London clubs set for boom season

Trevor Steven
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LAST year was a boom year for Premier League fortunes in the capital – and I expect this season to be even more successful in some ways. It may be unlikely that we get more than three London clubs finishing in the top four, as we did in May with Chelsea joined by Arsenal and Tottenham. But while West Ham lived in fear of relegation until the very end last time round, I don’t envisage any of the city’s sides struggling that badly this time.

For my money, reigning champions Chelsea look to be in a two-horse race with Manchester United to hoist the trophy again next spring. However, I do have a number of concerns about Carlo Ancelotti’s men, not least that they desperately need another striker.

So much of the goalscoring burden rests on Didier Drogba and, formidable though he is, that is a worry for a 32-year-old with a history of injuries.

They have Nicolas Anelka too, of course, but after France’s World Cup debacle I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a great big sulk waiting to happen.

Losing Ricardo Carvalho is also a blow, and I wonder how long it will be before we see cracks in John Terry’s remarkable physical armour.

The Blues are still my tip to be top dogs in London, though, with Arsenal and Spurs facing what is likely to be the toughest fight ever to finish in the top four.

Keeping Cesc Fabregas is a massive boost for the Gunners, while I’m interested to see how Marouane Chamakh, who has played at a very good level with Bordeaux, settles in.

But I’d have liked to see Arsene Wenger invest in a top level goalkeeper. The season comes down to key moments and a brilliant stopper can make that difference.

As such I’d surprised if they finish outside the top four, but a title challenge looks beyond Arsenal.

Tottenham might be some people’s dark horses but I think it will be hard enough for them to retain that Champions League spot.

A European run could prove distracting or a boost – they’re not used to it so we don’t know how they’ll cope – but at the least it’ll mean extra games for Ledley King’s fragile knees.

Harry Redknapp has been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer market but I expect that to change and he always goes for jewels, not just squad players.

I’m also sure West Ham will add to their squad, although new boss Avram Grant may find a glut of new players makes it hard for his new team to gel.

I expect Grant to steer them to mid-table – and see similar prospects for another recent appointment in Mark Hughes at Fulham. Hughes is ideal for the Cottagers but has his work cut out trying to match Roy Hodgson’s superb tenure, and keeping the likes of Bobby Zamora and Brede Hangeland will be pivotal.

Fabio’s Beckham blunder sums up tongue-tied Italian’s problem

FABIO Capello’s public “retiring” of David Beckham this week was unfortunate but, for me, just another symptom of the language problems that seriously undermine him.

We all agree the time is probably right for Beckham to bow out, and of course that the England manager should have told his player before a television reporter.

But perhaps if the Italian had been speaking in his native tongue, and not one in which he struggles to express himself, he might have been able to handle the question more elegantly.

Communication is so vital for a manager, especially at international level, and I think his failings in that department must have been a factor in England’s dismal World Cup.