Midweek Musings: Thoughts on all 20 Premier League teams
1/16/2014 4:28:29 PMArsenal - Reports linking Arsenal to 20-year old German midfielder Julian Draxler of Schalke excite. Arsene Wenger reportedly wants to convert the player into an attacking force, much like he did with Robin Van Persie. Draxler could very well fit the mold but such a transition takes time. Arsenal has legitimate title aspirations this campaign and a more mature, ready-made attacking option is required. Will Wenger swing for the fences for a short-term push?
Aston Villa - Lose a big striker, sign another. With Libor Kozak out for the season (broken leg), Villa reunites manager Paul Lambert with former Norwich City striker Grant Holt. It's hardly the move Villa supporters are looking for. The positive; the team adds more size and strength up front, which could bode well for a side desperate for goals. Villa has only scored four in their last seven league matches. Nickel and diming will only get the team so far.
Cardiff City - Somehow, some way the Blue Birds are in the relegation zone. It's tight at the bottom with only five points separating 13th from 20th. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer doesn't have time to find his way, so he's bringing in young players he knows. He's landed Norwegian midfielder Mats Moller Daehli. Cardiff has reportedly turned their sights to Manchester United's Fabio and Wilfried Zaha. Both players need games and fill roles of need in South Wales. Seems like a win-win.
Chelsea - The Blues spent £21 million on a player they once had. It's hardly good business, but irrelevant for an owner flush with cash. Serbian Nemanja Matic will slot into a midfield pivot role; a position of weakness for Jose Mourinho. Frank Lampard cannot play there. Michael Essien is on his way out. Marco van Ginkel would have filled the role if healthy. It's a big ask of Matic to make the quick transition to Premier League football in the middle of a title race. Good news for Chelsea, team defensive play has been outstanding, conceding just twice in their last six.
Crystal Palace - The Eagles are in trouble. Help doesn't seem on the horizon in the transfer window for the last place team. Palace is playing much better under manager Tony Pulis. If it weren't for a dreadful penalty miss by Jason Puncheon last weekend, Palace could have taken points from Spurs. Palace was the better side to start. There is simply no room for error for this team on a weekly basis.
Everton - Ross Barkley will only miss three weeks with a broken toe. It was feared the injury was the dreaded metatarsal. More good news with reports Leighton Baines is prepared to sign a new long-term deal to stay at Goodison, fending off interest from Manchester United. Keeping the core together is essential for a team on the rise. A January purchase of another striker is required for a true push for Champions League qualification. They are perilously thin up front behind Romelu Lukaku.
Fulham - A striking fall from grace for Bryan Ruiz who moves from Craven Cottage to PSV Eindhoven. Ruiz looked to be a proper Premier League attacking talent. Thankfully for the Cottagers, they have attacking talent to spare. Fulham are in desperate need of defensive help in their relegation fight. The team has conceded a disturbing 20 goals in the last six games. And yet Fulham have reportedly moved for West Ham's Ravel Morrison? Strange.
Hull City - The Tigers splashed £12 million in transfer fees for mediocre-at-best strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, signaling intent to stay in the BPL. It's over-spending at its finest, but I actually like the moves - a good gamble for a team playing above expectations. In Jelavic, Steve Bruce is hoping a similar return to the impressive nine goals in 13 games after his move from Rangers to Everton in 2012. The Croatian needs to impress ahead of FIFA World Cup 2014. Long is a useful player, bringing some necessary steel to the front line.
Liverpool - It's been a wonderful season at Anfield, but an honest assessment of where the team would be without Luis Suarez and his 22 goals suggests they lack top-level talent across the midfield. More is needed behind him and Daniel Sturridge. A 5-3 win at the Britannia continued to expose midfield and defensive frailties. Brendan Rodgers has work to do. Will there be money for a significant January purchase?
Manchester City - Huge loss for Manchester City losing Samir Nasri to a knee injury for eight weeks. Nasri has been on sensational form. The Frenchman's absence opens up a starting role for Jesus Navas, who continues to impress. Navas adds more speed and natural width to a side often playing narrow. That's not criticism; the tactical shift will simply change the approach for a team lethal in attack. The return of Sergio Aguero also softens the blow. For all the accolades Suarez receives, Aguero has been every bit the player as the Liverpool man this season.
Manchester United - Darren Fletcher's return is a significant upgrade in United's midfield. Tom Cleverley has proven not good enough; a passenger and non-influential in a position crying out for a difference-maker. The all-action Scottish international has shown signs of his old self, working his way back to fitness. Fletcher can fill the short-term void in the middle until United likely land a top central midfielder player (or two) in the summer.
Newcastle United - In a day managers are reprimanded for any discretion, Alan Pardew has escaped FA punishment for his rant/actions during last weekend's 2-0 defeat. Pardew lost it on City manager Manuel Pellegrini in a tirade not safe for print, while lashing out at referee Mike Jones for his egregious decision, disallowing Cheick Tiote's wonder-goal. Soccer is a game officiated based upon interpretation of the rules. Jones biggest wrongdoing was overruling his linesman's decision. His hasty decision was a black-mark on a game with direct implications on the title race. Another example BPL officiating simply isn't good enough.
Norwich City - Three goals in their last six, the struggles continue at Carrow Road. The Canaries get more experience in the side as Jonas Gutierrez joins on-loan, but that doesn't solve issues in attack. The next three weeks (Hull, Newcastle, Cardiff) are critical. It's more than Chris Houghton's job on the line. It's Premier League survival.
Southampton - Executive chairman Nicola Cortese leaving raises questions about the direction at St. Mary's. Highly regarded manager Mauricio Pochettino publicly remains committed. That remains to be seen. This kind of disruption threatens mid-table teams with ambition. A potential club sale further complicates matters. Now all eyes are cast towards possible players leaving. Left-back Luke Shaw is the most desirable piece, with striker Rickie Lambert having short-term value.
Sunderland - Credit manager Gus Poyet for getting the most out of this rag-tag bunch. The team is playing well and has just sold possibly the worst player in the league, Ji Dong-Won to Augsburg. Good riddance. Midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung is developing into a top player. Belief at the Stadium of Light is tangible. A team on the rise.
Stoke City - The Potters in an entertaining match seems an oxy-moron. A 5-3 loss to Liverpool was as exciting as it gets (so much for the defensive wall at the Britannia). Mark Hughes team is showing willingness to attack; it just doesn't have the players. The loan signing of John Guidetti from City, however, is intriguing. Guidetti in attack adds substance to a team in need of goals.
Swansea City - Injuries have ravaged the promising side. Although squad depth has been impressive, the lack of consistency in selection has hurt. The passing is wonderful, but team defending leaves much to be desired. The decision to allow Ki Sung-Yeung to stay at Sunderland shows long-term vision.
Tottenham - Midfield competition has created apparent discontent. Lewis Holtby and Nacer Chadli are both reportedly seeking moves elsewhere to find playing time. Tim Sherwood's four-man midfield changes the landscape. Natural width is priority, with multi-dimensional players who can cover lots of ground. The evolution in the squad will continue. With Jermain Defoe moving to Toronto FC, another striker should be priority. Where Eric Lamela fits is unknown.
West Bromwich Albion - Another squad in transition. Pepe Mel has taken over and a more continental approach, ala Swansea or Southampton is should follow. The spine of the team and youth remains impressive. Let's see how they adapt in the coming weeks.
West Ham United - Last weekend's 2-0 win settled the nerves at West Ham for the time being. Sam Allardyce looks set to stay. Andy Carroll has returned. And West Ham looks intent to add a striker in January. Will it all be enough to avoid relegation? The team remains a mess defensively.