Friday, 12 August 2011

Premier League Preview – the battle for 4th place

The battle for the elusive final place in the Champions League will be the most intense it has ever been and is likely to be between Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham. All three sides are only a couple of signings away from being serious title challengers but at this moment in time do not possess enough quality to worry the top three.

Since the return of Kenny Dalglish Liverpool has once again become a force in the Premier League. Their form at the end of last season was that of Champions and if they can start well they could be a force again. The key addition of Luiz Suarez was made in January and it will be intriguing to see how he develops this season; his partnership with Andrew Carroll will be pivotal to the club. They have strengthened in midfield by adding Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson which will certainly provide ammunition for the forwards. The key to Liverpool’s success at the end of last season in my humble opinion was the absence of Steven Gerrard. There is no doubting his importance to the club but the side appeared more balanced in his absence. The addition today of Jose Enrique will also give much needed support to the defence which will be important if they are to qualify for the Champions League again.

The goings on at Arsenal this summer have been rather strange and with the impending departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri it will be difficult for the club to remain amongst the elite. They have strengthened by signing Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but it is surely not enough. There is no doubt that Arsenal still have enough quality to match anyone on their day but losing their two best players is too much at once. If manager Arsene Wenger can bolster the squad before the end of August it could be different but the signs are not good. Last season they set their bench mark against Barcelona but then got nowhere near it as they capitulated yet again at the business end of the season. If they can keep Robin van Persie fit and go some way to replacing Fabregas they could be surprise package but with their start of the season looking so tough it could be a long season for Arsenal fans.

Meanwhile at Spurs the summer has been spent trying to offload players unsuccessfully and retain key players. There are a number of fringe players that they have tried to sell but they have demanded too much money which has effectively ended all interest. Their wage bill has to be lowered due to not being in the Champions League which means they cannot buy until these players go. Although they have been linked with almost every player in Europe there still appears to be no imminent new signings. With Spurs tending to conduct most of their business at the end of the window it could be a busy end to August.

It is almost unprecedented for the competition at the top of the league to be so close and it will be an incredibly interesting season for the clubs mentioned above. It will be very tough to separate Arsenal and Liverpool for 4th and it is likely to be dependent upon who Arsenal sign in the coming weeks. The whole club needs a lift at the moment and Wenger has to deliver.

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