The 2011/2012 Premiership Season Preview – Making it Olympic

by Jasveer Singh Gill

Friday, August 12th, 2011
 

Right now it may be hard to think about anything other than the riots that ruined England over the last week, but just wait; the Premiership is starting.
A few great goals, dodgy decisions and tough tackles will have you forgetting the riots like your partners birthday. As the season goes on though, something will be forced into your thinking, no matter how much you want to ignore it.
Yep, it is the 2012 London Olympics. It may lack a real football competition (team Great Britain? Meh) but it is still one of the biggest sporting events in the world. So, with this in mind, I have brought the two together, so you can learn about British athletes and about the prospects of all 20 teams in the Premiership all in one go.
Who will do a Linford Christie? Which team is going to have a Daley Thompson? Is Phillips Idowu that way to go? Only one way to find out…READ ON

Arsenal will have a season like Shanaze Reade in 2008, the teenage female BMX rider. Young, attractive and fearless, fans will follow and urge them all the way but just when it looks like they can do it they will collapse and finish nowhere near the front runners.
Star signing: Gervinho – the Ivory Coast winger is genuinely top class and will be a key member of Arsenal’s pursuit of glory.
Player to watch: Thomas Vermaelen – the Belgian defender was severely missed last season. Now back, he will be chomping at the bit to improve Arsenal’s obvious defensive fragility.
Prediction: none of Wenger’s signings thus far have given them anything they lacked last year. Unless they can pull of some solid signings quickly (Gary Cahill/Phil Jagielka and a solid midfielder) Arsenal will miss out on a Champions League place this year.

Aston Villa will have a season like Jade Johnson’s current career. They are highly recognisable and popular, but not for any achievements on the field. However, as long as they are nice to watch they will always have some kind of following, just don’t expect any glory.
Star signing: Shay Given – a world class goalkeeper, something that Villa will need this season.
Player to watch: Marc Albrighton – after a great showing last season, this time he will be playing under expectation. How will he handle the pressure?
Prediction: They have enough attacking quality to easily avoid relegation but they will do well to be in the top ten, especially with the fans ready to jump on Alex McLeish as soon as the team slump.

Blackburn will have a season like Mark Lewis-Francis after 2000. After all the hype (Lewis-Francis winning the junior Olympic 100m gold/Blackburn’s new owners promising big signings and European football), it all amounts to nothing on the big stage.
Star signing: David Goodwillie. Despite the unfortunate name Goodwillie is a striker with a lot of ability and touch of class.
Player to watch: David Hoilett – the young Canadian forward has shown energy, pace and an eye for goal.
Prediction: Blackburn will be battling to avoid relegation.

Bolton will have a season like Phillips Idowu in 2008. Even after doing so well (winning a silver medal in the triple-jump/never looking in danger of relegation) they are not happy to settle and are looking to achieve more.
Star signing: Chris Eagles – the former Man Utd player has been a star for Burnley over the last few seasons and should be able to take his skill and energy to the Premiership.
Player to watch: Mark Davies – the young midfielder is a great all rounder that is constantly improving.
Prediction: Bolton have improved massively under Owen Coyle and will be a lot closer to the top ten this season.

Chelsea will have a season like Christine Ohuruogu in 2008; she won a gold medal but many could not get past the fact that a few years earlier she was suspended for missing three (!) drug tests. Chelsea will probably win at least one of the competitions they are in but any victory will always be tainted with how they got there (Abramovich’s millions), whilst they also simply lack enough sex appeal to be truly loved.
Star signing: Lucas Piazon – until Romelu Lukaku (simply a young, left-footed Didier Drogba) signs on the dotted line, Piazon is the best signing Chelsea have made this summer. A typical Brazilian forward, at 17 he has the potential to be a star, although he will probably hardly feature this term, as his transfer goes through in 2012 January.
Player to watch: Yossi Benayoun – Andre Villas-Boas is a fan of intricate footballers and Benayoun should provide the guile that Chelsea often lacked last season.
Prediction: 2nd in the Premiership and will at least be in the last four in the Champions League, whilst their 2nd string will push anyone all the way in the Carling Cup.

Everton will have a season like Richie Woodhall, the light-middleweight boxer that won the bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics, only losing to Roy Jones Junior in the semi-final. They will actually do very well but will be so outclassed by the best that no one will ever give them their due credit.
Star signing: None. Eric Dier – a Portuguese defender on loan from Sporting Lisbon is hardly a star signing.
Player to watch: Jermaine Beckford – the striker has had a season to adapt to life in the Premiership. Now his goal scorers instinct and pace should become a vital asset for Everton this season.
Prediction: Everton will once again finish comfortably in the top ten, a superb achievement for such a small squad that spend so little.

Fulham will have a season like Linford Christie in 1992, when he won the Olympic gold in the 100m event. Just when everybody thinks they have achieved all they can, they will show they have a lot more to offer.
Star signing: John Arne Riise – the left-back is a quality signing and with Martin Jol’s attacking philosophy he will chip in with some goals and assists.
Player to watch: Andy Johnson – the striker has been beset with injuries but now seems fit and back among the goals in pre-season. His pace and eye for goal will be a real plus this season for Fulham.
Prediction: Fulham will be one of those teams that can score loads but concede lots too. If the likes of Damien Duff and Zamora stay fit they will finish in the top ten.

Liverpool will have a season like Jonathan Edwards in 1996, when he won the Olympic silver medal in the triple jump despite being heavy favourite for the gold. Despite coming into it holding records (five European cups/world record for triple jump) and despite the massive amount of faith they have (in Kenny Dalglish/in Jesus) they will not quite achieve what they hope for.
Star signing: Stewart Downing – finally Liverpool have a genuine winger in their team. Downing will provide great delivery both in open play and from set-pieces, whilst he will also chip in with his share of goals.
Player to watch: Andy Carroll – with the right service, the big Geordie could be a real goal scoring machine.
Prediction: Liverpool will push Tottenham and Arsenal all the way for fourth place. Without the distraction of Europe too, they will be right up there.

Man City will have a season like Steve Ovett in 1984. After previously challenging their great rival (Man Utd/Sebastian Coe) all the way, they have now had some setbacks (Carlos Tevez/health problems for Ovett) that will see them unable to match those achievements.
Star signing: Sergio Aguero – the little Argentinean is a genius, capable of anything.
Player to watch: David Silva – if Carlos Tevez leaves the creative responsibility will lay with Silva, but it will also allow him to play just off a forward which is his best position.
Prediction: people are failing to realise just how important Carlos Tevez is to City; top scorer, top assister, captain, free-kick taker and the man they turn to when things are not going well. Aguero may have the ability of Tevez, but he has nowhere near the same character or leadership skills. Unless Tevez stays, City will just about remain in the top four and do well in cup competitions because of their defensive qualities, they are not yet good enough to win the Champions League or Premiership.

Man Utd will have a season like Sebastian Coe in 1984, the 1500m Olympic gold medallist. While they have improved their great rivals (Steve Ovett/Man City) have had their setbacks (Carlos Tevez), so as they hit their stride they will find no one is able to keep up.
Star signing: Ashley Young – the winger has fitted straight in. His pace, skill and delivery mean he will be a key asset for Utd through the season.
Player to watch: Wayne Rooney – after a torrid start to last season Rooney looked as good as ever by the end of it. He will carry that form into this season and prove he is one of the best in the world.
Prediction: Champions in the league and the strength of their squad will see them once again go close to winning every trophy.

Newcastle will have a season like Dwain Chambers after the 2000 Olympics, when he was the fastest European in the world. Despite all the potential, everything will just turn farcical.
Star signing: Gabriel Obertan – brought from Man Utd, the winger was said by coaches at the famous French Claire Fontaine academy to be the most talented player they have had since Thierry Henry. Full of skill and pace, with the enough playing time he could be a star.
Player to watch: Hatem Ben Arfa – another French winger, Ben Arfa has huge potential and was showing it before breaking his leg. If he stays fit he could fulfil his potential at a club that loves exciting players.
Prediction: Newcastle have enough ability to stay clear of relegation but everything else depends on what kind of madness the hierarchy have in store for the club.

Norwich will have a season like Craig Pickering in the 2008 Olympics, the runner that got the relay team disqualified on the final 100m. Despite their best efforts, eventually it will all be for nothing.
Star signing: Steve Morison – the striker was signed from Millwall after showing a prowess for goal scoring in the Championship. He will need to repeat this goal scoring form for Norwich to have any chance to survive.
Player to watch: Grant Holt – club captain and the number nine, Norwich will be relying on the striker to carry his Championship form into the Premiership.
Prediction: Norwich will not survive.

QPR will have a season like James DeGale after 2008 when he won the gold medal for boxing in the middleweight division. They will actually be a lot better than most expect but they will be smug about it and fans will hate them.
Star signing: DJ Campbell – he has proven he can score in the Premiership and his movement will be perfect for QPR’s style of play.
Player to watch: Adel Taarabt – he has the ability of a God but the temperament of a toddler. One way or another, he will be interesting to watch.
Prediction: will do what Blackpool wished they could have done last season; be attractive to watch and still survive.

Stoke will have a season like Kriss Akabusi in 1992, when he won the bronze in the Olympic 400m’s. The boundless enthusiasm they have together with excellent results for their ability, will mean fans will be delighted with them.
Star signing: Jonathon Woodgate – a player with the capability to play at the highest level, the former Real Madrid defender is looking to rebuild his career after injuries and that could be to the benefit of Stoke.
Player to watch: Jonathan Walters – the burly forward started to look at home in the Premiership towards the back of last season, showing skill, power and pace. At Stoke he is certain to get delivery too.
Prediction: Stoke have made great signings in Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate. They are always capable of scoring with their style and now their defence has improved massively. They will be in the top 10.

Sunderland will have a season like Sally Gunnell in 1992, when she won gold in the 400m hurdles. Despite the lack of hype, it has all been slowly coming together and now is the time to shine.
Star signing: Wes Brown – once hailed by Alex Ferguson as one of the best natural defenders in Britain, if Brown stays fit and focused he will prove that statement.
Player to watch: Stephane Sessegnon – the diminutive Frenchman is an excellent little playmaker. Playing just off Asamoah Gyan, the two should form a great pairing.
Prediction: with the money spent, quality of the squad and time Bruce has had, it is now or never. Sunderland will be in the top 10.

Swansea will have a season like Audley Harrison after the 2004 Olympics, when he won gold and looked like the new Lennox Lewis. They have achieved all the glory so now get ready for mediocrity. Results against them will be as one-sided as a gang rape.
Star signing: Wayne Routledge – the winger has always shown potential and now should get the starting time to prove his worth in the Premiership.
Player to watch: Scott Sinclair – at one point he looked a world-class prospect but didn’t manage to make the grade with Chelsea or any of the clubs he was on loan at. At Swansea though Sinclair has found a club where he can be the talisman. Will cause problems for most fullbacks and maybe even push for an England call-up.
Prediction: relegation, and maybe even humiliation. Spending half their budget on strikers that have little genuine Premiership experience is a bad decision.

Tottenham will have a season like Mo Farah in 2008, if they can stay consistent and keep their pace (Gareth Bale and Arron Lennon) throughout they will have done themselves justice, but don’t expect any medals.
Star signing: Souleymane Coulibaly – Tottenham picked up the Ivory Coast forward from Siena (having lived in Italy for the last five years) after he won the golden boot in the U17- World Cup and Harry Redknapp has a good track record of bringing through young players.
Player to watch: Roman Pavlyuchenko – the Russian became Redknapp’s preferred forward by the end of the season and has been banging in goals all pre-season. He will remain the first choice forward unless Spurs get the top forward they are looking for.
Prediction: The first XI is as good as any team in the England on paper and Redknapp has been working with this group of players for long enough now. He will crack the top four or get resign trying (possibly to replace Fabio Capello after Euro 2012).

West Brom will have a season like Daley Thompson in 1984, winning gold in the Olympic decathlon event. After a great showing previously (winning gold in the same event in 1980/storming out of the relegation battle once Roy Hodgson took over) no one expects it again, but it will happen.
Star signing: Shane Long – the Irishman has been a long wanted figure, having shone in the Championship for a while now. Hodgson has the ability to get the best out of players (discounting his stint with Liverpool) and Long could benefit from this.
Player to watch: Chris Brunt – his thunderous left-foot is capable of winning matches all by itself.
Prediction: They will be comfortably above the relegation zone, but breaking into the top 10 will prove beyond them.

Wigan will have a season like Jamie Baulch after 1996 Olympics. They just did fantastically (just about avoiding relegation/winning a silver in the 4x400m relay) but it is probably all down hill from here. However, their bubbly personality will mean fans will wish the best for them.
Star signing: Ali Al Habsi – the goalkeeper from Oman was superb for them last season. Now officially a Wigan player and number one for the club, the confidence can only be a boost for him.
Player to watch: James McCarthy – the youngster has always been highly rated and is now gaining vital Premiership experience. A great passer, his style is probably more suited to a bigger team and expect one to come calling by the end of this season.
Prediction: they will be battling against relegation all the way again.

Wolves will have a season like Kelly Sotherton after the 2004 Olympics. Having done well previously (bronze in the heptathlon/avoiding relegation) many will expect more in the future, but they shouldn’t (Kelly finished fifth in the same event in 2008).
Star signing: Roger Johnson – the uncompromising defender will add steel to their defence.
Player to watch: Matt Jarvis – despite an excellent season, no big clubs came in for the winger. He will be looking to show they made a mistake in overlooking him.
Prediction: they will struggle to survive due to not signing a top quality striker.

And here are my official predictions for the coming football season:

1) Man Utd
2) Chelsea
3) Man City
4) Tottenham
5) Arsenal
6) Liverpool
7) Sunderland
8) Everton
9) Fulham
10) Aston Villa
11) Stoke
12) Bolton
13) West Brom
14) Newcastle
15) QPR
16) Wigan
17) Wolves
18) Blackburn
19) Norwich
20) Swansea

F.A Cup: Liverpool
Carling Cup: Chelsea
Champions League: Barcelona

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