It’s the most exciting time of the football season, as the friendly matches come to an end and the fixtures that count begin this weekend, with everything possible and fans dreaming that this could be a big year for their club. It is a fresh slate now, everyone starts on zero points and has the opportunity to…
Urgh, I can’t do this. Maybe for most teams, there can be a sense of enormous optimism surrounding the new season. But I’m a Tottenham fan and let’s be honest, this year is going to be just as disappointing as all of the others. It is honestly a coincidence that my last post of 2014/15 was after the North London derby – Spurs did go rapidly downhill after that peak, but I was working on another project that took up all my writing time. But any hope I might have had in that post (and looking back at it, there was not much, since I correctly predicted they would be back below Arsenal within three days) was evaporated by the end of another poor season, albeit one that we somehow managed to finish fifth on the final day (thanks for thrashing Liverpool, Stoke!).
There are some major danger signs heading into the new season for Tottenham. The biggest one is how much we will be once against relying on the form of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen to win matches for us. Now Kane was brilliant from November to March, but then tailed off in the final two months of the season. Last year he scored 31 goals in all competitions, including 21 in the Premier League, but what if he is only 80% as effective this campaign? That would still be a very good return (say 16/17 league goals) but his strikes were worth 24 points* to Tottenham last year. So if Harry Kane is very good, but not outstandingly brilliant this time around, then his goals would be worth around 19 points, a five point drop for Spurs.
*As in if you removed Kane’s goals from the final score, how many points would Spurs have dropped. Against Arsenal, he scored both in a 2-1 win, so his value for the match was 3 points, changing it from a loss to a victory. Versus Aston Villa he scored 1 in another 2-1 win, so it is a value of 2 points as it took the team from 1 point to 3.
Of course, last year he did not play in the first dozen or so games, so there is a chance he could be worth even more, but that relies on his not getting injured or missing any playing time, but I’d be surprised if that happens given how much he was relied upon last year, then played for England in the European Under-21 Championships, and has been fielded by Mauricio Pochettino for 70+ minutes of pre-season games, including on Tuesday against Real Madrid, less than four days before the Premier League campaign kicks off at Old Trafford.
Why is this happening? Because Tottenham do not have any other options up front. Last year, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado were often bench-warmers and rarely played after November, but those two enigmatic strikers are likely on their way out before the month is up (to Villa and Villareal respectively) and no replacements appear to be arriving imminently. I’m sure we will do a last-minute, August 31st 11pm deal again for a player who will probably work out just as well as Grzegorz Rasiak did (yes it’s been 10 years since that transfer, but I’ll never forget that all of us away fans at Fulham had to scream at himto jump to challenge for headers in his final match for the club five months later. JUMP!)
Alongside the lack of strikers, we could lose our best player of the last two years (Hugo Lloris) before the transfer window slams (the only verb you can use for the occasion) shut, as he is wanted by both Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain. Also, it appears as though the central midfield will be anchored by a pairing of two out of Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason and, defender, Eric Dier. Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli have all been shipped out, but the most frustrating thing is not that Pochettino is giving the youngster a chance there, I like that, but rather he is not playing the right one. If Tom Carroll is given a run in the side, his range of passing and cool head in the midfield would mean that people would be clamoring for him to be called up to the England team, that’s how good he looks. But, for some reason, odds are that by September 1st, he’ll have been shipped out on loan and some Championship side will get to enjoy watching him this season.
The other sign that this could be a very bad season for Tottenham, is how much they relied upon late goals last year. In 2014/15, they picked up 14 points in the 85th minute or later of matches. On one side, this shows that Pochettino had them fighting fit until the final whistle was blown, which is great, but it would be statistically unrealistic to expect them to grab so many crucial late goals again. So, if say they were to pick 7 points in the final five minutes this campaign, alongside Kane being only 80% as effective, then that’s 12 points removed from last year’s total. In 2014/15, that would have meant finishing 10th in the table and I fully expect that to be around where we end up this year (I’d believe anything from 7th to 14th).
So my first prediction for 2015/16 (which is slightly more than a long-shot than the rest of my prognostications for the division, which I promise I will get to in a minute and leave Spurs alone) is this:
Mauricio Pochettino will be the first Premier League manager to leave his job in 2015/16 – Odds 20/1
I will even predict when it will happen: November 8th, the day we will be thrashed by Arsenal at the Emirates. By then, Tottenham will have played a dozen games, I project they will have a similar number of points to fixtures and Daniel Levy will once again replace his coach. My only hope is the replacement will be Jürgen Klinsmann…
And so, onto the other predictions for this season.
The Top Four will be Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City, in some order – Odds 4/6
These are very short odds because everyone knows it is going to happen. What’s that Liverpool fans, you have Coutinho, Roberto Firminho and Christian Benteke? Great, enjoy fifth place. This will be the top four. But who will win…?
Arsenal to win their first Premier League Title since the Invincibles – Odds 4/1
It’s hard to pick between Chelsea and Arsenal (not least because as a Spurs fan, they’re the two clubs I hate most. Sorry West Ham fans, you only rank third in our hatred.) but I have the awful feeling that one season, Arsene Wenger will actually get his team to click for the entire campaign and this could be the year. If you could guarantee me that Diego Costa would be fit and available for all thirty-eight league matches, I would predict that Jose Mourinho would lead his team back to the title, but if he misses time through injuries and suspension, then Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao might not be enough to see them through. I do think that the top two will be the Blues and Gunners in some order, as neither Manchester club looks ready to win the title back. City may have gotten Raheem Sterling, but they are still too reliant on Sergio Aguero (also injury prone) up front; while Manchester United have a great midfield, but are not as strong as the other contenders in defense or attack.
Bournemouth, Norwich & Watford to be relegated – Odds 14/1
Leicester, Norwich & Watford to be relegated – Odds 22/1
Basically, Bournemouth are the only three of the promoted clubs who I think will have a fair chance of staying up, but even then it will be a hard task for them to do so in their first every year in the Premier League. Leicester only stayed up last season because Nigel Pearson, who does not seem to be a likable person, is an effective manager and had his team playing well all season, but only got the results in the final third of the campaign. Now, they have Claudio Ranieri…oh dear. I do think that Sunderland and Aston Villa could be down in the danger zone again (as well as Spurs before the replace Pochettino) but I think they will once more have enough to escape the drop.
Eden Hazard Top Goalscorer 20/1
This is based on a few assumptions: Hazard will be brilliant again; he will keep taking penalties; he will need to carry Chelsea when Diego Costa is missing; Arsenal will spread their goals out among the team; Aguero will not play 38 matches; Kane won’t be as good as last season. I’m happy with all of those assumptions. Another good bet would be Christian Benteke at Liverpool, currently available at 16/1.
Number of articles I will write complaining about Spurs Over/Under 6.5
Take the over.
Stoke, Newcastle, Everton, Southampton, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Spurs all being outside the top 4 race but above the relegation battle and just playing out the season from mid-March – Odds 1/100,000
Look forward to April 16th, 2015 – Stoke vs Tottenham, winner moves into 9th place! Live on NBC Sports!
My Weekly Predictions Ending up Anywhere near a Winning Record – 1,000,000/1
On that note…
Week 1 Predictions
Home teams listed first
Manchester United vs Tottenham – Big home win
Bournemouth vs Aston Villa – Home win
Everton vs Watford – Home win
Leicester vs Sunderland – Away win
Norwich vs Crystal Palace – Draw
Chelsea vs Swansea – Home win
Arsenal vs West Ham – Home win
Newcastle vs Southampton – Draw
Stoke vs Liverpool – Away win (revenge for the 6-1 thrashing in May)
West Brom vs Manchester City – Draw