Premier League Top 5: August
We are here, the moment we have all been waiting for. The start of the 2014 / 2015 Premiership Season. It seems like only a blink of an eye that City were picking up the league title for the second time in three years, Arsenal were winning their first silverware in almost a decade and Liverpool were throwing the title away. Of course, since then we’ve had one of the most entertaining World Cup’s in recent memory and hopefully some of the attacking play on display there will follow through into the league. We are going to do things slightly different this season, and each calender month we will pick the top 5 games you just can’t afford to miss!
After every major tournament, you see some of the players who perform well making big moves on the back of it, but the Premier League seems to have really missed the boat, this time around with James Rodriguez and Luis Suarez moving to Spain. West Ham have tried with the signing of Enner Valencia for £12m who impressed with 3 goals for Ecuador, whilst Arsenal moved Alexis Sanchez, but he was hardly an unknown beforehand. Perhaps the biggest signing for the Premier League off the back of the World Cup was by the referees who now have the ‘Felony Foam’ in their armour to mark out 10 yards from a free-kick!
We do ease our way into the fixtures, with nothing outstanding in the opening round of fixtures but it does hot up towards the end of the month.
Average Joe’s Top Five Televised Premier League Fixtures
16 August 2014 – Manchester United v Swansea City -12.45KO
This time last year United tried to play it safe by appointing someone in the same mould as Alex Ferguson in David Moyes, and we saw how that played out! But this time they’ve been bold and appointed someone who has worked at big clubs around the world and isn’t afraid of ruffling a few feathers in Van Gaal. We saw at the World Cup he sets his sides up to make the most of what he has and he will have to do that a lot as this United side hasn’t been strengthened enough in most people’s opinion. With many gaping holes still in defence. Luck has it though, and an opening game at home against a Swansea side who I think are going to really struggle this year will please the Dutchman.
23 August 2014 – Everton v Arsenal – 17.30KO
Martinez does seem to have a little bit of a hold over his Arsenal counterpart, and in the same fixture last year Everton hammered The Gunners 3-0 at home and it seemed like The Toffees were destined to nick the 4th spot in the league. However, as we know Arsenal turned it round, won the FA Cup and looked impressive when beating City in Charity Shield last weekend.
Everton, will struggle to reproduce the form from last season due to the amount of loan players they had last time out. Lukaku has been signed permanently at great expense and Martinez will be hoping Barkley and Stones can continue to develop.
24 August 2014 – Tottenham v QPR – 13.30KO
Perhaps this is not going to be a classic, but new QPR coach Hoddle will be sure to get a great reception on his return to White Hart Lane. Spurs have been steady in the market this summer, filling in gaps where needed, and under Pochettino they will have a greater work ethic than last season. QPR seem to have spent wisely this time around with Caulker and Mutch coming in from Cardiff and the experience being added with Ferdinand and Isla. If they manage to hold onto Remy as well that will be like a new signing.
25 August 2014 – Manchester City v Liverpool – 20.00KO
Last season’s top two come up against each other in an early season fixture. City’s pre-season has gone under the radar a little, bringing in a couple of players but for Liverpool it is all change after losing Suarez. How do you replace someone capable of scoring 30 goals a season?
The added pressures of the Champions League mean that Rodgers has gone for depth in numbers rather a single marque signing perhaps, and there will also be more pressure on the whole team to score goals. Which perhaps isn’t the best plan!
31 August 2014 – Tottenham v Liverpool – 13.30KO
Liverpool follow-up their trip to The Etihad with another tough away trip. Last season, the Reds managed to put 9 past Spurs over two games, but I can’t see that happening again. Rodgers side were at times breath-taking last year but will find it a lot harder to pass their way through this Spurs side with a greater work ethic.
Though Spurs fan are worried about Levy and his usual last day dealings, has anyone ever told Daniel that the season starts in mid-August?!
Average Joe’s Top Five Summer Signings
Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal
Is the Chilean really what Arsenal need? Wouldn’t they have been better off trying to bring in an out and out goalscorer to take some of the pressure of Oliver Giroud? Well, only time will tell on those questions, but The Gunners have undoubtedly signed a top player. I liked him a lot when he played with Isla and Vidal in the Udinese side that managed to qualify for Champions League and was disappointed his move to Barcelona never saw him hit the heights with Messi I thought it could of.
However at 25, he is still young and was impressive in the World Cup for Chile and will add another attacking bow to the already midfield heavy Arsenal team.
Diego Costa – Chelsea
The South American who turns out for Spain had a disappointing World Cup, but a lot of that can be put down to an injury suffered at the back end of the a very successful La Liga campaign. He is a typical Jose Mourinho signing in the fact that he is big, strong and doesn’t shirk putting in a decent shift, however he has only ever really had one successful season scoring in front of goal. Is that a worry at all for Chelsea especially as that was there problem last year?
Liverpool’s Saints Trio
Spurs suffered last year when they sold Elvis and bought The Bootleg Beatles to replace them, after none of their signings reached the heights Gareth Bale did the previous season. Liverpool have tried to counter this by signing the spine of last year’s big over-achievers Southampton. Lovren, Lallana and Lambert have all moved up from the South Coast and it will be interesting to see how they fit in. Lovren for me is a perfect signing. Liverpool were vulnerable at set-pieces last year and he was one of the leagues stand out centre backs, and with Agger and Kolo Toure appearing to be nearing the end of their Anfield days it was almost a no-brainer.
Lallana is a little different, I thought he was excellent and fully deserved his England Call-up and was always amazed nobody took a punt on him when The Saints fell to League One a few years back. But where does he fit into this Reds side? They have Coutinho he can create that spark and they do like to move the ball very quickly and my one nagging doubt with Lallana is that he isn’t quick enough, although maybe after a season of settling in here could be ready to fill Stevie Gerrard’s big boots.
Lambert for the money is well worth the gamble despite his age. He is a player who can play with his back to goal and is skilful, strong and is a decent plan B from the bench. But can he perform from there?
Ferdinand, Caulker and Hoddle
How will Rio’s body hold up to another season football, especially when his side will be under the cosh for most of the game, something he hasn’t experienced since he left West Ham in 2000? It may be eased a little by the fact that QPR look like they will be playing 3-5-2 for most of the season, and bringing in Hoddle as a coach could be a bit of a masterstroke by ‘Arry Redknapp. He has probably used the system more than any other coach in the English game and Ferdinand has always spoken highly of him. Add Steven Caulker into the mix at a time when England are crying out for decent Centre-Halves I think QPR could have a relatively successful season.
Louis Van Gaal
Could he be the most crucial of all the summer signings so far? We’ve seen as recently as the summer that he can mould a side and this United side really need someone to guide them. Another who is hinting towards playing with wing-backs as it will allow him to play with both Rooney and Van Persie up top and if as partnership they can fire 40-45 goals United will be back amongst the front runners.
Average Joe’s Top Five Predictions
3. Manchester City
4. Manchester United
I think Chelsea just have the strongest squad out there now, it will be strange seeing Cesc Fabregas in a blue shirt, but I feel if he can nip in with 10 goals which he is more than capable doing Chelsea will just have enough fire power to see them through, although I expect Arsenal and City to push them extremely close.
Manchester United have the added bonus of not being in European football and I expect that will give them a huge boost in the race for 4th as we saw with Liverpool last year. Liverpool will be fighting for that 4th spot but just feel that with Steve Gerrard another year older and without Suarez’s goals they could suffer a bit of a hangover and will be very close to Spurs on the cusp of that battle for 4th.
At the bottom end of the table I can see Swansea suffering as they looked to be going backwards last year and more talent has slipped through the door in Michu, who was admittedly poor last year. Palace are in turmoil just days before the season starts which is probably good news for the new boys of QPR, Burnley and Leicester. I think QPR , as already mentioned could finish around 13th but Burnley and Leicester will both find it hard. Burnley seem to be being prudent bringing in players with Premier League experience like Matty Taylor, Steven Reid and Chris Baird, whilst Leicester have done the same bringing in Matt Upson, they have however paid £7m for Ulloa from Brighton. Is he this year’s Ricky Van Wolfswinkel?!