Projecting an LA Galaxy Season in the Premier League
Usually reserved for up-and-coming youngsters and aging foreign stars looking to grab one final big payday, the move was yet another sign that MLS’ appeal and quality of play is continuing to improve.
With the English Premier League considered by many to be the top league in the world and the 2013-14 EPL season about to kickoff, one wonders, how would a top MLS side do competing in England’s top league?
While the LA Galaxy boast a roster full of well-known (in America) and proven talent, many of their players would struggle playing against some of the best teams in the world.
Arguably, the Galaxy have three players that would be legitimate EPL-level players in Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez.
Donovan won Player of the Month honors for Everton in his short loan stints to the Merseyside club in 2010 and 2012. Keane proved over a long career with Tottenham that he could hack it in England and, although he is near the end of his career, he still oozes class every time he plays for the Galaxy.
Gonzalez is the least proven of the three and still has a tendency to make errors in the back. However, his loan to Nurnberg in the Bundesliga in 2012 and the recent rumored interest of Stoke City in the towering center-back is enough to believe that the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year and 2012 MLS Cup MVP could get it done in England.
The rest of the squad is full of question marks. Sure, Jose Villarreal, Jack McBean and Gyasi Zardes are top prospects, but they are just that—prospects.
Villarreal has the most upside, as his recent golazo against Juventus demonstrated, but he is still young and untested.
Robbie Rogers, who the Galaxy traded their top scorer in Mike Magee for, has struggled to make a substantive impact for the Galaxy and was a marginal player in the English Championship for Leeds United.
Sean Franklin could also be a serviceable outside back against mid-table and lower-level teams, but would certainly struggle facing any of the top English teams.
Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas are quality MLS midfielders, but can anyone seriously imagine them being able to compete against the likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Marouane Fellaini, Mikel Arteta, Ramires or Moussa Dembele?
Finally, Carlo Cudicini, LA’s current No. 1 goalkeeper, was an EPL backup for most of his career with Chelsea and Tottenham (the Galaxy signed Panamanian Jaime Penedo on Monday and he is expected to compete with Cudicini for the job going forward).
Looking at the value of the Galaxy roster relative to Premier League sides, there isn’t much up for discussion. According to transfermarkt.co.uk, the transfer value of the entire Galaxy roster is £8.6 million. By comparison, the average of the team’s that finished 10th and 11th in the 2012-13 EPL table, West Ham and Norwich City, the exact definition of “mid-table” teams, is £74.5 million.
Even at the bottom of the table, looking at Wigan and Reading, who were both relegated following the 2012-13 season, the average valuation of those two squads is £43 million.
A league down, in the English Championship, Birmingham City, home of two American players in Jonathan Spector and Will Packwood, finished 12th, in the middle of the 24-team pack. The transfer value of the Birmingham City roster is £13 million.
However, those numbers have to be balanced with the funds available to each squad. Squads who are promoted from the English Championship to the Premier League receive an estimated £60 million bump from promotion, due mostly to increased television revenues.
That bump provides a lot of fresh cash to go out and buy players. By comparison, the television contract for the entirety of MLS from their TV contracts with NBC, ESPN and Univision is $27 million. That figure, averaged out between MLS’ 19 teams and converted to pounds is about £912,000, or 1.5 percent of what promoted Premier League teams can expect from promotion.
Certainly, if the Galaxy were in the EPL, they would have plenty of money to go out and strengthen their squad.
Management and Supporter Strength
While American managers, like American players, still struggle for respect overseas, the Galaxy do have the advantage of having the most accomplished American coach at the helm. Bruce Arena has won four MLS championships (a very difficult accomplishment in a single-entity league with Byzantine player acquisition rules) and the CONCACAF Champions League (then the CONCACAF Champions Cup).
As coach of the United States men’s national team, Arena led the team to two CONCACAF Gold Cup championships, a memorable quarterfinal run at the World Cup in 2002 and, at one time, had the U.S. ranked fourth in the world.
In terms of supporter strength, the Galaxy fan base, although small for the EPL, would probably surprise many Europeans. The average attendance for Galaxy home matches in the 2013, has been 21,764. That number will likely continue to increase as the end of the MLS season approaches and the playoff race intensifies. And, Galaxy attendance actually exceeds what Queens Park Rangers, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City drew in the 2012-13 EPL season.
Playing the Top Teams
There is little question that, no matter which players the Galaxy could bring in with their additional Premier League money and no matter how well Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan played, that the Galaxy would struggle against the top teams in the league.
Even though David Moyes is sure to go through his struggles replacing legend Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, there is simply too much talent, as well as perhaps the greatest competitive spirit of any team in football, on Manchester United for the Galaxy to get anything out of either leg against the Red Devils.
Manchester City is also sure to face new challenges integrating a host of new players into their international all-star squad with a new man in charge as well, but the Galaxy simply can’t match up with City’s talent level and lose both games.
Chelsea should be back among the leaders of the EPL again this season, especially with the return of the Special One, Jose Mourinho, who turned Stamford Bridge into a fortress during his first run managing Chelsea. However, the Galaxy are lucky enough to catch Chelsea on short rest after a European fixture and take advantage of Chelsea’s “European hangover” to earn a draw at home.
Arsenal has lacked a killer instinct for a few seasons now and their list of transfers in and transfers out this summer isn’t inspiring anyone to believe they will be much better in 2013-14. They could be set for another trophyless season under Arsene Wenger with the pressure at the Emirates continuing to build. Their gung-ho attacking style often leaves them vulnerable to counter-attacks and the Galaxy are able to find two goals in the away fixture for the upset win as the Gunner faithful boo their own squad at home.
Tottenham look set to finally put themselves back among the top four and Champions League football after cruelly missing out the last two years. Manager Andre Villas-Boas has brought in reinforcements and with a singular focus on league success at a top-four finish, they beat the Galaxy in both the home and away fixtures.
Everton will have a new manager as well in Roberto Martinez, but Everton also have one of the greatest “blue-collar” attitudes of any team in world football. With a roster generally devoid of big stars, Everton consistently finish near the top and beat the Galaxy in both the home and away matches.
Total points against the top six teams: 4
The Mid-Table Teams
Brendan Rodgers restored stability, if not excellence, to Liverpool last season and will be looking to continue rebuilding at Anfield this season. However, there will still be bumps in the road and the Galaxy are lucky enough to pick up a point against them at home.
West Bromwich had the fewest draws, seven, of any team in the league last season other than Manchester United. The Galaxy lose at The Hawthorns, but win at home.
Containing Michu would be problematic for the Galaxy defense, but Swansea lost games last year to Aston Villa, Norwich, Stoke, West Ham, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham last year. Michu will get loose to guide Swansea to a victory at Liberty Stadium, but the Galaxy capitalize on Swansea’s inconsistency and win their matchup at home.
West Ham United continues to be a team in transition with a roster of EPL journeyman led by a journeyman manager in Big Sam Allardyce. The Galaxy pick up a win at home and a draw on the road versus the Hammers.
Losing Grant Holt, their leading scorer from 2012-13, isn’t going to do Norwich City any favors this season. They battle well, however, and hold the Galaxy to two draws.
Fulham always plays well in front of the Craven Cottage faithful and beats the Galaxy on the road. However, the Galaxy are able to pick up a draw at home.
Total points against mid-table teams: 14
The Lower-Half of the Table
This is where the Galaxy must pick up points if they face any chance of avoiding relegation.
Newcastle United dropped all the way from fifth to 16th place last year and are still an inconsistent side under Alan Pardew. They beat the Galaxy on the road, but the Galaxy take a point at St. James Park.
Stoke City have a new manager in Mark Hughes, but they are still Stoke, the team with the most draws last season. Nobody likes to tie as much as Stoke and the Galaxy pick up one point in both the home and away fixtures.
Aston Villa narrowly avoided relegation last season, but will look to be much improved in 2013-14. They were able to hold onto Christian Benteke, who will go wild, scoring a hat-trick against the Galaxy at Villa Park. However, he will be injured when Villa visit the Galaxy and despite a heroic effort by Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan, the Galaxy get the win.
Welsh side Cardiff City will be enjoying its first-ever season in the Premier League and just hoping to avoid relegation. The Galaxy will tie Cardiff both at home and away.
Another relegation candidate, newly promoted Crystal Palace will just be hoping to stay up as well. The Galaxy will take advantage of its opportunity and pick up four points v. Palace with a win at home and a draw on the road.
Veteran manager Steve Bruce will be looking to guide Hull City to safety in their latest foray into Premier League football. The Galaxy will pick up a surprise win at the KC, but will disappointingly drop all three points in the home fixture.
Sunderland were guided to safety at the death last season by volatile manager Paolo Di Canio and will be hoping for much smoother sailing in 2013-14. The Galaxy will lose at the Stadium of Light, but pick up a valuable point at home.
After being promoted at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, Southampton found safety with 41 points in 2012-13. They will certainly be among the relegation candidates again this year and will beat the Galaxy at home, but lose on the road.
Total points against the lower-half of the table: 19
Do They Survive Relegation?
With a projected total of 37 points from 38 fixtures, the Galaxy would be right in the middle of the relegation battle. Over the last five Premier League seasons, the average number of points needed to survive has been 37.2.
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