Date: 24th June 2009 at 12:57pm
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An article by Wsilly3

In order to get into the Premier League top four, City will need to improve a fair amount from last season and particularly away from home. To put it into context it will require us to win at least ten more matches, a big ask but far from impossible. However another huge factor in achieving this goal is the form of, what one might term, the ‘established’ top four. Will they be raising the bar higher or will some of these teams be dipping in their own performance levels?

When one analyses this factor I believe there are significant grounds for optimism, particularly as we should expect far more from our team, now that we are splashing serious cash around. Hopefully this will continue for a few more signings including Carlos Tevez and an established and commanding centre half, in order to really mean business for next season. Equally the fact that we are not in Europe may in a strange way help us bridge the gap next season and pull down other aspirants like Everton, Villa and seventh placed Fulham.

So let’s take as unbiased an approach as I can muster and analyse the so called ‘established’, starting with the Rags, who I would contend are in far worse order than they have been for a long time.

Manchester United

Two of their world class players have left in Ronaldo and Tevez, in addition, several of their other stock players are ageing OAP’s e.g. Scholes, Giggs, Neville and Van der Sar. Players that were bought to replace the ‘aged and departed’ haven’t stepped up to the mark in Berbatov, Anderson and Nani, whilst Hargreaves and Ferdinand seem to be increasingly injury prone. Equally there is no obvious world class potential coming from their youngsters and furthermore there is not a lot of world class talent readily available and willing to bolster their ranks via the transfer market.

Players like Valencia for £18million do not exactly strike fear into a decent defender and the Spanish clubs seem to be one step ahead in the market for the top, top world class players at the present time. The only viable options seem to be Benzema (unproven at world class level), Ribery and Eto’o but none of these is at all certain to be attracted to a spell at Ragsville.

Yes, they still have the likes of Rooney, Vidic, Carrick and Evra but this line up isn`t as awesome a threat as in previous seasons and if Rooney were to be injured for any period they would look particularly vulnerable. No, unless Taggart has some master plan hidden up his kilt, there are signs of real frailty.

Whilst one should never underestimate Taggart there is also the danger for the Rags that he is always expected to pull the rabbit out of the hat. Maybe not this time! In summary, a less potent combination than in previous seasons and as such vulnerable. Yes, the prawn sandwiches might not taste as good for the ‘out of towners’, next season.

Liverpool

The first challenge for Liverpool in the close season is to hold onto some of their players and most notably Alonso and Masherano. Their other big issue has to be transfer funds and yes they might be able to afford one or two players at prices up to £20 million (such as Glen Johnson) but increasingly one gets the impression they will have to become far more self funded. Their eccentric, warring owners have limited funds and hardly help their cause and make one realize again how fortunate we are in this respect.

Yes they have two world class performers in Torres and Gerrard but they desperately need both of these to remain injury free and although having strength in such as Carragher, Agger and Reina, they do not have any other obvious superstars. One also questions their strength in depth particularly down their flanks, in both attack and defence. I would conclude that they are no stronger than last season and if they lost either Alonso or Masherano, they could well be a lot weaker.

I would summarise their situation as treading water and of not having the funds that their manager would require to mount a really serious title challenge.

Arsenal

Now let’s turn to the Gooners. They have a shrewd manager but he always seems to be starved of funds as a result of the Emirates stadium funding requirement and this close season seems no different. Equally he is faced with a number of key problems not least bolstering up a defence that could lose Gallas and Toure and which otherwise is pretty bereft of talent, even having the aged old Rag, Silvestre as a mainstay. Yes he may well bring in the unproven Veraelen but he doesn’t appear to have much other cash available, unless he sells.

His forward line is the inconsistent Adebayor, who is not certain to stay, the injury prone Van Persie and the clodhopper Bendtner and not much more. Yes he has the undoubted class of Fabregas and Arshavin but although many of the supporting players are skilful they appear frail and inconsistent and do not give the impression that they will mature and sustain a consistent challenge throughout the whole season.

Walcott, Eboue, Denilson, Nasri and Djourou spring to mind in this category. Team spirit also seems an issue and natural leaders seem short on the ground, a far cry from the days of Adams, Viera, Henry and Bergkamp. With Arsenal, one still gets the impression that they will have their purple patches but also crumble when the going gets tough and they are playing in a number of competitions and get the inevitable injuries. At the rate they are going they may soon be a top five or six club unless Wenger is allowed to invest heavily in some world class experience. This is unlikely to happen this year and in summary I see them as a tottering giant.

Chelsea

They have a new manager, who although having no Premiership experience has a good pedigree in Italy and one expects him to be given a fair amount of roubles to spend in the close season. However like the Rags he is not exactly spoilt for choice in targets. Ribery would appear a great fit but perhaps as equally pressing, as the need for a world class wide player, is a right back and another centre half, particularly if Carvalho goes to his old master in Milan.

However, apart from Carvalho and maybe Deco there does not appear to be a lot of movement out of the Bridge and they do have some world class players to form a solid world class core. Cech, Terry, the two Coles, Lampard, Ballack, Essien, Drogba, and Anelka spill of the tongue all too easily. Given that Ancellotti was able to identify and then obtain two or three additional world class players to strengthen the team, such as Ribery and Maicon, then Chelsea would appear to have the least issues of any of the ‘established` top four and be the team that we all would have to beat next season.

So in summary, a world class squad that one feels can only get better next season with some judicious signings which will be funded by their interfering owner – yes we are very blessed on that score as one does not get the impression that our Chairman in a dabbler in team affairs.

So what conclusions can be drawn?

First of all, given the amount we have and will spend there should be no excuse for not getting at least into the top six next season. But that should be the minimum ask and given the limited resources of Everton and Fulham and the average resources of Villa and Spurs we should be looking to achieve fifth place at least. Then one looks at the vulnerabilities of Arsenal and dare I say it, the Rags.

I have to conclude that third place is not out of the question for next year. Natural modesty for our team prevents me from going any further.

I know I’m a silly Old Hector, a Walter Mitty like dreamer, a Silly Billy, as dotty as Mystic Meg and supporters of Arsenal and the Rags would and probably will, call me something a lot worse, but fellow supporters of our great club, keep the faith for next season and remember, let the good times roll, please, nicely.

Also remember that you read our finishing league position for next season first on Vital Manchester City or do you think I`ve been a bit pessimistic?.