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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Once more unto the pitch dear friends, once more...

So a new season has just begun in England and with it comes all the promise of ... well football.  So what will happen this season and more importantly, what are the new season's kits like? Lets take it team by team for the EPL.

Arsenal
The team - It's bad news for Arsenal as they face the future without Fabregas and Nasri both of whom it appears are to move imminently. On the upside they're also going to get rid of Eboue and Bendtner so it's not all bad.  I suspect the gunners will be scrapping with Liverpool for 4th place and probably wont make it. Defensively frail in the centre of defence and utterly devoid of leadership and real physical presence they'll have a lot of hard games especially away from home. Don't expect Wenger to go throwing any money about before the end of the transfer window either. His faith in this generation of players he's brought through could be his undoing and mar his long term record.

The kit - Nike have been selling Arsenal short for year by consistently churning out dull shirts. This season's away shirt is decent but the home is the same old same old. The trim round the badge might well the closest Arsenal will get to any laurels this year. 



 Aston Villa
the Team - It's an uncertain time for Villa as they have lost their two most creative players to Man U and Liverpool and Alex Mcleish's managerial career is patchy to say the least. Villa's notoriously picky and fickle fans wont need much in the way of bad results to turn on him. Darren Bent goals and Richard Dunne largely reliable defence along with a couple of the new signings (N'Zogbia and Given) should be good enough to keep the Villans mid table.

The Kit - Villa's traditionally dull colours allied to Nike's almost complete lack of imagination make for an almost  sleep inducingly dull range of kits. most befitting for a team with Emile Heskey in it.

 Blackburn Rovers
 The Team - Last year Sam Allardyce built a patented Sam Allardyce team. Big, strong, direct and effective they looked set for solid mid table safety. Then Rovers were bought by their inexperienced Indian owners who sacked him and appointed Steve Kean. Kean has thus far failed to convince and the club tailed off badly under his guidance. It could well be a hard season for Blackburn and if they're not careful the trapdoor could open for them. 

The Kit - it's a bog standard Blackburn shirt but it's nice to see a little bit of red trim to brighten it up. The away shirt is almost as mundane and unimaginative as Blackburn's midfield.
 Bolton Wanderers
The Team - Owen Coyle had Bolton playing some nice stuff last season although they too finished the season poorly. There's a lot of goals to replace as Sturridge has gone back to Chelsea and Elamnder has also left. South Korean winger CY Lee is out for the whole season so a lot will be required from the likes of Martin Petrov who didn't play that much last year. They'll be comfortably mid table if they can find a few goals from somewhere.

The Kit - Reebok have made some real horror show kits for Bolton but the last couple have been decent. This one is not too bad and at least uses some blocks of colour. The away kit is the same shirt in different colours as is normal for Bolton.

 Chelsea
The Team - Where do you start? A manger who is 14 years old? An owner who sees the club as the worlds most expensive game of Football Manager? A lot of ageing senior pros with fragile egos? £50M worth of striker who cant score any more and doesn't fit tactically? The team should still be strong enough to be scrapping with the two Manchester clubs for the title but I fancy they'll be second or third. The byzantine politics of the interior of the club along with Vilas Boas' relative inexperience should make the soap opera worth watching even if the team doesn't catch fire.
The Kit - The home kit has shed the little bit of red trim from last season and has a shadowed hoop effect. I like the away kits a lot with Adidas managing to do something different without getting ridiculous (not that there's anything wrong with a really ridiculous shirt now and again)

Everton
The Team - By Everton's standards this should be a good season given how badly they started last year but I fear for them. As much as I'd like them to do well I think they'll lack firepower. Saha is excellent but fragile and ageing, Yakubu is streaky and I personally think he's overrated. If he was up to much they wouldn't have loaned him out last year. Other players like Beckford and Anichebe are questionable and as a result the side are over reliant on goals for the likes of Arteta, Cahill, Osman and Fellaini from midfield. Moyes keeps them honest but eventually this side will need goals from up front. solid mid table to top half is likely.
The kit - Criminally boring stuff from Le Coq Sportif. a lack of imagination on a par with Nike's dullest stuff.

 Fulham
The Team -Can Martin Jol reinvigorate this current group over overachieving ageing players? I don't know but another season might prove hard work for Murphy, Davies Johnson and Zamora. they should be ok at home and have enough to stay clear of the relegation dogfight but I'd be surprised to see them in the top half this year.
The kit - Kappa weren't up all night thinking it up were they? It's better than some of the featureless stuff Nike used to make for the cottagers but not by much.


Liverpool

The Team - An evolving squad under Dalglish should just about shake the last of the torpor of the Benitez era out of their system this year. Some big money signings over the last few months bring solid EPL experience to the side and the shape may be more reminiscent to the teams Dalglish himself use to play in. Suarez will undoubtedly be the creative touchstone and it'll be interesting to see how he interacts with the most traditional of British centre forwards in Andy Carroll, assuming Carroll can stay fit. the other point of interest will be Dalglish trying (or not as the case may be) to keep a legion of central midfielders happy and where Steven Gerrard fits in his plans. I wouldn't be surprised to see Liverpool finish fourth, ahead of Arsenal.
The kit - It's solid Adidas fayre with the home kit having a slight feel of the 1980s heyday about it. The third shirt is somewhat controversial among the fans as it's got a bit of blue on it. Maybe they could organise a protest or something...
 Manchester City
The Team - This City squad could genuinely be challengers this year. If a bedded in Dzeko can fire and fit in with the potentially devastating Aguero up front City could genuinely go and just beat teams, assuming Mancici lets the off the leash enough to do so. A midfield with Yaya Toure, David Silva and probably Samir Nasri could suply the bullets and Mario Balotelli could be a fine plan B, if someone can get his head sorted out and keep him focussed. City's defensive frailty means I think they'll be looking at a duel with Chelsea for second place but it could be a fun ride if only they're allowed to go and play the game. They'll do well to offload Tevez to anyone who's willing to match his wages but who would or could? Incidentally, if Tevez is miserable without his wife and family, quit City and go and play for Boca for nothing. He's already a very wealthy man. Or is it about another big pay day for him  and his agent?
The Kit - it's pretty standard stuff with City's traditional home and away deigns and a black utility third shirt. It's not dazzling but maybe it doesn't have to be with Aguero there to steal the limelight.

 Manchester United
Manchester United - St Mirren reject, Sir Alex Ferguson, has for many years accepted second best and tinkered with his small provincial club from Manchester. Never again for him the raw thrill of a 1-1 draw in the league cup with Dunfermline on a wet Wednesday night in Paisley. Man U have strengthened well and Wayne Rooney seems to have remembered he's a footballer. I expect Man U to win the league relatively comfortably. Integrating De Gea in goal will be key but the rest of the team should be good enough to get them out of trouble while he beds in. Hernandez will need to continue in the same vein of form as last season to give real cutting edge in the penalty box. The only area for improvement may be central midfield creativity but you Cleverly may get a run out in there rather than breaking the bank for an established star.
The Kit - Nike seem to have stuck with a slight 1980s feel for the home kit. The away shirt looks like a late 90s Middlesbrough kit


 Newcastle United

The Team - Newcastle tailed off last season after the sale of Andy Carroll. It's not unusual for a promoted team to run out of steam but now that the team that did well last year has been broken up. Carroll and Enrique, to Liverpool, Nolan to West Ham of all places and it looks like Joey Barton to anyone who'll take him. A huge infusion of French and Francophone players suggests a deliberate recruitment strategy which it remains to be seen how it will pan out. As a very general rule French players have done well in England, being more used to the style than many other nations. The Geordies should be ok and I think will be lower half but close to mid table.
The Kit - Newcastle have had variable width of stripes in the past and so the home kit is in keeping with that tradition. The away kits are standard stuff and decent if not groundbreaking.

Norwich City
The Team - Paul Lambert is another man who, having hit the heights with St Mirren, slowly and quietly wound his career down with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Celtic. His Norwich team have climbed two divisions in two years and I fear for them. There's a lot of players in that team who were there in League One and I wonder if the likes of Grant Holt will be good enough for the EPL. It might be a long season in East Anglia.
The Kit - Errea are generally rubbish and Norwich kits always look like someone else's away shirt so I'm not that impressed by this one.


QPR
The Team - QPR won the Championship last season on the back of a solid spine and Adel Taarabt's mercurial brilliance. they've signed a couple of decent Champinship strikers and will have to dig deep to stay up. The club's pantomime boardroom and apparent lack of support for Neil Warnock will only make it more difficult to keep an even keel, especially if the opening day thrashing by Bolton is anything to go by. I can see them going down.
The Kit - Apart from looking a bit too much like Greenock Morton for my taste the Lotto kit is actually not too bad. The away ones are interesting enough designs even if the green and white hoops are ridiculously similar to the home shirt.

 Stoke City

The Team - Stoke should be ok this year so long as John Carew doesn't play too much and they don't sign Cameron Jerome. They're big and strong and play more football than they get credit for. That's not to say they won't exploit the black arts of hard tackling and making life uncomfortable for the opposition. They'll be solidly mid-table.
The Kit - Adidas have given Stoke their standard kit in the Potters colours which is decent but the away kits aren't exactly going set the heather on fire.
 Sunderland
The Team - Like their close neighbours in Newcastle Sunderland had a poor second half to the season and undid an other wise decent start. To counter this Steve Bruce has bought up a bit of defensive know how from Man U and a fair few others to bring a bit of endurance and guile to an otherwise decent side. If Gyan can stay consistent and keep scoring goals then there's the kernels of a good team there. A top half finish is eminently possible.
The Kit - Umbro aren't going to reinvent the wheel with the home kit but the away shirt is a beauty. 

 Swansea City
The Team - Swansea played good football under Brendan Rogers and are arguably the best equipped of the promoted teams to make a fist of moving up the table. The big problem will be scoring goals. Over the last couple of seasons the club have played pretty football but not found the goals to win as many games as the football promised. Scott Sinclair especially will need to step up to win crucial games against teams round about them.
The Kit - Swansea's traditional all white kit and Adidas' standard template are decent enough for the home kit but the away shirt, still a standard Adidas design is a cracker. 

 Tottenham Hotspur
The Team - Spurs dalliance with the Champions League last year allied to Harry Redknapp's addiction to buying players seem to have put the team off balance. Despite being unable to move on as many players as they'd like to give Redknapp the funds and wage bill to buy yet more players. In Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Van Der Vaart and to a lesser extent Crouch the team has some potent offensive weapons, some of whom didn't play well last year. If the side plays well and Bale and Modric can stay at the club, stay fit and in form then Spurs can dogfight with Liverpool and Arsenal for fourth place. If not they'll be drawn into a scrap with Everton , Sunderland etc for a decent mid table place.
The Kit - Puma have tried in the past to make Spurs kit more interesting, and in general failed. This isn't a vintage batch either. 

West Bromwich Albion

The Team - West Brom's strong finish last season has raised expectations for this one. The addition of Ben Foster, certainly a better keeper than those available last season and Shane Long should compliment the likes of Odemwinge and Brunt in carrying out Roy Hodgson's detailed tactical plans. mid table is achievable for the Baggies again this season.
The Kit - Again it's Adidas' standard kit for the home shirt. Is it just me or is the collar just a little bit feminine? The away shirt is very suggestive of an off the peg job for West Brom.

Wigan Athletic
The Team - How long can Wigan stay up for? Every year I think they've had it and they do just about enough to stay up. This season surely they're going down? N'zogbia's departure will hurt them and unless Rodallega can find some goals they're relying on the game but not particularly talented Conor Sammon to score the goals to keep them up. Cleverly's gone back to Man U although midfield is probably Wigan's strongest area along wih Al-Habsi in goal. I suspect they'll be in the mix to go down.
The Kit - Gone are Wigan's stripes and back to the solid blue which they've had at times in the past. It's made by what I suspect is one of Dave Whelan's in house deals and looks pretty average in both home and away variants.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
The Team - Wolves stayed up last year b the skin of their teeth which is perhaps a little unfair on them as they'd claimed a few big scalps during the season. They've strengthened with Roger Johnson to shore up central defence and that, along with keeping Kevin Doyle fit should keep them safe in the bottom half of the table.
The kit - Burrda have made reasonable kit for Wolves and this stuff looks decent with a hint of some Adidas' designs. 

Credit where credit's due all the pics came from www.guardian.co.uk pre season kit guide.






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