SPORTS

Former champions and champions in-wait previewed

TAGs: Arsenal, Man City, Premier League, Soccer

arsene wenger

Hands up if you're shit!

Arsenal (Last season 4th in Premier League)

The lowdown: It’s difficult to know where you start with Arsenal. This summer is likely to see two of their best midfielders depart with Cesc Fabregas finally looking like joining Barcelona and Samir Nasri Man City bound. The only improvements have either been youngsters or a striker unproven in the English top flight. Gervinho, an £11m signing from Lille, will make an impact. It’s hard to see where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a £15m signing from Southampton, will fit in straight away.

The lack of ambition has been evident for a number of years now and this summer has been the most evident of all in Wenger’s policy to not buy anyone who might have an instant impact. With no reinforcements at the back they could easily drop out of the top four

Star man: Robin van Persie (Striker) – Will have to shoulder more responsibility than a teenage parent is expected to put up with…and stay fit.

One to watch: Aaron Ramsey (Midfield) – The Welsh captain has looked good since recovering from a horror leg break and will be expected to fill the hole left by the departees.

Line up (4-2-3-1): Szcezsny; Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs; Song, Wilshere; Walcott, Ramsey, Gervinho; van Persie.

Expected finish: May drop out of the Champions League spaces. Should still have enough to finish in the top four. 4th.

The fan: Chris Towers, freelance writer for BBC Match of the Day magazine.

Expectations: The predominant fear is that Groundhog Day will strike again – I expect that we’ll flatter to deceive, play wonderful football most of the time, we’ll win most of our games, and we’ll lose and draw some that we shouldn’t. Gervinho looks like a solid acquisition but we still need that defender. We’ve got a testing start that will tell us a lot about where we are in relation to the teams around us.

Vital player: If I had to pick one, I’d go for RVP. When he’s fit, he can win us matches all on his own with one flash of his beautiful brilliance. A world class striker.

Unsung hero: Bacary Sagna gets the vote here I think. He’s never in the limelight in his professional or personal life, he’s incredibly athletic, very consistent and probably the best crosser of the ball we’ve got in the team. He just quietly and extremely efficiently goes about his business.

Where will you end up: Fourth. I think Man. United and Man. City are a shoe-in for the top spots, and Chelsea will be up there as well, so it’s between us and Liverpool for fourth. I think that if Tottenham end up there instead, it would have to mean that both us and Liverpool did something very, very wrong

Most looking forward to playing: I guess it’s Spurs. We haven’t had a win in the league against them in the last three meetings, it’s time returned to winning ways against them. Stoke are also worth a mention though, they seem to take an unhealthy joy out of getting results against us.

City lift FA Cup

More of the same this term?

Man City (Last season 3rd in Premier League)

The lowdown: The off-season has seen the “noisy neighbors” go from being the cheap cast-off that everyone’s pours scorn over to being the new-version of Chelsea circa 2004. Qualification for the Champions League for the first time has meant that instead of settling for almost the best they have began to sign those that can be considered in the “world class” bracket. Taking nothing away from some of last season’s side. This summer’s capture of Sergio Aguero really does signal their intent. If Carlos Tevez decides to stay too they should be nailed on for the title.

The quiet acquisition of Gael Clichy at left back bolsters their defence and it’s hard to see an area of the team that needs significant improvement following the imminent arrival of Samir Nasri from Arsenal.

Star man: Yaya Toure (Midfield) – Plays anywhere in central midfield and his box-to-box qualities are a fear for any opponent.

One to watch: Mario Balotelli (Striker) – Well everyone knows about him now. He’s the one player that everyone wants to see something about though.

Line up (4-2-3-1): Hart; Richards, Kompany, LEscott, Clichy; De Jong, Barry; Silva, Yaya Toure, Johnson; Aguero.

Expected finish: All the tools are now in place for them to overhaul cross-city rivals United and lift the Premier League crown. 1st.

The fan: Dave of King of the Kippax fanzine.

Expectations: Looking to finish in the top three, do well in Europe and lift the League or FA Cup (or both!). Probably our star player will be new signing Aguero.

Unsung hero: Pablo Zabaleta without a doubt. A trojan who gives 100% in any position at the back and gave a good account of City to Aguero.

Expected finish: 2nd.

Most looking forward to playing: Norwich. Sky Blues v Canary Yellows. It’s a great away trip to a fine city and we usually do well against them.

Click the links for season previews of Liverpool and Tottenham, Everton and Fulham, Sunderland and Aston Villa, West Brom and Newcastle, Stoke and Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan, Norwich and QPR and Swansea and Wolves.

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