Part two of Groan’s predictions for the season ahead sees us look at the lower midtable:
15. Blackburn (Last season: 7th)
Blackburn have been enjoying a few good seasons, but the minute Paul Ince took over, it all started to go wrong. They lost the keeper that had won them countless matches in Brad Friedel, and of course David Bentley, who at least gave them some creativity, if also helping them become incredibly unpopular. Ince may have already lost the dressing room, and to make matters worse, they’ll concede an extra ten goals a season due to having Paul Robinson in goal. They could be this season’s surprise relegation candidates.
14. West Ham (Last season: 10th)
The busiest physio room in the Premiership is a little emptier with the release of Freddie Ljungberg, but West Ham don’t appear to have bought anyone of note, and Curbishley still hasn’t convinced the fans, or seemingly some of the players. With some of their rivals improvement, I’d expect them to slip down a few places, without ever being in relegation danger.
13. Man City (Last season: 9th)
Last season I tipped City to finish fifth, and they started as if they were going to achieve just that. But in the second half of the season, the form of their players dipped badly, especially the previously brilliant Elano. Jo provides a new option up front, but momentum has disappeared from the club, and owner Shinawatra’s position is unclear. Mark Hughes may not have the patience to stick it out long, and this might be a season in the wrong direction for the blue half of Manchester.
12. Fulham (Last season: 17th)
How did Fulham survive last season? Somehow Roy Hodgson pulled off a great escape, and he has spent most of the summer doing some impressive strengthening. Zamora, Teymourian, Schwarzer, Gera and Andy Johnson provide plenty of depth, and should ensure that they don’t require the same heroics this time around.
11. Newcastle (Last season: 12th)
There are so many questions to answer at Newcastle – will Owen stay fit enough to score the goals they need? Will any of their defenders remember how to defend? Will Keegan last the season? And most importantly, what the hell is Joey Barton still doing there? There will be many wanting Newcastle and Keegan to succeed again this season, but as ever they will be disappointed.