Premier League football, that thing that we’ve all long since forgotten about because of the European Championships and then the Olympics. As expected the wild media hysteria picked up moments after the Olympics ended in a seamless transition.
Premier League predictions pose a number of questions, who will win the league? Who will finish in the top 4? Who will be the surprise package? (last season Newcastle made me look silly) How well will the three promoted clubs do? Who will be in the bottom three? That’s a lot of questions, then just to make it a bit harder you have to try and organise every club in a list from 1-20, it’s hard and even if you really know what you’re talking about, there’s no guarantee you will get close, but it’s fun to have a go.
I warn you now before you get too far in that this is a long post, really long. Long. To help with the task I’ve enlisted the help of my friends who did such a splendidly mediocre job of predicting the Euros.
Alex Bullard– I have ridden a unicycle and tried wind surfing, have you?
Tom Bullard – I design things for people, but never the things I want to design and never for the people I want to work for. In my spare time I make dub-step.
Matt Stangroom – I love battered sausages and my favourite colour is green. Sometimes in my spare time I write and act out short plays, but not very often.
Dave Wood – I like computer games and work for SEGA. I’m a little bit in love with Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, the main protagonist from the TV show Firefly.
Last season: 3rd
So…. Arsenal. We’re a bit… shit? Aren’t we? Pretty good at coming 3rd or 4th in recent years but lacked the consistency throughout a long season to keep us up there with Manchester United, Chelsea and more recently Manchester City. But it could be worse; we could be as woefully shit as Liverpool or Spurs. Anyway, enough about the past… Let’s look to the future because it’s looking as hot as my pants!
As I write this, Arsenal have so far signed Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla and the Nuri Sahin loan deal sounds like some utterly ridiculous fairyland dream, but also plausible. Santi Cazorla is disgustingly good. He has incredible dribbling ability, an excellent passing range, good with both feet, can play just about anywhere across midfield and occasionally bangs in screamers. He is a game changer of the highest order. I’m trying my best not to get excited about the Sahin deal, because right now it seems like an impossible dream, like pornography that convinces you the hot receptionist will have sex with you in the cupboard if you use enough sexual innuendos. I’ve also decided to no longer give a shit about Van Persie. I’d love him to stay but if he goes, at this stage, I no longer care. Unless the prick joins one of the Manchester clubs, in which case I will care. A lot. (Editor’s note: this was obviously written before Van Persie joined Manchester United, unlucky Matt)
Oh yeah, Jack Wilshere, remember him? Well, apparently he’s on course to return in October which would, by all accounts, be utterly incredible. I cannot stress enough the depth of love I have for Wilshere. He is my hero. I love his tekkers, I love his face, I love his little tongue that sticks out when he’s concentrating, I love the sheer girth of his thigh muscles, I love his laugh, I love his musk, when this all gets sorted out, I think me and Wilshere should get an apartment together. To sum up: he’s pretty good at football and when he returns his impact will be massive; in football cliché terms ‘it will be like a new signing’.
I’ve foolishly predicted Arsenal to win the league. I will admit this is partly in hope, but a part of me also genuinely believes the players Wenger has brought in will make a massive difference to an already improved and developing squad. If Arsenal can avoid injuries to the key players; Koscielny, Sagna, Arteta, Walcott. If Jack Wilshere gets fit. If Podolski and Giroud can adapt and score goals. If we sign another big name. If Jack Wilshere gets fit. If Walcott finally becomes the player we all know he can be. If the Ox continues the development he’s shown. If Bendtner finally fucks off. Then maybe, just maybe, Arsenal can win the League Cup, but probably not.
Player to watch: Theo Walcott – This is the season he finally realises he’s actually quite good at football. 10+ Goals / 15+ Assists. Also Santi Cazorla, I’m so very excited to see him in an Arsenal shirt. Feel like I need to give a special mention to Arteta and Koscielny who both had a fantastic season. Provided they both stay fit they’ll play a massive part in Arsenal’s trophy challenge this season.
Written by Matt Stangroom
Predictions: Alex 3rd – Tom 4th – Matt 1st – Dave 3rd
Last season: 16th
It’s hard for me to write about the prospects of Aston Villa without being bitter. The name Paul Lambert still brings up sore feelings. It’s too soon, the wounds haven’t quite healed yet, but he’s moved on and so must we. So what do the mercurial talents of Lambert have in store for Villa? Well the squad needs some work, but perhaps not as much as many might imagine. I think Villa underachieved last season partly due to injuries but mostly due to a poor and wildly unpopular manager. The have had problems to contend with, not least Stiliyan Petrov’s battle with cancer which now mercifully appears to be in remission.
I think to a large extent Lambert will be looking to start afresh. The basic philosophy of Villa will change overnight going from trying not to lose games to trying to win them which the fans should appreciate. Expect to see young players given a chance and big names being left out in team selections that are sometimes hard to fathom but often seem to reap rewards. Villa are in no danger of relegation with Lambert in charge but I think the top 10 might be slightly beyond them, at least for this season.
Player to watch: Gabriel Agbonlahor – He’s 25 and he’s yet to fulfil his potential. He’s quick, he’s strong and at his best he can be devastating. But what is his best position, what should his role be in a side and how best to use him? If Lambert can figure out the answer to these questions then both Agbonlahor and Villa could be in for a good season.
Predictions: Alex 11th – Tom 9th – Matt 11th – Dave 15th
Last season: 6th
The defending European champions only finished 6th last season. In league terms, AVB actually made a better start to his time in charge than Di Matteo. How much confidence can they take from that Champions League victory? I’m not sure. The departure of Drogba firmly places the goal scoring mantle back on Fernando Torres and it seems Chelsea’s fortunates are linked to that of the Spanish striker.
I’m not sure Di Matteo is the man to take Chelsea forward, but given he was the man in charge when Chelsea won the Champions League for the first time it proved too much of a task to give the job to someone else. If he doesn’t start well in the league however, that victory will seem a long time ago very quickly. Chelsea are rebuilding and I don’t expect them to challenge for the league title, but I think they’ll have enough to get a Champions League place.
Player to watch: Eden Hazard – Everyone is going to be watching him. All eyes are on the young man to see what he can deliver. I imagine most of the Premier League punters haven’t actually seen him play, beyond perhaps a brief and unrevealing glimpse during a friendly against Belgium and the community shield. So I’ll say this, he has talent, he has tricks and he should be great for the Premier League.
Predictions: Alex 4th – Tom 3rd – Matt 4th – Dave 4th
Last season: 7th
Welcome to the magical kingdom of Moyes. I don’t really understand how he does it, expect to say that he’s a really good manager. The fact that Moyes always seems to get a competitive Everton side on the pitch really does merit more attention than it gets with most of the media centred on their local rivals. Small squad, no money, nailed on top 10 finish. Doesn’t really make any sense but that doesn’t stop it from happening again and again.
This seasons Everton have goals in Jelavić, creativity in Pienaar, strength in Fellaini and as ever a solid back line led by Jagielka and organised by Howard. Hanging on to Baines is important, unless the money gained from any sale could be used to fund other signings, in which case it might almost be worth doing just to see what Moyes could conjure up in the transfer market. Misfortune with injures is the only way I can see Everton struggling this season and don’t be afraid if they get off to a slow start, as they always finish strong.
Player to watch: Jack Rodwell – He’s young and English so he’s always going to get a lot of attention in the Premier League. I hope he can stay injury free and start to rack up the games. At 21, now is around the time we’ll really start to see just how good Rodwell can be, a future England great? Or more of a Michael Ricketts. (Editor’s note: blatantly written before he went to Man City so blame them.)
Predictions: Alex 7th – Tom 7th – Matt 8th – Dave 12th
Last season: 9th
Quietly and without the mainstream media paying much attention Martin Jol has totally rebuilt Fulham. The back line looks familiar and Mark Schwarzer is yet another in the growing list of goalkeepers refusing to get old, but beyond that it’s all new. New front line, which sadly looks unlikely to include Clint Dempsey. There are exciting young players like Pajtim Kasami and Kerim Frei and Jol has got them playing attractive passing attacking football. Must be quite a nice time to be a Fulham fan, they can even win away from home these days.
Last season Fulham did well, pottered around in mid-table never in danger of the drop or of really pushing on for Europe. I expect much the same this season. I think Fulham are solid and under Jol will continue to remain so. Not perhaps in their tactical approach, more in the reliability that come the end of the season they will be in or around the top 10 again.
Player to watch: Mladen Petrić – He’s an experienced forward who has played most of his career in the German Bundesliga. The 31 year old Croatian will most likely lead the line for Fulham this season. Jol knows him well from his time in charge of Hamburg. Watch out for him as he’s got a good shot on him and can hit a free-kick too.
Predictions: Alex 9th – Tom 10th – Matt 10th – Dave 10th
Last season: 8th
How we perform this season is hard to predict. Brendan Rodgers coming in, a new style of play and new personnel plus how we performed last season is difficult to say. Lucas is back and fit now though and if he stays fit I think we’ve got a real chance of doing very well.
Our first 11 is a very strong side, though has been the case for a while but a lot of positions lack depth. If Suarez, Gerrard, Lucas or Reina get injured, our replacements are mere shadows of those players. I’m more confident in our back 4’s replacements and I think most people know how highly I rate Martin Kelly.
Daniel Agger staying or going is a big question mark but I think if he does go we’ll be getting a hefty chunk of change to buy a replacement plus I think the likes of Otamendi from Porto would be a good replacement and could net us a tidy profit, though I would not mind if he stayed at all, he’s class (He looks like he’ll be staying). Borini looks like a good signing so far and Joe Allen…well, we’ll see. Losing Maxi and Kuyt with no real replacements may come to hurt us too – some of the youngsters (Sterling in particular) will be important if we don’t have any more signings.
Player to watch: Gerrard and Suarez. Gerrard is magnificent and was England’s best player at the Euros by a country mile but over a full season and his advancing years I don’t think he’ll give the kind of season long performance that he did 4 years ago. Suarez is an excellent footballer and given the right environment to perform could have an incredible season which I feel Brendan Rodger’s fluid 4-3-3 may provide. It gives him a lot of freedom to roam and run at defenders which is a great thing for us. I’ll give it to Suarez as I feel he’ll be more important to how many goals we score which has often been an issue.
Written by Dave Wood
Predictions: Alex 6th – Tom 6th – Matt 5th – Dave 6th
Last season: 1st
Do you remember when they won the league? I do and I don’t much care for either of the Manchester clubs, but I was totally engrossed in the moment. The lack of big name signings is a strange thing for Man City given the regular arrivals over recent years but the quiet summer is probably a sign of things to come. The only arrival *so far* is Jack Rodwell who I cunningly picked as Everton’s player to watch.
I don’t think Man City will improve much this season, although having proven they can win the league could offer a mental boost towards the end of the season I expect much of the same from Mancini, although he did go with a 3-4-1-2 in the community shield and I for one would welcome a new tactical approach from one of the champions league sides.
Player to watch: Carlos Tevez – I mean, how is he still playing for Man City? Well I think it probably has a lot to do with how good he was once he got some football under his belt towards the end of last season. He’s a class player and if he’s finally sorted out his problems with Mancini and Manciti then he could be fantastic this season. But as we well know with Carlos Tevez at any moment the madness could escape and bring about the end of his world.
Predictions: Alex 2nd – Tom 2nd – Matt 2nd – Dave 1st
Last season: 2nd
If there is something Manchester United do well, then it’s comebacks. In games, in title races and in the season following a defeat. It’s so hard to keep the Premier League title away from them. They always come back and invariably win it the following season. They have a young squad, the likes of Smalling, Jones and Evans all a year older and wiser with Vidic back to command the back line and De Gea settled into English football. Cleverley and Welbeck are improving and then to cap it all off they’ve just signed Robin Van Persie.
The squad has a lot of fire power. It has youth and experience. It has everything that you would associate with a Man Utd team and Sir Alex is still in charge, still hungry for another Premier League title. It’s an intimidating prospect but there as still question marks. Scholes and Giggs are there to offer guidance and intermittent quality but there influence is going to continue to decrease. For all their forward options do they process the quality to control the middle of the park. Questions still remain about Anderson and Darren Fletcher as does the usual dilemma of how exactly Ferguson will accommodate all his stars.
Player to watch: Wayne Rooney – his Euros was poor, but it’s an entirely different game when the Premier League starts up again. How Shinji Kagawa is utilised by Ferguson will be interesting but with the impending arrival of Van Persie this could perhaps free Rooney up to play in a slightly deeper role which you always get the impression he prefers. Expect a season of him pulling the strings.
Predictions: Alex 1st – Tom 1st – Matt 3rd – Dave 2nd
Last season: 5th
Last season I thought Newcastle would mess around in mid-table and be boring. I was wrong, like really badly wrong. The kind of wrong that you don’t want to talk about and you bury your face in your palms to avoid. Thanks to their excellent finish they get to go on another European adventure this season which I think they will very much enjoy. Sadly I don’t think this will help their league form. The squad is not blessed with strength in depth and they are a couple of injuries away from heading back down the table again.
They will be exciting to watch, which for someone of my generation Newcastle teams should be. Embodying the spirit of Keegan’s sides and playing football to the we’ll score one more than you philosophy. Of course that’s always going to be tough when you’ve got the charisma vacuum Alan Pardew in charge but at least he’s let players like Ben Arfa express themselves in a style not dissimilar to that of previous incumbents of the stock enigmatic French winger role a la David Ginola and Laurent Robert which has become a welcome fixture in Newcastle sides.
Player to watch: Papiss Cisse – He surely can’t keep this scoring run up? Can he? I feel like if he does he won’t be a Newcastle player by the end of January. The end of last season was extraordinary and it’s not like they were all boring tap ins’, both his goals against Chelsea were amazing, the second probably the goal of the season. If you’re not on the look out for what he will do this season then you’d better have a good excuse lined up, like your eyes have fallen out.
Predictions: Alex 8th – Tom 8th – Matt 6th – Dave 9th
Last season: 12th
I loved last season. It’s got to be up there with the best I’ve watched in my life time. Paul Lambert and Norwich proved everyone wrong. It’s great when that happens, when people think you’ll go down and you punish previous Premier League incumbents and finish in a solid 12th. Then your manager leaves and for a little while the entire world falls apart. Thankfully there was the useful distraction of the Euros, then the Olympics, to the extent that this season has crept up on me a bit.
I’m hugely positive about the appointment of Chris Hughton, simply put I think he’s the right man for the job. His character is similar to that of a lot of our players and the club in general in so much as people tend to think we’re nice, friendly but nothing to worry about, no great threat and not to be taken seriously. I think there is a steel to Hughton that betrays his friendly persona, he’s not a push over and if tough calls need to be made I think he can make them. The same is true of Norwich, we’ve got some good players. We finished 12th last season and as much as Lambert had a huge impact on this, as he always said it’s down to the players to go out there and perform and so often they did. The midfield is an area that I really like the look off with youthful quality and various attacking options.
I think the key to our season is probably tied to Grant Holt. The entire saga over his contract negotiations and transfer request was regrettable, but I hope for all concerned it’s not well in the past. Holt has been a goliath for Norwich since his arrival and it’s perhaps a lot to ask for him to reproduce what he did last season. If he does we’ll be fine, if not then it becomes more about the squad. We’re never going to be able to go out and spend enormous amounts on a player that can carry the team. But we can take a chance of younger players, or players simply looking to prove themselves and if all of them chip in and contribute a little bit more as they progress and develop that can take the pressure of Holt and to a lesser extent Steve Morison.
Hughton has obviously looked at last season and tried to get us to tighten up at the back which is no bad thing. I don’t think we’ll be quite so expansive this season, especially away from home. However I can’t see our deference being the key to our survival. All in all I’m pretty upbeat, I think we’ll be fine and I don’t think it’s a bad thing that lots of people seem to be writing us off. Let them underestimate us, because when we beat them it makes it all the sweeter.
Player to watch: Jonny Howson – Our trio of former Leeds midfield players all catch the eye but it’s Howson who excites me most. He’s neat and tidy in his defensive third, plays it simple and is happy to sit and protect the back four. Then when he steps into the middle of the park he’s inventive, lively and creative, finding clever passes and opening up angles for the wide men. Then he steps into the final third and always looks dangerous, gambles on crosses, gets into the box and arrives looking to poach a goal. He’s young, he’s English and he’s the complete midfield player. My main concern is that sooner or later one of the big clubs will notice.
Predictions: Alex 13th – Tom 16th – Matt 13th – Dave 16th
Queens Park Rangers
Last season: 17th
QPR are in many ways the antithesis of Norwich. A club that are desperate to sign experienced players and big names from the Premier League in a flashy manner. Big name manager, big wages, big ambitions. I think a lot of clubs this season will be eyeing the 17th spot in the table and saying that will do them nicely but I get the impression Mark Hughes wouldn’t be at all happy with that. I know this because he said so “as far as I’m concerned, we will never be in this situation again while I am manager” I’m not sure I’m convinced by this. I’m not sure I’m convinced by Mark Hughes.
The squad has a pretty sturdy look to it. It’s not exactly built to last but it should serve them well for this season and perhaps for now that’s all Mark Hughes wants. Expect the old Warnock stalwarts to feature less and the likes of Park Ji-Sung and Ryan Nelsen to settle in and do their thing professionally. It sounds like QPR have also got rid of Joey Barton, which could prove to be the best move Hughes has made in the transfer market this summer. How long before the French send him back by order of their Government I wonder?
Last season: 1st (Championship)
You have to respect the job that Brian McDermott has done at Reading. He was an unknown quantity as a manager when he took over and he’s led them to the Premier League. They play exciting football, there is pace in the side and they break at impressive pace and consistently stung team’s last season often biting back from being a goal down in the process.
It’s hard to know what to expect from Reading this season. I don’t think there is a massive amount between a lot of the sides and sadly I think this will work against Reading where perhaps nativity could cost them valuable points in tight games. How well they can utilise Pavel Pogrebnyak could be decisive as much like Norwich last season I don’t think they are going to be keeping lots of clean sheets.
Player to watch: I love watching Jimmy Kebe play football. He’s a proper winger, by which I mean he’s insanely fast when he’s up to full speed to the extent that he’s incredibly hard to stop. Also that he has absolutely no interest in defending or tackling and looks like he could break down injured at any moment.
Predictions: Alex 20th – Tom 19th – Matt 20th – Dave 13th
Last season: 2nd (Championship)
Back to back promotions, I wonder how that feels? Comparisons with Norwich are pretty obvious. Rickie Lambert and Grant Holt do similar jobs for their clubs and are somewhat talismanic. So the question is, can Lambert do what his mate did and fire his club to safety in his first season in the Premier League? If you’ve not had the pleasure of watching Southampton then I will tell you that it is just that, a pleasure. They pass the ball, they attack and they are good to watch.
I like a lot of Southampton’s players, to the extent that I was hoping they wouldn’t get promoted so Norwich might have a shot at signing one or two of them. Jay Rodriguez was a big money acquisition and he’ll certainly be expected to add goals and backup to Lambert. The addition of Gaston Ramirez is frankly staggering, 11.8 million is the figure being quoted for the 21 year old. It’s a young squad with lots to prove, they’ll be fearless and that can be dangerous.
Player to watch: Jack Cork – I like him a lot. He’s good on the ball, he’s sharp and good in possession and is happy to play the easy pass. Did well when he featured at the Olympics and I think he’s the kind of player who will enjoy a long career in the Premier League or which this season will only be the begging of.
Predictions: Alex 19th – Tom 20th – Matt 17th – Dave 14th
Last season: 14th
Stoke didn’t really do much domestically last season. They were never in danger of the drop and never looked like grabbing a spot in the top half. They focused a lot of their attention on a Europa League campaign which took it’s toll on a squad not accustom to mid-week adventures abroad. Just how much of an impact it had on their season is hard to say but without the extra games this season it should certainly be a help.
No real big moves for Stoke in the transfer market, the arrival of Michael Kightly could prove to be inspired if they can succeed where others have failed and keep him fit. Stoke’s footballing approach is well know now. The “Stoke test” will be in full flow again this season. My concern is that they might have gone a bit stale. After the highs of European football last season I think the crowd well need to cheer the players on and make the difference in what could prove to be a tricky season.
Player to watch: Peter Crouch – It’s got to be Crouch really hasn’t it, I mean he’s pretty hard to miss. The focal point of Stoke’s attacks, his treat is obvious. After another decent showing last season he was perhaps unlucky to be over looked for England.
Predictions: Alex 16th – Tom 11th – Matt 18th – Dave 7th
Last season: 13th
Last season was a big transition for Sunderland. A new manager in the shape of Martin O’Neill came in and changed the team’s fortunes. It’s easy to forget that at the start of the season under Bruce the team looked like potential relegation candidates. MoN got them safe, got them sorted and for a while had them flying up the table. A memorable backs to the wall win against Man City with a late and slightly lucky winner sticks in the mind.
How much impact Sunderland can make this season is certainly up for debate. At times under O’Neill they were flying but when the initial impact wore off the team were horribly inconsistent towards the end of the season. If he can get them playing like he had them firing when he first took over than they could make a real impression on the top 10, otherwise it will be another season in and around mid-table with the games against Newcastle the highlight and maybe a league cup run, a competition that MoN has enjoyed success in with previous clubs.
Player to watch: Jack Colback – perhaps not the most obvious choice but I think he’s a player of huge ability and potential and I think he can start to have a real influence on the team helping to bring the more established stars into games. I hope MoN sticks with him and trusts him to play in a central midfield position.
Predictions: Alex 10th – Tom 12th – Matt 9th – Dave 8th
Last season: 11th
What a ride it was for the Swans last season, flirting with the top half rather than the relegation zone. Pundits lining up to fall over themselves talking about the passing style. Praise heaped on Brandan Rogers’ side. The summer has since the old master leave to be replaced by a massive name in European football Michael Laudrup who played for Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Unfortunately his managerial resume isn’t nearly as impressive and regardless of his undoubted quality as a player this season will be a true test as to whether he has the substance to really cut it as a manager.
The departure of Joe Allen is a big loss. He was so often the heart beat of the side last season but the fee he commanded should give Laudrup ample funds to reshape the squad. So far his additions have been of a European flavour and it will be interesting to see how well he can blend them into the new squad. Expect them to keep much the same style they had last season in possession, the worry is that now opponents know them better it may mean they come up against a lot of sides looking really get stuck in against them.
Player to watch: Michu – Yes his name sounds a bit like a sneeze but he scored valuable goals from midfield last season and La Liga and will help to fill the void left by Allen and more specifically Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Predictions: Alex 15th – Tom 17th – Matt 16th – Dave 18th
Last season: 4th
Spurs finished 4th last season, in any other year this would be wonderful and they would be looking forward to life in the Champions League under the stewardship of ‘Arry Redknapp. Then Chelsea beat Bayern and everything changed. Suddenly Spurs season looked like a failure. One time potential title contenders to the Europa League, agony.
So to the dawn of a new age at Spurs under Andre Villas Boas, who it seems did such a good job unsettling Chelsea that Spurs felt he was the perfect man to come in and break up then rebuild their squad. Redknapp’s stop gap signings have gone, fringe players axed and Modric on the brink. Everything will be geared towards the future. The question is, while all this is going on, just how well can Spurs do this season? Having tasted the sweet delights of the Champions League anything less will be unpalatable, but given the rebuild that AVB is undertaking I think top 6 would be a good finish.
Player to watch: Gareth Bale – Spurs are a long way from being a one man team but on his day this one man can win games on his own. Last season started brilliantly but tailed off after January when he never quite recaptured the form he showed in 2011. New manager, fresh start and more responsibility as he is quickly becoming one of Spurs’ senior players. How he responds and how consistently he can perform to his maximum will go a long way to shaping Spurs season.
Predictions: Alex 5th – Tom 5th – Matt 7th – Dave 5th
West Bromwich Albion
Last season: 10th
I liked the look of West Brom last season and felt they could have accomplished more than they did. A top 10 finish in the Premier League was reward for Roy Hodgson who had built a solid team with some exciting players. Shane Long gave lots of teams problems with his pace and movement. Brom are symptomatic of a lot of the teams currently floating around in the middle of the Premier League, in that I don’t know what their ambitions are. I don’t think they have the funds to try and push further up the table so maintaining mid-table obscurity is the standard aim.
The task was made harder when their manager was pinched by England. His replacement is Steve Clarke, long time assistant manager and one of the most well respected coaches in England. The trouble is, it so rarely goes well for assistants that make the step up to manager. In his defence often that’s because they are taking over the club they were assistant at. Clarke comes in with a fresh set of eyes to look at West Brom and with new ideas of his own which can only be a good thing. If they get off to a slow start like last season there will be questions over his appointment and managerial credentials so he could do with an early win.
Player to watch: Romelu Lukaku – never really got a chance at Chelsea so I’m interested to see what he can do with a bit more playing time. He’s big and strong, that much is clear but he’s also got decent technical ability and he’s still only 19. Brom have a few forwards now so he won’t walk into the team, but I think given he’ll score valuable goals.
Predictions: Alex 14th – Tom 13th – Matt 19th – Dave 11th
West Ham United
Last season: 3rd (Championship)
The irrepressible Big Sam is back in the big time with West Ham. At first it seemed like a strange match and I think a lot of the West Ham fans are still unconvinced about Allardyce and his methods. They should beware, the last time a team thought they were too good for Big Sam and gave him the boot it brought them Steve Kean and relegation. Nobody would want to see the same thing happen to West Ham? Would they?
A lot of the West Ham players know their way around the Premier League and we know exactly what to expect from them. They’ll be direct, they’ll look to get it forward to whomever is playing of their many forwards. Will the fans like it? Will they be happy to grind out gritty 0-0’s at home? Will their potential discontent be their undoing? I can see it happening. I fear that at the first sign of trouble the owners will come in with a knee jerk reaction and give Big Sam the boot. If however the hammers unite behind the vast exterior of Allardyce they will prove to be a formidable test for visiting teams.
Player to watch: Carlton Cole – When the rumours were rife that West Ham were trying to sign Grant Holt a lot of West Ham fans said that he wasn’t as good as Carlton Cole. Well Holt scored 15 league goals last season helping Norwich to a 12th place finish, if Cole can better that then he’ll be well worth watching.
Predictions: Alex 17th – Tom 15th – Matt 14th – Dave 19th
Last season: 15th
The Wigan enigma continues. They’ve kept hold of their manager who graciously stated he was committing his future to the club after all the jobs he had been linked with had been filled by other people. Martinez did a good stint for ITV as a pundit and I very much enjoyed watching him. The same can be said for his Wigan side especially in the second half of last season when a tactical reshuffle sparked a run of form and a number of surprising results. At one time they looked like relegation favourites at another they showed the form of title contenders.
Which Wigan will show up this season? They’ve still got Victor Moses for now but Chelsea rumours persist. The arrival of Arouna Kone will be a boost, but only if he shows the ability he regularly displayed for Levante and not the form that plagued him during his spell at Sevillia where he simply couldn’t buy a goal. I hope they stick with 3-4-3 and I hope they continue to play attractive football.
Player to watch: Shaun Maloney – I think he had a lot to do with Wigan’s turn in fortunes last season. He’s got a lot of ability but hasn’t produced it with nearly enough consistency in the past. Martinez seems to have figured out how to get the best out of him and given a free role to roam about the pitch definitely seems to suit him and he and he will cause people problems, hopefully for Wigan it’s the opposition.
Predictions: Alex 18th – Tom 18th – Matt 15th – Dave 17th
1. Man Utd
2. Man City
11. Aston Villa
14. West Brom
17. West Ham
1. Man Utd
2. Man City
9. Aston Villa
13. West Brom
15. West Ham
1. Arsenal (HAHAH YES REALLY)
2. Man City
3. Man Utd
11. Aston Villa
14. West Ham
19. West Brom
1. Man City
2. Man Utd
9. Newcastle United
11. West Bromwich Albion
15. Aston Villa
16. Norwich City
17. Wigan Athletic
18. Swansea City
19. West Ham United
20. Queens Park Rangers
Alex: Carlos Tevez
Tom: Sergio Aguero
Matt: Sergio Aguero
Dave: I’m going to go with a ridiculous suggestion and say Fernando Torres.
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far without skipping. The preview weighs in at a hefty 6500 words, which is probably around 500 words per person who will read it. I’m quietly excited for the new season. I think it might be a bit of a slow burner, but gradually I’ll become ensconced in the Premier League again. Charmed by all its finery, enthused by its drama and captivated by its undeniable excitement.