Football Express: EPL Predictions
An edited version of this was used as part of a prediction panel piece for The Football Express on 12.08.2011
Predictions for the 2011/12 English Premier League season.
1. Manchester United
2. Manchester City
It is as much a case of ‘same old, same old’ as it is ‘all change’ in my top four for this season. I was impressed at how easily Ashley Young appears to have settled in at United, looking good against Manchester City in the Community Shield. David De Gea’s inauspicious start aside I think that other teams will have to pull off something special to replace Ferguson’s charges at the top of the Premier League tree.
In acquiring Sergio Aguero Manchester City have leapfrogged Chelsea as the best of the rest. Regardless of whether or not Tevez stays I am of the opinion that Chelsea’s squad has hit a bit of a wall and at the time of writing the lack of fresh faces challenging for first team places will be a hinderance.
The “Battle For FOURTH!!!!” is Sky Sport’s ace in the hole if one team looks like tearing off with the title trophy. As a Spurs fan it pains me to say it but I can’t see Tottenham being too involved. It is going to be a straight fight between Arsenal and Liverpool again, looking at how the respective teams have strengthened, (or not in Arsenal’s case) there would appear to be only one winner, (I can hear the howls of derision already). Luis Suarez has been a favourite of mine for years and I have no doubt that he will become a huge star of the Premier League. If Liverpool can just keep Steven Gerrard on the treatment table and out of the first team for long enough I think fourth place is theirs at a canter.
My three teams to be relegated are, in no particular order, Wigan Athletic, Norwich City and Newcastle United. Wigan have come close to relegation in the last few seasons and were the second lowest goal scorers in the league last term. The loss of Charles N’Zogbia to Aston Villa and Tom Cleverley’s return to Manchester United won’t help that stat and survival this season will be a step too far.
As much respect for Paul Lambert as I have I can’t help but think Norwich are in trouble. The bottom line is that the players at his disposal are just not good enough to keep them up. I think they’ll give a few teams a good scare but ultimately they will go straight back down to the Championship.
Selling Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll, releasing Joey Barton and fluttering their eyelashes at Damien Comolli over the talents of Jose Enrique, Newcastle United are in danger of losing their four best players of the last two seasons. It could all end in tears at SJP, well, more tears anyway.
I’m not sure that we get surprise packages in the Premier League these days as we’re always looking for teams to do what Hull City managed in their first season back in the top flight. Blackpool came very close to surviving last season and I think Swansea will survive with reasonable comfort, entertaining plenty on their way.
If the figures are to be believed then QPR’s owners are regularly diving into swimming pools of cash in homage to Scrooge McDuck. The likelihood of any of this cash being spent on exciting new players seems slim. The Hoops will stay up but it’s because there are three teams worse than them in league. Don’t expect Warnock’s finest to be kicking in the doors of the Champions League party any time soon.
Three To Watch.
Gareth Bale: It could be described as a make or break season for Bale. He has had a good 18 months with some amazing displays but he’s also become the butt of almost every joke in Premier League football. No, he’s not the best player in the world. he’s not even the best player in the Tottenham team. Great displays in the Champions League were often followed up by anonymous league performances. If he really is the name on everyone’s transfer wish list, now is the time to prove it.
Scott Sinclair: At least four Chelsea managers appear to have had reservations about Sinclair. In his 5 years at Chelsea he was loaned out to no fewer than 6 clubs. Last season he finally got some stability in his career signing permanently with Swansea. In the Swans’ promotion run he scored 19 goals including a hat-trick in the play-off final. Not too shabby for the player who in the words of that old cliché, is not an out-and-out striker. Is this the season he proves those Blue doubters wrong?
Charles N’Zogbia: N’Zogbia has long had a reputation for being a bit of a pain in the crack. Seemingly always on the hunt for a move to a club ‘worthy of his talents’. If Alex McLeish can get it right at Villa Park then the team should be challenging for a European place. With the added weight of replacing the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing it will be interesting to see how much of a part N’Zogbia plays in that.
Player you wouldn’t miss if he left these shores.
Peter Crouch: I don’t like Crouch. I don’t mean this personally. Alleged taxi indiscretions aside he seems like a perfectly pleasant man. He says “y’know” a little too much for my taste but he has the air of an all round good egg. As soon as he sets foot on that pitch though, my heart sinks. The strange thing is he’s not a particularly bad player either. Crouch scored some important goals during his time at Spurs. The one at Eastlands where the ball smacked him in the face and went in to seal the top four spot. The one at the San Siro against Milan we he appeared to kcik the ground first before slicing the ball into the bottom corner. The fact that he only scored four league goals last season is a minor problem. As is the way Spurs play when he’s on the pitch, diagonal ball into the box anyone? I just can’t stand watching him play the game and for that reason I’ve pushed the passenger seat as far back as it will go and set the Sat Nav for Bratislava. Jump in, Crouchy!
I love Rafael Van Der Vaart but I love his wife Sylvie even more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgUpLh6lLJc