The Toon Army have had to suffer more than most this past 12 monthsJason Pettigrove
Playing The Wrong Toon
There’s never a dull moment at St. James’ Park these days.
If it’s not players injuring themselves doing their own private training sessions, as has happened recently with Jonjo Shelvey, or coronavirus outbreaks forcing the closure of the training ground, as occurred last season, then all the talk is about takeovers.
The Toon Army have had to suffer more than most this past 12 months, with the fare being served up on the pitch as turgid as the takeover talks off it.
Both Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley still remain in situ at the time of writing, and it’s hard to know who will go first.
Certainly, Bruce will have to ensure that the form his team showed at the back end of the 2020/21 campaign, continues.
Having already lost to York City in a, frankly, awful pre-season display, it doesn’t bode well.
Both Newcastle’s relegation odds (3/1) and the odds for Bruce to be the next manager to be sacked (8/1) are incredible value at the moment.
Villains On The Rise?
By contrast, Aston Villa have quietly come into contention as a team that should easily finish inside the top 10 (evens).
Much of the focus in pre-season will be on whether the club are able to hold onto Jack Grealish.
Even if their captain and talisman should move on, Dean Smith is building a wonderfully talented and hard-to-beat outfit.
Goalkeeper, Emi Martinez, a recent Copa America winner with Argentina, is likely to establish himself as one of the league’s best custodians, whilst the other Emi – Buendia – has already hit the ground running since his switch from Norwich City.
Double act. ✌️ pic.twitter.com/l4ZOE5rR1H
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) July 26, 2021
The return of Ashley Young, the emergence of Ollie Watkins and the consistency of Tyrone Mings are all plus points for a team going places.
Spurs still appear to be a team in disarray with their managerial hunt making them a laughing stock this summer.Jason Pettigrove
More Disappointment In North London?
The North London rivalry will be an interesting spectacle, after both Arsenal and Tottenham greatly underperformed in 2020/21.
Spurs still appear to be a team in disarray with their managerial hunt making them a laughing stock this summer.
Nuno Espirito Santo is saying all of the right things, but the proof of the pudding will come with results.
Results that will be far easier to achieve if he’s able to hold onto talisman, Harry Kane.
A top six finish (8/11) certainly isn’t beyond them, and though breaking into the top four will be tough, the ability to get a result from seemingly impossible positions is what will propel them up the table.
Nuno is pragmatic, demanding and motivational and learned some of the tricks of the trade from fellow Portuguese and former Spurs manager, Jose Mourinho.
It’s there the comparisons end, however.
Tottenham fans will be delighted by the attacking brand of football that will be on show, and punters have to ask themselves whether they can afford not to place a bet on a top four finish for Spurs when the odds are at a generous 9/2?
Across North London, Mikel Arteta will be carrying on what he started the season before last and hoping that the Gunners’ 2020/21 campaign was just a blip.
Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares both look to be top quality additions to an Arsenal side that rarely got out of second gear in the Spaniard’s first full season.
It’s abundantly clear as to what Arteta is trying to achieve, both in terms of finishing position and identity.
💬 "Mentally, we need to prepare the team with the ideas that we have, with the values that we have, with the ambition that we want to take into the league."@m8arteta | #RFCARS pic.twitter.com/tzIw4JM3x6
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) July 17, 2021
His main stumbling block would appear to be some pushback from the higher-ups when looking at transfer targets.
A true giant of the English game, Arsenal need to be shopping at the top table, not waiting for scraps and other team’s cast offs. They’re better than that.
At 6/5 to finish in the top six or 5/1 to be back where they belong in the top four, both bets offer some value at this stage.
Give Bamford the right service and he will deliver.Jason Pettigrove
No Second Season Syndrome For Leeds
Elland Road will be packed to the rafters for Leeds United’s first home game of the 2021/22 campaign.
Their promotion to the Premier League was a long time coming, but the coronavirus pandemic would ensure that their fans couldn’t celebrate their achievement with them.
In the absence of supporters, Marcelo Bielsa and his charges did the club proud, with the win at Manchester City a particular highlight.
With Kalvin Phillips just one of many players at the top of their game, don’t bet against Leeds sneaking into a top six spot (9/2), now that they’ve had a taste of the big time and know what to expect next season.
At 25/1, Patrick Bamford is outrageous value for the Top Scorer market. Particularly when you consider that his 17 goals last season (plus eight assists) was the same as Son Heung-min, and only six behind eventual winner in 2020/21, Harry Kane.
Give Bamford the right service and he will deliver.
💬 "You have to improve each year as a team and individually"
– 𝘗𝘢𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘬 𝘉𝘢𝘮𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘥 pic.twitter.com/re1RfjBqz3
— Leeds United (@LUFC) July 24, 2021