Over the last month, while I have been preparing to write this preview for the 2014/15 Premier League season, I have only been able to envision one team winning the title: Chelsea. Jose Mourinho has an incredible record in his second year at all of the clubs he has managed (lifting the domestic title with Porto, Chelsea, Internazionale and Real Madrid in such campaigns) and this will be his sophomore season in his return to Stamford Bridge. Add to that the fact that they have invested very shrewdly in the summer with the signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa – filling two of their main holes in their team from last year – and all I could imagine was Chelsea topping the Premier League and to be honest, the odds are on that happening.
However, in the last week I have started to doubt this viewpoint – after all, I had Argentina claiming the World Cup every time I filled out a bracket – sometimes, things are just too obvious. For the last seven days, the image of one other club lifting the league title just could not be shaken from my head – so which team?
Arsenal: the arch-rivals to the side I support and who have brought in the Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez during the summer, strengthening their options up front, while they have the best collection of creative midfielders this side of the German national team. On that note, they have also hired a fitness coach from Die Mannschaft and that should help them avoid them suffering the costly injuries of recent campaigns, last year most notably to Aaron Ramsey, who looked stronger than ever in the Community Shield last Sunday. Nevertheless, there is still a fragility in Arsene Wenger’s side in the centre of defense and they would need a dramatic improvement in their results away from home against their main rivals if they were to make the leap from fourth to first this year.
Manchester City – the reigning champions and a team that has maintained stability this summer by securing David Silva and Sergio Aguero on long-term deals, while only adding a couple of new faces, including the veteran Frank Lampard on loan from the new MLS club, NYCFC. Although the Citizens will be strong once again this campaign, but I think their primary focus will be the Champions League and their domestic challenge will falter as their progress in Europe.
Liverpool – the club that finished second behind City in 2013/14 and were within a Steven Gerrard slip of maybe claiming their first title since 1990. They have invested wisely and brought in three of Southampton’s best players: Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert, while Brendan Rogers showed how much improvement he can garner…wait, they sold Luis Suarez? No chance – they will be out of the top four this season.
Manchester United – now led by self-proclaimed genius Louis Van Gaal (to be fair, a lot of people in the media seem to agree with that prognostication). Many pundits are tipping United to be back among the title contenders, I’m assuming they have not looked at the Red Devils squad list and seen that their central defensive options amount to Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Look for Tim Krul to make a crucial save from the penalty spot to deny Manchester United a victory against Newcastle. Poetic justice.
Everton – a side that made significant progress both stylistically and results wise last year under the guidance of Roberto Martinez. However, though they have improved their playing squad with the addition of Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry as permanent transfers over the summer, both of them were at Goodison Park last term on loan, so their team has not actually progressed from where they were in 2013/14. I think they will be competitive in the league, but the added pressure of the Europa League will see them drift away from the top four by March.
So who is my pick for the title this year? Well despite all available logic; the inevitable stick I will receive for saying this – especially from Chelsea and West Ham fans; not to mention my years of pessimism over my own team (I’d link to articles proving the point, but it would be simpler to just read any single article I’ve written about football in the last three years) – but yes, my prediction for the 2014/15 Premier League champions is: Tottenham Hotspur. I could back this up with statistics showing that in the seasons following a World Cup, they has been a disproportionate number of surprises league winners in the major European leagues; or pointing to a strong pre-season for Spurs; not to mention the recruitment of Mauricio Pochettino as manager, who helped Southampton progress so far they were plundered of many of their best players this summer (and of course for Pochettino himself). But the statistics do not mean anything really; friendlies mean absolutely nothing; and I was actually against the recruitment of Pochettino in the first place, mainly because of his dismissive attitude towards the F.A. Cup last season.
There is no logical explanation for the choice, but I just have a feeling that this year is going to be the first time in my lifetime that Tottenham do not underperform, flatter to deceive, or waste good opportunities. They have the squad to do it and yes it will mean getting turn around seasons from the two most expensive signings in the club’s history – Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado; the young players who have shown promise will need to deliver; and it will require Chelsea not to be as good as they appear to be right now (as well as the five other teams who finished above us in 2013/14). The odds are long on it happening, but quite frankly, I do not care – I firmly believe Spurs are winning the title. I say this knowing that supporters of other teams will be throwing this back at me the moment Tottenham slip up (for example on Saturday against West Ham, who beat us three times last year); but again, I do not care. This is happening and the final proof to me happened two days ago.
I was in Reno, Nevada for one night and as I walked through the Peppermill Casino in which I was staying, I saw the sports book. After checking in, I decided to go back there and put $5 on Tottenham to win the title – putting my money where my mouth is. I went up and asked for the odds for winning the 2014/15 Premier League, expecting to get something in the region of 66/1. What price did I get? Nothing. They did not even accept bets on the English Premier League and my $5 remained unspent (at least until I found the blackjack table when it joined two of its friends in my overall losses for the evening – but hey, three free beers while playing covers the $15 loss in my book!). If anything guarantees that Spurs are going to win the league, it is me making the out-of-character decision to back them and then not being able to do so.
One final note on this, the pessimism of my Tottenham posts from the last three years is gone (at least for now) and I am totally convinced that this will be our season – a sentence that I try to avoid quoting if results are bad in the opening few weeks and I am calling for Pochettino’s dismissal by the end of September.
As for the rest of the league – well if Spurs win the Premier League I do not really care where anybody else finishes, but here’s my prediction for the table anyway, plus my picks for the opening weekend of the season. The other thing I will say is that before Crystal Palace and Tony Pulis parted company on Thursday, the Eagles were going to be in midtable, now I cannot see them avoiding the drop.
Predicted Premier League Table
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Leicester City
- West Ham
- Hull City
- Aston Villa
- Swansea City
- West Brom
- Crystal Palace
Week 1 Predictions
Home teams listed first
Manchester United vs Swansea – Home win
Leicester vs Everton – Home win
QPR vs Hull City – Draw
Stoke vs Aston Villa – Draw
West Brom vs Sunderland – Away win
West Ham vs Tottenham – Away win
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace – Home win
Liverpool vs Southampton – Draw
Newcastle vs Manchester City – Away win
Burnley vs Chelsea – Draw