Before every season, I resist predicting where each team will end up, as the only possible outcome is to look a little silly nine months later. But then I read the views of the ‘experts’, the pundits who, not content with irritating us throughout the World Cup, decide to make banal and predictable assertions for the campaign ahead. So I always end up doing my own to counter them.
Essentially, after years of rolling my eyes as the columnists claimed this was Liverpool’s year for the title, and Spurs’ time to break into the coveted top four, I’ve grown weary. This year is no better – I’m sick of seeing Man City tipped to be crowned champions in May. It won’t happen folks.
So here we go. I won’t explain the positioning of every team, especially those bunched in the middle of the table, but here are my predictions. They have to be better than Lawrenson’s, right?
1. Chelsea – I would love to be wrong, but in a summer of few changes amongthe biggest teams, Chelsea still look to have the strongest squad. With Essien back and fit, they are rightly favourites for the title. But if Drogba gets injured (or grumpy), all could change – their backup is poor.
2. Man Utd – Getting older and getting weaker is the official verdict, but they had two major flaws last season – lack of cover at the back and up front. They may not have solved the former, but a quick look at the other top sides suggest no-one is better off, but Hernandez will offer better backup to Rooney than Owen ever could.
3. Arsenal – For me, we’re stronger up front than before – Eduardo looked a broken man last season and Chamakh offers something new – but weaker at the back. Silvestre was awful, but Gallas and Sol offered something that Koscielny would do well to replicate this early in his top flight career. It is tempting to believe we’ll be stronger simply because we can’t possible be as injury-struck as last year, but already we have been hit by the curse, with practically no midfielders available tomorrow. As many agree, two signings could change everything. One keeper, one centre back, and the puzzle may be complete. Without them, we’ll be entertaining but ultimately trophyless.
4. Liverpool – After years of tipping them for the title, the pundits have flipped entirely the other way and are unanimously writing Liverpool off. As always, I disagree with them – Hodgson has built his reputation on taking a group of players and making them perform above themselves. They are still reliant on a few stars, but I imagine by the end of the season there will be a couple of squad players standing out as they could not under Benitez. It is what Hodgson does best.
5. Man City – Some tip them for the title, almost all tip them for the top four. But consider their striking options – Adebayor, Tevez, Balotelli, Robinho. All named in their squad, and all talented in the extreme. But the egos in that squad are astonishing – Adebayor has ideas way above his station, Tevez gets into spats easily, Balotelli is a walking nightmare and Robinho openly wants to stay at Santos. City will start well as all the players pull in the same direction, but I predict a dressing room meltdown before Christmas.
6. Everton – Year on year, Everton improve, and this should be no different. For all our injury complaints last season, Everton were equally crippled. Expect them to be up with Liverpool and City until late on.
7. Spurs – Redknapp wants to build on last year’s fourth place and cement their position in the elite. No chance. Spurs will find out this season how difficult it is to play competitive Premiership games three days after Champions League games, and you can bet that those glamorous cup ties will take precedence. I could see them getting out of the group stage – they are a cup team after all – but their league position will suffer as a result.
8. Blackburn – At this point, there is likely to be a huge gap. The top seven are streets ahead of the rest, but like it or not, Allardyce’s men could be the best of the rest.
9. Aston Villa – Overachieved under O’Neill. Losing players.
14. West Ham
(collectively known as the mid-table obscurity group)
16. Fulham – the gulf in managerial ability between Hodgson and Hughes will be apparent – look at Fulham’s squad and you marvel at the job done over the past few years. No matter what Al Fayed claims, they are going backwards now. And under Hughes, losing all their popularity at the same time.
17. Wolves – Staying up by the narrowest margin. Boring everyone in sight.
18. Wigan – I like Martinez, but I can’t see how Wigan can survive with their squad. Anyone who feels the loss of Titus Bramble is in trouble.
19. WBA – Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down. See you in two years.
20. Blackpool – Will be highly entertaining, but if Holloway sticks to his principles and attacks, they will be annihilated on a regular basis. A few surprise wins here and there, and a fun ride while it lasts, but they are ultimately doomed.
As ever, feel free to agree/disagree/make your own predictions in the comments.
After the spectacular betting success of the World Cup (that £0.28 profit was hard earned, I’ll have you know), I’ve replaced the betting bar to the right with a Premiership ticker. You’ll notice some bets up there already, essentially backing up what I’ve said above. All bets, as always, are with Sportingbet, and you can keep track on Twitter here (or follow me generally here).
1. Liverpool to finish in the top four – 6/4.Forgot City, Liverpool will be better this year with Hodgson.
2. Newcastle to win Premiership handicap – 14/1. The Premiership handicap is where every team is given a certain number of starting points, ranging from Chelsea (0), United (2), Arsenal (8) all the way up to Blackpool (57). Newcastle have a 41 point start, and I think they’ll do just fine.
3. Arsenal to win the FA Cup – 8/1. What, you expected me not to make a loyal bet?
4. Van Persie to be Premiership top scorer – 10/1. All depends on his injuries – he was on course last season until he got crippled. Stay fit and this one’s a winner.
5. West Ham to win at Villa – 14/5. One for the first day of the season – Villa are in a state of flux and Grant’s West Ham could surprise them today.
And that’s it. Enjoy!