The Premier League season kicks off in earnest tomorrow afternoon as the twenty clubs battle for a full nine months. This season, in particular offers to be one of, if not, the greatest season of the entire 21-year history of the Premier League. Chelsea have returned to their spending ways whilst the two Manchester clubs jostle for power after last season’s late title decider in arguably the most exciting conclusion to a Premier League season.
Manchester City became only the fourth club to unsettle Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United’s brutal reign at the top of the English game and with the signing of Robin van Persie, Manchester United will look to beat their nearest and dearest rivals to the 21st Premier League crown, which would become United’s 20th top flight title in their 134-year history.
ARSENAL (Prediction: 4th)
Arsene Wenger may have recently lost their prized asset and club captain in Robin van Persie but they have looked to have replaced him and the seemingly departing Alex Song with the likes of Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud as well as Spanish international Santi Cazorla. A Wenger Arsenal side has never dipped below the top four and they face a huge threat from the usual likes of Tottenham, Newcastle and Liverpool for that final Champions League spot. Don’t expect Wenger’s men to chase for the Premier League but the re-building process from losing key figures such as Nasri, Fabregas and finally Van Persie should be complete in the next year or so.
ASTON VILLA (Prediction: 10th)
Under Alex McLeish last season, the Villains’ season was a mitigated disaster which never really seemed to prosper right from the moment McLeish left Villa’s arch and city rivals of Birmingham to step onto the Villa Park turf. McLeish coached Villa to equaling their worst Premier League finish in 17 years. However, the new boss in town, Paul Lambert who racked up some Premier League experience under his belt for Norwich City last season will look to build upon this great start in the top flight, and with a greater band of players will look to inflict some damage and break into the top half.
CHELSEA (Prediction: 3rd)
Last season, Chelsea suffered a false start under the coaching of Andre Villas-Boas but with the help of Roberto di Matteo, they flapped to a sixth placed finish. You can lay the blame on the successful Champions League campaign which took priority for Chelsea and led them to sacrifice a good league position to qualify for the Champions League this term. Di Matteo has spent big to keep up with the Manchester clubs to instigate a three-horse race for the title with the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Marko Marin brought into Stamford Bridge to fill the gap left by Champions League final hero, Didier Drogba.
EVERTON (Prediction: 8th)
Everton’s spending problems have been well documented as of late and David Moyes’ biggest signing for this season could infact be Nikica Jelavic’s purchase in January. Yes, Steven Naismith and Steven Pienaar have joined the club for little money but the club has regenerated some cash through the sales of Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell. If anyone can steer Everton to another campaign in Europe then it is David Moyes who approaches his tenth year anniversary with the club.
FULHAM (Prediction: 13th)
Fulham’s stay in the top half of the Premier League could be over after Clint Dempsey, their top goalscorer last season, has refused to play in all of the London club’s pre-season matches which has added fuel to the speculation fire of his transfer to Liverpool. If Dempsey is to disappear from Craven Cottage then Fulham will drop into the bottom half despite the signing of Hugo Rodallega, fans will be hoping that Martin Jol can steady the boat that has been well and truly rocked by the American forward.
LIVERPOOL (Prediction: 6th)
Liverpool dropped to a low of eighth last season in the league under the observation of Kenny Dalglish. However, the legendary Scot has been replaced with Brendan Rodgers who has brought confidence to the Kop with his style of play along with the signings of Borini and Joe Allen should keep them in the hunt for a Champions League place. Should the Europa League niggle at Rodgers and Liverpool, their league form could suffer, but Liverpool fans shouldn’t be too down hearted if they don’t qualify for the Champions League, Rodgers at the helm stands them in good shape for next season.
MANCHESTER CITY (Prediction: 2nd)
Roberto Mancini ended Manchester City’s 44-year wait for a top flight trophy at Eastlands when Sergio Aguero’s 95th minute strike against QPR rattled into the net to break the Manchester domination provided by the red half. Through Dzeko, Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli they bolster the greatest scoring threat and as the season’s top goalscorers blitzed the league. Subsequently, they have only brought in young Jack Rodwell from Everton but could see some serious threat again from their noisy neighbours, a little too much threat.
MANCHESTER UNITED (Prediction: 1st)
Sir Alex Ferguson has acted quick in the summer to snap up their 20th league title and how apt to give their latest signing, last season’s top goalscorer Robin van Persie from Arsenal the number twenty shirt which has been made famous by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and will hope to if United can claim a 20th title in May. Shinji Kagawa brings life to their midfield whilst more signings could be on their way in which becomes a bid to regain what is theirs.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (Prediction: 7th)
Alan Pardew and Newcastle provided a serious threat to break into the top four last season through the combination of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse. However, Pardew hasn’t brought in big names into the fray in the north east and will compete directly with the seemingly overpowering Tottenham and Liverpool to battle for the European spots this season. Expect them to finish marginally outside them, though.
NORWICH CITY (Prediction: 16th)
Norwich produced an amazing first season back in the top flight last season under Paul Lambert. He has since jumped ship to Villa, with Chris Hughton being the man who will seemingly steer Norwich into a top half finish. The signings of Steven Whittaker, Michael Turner and Robert Snodgrass are a solid basis to build on the Canaries’ success last season but with the previous manager outgoing and the club left rocking, don’t expect the yellow army to make any waves this season, just steering clear of relegation I suspect.
QPR (Prediction: 14th)
QPR haven’t given a number in the new season for the disgraced Joey Barton as they seemingly look to build for a future without the one-time England international. QPR have spent big once more to solidify their spot which was almost lost in the top flight last season. The likes of Rob Green, Fabio, Park Ji-Sung, Andy Johnson and Jose Bosingwa will add some much needed Premier League experience with Barton leaving a gap no doubt in Mark Hughes’ side which should be pushing for mid-table.
READING (Prediction: 17th)
The three predictions for relegation candidates is as tough as ever to choose from and with all three promoted sides improving their squads with a lot of signings. In spite of the Pogrebnyak’s, Shorey’s and Guthrie’s of this world joining the Royals in Berkshire, Brian McDermott’s side won’t be making inroads to replicating their first ever season in the top flight in the 2006-07 season but should narrowly ensure a second season next term
SOUTHAMPTON (Prediction: 19th)
Pending the signing of Uruguayan Olympic star and potential record signing break, Gaston Ramirez moving to St. Mary’s, the newly promoted side under the guidance of Nigel Adkins will certainly be one of many hoping for 17th place come what may. The niggling feeling in Adkins’ signings would be the lack of Premier League experience that the likes of Steven Davis, formerly of Rangers, and Burnley’s top goalscorer from last season Jay Rodriguez possess, which is why fellow promoted club, Reading will endure a second season in the Premier League instead of the Saints.
STOKE CITY (Prediction: 11th)
Since their promotion in 2008, Tony Pulis has led Stoke onto even more surprising feats and achievements than the previous. An FA Cup final appearance followed by a stint in Europe and a top half finish make Pulis a hero in the Potteries. Stoke will need to add a couple more names to their pay roll if they are to solidify another top half finish which is why they will drop out into mid-table obscurity.
SUNDERLAND (Prediction: 9th)
Martin O’Neill spared Sunderland from the doom of relegation last season to achieve what might have been a top half finish had it not being for a late season wane in form. Whilst losing the rock in Michael Turner and Asamoah Gyan, the former Villa manager has added both Carlos Cuellar and Louis Saha to the Stadium of Light playing staff which will bolster their depth no end. Expect Sunderland to break into the top half for the second time in eleven seasons this term.
SWANSEA CITY (Prediction: 12th)
Swansea were no doubt the big surprise package of last season. Everyone thought that with their squad that was lacking in experience would fall at the first Premier League season. Unfortunately for Swansea, Joe Allen followed former manager Brendan Rodgers to Anfield but with Michael Laudrup at the helm, Swansea could stem the talk of a downfall following Rodgers’ departure.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (Prediction: 5th)
Tottenham looked ever more the title challengers than the experienced heads of Arsenal and Chelsea last season only to fall out of contention and unfortunately out of the Champions League despite a fourth placed finish thanks to Chelsea’s heroics in Munich. Andre Villas-Boas proved his hit-and-miss form with his brief stint at Chelsea but if anybody can restore the faith at White Hart Lane left behind by Harry Redknapp it can be the young Portuguese man. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen have been brought in to quell the wholesale in North London as AVB has flogged some dead wood carried over from Redknapp’s spell. Spurs should challenge Arsenal and Chelsea for Champions League places, but might not have enough this time round.
WEST BROM (Prediction: 18th)
With England manager, Roy Hodgson leaving a bigger than Steve Clarke-size hole at the Hawthorns, expect them to struggle this season as the former Liverpool and West Ham assistant looks to prove himself as a club manager. His signings in Romelu Lukaku, Ben Foster and Markus Rosenborg have been impressive but experienced heads of Nicky Shorey, Simon Cox, Keith Andrews and Paul Scharner have departed, leaving a huge hole in the Midlands.
WEST HAM (Prediction: 15th)
West Ham are experienced in the top flight and with a playmaker like Kevin Nolan and a manager to match in Sam Allardyce, they shouldn’t struggle too badly in their first season back in the top flight. When you scan the signings made by the former Bolton manager in Mohamed Diame, Alou Diarra, Jussi Jaaskelainen and James Collins, it will be a tough looking set-up at Upton Park. Should be safe.
WIGAN (Prediction: 20th)
I say this every year, but this is Wigan’s year to falter. Roberto Martinez staged some kind of minor miracle with the results over Arsenal, Newcastle and Manchester United at the back end of last season to race clear of relegation. This season will be different, though, as Diame, Gohouri, Kirkland and Rodallega have all left, all influential stars that Martinez has replaced with a youngster from Arsenal named Ryo Miyiachi on loan and Arouna Kone.