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Premier League Weekly Preview: Man U, Arsenal, Fulham and More

Not a lot of time this week -- a mid-week earthquake and an impending hurricane scenario will do that to you. Makes more sense to take stock of things next week when the transfer window is closed shut.

Anyway, with teams seemingly spending less on old players in the Premier League and focusing on youth -- whether by force from Michel Platini or not -- let's examine where the "Big Six" clubs stand at the moment.

This is an arbitrary list as they come, but here are players who (at least by year of birth, 1988) could represent their home country in the Olympics on a U-23 team, well, assuming the tournament was this summer instead of 2012 in London.

Not sure this illuminates very much, so draw your own conclusions.

Arsenal: (12) Szczesny, Gibbs, Jenkinson, Miquel, Traore, Frimpong, Landsbury, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Wilshere, Walcott, Bendtner, Miyiachi,

Chelsea: (5) van Aanholt, McEachran, Romenu, Kakutu, Sturridge

Liverpool: (11) Flanagan, Kelly, Robinson, Wilson, Spearing, Shelvey, Henderson, Sterling, Carroll, Pachedo, N'Gog

Manchester City: (6) Boyota, Richards, Savic, Weiss, Aguero, Balotelli

Manchester United: (13) De Gea, Evans, Fabio, Rafael, Jones, Smalling, Anderson, Cleverly, Morrison, Pogba, Chicharito, Macheda, Welbeck

Tottenham: (7) Walker, Bale, Bostock, Livermore, Sandro, Townsend, Rose, dos Santos,


Champions League Musings: On the one hand, you have to hand it to the folks at Sony and Heineken for getting us all wrapped up in the UEFA Champions League. The great myth of the competition is that it's a lot like NCAA basketball, as the group stage/regular season don't matter all that much, since all the drama is in the knockout stage/tournament.

UEFA ought to take a page from the NCAA, and at least add some kind of a human element to the draw instead of relying on coefficient ratings.

Yes, Porto won the Europa League last season and, if the math in the computers means anything, is still getting a bonus for winning the Champions League in 2004. Still, somebody has to step in an say, the club lost it's manager (Andre Villa-Boas) and it's top scorer (Falcao) and probably won't be nearly as good as it was last year.

Then again, since Manchester United and Chelsea got their yearly cupcake draws, the human element might even make the groups even more lopsided. Then again, Group A with Bayern, Manchester City, Napoli and Villareal should be good, though the Yellow Submarine is a pale imitation of the club it was in the 2005-2007 range when it had Juan Roman Riquelme and Diego Forlan causing everybody trouble.

At least the computers and Luis Figo/Ruud Gullit/Paut Breitner combintation gave us the match up we've all been waiting years for: BATE Borisov v. Viktoria Plzen. Might have to find an airline that flies to Belarus to go watch that in person -- mmmmm free Chernobyl radiation fallout.


* Aston Villa v. Wolves -- (Live, ESPN2, 7:05 a.m.) Gun to my head, think I'd take the Wolves roster over the Aston Villa roster in this West Midlands derby scenario. Wolves aren't flashy, but they are a team that's been together a couple years now. With Matt Jarvis, Stephen Fletcher, Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt and Jamie O'Hara you've got different offensive options. Aston Villa seems to have one -- Darren Bent -- but he's quite productive with 42 score since the start of 2009. ... Aston Villa 1, Wolves 1

* Wigan Athletic v. QPR -- (Live, Fox Socer Plus, 7:30 a.m.) Wigan are creating chances -- from the penalty spot. Not sure what to make of QPR yet. Adding Joey Barton would be interesting, but it's also a massive risk since he'll likely demand huge wages and if the team is relegated immediately he'll be impossible to move. If Barton wants to play the massive "eff you" card to all of England, he might be able to keep the club at least dangerous, until his next arrest. ... Wigan 1, QPR 1

* Chelsea v. Norwich City -- (Live, FSC, 10 a.m.) Chelsea should be able to win this by muscle memory alone. ... Chelsea 3, Norwich City 0

* Blackburn Rovers v. Everton -- Let's see who's more desperate in this one, which both teams pointless. Blackburn, if it's anything, lost its first two games but did score in each. Everton looked meek, aside from a few headers by Tim Cahill in its season-opening loss at home to QPR. In other words, something has to give here. ... Blackburn 1, Everton 2

* Swansea City v. Sunderland -- (Live, FSC+, 10 a.m.) Through two games Swansea has done nothing for me, that said Sunderland is a team ripe for the picking for its first Premier League win. I think I emphatize with Steve Bruce. It's like going to the grocery store, buying a ton of ingredients, but not knowing how to turn them into a meal that tastes good and compliments each other. ... Swansea 2, Sunderland 1

* Liverpool v. Bolton -- (Live, FSC, 12:30 p.m.) My guess here is that playing against Zat Knight is going to be Andy Carroll's best chance for the proverbial slumpbuster. Then again, with the red-hot Luis Suarez (all he does is score goals, or bite people) Liverpool don't exactly need to rely on their record money signing. Funny how that works. Bolton, against my preseason thoughts, hasn't struggled to score with six in two games. Not sure how long Ivan Klasnic can keep it up, but this team won't be pushovers for anybody. Hilarious aside, Owen Coyle took a shot at the website Zonal Marking in some magazine. Made me laugh. Coyle seems like one of the few Premier League managers who's a normal guy without an ego. ... Liverpool 2, Bolton 1


* Newcastle United v. Fulham -- (Live, FSC+, 8 a.m.) Another game where something has to give. Newcastle hasn't allowed a goal. Fulham hasn't scored. Excitement is thy name. ... Newcastle United 0, Fulham 0

* Tottenham v. Manchester City -- (Live, FSC, 8:30 a.m.) Well, Spurs fans, you'll always have Peter Crouch's goal to hang your hat as City's oil bucks propel them further and further up the table. Emmanuel Adebayor is going to help, assuming there's some chemistry between he and Rafael van der Vaart, though that'll have to wait until the next league game since he can't play against City. ... Tottenham 0, Manchester City 2

* West Brom v. Stoke City -- Shane Long tries to go 3-for-3 with goals in as many games. Stoke haven't flashed anything that says the Potters are ready to make a leap from mid table, to umm ... the slightly higher mid table. ... West Brom 1, Stoke City 1

* Manchester United v. Arsenal -- (Live, FSC, 11 a.m.) Sir Alex came to Arsene Wenger's defense in the press, which really means he wants to lay a good ol' fashion whoopin' on the Gunners this weekend. Arsenal did show some mettle, rallying to win at Udinese and secure a Champions League group stage big, though it's hard to figure United gives them as much time on the ball as Udinese did. As I've been saying, for Arsenal to keep pace Theo Walcott is going to have to have a big, consistent season. Perhaps if you're Arsenal you take heed that a crafty player like Robin van Persie can trouble the young United defense and find gaps between Jonny Evans and Phil Jones, though it's possible Rio Ferdinand might play. Are Andrey Arshavin or Tomas Rosicky really bringing any attacking thrust that'll worry United? Conversely, Arsenal's old defensive woes might creep back with Nani, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young all off to flying starts especially with Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny each facing fitness tests. This could get ugly. Consider Arsenal's midweek good fortune a temporary reprieve. ... Manchester United 3, Arsenal 1

Last round: 7-3
Season: 12-7


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