The Premier League is a notoriously difficult one to predict – that, for me, is what makes it the best league in the world. And the task has become an ever more tricky one this year, as the top three finishing teams from last season all find themselves with different managers at the helm.
Casting an eye back to The Saint‘s predictions last year, it looks like James Gray and Matthew Gibson weren’t a million miles from the mark (QPR aside). This year, the unenviable task falls to me to play Nostradamus and put my neck on the line. I can only hope I don’t regret submitting this article come the end of the season!
2. Manchester United
3. Manchester City
8. West Ham
13. West Brom
16. Aston Villa
19. Crystal Palace
20. Hull City Tigers
With Mourinho back at the helm, I believe Chelsea are in line to win back the coveted Premier League trophy. With a strong squad and a tactical mastermind in charge they will certainly be title contenders. Despite no big-name signings and the departure of Sir Alex, last year’s dominate force can surely expect to mount a serious title challenge. Don’t forget, they almost scored a record number of points last season. Even if they lose Rooney and fail to capture the elusive Fabregas, United will, as ever, be a force to be reckoned with.
I believe City will initially struggle with the combination of a new manager and the new-look squad, but the sheer quality in their ranks is sure to put them in a strong position to push United and Chelsea right to the finishing post. Tottenham have also bolstered their ranks with Paulinho and Soldado coming in following the departure of Dempsey to Seattle Sounders. Unfortunately they look set to lose their greatest star, Gareth Bale, which would be a blow not just to Tottenham but to the reputation of the Premier League. With him Tottenham may be an outside bet for the title, or at least a top three finish – without him, they will surely be resigned to another season clinging onto the undercarriage of the very top teams.
As much as I’d love Ian Holloway to remain in the Premier League for another season, I don’t think his squad have the quality to stay up this time around. Newly-named Hull City Tigers are also sure to struggle with the quality of the Premier League. The fight for survival is sure to be a fierce one, however. Norwich, Stoke, and Aston Villa have all been tipped as relegation contenders. The reason I’ve favoured Norwich to beat the drop is down to their ambitious summer signings, having swooped in for former Celtic striker Gary Hooper and England U21 starlet Nathan Redmond. And if Benteke performs anything like as well as he did last season then Aston Villa can at least bank on goals, which should make them difficult opposition regardless of their defensive frailties. I felt that they were an ever-improving side under Paul Lambert and made huge strides in the right direction at the end of last season. I feel that Stoke, by comparison, have failed to improve their squad after a poor end to the season. Whilst they are a difficult team to break down, Mark Hughes hardly has a stellar record in the Premier League, and I don’t believe he has the sufficient drive to keep Stoke out of trouble.
West Ham have strengthened their squad over the summer, and Allardyce’s shrewdness in the transfer market could pay dividends if former team-mates Downing and Carroll can link up effectively. Fulham have managed to acquire yet another top goalkeeper to follow in the footsteps of Mark Schwarzer and Edwin Van Der Sar in goal at Craven Cottage. Dutch shot-stopper Stekelenburg, signed from Roma for an undisclosed fee, has proved himself in Serie A and on the international stage – moreover, he is approaching the very peak of his career as a goalkeeper. If loan striker Darren Bent can recapture his form to link up with the proven Berbatov up front, Fulham will prove a formidable force.
Although Cardiff are newly-promoted, their domination of the Championship last year surely bodes well for a successful start to Premier League life. And if they follow in the footsteps of their compatriot predecessors Swansea, they can look forward to a promising few years in the top flight of English football.
All things considered, this is set to be another epic season for the Premier League. Will Mourinho weave his magic? Will Moyes continue Ferguson’s winning ways? Will Pellegrino be Man City’s saviour? Will AVB will be the one to make a fool ou tof his former employers Chelsea. Maybe even Arsenal will… no, sorry, I almost got carried away.