Your Rough Guide To The New Premier League SeasonBy: Rob | August 9th, 2010
After a week’s holiday, I’m back. And judging by that news about Martin O’Neill, so is the Premier League. Anyway to make up for my abscene, here is an epic, epic guide to the new season (hastily edited in the case of the Villa entry). Team by Team I’m going to run through each of the sides in the Premier League and preview exactly what they can look forward to in the new season.
Its also traditional at this point (in that I’ve done it for the last two years) for me to make predictions for where everyone is going to finish in the upcoming season. I have done this, but first I have to put a disclaimer, for the first time in years, I have absolutely no idea. My top four features the two clubs from Manchester, last seasons champions and Arsenal, but I genuinely think they could finish in any order, and any of the teams directly below them could crash the party.
If Arsenal buy a goalkeeper, I think they are genuine title contenders again. If Man City’s players gel, its pretty tough to look past them. And Manchester United and Chelsea’s title credentials are obvious.
So at the top, it could easily be the most exciting season of a generation. And at the bottom, the same is posibly true, with any one of at least half a dozen teams looking over their shoulder and staring relegation to the Championship in the face.
Also, before I get on with it, a reminder to join our Fantasy Football league. Its going to be great.
Potentially the final season for Arsene Wenger at the club he’s utterly redefined (remember when Arsenal were “boring boring Arsenal”?) although its pretty tough to imagine him anywhere else now. If it is his final waltz though, he’ll want to go out proving his faith in young players and nice football was right all along. Aresenal haven’t won anything since the 2005 FA Cup, but this season surely is the one where his young guns make the step up? They are now rid of tantrum prone Gallas, and appear to have kept hold of Cesc Fabregas while they’ve added Marouane Chamakh for goals and Laurent Koscielny in defence. Jack Wilshire looked excellent in the pre-season Emirates tournament. But they do need a really quality goalkeeper to win the title you feel. Prediction, 4th.
Villa are stuck in a bit of a rut. They are too good to be a mid-table club, but they don’t quite have enough to make the Champions League spots. Sadly, I can only see the same again this season. The main problem being, well, they haven’t actually bought anyone yet. James Milner is on his bike to Eastlands, but Villa are trying to wring as much money as possible from City, which is fair enough but makes writing a preview of their season tricky, as with only a week untill the kick off, all we really know is that they probably won’t have their best player, and will probably have bought some others. Still, Martin O’Neill is a great coach, even if he looks tired of being stuck in Villa’s rut. Prediction 8th.
Edit – Martin O’Neill has now left Villa, above is what I previously had down for them. Kinda throws a spanner in the predictions eh? But I won’t revise it untill I see who they get in as a replacement.
Last season Birmingham had an excellent year, helped by an incredible run of results that saw draws against the top two and a comfortable ninth place finish. They were helped by the fact that Joe Hart looked absolutely amazing in goal (indeed, all their victories came by scoring just one more than the other team) and alas, he has returned to Manchester City this season. They have however, picked up Ben Foster from Man United who they will be hoping can fill that gap somewhat. They’ve also bought in Niko Zigic, who is Serbian and an inch taller than Peter Crouch. If he can bang in some goals, and Foster can prove a point to Sir Alex, then Birmingham may be in for a repeat of last season and the start of a settled stay in the Premier League. Prediction 10th
As the Paul Ince era fades into memory, one time title contenders-Blackburn look a comfortable mid-table side under Big Sam. Heck, they even played some decent football toward the end of last season. There is absolutely no reason to think that they won’t keep trucking on in the right part of the table, and maybe if things come together, have a good run at the Europa League spots. Prediction 9th.
First a disclaimer, Ian Holloway is a bit of a hero of mine. My team is Bristol Rovers, where he had three spells as a player, and a spell as a manager, and as such is revered. Since then he’s gone on to be a loved/loathed mad-as-a-hatter quote machine, who the press are going to absolutely adore now he’s in the Premier League. And what a job he’s done getting them there – this time last year they were being tipped as relegation candidates from the Championship. They scraped into the playoffs, but here they are in the Premier League, and I’d dearly love to see Holloway pull a miracle out of the hat.
But I don’t see it coming. There usually is one small team each season that does well and surprises you (See, Bradford,Reading, Hull, Stoke or Burnley) but its pretty difficult to predict Blackpool will be that team without resorting to blind hope. Holloway will get his teams to play football, and to be honest if they enjoy their season in the sun, it may well be enough. Prediction 20th
As the Gary Megson era fades into memory…hang on, its a bit familiar. Anyway, Bolton are now well established as a top flight team, and despite occasionally threatening to freefall post-Big Sam, they never have. They have a good strong spine to the team, a great goalkeeper and are now signing players from Real Madrid and Manchester City. Owen Coyle has got them playing football – on the ground! – and their top flight experience means that not only will they finish comfortably ahead of the strugglers, if their new signings slot in nicely, they may even be back to the top half of the table again. Prediction 13th
The top four is looking impossible to predict, but I think Chelsea may well finish the season exactly as they started it, as Champions. Forget the Community Shield loss (and the fact that captain John Terry looked pretty off the pace again) looking at the squads, Chelsea have a side that knows how to win. I’ve been suggesting for awhile they could do with a shake up, which they haven’t really had, but they have quietly been making changes, with high earners like Deco and Joe Cole being shown the door. In has come Yossi Benayoun, who is basically a like for like with Cole. The key really is going to be Europe and if this Roman era doesn’t produce at least one European Cup, the players themselves will be extremely dissapointed. With Real Madrid and Barcelona looking the obvious favourites for that prize (again) they may have to be content with retaining the Premier League title. Prediction 1st
Last season Everton had a serious injury hangover, this season should be much better, although the club won’t be investing in bringing Landon Donovan to the Premier League full time. They have however bought in a striker from the second division in Portugal. That sounds awful, but the guy is 20 years old and I don’t recall Moyes buying anyone really badly – even players who didn’t work out elsewhere seem transformed at Everton. With Jagielka back in defence full time, they genuinely could be knocking on the door for the next level, but will probably be pleased if they can finish above Liverpool and perhaps get hands on a Cup. Both are a genuine possibility. Prediction 7th
Fulham went from relegation-certs to the Europa League final under Roy Hodgson, who of course has moved on to Liverpool. They have bought in Mark Hughes as boss though, who has never ended his spell at any team in a position worse than he’s taken over – although its going to be a big big job to top Roy’s achievements at the club. Hughes though is a good coach, and should do well enough to keep the club from freefalling into serious danger. He struggled a bit to deal with Manchester City’s demands, but he’ll probably find it a bit easier at Fulham, where the star player is Clint Dempsey, not Robinho. Prediction 11th
Liverpool are going to be absolutely fascinating to watch this season. Last season was of course, a disaster – after going from genuine title contenders to breaking up the Big Four (probably for good) by falling out of the Champions League spots and crashing out of Europe’s biggest moneyspinner in the first round. Steven Gerrard spent most of last season sulking, Carragher looked over the hill (and yet still got an England call up), and Torres was injured alot. Rafa Benitez departed and in has come Roy Hodgson, who has worked wonders at Fulham, and probably should do the same at Liverpool. He’s managed to keep Torres and Gerrard, added Joe Cole. It should be a better season on Merseyside, but with the worries about how much longer the owners are going to be in charge, and who is going to replace them (though to be fair, fans would possibly take anyone) it will probably be a season of building a platform for the future. Prediction 6th
This could be controversial, so I’ll get it out of the way quickly – I think City may well finish ahead of United this season. Like I said in the intro (if you can remember that far back) The top four could finish in any order, but I’m going to stick my neck on the block and say City will be above United. It does depend on the team gelling, but crikey what a squad they’ve got. In goal they’ve got the choice between Shay Given and Joe Hart. In defence, Lescott, Toure, Richards and Bridge is pretty solid, in Midfield they have to choose between David Silva, Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure, Patrick Viera, Vincent Kompany, Michael Johnson, Adam Johnson, Steven Ireland, Nigel de Jong and SWP (surely a title winning midfield can picked from that lot?) and up front Adebayour, Tevez, the returning Robinho, and Craig Bellamy, who actually looked quite good last season.
Obviously some of those players are already unhappy, and some will get unhappy if they aren’t playing regularly. But if Roberto Mancini can keep squad harmony, they surely will be title contenders at last. I still think they are a season away from actually taking the title though, but crash landing in the top three and getting a Champions League spot could be the building block to an era of dominance. Prediction 2nd.
Not that I’m writing man United off, of course. But perhaps, United’s time of expected dominance is beginning to wind down. The board might insist that the club has money to spend, but this’ll be the second season in a row that Fergie hasn’t really broken the bank (though he’s rumoured to be in for German World Cup star Ozil still). With more title contenders than ever before, and “noisy neighbours” Manchester City basically buying anyone who’s rumoured to be going to any other club, a finish in fourth isn’t inconceivable. Still, with Wayne Rooney back in a United shirt desperate to prove that actually he is quite good and that in the World Cup he was actually kidnapped and replaced with a lookalike who was actually rubbish, I don’t think that’ll happen. Plus, maybe Rio Ferdinand will play some games this season eh? That’d be nice. Prediction 3rd.
Back after just one season away, the Newcastle circus rolls into town once more. Mike Ashley is still in charge and has given his manager (Chris Hughton, promoted to manager proper after three spells as temporary boss) around £26.47 to spend. Still Newcastle should have enough to survive, they were really too good to go down in the first place (its possibly fair to say the off the field saga of their relegation year may have slightly overshadowed efforts on the pitch). They’ll be buoyed by their tremendous support and by the fact that they won the Championship at an absolute canter last season. They’ve also managed to pick up Dan Gosling, who exploited a loophole in his Everton contract to have it away to the Tyne. They’ve also got Sol Campbell. They’ll be fine. Prediction 14th
How do they do it? Stoke look more and more like Bolton circa-Big Sam by the day. Everyone thinks they are relegation fodder and they take their ugly football and finish mid table (11th last season). Tony Pulis knows how to stay up, and West Brom or Blackpool’s fancey pants football can be damned. But the wheels have got to fall off eventually haven’t they? At some stage teams are going to realise how to deal with their “effective” football and it’ll all go to pot. I’m going to say this won’t be that season though. Prediction 15th.
Comfortable last season, largely thanks to Bent’s goals, this season sees the return of Newcastle, so they’ll be pleased to finish above them, which if Bent keeps scoring, they should do. Steve Bruce tried to buy Steven Ireland, but couldn’t, and so bought, er, Titus Bramble instead. A figure of fun on Wearside from his shambolic Newcastle days, he’s going to have to be really good to win them over, though to be fair, the last couple of the seasons he has looked pretty competent, which considering where he once was, is pretty impressive. Prediction 12th
Last season finally came good on their promise that this was their season – they broke the big four dominance, and nicked a Champions League place ahead of Manchester City. Still, you know what you’ll get with Harry Redknapp, success, then bankruptcy. Although with the promise of Champions League money, Spurs might break that trend, though getting into the top four regularly will now be the target, to ensure future funds. Not that Redknapp is worried, mind, he thinks they are title contenders. The season is pretty open, but I don’t see Spurs lifting the Premier League title come the end. In fact, with the new distraction of the Champions League, they might not quite get into fourth, unless Harry’s got something up his sleeve. Prediction 5th.
Apologies to the monster that is the West Brom Blog, but its going to be a tough season at the Hawthorns. I’ve alot of respect for the club, who not only play great football, but don’t spend ridiculous amounts of money to bankrupt the club in an effort to stay up, and my goal celebration in my school football team was to do “A Di Matteo”. (see left) But I can’t see them staying up realistically. They have however bought Ibanez who apparently was once chased by Juventus. So there you go. Still going down, but they’ll be back. Prediction 18th
Zola’s out and Avram Grant is in, but even with new owners, and the possibility of a shiny new stadium, things are not looking that great at West Ham – the entire first team (expect the only player anyone would want) are for sale, and relegation is a genuine looming possibility. Again. But all things considered Avram Grant worked miracles at Portsmouth last season, and if he can do the same kind of job with West Ham, then they could stay up. Prediction 19th
Wigan were all over the place last season. One minute they’re getting a shock result against a really good side, the next they are being battered 8-0 by the newly crowned Champions. Or losing 9-1 to Spurs. If Roberto Martinez wants to keep Wigan in the Premier League he needs to find consistency, and the desire to grind out a result now and then. They have bought Argie striker Mauro Boselli who is meant to be really good though, so we shall wait and see.
Last but not least, Wolves. Its going to be another year of just staying up at the very least, and they are another club who is in contention for the drop. Alot will depend on new boy Steven Fletcher who scored just 8 goals at Burnley. So he should fit in well with goal-shy Wolves, then. Prediction 16th