So we’ve reached the end of ‘Augcember’, the unofficial title of the first half of the footballing season (I call the other half Jamay) but what have we learned? In the next two blogs I’ll be taking a (very) brief look at each team’s season so far and also have an uneducated stab at where the manager may want to strengthen once the wonderful window opens up.
We begin at the bottom with…
20. West Ham
I’m told that should Avram Grant ever smile, his face will immediately shatter into a bazillion pieces. This makes him the perfect man for the West Ham job as they’ve had nothing to smile about. Just three wins in 20 plants them at the foot at the table with January promising visits from Everton and Arsenal to further compound their misery.
Potential targets: The Hammers have a reputation for buying temperamental foreign strikers with magic feet and an eye for goal. Or maybe they’ll just buy Emile Heskey and hope for the best.
19. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Mick McCarthy will no doubt have asked St. Nick for some plugs and corks to fill in the gaps in their leaky defence. Matt Jarvis has stood out in midfield and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake has already doubled his league goals tally from last season (as many as 4) but a difficult month awaits them in January in the collective shape of Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool. Can they build on Wednesday’s win?
Potential targets: They’ve managed just two clean sheets so far this season. With the delicious sounding Jelle van Damme on the way out in January, might there be some cash in the kitty for a more reliable defender?
Last season, Fulham were beaten in extra time in the Europa League final by Athletico Madrid. Seems like years ago, doesn’t it? Since then, Woy has moved on the pastures new and when Mark Hughes took over it didn’t seem like he had a lot to do to keep Fulham challenging for a spot in Europe. What a difference a summer makes, eh? With Bobby Zamora expected back in January, the Cottagers can dream of a better strike rate and more goals.
Potential targets: Sparky has to be looking for a midfield playmaker with an eye for goal, someone like Clint Dempsey. Only not Clint Dempsey, cos they’ve already got him.
Birmingham have been all about ‘snatching draws’ this season, which may make them sound like a bunch of panty thieves, but they’ve done it to Man united, Spurs, they even had to nick one from Brentford in the Carling Cup! With the notable exception of Arsenal, they’ve drawn with or beaten each of the top 5 teams so far but the strike rate at St. Andrews has been appalling.
Potential Targets: Craig Gardner has scored 4 goals this season, Cameron Jerome has scored 3, Liam Ridgewell has scored 3. Doesn’t take a genius to work out that Birmingham need serious help up front.
16. Wigan Athletic
A shadow of last season’s side, their defeat to West Ham showed just how difficult things have become at the JJB. Well, you know things are bad when a goalless draw is perceived to be an excellent result. Toppo’s top tens recently highlighted Victor Moses as one to watch, but talented or not, his absence, along with a number of other injuries, has left Wigan struggling.
Potential targets: Their inability in front of the sticks is the only reason Wgan are in relegation row with the other W’s and knowing Roberto from his days at Swansea, I’m confident I know what he’ll do. “Hello, Lee Trundle? Yeah, it’s Roberto, wanna play in the premiership?”… “No I know you’re in the Welsh Premiership but that doesn’t count”
15. Aston Villa
Seriously, what the HELL has happened to Aston Villa??? Up till this season, they’ve always had that semi-comical tug of war with Everton about who could try harder and still just barely qualify for Europe. Last season’s incredible defence have let in a shedload, neither John Carew or Gabby Agbonlahor have hit the mark at all and that loss to Birmingham was just the icing on a bad cake. It’s fair to say Gerard Houllier has yet to deliver.
Potential Targets: I would be more worried about losing players than gaining players if I was in Gerard’s shoes. Young and Agbonlahor have been sought after by top clubs for years and with Villa seriously underperforming, it’ll be hard to keep those boys interested.
14. West Brom
A 6-0 thrashing from Chelsea is no way to start a season but fans have been buoyed by the performances of one Peter Odemwingie. A win over Man City preceded an emphatic victory over Arsenal but since November they’ve fallen from grace somewhat.
Potential Targets: I’d be tempted to suggest another central defender. Olsson’s injury has highlighted a slight weakness in depth that is easily rectified.
I’m disappointed in myself and the lack of faith I’ve shown the Magpies. The 6-0 victory over Villa back in August was a sign that this Newcastle side would not roll over and fans have been rewarded with wins over Arsenal, Sunderland and Liverpool. Unfortunately, they are still owned by one of the biggest clowns in football and the sacking of Chris Hughton has blighted what has been an otherwise promising return to the Premier League.
Potential Targets: The Guardian once called Tim Krul ‘an excellent reserve goalkeeper’. I think a half decent first team keeper would instill more confidence in the defensive unit while the young lad is progressing.
There is a Facebook group I was invited to not long back called The Liverpool FC Relegation Party’. I personally feel it’s a bit premature to book these things this many months in advance, especially when the event relies heavily on the unpredictability of Liverpool. Cancel the confetti, think twice before you buy M&S finest sausage rolls and hold back on borrowing ‘Arry Redknapp’s wii.
Potential Targets: Open > C:WoysWaptop > My Documents > Football Manager > Open > Search players who might be good in three years but can’t do a job now. It worked for Rafa…didn’t it?
Is anyone surprised that Everton started this season badly but now look to be gathering momentum? They’ve been doing it for years! Most impressive of all has been the unstoppable Tim Cahill with a head like baked granite. No keeper is safe
Potential Targets: They can cross, they can save, they can head the ball really really well….FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET THEM A STRIKER!
Join me tomorrow as we look at everything above the invisible line that separates losers from winners…