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English Premier League Season Preview – Part 3

The English Premier League kicks off its 2009-2010 season this weekend and it promises to be an enthralling season again in Europe’s top league. So far we have looked at the likely relegation battle candidates and those teams who are destined to be middle of the table.

Today we will look at the five teams that will be competing for UEFA Cup spots. With the transfer window still a couple of weeks away the prospects for many teams will rise and fall on how is added or leaves between now and then. But with the current rosters, this is how I see the battle for the Premiership going in 2009-2010.

European Contenders
These four teams, Aston Villa, , Spurs and will battle it out this season for UEFA Cup honors.

Yes Arsenal is in this group as I expect that the domination of the big four will be broken unless Arsenal pull off some major sIgnings in the next three weeks.

Arsenal have gone four seasons without a trophy and Arsenal fans have to be wondering if they are now a selling club.

This off-season has seen Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure both head to Eastlands to join . Arsene Wenger is hoping that the combination of Arshavin, Eduardo and Van Persie can replace Adebayor’s goals but that is a strategy that is too reliant for me on players that are often injured.

Arsenal’s weakness for the last two season’s has been at the back and I do not think that they have fixed those problems yet. In order to compete with the best in and Europe, Arsenal need a dominating center partnership in defense and they do not have it. In midfield a lot of weight has been put on the shoulders of Cesc Fabregas. The problem for Fabregas is that he cannot do it all by himself and he will miss the graft that Flamini used to do. Arsenal need a bit of experience and bit in midfield, but Wenger apparently disagrees. He runs the risk of running Fabregas into the ground this year, and this will hurt Arsenal come April and May when titles and trophies ate handed out.

David Moyes is one of the most under-rated managers in the Premier League and his Everton team are always very competitive. My worry for Everton is their lack of activity in the transfer market, Having Jo for a whole season along with Yakubu should translate into lots of goals. Cahill, Arteta and Fellaini will all probably combine with 20-25 goals this season between them.

If Everton can keep hold of Lescott this season, then Everton are poised to really compete with Arsenal and Manchester City for that 4th spot.

Harry Redknapp has totally overhauled Spurs from the Juande Ramos revolution. Without European football to distract him, I expect Spurs to be very competitive this year, and finish just behind Arsenal and Everton. I feel that Spurs are still a little light at the back and it will be their defensive frailties that will stop them from braking into the top six. But with four weeks left in the transfer window expect the Spurs line-up to change a little more between now and then.

Aston Villa were really impressive for 2/3’rds of last season before injuries and the size of their squad took its toll. That is why I am really surprised that Martin O’Neil has only added Stewart Downing (injured) and Fabien Delph to a squad that has already lost Gareth Barry, Zac Knight, Stuart Taylor and Martin Laursen. If Villa’s squad was too small last year, it will be even smaller this year. That is why I expect Villa to take a step back this year and fall to the bottom of the European contenders group.

From this group of four, I think that Arsenal and Everton are best positioned to grab the European spots and to capitalize on any slips by one of the top four. As we saw last season, the best chances of silverwear for this group might be the Carling and F.A. cups.