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  1. #1
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    Default Football 2013-14

    As we're now well into the transfer season, I think it's time for a new thread!

    Which is convenient for me, as I am here to vent my frustration at Arsenal's lack of action in the transfer scene, beyond signing yet another French teenager from a lower-level French side, Yaya Sanogo. How frustrating.

    We've been linked with Jovetic, Rooney, Higuain, Suarez, Gonalons, Lewandowski, and there have even been suggestions that Fabregas might be coming back.

    And all we've got so far is Sanogo and a new away kit.

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  2. #2
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    Arsenal
    The club have received a lot of plaudits for their style of football since Wenger took over as manager in 1996, however, with no trophies in the last 8 years, even some of the die hard Arsenal fans have started to question the wisdom of Wenger's footballing philosophy, with some even going as far as to suggest that it's time the board considered replacing the manager. Wenger's haul of 11 trophies (3 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cup wins & 4 Charity/Community Shields) is a record that most Premier League managers could only dream of, but that last trophy was the 2005 FA Cup and things have been bleak on the silverware front since then.
    There are signs that Wenger has changed his footballing outlook as the wait for a trophy has grown longer, but the question remains whether Wenger is prepared to make enough changes to achieve success. In a nutshell, is he prepared to forego his footballing philosophy of playing the beautiful game to get results when needed and will he break down the structures in the Arsenal transfer policy that he himself was hugely integral in putting together.
    The first signs of change in the manager's outlook comes in the League Cup (the only domestic competition Wenger hasn't won with Arsenal). For years, this competition was a testing ground for his youngsters, and although they never won the trophy, his teams played free flowing attacking football and managed to get to the latter stages of the competition most seasons on the back of this. The youngsters also had the success of knocking a number of their Premiership rivals out of the cup, often with these sides fielding near full strength sides. In 2011, however, Arsenal reached the final and bizarrely lost to Birmingham in the final minutes of the game, playing what would almost be considered his first XI. The need for a trophy encouraged Wenger to make changes to his philosophy and it was very nearly a success. The last season's League Cup saw the club even more bizarrely lose at the Quarter Final stage to League 2 side Bradford with Coquelin the only youngster who wasn't a part of the normal match-day squad to be involved. Despite this failure, it has become clear that Wenger is prepared to sacrifice some of his footballing ethics to gain success.
    Arsenal's financial policy has been very conservative over the last few seasons, with the ongoing costs of the move to the Emirates Stadium leaving the club unable to compete with their main rivals on the transfer front. It's testament to Wenger's ability as a manager that Arsenal have managed to remain in touching distance with their rivals in pursuit of Premier League glory and haven't fallen further behind. Last season saw the financial shackles loosened somewhat and the club spent large amounts of money to bring Cazorla, Giroud & Podolski in. However, these signing weren't really made to improve the squad as a whole. Rather, they were brought in to make up for the loss of Fabregas and Van Persie and to ensure the club was still able to achieve Champions League qualification. That in itself says a lot about the club in recent years. A trophy is the goal, but that trophy is almost expected to be the FA or League Cup. In Premier League terms, Champions League qualification has been the goal rather than the title itself.
    As we approach the start of the 2013-2014 season, Arsenal have been linked with players such as Higuain, Rooney, Suarez & Fellaini. However, with only 4 weeks left till the start of the season, transfer activity at the club has not really moved beyond rumour and conjecture. Wenger has stressed that there is money to spend, but again we have to come back to the Wenger footballing philosophy. During his time at the club, they have never spent huge sums of money on players. Wenger has preferred to use the clubs extensive scouting network to bring in young players that he could develop further to play the Arsenal way or to bring in players such as Thierry Henry who he felt had the capacity to improve their game under his tutelage to become footballing greats.
    The question that remains, is whether Wenger will be prepared to spend money on marquee signings to improve the standing of the club. If any of the players Arsenal have been rumoured to be interested in were to join the club, they would almost certainly come at a significant cost in terms of transfer fees, but would also break the long adhered to wage structure that the club has in place. However, in the last few seasons, Wenger has seen his stars start to leave the club to gain those all elusive trophies elsewhere, if he wants to avoid the same thing happening to Jack Wilshere, a player he seems intent on building his team around, then perhaps the time has come for Arsenal to become a big player on the transfer scene again.
    As it currently stands, Arsenal have a squad that gained Champions League qualification and will most likely be aiming for the same goal in the Premier League again this season. Trophies, if they do come, will most likely be achieved through the domestic cup competitions. The danger is that other teams around them are improving year on year and that Champions League place is becoming harder and harder to achieve. Failing to reach that promised land could result in players leaving the club, and finding suitable replacements becoming even more difficult.
    Arsenal need more strength at the back, with Szczesny still not showing the ability required for a goalkeeper at a top Premier League side. Defensively, there is a need for more cover in the full back positions although the club is blessed with three solid centre backs. In midfield, the club require a ball winner. Someone who can break up the play and put the club on the offensive, with a great deal of physical presence. This is where Fellaini would fit the bill, but will Wenger countenance spending 25-30 million to sign him? Despite the presence of Giroud, Podolski and Walcott, Arsenal need more goals to be coming in and a top class striker is a must. Without these signings, this could be the season when Champions League football may be just beyond their reach come the end of the season.

  3. #3
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    Aston Villa
    Despite the fact the 2012/2013 season saw Villa finish 1 place (15th) and 3 points (41 points) higher than the preceding season, last season was far more fraught with fears of relegation. It's strange to remember that only three years ago, Aston Villa were losing the League Cup final 2-1 to Man Utd, reaching the semi-final of the FA Cup and had finished 3rd in the Premier League for the 3rd consecutive season. Martin O'Neill was in charge of an Aston Villa side that was full of pace and attacking excitement, with the only real criticism being that they tended to run out of steam towards the business end of the football season. Following O'Neill's shock resignation just days before the start of the 2010/2011 season, Villa have had 3 managers, all of whom have wanted to stamp their mark on the club. Houllier & McCleish both lasted less than a year and by the time Paul Lambert was brought to the club as manager, hardly any of the talented players from the O'Neill era remained.
    Paul Lambert's first season in charge can hardly have been described as a success, but there were certainly successful elements to it. Gabby Agbonlahor, one of the few players still at the club from the more successful era of three years earlier, managed to score more goals than he had in the previous two seasons put together. Perhaps the biggest success however, was the recruitment of Christian Benteke from Belgian club Genk. His 23 goals in 39 appearances (19 of them in the Premier League) could be argued to have been the difference between Villa having another season in the Premier League and relegation to the Championship. Lambert has undertaken something of a revolution at Villa, offloading or dropping a number of the older heads at the club and building a squad of younger players through a mixture of transfers and promoting players from within the youth set up. The early signs weren't good for the club, with the young team struggling to grind out results, although Benteke's goals did ensure the club picked up what, at the end of the season, turned out to be some vital points. The defence wasn't looking secure, with only a few clean sheets kept all season and over the Christmas/New Year period, Villa lost all three of their games to Chelsea, Tottenham & Wigan letting in 15 goals without finding the back of the net themselves. Aston Villa never really managed to go on a run of positive results throughout the season, but did manage to gain vital wins against opponents who were in the same relegation dogfight.
    Lambert, as has already been mentioned, wasn't afraid to drop a player if he felt it was justified, but none caused as much debate as that of Darren Bent. Brought to the club in January 2011 for a club record fee of 18 million, Bent was the top scorer at the club in his first season despite only being there for half a season. In his first full season, he once again topped the Villa scoring charts despite only playing 25 games due to a season ending injury in February 2012. To drop him, of all players, was a huge risk, and if relegation had followed it is hard to imagine Lambert managing to keep hold of his job. As it is, Bent is now openly available for transfer, but Villa are unlikely to recoup the sort of money they paid out for his services.
    Following a hugely successful season, Benteke threw most Villa fans into a panic by initially voicing to the media his interest in leaving for a bigger club, and then later handing in a transfer request. Figures of 25 million for his services were being bandied around in the press, and there was more than one potential suitor for his signature. However, just when it seemed he was on the verge of leaving the club, he returned to training for the new season and agreed to sign a new four year deal at the club. When considering the goals he scored last season, the difficulty in finding a replacement and the uncertainty that the manager would have had the full transfer fee to reinvest, Benteke signing a new contract could be the best signing Villa will make during the transfer window.
    Should Benteke be able to replicate the performance levels of last season, Aston Villa should manage to avoid relegation, and the performances towards the end of last season indicate that Lambert's young squad was starting to find their feet at this level. New signings have been made, and they have followed the pattern of the vast majority of Lambert's purchases, relatively unknown players in their very early twenties. If they do avoid relegation, it will still more than likely be a lower end of the table finish rather than mid table or better.

  4. #4
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    Cardiff
    With an FA Cup final appearance in 2008, a League Cup final appearance in 2012 as well as three Championship campaigns ending in a play-off position, Cardiff had looked a likely bet to reach the Premier League for some time. Off the pitch, financial troubles had blighted the club for a number of years and when Malky Mackay took over as manager prior to the 2011/2012 season he had a squad that barely covered the starting XI players. Mackay rebuilt the squad and showed his credentials by steering the club to the League Cup final. In his second season in charge, he led the club to the Championship title finishing 8 points clear of second placed Hull.
    Cardiff are not expected to make a huge impression on the Premier League, with most bookmakers offering odds on a straight return to the Championship. If nothing else happens, Cardiff will make history this season when they play Swansea in the Premier League's first ever derby between Welsh clubs. However, it may well be that the pundits and bookmakers are doing Cardiff a disservice. There has been little activity in the transfer market from the club so far, but the player they have signed, Andreas Cornelius, scored 18 goals in 34 games in his début & only season for FC Copenhagen. He's young, but has already represented Denmark at international level having previously turned out for the U18, U19 and U21 sides and was being sought after by a number of Premiership clubs. Her certainly has the potential to be an excellent signing and could be the Michu or Benteke of the 2013/2014 season. The club have showed a willingness to spend further with some ultimately unsuccessful approaches for Tom Ince and Victor Wanayama (who subsequently signed for Premier League rivals Southampton) proving that the club is prepared to make a costly outlay if they feel it would benefit the clubs Premier League survival. More importantly, they are trying to identify targets who could come straight into the first team and making a significant difference to the side rather than following the philosophy of a number of previous promoted teams by signing any Premier League cast off they can lay their hands on. It will be interesting to see which further signings they make, and if they don't come off, hopefully they won't resort to last minute panic buys.
    Cardiff also have one Craig Bellamy amongst their ranks. He may now be 34 years of age, but he is still a pacey player with bags of experience at the highest level and he is sure to be looking for one last Premier League hurrah. The club has further experience of Premier League football in its side through Fraizer Campbell, Peter Wittingham (a real set piece specialist) and captain Mark Hudson.
    I'm not suggesting that retaining their Premier League status will be easy, but Cardiff seem to have enough about them to be pushing closer to a safe mid table position than fighting against relegation. Of all three of the promoted teams, Cardiff seem a safer bet to avoid relegation.

  5. #5
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    Well the signing of Andy Carroll, has blown a huge hole in our transfer budget and it's certainly a big risk as he does have a dodgy injury record he is again carrying an injury and will miss the start of the season. With Carlton Cole now released our striking options our very thin, Kevin Nolan, has been our main goal getter for the last few seasons so it's pretty clear that we need a couple more forwards.

  6. #6
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    Loving the start to the season by Spurs, the defeat to the Gooners not withstanding! 3rd in the table and ahead of both Manchester clubs and Chelski most satisfying, and amongst the favourites for the Europa League, which AVB takes seriously but then we have the depth of squad now which we didn't last season. Top 4 is an absolute must though.

    I know it's early days but the Premier League should be very open this year...

  7. #7

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    Well Sunderland have given Di Canio the jackboot

  8. #8
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    Which is ridiculously early after just 5 games. They say it's because of his style of man-management but they knew what he was like when they hired him!

    Meanwhile, Spurs 2nd on goal difference and the best defence in the PL - woo!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonno Simmons View Post
    Which is ridiculously early after just 5 games. They say it's because of his style of man-management but they knew what he was like when they hired him!

    Meanwhile, Spurs 2nd on goal difference and the best defence in the PL - woo!
    But what's more important is that the Gunners are FIRST!

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  10. #10
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    Haha, knew that would make you respond!

    It's certainly not what I expected after your opening match, but let's rejoice in the fact we're both 5 points ahead of Man U.

    And Mr Tudor must be delighted that his team are the only unbeaten ones in the PL!

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonno Simmons View Post
    Which is ridiculously early after just 5 games. They say it's because of his style of man-management but they knew what he was like when they hired him!

    Meanwhile, Spurs 2nd on goal difference and the best defence in the PL - woo!
    When we played them towards the end of last season and tore them apart beating them six-nil and there is the whole fascism thing

  12. #12
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    Well, Spurs went top for a few hours on Saturday afternoon, shame we couldn't beat Chelski though. Amazing though that both Manchester clubs lost, with United making their worst start to a season since 1989-90, which happens to be the last time Liverpool won the league - and now they're above us in 2nd!

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