Predictions for 2014-15 Season
Chelsea were my tip to win the league last year and with their record, especially in the big games, I have no idea how they didn’t. An un-Chelsea like implosion in the last 5 games of the season, saw them finish third. Their lack of goals up front, was a clear problem for them, but they’ve addressed that, signing one of the hottest strikers in European football, Diego Costa. Cesc Fabbregas is an interesting one, cos I don’t see him as an obvious Jose Mourinho type player, but a player I think was wasted at Barcalona. Chelsea are the strongest-willed club in Europe and don’t concede a lot of goals. Costa’s goals may not make up the loss of goals from Lampard, Lukaku, Ba and Eto. But there’s an old saying in football, goals win games, defences win leagues. Chelsea will prove that to be true. I don’t see any team going the whole season unbeaten again, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the loss count didn’t exceed 3.
West Brom 20th
West Brom have a big problem. The squad they have is a bottom three one and I’d argue they’re the most obvious to finish bottom. I consider all the factors in predicting where a team will finish. Starting 11, the squad, the manager, flexibility in tactics, ability to buy in January and it’s a negative on all of those criteria’s for West Brom. The best player in this team is the keeper, Ben Foster and when your best player is your keeper, you’re in trouble. Jolean Lescott would’ve been a great signing for a Tottenham or Southampton, but I don’t think he’s a man that will lead and dig deep when things are going wrong.
Alongside Manchester United, Liverpool and Swansea, Southampton are one of the teams I’m quite interested in this season. I wanna see how they recover after losing the heartbeat of their first team. Four have left the first team and more from the squad, as well as the manager and they haven’t been replaced with the same level of quality. Southampton are not a huge club and despite their great progress over the last 2 seasons and impressive football, their mission statement should still read; Just stay up. That would still be an achievement. With the team being stripped to the bare bones and a young manager with no experience of the Premier League installed, it’s hard to put up an argument against them not going down. But, while I don’t think they’ll match last season’s finish of 8th, I think they’ll scrabble to mid-table. But I don’t know how or why.
Manchester City 3rd
The champions. Yes Manchester City had one of the best two squads and therefore second was a minimum requirement. But there was an element of win by default. Chelsea and Liverpool both had golden chances to win the league and both blew it. I don’t think City will retain the league and I actually think they’ll drop two places. Two of their best three players, (Vincent Kompany & Sergio Aguero) have recuring injury problems that will keep them out for patches of the season and is Yaya Toure’s head right. I have a feeling they will make the Champions League their proirety this year. If you offered them 4th place in the league but a Champions League final now, I reckon they’d take it.
Leicester City 17th
I think the Championship champions, will stay up and are ready to establish themselves in the Premier League. They’ve had spells in the Premier League over the last 15 years, but now the yoyo-ing must stop. Two things are needed to stay in the Premier League after coming up; a goalscorer and core group of Brits. Drinkwater, Upson, Albrighton and Nugget are good enough to finish 17th. Leonardo Ulloa is a pricey but smart buy and manager Nigel Person will instill hard work too.
Swansea are one of my funny one’s cos I don’t really know where they’re at. 18 months ago they were an established Premier League side. The mistake they made was committing to the Europa League. I said last season, the best thing they could do would be to come out of that competition and cermeant a top 7 position. They didn’t, struggled and have gone backwards. Now staying in the league would be an achievement and that’s the brutal truth. They’ve lost manager Michael Laudrup, a good keeper Michelle Vorm, Ben Davies and haven’t signed Jonathan DeGuzman, (I really don’t get why Arsenal or Man Utd haven’t snapped him up). If Wilfred Bony goes, so will they. They have bought Gilfy Sigursen, who I really rate, but I don’t know if it’ll be enough to keep them out of a relegation fight.
West Ham Utd 15th
Every season there’s a team who surprises everyone and overachieves and one who underachieves. I think West Ham will be the latter. I have to confuse my point by saying that I actually think they’ve made some good transfers this summer. Aaron Cresswell I watched a lot of at Ipswitch and rate, Diego Poyet is another player I think is very good and think could’ve got a better club than West Ham. We saw what Enner Valencia can do at the World Cup, Cheikhou Kouyaté looks a very Alladyce type player and Carl Jenkinson will be hungry and hoping to impress. The injury to Andy Carroll could be blessing in disguise as they don’t have the option of lumping it forward, which is main complaint from their fans, no? West Ham move into the Olympic Stadium next season and they just can’t do so, playing in the championship.
Everyone was impressed with Everton last year and they almost crowned a great year with Champions League football – and I think they deserved fourth. But like Liverpool blew the chance of winning the league, Everton blew the chance of finishing with the elite sides. And like Liverpool, I think that was their best and possibly last chance of doing so. Everton won’t finish top four this year but if they win a cup this year and I include the Europa League in that, that would be a great year. They have the squad to win the Europa League. Romelu Lukaku is a great prospect and has proved he can score 15 goals in the Premier League. But a slight gamble for me at £28m, as that’s practically their who transfer budget. The club are basically saying, ‘we expect 20 goals’. I don’t expect Coleman and Barry to match their great seasons of last year, but I do expect 10 goals from Barkley and Pinnear to step up. I trust Roberto Matinez to coach John Stones into a quality defender and would throw him in from the start. Bryan Oviedo is a good player and I really rate Kevin Mirallas.
Despite the great summer additions Arsenal have made, I think they had a better chance of winning the league last season – that doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t win it this year. Wenger seems to have his groove back and is can’t close the wallet. Sanchez (alongside, Remy Cabella, Rickie Lambert and Steven Caulker) is the best signing in terms of value for money made this summer and as I’ve been saying ‘the new Suarez’. He is so similar – great dribbler, very strong, bags of stamina, creative and made for the Arsenal system. He’s even quicker than Suarez but perhaps not quite as clinical. Most importantly, he does one thing Arsenal need but don’t … He shoots. I think Mourniho will be the difference between Chelsea and Arsenal and United’s fresh legs in the week will see Arsenal battle with City for third. Except the three batterings Arsenal’s defence was emaculate. The only thing I worry about is still the lack of leaders. Arsenal still don’t have anyone who wants to dig deep and do the ugly things when things aren’t going right. And that ultimately will be their undoing. Again. Sanchez is a great buy. But can you see Arsenal not getting beaten 6-1 again because of it?
Stoke City 9th
If West Ham are my prediction as my shock side to fair poorly, then Stoke are my pick to do surpringly well. It’s fair to say Stoke are an established Premier League club now; the model of stability that Swansea, Southampton and Hull should aspire to emulate. Staying up is no longer achievement for them and it time for another cup run. They have the best set of goalkeepers (Chelsea aside) in Europe – Butland and Sorensen and Asmir Begovic their number one. Arnautovic, Adam and Ireland have moments of quality, Huth and Shawcross are the two pillars who do what they do. But except Crystal Palace I think Stoke have done the best transfer business this summer. I’ve always liked Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell will add some more bite in the middle – both signed for free! And it’s clear Mark Hughes played the former Barcelona striker card, cos otherwise how the hell did Stoke get Bojan?
I’m gonna say it early. I think Burnley will go down. But I take no joy in saying that. I watched a bit of Burnley last season and I really liked how they played. Really good, patient football. Real exciting football. Ings and Marney are good players and I’d be surprised if Trippier isn’t at an established Premier League side next summer. I fear Burnley could be side that we adopt as our second club but ultimately their defence will be their downfall.
A lot of work is needed at Spurs, that exceeds bringing in players. I think the best signing they have made this summer could be the manager, Mauricio Pochettino. Tottenham’s biggest problem for me, is a lack of identity – and it’s been missing for a long time. Spurs need to work out how they want to play and form a plan on how they are going to do that. They buy good players sometimes, but without thinking about how it going to work. Buy players, then work out what to do. Nobody can tell me the what this club is about, but I think Pochettino may implement a long term plan. I think keeping Lloris is as big as a new signing – he’s a game winner. The only defender I rate is Vertongen, but he’s not a leader and quality is drops when surrounded by bad defenders. I do rate Soldado despite most Spurs fans not (and to be fair, they’re justified in thinking that). But I thought the system of one up front, was the one system a player like him looks bad in. Capoue is a really good player I wanted Arsenal to sign and someone if used right, could be an asset. Levy is clearly relunctant to spend after last summer, but unless he brings in someone to play next to Vertongen, Spurs could struggle to into Europe via the league. Having said all that, I’m tipping Spurs to win the FA Cup.
Manchester United 2nd
Another side, I’m really interested in watching this year. Everyone said that taking the manager’s job after Alex Ferguson would be the hardest one to do. But I’d argue Van Gaal has a harder job, because if United don’t finish top four this year, the consequences could be disasterous – not only on the field but off too. Everyone is going on about the lack of European football being an example of why United have a slight advantage over their title rivals. Yes, the rest and time to coach players is a obvious plus, but when it’s all said and done good players win games and I don’t think they have the players good enough to keep enough clean sheets to win the games required to win the league. Van Gaal will instill discipline and get these players on side and meet the standards United expect. What makes me laugh about the United fans, is the arrogance I hear. The assumption from many that a top four finish is a given because ‘we’re Manchester United’ is laughable. I personally think they will finish top 4, but it’s concieable they finish 5th.
Crystal Palace 13th
Losing Tony Pullis is huge. We don’t know why he left, but it’s massive. On a par with City losing Kompany for the season or Gerrard out for Liverpool. Crystal Palace were my pick for the side to overachieve this year, until the sepeartion of club and manager. They’ve made some great signings. Fraizer Campbell for under a millionn and Brede Hangeland for nothing, is smart business. Neither are world beaters but Hangeland would’ve been Pullis’ Shawcross and Campbell has scored goals for every Premier League club he’s played for – good for 10 goals. Unlike some of the other teams in the bottom eight like Aston Villa and Leicester, Palace have a real small and intimate ground, which allows the home side to make their patch a fortress and work to their advantage – as Liverpool found. Yes, they have a good squad but a different manager won’t envoke the same reaction that Pullis did. Could be in trouble.
Aston Villa 16th
Villa are drifting and it’s worrying. They’ve been involved in two relegation scraps and and the ‘we’ve got and grooming young players’ excuse isn’t good enough anymore. Last season I thought they might kick on having been better off for the experience of the year before. No chance. They gained some big scalps with wins against Man City, Chelsea and away wins at Arsenal and Southampton. But Villa are huge club and winning the big games for me isn’t good enough. And what baffles me is that the signings they have made are so poor. Joe Cole, Kieren Richardson, Ally Cissoko and Phillipe Senderos are awful signings and I don’t see the logic of bringing in Roy Keane as assistant manager. Benteke isn’t fully fit yet and has no motivation now the World Cup is over. Didn’t subscribe the idea that Ron Vlaar was outstanding at the World Cup. He had one amazing game and 4 ok ones. He’ll go back to being bog average this year. I do rate Delph and there’s goals in Agbonlahor and Bent if they can get motivated again, which would be the one job I’d give Keane. Get Bent motivated again. I can’t see anything above bottom six.
Another side who have made some really shrewd signings. Rio on a free is a no brainer – if only for what he can offer them team off the field. Steven Caulker will be the centre back in two years for England at the Euros. I think he’s got the potential to be a top defender. He hasn’t got bags of pace but when Tottenham let him go so easily, I thought that was the worst mistake of the summer. Getting Julio Cesar and Loric Remy back is the equivalent or Arsenal signing Sami Khedria or Man United signing Matt Hummels – they’re game changers. Remy’s 12 guaranteed goals and Cesar’s 5 clean sheets at least, will keep them up. Mauricio Isla could prove to be a great loan deal as well. I think QPR will be near the top of the bottom half. But like Swansea have to cerment their Premier League status and implement a plan of stability for the next 5 years.
Newcastle United 8th
Newcastle are a footballing soap opera and I love it. Doesn’t matter if they’re doing well or poorly, there’s always drama. Like Everton, Newcastle really need to make a play for one of the cups this year. There’s at least eight weaker squads than theirs so relegation shouldn’t be an option and they’re not gonna penertrate the top 5. Newcastle can play some good football times, but I reckon the fans would swap that for the boring run to a final. Head on the block again, I think Remy Cabella will be one of the signings of the season and can someone tell me why they haven’t gone in for either Javier Henandez or Darren Bent? A 15 goal a season forward can make Newcastle competitive again. Tim Krul is very good, Colback a good engine in the middle and Sissoko making runs from deep could make it an interesting. I don’t rate Alan Pardew and never have. But I wouldn’t sack him, cos he’s their level and hasn’t been as bad as Newcastle say he’s been.
Hull City 11th
I tipped Hull to go down last season, as I didn’t think they had the quality to stay up. But they proved that they had enough and with hard work and organisation, you can get results. I think this year will be the same. Elmohamady (apart from maybe Jordan Henderson) was the most improved player for me – he plays that wing back role really well. I don’t think they’ll have the same problem as Swansea, cos I don’t think they’ll go to far in Europe or the domestic cups, therefore being able to focus on a top 12 spot. Tom Ince, Snodgrass and Jelavic will score enough to keep them up, but more importantly they don’t concede shedloads of goals.
Did really well to stay up last year, cos they don’t actually have a good squad. But Gus Poyet got momentum and that counts for a lot in the last month. Sunderland have made some decent signings; Rodwell and Jordi Gomez. Are they the standard of player that keeps you in the league? I’m not sure. And there are still some players that just aren’t good enough for the Premier League. N’Diaye, Brown just aren’t good enough for me and Altidore is easily one of the worse players to play in this league. He’s awful. Connor Wickham kept them up with his form in the last month of last season. But it’s a risk to assume that he’s gonna hit that form throughout.
Oh Liverpool. Where do we start? You can’t help think that they blew their best chance of winning a Premier League title. The winners are always worthy, but Liverpool did drop the ball. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you automatically become weaker for selling your best player. Brendon Rogers has bought really well and those buys should make up for the loss. But every team at the top should have a player teams fear. Man Utd – Van Persie, Arsenal -Sanchez, Chelsea – Costa, Man City – Aguero. Who’s the man at Liverpool teams will fear? Dejan Lovern is an excellent signing and just what they needed and £20m, I think is good business. There’s a dearth of quality centre defenders (and as I type this, he scores against Dortmund) and that price is about right. The fee is a good one, cos not only will he help keep clean sheets, but I reckon he’ll score 5 goals this year and that’s something you need to expect from players in that position. I don’t know where Liverpool are going with all these full backs though. I never thought Johnson was a good right back, but why keep him and bring in two more full backs as well as having Enique and an emerging Flanagan? I’m tipping Sterling to win the young player of the year and really want to see Coutinho play more this year – he can be as good as David Silva. Daniel Sturridge has a massive year and needs to prove, that he can be the main man. As soon as Dwight Gayle scored that decisive goal at Selhurt Park, which ended Liverpool’s title ambitions, I said to my good friend, I don’t think Liverpool will finish in the top four next year. He, like everyone on Twitter, laughed his head off and offered me a look of disgust. I said that when they HAD Suarez. Let’s talk in May.
WEST HAM UTD
FA CUP; TOTTENHAM or WEST HAM
LEAGUE CUP; MAN UTD
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE; BAYERN MUNICH
Player of the Year; Theo Walcott
Young Player of the Year; James Ward Prowse or Raheem Sterling
Top Scorer; Robin Van Persie
Players To Watch; Coutinho / Trippier / Cabella / Delph / Cresswell / Capoue