With the year 2015 slowly creeping by we find ourselves in April already, meaning that the Premier League rat race is drifting into the final stretch and the last six games are upon us out of nowhere. We find the league in an incredible position with every single position still in the balance, yes, even the title is still up for grabs no matter what the masses think.
So I find myself sat here looking at the run ins for each team and assessing how the season has gone so far for them. And I find myself looking at teams thinking about next year, how next season could better or worse for them and decided to do this blog post today, I will look at the three teams I would be worried about for the rest of the season and beyond and the three teams who I would be excited about for the next six weeks and the following season. Before I start I would like to point out that just because I have limited myself to three, to make myself think harder about each team it doesn’t necessarily mean the other teams shouldn’t be excited or worried. Right so that’s that and lets start with the teams I would be worried about and why.
The first team I would be worried about if I was a supporter would be Hull City. For this season I am worried quite simply for the run in. Let me just sit you down, get you comfortable and tell you this run in that Hull City have. I clear my throat, take a deep breathe and read. They begin with Liverpool at home on Saturday, then they play Crystal Palace away. This is swiftly followed by home games against Arsenal and Burnley before a trip to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham. They conclude the season at home to Manchester United. So let me summarise. They play an ever improving Liverpool who up until recent weeks have been setting the pace in the top 4 challenge since the turn of the New Year, they play Palace, a team who since Pardew took over have been playing with a swagger that I have never seen from the Eagles. They then play Arsenal, the team labelled as Chelsea’s main title rival, a team who have won their last 8 league games. They play a Burnley team who has recently turned over Manchester City and held Spurs to a 0-0 draw. Spurs themselves with the irresistible Harry Kane firing them in on all cylinders and should they manage to still not be relegated and require something on the final day they host a Manchester United side who are slowly becoming the dominant force they had been for so long. Pure and simply, Hull City are going down. That is a Ryan Butler exclusive. And I worry for them next season too as they have some decent players but nothing special, why would their better players want to stay? A question I can’t answer.
Secondly, I worry about Newcastle United. Not so much for this season as they have done enough to survive. Read that again. I’m talking about Newcastle United and describing that mere survival being a good season for them. That in itself is something that would worry the life out of me if I was a member of the Toon Army. For me the departure of Alan Pardew is such a key event in Newcastle’s season and future. Alan Pardew always said that he was committed to helping Newcastle turn the tide and mount European challenges once again. He’s gone now and so with it is their chances of doing anything remotely special this year and probably next. The only way I see Newcastle making a serious top half challenge let alone anything else is if they get a Jurgen Klopp in as manager. But unfortunately we are living in the real world and whoever takes that job would have to be two things. Firstly, mad in the head and secondly, must be willing to be under so much scrutiny from all sides due to the fact that the way the club is run is a quite simply a joke. A shambles. A shame and from all sides a PR disaster. Newcastle needs to be sorted from top to bottom then back to the top again. A real shame.
One thing that may at least give the Newcastle fans some satisfaction is that it is nearly just as bad at Sunderland. The Stadium of Light emptying as the Black Cats are getting destroyed at home is becoming much more of a regular occurrence these days and its been threatening to get this bad for a while now. Since the reign of Paolo Di Canio turned sour they haven’t actually allowed for any real change. One of the reasons Di Canio was so unsuccessful was because he had players bought for him not the ones he wanted. This has led to a Sunderland team now filled with useless players on extortionate contracts of high value with no real results to come from it. The squad is now quite simply. Horrendous. Filled with players with no real desire or any skills to successfully do anything in the Premier League. Now, even though I love him John O’Shea is passed it. You can see that just from watching how easily Sunderland are being carved apart week in week out. His partner Wes Brown is also done, the midfield needs a shake up with the need to get consistent performances from the “better” players in Rodwell and Adam Johnson. Up front Steven Fletcher and Jermaine Defoe are great goalscorers but without constant decent service what do you expect them to do. They are strikers not miracle workers. Depending on what the other teams around them do, the end of the season could be one of disaster. With the run in of Arsenal and Stoke away, Southampton and Leicester sandwiching Everton away, culminating in a trip to Stamford Bridge on the final day Sunderland may just be pushing Dick Advocaat’s record of never being promoted to the absolute limit.
If you support any of those clubs then you may feel worried and may want to hope and pray for your team but if you support the next three then you will like what you red. So let’s move on. Move on to the teams who have much more promise and excitement around them for the rest of this season and the next, starting with a trip to the Emirates Stadium.
That’s right, the first team to be excited for is Arsenal. Last season they broke the years of going trophy-less by coming back from two goals down to beat Hull in the FA Cup final and are on course for a return trip to the cup final should they beat Reading on Saturday. League wise however they have been just as exciting. They have been consistent, free scoring and become a harder team to break down. In Oliver Giroud they have one of the most improved strikers of the last 12 months and one of the hottest front lines in World football, let alone the Premier League. With the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott being amongst the star performers going forward Arsenal really do look like becoming the real deal again. For years we have all said Arsenal are X number of players short of being a formidable title winning side once again and I think they are now at 1, maybe 2 players short from being up there. The one player they definitely need is a holding midfielder of actual class and quality. Abou Diaby would be in that position already but he seems to be one of the unluckiest players when it comes to injuries. Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are slowly on there way out and if you have read some of my Severn Sport blogs before you will know that I despise and really don’t rate Jack Wilshere to do that job. For me, if Arsenal want a player to be the defensive midfielder and do it without costing too much money (e.g. a cheaper Paul Pogba) then they should look at Monaco’s Geoffrey Kondogbia or resigning Alex Song. Apart from that a world class central defender to support the existing back line is the only other position Arsenal are in need to fill. If I was an Arsenal fan I would be so excited for next season, but who knows maybe even the end of this campaign.
The second team I would be excited about is Aston Villa. Mainly because of the prospects facing them next season. The Tim Sherwood effect is taking over Villa and suddenly he is getting results out of his players. With survival all but secured for next season, Sherwood will need to start planning for next season and has already hinted at making loanees Tom Cleverley and Scott Sinclair permanent fixtures for the next campaign, something that I am sure would go a long way to help Aston Villa improve and slowly become the Premier League force they once were. Most importantly of all they have a free scoring Christian Benteke. A man who I am a massive fan of. I have always said that if Benteke was to find any decent form then he and Aston Villa would set the Premier League alight. Now if you saw his hat-trick against QPR a couple of weeks ago you would have seen one of the best individual performances of the season and a striker brimming with confidence. There are talks of one of the major U-turns in Premier League history with the rumours circulating of Darren Bent’s return following what is turning out to be a successful loan spell at Derby County. If so he and Benteke, both scoring, both in form, both playing in a team with a new lease of life could see Aston Villa be a surprise package for next season. In fact, next season I expect Aston Villa to be pushing for a top 10 spot. It may seem a bit premature and a bit naïve to think that a run of a few games can affect Aston Villa’s whole campaign next year but it gives us an idea with how the players are responding to the new manager. The answer, very positively.
The third and final team to be excited about will annoy certain Severn Sport members, but quite frankly you can’t ignore the excitement building around Manchester United right now. I’m not even including them in this as a fan but just from what I have seen and heard you can’t help but feel the mentality surrounding United is that of excitement and of that to indicate that Louis Van Gaal is on the verge of something special at Old Trafford. In recent weeks they have wins over Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City, three teams that David Moyes failed to beat last season. Three teams that the Red Devils struggled against both home and away. This year they have a double over Liverpool, have four points off Tottenham and humbled the champions last weekend. On just that basis you have to think that United are finally getting there. Their performances are suggesting that the players have bought into the psyche that is the Louis Van Gaal formula and are even surprising the Dutchman himself. For the Reds the real tests are yet to come, with trips to Chelsea and Everton (another two places David Moyes failed to win at) and a final home game showdown against Arsenal to decide just how high United will finish in the league. With all the talk following that infamous 5-3 defeat to Leicester that this United team were going to miss out on the top 4 yet again they are proving their critics wrong.
United make the list for next season though. If they finish in the top 4 (which lets face it, they should do) then they should be signing Mats Hummels, if paper talk is to be true. And the players who are performing at such a high level now, the likes of Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young amongst others will be one year wiser and have a whole season of hardship and success under their belts. This in turn will make them even more formidable next season. All United need to do is get Angel Di Maria settled or let him go, as with Falcao and for me, recalling Javier Hernandez wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Yes United still have some deadwood to get rid of but there is more promise that worry for the sleeping giants from the Theatre of Dreams.
With just six matches to go in the Premier League season there is still so much to play for, for so many clubs. It will be interesting and exciting to watch just how each team will end their current campaigns, then we get some down time before we do it all over again. It is why we love football and why we love the Premier League.
The next episode of The Severn Sport Puncast will be online very soon. Stay tuned for more!!