Aug 152008

The new Premiership season is almost upon us, so it is time for Groan’s annual predictions. Last year, they didn’t actually turn out that badly, but given my record, such luck is unlikely to be repeated. Still, it is a tradition, so here we go.

We’ll start with the bottom five.

20. Stoke City (Last season: 2nd in Championship)

Stoke haven’t had a lot of luck in the transfer window so far, and are going into the new season with largely the same side that got them promoted. Last season, they conceded 55 goals, more than most of the top half of the Championship, and have done nothing to improve at that end of the field. Some say the hardest thing in the Premiership is scoring a goal, but I disagree. The hardest thing is scoring three times just to get a point, which is the situation Stoke are likely to find themselves in. Dave Kitson has a massive job up front, and I can only see one outcome. The consolation is that they can’t possibly be as bad as Derby.

19. West Brom (Last season: 1st in Championship)

Like Stoke, West Brom conceded an unhealthy 55 goals in the Championship, but made up for it by scoring 88, far more than anyone else in the league. But with Kevin Phillips and  Zoltan Gera gone, much of their creative spark has disappeared, and none of their signings look likely to threaten Premiership defences. An attack force that ran amok in the Championship might just find the step up too great.

18. Bolton Wanderers (Last season: 16th)

Many of the old heads at Bolton have now left – Diouf, Stelios, Campo – and a lot rests on how they’ve been replaced. Johan Elmander is an expensive signing, but elsewhere they look weaker than last season. Gary Megson still hasn’t convinced many, and a punt on him winning the sack race could be a bet worth making. Last season I tipped Bolton to go down and they narrowly escaped. This season I expect them to struggle again.

17. Hull City (Last season: 3rd in Championship)

On first glance, Hull seem to be the unlikeliest of the promoted sides to stay up, having won the playoffs. But they’ve bought well, and crucially they’ve bought from the Premiership, bringing in experienced heads like Boateng. But the real reason I’m tipping them to stay up is Geovanni, who they managed to nab from Man City. The Brazilian didn’t show his true ability at City, but being the main man at Hull might just inspire him to keep them in the division.

16. Sunderland (Last season: 15th)

Some seem to think that Sunderland will be a force this season because they’ve signed a few experienced players, but to me, those players are falling away from their peak – Diouf and Malbranque have seen better days. Their main problem will again be scoring goals, and while they’ll be organised enough to stay up, I can’t see them being enough of an attacking threat to improve on last season’s position.

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