Last season was one of the most competitive Premier League seasons despite a rather predictable eventual outcome. After a summer of as yet, unfulfilling transfer sagas, it’s time for the world’s best league in terms of talent, to recommence.
Arsenal – 5th
Before the summer, Arsenal fans sang ‘spend some money’ to Arsene Wenger, albeit in a more coarse manner. So far, there has been no proper defensive reinforcement. The team still lacks experience and an English core to the side. For a side challenging for the title, they need to grind out more wins. This might be the season where the Gunners slip out of the top four, especially if Fabregas and Nasri leave the Emirates.
Aston Villa – 11th
The departure of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing threaten to cripple Villa. The question is can N’Zogbia and Albrighton step up to the plate? Add into the mix the arrival of Alex McCleish, who has a job on his hands to keep expectant Villa fans happy. The defence should be strong under the former Birmingham manager, especially with the arrival of Shay Given, keeping them well out of any trouble.
Blackburn Rovers – 18th
Things don’t quite add up at Ewood Park. Much is said about Venky’s big ambition for the club but the amount spent on new arrivals so far suggests otherwise. Having narrowly avoided relegation last year under Steve Kean, it’s hard to see Rovers improving drastically. They may live to regret sacking Sam Allarydce. Chris Samba needs to stay for survival to be achieved.
Bolton Wanderers – 13th
With Lee and Tyrone Mears both picking up serious injuries in pre-season, Owen Coyle already has a tough task. Add to that the loss of Daniel Sturridge returning to Chelsea and Johan Elmander moving to Turkey, Coyle looks short of options up front. 2011 hasn’t been a great year for Wanderers and although they won’t go down, don’t expect the Trotters to perform miracles this season.
Chelsea – 2nd
Arrigo Sacchi, the former AC Milan manager, once said, “a jockey doesn’t have to have been born a horse.” This certainly applies to André Villas Boas, a manager who never played professionally but hasn’t let this stop him from coaching. He’s tactically astute and needs to find a way to get the best out of Torres soon. Chelsea could do with more strength in depth though.
Everton – 9th
With little transfer activity at Goodison Park, Everton fans shouldn’t be expecting too much next season. Their injury curse appears to have struck again with Seamus Coleman ruled out for a few months. To move Everton to the next level, Moyes needs some money – something in very short supply on the blue half of Merseyside. Another mid table finish beckons.
Fulham – 10th
Another year brings another new manager at Fulham. Martin Jol could do with another striker to give the Whites a bit more firepower up front. In terms of the club’s league finish, it might be beneficial if Fulham bowed out early on from the Europa League. However, the competition is important to the fans after the club’s success in the competition two years ago.
Liverpool – 4th
A few managers (Roberto Mancini and Jupp Heynckes) have recently said, “Strikers win you matches but defenders win you championships.” Apply this to Liverpool. Going forward, they look solid. At the back, even with José Enrique, they’re not exactly impenetrable. This might prevent them from making a title challenge but this year could well be the season when Liverpool return to the Top Four.
Manchester City – 3rd
Although more money has been spent, the Community Shield showed City’s deficiencies and that work is still needed. As a manager, Roberto Mancini must try and take the initiative more. Currently, he is too reactive instead of being proactive. It might help squad morale if Balotelli went to pastures new. Although they will probably miss out on the title, they should still retain their place in the Top Four next season.
Manchester United – 1st
Sir Alex Ferguson has strengthened well, slotting square pegs into the square holes that were in his side. He thought ahead (unlike Arsene Wenger), ensuring he got his targets early on. Wesley Sneijder would complete the jigsaw for United. If Ferguson wants to succeed in Europe for a third time, he needs to work out how to limit Real and Barca. That might be a bridge too far, the Premier League title might not be though
Newcastle United – 15th
Alan Pardew has started to craft his own side this summer which has included a spate of French imports. Yohan Cabaye from French Champions, Lille, looks the most impressive acquisition. Behind the scenes though, trouble seems to be brewing on the Tyne. The Joey Barton saga needs to be sorted quickly or it could affect the atmosphere amongst the squad. Things must be right in house or success on the pitch is nigh on impossible.
Norwich City – 17th
On paper, Norwich City shouldn’t be able to cut it in the Premier League. However, in practice, they have a very good manager in Paul Lambert who can coerce the very best out of his players. The Canaries must develop a different style to that of your archetypal promoted side or they will return from whence they came. Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt are the men who hold the keys to survival.
QPR – 19th
The ‘R’s season revolves solely around one man – Adel Taarabt. If he fires, then QPR will probably survive. Sounds easier than it will be as he needs to be kept under control and injury free. Loftus Road needs to be a fortress. Some rather unfair murmurs about Neil Warnock’s job over the summer won’t have helped the Hoops cause.
Stoke City – 12th
Decent at the back and good going forward, Stoke City need more strength in depth, especially to cope with the strains of the Europa League. Beyond a good first team, there isn’t much there. Don’t be fooled. They are experienced, physically strong and you’d be mistaken if you think they’re only threatening from set pieces. Another striker would help pull them in and around the top half.
Sunderland – 7th
The Black Cats have the biggest resources outside the Premier League’s top six and this is illustrated by the 10 signings made over the summer. The feeling on Wearside appears to be that after a few years forming his side, its’ time for Steve Bruce to deliver something back. A top 10 finish will be the minimum requirement and they’re a good shout for a Europa League spot as well.
Swansea City – 20th
As aesthetically pleasing as the Swans maybe, the defence may prove their eventual downfall. A good relationship is required between a back four and the goalkeeper, and Dorus De Vries’ departure could well have a negative effect. They’re not as one dimensional as some of their rivals but they may just simply not be strong enough for Premier League football.
Spurs – 6th
As far as their ambitions of getting back into the top four, they could certainly do without the Europa League. Van Der Vaart needs to stay fit for longer this season and a striker is required if Spurs are to push on. To break into the top four, they need to find a balance between attack and defence, something they weren’t able to do last season, as well as putting away the weaker teams home and away.
West Brom – 8th
Under Roy Hodgson, the Baggies will be a very well disciplined side this season and will comfortably retain their Premier League status. In the past, sides under Hodgson tended to struggle on the road, something he will need to rectify, perhaps with a slightly more attacking brand of football. The Hawthorns won’t be an easy place to visit this season.
Wigan Athletic – 16th
The sheer presence of the Latics in the Premier League shows what can happen if your club is well run. Survival is always good enough for Chairman Dave Whelan and he will be hoping for more of the same. Roberto Martinez showed loyalty by declining Aston Villa’s advances over the summers. He will need to find a way to cope with the departure of Charles N’Zogbia. A relegation scrap will ensue but Martinez has proven his managerial qualities in the past, so they should relish it.
Wolves – 14th
Bringing in Roger Johnson from Birmingham is a terrific coup for Mick McCarthy. Making him Club Captain suggests a new outlook in the West Midlands. Up front they are hard working with the likes of Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher and Johnson will help to shore up what was a leaky defence last year. Jamie O’Hara is a good signing in the middle of the park and this should ensure safety from relegation.
So my final table is as follows.
1. Manchester United
3. Man City
8. West Brom
11. Aston Villa
12. Stoke City
13. Bolton Wanderers
17. Norwich City
18. Blackburn Rovers
20. Swansea City
With a few weeks until the transfer window shuts, there’s still the possibility that signings will be made which change the course of the season. A few clubs in particular still have business to do. It will be interesting to see how the three promoted sides fair with little Premier League experience amongst the three of them. If this season comes close to matching last year in terms of entertainment, fans have an intriguing year of football ahead.
Article courtesy of Archie Rhind-Tutt from his excellent site – Gone With The Rhind