Barely seconds after the end of the World Cup, and the football season is upon us once more. Here is our profile of each London club, the summer transfer business they’ve done (or not), and how likely they are to be sacking their manager after three matches for failing to win the league.
We’re focusing on the top four divisions of English football, with the greatest respect to Wingate & Finchley and Thamesmead Town. We will cover non-league football when, and it is surely when, the clamour becomes too fearsome to resist.
And we’re doing this alphabetically rather than by division, because this is football and controversy is never far away. All views expressed are those of Londonist and therefore entirely correct because it’s our website so there.
Consistently flirting with relegation must be a right pain in the arse for AFC Wimbledon fans, but considering their turbulent history it’s probably received with a stoical shrug each year. Last season they were spared the drop by three points, though it would have been six had they not played midfielder Jake Nicholson when he was ineligible, for which they were docked three points.
Last season’s top scorer Michael Smith managed only nine goals, so sorting out the front line must be a priority for manager Neal Ardley. It remains to be seen how the club will deal with the potentially devastating blow of Brian leaving New Tricks (in the unlikely event you don’t watch it, he’s an AFC Wimbledon nut).
It has become something of a pleasing summer pastime to hear Arsenal fans moaning that their manager leaves it until the last possible moment to sign players, as though he’s trying to eke out every last drop of interest from whichever bank holds the Gunners’ allegedly huge cash deposits. It’s therefore been a disappointment that Arsene Wenger has gone ‘big and early’ as the pundits might say, scattering some £55m around before the Emirates Cup had even been lost to Valencia.
But as optimistic as Gooners may well be at the signing of Alexis Sanchez in particular, we’re sorry, but they’ve no chance without this bloke. The mandatory 4th-placed finish is surely on the cards again, but at least that trophy drought is done with.
For the first time since the 1992-93 season, Brentford are back in the nearly-big-time. Mark Warburton was a surprise choice to replace Uwe Rosler as manager but any doubters were soon won over by his team’s ruthlessness and their obvious desire to right the wrongs of the previous year, in particular with a season-defining 1-0 win away to Leyton Orient.
This summer the Bees have so far managed to hold off Rosler from taking any of his former players to Wigan, made easier by now being in the same league as them, though there are noises that fan favourite Adam Forshaw may be on his way up north. That would be a big blow, but new faces Moses Odubajo and Andre Gray should help soften the impact, as well as fill the gap left by polarising striker Clayton Donaldson. On the basis of an impressive 3-2 pre-season win over Crystal Palace, survival should be straightforward, but better could be possible.
Although Charlton seem, on the face of it, to be a properly-run, decent football club, there are unlikely machinations going on behind the scenes as the Addicks try to get their heads around being owned by one Roland Duchâtelet. It seems no-one knows if the man — owner of many European clubs that have enjoyed highly variable fortunes following his acquisition — is in it for the money or the sport.
It’ll be up to the players to take the fans’ mind off it, ideally by failing to repeat last season’s grim return of losing nearly half their league matches. Three wins in the last four games steered Charlton clear from relegation, and with yet another new manager in charge (with the solid footballing name of Bob Peeters), it’s hard to see how it won’t be another tumultuous year at The Valley. A big season from new striker Igor Vetokele would help.
It’s a horrible game, football. Frank Lampard has served Chelsea superbly for something like 62 years, top scorer and everything, he bids a fond farewell by signing for New York City FC…and then reappears at Manchester City a week later to the fury of Blue west London. Thinking about it, there could be money to be made in scraping off names and numbers from the back of shirts so people don’t feel the need to burn them in situations like this.
But despite the loss of their talismanic midfielder Chelsea look primed for another fine year under Jose Mourinho, with Diego Costa likely to set the league alight from day one. They’ve even signed Cesc Fabregas, as if spanking Arsenal every time they play them doesn’t humiliate the Gunners enough.
He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Tony Pulis plainly knows how to turn a team from cannon fodder into a proper football unit. Hardly anyone expected Palace to stay in the top flight after their horrendous start to last season but by employing some of the most attritional football ever seen Pulis managed to keep them up, to the chagrin of the ‘sport as entertainment’ brigade.
There have been no particularly notable signings over the summer, and no big-name departures. It all feels like business as usual at Selhurst Park, which, if we’re honest, is a bit boring after the happy mayhem of the Ian Holloway era. Best get wiping that ball down for another long throw.
Dagenham & Redbridge
Footballers are for life, not just for Christmas, as currently being proven by 95-year-old striker Jamie Cureton who is the latest addition to the Dagenham & Redbridge roster. Manager Wayne Burnett is clearly hoping ‘experience’, as we are ordered to call old age in sport, is the key to nudging the Daggers that bit closer to the playoffs after last season’s upper-mid-table finish.
Though ninth was a decent return, the club were a full 11 points off the all-important seventh spot so a few new names were deemed necessary to help the club push on. You could do worse than signing people with suitable names like George Porter and Matt Partridge, so they’ve done just that. With no major departures during the summer it’s a safe bet that Dagenham & Redbridge will be up around the business end come the end of term.
The Premier League plainly won’t be the same without Fulham, and though it’s simply impossible to write about Fulham’s relegation without reference to a certain statue that was removed in untimely fashion from Craven Cottage, it’s fair to say that last season Fulham were…Bad. Sorry. Clearly they’ll be hoping for an immediate bounce back and are willing to back up their ambition with funds — £11m on striker Ross McCormack is quite the gamble for a Championship team, particularly as the player left Leeds with angry words about his attitude ringing in his ears.
The signing of midfielder Thomas Eisfeld from Arsenal could prove to be shrewd, and though Fulham’s squad severely underperfomed last year there are plenty of the same players left to make amends this time around.
London’s only representatives in the inexplicably named League One were cruelly denied their place alongside Brentford in the division above after a tragic penalty shoot-out failure against Rotherham in the play-off final. It would be fair to say that all of London were behind them that day after their stirring efforts throughout the season, not least because nobody in London has the faintest clue where Rotherham actually is. Come on, admit it, you’ve no idea.
Losing in the playoff final one year didn’t stop Brentford from going up the year after, and Orient will be hoping one of their five new free signings can help repeat the Bees’ trick, with prolific striker Darius Henderson the likeliest candidate. A note of caution though: Russell Slade is sometimes so round and red on the touchline he looks like he might be about to burst, so stand (sit) well back.
Celebrity fans can be both blessing and curse (see Fulham, above) but it’s hard to see a downside to Millwall’s new signing Ricardo Fuller convincing his mate Usain Bolt to swagger up to the Den for a couple of games this season. Bolt supposedly supports a little-known northern club, Manchester Rovers or something like that, but who could resist the endearing lunacy of an Ian Holloway side flinging themselves about, ending with eight men but still winning 7-6 every week?
With 10 players having left during the summer and only four coming in (all free), it’s clear Holloway is hoping a few youth team members can make the step up, with big things expected of Irish under-21 international Aiden O’Brien in particular.
Queens Park Rangers
They’re baaaaaaaaaaack…QPR’s astounding win in the playoff final at the expense of a Derby team who suspiciously no-one has heard from since means another season of Harry Redknapp yelling away on the touchline in the English top flight. Rio Ferdinand has spent the entire summer surprising Britain, first by being a sane, insightful and even amusing pundit during the World Cup and then by signing for QPR, presumably for one final Premier League hurrah before the inevitable ‘retirement’ in America. Rangers fans will have to hope Rio still has his wits about him as defending was QPR’s biggest problem last time they were up.
Loic Remy is currently staying, or going, probably staying, or not. But one player who’s certainly back in the Premier League is Joey Barton. Oh good.
The ubiquitous hashtag ‘#COYS’ on Twitter suggests there’s been no diminishment of Tottenham’s famously rabid support despite their having been somewhat less active in the transfer market this summer than last. They’ve brought in new manager Mauricio Pochettino — who has the type of cheeky face that would fit right into the Bash Street Kids line-up — but any hopes that half the Southampton squad would follow him have been dashed by the Saints flogging all their players elsewhere.
Nonetheless, those writing Spurs off would do well to remember that the Premier League is a famously difficult league to arrive in for a new player, and it’d be no huge surprise if the likes of Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela now began to show why the club were willing to part with many notes for each.
West Ham United
Few managers divide opinion like Sam Allardyce, and the general feeling among football fans is that he belongs at the helm of a clogging northern club rather than a historically exciting team who most neutrals will admit to having a soft spot for. But Hammers fans will continue to support their team regardless of who’s at the wheel, even when this particular driver is swerving recklessly into deals for players like Enner Valencia, a striker who did well at the World Cup but will have to go some to repay the £12m he cost.
Valencia is already missing the start of the season through injury, so once again it’s up front that West Ham are likely to struggle, with perennially crocked striker Andy Carroll back on the treatment table as well. Another big season will be required of player of the year Mark Noble if Allardyce, who we simply refuse to call ‘Big Sam’, hopes to survive beyond Christmas.
Image courtesy of Massimo Usai via the Londonist Flickr pool.