With Arsenal In Transition, Who’s Favourite To Be Fourth?

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Lucas takes a look at the clubs salivating at the mouth after watching Henry wave au revoir to the Emirates.

Arsenal were already closer to fifth than they were to Manchester United or Chelsea the last two years and now they’ve lost Thierry Henry, everyone has that filthy, filthy television lucre, and the transfer season has seen their nearest rival (in all senses of the word, finally) Tottenham throwing cash around left and right. With that in mind, I’m looking top to bottom at who’s got the best chance of breaking the monopoly on the Champions League places.

Tottenham Hotspur: Say it with me now – Gareth Bale, Darren Bent, Younes Kaboul. Kaboul might blow (when he actually signs), Bent might be overpriced, and Bale might be the world’s first footballing ape, but you’ve got to figure they’re an improvement on what we have now. Lee-Young Pyo is an attacking fullback who can’t cross, Jermaine Defoe is a striker who has some kind of depth perception problem, and Anthony Gardner is a defender who is retarded. If Spurs can play legitimate defense through to the midfield, and maybe pick up a left-winger with the money they get from the ostensible sale of Defoe, I really don’t see any reason why they can’t outplay Arsenal to fourth. Come to think of it, if they beat the scum home and away I’d take fifth again.

Aston Villa: They’re flush with cash, and they’re linked with so many players you’d think they’re Spurs. They’ve been all over West Ham for Nigel Reo-Coker, and I’ve heard rumours about Craig Bellamy as well. It would be nice to see Bellamy get kicked out of another major British city, with Newcastle and Liverpool already under his belt. Martin O’Neill, though, might be the kind of manager who could get Reo-Coker to stop bitching and Bellamy to stop assaulting women, so you never know. With Agbonlahor getting another season under his belt, they could certainly be a dangerous team. They aren’t Champions League material yet, but they should certainly expect to make a run at a UEFA Cup spot.

Newcastle United: ‘Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink,’ goes The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. To put it in layman’s terms, players are telling Newcastle and their money to go ahead and fornicate themselves. Sam Allardyce finally has cash to splash, but I don’t think anyone trusts him to not play the same type of boring, negative football he made so ubiquitous with Bolton. Or maybe they’ve seen Goal! The Dream Begins. If they were to get anybody to come, and if other teams don’t take advantage of the ridiculous buyout clauses in the contracts of Obafemi Martins and Michael Owen, they could make some noise. Best case is Allardyce stabilising them with a UEFA cup spot and a decent cup run. Worst case is he finds out that using Kevin Davies and long ball really was all he was good at.

Everton: They always play solid football, but I just don’t see how they’re improving with the rest of the league. After a certain point, simply trying to shut the door defensively can’t work. Andrew Johnson will run, run, run, and Mikel Arteta was something of a revelation last season, but Everton need a little more spark if they’re to keep up with the rest of the league and certainly need to up their investment. I could definitely see them being due for another valley to follow last year’s peak.

Reading: As with Everton, you can only go so far with a good system and some motivated players – there has to be new, quality talent. Though they play an excellent brand of football, I don’t see how they can necessarily take teams by surprise again this year and could be this year’s West Ham. If you give Steve Coppell the players, though, he can keep things interesting. Couple their relative inactivity with the general second-season slump, and you’ve got a team that could fall way, way off.

Bolton Wanderers:
Sam Allardyce is gone, Nicolas Anelka is all but gone, and quite frankly, I don’t see how they deserve to keep winning. Will they play the same kind of football they played under Allardyce? Undoubtedly. Will it be nearly as effective under Sammy Lee? Not likely. Bolton Wanderers, it would appear, could be wandering to the Championship. See what I did there? Haha!

Blackburn: Another club that falls into the “Good but need to spend” category. Mark Hughes has built a highly efficient, highly effective team but a couple of injuries to key players (MGP or Benni/Bentley) and they would plummet down the table. Not really the best situation to be in if you want to play in Europe’s top competition.

West Ham: Ha! Just kidding.

So who is your best bet to pick up fourth? Arsenal again or one of the rising spenders?