Barrie's View

10 Interesting Stats from Premier League Matchday 1

August 18, 2014 by Barrie
 

2 – Arsenal and Liverpool were the only two teams to win at home on the opening weekend.

9 – Yaya Sanogo has now played nine Premier League games for Arsenal and is yet to get on the scoresheet.

10 – Manchester City have won the last 10 Premier League games versus Newcastle, scoring 27 goals and conceding five in the process.

17 – It took Fernando Torres 4 months to score his first goal for Chelsea. He took Diego Costa only 17 minutes.

23 – No defending Premier League champions have ever lost their opening game of the following season (W20 D3).

28 – Liverpool have found the back of the net in 28 of their last 29 Premier League games

Englishmen scored nine of the 26 goals scored in the Premier League this weekend.

71% – 12 of the 17 Premier League matches between Everton and Leicester City have ended in a draw. Thw two sides played out a 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

80% – Swansea City have won 4 of their last 5 Premier League games under Garry Monk.

174 – Wayne Rooney now has 174 Premier League goals, one less than Thierry Henry who is the third all-time top scorer.



Have Liverpool taken a step backwards this summer?

August 1, 2014 by Barrie
 

Liverpool were odds-on favourites to win the Premier League with three games to go last season. 226 minutes away from all-but winning the top flight for the first time in 226 minutes. Then Steven Gerrard slipped…

After finishing two points behind champions Manchester City in May, Liverpool are now a massive 11.0 to win the 2014-15 Premier League. Fifth favourites.

The sale of Luis Suárez to Barcelona has affected everyone’s faith in this Liverpool team. One must remember they were not amongst the favourites at the start of last season until the Uruguayan started scoring for fun.

Liverpool now have the potential to do what Tottenham did 12 months ago – sell their star player, bring in a number of new players, not gel, and have a disappointing season.

Brendan Rodgers have brought in six new faces this summer. Three of them do have Premier League experience at least. Adam Lallana and Lazar Marković are two more skilful midfielders to add to to what is already the strongest part of their side. Rickie Lambert we believe is the plan B in attack. Although they are yet to sign a plan A – a replacement for Suárez in the striker position.

Emre Can can play either centre midfield or left-back. Dejan Lovren is an upgrade a centre-back. The Croatian is a leader on the pitch and will organise the defence that conceded 50 goals in the Premier League last season. Don’t underestimate the importance of someone like Lovren.

Young striker Divock Origi was loaned straight back to Lille after completing a £10,000,000 move. I would still expect Liverpool to dive into the transfer market against before the window closes.

Here’s what I think is the strongest Liverpool line-up right now:

Predicted Liverpool line-up for 2014-15

It’s a very strong starting line-up but tactically there are question marks raised. They were out mastered by Chelsea last season after entering the game on the best form in the country against a team who were playing in the middle of two Champions League semi-final legs and resting several players. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are going to be better organised this season with their new managers.

With the threat of Suárez gone I don’t see Liverpool scoring a century of goals this season. They still have plenty of pace going forward, something that proved very successful last season. But getting 50+ goals from Sturridge and his strike partner this season is a tough ask.

Of the teams that finished below last season, Chelsea have certainly invested the best, on paper at least. The signing of Alexis Sánchez is an upgrade for Arsenal. The appointment of Louis van Gaal and the signing of Ander Herrera makes them a top four contender once again and all-of-a-sudden you have to wonder if Liverpool will finish in a UEFA Champions League qualifying position.



Manchester United will finish in the top 4 this season

July 31, 2014 by Barrie
 

Optimism is in the air around Old Trafford once again this summer. After a terrible 2013-14 campaign that saw the 20-time champions of England finish outside the top three in the Premier League for the first time in their history, the appointment of Louis van Gaal has put confidence back in the fans.

Louis van Gaal impressed with a young Netherlands side of whom many play outside of the top five European leagues at this summer’s World Cup. The Dutch manager led his nation to a third place finish after losing to Argentina in the semi-finals on penalties.

The Netherlands only conceded four goals in their seven matches at this summer’s tournament and none in their final 372 minutes of action.

Their back three was made up of Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar and Feyenoord pair Bruno Martin’s Indi and Stefan de Vrij. The latter two both aged 22 and with 16 and 12 caps respectively at the start of the tournament.

Manchester United’s own defence currently consists of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling following the departures of the experienced Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand at the end of last season.

Very little should be taken from pre-season but one thing that can be for United is that they have used the 3-4-1-2 formation in all three of their matches over in the USA – the same formation van Gaal used successfully during the World Cup.

Jones, Evans and Smalling have played the majority of these games in defence, whilst 20-year old youth academy product Tyler Blackett has seen some game time too. Blackett was on loan at both Blackpool and Birmingham City in the Championship last season – playing the majority of games at left-back and a couple of games in the centre, making 13 appearances combined.

Manager van Gaal has said he will not rush into making any transfers whilst he analyses the talent he currently has at the squad. United have let Stefan de Vrij sign for Lazio after being strongly linked to the centre-back this summer. If the papers are anything to go by they continue to pursuit Mats Hummels. Personally, I cannot see the 2014 World Cup winner leaving Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United this summer, and he won’t be leaving the club before his team’s first home game of the season that’s for sure.

Borussia Dortmund start their season at home to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday 23 August when Hummels along with teammates Kevin Großkreutz, Erik Durm and Roman Weidenfeller can receive their heroes welcome for bringing the World Cup back to Germany this summer.

Youngster Michael Keane is the only other centre-back option available to van Gaal, so you have to believe they will sign at least one more this summer.

Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are the two options at left wingback in this formation. Adnan Januzaj could potentially play there or centre midfield. As he was part of the Belgium squad that reached the quarter-finals in Brazil this summer, he is not with the United squad currently.

Antonio Valencia has been playing right wingback whilst Nani has seen some game time too. Rafael could also play that role but he is currently out injured.

Ander Herrera has been signed to play in the centre of midfield as the player who dictates the play for Manchester United. He’ll link the defence to the attack. The question is who will play alongside the arrival for Athletic Bilbao?

Darren Fletcher has started two of United’s three games in the USA. Michael Carrick is currently sidelined for a few months, Marouane Fellaini is not considered suitable for this role. Tom Cleverley not a good enough defensive midfielder. This is one position I believe United will need to invest in unless Fletcher gets back to his best and can remain healthy all season.

Going forward is where Manchester United can look strong. Juan Mata has been playing in the role behind the two strikers. Wayne Rooney could also drop into this position and Shinji Kagawa is also available.

The two strikers have mainly been Rooney and Danny Welbeck on tour as Robin van Persie has not travelled. They also have Javier Hernández. I’m not a fan of Welbeck, but the Red Devils otherwise have three goalscorers on their books.

So here’s what I believe to be the strongest line-up currently for Manchester United in Louis van Gaal’s formation:

Predicted Manchester United line-up for 2014-15

I think this team is a bit behind both Chelsea and Manchester City in terms of talent, but no European games this season should really help Manchester United to at least break back into the top four.

They have a good tactician in van Gaal although it must be noted that his side largely struggled against the three top tactical managers in the World Cup – they left it late to come-from-behind to beat Mexico and drew 0-0 with Costa Rica; two nations they were expected to beat, and many thought they’d win comfortably. They then had just one shot on target in 120 minutes versus Argentina, so it will be interested to see how the Dutch manager fares against the top tacticians in the league.

Arsenal have more depth this season and a lot of attacking talent so it should be an interesting battle between the two sides, in terms of their head-to-head matches and league battle.

Tottenham Hotspur should not be ruled out having hired a tactical coach of their own and investing heavily last season. Last season’s runners-up Liverpool have taken a backwards step so far this summer and although there were 20 points between them last season, I can see United finishing higher.

Manchester United are an attractive 1.55 to finish in the top four with Betfair currently before any more signings are made.



Can Arsenal compete for the 2014-15 Premier League title?

July 30, 2014 by Barrie
 

An FA Cup success in May certainly relieved some of the pressure and criticism on the shoulders of Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger.

Then the chequebook opened. If the reported sales figure of Calum Chambers really is £16 million – it makes him the third most-expensive signing in Arsenal’s history. Their second most-expensive was made earlier in the month when Alexis Sánchez arrived from Barcelona for £31.7 million.

Mesut Özil’s record signing from Real Madrid in August last year mean the Gunners’ three most expensive players have all arrived in a 12-month period. Finally the French manager has realised the importance of bringing established players into the Emirates Stadium.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, with less than five weeks of the summer transfer window to go, they look short of being able to maintain a Premier League title challenge this season, at least in my eyes and on paper.

Here is what I think the strongest Arsenal XI is currently:

Predicted Arsenal line-up for 2014-15

There’s a lot of talent here but there also a few holes.

Mikel Arteta is not a holding midfielder. I don’t see Jack Wilshere as being the answer either because he’s not the greatest of tacklers, always risks a card, and quite frankly, his ankles aren’t that strong. This is one position Arsène Wenger is looking to strengthen though.

The attacking midfield trio and the depth Wenger has here is tremendous. Santi Cazorla is a playmaker out on the left, Alexis Sánchez will be a threat wherever he plays. Mesut Özil can be too, but was fairly criticised during the second half of the season. Mind you, so were Lionel Messi and Neymar and they both shone on the World Cup too.

I’ve put Theo Walcott in the striker position to get him in the team because I think Wenger needs to start him. His position on the right wing obviously under threat from Sánchez. I’m not convinced Olivier Giroud is good enough to lead a team to the Premier League title. An upgrade in this position and we can start talking about Arsenal being in contention.

Arsène Wenger has more depth than he has for a long while – goalkeeper David Ospina, defender Thomas Vermaelen, midfielders Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomáš Rosický and Mathieu Flamini, and Giroud up front. Joel Campbell potentially too unless he goes out on loan again this season. The Costa Rican is unproven in the Premier League though.

Let’s have a look at the Premier League favourites Chelsea and the players they can potentially play:

Predicted Chelsea line-up for 2014-15

José Mourinho has upgraded his team better than anyone else last season. Already with the best defensive record, a couple of changes have been made. The centre midfield looks better than it did at the start of last season. The one thing Chelsea were missing last season was a goalscoring striker, so if they have found one in Diego Costa then this team may be unstoppable.

And the defending champions Manchester City:

Predicted Manchester City line-up for 2014-15

Solid goalkeeper, one of the best centre-backs in world football with Vincent Kompany, a top right-back in Pablo Zabaleta. A great holding midfield duo and endless threat going forward. Manchester City’s depth is sound too. If I have the strike duo wrong, Edin Džeko scores goals too.

On top of that, Arsène Wenger’s record against the top three last season was hideous, picking up just one win, one draw and taking four defeats than included three hammerings. He’s never beat a Mourinho side either.

Can Arsenal maintain a title challenge in 2014-15? I think they’re a few top players away from that right now. The defence would also need to rely on going injury-free because I don’t think there’s a great deal of depth in this position.

For me, it’s between Chelsea and Manchester City. Arsenal though will maintain their top four finish as Wenger always does. Betfair are offering odds of 1.56 for Arsenal to finish in the top four which looks like a dead cert to me. Those more confident may take Arsenal at 2.00 to finish in the top three.



Will Manchester City defend their Premier League title?

July 29, 2014 by Barrie
 

Manchester City 2013-14 champions

The 2013-14 Premier League champions have had a relatively quiet summer with no major signings as such.

Bacary Sagna has been brought in on a free transfer to compete with right-back Pablo Zabaleta. Goalkeeper Willy Caballero has signed from Málaga CF with Joe Hart already a solid goalkeeper. And Fernando has arrived from FC Porto with Yaya Touré and Fernandinho to dislodge.

Manuel Pellegrini’s starting XI were good enough to win the league last season so perhaps he’s confident he can repeat with largely the same group of players.

One bonus for Manchester City would be if Sergio Agüero stays fit this season. The Argentina international was only fit for 23 Premier League games last season and also missed game time during the World Cup through injury.

Manchester City were the top scorers in the Premier League last season with 102 goals – 31 more than Chelsea who are currently the bookmakers’ favourites to take the 2014-15 title.

They were slow starters on the road last season – winning just one of their first six away games, losing four of them. Pellegrini fixed the form out after that and by winning 10 of their 13 Premier League fixtures from late-February they were able to take the title – two points ahead of Liverpool.

The Citizens have a wealth of attacking talent, although Álvaro Negredo does start the season sidelined through injury. Edin Džeko or Stevan Jovetić are then likely to partner Agüero to start the season.

Playmakers run through the Manchester City squad – David Silva, Samir Nasri, Jesús Navas and Touré all capable of playing the killer pass to one of the strikers. City also have both Aleksandar Kolarov and Pablo Zabaleta bombing on from full-back.

Defensively, Manchester City had their issues last season, particularly at the start of it. The return of Matija Nastasić from injury to partner Vincent Kompany in the centre of defence can only be a positive for the defending champions this season. The club are also suggested to be signing Eliaquim Mangala from FC Porto who could be a useful addition if his reported transfer fee is anything to go by. And despite a horrible period during the middle of the season, Martín Demichelis came strong at the end and had a good World Cup. The Argentina defender is now 33.

Can anybody take the title away from Manchester City this season? I am leaning towards Chelsea myself but I am expecting it to be a two-horse race between the Blues and the blue side of Manchester – both potentially bridging a gap between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack.

Manchester City are an attractive 3.5 to win the Premier League with Betfair to start the season.



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