Top Four: Essential Notes on the Premier League Table
Editor’s Note: The Premier League’s Top Four is a weekly column new to LWOS for the 2012-2013 column. The goal of the column is to provide critical information, analysis, and diatribe about whichever four teams occupy the top four spots in the Premier League during that week. Each team’s profile will include rankings from the week past, present and projected, and will provide readers with team highlights that we anticipate have effected and will affect in the team’s upcoming match. We welcome you to make this column a part of your weekly reading material each Monday morning (unless there are scheduled Monday matches) for the duration of the season.
Chelsea (Last Week #1, This Week #1)
Everyone expects Chelsea to be a fine squad this year, given some very important acquisitions. None is more heralded and welcomed to the Bridge than Eden Hazard. The Belgian international has been in fine form, proving his price tag a bargain. He has provided fantastic stability in the middle of the Blues’ line-up, something that many supporters feel was very much-needed. Fernando Torres, who, to put it mildly, was absolutely putrid considering his price tag, has woken up ever since Spain’s Euros run. Finally, on the backs of Torres and Hazard, Chelsea can score again. Happy day!
With three wins already, the Blues have flown right out the gate, and look to knock it right off its hinges this weekend in what might be a bloody affair. Okay, I might be embellishing just a little, but it is football we’re talking about so you should be used to it, no? Anyway, you will all remember the match last season where both Drogba and Bosingwa were sent off, forcing CFC to play with IX. With a healthy XI (well, almost – more on that in a minute), and the key addition of Hazard the revival of everyone’s “favourite” Spaniard, look to Chelsea to control, score and, well, dominate.
An interesting note: Peter Cech is still bothered by a nagging elbow injury. Don’t be too surprised if they play it cautiously this weekend and let him sit in bed with his milk and cookies.
Let’s go ahead and pick the obvious – Chelsea 2, QPR 1.
Swansea (Last Week #2, This Week #2)
Do Swansea realize they’re Swansea? I mean really, do we expect some swans to play like lions? I can see some ducks, those things can be vicious, but swans? Okay, back to football. Who could have expected Swansea to put on a goal-scoring clinic? While no one currently alive and of relative mental health would expect this to continue much longer, I just wonder if they have another match in them? Certainly last match was (and the week before, and the week before) unexpected, but many around the footballing world took notice. Are they legitimate?
I certainly do not have them getting a sniff of the top four by season’s end, but finishing around #6-8 is somewhat possible. I am very hesitant to offer even a guess, however, as I think the Premier League is as deep as it ever has been, with a traffic jam between #3-10. There are certainly better squads than others, but you know how it goes – anyone can beat anyone. Well, almost.
Swansea have had their fair share of changes to deal with, yet they seem to have adapted very well. Aston Villa provide an excellent match-up for them because they are sitting ducks. Wait, I said earlier ducks were vicious. How about sitting partridges? That’s better. Villa has undergone a bit of adversity to start this season with their new coach still chasing a victory. It will be interesting to see how the Swans will cope without Flores (serving 3-match ban – naughty boy). Will Bent return to the form he had decades (give or take) ago? Will Tate be able to handle duties on the back line?
I like Swans (the team – the birds are annoying) in this match, though you should note that Villas has three wins in the last four against them. Swansea 1, Villains 0, with some hesitation.
West Brom (Last Week #3, This Week #3)
Okay, Swans AND Baggies? This doesn’t seem right, but good for them! I figured there would be some serious issues to start the season given some changes since season’s end, but apparently I am prone to err. Damn. With impressive wins already against Liverpool and Everton, Clarke’s squad has been in fine form, particularly in their win at the Hawthorns.
But this weekend they face the enigma that is Fulham FC. Now, what to make of this team? Will they be the Fulham that started out of the gates so strongly, or the ones that have fizzled the last two matches? It really is the tale of two teams. Fulham have made some impressive signings. Berbatov you already know about, but Giorgos Karagounis, the Greek international, has somewhat slipped under the radar. What to make of him? Will both get full minutes on the weekend?
The difficulty in deliberating on this match is very indicative of why prognosticating at the beginning of the season is so perilous. You have two teams which are the epitome of uncertainty. There are as many questions as answers. Will Fulham’s new signings meld well with their new mates? Will Clarke have Lukaku to utilize? Will Fulham be in fine form after a mid-week League Cup loss to Sheffield?
Must I really choose? Well, I really like the Berbatov transfer too much, so I’ll give them the nod. Fulham 3, West Brom 2.
Manchester City (Last Week – , This Week #4)
Manchester City is a very good squad. How’s that for stating the obvious? I know it’s hardly going out on a ledge, but to bottom it’s very hard to poke holes when City can field a second team equal to some first teams (maybe a stretch). That said, can we at least agree that they are fortunate to have made this week’s “Top Four”? They deserved to leave Anfield with nothing, yet salvaged a point. They were barely convincing in beating QPR.
City has bolstered it’s already devastating line-up with the acquisition of most football players in Europe. Seriously, it’s a job just keeping track of who they own and who they are set to own. The only problem I see in the moving forward is how Mancini will manage to get his forwards’ heads through the doors to the Etihad. With Aguero, Balotelli, Dzeko, and Tevez to manage (throw in Micah Richards and Gareth Barry for good measure) he will have his hands full. It doesn’t get any easier with a bit of a log jam at midfield as well. It could get messy. They have the talent to dominate, so long as Mancini keeps his head above water.
The weekend it is Stoke that has the daunting task of fighting this eleven-headed beast. While neither City nor Stoke have played exceptionally well thus far, only the most degenerate gambler would take Stoke to win. That said, whether it’s wishful thinking or not, I just think sometimes the model of, “Buy the best players on earth and put them on one team leaving nothing for anyone else” mentality of building a team is flawed.
I’ll bravely predict a 1-1 gutsy performance from Stoke.
I welcome you back next week as we take a look at what is sure to be a revolving door or Top Four teams early in the Premier League season.
Until next time, lads.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter – @TwoLeftCleats