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Opinion

Premier League and Newcastle United – This is an epic

1 month ago
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Here we go then, the 2021 – 2022 Premier League season is about to start and this one will be better.

We are all itching to get back to stadiums now that the Covid pandemic is over, even if we have to wear masks over our mouths rather than where we hoped we would have to wear them, over our eyes.

VAR will be much less intrusive, meaning we can start celebrating goals when they go in, rather than after the adverts have finished.

Then there is Mike Ashley, like a modern-day Robin Hood, fighting the Premier League and their ingrained corrupt gentlemen’s club.

On the pitch, Newcastle United have bought a player. For money. And coach Steve Bruce is making sure our best players stay our best players, we are not selling ASM are we Steve:

“You can never say never but absolutely 100%, I will say that we are keeping him.”

So which is it Steve? With frontier gibberish like that, who could fail to be excited.

The Teams That Expect To Win The League In No Particular Order:

Manchester City:

Poor Manchester City. After losing Sergio Aguero on a free transfer it looks like the hard-up Sky Blues have to go into the season without any strikers, they can only afford £127million for Harry Kane, that’s all the cash they have and it isn’t enough. Makes your heart bleed for them, trying to defend their title with only £100million Jack Grealish as an addition to their squad.

After his move to Manchester Grealish said: “My farewell from Villa was just like Messi’s” and he wasn’t joking.

It was just like Messi’s except that Messi is one of the best players in the world but is a down-to-earth sort of chap, whereas Grealish isn’t and isn’t. He is a very good player and will no doubt do well at City but he will also annoy just about everyone else by behaving like a pillock day-in, day-out. Anyway, I fully expect Manchester City to be the team to beat next season but as Liverpool found last season, defending the title is much harder than winning it for some bizarre reason. Not that NUFC have any experience of either. At present the only similar thing between two historically very similar clubs is that Pep once said that because he was at City “I won’t train United, just like I would never train Madrid, definitely not.”

Similarly Steve Bruce said “I would never train Newcastle just like I didn’t train any of my other clubs.”

Liverpool:

After an injury ravaged season last season the scousers will be looking to bounce back and it is difficult to bet against them. Having signed £36m Konate from RB Leipzig to partner returning Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool should be able to play their midfielders in midfield which will help their attackers to attack. They have lost Harry Wilson, as well as Wijnaldum to PSG, but still have plenty have of other good players and should be able to cope without the Dutchman away from Anfield, they had to when he was in the team most of the time.

Klopp has also refreshingly said that he needs to keep the path to the first team open for young Academy players so won’t go down the big spending route of the reds challengers, something I hope NUFC will realise again soon. During the lockdown manager Klopp also said he has missed football so much, something else he has in common with me. The only difference is that it is about 16 years since I saw any football at SJP rather than 16 months. If they can keep everyone fit, Liverpool will be contenders.

Manchester United:

They finished the season really strongly last season and have added one very good player to their ranks in Rafael Varane, a top-drawer centre half. They have also added Jadon Sancho to their attacking armoury, over-rated in my opinion on the basis of his Dortmund form over the past couple of seasons but everyone else thinks he is great. They are expecting great things from him at Old Trafford but I think it will be a big challenge for him to win me over, something that I know weighs heavily on those young shoulders.

Even so, I am expecting Manyoo to very competitive this season.

A contrast to NUFC who are relying to teams to be worse than us, if Man United don’t win the league, it will be because other teams are better than them rather than them not being up to the task. Paul Pogba pulling his finger out, or leaving it in, might be the difference between the two.

Chelsea:

They looked like contenders last season once Tuchel took over and could easily win the league this season. Signing Lukaku will help, Chelsea have missed a striker like Lukaku for a few years since they sold a striker like Lukaku, well since they actually sold Lukaku.

The Teams That Will Try To Break Into The Top Four In No Particular Order:

Leicester City:

I have no natural affinity to the place or its people, it has been one of my least favourite away trips despite a decent curry and a few exceptional results there.

I can’t argue with the way the club has been run for the last few years though, they are an absolute template of how to run a club for any would-be owner. This season they will very probably again have an entertaining, attacking, well organised football team and much as I would like them to get the Champions League football they have almost achieved over the past two years on that basis alone, I don’t think they will, again.

The signings of Patson Daka from RB Salzburg and the excellent, if mardy, Boubakary Soumare from Lille, will make them more competitive. Signing Vestergaard from Southampton will reinforce their injury prone back line and they haven’t lost any players yet, although rumours persist about James Maddison and he will be a big loss if he goes. Even if he does, Leicester seem to be able to get over those sorts of hurdles with astute buying, properly motivated and rewarded players and good management. It’s not impossible is it?

Everton:

Under-achieving and big-spending Everton had a bit of a wake-up call in the Summer when ‘top’ manager Carlo Ancelotti left suddenly to take over at Real Madrid. Lucky for them another ‘top’ manager was waiting to take over, Rafa Benitez got tired of waiting for NUFC to ring and ask him back.

You can’t deny Everton’s ambition, even if their supporters have voiced their opposition to the former Liverpool loudmouthed legend getting the job at Goodison. One supporter even left a banner outside the house saying “We Know Where You Live – Don’t Sign” but it was left outside the wrong house, thus taking some of the edge out of the threat.

Benitez will undoubtedly have his work cut out in the short-term but anyone who knows his work knows that it will be uninspiring at times, pragmatic and uneventful at times but will ultimately, given the time and money lead to success. I’m not his biggest fan but I have no doubt that he can get Everton into the top six. Maybe this year, maybe not. Much will depend on their transfer activity.

So far a couple of squad players have left, Moise Kean has returned from a loan at PSG, Townsend, Gray and Begovic have joined. Like Benitez, not very inspiring but obviously players he knows and bought for a purpose. Like it or not, that’s the level of detail you get with Benitez and Everton’s season will be all about him. I won’t be betting against him.

Rafa Benitez‘One week in Liverpool, already in a tracksuit’

Arsenal:

It is difficult to see how Arsenal will be any better than last season. They have bought Ben White, a highly rated £50million centre back and they definitely needed him. Releasing David Luiz should also improve their defence. Not much else has changed at Arsenal by the looks of it.

They have money to spend but no one of any quality looks to want to go there, such has the Gunners’ stock fallen. James Maddison would be a good signing but it looks like he sensibly sees Leicester as a better bet. Martin Odegaard is ok, but would cost big money, and I have my doubts he would ever reach the level Arsenal are aspiring too. Their first game, away at Brentford is a massive game. Arsenal usually start well and their fans think they will win the league for a month or so before moaning their way through the rest of the season. If they don’t win their first game, it will be a long season for them (ED: Brentford comfortably won 2-0…).

Tottenham:

Another desperate London club who look like they are getting worse. That European Super League better come quickly for them otherwise they will find themselves in the Europa Super League. The positive for them will be new manager Nuno Espirito Santo, a well organised and clever coach. It took them long enough to get him, when Spurs announced his arrival it looked like all UK adults were being asked if they wanted a Covid19 vaccination, the Tottenham manager’s job or both.

The negative this year will be that Harry ‘one of our own’ Kane doesn’t want to be one of their own and he will be a massive miss if he goes and an unhappy kid if he stays. Having lost Bale, Lamela and Alderweireld, already their squad looks a little weaker unless new signings Gil, Gollini and Romero hit the ground running. And whoever they buy to replace Kane does the same.

The Teams That Will Be Mid-Table In No Particular Order:

West Ham:

Overachieved last season. Lost Jesse Lingaard who was excellent for them from January onwards. Haven’t really bought anyone. Haven’t really sold anyone. They will probably sit quietly in mid-table all season and can’t possibly be as bad against NUFC as they were last season, though here’s hoping.

Keira Knightley‘Jack Grealish on the move’

Aston Villa:

Of the four teams I have lumped together in mid-table, Villa are the ones who are best placed to challenge higher. Although they lost the talismanic pettiness of Jack Grealish, they have spent the money generally wisely and shored-up each position accordingly. I am not a big fan of any of their signings but certainly the £34million Buendia from Norwich and £25million Leon Bailey are highly regarded young players. £30million striker Danny Ings and free transfer Ashley Young know the game inside out and should be effective if not spectacular.

An added bonus is that John Terry has left to pursue a management position. It looks like the last thing old snake-tongued Terry did was persuade Grealish to leave before he himself jumped ship and no doubt all of the players wives are now safe to return to Villa Park.

Leeds:

As much as I would love to see an attacking and committed Leeds team continue their excellent work of the last few years, I just can’t see it and another mid-table finish beckons. As with everything else Bielsa-related it is bound to be interesting, even more now after the excellently named Junior Firpo joined from Barca, Jack Harrison signed permanently for a snip from Man City and England’s Phillips has been re-united with his backside after running it off during the Euros. They’ll be great to watch but I don’t think that will manifest itself into real progress up the league.

Wolves:

New manager. New players. Lost their keeper Rui Patricio and much will depend on striker Raul Jimenez and just how fit he is. They should have enough good players to maintain a comfortable mid-table trundle but I have a sneaking feeling that they will struggle.

The Teams Who Will Be Bricking It In No Particular Order:

Crystal Palace:

The Eagles could go either way. It could be that new manager Patrick Vieira and their young and energetic squad are a match made in heaven and they surge up the league in a ball of energy and freshness as Vieira’s Nice team did after his arrival in France a couple of years ago.

That could translate into a vibrant and more attacking side based around the likes of Conor Gallagher and Eberechi Eze than seen over the last few years at Selhurst Park. Or they might miss the experience of Roy Hodgson, departing McCarthy, Townsend, Hennessey, Van Aanholt, Cahill, Dann and Sakho. And like at Nice, the players might wake up one day and realise the manager is a git and stop playing for him. It will be interesting to see which.

Burnley:

Just like their football, it would be pointless to waste more than a few seconds on Burnley. They are a small club with little money so fair’s fair, I won’t be too hard on them. They will survive, just. They will be terrible to watch. They will beat us 1-0 at some point along the way.

Brentford:

Brentford look to me to be one of those entertaining surprise packages that come along some seasons. Whether they will do something similar to Leeds last season, or do something similar to Norwich the season before, who knows?

They haven’t lost any key players in the summer after losing Watkins and Benrahma the season before but have invested in Ajer, Wissa and Onyeka for a combined £30million, all unknown quantities to me. They have youngster Myles Peart-Harris in their ranks, who was supposedly bought from Chelsea in the summer but with a name like that it was presumably Made In Chelsea.

It will be interesting to see how Ivan Toney gets on in the Premier League too, a player who never got a chance at SJP. At least he should enjoy playing in a team which looks like they will fearlessly attack with a smile on their faces and have a manager with a plan, two qualities lost on NUFC. I have no historical interest in Brentford but for that alone I hope the smile stays on their faces all season if they are going to have a go.

Tim Krull‘A lovely fella’

Norwich:

Good luck to Tim Krul, one of my favourite Newcastle players of the recent era, as a person rather than a player. From the outside it looks like it will be a long season for his back. Norwich look like they have done in the close season what they did last time they got promoted. Sold their best player and replaced him with fifteen others for small fees. Ex-smoggie Ben Gibson was highly rated and might come good, Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour should do well in midfield and US international Josh Sargent will run all day up front and score about three goals if his spell at Werder Bremen was anything to go by. Will the same strategy as last time work this time around? Of course not, it never does.

Watford:

Franchise Watford will no doubt struggle and not getting relegated will be seen as a successful season for them. Having less then five managers in a season probably the same, whoever is in charge they might as well start packing their bags once they lose two games on the trot. Joking aside, if I am, it will be difficult for the Hornets, experienced players like Danny Rose and Josh King have been brought in but although they are experienced, they are also lazy and hopeless. Like Norwich, I can’t see that doing the same thing as the last time they were in the Premier League will end in any other way.

Brighton:

They sold Ben White for £50million, spent a fair chunk of it on Enock Mwepu from RB Salzburg but apart from that have been quiet. A lot will depend on the youthful energy and imagination of not very young any more manager Graham Potter, who everyone seems to like and they might be able to find something which turns their fortunes, like Danny Welbeck and Lamptey staying fit for more than a handful of games. It looks to me that if any of the promoted teams do well, Brighton will be the ones who suffer.

Southampton:

If they continue their form since October 2021, Southampton will be relegated by the time we play them away on New Years Day. They seemed to go from a well run, well managed club to absolute carnage in the space of a few weeks. They went from being top of the Premier League in October to avoiding relegation with a couple of games to go and it is difficult to see any improvement in them this time around.

Danny Ings has gone and been replaced by ex-NUFC Adam Armstrong but he might need time to settle in. He might never settle in. Likewise Chelsea kid Armando Broja, which is probably what Adam Armstrong would be called if he had been born in Slough. £10million left back Perraud from Brest will replace Ryan Bertrand who left for Leicester and will have to be Roberto Carlos to make much of a difference. If Jannik Vestergaard leaves for Leicester as seems likely, the Saints will also have lost their most consistent defender. It seems like these are desperate times on the South coast. Which is nice. It’s miles away. It takes ages to get there for us.

Newcastle United: Before the season starts, Newcastle are 14th if the Premier League is done alphabetically. Might as well call it a day now then, job done.

It is difficult to see United making any real progress this season, our best players are too injury prone to make a real mark on a season, our squad too flaky to cope with their injuries. Joe Willock will at least keep NUFC around the mark they were last season if he is as motivated as he was last season and with the other teams around us not really strengthening, the Toon shouldn’t be in any danger of getting relegated. In fact, the Stevolution thinks we can get into Europe:

“That has to be the aim, whether we have enough in depth last year we probably finished top of our league, elite league and then another one.”

I mean honestly, what does that mean? There, in that sentence is the reason I think we can scrap ambitions of Europe. Meaning the on-field season will probably be no more entertaining, no more exciting than the dross we have had to endure for a long time and certainly no more ambitious than winning some mystery Premier League non-elite other league.

I certainly didn’t feel like celebrating last season, didn’t feel like a Champion. Still, there is always the odd time Maxi and Wilson play together and we give someone a duffing. There will be some new songs to learn and some new players to cheer on or laugh at. If we can’t become the richest club in the world, we can at least try and slowly improve. Little by little.

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