For Part I of my Premiership Preview, Click Here
Predicting this Premiership season could prove to be a fool’s errand, with the top looking completely open and the bottom being a crap shoot as to who starts well and who can make the necessary acquisitions in January to steer away from trouble. Instead of doing my forecast for the table in numerical order, I am going to start with the prognostication I feel strongest about and then work down to the positions I am basically rolling a dice on (N.B. Last year, I predicted that West Brom – who ended up 8th – would be bottom, so take the below with a pinch of salt, a dash of lemon juice, and a healthy serving of cynicism).
5th Place – Tottenham Hotspur Waffles The fact is, Spurs could be top at Christmas, Arsenal bottom, yet somehow they would contrive a way to finish above their North London rivals for the 459th time in a row (okay 19th, but seriously, what’s the difference at this point). Losing Bale looks inevitable, but Andre Villas-Boas showed much tactical acumen (last season, he actually made substitutions that worked, even when I disagreed with them…who changes their left-back when you need a goal?) and seems to have gelled the team together in a manner that many of his predecessors failed to do. If the Waffles can recruit another
Belgianstriker and get a good replacement in for Bale, then they might have a chance of a cup run, or look like they are going to be in the Champions League until the final day. One way or another, we will end up fifth. Side note – the NBC (who will be taking over the broadcasting of live games in the US this season) commercial with Jason Sudekis as an American football coach in charge of Tottenham would have been a lot funnier had he not seemed more competent than our one time manager, Christian Gross.
- Champions – Chelsea I really did not want to predict that they were going to win the title, but it is really hard to argue with Jose Mourinho’s record of success and he has proven that he has the ability to win a title in his first season at a club, having done so in both London and Milan. The Blues have added tough-tackling Andre Schurrle from Bayer Leverkusen to their already strong midfield – expect Eden Hazard to build on his excellent first season in the Premiership – and, if they can add some firepower up front in the form of Wayne Rooney or Romelu Lukaku, who is back at the club following a successful spell on loan at West Brom last season; or if they can get Fernando Torres back to the form of which he is capable) then the league title could be a walk in the park for the Stamford Bridge outfit.
- 2nd – Manchester City; 3rd – Arsenal or quite possibly, the other way around, depending on whether or not Arsenal can add a top class striker to their ranks before the transfer window slams shut. New boss Manuel Pelligrini has recruited well in his first month at Manchester City, bringing in to go alongside Fernandinho and Jesus Navas, who were signed before his appointment. The subtraction of trouble makers Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, who will both now be playing in Serie A for Juventus and Milan respectively, will actually be an addition to the chemistry of the squad; but Pelligrini will need to adjust to life in the Premiership quickly if his team are to make any impression on the title race. As I have said before, if Wenger can capitalize on being the only manager still in his job from last season’s top four, then Arsenal could well finish even higher than my prediction of third, but until they strengthen their squad – and starting XI – I cannot see them pipping the billionaire clubs of City and Chelsea.
Relegation places – Crystal Palace, Hull City Tigers, Stoke City Predicting that Crystal Palace will be relegated from the Premiership is perhaps as easy as a Groundhog prognosticating on February 2nd that there will be six more weeks of winter (which begins on March 21st, just over 6 weeks later) since they have never avoided demotion from it on their four previous attempts. Their manager, Ian Holloway, is loved by journalists for the fact that he gives funny quotes and makes their jobs easy, but the fact is on his one previous opportunity to manage at this level, his Blackpool team were relegated. Steve Bruce, boss of the Hull City
Pumas JaguarsTigers has more experience in the Premiership, but I do not think that his squad will be strong enough to stay up; and while Stoke have established themselves as a top flight side of the last five seasons, this will be their first campaign without Tony Pulis in charge and Mark Hughes is nowhere near as good a manager as he believes himself to be. As for the order of the bottom three, I will go with Crystal Palace 20th, Hull City Siberian Tigers 19th, and Stoke City 18th.
- 10th – West Ham United West Ham have invested £15m on retaining Andy Carroll on a permanent basis from Liverpool, following his loan spell last year and have signed Stewart Downing – whom Spurs once tried to sign and were willing to throw Gareth Bale in as a makeweight – for £5m also from Anfield . Sam Allardyce makes his sides hard to beat and in all likelihood, there will be a couple of notable home triumphs which get the supporters excited (maybe the scalp of Manchester United with a 1-0 victory, thanks to a Kevin Nolan penalty), but that will be combined with a tepid 3-0 defeat away at Fulham, or a 5-0 thrashing at Sunderland. When push comes to shove, the Hammers are unlikely to be fighting for a European place, but they are unlikely to get relegated from the Premiership for a third time – at least not this year.
6th – Liverpool Having been born in 1981, it is bizarre for me to think of Liverpool as an afterthought in the title race, let alone think it unlikely they will challenge for a top four spot, given the dominance they had in English football during that decade. Still no titles since 1990, they have been usurped in domestic success by Manchester United and have not competed in the European Cup – which they have lifted five times – since 2009/10. If he can keep Luis Suarez and convince him not to sulk, then Brendan Rodgers will have a team that can compete with anyone on their day, but not the squad depth to challenge over the course of the season; while if the Uruguayan leaves, then they might bring in some replacements, but it is unlikely to have any effect on their overall place. The Reds are definitely weaker than the top four, probably still lag behind the Spurs Waffles, but are comfortably better than most of the other teams in the division – so sixth sounds like their level, for now at least.
- 4th – Manchester United Although this would represent their lowest finish in the Premiership era, that would not be a complete surprise given the huge gap that has been left by the departure from the manager’s desk of Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie was able to paper over the cracks in United’s team last year, taking them to a 20th league title despite their inadequacies in central midfield, where only Michael Carrick performed consistently well throughout the season, and in their defense, where they allowed 43 goals, 10 more than the previous campaign and the most they had conceded since 2001/2, when they finished third. If Robin Van Persie can play for all 38 games and continue his impressive form of the last few years, then I do not see United dropping out of the Champions League places, but they would require a high-profile recruit of the magnitude of either Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo returning if they are to make a serious run at retaining their title.
- 7th – Everton It’s tempting to think that Everton could drop off completely from the regular top-half finishes that David Moyes’ achieved in recent seasons, especially as new manager, Roberto Martinez, only seemed to get his troops playing in the final three months of the year during his tenure at Wigan. However, last season’s FA Cup triumph, combined with his time at Swansea City, provide evidence of an able coach who, given more resources than he enjoyed in his last job, should represent hope for the Everton faithful of life after Moyes.
- 17th – Cardiff There is usually one promoted side who manage to avoid the drop in the following season in the Premiership and the team that looks best equipped to do that this year are Cardiff City. They have financial backing behind them and their owners have invested heavily this summer, consistently breaking the club’s record transfer fee as they have brought in Andreas Cornelius (£7.5m), Steven Caulker (£8m), and Gary Medel (£11m). Nobody will enjoy playing against Cardiff, home or away, since their fans are known to be trouble makers (the one fixture I went to between Tottenham and the Welsh side saw their supporters brought in via escorted buses and then caged in the away section, in a manner that seemed more fitting to the awful hooligan years of the 1970s and 80s). Nevertheless, if they can make themselves hard to beat, especially in South Wales, they could well hang about longer than a lot of people would like in the Premiership.
- 9th – Aston Villa Considering the fact that they only secured their top flight status in the final week of the 2012/13 season, this is something of a bold prediction for Villa’s chances. However, manager Paul Lambert has a talented young squad and he has retained all of his main assets over the summer, including striker Christian Benteke, who had put in a transfer request, but then later withdrew it and signed a new contract. After the struggles of the last two campaigns, this one has the look of being a lot less stressful for the home supporters at Villa Park.
- 8th – Swansea A lot depends on how the Welsh side cope with the challenges of being in the Europa League, which they qualified for by winning the League Cup in February, as they will now face the prospect of playing fixtures on a Thursday and Sunday throughout the first part of the campaign (at least). Nevertheless, the Swansea players will relish this chance to play in European competition and, if last year’s best piece of transfer business, Michu, can continue to deliver the goals, there is no reason why they cannot finish in the top half of the Premiership for the second successive season.
- 11th – Norwich Manager Chris Hughton has been busy in the transfer market this summer and he has added (among others) Leroy Fey, Javier Garrido, Gary Hooper and Ricky von Wolfswinkel to his squad in an attempt to consolidate their top flight status. Last year’s campaign was a strange one for Norwich, they enjoyed a 10 match unbeaten league run, but were also in danger of relegation until the penultimate fixture. With a stronger squad and a good home support, the Canaries should not be in such peril again this season.
- 16th – West Brom I cannot be confident with Albion after they proved me so wrong last year, but I think the lack of Romelu Lukaku up front is going to be a big miss for them. HIs 19 goals propelled West Brom to mid-table in 2012/13 and now that he has returned to Chelsea, Steve Clarke is going to need to find somebody to replace him this month, otherwise it could be a long season for Albion fans.
- 12th Southampton; 13th Fulham; 14th, Sunderland; 15th Newcastle Okay this is basically everybody else in the division and the approximate order I think they will finish in. If Taraabt and Berbatov click, Martin Jol could lead Fulham into the top half, but that is a big “if”; Newcastle could struggle again if they give too much power to their new Director of Football – Joe Kinnear – and take it away from Alan Pardew, who was Manager of the Year in 2011/12; Sunderland are allegedly going to be the fittest team in the Premiership under the regime of the fascist supporting Italian, Paolo DiCanio, who has apparently made all the training run on time; and Southampton will be alright, maybe look like they might go down for a bit, then beat Spurs at St. Mary’s December 21st to spark a revival and end up midtable.
So my final table prediction is:
2. Manchester City
4. Manchester United
5. Tottenham Hotspur Waffles
9. Aston Villa
10. West Ham United
11. Norwich City
12. Newcastle United
16. West Bromwich Albion
17. Cardiff City
18. Stoke City
19. Hull City Tiger Beer
20. Crystal Palace
As for the rest of the competitions:
FA Cup: Arsenal; League Cup: Chelsea; Champions League: Real Madrid; Europa League: Manchester City (after dropping out of the Champions League in the Group Stage); Premiership top scorer: Robin Van Persie; World Cup: Argentina to beat Belgium (More Waffles!) in the final.
I am also opening up this page to other predictions – there are some listed below and feel free to leave your own in the comments section.
Rob Kirby (Arsenal fan, contributor to Cult Football; Twitter: @tyrannosoccer)
Top Four: 1. Chelsea; 2. Manchester City; 3. Manchester United; 4. Arsenal
Relegated Teams: Stoke City; Hull City Bengal Tigers; Crystal Palace
Premiership Top Scorer: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
FA. Cup: Chelsea; League Cup: Manchester City Champions League: Barcelona; Europa League: Shaktar Donetsk; World Cup: Brazil
Tyler Carpenter (Arsenal fan, contributor to Cult Football)
Top Four: 1. Chelsea; 2. Arsenal; 3. Manchester City; 4. Manchester United
Relegated Teams: Southampton; Crystal Palace; Cardiff
Premiership Top Scorer: Robin Van Persie (Manchester United)
FA. Cup: Chelsea; League Cup: Arsenal; Champions League: Bayern Munich; Europa League: Tottenham Hotspur Waffles; World Cup: Brazil
Laurence Weinstein (Liverpool & Port Vale fan; contributor to Cult Football; Twitter: @uccoachlarry)
Top Four: 1. Chelsea; 2. Manchester City; 3. Arsenal; 4. Tottenham Hotspur Waffles
Relegated Teams: Sunderland; Crystal Palace; Hull City Tiger Woods
Premiership Top Scorer: Robin Van Persie (Manchester United)
FA. Cup: Chelsea; League Cup: West Ham United; Champions League: Paris Saint Germain; Europa League: Napoli; World Cup: Germany
Sean Morrissey (Spurs, Capitals & Redskins fan. Twitter: @Morrissey81)
Top Four: 1. Manchester United; 2. Chelsea; 3. Tottenham Hotspur Waffles; 4. Arsenal
Relegated Teams: Sunderland, Cardiff City, Stoke City
Premiership Top Scorer: Robin Van Persie (Manchester United)
FA. Cup: Chelsea; League Cup: Liverpool; Champions League: Borussia Dortmund; Europa League: Ajax; World Cup: Germany
George Joseph (Contributor to Cult Football)
Top Four: 1. Chelsea; 2. Manchester City; 3. Tottenham Hotspur Waffles; 4. Manchester United
Relegated Teams: Sunderland, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace
Premiership Top Scorer: Christian Benteke
FA. Cup: Arsenal; League Cup: Liverpool; Champions League: Barcelona; Europa League: Atletico Madrid; World Cup: Brazil
And finally, my predictions for the opening weekend of the season:
Liverpool vs Stoke – Home win
Arsenal vs Aston Villa – Home win
Norwich vs Everton – Draw
Sunderland vs Fulham – Home win
West Brom vs Southampton – Away win
West Ham vs Cardiff – Home win
Swansea vs Manchester United – Home win
Crystal Palace vs Tottenham Hotspur Waffles – Away win
Chelsea vs Hull City Tiger Lily – Home win
Manchester City vs Newcastle – Home win