until today to wind the blog back up. So now that the dust is settling, let me tell you who I think did well in this year’s silly season, and who got what the Greeks called gamise‘d. (Look it up).
Liverpool – If you are Scouse — and have been cryogenically frozen since this time last year — you would think that you had died and gone to the Great Big Kop in the Sky, la. Kenny Dalglish is manager again? Most of the starting line-up is English or South American? Over one hundred million pounds spent on players? No club debt? Craig Bellamy?!? Over the last six weeks, King Kenny has dumped 17 players who were either mediocre or colossal mistakes.
The £35 million spent on Andy Carroll is starting to look like folly, and Meireles’ sale to Chelsea might bite the Pool in the bum when they visit Stanford Bridge. But the acquisitions of Suarez, Coates, Adam, Downing and Enrique have all come up roses. The Reds should qualify for the Champions League, while meeting both UEFA’s Financial Fair Play and the Prem’s homegrown rules. Throw in a nice knock-out trophy and the season will be an unqualified success.
Manchester City – See above re: getting rid of dead weight. The purchases of Aguero and Nasri are coups d’etat… no question. The shock acquisition of Owen Hargreaves might be genius or ignorance, depending on whether City trainers can get the former England international fit again. Now Tevez’ agent says the wantaway Argie may stick around. If you throw in Aguero, Dzeko and Balotelli, that is a scary forward line… plus Silva and Nasri on the wing. The accusations of a middling Mancini team are dissipating rapidly.
Manchester United – I like to think of Sir Alex Ferguson as a Scottish Elmer Fudd. Prone to fits of fwustwation… he has been vewy vewy quiet as he hunts for twophies. De Gea, Young and Jones were bought early in the summer before the silly season started. But unlike Bugs Bunny’s bald antagonist, Sir Alex usually gets his hare (insert tired Wayne Rooney joke here). United had no movement at the deadline because there was no need. Who cares about the rest of the Prem… Sir Alex is tracking Catalonians.
Stoke City – Slowly, quietly, Tony Pulis has been building the Potters into legitimate competitors. They have begun their third season in the top flight with a solid European campaign, after making it to the FA Cup final in May. Now claims of boring, boring Stoke might be put to rest. Twenty-two million pounds spent on Peter Crouch, Wilson Palacios and Cameron Jerome may not offer up oodles of goals. But they are legitimate options and they are playing in front of a defense as good as any in the league.
Tottenham Hotspur – ‘Arry did a lot of wheeling and dealing this August, dumping lads that he wasn’t really playing away. Only three new players have made their way to the Lane (perhaps because they were afraid of taking the tube into Tottenham). Falque is untested. But Scott Parker was magnificent in West Ham’s midfield… and Adebayor must be chomping at the bit to score goals against his former club, Arsenal. PLUS… ‘Arry somehow managed to keep Luka Modric onside. Not a wheeler-dealer, my eye.
Wigan Athletic – Not a lot of movement… but the permanent signing of Ali Al-Habsi may be enough to keep the bastards up. This club is the “Boris the Blade” of the Premier League…
Wolverhampton Wanderers – Last season, Wolves allowed the fourth-most goals in the Prem. Two of those other three teams were relegated. But credit Mick McCarthy for buying Roger Johnson. This season, Wolves have only allowed one goal in three games. It’s early days yet but Wolves look tons brighter. For the life of me, I still don’t understand why Johnson can’t get a call-up from Fabio Capello.
Aston Villa – Shay Given was an inevitable choice to replace Brad Friedel, and Villa Park is definitely a step up for Charles N’Zogbia. But c’mon: Alan Hutton? Jermaine Jenas? Things may have started well… but Villa fans will find yet more things to grumble about this season.
Blackburn Rovers – Kudos to Steve Kean for kicking The Human Camel to the curb…. and Scott Dann should amply fill the hole left by the departed Phil Jones. But so much for the supposed flow of superstars into Ewood Park. Yakubu is a joke acquisition (who looks like he’s had a Venky’s chicken pot pie or two)… and since Jason Roberts has yet to manifest as the Second Coming of Alan Shearer, no one is left to score goals. Look for the Red Rose of Lancashire to have fully wilted by Christmas.
Chelsea – Overshadowed by City’s bigger kitty, Chelski still seem intent to throw around their rubles. Meireles is a good signing… and Liverpool will be happy to have made some money on him. But the purchase of Lukaku and Mata has to mean that Villa Boas isn’t confident in a now-injured Drogba… or the misfiring £50 million mistake known as Fernando Torres. I may eat my words… but Abramovich’s ego buy will haunt Chelsea for sometime.
Everton – If you don’t have much firepower to begin with, why would you part with any offensive players at all? To pay the bank, that’s why. It is a bad sign that the Toffees offloaded Arteta and Beckford. Everton fans should be very afraid.
Newcastle United – Andy Carroll leaves his hometown club. Kevin Nolan has a magnificent season and then abandons the team for a Championship outfit. Then both Joey Barton and Jose Enrique tell the cyberworld how unhappy they are… and leave. The Geordies should be up in arms… and Mike Ashley should be ashamed of himself.
Norwich City – They were quiet at the deadline, except to send a couple of players to the lower leagues. That’s because Norwich is a lower league team. They weren’t exactly losers at the transfer deadline; I just don’t expect Norwich to go anywhere except back to the Championship.
Swansea City – The Tafs should enjoy their Premiership ride while it lasts.
West Bromwich Albion – If you’re bleeding goals, why wouldn’t you try and sign a decent centre back? Oh, right… it’s because you’re West Bromwich Albion.
Too Early to Tell
Arsenal – Where is the real Arsene Wenger and what have you done with him? Nothing like an 8-2 loss to one of your biggest rivals to open up the purse, is it? Arteta, Benayoun, Mertesacker and Santos are not inspired buys… but they are players worthy of one of the world’s biggest clubs. However, it remains to be seen if Arsenal moves on from Sunday’s humiliation… or if it lets the occasion cloud the rest of the season.
Bolton Wanderers – When I look at Owen Coyle’s side, I tend to make that Marge Simpson noise of disapproval. The Scotsman has managed to keep Gary Cahill and he has brought in Tyrone Mears (a very decent right back) and some steel in Nigel Reo-Coker. Klasnic already has three goals but David N’Gog and Gael Kakuta will have to start making an impact right away. Despite the so-called “free-flowing” football, Bolton have a lot to prove…
Fulham – My dark horse at the beginning of the season, Fulham haven’t exactly flown out of the gates. But they have two excellent keepers, a great back line and a decent midfield. The double-digits spent on Bryan Ruiz shows they are serious about trying to improve their offensive output. Otherwise the Cottagers will have to depend on their defence. That could result in a lot of draws… and look what happened to Birmingham.
Queen’s Park Rangers – Despite their victory against a struggling Everton, QPR have not had a great start. However, they are owned by one of the world’s richest men and they are starting to spend a little of his money to make an impact. With buys like Barton, Dyer, Gabbidon, Boothroyd, DJ Campbell, Luke Young, Armand Traore, Anton Ferdinand and Shaun Wright-Phillips, QPR has successfully transformed itself into a Premier League team. Let’s see if it can stay that way.
Sunderland – I have to admit that I’m personally disappointed with Sunderland’s start to the season. All summer, I watched Steve Bruce do what I thought were some tidy little pieces of business. He signed Elmohamady to a permanent deal. He fought off bigger clubs for Conor Wickham. He bought Gardner, Larsson and Vaughan, who were among the best players from their relegated clubs. Bruce bought veteran players Brown and O”Shea from his old mentor, SAF… and he snatched young goalkeeper Kieran Westwood from Coventry. Brucie has to turn it around or the Mackems will quickly call for his head. Let’s see if the strike force duo of Nicklas Bendtner and Nicklas Bendtner’s Ego can do just that.