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Friday, August 10, 2007

Preview of the 2007-2008 Barclay's Premier League by Dan Leo

Preview of the 2007-2008 Barclay's Premier League

by Dan Leo for World Football Commentaries.

Tomorrow, Saturday, August 11, the 2007-08 season of the Barclay's Premier League (aka Premiership, aka BPL) kicks off with its first week of matches. The standard predictions of who will finish where has been made by everyone from people who have money riding on the outcome - like the bookmakers - to those who don't - the world wide soccer pundits, yours truly included. The consensus is clear - the money rides on those who have it in the first place: Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

I will not quibble with the consensus. I will however introduce a fearless prediction - one of these big clubs will greatly disappoint and drop out of top 4.

My reason for making this prediction comes from the German Bundesliga 2006-07 season. What made that league's finish and, in fact, the entire competition extremely interesting was also money. TV money. As in the new TV deal that the Bundesliga (officially encompassing 36 clubs from the top two tiers) signed - a much improved TV contract, which brought roughly additional $15M to each BL1 club. Given the level of wages in Germany, $15M meant that smaller and poorer clubs now had an ability to acquire 3-5 additional "quality" players, along with their salaries. That virtually turned the league upside down as former super-clubs such as Hamburger SV and Borussia Dortmund were seen in the relegation zone at different points of the 34 match season.

Of course, this will not happen in the BPL. The top 4-6 clubs have too much depth to be threatened with relegation. But, at the same time, none of them is guaranteed an easy access to the Champions League's spots, either.

The threat to these teams will likely come from what were previously seen as the second tier clubs - Newcastle, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Portmouth, Blackburn, Manchester City, Everton, Reading and West Ham. While taken individually, none of the above clubs has the similar level talent as the 06-07 top four finishers, most of these second tier clubs have spent considerable amounts in the last 6-18 months shoring up their own rosters. From Michael Owen and Mark Viduka at Newcastle to Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent at Tottenham to Dean Ashton and Craig Bellamy at West Ham, the second tier squads can beat any fist tier competitor not only due to the vagaries of a round ball on "any given Sunday" but practically on merit anytime. The key for these clubs in challenging for the Champions League will be consistency and, as usual, lack of injuries, since their depth of quality players is still a tad below the super-clubs.

Returning once again to last season in Bundesliga, we see the champion Schalke 04 as the only German team with a greater than 2 points per game average. Stunningly, a remarkably low 8 points separated the 5th place finisher (Bayer Leverkusen) from the 14th (Eintracht Frankfurt) and only Borussia Moenchenglandbach was practically a relegated squad with a month to go in the schedule.

That was a quite a change from the last Premiership campaign - the last before the new TV contract that brings ~ $60M to each team - - where there was a great deal of disparity between the top (ManU's 89 points) and the bottom (Watford's 28) or between the last Champion League spot (Arsenal with 68 points) and the near relegated pack of teams (ManCity with 42, West Ham with 41 and Fulham with 39 points).

Since then, the three nearly relegated teams - all of which, not so incidentally, have new head coaches compared to the beginning of the 06-07 - have spent prodigious amounts of money to bring in higher quality players to at least give themselves a fighting chance on a weekly basis.

And that's why this promises to be one heck of a Premiership season.

Links of Interest

To view the official website of the BPL, which has fixtures and the table, please click here. For detailed game reports and news of the Premiership (Champions League as well), please visit Eurosport.

For free same-day video highlights of the games, please visit 101 Great Goals or Fox Sports.

About the author

Dan Leo is a freelance writer based in Miami, Florida.


Dan's post was featured on CNN World Sport in the blog commentaries after an article by Pedro Pinto.

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