Saturday, September 7, 2013

Premiership Predictions

The transfer window is now closed so we can finally assess the runners and riders properly in projected finishing order. The placings will obviously prove to be ultimately incorrect in many instances and many people will disagree - often wildy - with some of the opinions.

The middle of the table in particular is incredibly difficult to differentiate as the squads are often of very comparable quality. Injuries, management and even just a good start could make performances fluctuate hugely. Regardless we have attempted to make a decent fist of it.

1st, Chelsea
Mourinho is back and Chelsea fans expect the Blue Machine to tick back in to gear. It is not quite the well oiled engine it was first time around however with issues in the striking position and in holding midfield.

The opposition however this time around is also not quite what it was and Mourinho should be just enough to tip the balance.

Chelsea had the same amount of points against the top half last season as ManU but 14 fewer against the bottom half. We can expect that ratio to swing.

2nd, Man City
City have jettisoned 3 hugely disruptive influences in Tevez, Balotelli and Mancini. Pellegrini appears to be exerting calm and their squad looks the most balanced and complete in the league with 4 quality new arrivals in the Summer.

Home form should be dominant so how City shape up away from home will dictate the strength of their title challenge, Cardiff did not auger well but it is early days and Pellegrini looks the part.

City are also going to have to come to terms with challenging on two fronts and the CL may prove a distraction if they can go further this time.

3rd, ManU
Many are predicting 'armageddon' for the Reds but we think that Moyes will steady the ship and they have a wealth of experience with big players with a winning mentality. The squad is inferior to the 2 teams above we have mentioned however and Ferguson is a huge loss.

Whoever took over from Ferguson was going to suffer a blip but we still think the Reds have enough big game players to see themselves through the season before the further rebuilding to come. The bookies are still tipping them firmly to finish in the top 3 and we think they are right.

Moyes' tactics will come under scrutiny away from home so it will be essential that the Reds maintain their imperious form at Old Trafford.

4th, Arsenal
It feels a little counter-intuitive but Arsenal simply keep qualifying for the Champions League. We feel there's nothing this time around to suggest it will be any different for reasons that will be explained with reference to the other teams.

Ozil is a fantastic player but not the top quality striker, holding midfielder and centre half that they needed to challenge for higher up. Their squad looks thin but they can still put out a very good first eleven.

Flamini was not the most spectacular of signings but he may be an adequate minder for Jack Wilshire if he can keep himself fit. They will be too good for most teams.

5th, Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers we feel is taking Liverpool in the right direction and is slowly but surely exerting his style and influence on the team and their play.

Luis Suarez will return and will want to be on top of his game with a South American world cup to follow. They already look a far better unit already than last season.

The team looks to have goals in it with Sturridge also in good early season form and with reinforcements at the back, they look a good unit. Keeping Steven Gerrard fit for the season will be important but we think they will continue to improve.

6th, Spurs
This one will be contentious we know. Spurs have added several good players to their squad. Soldado, Paulinho (we expect) and Lamela look top quality. However whilst Spurs have improved the depth of their squad dramatically, they have lost the player that could have been the difference in the big games, Bale.

The loss of Bale we feel means that even with a bulging squad, the best first eleven they can put out may not be stronger necessarily than last season so that glass ceiling above them may still remain.

They will however improve as the squad gels and many will feel that they are top 4 material, we remain to be convinced however.
7th, Swansea
After the supposed top 6, things get far more tricky as many of the teams are much of a muchness.
Michael Laudrup remains and so does Michu. They have also added a couple of good players in Bony and Shelvey who ensure Swansea will be competitive as well as pretty.

Good home form will be a must but unless there is another Cup final hangover we think they should maintain their form better this year and surprise many people.

8th, West Ham
Allardyce remains as canny a mid table manager as there is and everyone knows that West Ham will be tough to beat. The Hammers finished 10th last season with their form patchy at times. Downing is no Bale but he is a quality player at this level and will also add experience.

They have kept Carroll but he will need to stay fit if West Ham are to achieve such a finish, he will want to impress in a World Cup year for sure. Allardyce is slowly building a solid squad and we tip them to finish well this season.

9th, Everton
For the record, we don't rate Martinez here. Everyone continually talked of his wonders at Wigan whilst failing to address why their form in the first half of the season was so turgid.

Fellaini has gone and has not been replaced adequately and we would have actually marked them for a lower finishing place had it not been for the three players that arrived, Barry, McCarthy and Lukaku.

McCarthy looks expensive and seems to be the time honoured mistake that managers making returning to their older and smaller clubs. The other two however will add greatly to Everton's cause. Players such as Jagielka and Mirrallas are quality and Baines remains also.

There is not a huge amount of quality around them and if we are proven wrong about Martinez then they may finish higher.

10th, Aston Villa
Top half looks a big call given their relegation travails last season but they will be far stronger for it. They have also kept their prize asset Benteke and that means goals.

Villa have added a couple of summer signings to their young and bright squad and we predict better times for the Villians this season under the quietly impressive Paul Lambert.

11th, Fulham
Fulham will entertain and score goals this season, that is almost for certain given they have added Bent and Taarabat to a side already boasting Berbatov and Ruiz.

Scott Parker will add bite and know how in midfield and whilst they are certainly going to lose a few games, they will also win their fare share. The Cottagers may even finish higher if the front players really click.

12th, Stoke City
Mark Hughes is tough to like sometimes and QPR left his reputation in tatters. A slightly more humble Hughes may do well at Stoke and indeed, his problems seem to appear when he has a large transfer budget to spend as in at City and QPR and handling those players that come along as a result.

He will have no such issues at Stoke with a team much reflecting the locale of the city. If Hughes can mould Stoke in his own image - much as he did at Blackburn - then their usual home form can ensure a comfortable mid table finish.

13th, Southampton
There was much gnashing of teeth when Nigel Adkins was fired last season but the reality is that Mauricio Pochettino has done a good job since his arrival and he was not the one to blame.

The Saints have invested heavily in the summer but we remain to be convinced about the quality of Wanyama. Osvaldo is not the most mobile so possibly not the foil that Ricky Lambert required, he definitely has quality however when he's in the mood.

Like Fulham, if all their players click they may well finish higher but a comfortable season away from the relegation places is probably a good result for them.

14th, West Bromwich
The Baggies enjoyed a fabulous 8th place finish last season but it is hard to see them repeating their heroics this time around. Lukaku's goals have departed unfortunately but Sessegnong, Scott Sinclair and Anichebe all promise attacking intent.

Their squad remains small and they will need luck with injuries again. Steve Clarke remains a good and solid manager and we expect them to finish in the lower end of mid table.

15th, Newcastle Utd
The Geordies remain the biggest soap opera in town - which is saying something - with a disastrous summer thanks in no short measure to the bizarre appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football.

Pardew will have to reintegrate Johan Cabaye as quickly as possible as he offers quality in midfield. Newcastle's squad is threadbare and they will need Loic Remy to stay fit. They flirted with relegation briefly last season but should be too good to go down.

16th, Norwich City
Chris Hughton has attempted to add goals to the team in the shape of Hooper and and Van Wolfswinkel. Norwich however retain a soft centre.

Home form will be important for the Canaries if they are not to get sucked into the relegation battle. It is time for Chris Hughton to show whether he too is capable of stepping up another level. Should stay up.

17th, Cardiff City
One of the three promoted teams usually does ok and we are picking Cardiff to be the one. Cardiff have invested relatively heavily during the summer and in Malky Mackay they have yet another bright young Glaswegian manager poised to take the next step.

Cardiff have started brightly with a famous victory against Man City but it is their form against the teams around them that will decide whether they can stay up. They should have enough.

18th, Sunderland
Di Canio was a fabulous player but appears not quite such as a person. As with so many top class players with the highest of standards he struggles to relate to players who cannot perform to the level he did ala Souness and Roy Keane. Glenn Hoddle was another example but his tactical acumen papered over many of those cracks.

Di Canio has brought in far too many players with no Premiership experience and jettisoned some strong characters. He quickly needs to realise that players at this level do not respond to be slapped around the head and grabbed by the neck every time he substitutes them, nor being criticised so often and so publicly.

Sunderland's only hope may be an awful start and his early firing, he is the favourite with the bookies after all. It could however all click and Sunderland will win the league, there is little but extremities with the volatile Roman.

19th, Hull City
Few managers are as overrated in England as Steve Bruce who simply fawns to more celebrated managers whilst keeping a look out for his next pay day.

Huddlestone and Livermore will add some much needed know how but it looks to be a long season for a team that probably were lucky to be promoted.

20th, Crystal Palace
Ian Holloway's last day super market trolley dash appears to have caused huge discombobulation amongst the incumbent Palace players.

It is questionable how much quality Holloway has genuinely added and despite his attempt to become more serious, it is debatable whether he is truly a capable manager at this level or merely a figure of mirth.

Palace are possibly not a shoe in for rock bottom but staying up should be beyond them for sure.