London Football review
The Premiership finished today and its been a mixed season for the London clubs. Looking at the final table there are three teams from London in the top five, pretty good going on the face of it but Arsenal and Tottenham are in the same positions as last season and Chelsea have dropped to second. The other three London teams Fulham, West Ham and Charlton (four if you want to count Watford) have been fighting the relegation battle all season. Here’s my take on how the teams did.
Arsenal Fourth place but a very disappointing season, 11 draws and 8 defeats in 38 games is never going to win the Premiership. Key injuries to Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie the two top goalscorers really hit Arsenal and the rest of the squad couldn’t fill the gap. The decision not to give Robert Pires a two year contract in the summer looks like a huge mistake, he regularly scored 15-20 goals each season and created so many more. Players who’ve moved into his role, Rosicky, Hleb, Ljungberg, have 11 between them in all competitions, not good enough. Arsenal have the quality but not the consistency, the CSKA home game in the Champions League pretty much sums up the season, a drawn game with an unbelievable number of great chances missed. Arsenal finished the season with another 0-0 draw at Portsmouth today with Baptista missing his third penalty of the season and he’s not even the regular penalty taker, that tells you everything.
Chelsea Second place in the Premiership, Carling Cup winners, FA Cup finalists, five years ago Chelsea would have been more than happy with that but since they’ve had the GDP of Belguim spent on their team for each year since 2003, a bit more is expected. Ballack and Shevchenko look really poor signings, completely unbalancing the Chelsea lineup. I heard someone on the radio the other day say Chelsea are having a humidor fitted in their dressing room because Ballack’s had a cigar on all season, and Shevchenko seems to have prepared for life in the Premiership by reading The Art of Scoring by Julio Baptista. Jose Mourinho says he’ll be the manager next season, whether he is or isn’t if all they end up with this year is the Carling Cup they’ll be quite a few players getting shipped out and some very expensive new ones coming in.
Tottenham Spurs have played well (said through gritted teeth), some nice flowing football with plenty of goals, if they can tighten up in defence they’ll really challenge for the Champions League places. Martin Jol said after today’s final game that Dimitar Berbatov is just peachy about staying at Tottenham for the next few years, but Berbatov has been a revelation this season, right up there with Drogba and Ronaldo as one of the best players in the league. If clubs with the financial muscle of Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid or Barcelona come knocking it’ll be see you later to the Tottenham High Road for Dimitar.
Fulham Mohammed al Fayed seems like a multi-millionaire who isn’t going to put a dent in his fortune by blowing it on football players. Fulham finished 16th in the Premiership, only winning 8 of their 38 games. Staying in the division is a successful season for a team with no stars and not much hope of getting any. Chris Coleman got fired as manager when relegation looked like an option and Lawrie Sanchez came in and did just enough to keep the club up. If you’re a Fulham fan you can expect more of the same next season.
West Ham After finishing 9th last season and getting to the FA Cup Final, West Ham started this season with Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano joining their squad and everything looked good. Unfortunately for what ever reason, lack of belief or application, the players who did so well a year ago couldn’t do it again and West Ham where looking odds on to get relegated at the start of 2007. Alan Pardew got fired, replaced by Alan Curbishley but the real turn in their fortunes came when Tevez got a consistent run of games and he really carried West Ham over their last ten matches. What I like about Tevez is he gave 100% in every game, a lot of big name foreign players who ended up at a Premiership club, not speaking English and with lesser players in the team, facing relegation, would have given it up and cruised to the end of the season. Tevez played his heart out for West Ham.
Charlton Shortly after getting the bullet from West Ham, Alan Pardew took over at Charlton and for a while he might get them to start moving up the table, but a poor start to the season winning 1 of their first 9 games and none of their final 7 pretty well bookended a bad season for Charlton. Its hard to see them coming straight back up.
Watford Just along for the ride. Not expected to win promotion last season and no money to compete in the Premiership, their players gave it everything but relegation was nailed on from day one.
Outside the Premiership, Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers trod water to stay mediocre Championship teams. In League One Millwall stayed mid table while Leyton Orient just avioded joining Brentford in getting relegated to League Two, where they’ll have a London derby next season against Barnet.
Overall I’d say the London teams will be looking to make a bigger impact in all the English and European competitions next season.