Friday, August 1, 2008

Picks for 08-09

With less than three weeks to go for the beginning of the new season of the Barclays Premier League, I must say that we are in the midst of the most boring off season for years now in spite of the ongoing Ronaldo saga and the constant uncertainty surrounding Gareth Barry. I can’t for one wait for the start of the new season and instead of immersing myself in asinine transfer rumours, I have been trying to figure out whom to look out for in this coming season in terms of performances. I have therefore come out with a list of ten players, all of whom I expect will contribute heavily this season in the drive for success of their respective clubs.

10. Jonas Gutierrez: Gutierrez is one of those who can either turn out to be a colossal hit or a massive flop. It depends almost entirely on how he adapts to the English game as there is no doubting his talents. Gutierrez is not blessed with breathtaking pace, but he is certainly capable of a trick or two and if he plays anywhere near as well as he did for Real Mallorca, we can expect him to be a big hit at Tyneside. The man nicknamed as the 'Spiderman' for the mask he puts on for goal celebrations is certainly the most colourful player signed this season.

9. Leighton Baines: Baines was unlucky to have missed out on a large part of the last season due to injury, but if fit this season, we can certainly expect him to play a big role for Everton not only in the form of helping them acquire clean sheets, but from an attacking point of view as well. Baines is a neat compact defender, but it is his ability to maraud forward from the left-back position that sets him apart as one to watch out for.

8. Gabriel Agbonlahor: ‘Gabi’, as he was referred to by the then Villa manager, David O’Leary has come on by leaps and bounds since scoring on debut against Everton. Agonlahor is blessed with tremendous pace which allows him to be deployed either wide on the right wing or centrally as a support striker. He has probably not fulfilled his potential in terms of goals, but Gabi offers far more than just goals to his team. He is capable of beating opponents both by skill and pace and we can expect far more goals and thrills from Agbonlahor this season.

7. Michael Johnson: News of Manchester City offering the youngster a new five year deal in spite of his current deal running till 2011 suggests that Johnson is a player that Mark Hughes is desperate to hang on to. He is a typical box to box player whose ability to dictate play from midfield stands out amongst several other admirable qualities. Having scored two spectacular goals for Man City last season, I would expect Johnson to flourish under the management of Hughes this season and who knows he may even find himself in the Don’s squad before too long.

6. Nani: Even though Nani impressed many with his performances last season, I don’t think the world has seen the best of him. Last season for the likes of Nani and Anderson was meant to be a time for settling in and adapting to the English game. Both players however took to the BPL like fish to water and I would expect a great deal more from both of them, in particular from Nani. Ryan Giggs isn’t getting any younger and I am sure Ferguson having tested Nani last season would provide him the opportunity to exhibit his talents on a far more regular basis this season and Man United fans can certainly look forward to seeing a whole lot more of ‘leaps of death’ from the Portuguese starlet.

5. Luka Modric: For me, the most exciting signing of the season by a good mile and a half, Modric is an exceptionally gifted footballer. He has two good feet and the unique ability to see passes that others cannot even dream of. The moot point surrounding Modric of course is whether he would be able to cope with the physicality of the BPL. But personally I don’t see why Modric would not be able to excel, particularly if he is used as a trequartista which is the position best suited for his spectacular abilities.

4. Wilson Palacios: Palacios is perhaps the only reason why Steve Bruce’s Wigan Athletic are still in the BPL. He stunned one and all with his supreme energy levels and his ability to make things happen on a football pitch and Arsene Wenger is probably regretting not having signed him instead of recommending him to Bruce as he could have been the ideal replacement for Mathieu Flamini. Arguably this season would be harder for Palacios, considering the expectations upon him after his admirable displays last season, but I would think he is more than capable of rising to the occasion and perform at even greater levels.

3. David Bentley: Bentley is without doubt a player blessed with the abilities to play for one of the big four clubs of the BPL and I am extremely surprised that Liverpool who lack a genuine wide player failed to make a bid for Bentley. Jaunde Ramos has once again played the cards perfectly by using the funds from Robbie Keane’s transfer to secure one of Britain’s brightest young talents. Bentley has an incredible cross and a superb shot on him and is deadly to say the very least from dead balls. Every year there is a lot of talk about how Spurs are going to break into the top four. I am not too sure if they will this season, but with the likes of Modric, Bentley and dos Santos in the squad, it can only be a matter of time before Spurs start challenging for a top four position.

2. Steve Sidwell: Having sat out on the bench for practically a whole season, Sidwell will be raring to get onto the pitch and perform to the best of his abilities in the claret and blue of Aston Villa. Whether Gareth Barry moves or stays, Sidwell will in my opinion have a big role to play in Villa’s quests this season. His splendid performances in Reading’s inaugural season earned him a Bosman move to Chelsea only for him to end up behind several players in the pecking order for a coveted central midfield berth. But this season, I am sure we can witness the best of Sidwell once again as he dictates play behind the likes of Young, Agbonlahor and Carew.

1. Bacari Sagna: Arsenal’s title ambitions last season seemed to spiral downwards almost immediately after Sagna injured himself against Chelsea causing him to miss the final month and a half of the campaign. Had Sagna been fit, I would think the title race would have been far closer than it actually was. Sagna is the kind of player who often goes unnoticed in a game, which is not as bad as it sounds when the player in question is a defender. But apart from offering consistency at the back, Sagna presents wonderful options for the Gunners from an attacking perspective, and I am sure there is a whole lot more to come from Sagna this season.


Unknown said...

I am not so sure about Luka Modric...In fact one of the reasons Wenger did not go for Modric because he might not be able to cope with the physicality of the League. Further, he was not exceptional during the Euro.

Two players who I think might make a huge impact this season are Carlos Vela and Samir Nasri. Vela has impressed hugely in the pre-season so far (and linked up fairly well with Bendtner). Nasri too seems to have slotted in very well and could effectively replace Hleb (offering more shots on goal as well).

Another player who could have a huge influence on who wins the title is Bosingwa (who impressed hugely at the Euro).

Suhrith said...

I thought Modric had a smashing European Championships actually. If the other ten Croatians had played half as well as he had in the quarters, they would have certainly gotten through. Modric created chance after chance for the strikers, only for them to waste a majority of those. And he was named the man of the match when Croatia defeated the Germans in the group stage. He was also named in UEFA's team of the tournament, so he was certainly superb in the championships.

I am not too sure how much action Vela is going to get and you can definitly not judge him from the friedlies, considering Arsenal's opposition. He might well be a great prospect, but I have my doubts about him contributing heavily this season. Nasri on the other hand, I gave substantial thought to, but my misgivings about Nasri are similar to that about Vela. He might take quite a bit of time to settle down in the league and he hasn't yet played much at the top level. But he might just do great, one can never say, but I wasn't sure enough about Nasri to put him in the ten.

Bosingwa is not the most convincing from a defensive perspective. But you are right in so far as he had a very good Euro. I think defenders in particular take a bit more time to settle down in the English league considering the pace of the game, so once again we can probably expect a lot from Bosingwa in his second season. Vidic, Evra, Carvalho are all top defenders of the BPL now and all of them started to perform to the best of their abilities only from their second season.