2013/14 – Season’s Predictions
So, we’re at the halfway stage of the most open and enthralling Premier League campaign ever. Liverpool and Arsenal top the league and the top eight are separated by only eight points. Manchester City look phenomenal and the clear favourites yet are third, Arsenal and Liverpool have been the most consistent, but only a point clear. Chelsea look the least convincing, but seem to have the most gears left in them and the champions, Manchester United are having a ‘mare but just two wins of a Champions League spot.
Two of my predicted top four at the start of the season, are not in the current top four, neither are in my predicted top four and Tottenham aren’t even in my top six with half the season left. I’m going to reiterate what I said at the start of the season. Because I think the top eight will be so tight this year, it’ll mean coming fourth and even sixth, won’t be as embarrassing as it seems. My bold prediction for the second half of the season, is with a month to go (late April) the top four will still be in the hunt for the title and the four below will all still have a chance of grabbing that final Champions League spot. I’ve done some arithmetic, looked at all the teams’ run-ins, taken into consideration who’ll be in the cup competitions and players motivation i.e. World Cup and possible transfers and come to the conclusion that Chelsea will be champions. I’m sticking with Chelsea for the title, because they have a team and manager that know how to not lose. City look amazing right now and they have goals throughout the squad, but when things get sticky and question marks over Vincent Kompany’s long-term fitness, I think they’ll lose games – the same games Chelsea will find a way of drawing.
For all their endeavour and surge of enthusiasm on Tony Pulis’ arrival, Crystal Palace are still a Championship squad, playing in the Premier League and will be found out at this level. As for the other two; Fulham and Sunderland, Fulham, under their new manager Rene Meulensteen, have improved in their play and effort and yet still losing and that’s worrying. And worse than that, their home form is shocking and unlike other clubs like Sunderland, Cardiff and Stoke who can make their grounds a fortress to generate noise and atmosphere to scare travelling sides, I don’t see that at Craven Cottage. Sunderland are a funny one, I think they’re a club who could actually benefit from relegation. They seem like a team with no direction, yet in debt. They tried to go for it and splashed out on transfer fees and high wages about five years ago, (Darren Bent at the centre of that period). It didn’t work. Paolo Di Canio was never the right choice long term and they knew that, but his spending and recruitment in the summer has meant whoever came in was doomed. I didn’t think Gus Poyet was a good appointment but with your only goal scorer constantly injured, captain constantly suspended and a defence constantly scoring for the other team, he has no chance.
Check out my pre-season predictions to see how I matched up;
FINAL TABLE PREDICTIONS
Players who have impressed so far;
There isn’t a better box to box midfielder in world football. He’s a monster. He’s Patrick Viera, with goals. When he’s on his game, just move out of the way. Pundits and fans say some players have it all, but he literally can do everything. The complete Footballer who can do it all. If I was a manager and you offered me any player in the league, I would take Toure. Yes, ahead of Luis Suarez, Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany, because in his position, I don’t think there are many players in world football who can do what he can do. Four free-kicks already this season and all pretty identical, showing he spent a lot of the summer working on them and 10 goals by January is very impressive. Vincent Kompany is the key to the Manchester City side, but I think if Kompany is the Phil Mitchell at the Etihad Stadium, then Yaya is definitely the Grant.
For me the Everton midfielder hasn’t got a challenger in sight for the Young Player of the Year award. Luke Shaw, Jack Wilshere, Nathaniel Clyne, Andros Townsend and Adnan Januzaj will all battle it out for the runner up spot, but Barkley is a special talent and on the verge of big things. Some players come along and are quite obviously destined for big things and Barkley is one of them. You’ll look back in five years and say ‘yeah he was clearly gonna be a star’. This is the player Manchester United should be making their number one summer target and if Everton are smart they’ll tie him to a long term contract, to at least extract maximum cash for him, when he inevitably leaves. Barkley is strong, has a wide range of passes, can shoot, can tackle and most importantly for a player his age, makes really good decisions. I’ve watched him a lot this year and he reminds me of Wayne Rooney in that, he’s not quick, but has a lighting burst of pace. England need to build their future around him and Wilshere.
The Egyptian was a player I wanted to keep an eye on, because I thought he might be one of the reasons Hull would struggle. Didn’t think he was good enough for the Premier League. He was out of his depth at Sunderland but he seems like a real threat in a rare position of wing back. He’s not a great defender and, manager Steve Bruce has identified that but very good at getting up and down and happy to get balls into the box. Against the top attackers in the league he’s done a very good job contributing goals and assists.
Arguably the signing of the summer, the man nicknamed the ‘Beast’, has already netted 14 goals in 16 games. He only cost £16.5m, from Seville, which is actually a bargain for a top striker these days, so City deserve credit, as with the funds they have, it would have been easy to blow competition out of the water for likes of Falcao, Cavani or Higuin who all moved this summer. I knew a bit about Negredo, but didn’t expect him to do this well, so soon. His goal against Tottenham and pass for James Milner’s goal at Fulham were true flashes of brilliance. His heading is a true art; he knows what he’s doing and where he wants to put the ball. Aguero is getting a lot of the credit, but Negredo is the perfect foil for him and one of the most versatile strikers in the league. Have to mention Pablo Zabaleta as well, as he is now the best full back in the league – one of the few who can defend as well as he can attack.
I really like Dyer because he’s a rare breed of a winger. He’s one of the few who actually crosses. Dyer is happy to go on the outside – old school you might say. Walcott, Townsend, Januzaj, Hazard, Pinnear and Sterling all prefer to cut inside, which is fine if you’re Ajen Robben or Gareth Bale who more often than not will score. But those players aren’t so if you’re not going to be selfish and score, supplying crosses is what is expected of you – and Dyer does that. He might not be good enough for England, but he does what he’s supposed to and is doing it well.
The Croatian international, has been the best centre back in the league this season – even better than Mertesaker, Bruce and Jagielka. In his debut season in the Premier League, he’s been commanding and got to grips with the physicality of the English game and embraced it. He’s been a tower and given some of the leagues top forwards including Van Persie, Giroud and Sturridge few chances to make an impact. I like defenders like Lovern; because he’s old school and not afraid to bang heads, but can also bring the ball out from the back too. He reminds me a bit of Branaslav Ivanovic in that he has a devilish side and gets away with a lot illegal defending but very cute with it.