This weekend marks the kick off of the new English Premier League season. Although the transfer window remains open until August 31, little has changed so far for my two teams, Chelsea FC and Fulham FC. Absent some significant signings this month, I see little prospect of either team improving on last year’s performance, Chelsea (2nd) and Fulham (8th).
Chelsea remain a side of aging veterans who may have already seen their best days. The team’s performance will depend greatly on the core of the team (Drogba, Lampard, Torres, Terry, Cech) remaining healthy because the quality of the squad drops off significantly if they need to be replaced. Already Chelsea start the season with Michael Essien injured and out for at least six months. Essien’s injury coupled with the departure of Yury Zhirkov have left some holes in the midfield ranks. In addition, Chelsea will have to adjust to another managerial change, having replaced Carlo Ancelotti with the much less-experienced Andre Villas-Boas. On the hopeful side, Chelsea will have a full season from Fernando Torres and David Luiz, and young players Daniel Sturridge and Josh McEachran look ready to make a significant contribution. Manchester United and Manchester City appear to be Chelsea’s primary competition for the title, with Arsenal poised to lose both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. All in all, expect a similar season to last year, with a top three finish, no title and the manager getting fired.
The story at Fulham is very similar. Another team of aging veterans with few off season additions. The one significant addition was veteran John Arne Riise, formerly of Liverpool and Roma, who will add to an already solid defense and provide some offense at left back. Otherwise, success will depend on strikers Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson and midfield captain Danny Murphy remaining healthy. Expect Steve Sidwell and Philippe Senderos to make significant contributions. Martin Jol takes over as manager from Mark Hughes, who left in the hopes of greener pastures, so it may take some time to adjust to a third manager in three years. For me, Clint Dempsey and the ambience of Craven Cottage remain the primary reason to attend Fulham games. A top ten finish will be difficult to replicate, but Fulham should easily avoid a relegation battle.
See my daughter’s thoughts on the new season at Come on You Blues!