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Premier League Predictions

Friday 8th July 2011
Yes it's that time of year again, when everyone starts to wonder what the season has in store for their team and where they'll end up come May next year. Some are hopeful, some are wildly ambitious and most are completely based on guesswork. So then, here's my two cents worth:

Arsenal – After the mass exodus that we've seen from the Emirates in recent weeks this is going to be a season of transition for Arsenal. Clichy and Nasri both played integral roles within the side and will be difficult to replace. Fabregas is another goner and with no sign of world class replacements, it will be up to the much vaunted younger players to step up. If they manage that then Arsene will be vindicated. If not, then many questions will be asked.

My Prediction: 5th

Aston Villa – Villa have been an interesting team to follow during the break. I'm not going to get into the whole politics behind it but in Alex McLeish they have a talented manager. Yet no matter how talented he is, losing Ashley Young was a hammer blow to their preparations and with Stewart Downing heading for the exit, it'll be hard to find a good enough replacement. Even more worrying was losing Friedel who has proven to be consistently brilliant season after season. Lerner doesn't seem to want to part with any more money than he has to and Villa's hopes look like resting on Darren Bent finding his scoring boots. Another mid-table slot for Villa.

My Prediction: 10th

Blackburn Rovers – Blackburn, for my money, would have been destined for the drop last season if Steve Kean had been in charge from the start of the campaign. Steve is a nice guy but he's one of those people who are better suited as an assistant rather than the main man. The Indian takeover promised much but has cost them a much better manager in Sam Allardyce and it hasn't brought any major signings in despite that outrageous attempt to woo Ronaldinho. There's talk of Robbie Keane coming in but Blackburn will struggle this season. They'll stay up but only once Kean has been relieved of his duties.

My Prediction: 16th

Bolton Wanderers – Here's the thing about Bolton, they're just a solid lower mid-table side. Season after season they're around 14th/15th and deservedly so. Some of their performances last season were great to watch but with the loss of Elmander they really need to work on bringing Sturridge back to the Reebok. If they can fight off the interest for Cahill then they may just improve but at the very least they'll be right where they finished last season.

My Prediction: 14th

Chelsea – There's a real buzz around Stamford Bridge this season. Despite United strengthening their squad, most of the media focus has been on Chelsea and Andre Villas-Boas. Chelsea have got themselves arguably the most talented manager in Europe. His record last season speaks for itself: 4 trophies, only 2 European losses and undefeated domestically. Of course there is a difference between doing all that with Porto and doing that with Chelsea but right now, Villas-Boas can walk on water. For once we might see a return to the attacking football at the Bridge and maybe he can get the whole team energised towards that goal. He still needs to get rid of the ageing deadwood but if the rumours are true he'll be given a substantial budget to work with. I don't think they'll win the league but don't rule out an F.A Cup and Champions League double.

My Prediction: 2nd

Everton – Everton, as yet haven't really been that active in the transfer market. Other than letting James Vaughan go to Norwich it's been all quiet on the Goodison front. I see this as a year where Beckford has to step up. Everton have a good setup with a nice mix of young and experienced players but they have to stop relying on Tim Cahill to win them games. They have a habit of grinding out wins but the league is becoming more and more competitive which could catch up with them. I'm being positive and presuming Beckford will improve over the season.

My Prediction: 7th

Fulham – It's going to be a long old season for Fulham. In fact, they've already started so they're losing a month on their rivals but luckily for them most of the squad have been here before so will know what to expect. I don't expect a remarkable Europa League campaign like two seasons ago but that will help their league performance. Martin Jol is a capable manager and Fulham have a good team that could beat anyone in the league on their day. They're not going to set the world alight but another top half finish could be on the cards.

My Prediction: 9th

Liverpool – How many of you fancied Liverpool to challenge for the league this season? I'll hold my hand up and say that I was one of them but just recently I haven't been able to see it. United have added superb talent, Chelsea have a spring in their step and City still have the bank balance of a sizeable country. Liverpool, on the other hand, are looking to the best of British. Henderson's in, Adam's on his way and only a small leeway in negotiations is holding up the Downing transfer. On paper their squad is looking immensely talented with Suarez, Carroll and Gerrard in there too. Except when you look at the three I mentioned earlier. I still think they'll just have too much for Liverpool, especially as there'll still be some of the inconsistent results that Liverpool produced last season. A year of steady progress I think with Champions League football the reward.

My Prediction: 4th

Manchester City – Ah City, the club that pretty much carries Sky Sports News through the months up until the season kicks off. Except this season something different is happening, they aren't spending ridiculous amounts of money on players. Sure, they've signed Clichy but that was for a mere 7 million which is way under what he'd normally be valued if he hadn't been out of contract next summer. They've brought in Savic too but for £6 million, a drop in City's ocean of riches. They'll still be on huge contracts but there's no “Manchester City to sign Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney” headline. In fact City find themselves in a strange position this season, Tevez wants out and they've missed out on Alexis Sanchez while Samir Nasri looks poised to join their Manchester rivals. I'm sure they'll make one big money signing – probably David Villa, but they're learning what it's like to have to fight off competition. But of course they'll have enough money to finish 3rd.

My Prediction: 3rd

Manchester United – And so we come to the champions. They were simply magnificent in the second half of last season. In Sir Alex Ferguson they have possibly the best British manager of all time (my vote still goes to Cloughie) if not simply the best of all time. His hunger is still there and he will relish the challenge of beating a rejuvenated Chelsea. Look at who he's brought in too – Jones and De Gea are exceptional talents and the whole league knows what an impact Ashley Young can have on a game. Should they bring in Nasri then it will truly be a world class midfield and that's without the rumours of them signing Sneijder. They're going to have a fearsome team this season but they can't afford to suffer their usual slow start. The first month of fixtures are horrible for United this season and they must pick up as many points as possible. Over the course of the season though they should still be well clear of 3rd and 4th and should find a comfortable enough gap to 2nd place. The only hope the rest of the league has is if De Gea doesn't live up to expectations but he's been on the big stages before so that is probably clutching at straws.

My Prediction: 1st

Newcastle United – Newcastle made it back into the big time last season and did a pretty good job. They played some nice stuff, found a great trio in Barton, Nolan and Caroll and deserved their 12 place. Well now it's a case of new season, new Toon. Caroll went in January and a few weeks ago we had the debacle of Nolan joining West Ham after Pardew appeared to be letting a prized asset go. Now Joey Barton is leaving, be it this summer or next which leaves the trio completely disbanded. Pardew has tried to rectify this by signing a lot of young French talent. The fans will hope that they're more David Ginola than Laurent Robert but only time will tell. The one to watch for me this season is Hatem Ben Arfa. A real talent and his season was cruelly cut short last year. If he really turns up then a top half finish could be on the cards.  Having said that, I'm going to play it safe and suggest that it'll be a good mid-table spot for the Geordies.

My Prediction: 11th

Norwich – We come to the first of the newly promoted teams so welcome to the Premier League you Canaries, please take a seat. Don't get too comfy though, I think you'll have to leave soon enough. The problem with Norwich lies behind the scenes. The money still isn't there for them to compete in this league. Paul Lambert is a talented manager with good contacts and he got Norwich into 2nd place in the Championship through grit, determination and a little bit of fierce tackling. The players they've signed are mainly standout talents from the Football League, with the exception of James Vaughan, which seems to me as though they are preparing for life as a yo-yo club for the next few seasons and are aiming to replicate West Brom. If Grant Holt can make the step up from star Championship striker to team talisman in the Premier League then they may get a few surprise results but ultimately they're destined for the drop. It'll be nice to see Premier League football return to Carrow Road though as the fans always seem to fill it out come rain or shine.

My Prediction: 19th

Queens Park Rangers – If Norwich don't have enough money to compete then QPR have enough to win the league 10 times over. The problem is that the owners don't want to spend it on the club. It seems as though they see QPR as a stable investment, not something to through money at as that is a way to end up in a dire financial state. I think that there are some good players coming QPR's way but there is this whole issue of managerial uncertainty getting in the way. Craig Mackail-Smith turned down a move because he couldn't be given assurances that Warnock would be staying as manager. I'm sure a few other players would feel the same way and Warnock would not want to conduct business if he knew he wouldn't be managing them. If they hold on to Taarabt then they have a chance of survival but if they cash in then the money has to be spent on proven Premier League performers.

My Prediction: 18th

Stoke City – Stoke are very much a love or hate team. I personally love them and am happy to see them slowly climbing their way up the table and I also feel they get too much stick for assumingly playing long ball football. I'm very much a lover of beautiful football but I don't think Stoke are guilty of playing ugly football. With Pennant and Etherington they have creative playmakers and most of Stoke's goals seem to come from set pieces anyway which they should be given credit for; you have to work on set pieces, you can't just hit and hope. That's also without mentioning their defence which was at times unbreakable last year.Tony Pulis is a shrewd manager and his attempt to bring Scott Dann and Cameron Jerome to the Britannia is a great move. Dann is one of England's two best centre-backs (Phil Jones being the other) and was a rock in the Birmingham defence last season. If he can also bring in Jerome, he would complement Kenwyne Jones nicely. I think Stoke will still improve only slightly this season but they're still getting further and further from the drop.

My Prediction: 12th

Sunderland – Who would have thought of Sunderland as one of this season's biggest movers in the transfer market? I really like this Sunderland team and Bruce has finally started using his contacts well. Signing Asamoah Gyan was an absolute coup and I back him to be on fire this season as well as Cattermole. Losing Henderson was a blow, but it was an inevitable blow and there is still some of that £20 million left over. Brown and O'Shea will add experience to an already firm defence which now boasts the permanent presence of Elmohamady (had him in my Dream Team last year, unbelievably consistent). The only problem that Sunderland have is that one of Campbell, Wickham and Dong-Won has to make more of an impact but the future, for now, looks bright in Mackem territory.

My Prediction: 8th

Swansea City – To the last of the promoted teams then and what can we say about Swansea? It's nice to have a Welsh club in the Premier League and it's also nice to have a new underdog to support. Unfortunately that's what Swansea are this season, big underdogs, but they have a few things going for them. Top of the list is the way that Swansea approach the game. They were sublime to watch last season and deservedly triumphed in the playoffs. The issue is that they scored comparatively few goals compared to Norwich and QPR (who will also struggle) but their saving grace is their tight defence which was only bettered by QPR last season. They need to try and get players like Borini back but whatever happens, Swansea will be entertaining to watch this season.

My Prediction: 20th

Tottenham Hotspur – It was like a tale of two half-seasons for Spurs last year. During the first half they were brilliant and that 3-2 win over Arsenal at the Emirates will live long in the memory. The second half was not so great and it was clear that competing on so many fronts was taking its toll on a team with a defence that's injury prone anyway. The return match against Arsenal at White Hart Lane showed glimpses of the Spurs from before Christmas but other instances were few and far between. Spurs have such a good midfield and a decent strikeforce but they are poor defensively. Gomes is statistically one of the best keepers in the league but the stats don't show the four or five big mistakes he'll make throughout a season. Bringing Friedel gives Harry some rotation in that area but they need to sign some better defenders as well as a powerful striker – Hulk was linked but I think the fee might be too much. Harry is going to fight tooth and nail to keep Modric but if Chelsea are willing to pay big money for the Croatian then I'd let him go and strengthen at the back, where the team needs it most.

My Prediction: 6th

West Bromwich Albion – West Brom finally cracked it last season. No longer a yo-yo club, they now need to consolidate and I think Roy Hodgson is the right man for the job. Roy was unceremoniously and in my view unfairly dumped out of Liverpool last season but what a way to bounce back. Hodgson took West Brom clear of the drop and got them to produce some great performances, not least from Odemwingie who was in superb form towards the end of the term. They need to bring in a replacement for Carson and just add strength in depth to an already strong squad. Roy will already know who he needs to bring in and West Brom will be around about where they were last time out but at least they won't be yo-yoing anymore.

My Prediction: 13th

Wigan Athletic – How did Wigan stay up last season? It was an absolute miracle. I remember looking through the squads last August and thinking “Wigan really have nothing going for them”. The only players with any proven talent were N'Zogbia and Rodallega and the latter didn't even play that well in 2010/11. But stay up they did, thanks to two big wins in the last two games and here we are welcoming them to the 2011/12 campaign. Wigan must have something up their sleeve otherwise why would Martinez reject Villa, unless he saw what the job had done to Houllier. They've signed Al-Habsi, kept N'Zogbia and with a couple of other signings they could, just could be alright. They may even bring in Shaun Wright-Phillips! After last season, anything is possible.

My Prediction: 17th

Wolverhampton Wanderers – Wolves were unlucky last season; really, really unlucky. The amount of times that they either had a lead snatched from them late on or the woodwork denied them was ridiculous. They're a good team and they have a good team spirit going on there (think back to when Elokobi drenched McCarthy). If they get a bit more luck then they'll be well clear of the drop zone and the move to bring in O'Hara on a permanent deal was a good bit of business by McCarthy, even at the pricey sum of £5 million. There's plenty of depth in the squad, they've just got to earn the luck!

My Prediction: 15th

 

Written by Tom Davidson. I'm also on twitter @tom_davidson.

 
Tom Davidson

Total articles: 5

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