I’ve been weighing up for a while now whether or not I should post an article offering my opinion on where I think each team will finish during the upcoming Premier League season, and I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet. I’m sure many of you will disagree with where I place certain teams, but please bear in mind that I’m simply offering an opinion and you’re more than entitled to question my sanity in the comments! I’ll go through each team alphabetically and give a subsequent brief analysis. I’ll also list my picks for top goalscorer, signing of the season and the manager who I think will receive his P45 first. Obviously there’s still a few weeks of the transfer window remaining, but I thought it was impossible to speculate on which players would change hands so I’m making each prediction based on the players each team currently has.
Arsenal – 5th
Yet again the Gunners have failed to add to their squad over the summer, and this year I think Arsene Wenger’s side will pay the price. Arsenal were just good enough to take 4th and a Champions League spot last season, but this could be the year they finally miss out on the European jackpot. Jack Wilshere looks to be back to full fitness so that’s one positive, and although I think Tottenham will surpass their north London rivals I don’t see anyone else coming close to breaking the top fives supremacy.
Aston Villa – 15th
The Villains have had a fairly quiet off-season, with relatively few comings and goings. They did however manage to persuade star striker Christian Benteke to sign a new contract and stay following him submitting a transfer request earlier in the summer. Benteke aside I still think the squad lacks sufficient quality to improve too much on last years campaign, where Paul Lambert’s men narrowly avoided relegation. Villa do possess some promising youngsters and their development would go a long way to ensuring a more comfortable season this time around, although should Benteke suffer from second season syndrome it could be another difficult year for them. [Note: since I wrote this Benteke was injured on international duty and may have suffered a broken leg, so obviously that would alter my prediction if that is indeed the case]
Cardiff – 18th
Unfortunately for fans of the Bluebird’s, ahem, Red Dragons I think the Welsh club’s stay in the Premier League will be a short one. Although they’ve brought fairly well, Steven Caulker in particular looks a good capture, I don’t think there are many weak sides remaining in the division from last season and as you’ll see I don’t fancy any of the promoted sides chances of staying up. I think they’ll put up a good fight and it may well go down to the 38th game, but ultimately I’m not sure Cardiff possess the necessary quality to hold down a place amongst the country’s elite.
Chelsea – 1st
The special one has returned, and I believe he’ll return with a bang. The Premier League is there for the taking this season following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement and Roberto Mancini’s sacking, which leaves Mourinho and Arsene Wenger as the only two managers with title-winning pedigree. Mourinho knows how to get it done in England, and he inherits a team full of quality all over the pitch. How he uses the midfield trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata will be interesting but as problems go it’s a good one to have. The one question mark for the Blues is up front where Fernando Torres and Demba Ba will be supplemented by the returning Romelu Lukaku. Between the three of them I expect them to score enough goals to help Mourinho win the title in his first year in charge – just as he did during his first tenure at Stamford Bridge.
Crystal Palace – 20th
Ian Holloway did an excellent job in getting Palace promoted via the play-offs following his appointment halfway through last season, but much like Cardiff I think Palace could be one hit wonders in the Prem. Glenn Murray led the clubs goalscoring charts last season and he’s out indefinitely with knee ligament damage, while star man Wilfried Zaha has moved on to pastures new at Old Trafford. Marouane Chamakh has been recruited from Arsenal to lead the line, and that’s really all you need to know about Palace’s survival chances.
Everton – 7th
Another team under new management, Everton replaced the regimented David Moyes with the more adventurous Roberto Martinez from Wigan. Of course, Wigan were relegated last season and most of their troubles stemmed from a porous defense. Moyes had built a solid back four at Goodison Park, and it’ll be fascinating to see how the Toffees take to a manager with a completely different footballing philosophy. I think they’re in line for some regression, albeit not significantly, and another top seven finish beckons.
Fulham – 16th
Fulham have steadily turned themselves into a mid-table Premier League team over the past decade, but last season they became heavily reliant on Dimitar Berbatov’s goals to keep them away from a relegation battle. Adel Taraabt was signed on a season long loan from QPR, but seeing as he was inconsistent at best for Rangers in the Prem last season it is wishful thinking that he’ll excel at another west London club. Factor in Mark Schwarzer’s move to Chelsea and Fulham don’t quite look like the full package going into the season.
Hull – 19th
Another newly promoted side, another ‘one and done’ season in the top flight. Steve Bruce has done a fantastic job to get Hull where they are, but unfortunately I think that the newly re-named Tigers will be cut adrift at the foot of the table alongside fellow Premier League new-boys Palace.
Liverpool – 6th
Brendan Rodgers side showed one or two signs of progress last season, although ultimately they never threatened to break into the top four. I see the top five as being in a league of their own, with Liverpool probably the best of the rest. It sounds like Luis Suarez is staying, which obviously makes the Reds better on paper. I do think that new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is a downgrade on previous stopper Pepe Reina.
Manchester City – 2nd
Manuel Pellegrini inherits last seasons runners-up from Roberto Mancini and he’s already made a few additions to his squad. Steven Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas will all add attacking flair to City’s ranks, although Carlos Tevez has left the Etihad to join Juventus. City were once again stingy at the back last season and conceded few goals so if they can convert more chances up top then they’ll once more challenge for the title. Pellegrini’s lack of experience managing in England could be the decisive factor as they challenge Chelsea, amongst others, for the title.
Manchester United – 3rd
As with City and Chelsea, United are under new management this year. David Moyes hasn’t had a summer to write home about as he’s had to deal with constant speculation about Wayne Rooney’s future as well as failing to secure any of his transfer targets. While Moyes does still have almost all of last years title-winning squad at his disposal there is a sense that United have stood still while their rivals have overtaken them with some shrewd signings. I actually think Moyes could come under some intense pressure this season, mainly because I’m not confident in his ability to succeed in Europe.
Newcastle – 14th
Just as it looked like Newcastle were beginning to achieve some stability, owner Mike Ashley decided to bring in Joe Kinnear as director of football. Kinnear has so far managed to insult half of his first team squad, and Loic Remy aside struggled to add to a squad that flirted with relegation last season. They did buy well last January and that should help them finish fairly comfortably in mid table.
Norwich – 9th
The Canaries have had, in my opinion, the best off-season of any team in the Premier League. Having added Leroy Fer in midfield and Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel up top Chris Hughton has made some significant improvements to last seasons team, which itself finished 11th. Nathan Redmond is another new signing from Birmingham and he’ll provide much needed width. What impresses me the most about Norwich is the strength in-depth they now have, which in theory should help them continue to pick up points even if injuries and suspensions pile up.
Southampton – 10th
The Saints enjoyed a successful season back in the Prem last year despite changing manager half way through it, and I see them continuing their ascension this year. Ricky Lambert did an excellent job leading the line and scoring was never a problem. The back four was porous at times, so that’ll have to be corrected if they are to live up to my top half expectations.
Stoke – 17th
I can really see Stoke falling down the table this year following the appointment of Mark Hughes to replace Tony Pulis. Hughes’ managerial record has been mediocre recently and part of the reason Stoke have been able to survive for this long in the division was Pulis’s ability to get the best out of his players. I don’t think the Potters will be relegated, they have too much quality, but I expect them to struggle this season as they come to terms with a new manager playing a different style of football to the one they were previously used to.
Sunderland – 13th
Paulo Di Canio just about managed to keep them up last season, and he’s spent most of the summer wheeling and dealing in a way his former boss Harry Redknapp would be proud of. I predict a run of the mill mid table finish for the Black Cats, although their path their is likely to be anything but dull under the mercurial and controversial Italian.
Swansea – 8th
The Swans had an excellent campaign under Michael Laudrup last year, finishing in the top half of the Premier League as well as winning the League Cup. Michu was exceptional and wouldn’t expect him to repeat his goalscoring form from a season ago, but I also fancy new signing Wilfried Bony to compensate for that and then some. Persuading Laudrup to stay over the summer was key and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t able to engineer another top half finish.
Tottenham – 4th
Spurs have brought well this summer, adding the likes of Nacer Chadli and Roberto Soldado to an already strong squad. As I said in my introduction I’m basing everything on the assumption that each team remains as they are, which means that I think if Gareth Bale remains at White Hart Lane he’ll be able to help the club crack the top four ahead of their north London rivals, Arsenal. Full back remains a weakness but an abundance of attacking options should ensure AVB’s men don’t struggle to score goals.
West Brom – 12th
The Baggies relied heavily on Romelu Lukaku’s goals last year especially when Peter Odemwingie tried to force his way out in January and was ostracized as a result. Steve Clarke has them set up well at the back so despite Lukaku returning to Chelsea I don’t think they’ll struggle, although they won’t be as strong as they were last season.
West Ham – 11th
After a 10th place finish last term I’m going for 11th this time around for the Hammers. Sam Allardyce, like Steve Clarke, sets his teams up to not lose and while it doesn’t set the pulse racing it is effective and keeps his sides out of any serious trouble. Summer signings have been minimal with the exception of the permanent capture of Andy Carroll, but as he was on loan at Upton Park last season he won’t upgrade on what they already had. Outside of Carroll they do look light up front with just Modibo Maiga in reserve.
This is a tough category to judge with the uncertainty surrounding so many top players including Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale, so the safe bet appears to be Robin Van Persie. United relied heavily on the Dutch hit man last season and he’ll have to be on top form again this season if United are to challenge for the title.
Signing of the Season
There are a few candidates for this prediction, Wilfried Bony and Jesus Navas to name but two. However I’m going for Norwich’s Ricky Van Wolfswinkel as he should lead the line for the Canaries. Van Wolfswinkel’s capture raised some eyebrows as he’s been linked with so called ‘bigger’ clubs than Norwich, and the pedigree with which he arrives at Carrow Road with should enable him to hit the ground running and become an instant hit in the Premier League.
First Manager to Leave
Alan Pardew has had to endure speculation about his future all summer following the curious appointment of Joe Kinnear at St. James Park, and unfortunately I don’t think he’s long for the job. Mike Ashley unceremoniously got rid of Chris Hughton to appoint Pardew himself back in 2011 when the former was performing more than adequately, so I don’t think it’ll take much for the Sports Direct owner to decide Pardew’s time is up.
So there you have it, my predictions for the upcoming season which starts in just two days time. Like I said in the introduction feel free to comment and offer your own opinion, but please keep it clean. That aside, all I have to say is I hope you enjoy what promises to be the most exciting season in years!