Predicting the season’s results was never a strong point of mine. As unbiased as I am (sometimes) towards other clubs, I always had the “feeling” that it would be Liverpool’s year. The season when they finally win the league after such a long time. And I’m suffering from the same syndrome this summer, as the Premier League kicks off in all it’s glory this weekend. I can see them overturning Spurs at the Lane, and I have a “feeling” it’s the year they bring the title back to Anfield. I also have a “feeling” that the big four, the predictable and boring top four finishers from previous seasons will finally be cracked open. Uncoded with money and goals by the Arab Sheikhs at Eastlands, to the young Londoners at Ashburton Grove’s expense. I have a “feeling” Phil Brown won’t be singing at the end of the season, and I think two promoted sides will survive in the big league. I can also see us saying farewell to an established Premier League club, like we did last season, as Portsmouth continue to lose their stars.
Champions, Liverpool: I can hear every Everton, Man Utd and Chelsea , and possibly a majority of every other fan in the world shaking their heads in disagreement. Look at last season, Liverpool finished four points behind a fantastic Man Utd side – despite beating them twice, beating Chelsea twice, and drawing to Arsenal twice. Any other year, that would’ve been good enough to win the league but thanks to silly draws against lower sides they killed their best chance in a long time. They have may have lost Xabi Alonso, but they need to gain a Torres/Gerrard partnership over the 38 games. They played no more than 13 league games last season together, and there is no doubt in my mind that if both were fit every week Liverpool would be turning draws into wins. The loss of Alonso can be made easy if Alberto Aquilani fits in immediately and can get into the Premier League flow. Other than that, with the same unity and desire they displayed last season – and a fit and healthy front pairing, Liverpool can go one step better and end the wait.
Runners-Up, Chelsea: One thing everyone seem to agree on is Chelsea finishing in the top two next season. Unlike the other members of the big four, Chelsea haven’t sold a key player and have strengthened in a very good Yuri Zhirkov. They have a new manager, and time will tell if he can do a Guus, or end up a Scolari. Their squad is by far the strongest in the league. They welcome back Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Joe Cole from injury, and have the added bonus of Andrey Shevchenko to choose from. An immaculate squad, but I sense occasional mistakes against certain sides that will see them come close, but not close enough. Didier Drogba and Nicholas Anelka on top form will be key.
Third place, Manchester United: The reliance on Ronaldo to score goals has lifted, and it rests on the shoulders of two very good goalscorers in Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, plus a certain Michael Owen on the bench. But I can’t see any of the three being as prolific, or popping up when goals are needed most. Carlos Tevez is a loss, but one they can deal with. Antonio Valencia is a great wide player but can he provide assists regularly, while pitching in with goals? I predict a few draws, in situations where Utd would win in the past – and losses against the other top four, plus possibly more unexpected ones a la Fulham last season.
Fourth place, Manchester City: Here is where I think the mould will be broken. City have added goals, goals and more goals to their team in the signings of Adebayor, Tevez and Santa Cruz. Add that to Robinho, penalty reliant Gareth Barry, Stephen Ireland and SWP – this team can score enough goals. But can they keep them out at the other end? Shay Given is a top class ‘keeper, and Kolo Toure is a very good centre half. The addition of one or two more defenders will improve their chances big time – someone reliable defensively. I think Hughes is the right man, and if the City players can leave the egos at the door and get the job done on the pitch – they’ll finally crack the big four safe. It’s been a great start, and the new signings are looking sharp – their defense needs tuning however.
Fifth place, Arsenal: Why do I think Arsenal will be displaced? They lack goals, an anchor and a leader. The sale of Adebayor to Man City gives the advantage to a rival, as does selling Toure. Robin van Persie is a player I admire, but his fitness is questionable. If he stays fit, he should score around fifteen goals but can he? They never replaced Vieira, the captain, the leader and the big man in the middle of the park. When Mathieu Flamini developed into an impressive centre midfielder, they sold him to AC Milan. It’ll take a lot for Alex Song to step up, but it may be fatal having to rely on the young player. This prediction will probably come back and bite me in the backside, thanks to Andrei Arshavin whose astronomical ability can push this side well into the top four with a little help around him in Eduardo, Fabregas, Rosicky and Walcott. Cesc had a great first game yesterday, and they scored goals – but the well may dry up soon.
Relegation, Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth: All three of these clubs lost their opening games, but thanks to poor timing this piece didn’t get finished in time. But nonetheless, I believe these three sides will be banished to the Championship next season. I don’t think the new boys Burnley are quite ready for the Premier League, and don’t have the quality seventeen other teams have in reward for staying up. Meanwhile Hull’s disastrous form last year will continue, despite fighting well yesterday against Chelsea. If they hit that slump again, it’ll be so long to Phil Brown. And sadly, Portsmouth. They’re currently in the middle of a takeover, but it won’t come soon enough to strengthen the squad. The loss of English duo Crouch and Johnson will be massive – and with a true goalscorer in the squad, and quality in areas that they once had, they will struggle around the bottom five for the season.