by Tony Attwood
Last summer we were silly enough to put forward a whole range of possible line ups in June – the time when, of course, the transfer portal is still a future dream and only the out of contract players are on the move.
In fact our very first try in June last year wasn’t too bad
Bellerin Koscielny ??? Monreal
Xhaka Santi Caz
Ramsey Ozil Sanchez
We then had a go at slotting Gabriel and Iwobi into the team, and later added Vardy (a hot tip at the time if you can think back that far), but soon came to the idea that Giroud would still be with us, although perhaps playing quite often as a sub.
We’ve had one bash at a line up already this summer
Earlier this summer with the notion that the club might go back to 4-2-1-3:
Bellerin Mustafi Kos Kolasinac
The Ox Xhaka
Mahrez Alexis Mbappe
Of course Ox is the hot tip of the moment to leave the club and we should not forget the evolving partnership of Ramsey and Xhaka. Xhaka with his very high rate of accurate passing as we revealed in a previous post and Ramsey then having the ability to charge forward and head the goal that won us the FA Cup.
But in truth I can’t see us going back to four at the back again, unless some extraordinary transfer moves demand it. That run of the last ten games with nine wins, including victories over Chelsea, Everton, Man U and Man City surely suggests that the new format will stay.
So what would that mean, taking into account the current state of transference and the latest level of rumours.
Holding Mustafi Koscielny
Bellerin Ramsey Xhaka Kolasinac
And lets try a beach perm seven from these…
- Goal: it is either Szczesny or Martinez given the current state of rumours
- Defenders: Monreal, Coquelin, Mertesacker
- Midfield: Elneny, Le Jeff
- Forward: Welbeck, Giroud, Iwobi, Theo
As for who is going to win the league, or indeed what the top three is going to look like, if you wanted to place a bet you certainly look any further than teams from London and teams from Liverpool and Manchester, because through this century in the 18 seasons completed only three of the total of 54 top three places have gone to clubs outside the London-North West duoploy.
Here’s a quizzetta – close your eyes and take a guess who they were – those three teams from outside London and the north west, who got into the top three this century (which means starting with 1999/2000).
Or are you cheating?
OK I’ll tell you
- Leeds 2000 (3rd)
- Newcastle 2003 (3rd)
- Leicester 2016 (1st)
This is all something of a change from the 1970s when the journalists (as the fantasists from make-believe land used to be called) firmly predicted that a London team would never win the league again because of northern grit.
Mind you, to be fair we have had one top goalscorer from outside London and the north west in this time: Kevin Phillips of Sunderland with 30 goals in 1999/2000 – a season that at least had the temerity to finish in the 21st century.
So I wondered how the top three triumphs went during this era. In effect the top three positions in the league have been dominated by six clubs:
- Manchester United: 18 top three appearances
- Arsenal: 13 top three appearances
- Chelsea: 12 top three appearances
- Liverpool: 6 top three appearances
- Manchester City: 6 top three appearances
- Tottenham Hots: 2 top three appearances
Which makes it 27 to London and 30 to the north west.
My own suspicion is that Tottenham will struggle next season because of Wembley. You might recall we have done quite a few analyses of what happens to clubs when they move stadia, and Arsenal’s ability to stay near the top following the move from Highbury is pretty much the exception.
West Ham’s drop last season was not as great as I thought it might be following their move to the laughably named “London Stadium” but a drop there was from 7th to 11th in the league, while going out in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. In the Europa League it was business as usual going out in the 3rd qualifying round for the second season running. At least they won’t have to worry about Europe any more.
But to be fair collapse often doesn’t come in the first year after moving the stadium. Middlesbrough were relegated two seasons after going to the Riverside, Stoke two seasons after entering the Britannia, Derby took five years after getting to Pride Park to go down, Southampton took four years, but then made up for it by tumbling into the third tier thereafter. Leicester went down in two years.
So it could be a fairly poor second year for West Ham, and as for Tottenham – well, we don’t really have exact parallels for what they are trying to do with a move out as tenants and then a move back. I am not suggesting that they will go down (extremely droll though that would be) but rather that they might actually struggle somewhat, even if they do play about with the width and length of the pitch as has been suggested.
Of course with Tottenham we still are not 100% sure of where the stadium money is coming from nor even a final confirmed cost of the stadium, although we know it is costing twice as much as first estimated and twice as much as Arsenal spent. It will be interesting, and potentially amusing, to watch.
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- Arsenal in player salary crisis as new PL regulations catch the club out.
- The Index of 64 players that Arsenal have so far been tipped to sign this summer.