Jamie places his bets: soccer season preview and predictions

It is wonderful how the new school year and the new soccer season just happen to coincide with each other. While you are trying to figure out your classes, there are teams all across the European leagues trying to figure out how they want to play this season and what their objectives are. It is a new beginning for those clubs that were promoted and relegated, and it is a process of trying to take the next step for those teams that are already established in their league. It also signals the beginning of the fantasy league season where groups of people who really think they know about football try and budget to build what they think is the best team for the coming season and try to figure out who the best players will be. I only mention this because my team happens to be doing rather well at this early stage (the Premier League season only being two games old and all) but a good start is often a signal for later greatness unless you are an Arsenal or Bolton fan.

Soccer is a great sport and it has such a large audience across the world that would vouch for it. The top leagues are littered with the great, the talented, and the hard workers that make football so much fun to watch. Each season great goals will be scored and hearts will be both gladdened and broken by a team’s performance in the league, the cup or an international competition. Europe will send their greatest clubs together to compete for the Champions League trophy, which will give bragging rights to one club for the next season.

But football isn’t all about the game or the progress of the competition; it is also about the back-stories and the gossip. What makes the Premier League the greatest league is probably, apart from the high level of football, the constant mind games, misbehaving players and transfer gossip as teams form and reform quicker than ever. The whole John Terry saga that took up the entire spring and summer, which had followed on from the Luis Suarez scandal, these problems provide a back-story to the games. It makes it more than just about football. It makes the games into something that matters even more, the Premiership might as well be a middle of the day drama that draws in those that have the time and energy to keep watching as more plot twists unfold.

But this season looks set to be a great one. And Swansea’s strong start is similar to a donkey knowing how to surf, surprising. Swansea have proven that attacking football is both enjoyable to watch and a very successful strategy instead of the typical defensive football that most small teams seem to adopt in their first couple of seasons in the Premier League. Though Swansea have lost Sinclair (he will go to Man City) and Allen, probably their best two players, they showed in their second game against West Ham that the philosophy is so ingrained in their play that losing their two best players should not be a stumbling block. Their choice of managers has been the most important factor behind their recent success. The Swansea board seems to pick great attacking managers with a degree of style thus never needing to rebuild the team or the club philosophy. Since Roberto Martinez they have hired Paolo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup who have all embraced the attacking, continental style of football that Martinez introduced to the club. Hopefully Swansea can keep going in this fashion for years to come and will give Wales a real taste of the Premier League.

Chelsea happen to look deadly this season with a back in form Fernando Torres being given easy chances to score by his team mates, the trickery of Eden Hazard to tear open defences and a reformed style of play that revolves around the attacking talents of Lampard, Mata, Torres, and Hazard. Roberto Di Matteo has changed the culture of football at Chelsea through solid financial backing and a full post season to make plans, something that Andre Villas-Boas never got. But Di Matteo has managed to deal with internal conflict and to forge a new team with a new formation and style of play. Unlike the Chelsea of last year that based its success on a strong defence coupled with a very powerful forward in Drogba the new Chelsea seems weaker at the back right now but looks like they will dominate the ball more. It should be a good year for Chelsea but the big test will be their first match against one of the top five and to see how they step up against the biggest teams in Europe rather than mid table hopefuls.

I really feel like there is time left before I bore you, the reader, to make a little prediction. I am going to take a gamble here and say that my favorite teams to go down are Aston Villa, who seem to have grown considerably weaker since Martin O’Neill left two years ago; Queens Park Rangers are a good candidate to go down as their transfer policy seems to be aimed at buying players who were good four or five years ago and seem to be at the end of their careers. The last team I would prophesise never making their current objectives is Liverpool who have been very disappointing and are trying to play passing football with two centre backs that are very uncomfortable with that style. Skrtel and Agger have suffered under this new system, which is a little confusing since last year they were very solid and Swansea under Rodgers was a defensively strong team as well. But this combination does not appear to be working at the moment for Liverpool so I can’t really see them getting Champions League this year or for a couple of years until they change their roster completely. All I can do is wait and hope that I have not just made a fool out of myself with these predictions, which I am almost willing to bet will now not happen just to spite me.

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