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London Calling

Why Chelsea look a great bet to wrest control of the title from Man United.

Tony Cascarino, 25 Aug 2008

I know Manchester United fans are going to go, “He used to play for them, so he’s biased”, but I really do think that Chelsea will bring the Premiership title back to London this season.

Talking to my contacts at the club, everyone’s delighted at how quickly Luiz Felipe Scolari’s settled in, and the fact that he has managed to persuade Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard that their future lies at the Bridge, albeit perhaps for the short term.

He also seems to be having a good effect on Nicolas Anelka, who banged in four the other day against an admittedly very lacklustre AC Milan, and looks like he might be approaching peak form.

On the signing front, Deco at 30 still has a couple of years left in him and I’m hugely excited about Jose Boswinga’s arrival from Porto. He’s a flying machine down the right wing and capable of pitching in with a few goals.

As for the two Brazilians being linked with a move to South-West London this month – Robinho’s never done enough at Real Madrid to convince me that he’s truly world-class, whereas Kaka’s good value at any price. There are very few players that don’t have anything missing from their game, but he’s one of them.

The only way I’d revise my opinion about who’s going to win the title is if Man U bring in a really top quality striker like Villa, Benzema or maybe Huntelaar – who’s not the paciest but is a very clinical finisher. I’m not so sure about Berbatov who’s got talent but also that sulky side to his game, or Thierry Henry, who’s no longer the lethal force he was at Arsenal.

Not having Wayne Rooney available for the start of the season because he contracted a virus in Nigeria is a big blow, and highlights how unwise it is to drag players off to these weird and wonderful places where you’re at an increased risk of coming down with something. I got bitten by a mosquito in Tahiti six years ago and came back with a hole in my leg the size of which you wouldn’t believe. If Rooney’s absence costs United the title, the €3 or €4 million they made from their African visit won’t seem like good business.

While I’m surprised that Liverpool coughed up as much as they did for him, there was never any chance of Robbie Keane turning down a move to the club he supported as a kid. And of course, they can offer him Champions League football.

Alex Ferguson should feel flattered because Rafa Benitez signing Keane is an indication that he’s going to play the same set-up up front as United, with no wingers and Robbie, Torres and Kuyt all interchanging positions a la Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo.

Gareth Barry would be a useful addition to the squad, but by no means is he the final piece of the jigsaw. I know they’ve bought this lad Dossena in from Udinese, but they haven’t nailed the right-back position down yet, and they could do with another forward. I don’t think Voronin’s good enough, and neither Babel nor Kuyt are goal machines.

Like last season, Arsenal will have games where they look world-beaters, but they’re nowhere near strong enough at the back. Almunia is a particular worry in goal, and they desperately need William Gallas to get over the sulks and start acting like a proper captain. To finish above Liverpool, they need Eduardo back from injury as quickly as possible, and van Persie to play more games than he did last season. Otherwise, it’s going to be another nearly-but-not-quite season for the Gunners.

Roy Keane’s been splashing the cash, but I’m not sure if a job-lot of Spurs rejects and El-Hadji Diouf, who was mediocre last year for Bolton, represents real value for money. Diouf has got the talent, but attitude-wise he’s suspect. Although there are other teams in worse positions than them, I’d be worried about how Sunderland will fare this season. The latest player being linked with a move to the Stadium Of Light is Kevin Doyle who works his socks off, but doesn’t get enough goals to warrant a big money move.

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