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2011/12 Premier League Preview Part Four: Chelsea – Arsenal

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In preparation for the big kick-off Shouts from the Stands is doing a club-by-club preview of all 20 teams.
However, instead of the usual alphabetical order of Arsenal to Wolves, we’re doing things the other way around to give fans of clubs that usually have to wait until the end of a season preview the chance to focus on their teams first. Then on Saturday, the SFTS lads will be revealing their predictions for how the table will look come the end of May.
We have previously looked at 15 Premier League sides and in our final installment we look atChelsea, Bolton,Blackburn, Aston Villa and Arsenal.

Chelsea

Last Season: 2nd

Summer so far: Chelsea have not had the best of summers, it started off with the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti and the appointment of former Porto manager Andre Villas-Boas.

The club have been rumoured to have missed out on many of Villas-Boas top targets including Javier Pastore who moved to Paris Saint Germain and in one of the sagas of the summer the West London club are still no where nearer to signing Luka Modric from rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

However things are looking up as they look increasingly closer to signing young Belgium striker Romelu lukaku.
Transfers In: Oriol Romeu (Barcelona)

Transfers Out: Yuri Zhirkov (FC AnzhiMakhachkala) Sam Walker (Northampton- Loan) Jack Cork (Southampton) Fabio Borini (Parma) Michael Mancienne (Hamburg) Danny Philliskirk (SheffieldUnited)

Manager: Andre Villas-Boas

New man Villas-Boas had an unbelievable season last year with FC Porto winning the League and Cup double as well as the Europa League.

The 33 year old is the youngest manager in the Premier League and is inexperienced with only 2 years as a manager of a professional side under his belt.

Chelsea are believed to of paid Porto £13 million for Villas-Boas services which is a world record fee for a manager.
Famously Villas-Boas was taken under the wing of Bobby Robson at a young age, following a spell in charge of the British Virgin Islands he returned to Porto as a coach under Chelsea former manager Jose Mourinho, as Mourinho moved to Chelsea and Inter Milan Villas-Boas followed.

Although he done outstandingly well at Porto this will be the first time Villas-Boas will be under a major spotlight with the hounding of the press every time his side has a negative result, only time will tell how well equipped he is to handle that pressure.

Key Man: Fernando Torres –
Many we disagree with me on seeing Torres as the key man in the Chelsea squad but his performances could well shape their season.

Its well known that Chairman Roman Abramovich has a say in who is put on the pitch and having spent £50 million on the Spaniard he will not want him sitting on the bench.

Should he return to his best form then he will be one of the first names on Villas-Boas team sheet, should he display the form he did at the back end of last season then Villas-Boas will look to drop him which could cause an early rift between chairman and manager.

Bolton

Last Season: 14th

Summer so far: The club have been desperately unlucky with injuries already having suffered two broken legs already.
New boy Tyrone Mears and Korean winger Chung-Yong Lee have both been ruled out for around 6 months of the season and are unlikely to return to full match fitness until around April by which time it could be too late to effect the clubs season.

The club have looked to build on their squad whilst spending very little, there summer has been somewhat disrupted by the speculation around a move for commanding centre back Gary Cahill who has long been a target of both Arsenal and Liverpool.

Transfers In: Tuncay (Wolfsburg- Loan) Tyrone Mears (Burnley) Chris Eagles (Burnley) Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa) Darren Pratley (Swansea)
Transfers Out: Matthew Taylor (West Ham) Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan) Johan Elmander (Galatasaray)

Manager: Owen Coyle–
Coyle took over at Bolton in January 2010 leaving aBurnleyside he had led to the Premier League.
Since taking over aBoltonboss Coyle has looked to steady the ship and take them from relegation candidates to a solid mid table side with real aspirations.

He has also got the side playing a more attractive style of Football and has utilised the loan market to the maximum bringing in England star Jack Wilshere in his first month in charge at Bolton, in January 2011 Coyle moved to bring in Chelsea player and England under 21 international Daniel Sturridge who shone in his time at Bolton.

Key Man: Kevin Davies –
Davies has been Bolton’s star man for a while now and I see very little changing this term.
Although many would expect more goals from a striker who is labeled as key man, Davies is the focal point of all of Bolton’s attacking football whether its winning flick ons for his team mates or bringing the ball down for his on coming midfielders.

His heading ability when defending set pieces is also a valuable asset for Bolton.

Blackburn

Last Season: 15th

Summer so far: Like so many other clubs Blackburn’s summer has revolved around transfers away from the club, early in the summer they lost young defender Phil Jones and have still not been able to get away from speculation linking their captain Chris Samba with a move away from the club.

The clubs owners Venky’s don’t seem to be backing manager Steve Kean financially despite reports in January that the owners wanted to bring in a star name.

To me it looks likeBlackburnare entering the season no stronger than they finished the last campaign which wasn’t a glowing one.

Transfers In: David Goodwillie (Dundee United) Radosav Petrovic (PartizanBelgrade) Bruno Riberio (Gremio)

Transfers Out: Phil Jones (ManchesterUnited) Nikola Kalinic ( Dnipro ) Jason Brown, Benjani, Maceo Rigters (Unattached)

Manager: Steve Kean –
Kean was appointed Blackburn manager in strange circumstances in December 2010 after the surprise sacking of former manager Sam Allardyce who brought Kean to the club as his assistant.
Kean had never previously been the manager of a side but had roles as assistant manager with Coventry Fulham and Real Sociedad.

Kean was initially handed a contract until the end of the 2011 season but he was quickly offered an accepted a deal to stay on asBlackburnmanager until June 2013.

Key Man: Chris Samba
For a while now Samba has been the rock that Blackburn’s defence has been built around, I was hesitant to name his as Rovers key player as there are many signs he will not be a Blackburnplayer on Sept 1st. Should Samba leave Blackburn could be in big trouble and I personally feel had it not been for his contribution last season Blackburn would already be a Championship side.

Aston Villa

Last Season: 9th

Summer so far:

There have been big changes at Villa this summer as Gerard Houllier was deemed unfit to come back to his job at Villa Park and manager of fierce rivals Birmingham City Alex McLeish much to the dismay of a section of Villa fans.
On top of that they have lost a couple of first team regulars and England internationals but my personal opinion is that McLeish has done well with the replacements he has brought in and to me the squad look in good shape.

Transfers In: Shay Given (ManchesterCity) Charles N’Zogbia (Wigan)

Transfers Out: Ashley Young (ManchesterUnited) Stewart Downing ( Liverpool) Nigel Reo-Coker (Bolton) Brad Friedel (Tottenham) John Carew, Robert Pires, Isaiah Osbourne (Unattached)

Manager: Alex McLeish –

As mentioned above McLeish’s appointment wasn’t initially welcomed by many Villa supporters as they could not look past his ties with fierce rivalsBirminghamCity. He seemingly won the majority over quite quickly with a couple of good signings, if many of the fans are still against his appointment they seem to be less vocal than they previously were.
As a manager McLeish has managed 5 clubs including Villa and has also been at the helm of the Scottish national side.
He has to date spent four years inEnglandas a manager all atBirmingham, he lead them to the 2011 Carling Cup as well as the English Championship in 08-09.

Key Man: Darren Bent- Darren Bent has been prolific almost every where he has been Tottenham aside, Villa paid big money for the England hit man in January 2011 and many will credit his goals with Aston Villa’s survival in the 2010-11 season.
Goals are expected of Bent and with the price tag Villa paid for him they will be expected, as good a player as Agbonlahor is he is not known for his goal scoring prowess so that burden will fall heavily on Bent’s shoulders.
He has proved he is more than capable of living up to this role but Villa fans will be looking for the here and now rather than what he has done in the past.

Arsenal

Last Season: 4th

Summer so far: It has been a turbulent summer for the Gunners with constant speculation over the future of captain Cesc Fabregas and play maker Samir Nasri.

Pre season has not been fantastic on the pitch for Arsenal, with only 2 victories in 6 friendly fixtures.
Off the pitch the friendlies were very worth while with the club trying to tap into the Asian market which looked like an exercise that went well especially considering the emergence of Ryo Miyachi. Arsenal would of preferred to start the season off on more stable ground but are not in awful shape for the big kick off.

Transfers In: Gervinho (Lille) Carl Jenkinson (Charlton Athletic) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton)
Transfers Out: GaelClichy(ManchesterCity) Denilson (Sao Paolo-Loan) Jay Emmanuel Thomas (Ipswich) Kyle Bartley ( Rangers- Loan)
Manager: Arsene Wenger – Wenger is the second longest serving manager in the Premier League following the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

Despite recent criticism for leading the northLondonside through a trophy drought he is still the most successful manager in the clubs history.
He is well known for the brand of Football he gets his sides playing and his shrewdness in the transfer market, which has often led to him being labeled as tight by fans/the media.

He is known as Le Prof for both his look and his astute and forward thinking approach to the game, he is often credited with changing the way the game is played inEngland.

Wenger was given a top honour in January 2011 when he was named World coach of the decade narrowly beating Sir Alex Ferguson and Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho.

Key Man: Robin Van Persie

The Dutch man ended the season in fantastic form and left many fans what might have been had he been fit for the whole season.

No one will ever doubt the ability Van Persie has but his lack of time on the pitch due to injuries is frustrating for both players and fans.

Many may be shocked I have highlighted Van Persie as the key man but with the likely sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Arsenal have no proven goal scores in the Premier League.

It was a tough call between Thomas Vermaelen and Van Persie but Arsenal are no longer the type of team to hold out for 1-0 victories therefore they are going to need to find goals from somewhere and at the moment Van Persie is the only player that’s proved he can do that.

Remember Van Persie has scored in more consecutive away games than any other Premier League player in history, a record that’s still going from last season and one that he will hope to continue at St James Park today.

Laurie’s predicted Premier League table:

ManchesterUnited
ManchesterCity
Chelsea
Arsenal
Liverpool
Tottenham
Everton
Stoke
Aston Villa
Fulham
Sunderland
Bolton
West Brom
Newcastle
Wolves
Blackburn
Swansea
Norwich
Wigan
QPR

Tony’s predicted Premier League table:

ManchesterUnited
ManchesterCity
Chelsea
Liverpool
Arsenal
Tottenham
Everton
Aston Villa
Stoke
Fulham
Sunderland
Bolton
Newcastle
West Brom
Wolves
QPR
Blackburn
Swansea
Wigan
Norwich

So what do you think? How will your team fare this season? What is your predicted table? Leave it in a comment and we will see come the end of the season who faired best.

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