Champions – Manchester City
Though we have yet to see Man City make a big splash in the transfer window, their squad still looks to be the strongest in the Premier League, and Roberto Mancini has promised City fans that there will be signings made this summer. Any success Man City will have next season could be largely due to the strike partnership of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, which we saw a little glimpse of towards the end of last season, and that partnership may prove even more deadly if given an entire season to flourish. Vincent Kompany will, of course, have an equally important role in the centre of defence, but if his performances are anything like those of last season, City fans have a lot to look forward to.
Champions League Places
2nd – Manchester United
United will, of course, be title contenders and will contest the title right to the last, but I think they will just miss out again this year. Man Utd will have things to look forward to, though; Nemanja Vidic’s return from injury is eagerly awaited by United fans, we will continue to see the progress of young talent like Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck. After very encouraging performances for Team GB in the Olympics, next season could be a big one for Tom Cleverley, who missed most of last season through injury. There is also the opportunity to see Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa, who promises a lot.
3rd – Chelsea
Roberto Di Matteo made a fantastic start to life as Chelsea manager, initially on an interim basis, by winning both the FA Cup and the Champions League after a poor first half of the season for Chelsea under Andre Villas-Boas. Since then, Di Matteo has added the exciting attacking talent of wingers Eden Hazard and Marko Marin and Brazilian midfielder Oscar. The signings of Hazard, Marin and Oscar, along with the exits of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, have significantly improved the average age of the squad and this new youthful exuberance and vigour should see Chelsea improve on their sixth-place finish last season. Questions are still asked about Fernando Torres, though, his form improved towards the end of last season and he was excellent during Euro 2012, can he bring that form into the new season? Will he be trusted to take the reigns after Drogba’s exit, or will Chelsea look elsewhere.
4th – Tottenham
The exit of Harry Redknapp certainly raised a few eyebrows and had many scratching their heads in confusion. Upon signing Redknapp’s replacement, Daniel Levy made his intentions concerning Tottenham’s future quite clear when he signed former Chelsea and Porto manager Andre Villas-Boas. This suggested Levy was looking for a youthful approach to the team’s management and this seemed like a signing that looked to secure a stable long-term future of Tottenham Hotspur. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen seem like very good signings, but there is still speculation surrounding the future of Luka Modric. Many Spurs are crying out for another striker, and Emmanuel Adebayor has not yet signed a permanent deal with the club, after a great loan spell last season. There is still time to sign another striker in the window, though.
Europa League Places
5th – Arsenal
Even after signing strikers Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud and with the signing of Spanish winger Santi Cazorla seemingly imminent, the focus is still all on star striker Robin van Persie. The striker has stated that he will not sign a new deal with Arsenal with his contract expiring next summer. It may well be that the Dutchman will leave before next summer, though, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Juventus all interested in the player, and Arsenal preferring to sell him rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. Arsenal will have the return of Jack Wilshere in October to look forward to, but with Chelsea and Tottenham improving on last year, I can’t see Arsenal making the Champions League places, especially if van Persie leaves.
6th – Newcastle
Newcastle exceeded everyone’s expectations last season and the signings of Demba Ba for free and Papiss Cisse for £10 million were strokes of genius, Hatem Ben Arfa will also be key to the Magpies this season if he can keep his fitness levels up. Another striker is needed to add a bit of depth after the exit of Leon Best. It remains to be seen what parts Gael Bigirimana and Romain Amalfitano will play but they are young players with a lot of promise. Even more importantly, though, Newcastle have not lost any of their top players, giving the squad a bit of stability. Next season looks to be just as promising as last.
7th – Liverpool
This one is very difficult to call. The appointment of Brendan Rodgers was a bit of a surprise to me; I thought they’d go for someone with more experience. It remains to be seen whether or not Rodgers can get his message across and cope with the pressure that comes with managing Liverpool. It’s a big step to go from managing Swansea to Liverpool and this may be a jump too big. The problem last season wasn’t with Kenny Dalglish’s management, it was that he signed average players for big money. Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, in particular, were very disappointing, and Charlie Adam, while being a decent player, isn’t a Liverpool-quality player. The signing of Fabio Borini could be a good one, but Liverpool will need more than one signing to get where they want to be. There is also the future of Andy Carroll to sort out.
8th – Everton
9th – Sunderland
10th – QPR
I can’t see them being anywhere near the relegation zone next year with the signings they’ve made and with Mark Hughes having a full season to work with his team.
11th – Fulham
12th – Stoke
13th – West Brom
14th – Swansea
15th – West Ham
West Ham will be fine this year, whether or not you like his tactics, Sam Allardyce knows how to get the job done. The teams in a relegation fight need a bit of steel about them, and Allardyce provides his players with that (I still maintain that Blackburn would still be in the Premier League if Big Sam had stayed)
16th – Wigan
17th – Reading
I wasn’t sure about their chances until they signed Pavel Pogrebnyak, he will provide them with plenty of goals that will help them stay up. It will be interesting to see how Danny Guthrie does if he is given a run in the team. Adrian Mariappa may be good signing too.
18th – Norwich
I really don’t want them to go down after they impressed so much last year and because they are managed by Chris Hughton, who I’m a big fan of, but I just don’t see them staying up again. Hughton is a good manager and it’s good that they’ve managed to keep hold of Grant Holt, but there are better teams than them in the league.
19th – Aston Villa
After doing so well with Norwich, I’d like to see Paul Lambert succeed with Villa, but I can’t see it happening. They were poor last year, but it’s not that surprising; their team just isn’t as good as it was a few years ago, they haven’t replaced Milner, Young and Downing. Charles N’Zogbia was very disappointing last year. They desperately need another striker, Darren Bent is a natural goal-scorer, but if he gets injured again, they could be in deep trouble. Bent is, of course, their best player, but there aren’t many other Villa players that are at the same level as him. Randy Lerner’s reluctance to splash the cash could end up costing Aston Villa dear.
20th – Southampton
They were very impressive in the Championship last year, but I don’t think the additions they’ve made to the squad are good enough to keep them up. Jay Rodriguez may be a good Championship player, but there are doubts about whether he can transfer that to the Premier League, it’ll also be interesting to see how Nathaniel Clyne does in the Premier League after all of the hype surrounding him. I hope that I’m proven wrong and will be pleasantly surprised by them.