Predictions are notoriously hard. It’s very rare that you end up looking anything else than stupid. Last season the Nouse Sport team had a go at predicting the outcome of the 2010-2011 season and it went fairly well, so we thought we’d give it another go.
We’ve also made a few predictions for the opening weekend’s fixtures so we can be openly mocked sooner rather than later. Get involved, have your own say and make a few outrageous claims of your own. Danny Shittu to be top scorer? Arsenal to finish in the lower half of the table? Kieron Dyer to play two games in a row? It could all happen…
Champions – Manchester United. Fergie’s team were imperious last season and this year the gum chewing, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen Glaswegian has strengthened his squad more intelligently than any transfer window in recent memory. Ashley Young is an especially impressive capture, and the £15 million paid for the Villa man in comparison with the higher sums paid for lesser players such as Stewert Downing may prove to be one of the steals of the season.
Phil Jones is also a bargain at £19 million and looks to have the talent that could see him captain club and country in the future. His understanding with the similarly exceptional Chris Smalling could be important, especially as Rio Ferdinand’s injury problems persist. These factors coupled with the the emergence of homegrown talent like Tom Cleverly mean United are far more future orientated, with many valued servants but lesser players heading towards the exit in exchange for healthy sums. If Rooney stays fit and Hernazdez continues his rapid growth into one of the best out and out strikers in World football United could prove nigh on unstoppable.
The top four – Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal. Andre Villas Boas is a progressive appointment in the manager’s position at Chelsea but a lack of investment beyond the Belgian wunderkind Romelu Lukaku will stymie the Blue’s title ambtions. The Luka Modric deal seems to have run out of steam and without a bustling, creative presence at the heart of their midfield Chelsea will continue to be robust but impotent.
City, meanwhile, are not short on investment but are short on cohesion and spirit. Sergio Aguero is a superb investment and is a less selfish presence in the dressing room than his pugnacious compatriot Carlos Tevez, whilst also simply being a better player. A less than settled midfield around the little magician David Silva is also not conducive to a title push. Expect them to floruish in fits and starts whilst constantly being buffeted by the high winds of Mario Ballotelli’s intense stupidity.
Arsenal may well thrive with their want-away captain finally away but not many teams, let alone the North Londoners, can easiliy replace such a talent. They may be more comfortable without the saga surrounding them and Gervinho looks a good player but this is not the year that they get their hands back on the title. It may be the year that, stepping into Cesc’s shoes, Jack Wilshere confirms himself as the best young player in Europe or that, if Scott Dann puts pen to paper, certain defensive frailties are solved but Champions League football is really the best the Gunners can hope for.
Relegated – Swansea, Blackburn, Norwich. For all the Romance of Swansea’s ascent to the Premier League it would be some acheivement if they stayed up. They have little quality in their squad and will struggle even give the managerial powers of Brenden Rogers. Blackburn could find themselves in a difficult situation as well having little money to add to their squad and a poor manager who commands neither the respect of their players or fans. Norwich have invested in risky hopes such as Steve Morison who may find the chasm between Championship and Premier League a little too far to leap. Last year a large proportion of their fire power came from Grant Holt, a man simply not good enough at the highest level. If a big to middling club sacks their manager early then they could also lose their prize asset, manager Paul Lambert, as the Scotsman is an outstanding manager.
Surprise Package – Tottenham – Harry’s boys could have a surprising season- and not in a good way. They failed to qualify for the Champions League and while their rivals have strengthened, notably Liverpool, they have stood still. Add into the mix that their stand out player Luka Modric is unsettled and wants to leave and things begin to look tough. European football of any description would be an acheivment as even teams like Aston Villa and Everton will hope to have better seasons, along with the last season’s top four and Liverpool. If they are faltering come January expect a raft of Gareth Bale transfer stories and Harry Redknapp’s status as heir to Capello’s throne to look more and more fragile.
Golden Boot – Javier Hernandez. The Little Pea will get more game time this year and will undoubtedly improve on his already impressive return from last season. An instinctive finisher who boasts frigteningly good movement he will take some beating if Manchester United go on a run and he is greedily accepting the deliveries of Young, Valencia, Nani and Rooney.
Champions – All the smart money is on Manchester United but, predominantly for the sake of having something to argue about with Jake, I’m going for Chelsea. In many ways we don’t know what Chelsea will produce, and the chances are that Sir Alex Ferguson’s regime will crush Villas Boas like it has Avram Grant and Carlo Ancelotti, but the word is that the former Porto boss is something special. He’s already broken several records and let’s not forget he does have quite a team at his disposal. Maybe, just maybe, it could be there year.
Top Four – Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool. The top four is practically a trophy in itself these days – something that has doubtless kept the Arsenal fans extremely happy throughout the last few seasons. Man Utd will push Chelsea all the way, that is of course if they don’t walk the title themselves. Fergie has bought superbly over the summer and Ashley Young might turn out to be a star of the season.
Roberto Mancini, whose neck is permanently hidden behind a scarf, led his side to FA Cup final victory last year and his brief this year is to fight for the title. I don’t think the side he has created are quite good enough to do that yet but a top four spot is well within their grasp.
Liverpool have spent big and Luis Suarez looks like a quality player. Owner John W. Henry has made it clear he wants Champions League and I reckon King Kenny will deliver.
Relegated – Wigan, QPR, Blackburn. I tipped Wigan for relegation last year and they survived and, to be honest, they’ll probably stay up again. That being said it wouldn’t be a Premier League season if Wigan weren’t tipped to be relegated. The loss of Charles N’Zogbia could be massive.
QPR have kept Adel Taarabt which will help them in their fight to avoid the drop but their defence looks weak and I doubt they’ll do much away from Loftus Road, especially given the fact that Neil Warnock’s job already appears to be under pressure.
Blackburn are a tricky one, they struggled under Steve Kean last year and I think it will be much of the same this year – especially if they lose Chris Samba. It will be interesting to see whether David Goodwillie will score any goals.
Surprise Package – Norwich. As much as it pains to me to say it as an ardent Ipswich fan, Paul Lambert is a very good manager. He has put together a very decent squad that will remain competitive all season. At home they will be a very tough proposition and Lambert has bought young, keen players whose careers are on the way up. I want them to come down with a record low points total but I think they’ll finish somewhere between mid-table and 17th.
Golden Boot – Once again I will go for Fernando Torres. He has a lot to prove and he isn’t even assured of a place in the starting XI – not necessarily the makings of a great season. The Torres of last season bears no resemblance to the Torres of a few years ago; if he can recapture his old form he’ll be somewhere near the top of the scoring charts.
Opening Weekend Predictions
Blackburn 1-1 Wolves
Fulham 2-1 Aston Villa
Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland
QPR 0-2 Bolton
Wigan 1-1 Norwich
Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal
Stoke 0-1 Chelsea
WBA 0-3 Man Utd
Man City 4-0 Swansea