Thursday, August 12, 2010

Luchametric English Premier League 2010-2011 Preview...of Sorts [updated]

Final 2009-10 EPL Luchametric Power Rankings

 The EPL Resumes play in earnest on Saturday, and we at the Luchametric Institute rejoice in the return of early-Saturday-morning football.

To the left are the final Power Rankings from last season.  As a measure of where the teams are at the start of this year, however--they are fairly unhelpful.  As a general rule in sports ranking systems and prediction, the previous season's standings and performances are poor predictors of the subsequent season's performance.  But they at least provide us with a sense of how things stacked up at the end of last year, and so offer a baseline for evaluating to what extent, if any, the clubs have improved or slid back.  Here are just a few observations as we look forward to Saturday's fixtures.

Our Power Rankings did not penalize Pompey for going belly-up financially.  And in our rankings, they were not the worst team in the league--that honor went to Hull.  But as has been pointed out by other observers, there were other teams that might just have easily gone down if not for some good fortune here and there.  Wigan, Wolves, West Ham and even Bolton were all in danger of dropping at some point, and this suggests that at least one of these four teams will be facing a relegation battle in the Spring.

In our view, Blackpool will be this year's Burnley--Hello! Goodbye!.  And although we expect some entertaining football out of the Tangerines, who just signed four young players, their chances of staying up are slim.  The signings suggest Blackpool see this year as an opportunity to develop the club in the long term.  Note that the Tangerines finished sixth last season in the Championship, and only made it to promotion as a result of a playoff.  We think they're very much out of their league.

West Brom's chances of staying up are only slightly better, but look for the baggies to be tough at home, as all indications are there will be some defensive if not completely negative football (depending on your perspective) played at The Hawthorns under the guidance of Roberto di Matteo.

Newcastle, however, will be shooting for mid-table this season, and they have a strong enough club to do it. The year spent down in the Championship gave them an opportunity to reorganize financially and in the clubhouse.  We see them being similar to Stoke and Sunderland--solid, mid-table, average.

This leaves our final relegation team to come from among West Ham, Wigan, Wolves and Bolton.  West Ham has serious questions in the clubhouse and in the front office.  They need to get their finances straightened out and soon.  We like Wolves' chances to stick given Mick McCarthy's proven ability to find line-ups and tactics that earn points, including resting players in games when the odds are longest against them (against Man U last year) to insure points are earned when chances to earn them are more reasonable (against Bolton about a week later).  Wigan, however, is in trouble. They finished just above relegation last year, and they've lost far too many players.  In all honesty, they belong in the Championship. Which is where we think they will be next season.  Our bottom feeders this season: 20. Blackpool, 19. West Brom 18. Wigan.

At the top of the table, it's the usual suspects.  If Arsenal matures and stays healthy, they are capable of challenging for the league title.  There is much talk about Chelsea being a bit long in the tooth, but we think rumors of their demise are smack.  Unfortunately, both Chelsea and the Gunners will have to keep pace with Man U, who looked deep and deadly in the Community Shield.  When Sir Alex sent in three subs at the start of the second half, and the three were Berbatov, Chicharito and Nani, one could not help but marvel at just how deep are the Red Devils. As such, we regret to predict that both the Gunners and the Blues will be chasing Man U this season.  We'll see.

The rest of the field really comes down to Man City, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton.  We see Spurs dropping a bit from last year's form.  Redknapp recently complained that the club needed to act during the current transfer window if they hoped to make a run further up the table, and on top of the pressures of the EPL, the team is in the Champions League.  We don't think that Spurs are deep enough to survive a prolonged competition in Europe AND improve on last year's record in the league; nor do we think their back line will be able to shut down the other top clubs enough to earn many points from Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea, and Man City, which they'll need to do to make any headway.

There is trepidation and hope at Anfield, but we don't see Liverpool challenging seriously for anything more than fourth place.  Torrez is simply not the player the world thinks he is, and Hodgson could be out of his league as manager--despite his stints at Inter (over 10 years ago).

The real beast this year is Man City, who added to an already-loaded club, signing David Silva off an outstanding World Cup for World Champions Spain.  We think Adebayor represents everything that is wrong with contemporary sport---arrogant, talented, lazy, obnoxious--and there are even some signs he might not start alongside Tevez in Mancini's XI.  Regardless, we think City will be better than last year.

As such our top four are: 1. Man U 2. Gunners 3. Man City 4. Chelsea.  We, of course, could be dead wrong.  The one thing we feel very confident about is that Arsenal, City and Chelsea will be scrapping for second place this season, with Spurs dropping in to fifth.

One last point, you need to watch the transfer news every day, as a single big signing could change things.  Chelsea is now (Friday the 13th) reportedly close to signing Neymar, the Wunderkind for Santos in Brazil who looked incredible against the USMNT on Tuesday. Should they sign the young and highly-promising star we'd think it would be worth at least three points in the standings by season's end. Last year, Chelsea beat out Man U by only one point.  And this just in, (seriously, it came up on my browser as I was updating this) Man City have just signed Balotelli from Inter.  Wow.  So it goes...

Below are some links worth checking out if you haven't already. They are in no particular order, other than that we think World Football Daily is the best source out there for US fans of the beautiful game. But we also like the others very, very much.  Hagalo Villa! Te Amo Gunners!
  1. World Football Daily
  2. EPL Talk
  3. UK Guardian EPL Preview Series
  4. Football Weekly with James Richardson