On the eve of every single Premier League season all Journalists set themselves up for an almighty fall by the time May comes around, by predicting the outcome of the upcoming season and I myself am doing the exact same thing. Who will finish where? Who will surprise us? Who will slip through the relegation trapdoor?
I have gone with a top four that in terms of teams involved isn’t at all surprising however the order may come as a shock to some with Manchester United being the bookies’ third favourites for the title at the beginning of the campaign. Whilst many are writing the Champions off as a result of their lack of activity in the transfer market in comparison to Manchester City and Chelsea it is easy to forget just how good this Manchester United side is. David De Gea, voted as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League season by the PFA is only going to get better after a year’s more experience, the defence is strong with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans all of a high quality and with Phil Jones being arguably the most talented of the lot the potential for him to break into the heart of David Moyes’ defence is something that Manchester United supporters will certainly be excited by.
The midfield is still an area of concern in terms of depth with an injury to Michael Carrick having the potential to derail Manchester United’s season however with there still being seventeen days to go in the transfer window and the talk of Marouane Fellaini refusing to go away we may well be looking at a much stronger Manchester United midfield by the time the Champions travel to Anfield on September 1st.
Manchester City have strengthened well with the signing of Fernandinho in particular who will be integral to the way Manuel Pellegrini likes to set his teams up but I think it will take last year’s runners up a bit of time to acclimatise to Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 formation and that could make it difficult to put together a significant title challenge, however make no mistake if City settle quickly they have every chance of topping the table at the end of May. Chelsea rejuvenated by the return of the self proclaimed ‘Happy One’ Jose Mourinho will be strong once again this season, even more so with the additions of Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel however with little strengthening done to the backline this is where I feel their title challenge will falter. John Terry is a year older and Gary Cahill still doesn’t strike me as a centre half of the highest quality and with the uncertainty regarding David Luiz’s future I think it will be difficult for Chelsea to improve too much on last season’s finish.
Tottenham Hotspur have been very active this summer with Andre Villas-Boas’ plea for Franco Baldini to be brought in as Director of Football not falling on deaf ears within the Tottenham boardroom. The Italian has facilitated the signings of Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue from Corinthians, Valencia, FC Twente and Toulouse respectively. In Paulinho, Spurs have arguably brought in the signing of the summer with the Brazilian midfielder illustrating his power and ability to dominate the midfield in the Confederations Cup this summer. The prospect of Paulinho and Sandro forming a partnership in the middle of midfield is one that should have Tottenham fans excited with Sandro being a proven ball winner which as we saw with Brazil this summer really compliments Paulinho’s play.
Liverpool in keeping Luis Suarez and strengthening both their defence and midfield with the signings of Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas along with Luis Alberto, have put themselves into a position by where they could mount a serious challenge to the top four, however I think they are still short of quality in defence which will leave them unable to get back into the Champions League. Arsenal have left themselves once again sizeably short in depth through their inability to bring players in this summer and I feel this could be the year where their activities in the market catch up with them and can see Wenger’s men struggling this year. Everton with Roberto Martinez now at the helm will be an attacking force this year. With Kevin Mirallas and Arouna Kone aided by the immense creativity of on loan superstar Gerard Deulofeu the potential for goals is there and this could propel them to yet another top seven finish.
Newcastle, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion have all moved to add to their respective squads this summer and despite the uncertainty created by Joe Kinnear’s appointment at St James’ Park, Alan Pardew’s squad will have had a full pre-season to gel together and with the quality within that squad it is certain we will see an improvement on last year. Southampton and West Brom will be tough to beat yet again with Wanyama adding a great deal of strength to Mauricio Pochettino’s midfield and Matej Vydra going some way to replace the goals last by Romelu Lukaku’s departure from the Hawthorns last year.
Swansea, whilst having a significantly greater deal of quality within their squad than Sam Allardyce’s West Ham squad I feel their Europa League campaign will make it tough to be consistent in the Premier League and I could see Michael Laudrup’s squad faltering as a result. Aston Villa have done excellent business this summer with Paul Lambert making significant moves to shape his squad yet further in his own image and the additions of Jores Okore and Nicklas Helenius will give the Villains a greater deal of strength and experience at the back as well as an even greater potential for goalscoring with Helenius being the second highest goalscorer in last season’s Danish Premier League.
Sunderland have made a lot of moves this summer and have replaced a lot like for like so to speak, however I think it will take a bit of time for the squad to connect together and get used to Paulo Di Canio’s rather unique coaching methods. They will be strong enough to avoid yet another relegation battle.
Norwich, Fulham and Crystal Palace will all face tough seasons however I expect them to have too much quality to be relegated. Fulham will find it especially tough this season with the lack of strength in midfield, Derek Boateng will have a lot of work to do to cover the gaps left by the less than hardworking forward trio of Bryan Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt. Ian Holloway will have learnt from his year with Blackpool in the Premier League and now know how to mix the ability to play free flowing, exciting football whilst not being so gung ho in his team’s approach.
The unfortunate trio I believe will be relegated to the Sky Bet Championship at the end of this season are the three City’s, Cardiff, Stoke and Hull. I don’t think any of these three sides have the quality to survive in the Premier League. For Cardiff the experience of Craig Bellamy will be crucial to any hope of survival they have however I think the real breakthrough star for the Bluebirds will be new signing Andreas Cornelius who was last season’s top scorer in the Danish top division. The 6ft 4 striker has the potential to cause defences up and down the country a lot of difficulty. Both Stoke and Hull I think will struggle in terms of quality and can see both teams being relegated quite comfortably however there is still time for the two sides to make significant additions to their respective squads before the transfer window shuts but as it stands the two I feel will be relegated.