Tag Archives: Luis Suarez

Saints: A Year in Review Part Two

Following on from Part One we continue our review of 2014 carrying on from April!

April

Apr14

May

May14

June

To be continued…..

The Winners of the 2013/14 Ali’s! The Results are in!

So that is the end of another fantastic season following Saints! No season would be officially over though without a spate of reviews and awards.

This site is no different and yet again the response to this years Ali awards has been fantastic, and this is what is up for grabs:-

ali_trophy

 

So without further ado, here are YOUR winners….

Player of the Year

This was calculated like so:- Each player got 2 points for a vote as winner and one point for a vote as runner up. Here are all those that received votes and their points percentage.

Scored points:- Rickie Lambert (< 1%), Victor Wanyama (<1%), Jose Fonte (<1%), Artur Boruc (<1%), Nathaniel Clyne (<1%), Morgan Schneiderlin (2%), Jack Cork (5%), Steven Davis (6%), Luke Shaw (7%).

3rd Place:- Dejan Lovren (13%)

2nd Place:- Jay Rodriguez (18%)

And the winner, making it a clean sweep in all Player of the Season awards, and about to find out for certain that he is off to Brazil! With a whopping 46% of the points……Adam Lallana!

Finally! Lallana has an Ali!
Finally! Lallana has an Ali!

Most Improved Player

The beauty of this award is that everyone interprets it differently. Some went for an overall improvement on last season, while others voted for those who improved over the course of the campaign.

Received Votes:- Whole Squad, Victor Wanyama. Sam Gallagher, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Jack Cork, Dejan Lovren, Steven Davis, Luke Shaw.

3rd Place:- Calum Chambers (11%)

2nd Place:- Jose Fonte (31%)

And the winner, retaining the same award that he one last season, after a fantastic season in which he finished top scorer. With 37% of the votes…..Jay Rodriguez!

Two times winner! Jay Rodriguez!
Two times winner! Jay Rodriguez!

Young Player of the Year

A new award this season, though why, considering how good this club’s youth system is, I haven’t done it before is beyond me!

Received Votes:- Harrison Reed

3rd Place:- James Ward-Prowse & Sam Gallagher (2% each)

2nd Place:- Calum Chambers (15%)

And the winner, having broken into the England squad in time for the World Cup and turning the heads of the big clubs, it could only be. With 80% of the votes….Luke Shaw!

Shaw-ly off to Brazil?
Shaw-ly off to Brazil?

Unsung Hero

Received Votes:- Mauricio Pochettino, Guly, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Morhan Schniederlin, Victor Wanyama.

3rd Place:- Jose Fonte (7%)

2nd Place:- Jack Cork (17%)

And the winner is, after a season in which he has proved crucial to the way Saints play. With 60% of the votes…..Steven Davis!

sdavis

Signing of the Season

2nd Place:- Victor Wanyama (8%)

And the winner with a ridiculous 92% of the votes is the ever dependable centre half and absolute bargain ant £8.5 million….Dejan Lovren!

dlovren

Performance of the Season (Team or Individual)

Received Votes:- Team v Everton (h), Team v Man City (h), Team v Arsenal (h), Team v Fulham (a), Team v Hull (h), Pochettino’s season, Wanyama v WBA (a), Lovren v Liverpool (a), Back Four all season, Clyne v Everton (h), Schneiderlin v Arsenal (h), Team v Man Utd (a), Lallana v Newcastle (h), Team v Palace (a), Team v Fulham (h), Guly v Yeovil, The Groundsmen, Chambers v Man City (h).

3rd Place:- Lallana v Hull (h) (9%)

2nd Place:- Team v Newcastle (h) (22%)

And the winner is, a memorable day early in the season in which a team that hammered plenty this season were made to look very ordinary. With 29% of the votes……Team v Liverpool at Anfield!

Anfield celebrations

The Ali Dia Award for Comedy Moment

It says everything about the gallows humour of being a Saints fan that this award always comes with most varied answers. Brace yourselves….

Received Votes:- #Scarfgate, Boruc’s headstand against Arsenal, Linesman missing David Silva offside at Man City, Jason Puncheon’s poo break (last season but still funny to someone), Pochettino’s interview after Man City, #lovrenlive tweets, Hooiveld & Fox v Spurs, Boat capsizing in the Thames at HT v Fulham, Pochettino’s interview after Everton game, Newcastle fans video after St. Mary’s mauling, Jack Wilshire bouncing off Wanyama, MELTDOWN, Asimir Begovic Goal at Stoke, Dani Osvaldo, Dani Osvaldo on the touchline at Newcastle, Training nutmeg videos, Ref getting slapped in the face at Newcastle, Lovren’s injured testicles, Rodriguez scoring on his arse at Palace, Boruc and the waterbottle (again last season), Lambert’s goal v Swansea, Paul Lambert claiming Villa deserved their victory at St. Mary’s, Fulham, Mark Clattenburg (take your pick), Lovren’s tweet about Peter Crouch, Americans watching Saints because of Jozy Altidore, Villa fans ‘We pay your benefits’, Toni Jiminez kicking off, Lambert’s miss at Sunderland, Team selection for FA Cup at Sunderland, Masks at Swansea, Schneiderlin dumping Yaya Toure on his arse, Lovren getting spanked.

2nd Place:- Wanyama’s disallowed goal celebration against Swansea & Everton’s double O.G. at St. Mary’s (Both 12%).

And the winner, with 24% of the votes, not so funny at the time but hard not see the amusing die now…..Artur Boruc’s ‘Cruyff turns’ at Arsenal!

dia-awards-Boruc

Best Opposition Team

Received Votes:- Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton, Sunderland.

3rd Place:- Arsenal (5%)

2nd Place:- Liverpool (31%)

And the winner is, the only team that outplayed Saints twice this season. With 57% of the votes……Chelsea!

willian

Best Opposition Player

Received Votes:- Christian Eriksen (Spurs), Nathan Redmond (Norwich City), Oscar (Chelsea), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Willian (Chelsea), David Elliott (Newcastle United), Officials, Emmanuel Adebayor (Spurs), David Silva (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jussi Jaskeleinan (West Ham United), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Nathan Dyer (Swansea City), Kolo Toure (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Robin van Persie (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Fabio Borini (Sunderland), Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham), Yaya Toure (Manchester City).

3rd Place:- Fernando Torres (Chelsea) (6%)

2nd Place:- Eden Hazard (Chelsea) (20%)

And the winner is, the man everybody loves to hate but is simply an unbelievable footballer. With 22% of the votes…Luis Suarez!

He missed out on the title, but this is some consolation!
He missed out on the title, but this is some consolation!

Best Opposition Fans

Received Votes:- Newcastle United, Swansea City, Hull City, Manchester City, Portsmouth (?), Fulham, Arsenal, Sunderland, None stood out, Everton, Yeovil Town, Manchester United, Don’t Care, Spurs, Norwich City, Burnley, West Ham.

3rd Place:- Cardiff City & Chelsea (6% each)

2nd Place:- Liverpool (16%)

And the runaway winners and certainly my choice after their constant and varied noise at St. Mary’s. With 42% of the votes…Crystal Palace!

palacefans

Best Saints related Tweeter

As always this award is just a bit of fun and plenty of people vote for themselves!

Received votes:- crstig, James Price, Sridout92, Jim Lucas, mgnsnddn_, Dejan Lovren, dictateplay, danbsfc, Luke Shaw, Artur Boruc, Max_Sopel, Radhi Jaidi, TalkSaints,Matthew Le Tissier, TractorSaint, jamie_benjamin1, Saints Media Team, BigAdamSport, TacoAli, Kelly Mauger, Saints News&Views, L1minus10, uglyinside, gulydopradonaat, Mike1617, SamDobson1, saintsfc, Not going to blow smoke up your arse, Sirvoodoo, SaintsArg, Me, SaintsRelated, MatthewLeGod, Most are mongs, You’re all miserable, Glasgow_Saints, Victor Wanyama, Rich Robertson, markreeves999, Anyone but Chris Rann.

3rd Place:- Club’s Official Account (7%)

2nd Place:- Simon Peach (8%)

And the winner is with 9% of the votes the Peter Crouch of the Saints micro-blogging fraternity….@ConnorArmstrong!

S0 that concludes this season’s Ali’s! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who voted. A big thank you to Dan Tiller for the Photoshop wizardry! It’s been a great season! Here’s to a great summer watching more Saints boys than ever competing at a major tournament and then it will be time to look forward to another campaign following the South Coast’s top club!

For previous years awards results see here:- http://georgeweahscousin.com/awards-history/

Chris

England’s Saints? Who will go to Brazil?

If anyone was still doubting the credentials of the potential England World Cup players at Saints, surely they were put to bed in Saturday’s emphatic victory over Newcastle United?

Saints put in an immaculate attacking performance, mainly due to the superb play of the attacking three, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez.

Adam Lallana is a shoe-in for the squad, I’m sure of that, and people are just starting to believe that not only should he be guaranteed his place on the proverbial plane, but that Roy Hodgson should be finding a place for him in the starting eleven. If there is an English player around at the moment playing as well as Lallana in the support role, ripping defences to shreds with intricate skill and footballing brain, then I haven’t seen them.

Lallana celebrates with scorer Sturridge after his assist.
Lallana celebrates with scorer Sturridge after his assist.

I’m fed up of bigging up Luke Shaw. He is the best left back in the Premier League right now, coupling immaculate defensive performances with attacking runs that scare defences to death. He is consistently superb and England have already seen a 45 minute glimpse of how good he is. I have a feeling he will make the final squad, and it will be a surprise to everybody but Saints fans.

Attacking intent. Shaw is the future.
Attacking intent. Shaw is the future.

In terms of the two Saints forwards I’m not quite so confident that they will make the cut, though it will be criminal if they don’t.

Despite his excellent all round play, ability on the ball, superb passing, team focus and a Premier League assist record this season that is only bettered by Luis Suarez, Rickie Lambert still can’t shake the constant comparison with Andy Carroll, and some, particularly the English press believe it is a 50/50 shout between the two. What planet are these people on? If all those qualities I’ve listed aren’t enough, you can throw in the added bonus of goals. Lambert is twice the footballer Carroll is, and if the West Ham forward is preferred it will say everything about the progression, or lack thereof in English football.

Jay Rodriguez, has had a superb season, infinitely better than Danny Welbeck’s, sadly though I think he will always find himself behind the Man Utd forward in the pecking order. Rodriguez can do all the things that Welbeck can do, with the added bonus of goals. Surely the England manager will go with form?

Get ready for the World Cup with JD Sports:- http://www.jdsports.co.uk/

Forming a great understanding, but can it benefit England?
Forming a great understanding, but can it benefit England?

If Roy Hodgson doesn’t see the individual qualities of the Saints players perhaps their team dynamic might attract him. I’ve long been an advocate of using successful club partnerships to the advantage of the national team. An England team with John Terry and Gary Cahill at centre half with Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park and Lallana, Rodriguez and Lambert playing a support three to Daniel Sturridge in his rightful position up top doesn’t sound bad does it? We could do a lot worse, and so often do.

Hopefully the England manager will see sense and utilise players from clubs like Liverpool and Southampton as much as he can. These are the clubs playing football in the way we should be aiming to as a national team, so it makes sense to bring them in. Surely we won’t go to Brazil, the home of ‘sexy football’ and lump it up to Andy Carroll?

Keep the Faith.

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait…

14th August 2012. Saints are linked with an audacious move for Uruguay wonderkid and London 2012 star Gaston Ramirez. I updated my facebook status accordingly and it took a matter of seconds before the move was labelled as “ridiculous” and “no chance” by friends who support other clubs, particularly Liverpool.

And I have to say, I didn’t necessarily disagree with them, it seemed a little unreal, and as the days passed, it seemed more and more unlikely. I have said before that Twitter is such a good medium for info, and in this case it certainly seemed so, as the updates both positive and negative came from numerous sources. Liverpool fans seemed convinced that Ramirez’ only destination was Anfield, but as other Scouse transfer saga’s unfolded it looks like Liverpool simply didn’t have the financial muscle to sign the playmaker.

Last night at around 18:54 it was finally announced. Gaston is a Saint.

Ramirez flies in…

The star of the Uruguayan olympic team, Ramirez really is a coup for Saints, and as Nigel Adkins so succinctly put it “What we have got is one of the most exciting prospects in world football coming to St Mary’s.”

One of the best sources for info on the protracted deal was Italian journalist Daniele Labanti of the Corriere di Bologna, the Corriere della Sera local issue. I was delighted when he agreed to answer some questions on Ramirez.

After a long drawn out transfer, Saints fans will be hoping Ramirez is worth the wait. What did you make of the transfer?

DL:- “It was a very difficult deal because too many parts were involved. Saints, Bologna, Penarol and agents all tried to get the best from the deal. Bologna needed the money and when the club understood Ramirez wanted to go, the Italian club decided to sell him. The first trouble was a interview Ramirez did with Gazzetta dello Sport, talking as a ‘Saint’, just after the agreement with Southampton: Bologna were still in talks with the Saints and the Chairman was very upset with that interview. But then all details were managed and the deal was completed.”

Many Saints fans will have only seen him at the Olympics, what are his strengths and weaknesses?

DL:- “Ramirez is a great young player. As a comparison, he had more impact in Italy than Pastore had in Palermo before they sold him to PSG for €43 million. So we can say Southampton completed a good deal for ‘just’ €14 million. Ramirez can dribble, kick with both feet, is quite speedy and has good stamina. He has to improve his mentality, stop (trash) talking with opponents and referee first.”

He was a big hit at Bologna, do you think he can translate his play to the English game?

DL:- “I definitely believe he could be a star in the Premier League. The English game has more ‘spacing’ than the Italian one and Gaston is quite unstoppable if he can run.”

What other players would you liken him to?

DL:- “I don’t want to be irreverent, but the best case is a sort of Zinedine Zidane.”

Were you surprised to see him end up at a club like Southampton?

DL:- “Yes I was. Rumours told of interest from Liverpool and Tottenham and it was supposed he would join a Champions League/Europa League team. But the Saints offer was so rich and Gaston decided to not wait for a  ‘big club’ anymore.”

Many thanks to Daniele for answering these questions and getting me even more excited than I already was!

Gaston Ramirez. You’re Our Guy.

p.s. Up Your’s Mark Lawrenson.

Chris

Premier League Preview: Part 1

With the big kick off just three and a bit days away, I caught up with fans our our new Premier League opponents to get their thoughts on what lies ahead…

Arsenal:-

Name:- Andrew Mangan

Team:- Arsenal

Website:- http://arseblog.com

Twitter:- @arseblog

What can we expect from your club this season?

Nice, attacking football, short passing, a reluctance to shoot from distance, generous defending, late calamities, the tease of a trophy and balanced, considered expressions of opinion from online fans.

Who is your most important player?

At the moment, with some of the summer still to go and the future of Van Persie still to be decided, I’d say Mikel Arteta. He’s a calm, experienced professional who really makes the team tick. I think if Van Persie goes we might see him step up.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Top four, but I can’t really be any more exact than that.

Who might win the Premier League?

I never rule us out, despite it being so long since we’ve won it we have challenged some seasons so you never know. So, Arsenal, United, Chelsea, Man City.

Who definitely won’t?

Everyone else. I don’t think Liverpool have the squad, I’m not sure Sp*rs do either although they’re definitely top six material, and apart from that the financial side of things pretty much precludes anyone else from challenging.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Obviously the North London derbies but the rivalry with United for so long means I always look forward to those games.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

Man United v Man City. When United were winning everything I think there was a certain sympathy for City when they were being relegated and being cast under such a successful shadow. It shows how far things have come that this is a game I can’t wait to see and I want United to murder them.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

To be honest I haven’t seen much of Southampton since they were relegated but obviously there’s been a huge turnaround. When you consider how far you fell to have come back to the Premier League is a fantastic achievement. And the club seem to have the infrastructure and know-how to get up and stay up, which is the most important thing. It’s not at all unusual for a newly promoted team to have a fine first season, but it’s achieving the consistency over the next few years that will provide the real challenge.

You find yourself stuck in White Hart Lane. How do you escape unnoticed?

Hold my nose like that bloke out of Rent-a-ghost.

Aston Villa:-

Name:- Matt Turvey

Team:- Aston Villa

Website:- http://www.astonvillalife.com

Twitter:- @MatthewSTurvey for me, @AstonVillaLife for the site.

What can we expect from your club this season?

Some good, solid football.  Now that Paul Lambert is in charge, the club seem to be going in the right direction and most of our fans are appreciative of that.  Progress will take time, but I feel people will see more of our club’s potential this year.  I also expect our new signings to draw the attention of some of the big clubs – Karim El-Ahmadi and Brett Holman will do well this year I feel.

Who is your most important player?

Stephen Ireland – he may well have had a mixed start to his career in his first season, but last year he was rightly fan’s player of the year, and showed a fantastic determination to play for the team.  If he is on form, and signs seem to show he will be this season, he’s unplayable and, in my opinion, the most technically gifted player we have.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

A solid mid-table finish.  This might sound low in the eyes of some Aston Villa fans, but after the past two seasons and the need to change things, it is a good enough expectation.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t do better, just that I am not expecting us to do more.  You never know – we may end up surprising everyone like Newcastle did last year!

Who might win the Premier League?

It depends how you want me to answer.  The obvious candidates, such as the two Manchester clubs, and Chelsea are, well, obvious.  If you mean who could be a dark horse, then I think that it’s probably a stretch too far to pick one.  The most likely candidate would be Tottenham Hotspur I imagine, although a lot will hinge on both how Andre Villas-Boas does at the club, and whether they can keep hold of key players like Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart.

Who definitely won’t?

Sad as it is to say, probably about 16 teams in the league.  I know last season’s campaign was very competitive for the majority of the league members, but the title contenders were way ahead of even the Europa League places.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

It’s a strange pick from me in the eyes of some, but I’ll be interested to see the reaction our manager gets when we play Norwich away.  I imagine it will be mostly positive, but I’m sure there are some Norwich fans who didn’t appreciate him leaving the club.  Beyond that game, I just like teams who play football the right way, so I always like to see those kinds of games.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

The Manchester derbies –  It’s highly likely that the winner of the Premier League will come from those two teams this year.  Beyond those, any game that involves Manchester City.  I know they may well just be buying success, but they play good football, and their last game of the season against QPR had me out of my seat – I’ve never known a more exciting conclusion to the title race than that.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I think they will do well.  I’ve got a lot of time for Nigel Adkins and few can doubt the way he has taken the club to two successive promotions.  In that regard, he is much like our current manager.  My only concern for Southampton is that if they do well, I imagine bigger clubs will be looking at Adkins as a potential candidate for their clubs.  That’s no disrespect to Southampton as a club, rather the fact that you can be very proud of what your manager has achieved.

You find yourself stuck in St. Andrews. How do you escape unnoticed?

Ah, the lovely St Andrews, home ground of Birmingham City.  Assuming I was there for a match (there’s no real other reason why I’d be there), then I’d probably just try to fit in with their usual fan base by adopting a heavy Birmingham accent and looking constantly miserable.  If I kept that up, I’d fit in nicely and be able to escape.  I guess the only thing against me is that I write for one of the regional papers, so a fair number of them may well know my face!

Stephen Ireland could be a key man for Villa.

Chelsea:-

Name:- Denise Hope

Team:- Chelsea

Website:- http://thechelseablog.org/

Twitter:- @TheChelseaBlog

What can we expect from your club this season?

As ever with Chelsea, you can expect the unexpected. We haven’t had a particularly exciting pre-season although it’s worth bearing in mind the last time we had such an unspectacular pre-season we won the double. I’m not suggesting we’ll repeat that but I do think we’ll have a much more attack-minded side this season rather than the constant defensive displays that saw us defy some remarkable odds last season. I should mention we’re Champions of Europe here really (just because I can).

Who is your most important player?

Historically in this squad that probably has to be John Terry, just for his sheer contribution as a leader and motivator. However, if we’re talking about who will be a key player for us in the coming season, I can see Hazard, Mata and Marin all causing a few nerves in opposition defences but for me our success or failure could fall at the feet of Fernando Torres. If he has the sort of season we bought him for, we’ll be flying – if he doesn’t, we’ll be f***ed.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Top two for sure this season. Our final position in the Premier League last season was down to the damage done under AVB’s management (that’s not laying the blame squarely on his shoulders either). There was no real way back for Di Matteo from that and he was right to go for the Champions League instead. This season though, he’s already made his intention clear to address our Premier League standing, and I’ve every faith he’ll do that.

Who might win the Premier League?

We might! If not us, then United – they won’t take last season laying down, that has to have hurt everyone at Old Trafford and they’ll make sure they finish above City this time. Hopefully that’ll still leave them behind us though.

Who definitely won’t?

Spurs! Not that they’d have a hope in hell anyway but from some of the bitter stuff he’s already had to say in the press, it’s clear AVB’s more focused on Chelsea than anything else in the Premier League – never a good thing.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Of course our game against QPR will have even more added spice than previous meetings but to be honest, JT will undoubtedly have a camera rammed up his left nostril (with an obligatory microphone courtesy of some new FA ruling) and  it’ll be too much of a circus to get too excited about it. So, I’ll go with Spurs – these derbies are always much anticipated and it’ll be an interesting one against them having put them out of the Champions League, not to mention meeting our former manager as the opposition.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

After events on the final day last season, the Manchester derby should be well worth a watch shouldn’t it?

How do you think Southampton will fare?

If I’m honest, will you edit it out? Just kidding! I think you’ll have a honeymoon season, so you’ll do ok. Maybe a finish around 14th?

You find yourself stuck in The Emirates Stadium. How do you escape unnoticed?

To be honest, if I was stuck in Arsenal’s ground, escape wouldn’t be too difficult. I’d sneak out ten minutes before the end along with the rest of them – no-one would think that was unusual.

Everton:-

Name:- Phill Nuttall

Team:- Everton

Website:- www.evertonfc.com

Twitter:- @phillipnuttall

What can we expect from your club this season?

This season will see a more dynamic Everton in the premier league. We have let go of players who were not making the desired impact, eg Rodwell, Cahill & fringe players, and brought in more industrious players such as Gibson, Naismith & Jelavic, fans can expect to see Everton better in possession, defensively solid, and more free flowing in the goals department.

Who is your most important player?Jac

It’s a coin toss between Steven Pienaar and Maruane Fellaini.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

If we start the season how we finish it then top 6 for Everton this season.

Who might win the Premier League?

City/Chelsea

Who definitely won’t?

The other 18 teams.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

Chelsea, always a great game between us.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

I’m looking forward to watching Chelsea v Arsenal given their signings.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

I hope they stay up, robbed of many young talents in recent years but back where they belong, can’t see them.finishing top 10 – a season of consolidation for the saints.

You find yourself stuck in Anfield. How do you escape unnoticed?

Anfield – Go dressed as donkey from Shrek – people will just say “Hi Suarez”.

Everton will look to their midfield pair to chase the leading pack.

Fulham:-

Name:- Kyle Bonn

Team:- Fulham

Website:- FulhamsFinest.com

Twitter:- @FulhamsFinest

What can we expect from your club this season?

This question depends a lot on what happens in the final few weeks of the transfer window.  Martin Jol recently said that Fulham is far from done, and they haven’t spent a pound in the transfer market yet despite having brought in Hugo Rodallega, Mladen Petric, and Sascha Riether.  If Jol can find two more strikers and a midfielder like he said he’s looking for, this club has a ton of potential.

Fulham are a club that have flown entirely under the radar in the last few seasons, and without attracting the attention of much of the media and fans have grown up in the Premier League, making themselves a mainstay in the middle of the pack.  Not only that, but a few top-10 finishes in the last couple of years have the fan base buzzing with thoughts of Europa League qualifying dancing in their heads.  With the overhaul Martin Jol has brought to the squad this offseason and the mystery surrounding Clint Dempsey’s future, there may a settling-in period, but to expect another 9th place finish isn’t overestimating this squad by any means.

Who is your most important player?

The American Clint Dempsey, with the shroud covering his future, can almost be thought of as too much a distraction. However, he’s still no question the most well-rounded talent on the club who can strike at any time from the midfield.  The question is, where will he be when the window comes to a close? And if he’s still on the Fulham roster, what role will he play? He’s been locked out of all preseason action so far, with rumors of misgivings with management abound (although the club insists his fitness is the issue). Liverpool are the no-doubt frontrunners for his services at the moment, but with Fulham requiring £10 million to complete the deal, and Dempsey about to top 30 years of age, the Reds are reluctant to pull the trigger.

My prediction has always been for Dempsey leaving in the winter, and it’s looking more and more like that will be the case.  However, if Fulham do indeed find themselves in the race for a Europa League spot, they may find more value in his playing services than in the cold, hard cash they would receive from a team.  Letting him walk for free would hurt, but at the same time if he successfully helped the team to previously unreached heights, most would be content to overlook that.

Where do you predict you will finish this season?

Like I said earlier, 9th place is a realistic expectation this season, but the future is bright.

Who might win the Premier League?

I can’t bet against Manchester United, who with their successful acquisitions this offseason, and the lack of moves made by their derby rivals, they once again the upper hand.

Who definitely won’t?

I know this isn’t going out on much of a limb these days, but Arsenal’s struggles to secure hardware will continue this season.  As much as Wenger has figured out how to sign cheques and complete transactions once again, and has used that to his advantage to secure a number of excellent buys, they won’t have a major impact until the second half of the season, by which time it will be too late.  Next season, however, I would beware the Gunners.

What is your most anticipated fixture?

No doubt Fulham fans this season will be looking forward to both ends of the fixtures with Queens Park Rangers.  Fans have developed a fearsome hatred for each side, being fueled with QPR’s hiring of Mark Hughes, completing his traitorous departure from Craven Cottage. Fulham fans sat back last season with a wry smile while they watched their London rivals squirm their way out of relegation. The Cottagers thumped QPR 6-0 in the home fixture, and took another 3 points 1-0 across London, giving firm bragging rights to the banks of the Thames.  The first matchup will be much-anticipated, and fans will have to wait until December 15 for the rivalry to continue at Loftus Road.

What is your most anticipated fixture that doesn’t involve your club?

The Manchester derby has to be the most exciting fixture.  While I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone, these two clubs have to be considered once again the top two in the country.  They very well could decide the championship, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

How do you think Southampton will fare?

Unfortunately I think Southampton will struggle to stay in the Premiership.  This isn’t to underestimate Southampton, but rather a number of teams that finished in the bottom quarter of the league last season have spent a great deal of money this offseason and unfortunately for Southampton this puts them at a disadvantage. Look at what clubs such as Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa, and even newly promoted sides West Ham and Reading have added this offseason, they may be distancing themselves from other more dormant clubs like Southampton.

Thanks to all the contributors for their input! Look out for the next three parts soon!

Chris