Half Term Reports – Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton

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With half the season gone and the January transfer window looming, it seems like a good time to review where each club is at and what their expectations and needs for the rest of the season should be. In the interests of not producing a 3,000 word post, we were going to use current positions to split the league into four manageable groups: relegation candidates, mid-table strugglers, UEFA Cup hopefuls and Champions League contenders. That’s all a bit complicated so we’ll just do it alphabetically instead.

 

 

arsenal

Arsenal – 5th

Successful season so far? Not really. A title challenge has not materialized following numerous dropped points against weaker teams. Captain Gallas is replaced by Fabregas who then gets injured for essentially the rest of the season. An over reliance on kids who aren’t ready means Arsenal face a challenge to keep their top four spot.

Top player: Not many to pick from – Clichy and Sagna have been fairly consistent but it probably has to go to Robin Van Persie. He has shown what he can do when he stays fit with great games against Chelsea and Liverpool and eight goals overall.

Flop player: Fabregas was pretty poor/exhausted before he got injured while Eboue was the target of fans’ ire. Bendtner has been particularly useless however.

January shopping list: A replacement for the injured Fabregas, a defensive partner for the replacement for the injured Fabregas, a centre back.

Dream scenario: January midfield reinforcements gel instantly and lead Arsenal to an unlikely title as Liverpool, Chelsea and indeed Man Utd all proceed to go on poor runs of form. Oh and Tottenham get relegated.

Realistic scenario: January midfield reinforcements gel quickly enough for Arsenal to pick up form and then the returning Eduardo and Walcott ensure 4th is reached comfortably enough.

 

 

aston-villa Aston Villa – 4th

Successful season so far? Absolutely. Barry wasn’t sold and along with Young and Agbonlahor the three have led Villa to 4th spot with a fantastic chance of Champions League qualification.

Top player: Martin O’Neill teams are very much greater than the sum of their parts but Young has been outstanding this year. He’s not quite Messi yet but he’s probably the best winger in the league right now.

Flop player: Nicky Shorey has been a bit useless.

January shopping list: Cover at full back would be useful, another big striker would mean they wouldn’t have to play Marlon Harewood.

Dream scenario: First choice XI continue to stay fit and play every game and Villa qualify for the Champions League by finishing comfortably in the top four.

Realistic scenario: They push Arsenal hard but an injury or two along the way mean they just miss out and finish 5th.

 

 

blackburn

Blackburn – 19th

Successful season so far? Nope. The Paul Ince experiment fails after a bright start and Sam Allardyce is appointed manager. Best player Santa Cruz wants to leave and Blackburn face a struggle to avoid relegation.

Top player: Hmm, McCarthy is top scorer with five. Has to be him I guess.

Flop player: After a great season last year Roque Santa Cruz doesn’t want to be at Ewood Park anymore. £17million takes him off Fat Sam’s hands. Pedersen has been a flop for about a season and a half now.

January shopping list: Big Sam’s favourites from his time at Bolton – Nolan, Davies, Diouf.

Dream scenario: Santa Cruz is sold for big bucks to Mark Hughes’ Man City meaning money for new players. Benni McCarthy rediscovers his 06-07 form. Relegation avoided while Allardyce’s old team go down.

Realistic scenario: Santa Cruz is sold for big bucks to Mark Hughes’ Man City. Allardyce brings in enough quality to stay up. Just.

 

 

boltonBolton – 11th

Successful season so far? Yes. Megson has got Bolton playing organized effective football and they sit in 11th place. That said they are only three points off the relegation zone and have possibly the smallest squad in the Premier League.

Top player: Steinsson and Cahill have been solid in front of an ever consistent Jaaskelainen. Elmander is slowly playing back his eight figure fee but it’s Matt Taylor with five goals from midfield who has probably been the best.

Flop player: A few weeks ago it would have been Elmander but he has five goals now. Kevin Nolan isn’t that good any more is he? No goals and just two assists have at least stopped the calls for England recognition.

January shopping list: Squad players, given that Megson says he has just 14 to work with.

Dream scenario: Fat Sam’s favourites aren’t reunited with him. Bolton gain enough points against those around them to stay up.

Realistic scenario: Lack of squad depth proves costly as Bolton go down.

 

T.

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