Predicting the Premier League Table at the End of the '12-13 Season
Firstly, let me start by saying I've been told to complete this Premier League prediction by the higher-ups of Bleacher Report.
With Euro 2012 in full swing, it seems incredibly early to be predicting the outcome of the Premier League but the season starts in 51 days and teams have already been splashing the cash on transfers.
Manchester United and Arsenal have claimed the early transfer headlines but the real story has been the managerial merry-go-round that sees new managers at five sides with Spurs still to name their man.
This prediction is based on the current standing of each club, their early transfers and managerial appointments paired with their form from last season and their schedule for next season.
So with 51 days and counting until the big kick-off, here is what the Premier League table will look like on May 19 2013.
Disclaimer: The Premier League table will probably not look like this on may 19 2013!
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Where to start?
QPR look like a team in serious trouble and the season is still months away from starting.
Joey Barton has been banned for 12 games thanks to his violent outburst against Manchester City in the last game of last season and he has since been fined six weeks wages by QPR and been stripped of the captaincy.
In better news, midfielder Adel Taarabt looked like his old self towards the end of last season as he put in some good displays to help save Rangers from the drop.
The side have also secured the services of Samba Diakite on a permanent deal following his impressive (at times) loan last season.
It may not all be doom and gloom for QPR but the side need to improve and play like they did against City in the last game of the season—minus the whole violence thing—if they want to stay up again this year.
19) Wigan Athletic
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Somewhere in between the end of last season and now, Wigan Athletic manager Roberto Martinez became the best manager nobody else wanted.
Apparently wanted by Spurs and Liverpool, before they secured the services of Brendan Rodgers, it looks like Martinez will start the season at Wigan again but if he can't get his side to play as they did towards the end of last season, they'll struggle.
Wigan are perennial relegation fodder but they have the ability, and the manager, to play some attractive football.
Victor Moses must stay as he is the rare bright spark in an otherwise dull squad but several teams, Chelsea included, are reportedly sniffing around the ex-Crystal Palace winger.
Stand-out midfielder Mohammed Diame has already jumped ship for newly promoted West Ham United, so expect to see the Latics trudging along the bottom of the Premier League throughout the season.
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Newly promoted sides are always difficult to judge before the season begins, but Southampton look to be the most vulnerable of the three new Premier League sides.
Both Reading and West Ham United have more recent Premier League experience but if Southampton survive, it could prove to be the shock of the three.
Southampton scored goals for fun in the Championship last season and it will be interesting to see if they can transfer that goal-scoring form to the highest level of English football.
Striker Rickie Lambert was a revelation last season and his form in the Premier League could prove key to Southampton's success.
The Saints beat out Everton to the signing of highly-rated striker Jay Rodriguez for a club-record £7 million, but even with their goal-scoring flare, expect to see Southampton in the relegation battle next season.
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It was a bit of a coin-toss on whether Southampton or Reading would occupy the final relegation place and like I said in the previous slide, until we see each team play it is difficult to predict their season.
Reading's recent Premier League history and their signing of Fulham loanee Pavel Pogrebnyak show a side that can compete to stay in the Premier League.
Their defense in the Championship last season was stingy and if they can re-create this form, they should survive in the Premier League.
There are still some holes going forward as Reading should look to add more players throughout the off-season but it is so far so good at the Madejski Stadium.
16) West Bromich Albion
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The first of the new Premier League managers on the list is the one with the least managerial experience: Steve Clarke.
Clarke may have been involved with Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool as an assistant manager and he has respected throughout the League as one of the best coaches around but the step-up to a manager in the Premier League is immense.
If results at the start of the season don't go Clarke's way, expect him to be the first Premier League manager to be in the hot-seat.
Under Roy Hodgson, West Brom thrived as his system fitted the players at the Hawthorns so Clarke will have to come in a find his own system to lead the Baggies forward.
A 10th-placed finish last year was much deserved but, unless they make some signings, they could slip further down the table.
15) Aston Villa
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Another team, another new manager this time it is Paul Lambert and Aston Villa.
Lambert did a great job with Norwich last year. They were difficult to beat both home and away last season but Aston Villa will be a different prospect.
Villa looked abysmal last season under Alex McLeish and faced the very real possibility of relegation after winning only seven games last season.
Villa drew far too many games and Lambert will have to rectify that for Villa to do any better this season.
With players like Darren Bent, Charles N'Zogbia and Gabriel Agbonlahor, Villa should be a mid-table side but a combination of injuries and poor performances saw Villa near the foot of the table last season.
Lambert will have his work cut out at Villa Park but given time and money, he and Villa should be safe next season.
14) West Ham United
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The team best-suited to Premier League competition coming up from the Championship look to be West Ham United and they could surprise a lot of people with a good League run next season.
With an experienced manager in Sam Allardyce and a playing staff that have Premier League experience, West Ham should face the easiest acclimatization of the three promoted sides.
Allardyce's teams may be boring to watch but they are difficult to break down and they scored a tonne of goals in the Championship last season and were unlucky not to secure automatic promotion.
The Hammers will be looking to add to their squad over the summer and the signing of midfielder Mohammed Diame and goalkeepers Stephen Henderson and Jussi Jaaskelainen should benefit the squad. Losing 'keeper Robert Green to QPR will have hurt but Henderson and Jasskelainen should soften that blow.
West Ham are reportedly interested in Norwich striker Grant Holt who could become Sam Allardyce's new Kevin Davies after their successes at Bolton.
Help up front would be great for a front-line that, while successful in the Championship, could struggle in the Premier League.
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For Norwich City's new manager Chris Hughton, priority one should be keeping hold of striker Grant Holt.
Holt played brilliantly last season scoring 15 Premier League goals for Norwich and probably deserved an England call-up for Euro 2012 this summer.
To expect Holt to score that many again may be overly optimistic but he has proven he can score at the highest level and to lose him would be a big blow to Norwich.
A couple of well-placed signings or loans to avoid those second season blues that hit so many promoted clubs that survive the drop their first year would be a bonus.
Norwich were great at getting points from the teams around them last season and sneaking draws with the bigger sides.
If new boss Hughton can keep Norwich as disciplined as the Paul Lambert-led side of last season, the Canaries should be fine.
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Another new manager on the list and, perhaps, the shrewdest appointment: Michael Laudrup at Swansea.
Brendan Rodgers left big shoes to fill as he moved to Liverpool this summer but Laudrup's tactical style resembles the Northern Irishman so Swansea should be a joy to watch again next season.
The probable loss of midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson will hurt Swansea as his set-pieces were a great bonus for the Swans last season but Laudrup should be able to find an able replacement.
Much like Steve Clarke at West Brom, Laudrup will need time to settle into the Premier League and Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins seems like the kind of owner that believes in the project rather than a chase for silverware.
Swansea seem a little more boom-or-bust than fellow second-seasoners Norwich but Laudrup has been fantastic in interviews so far and with a signing or two, the Swans could flourish under the Danish legend.
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Last season under manager Martin O'Neill, Sunderland had a solid season finishing 13th in Premier League.
When O'Neill originally took over, the Black Cats rose to ninth in the League before late season losses saw them sink into the bottom half of the league.
A full season with O'Neill at the helm should see Sunderland progress and challenge for a top-half finish next season.
It was announced this week that the Black Cats would sign a pioneering sponsorship deal with not-for-profit organisation Invest in Africa which will further strengthen Sunderland's ties with the continent.
African players like Stephane Sessegnon had an huge impact on Sunderland last year and the Benin international has since been linked with a move to away from the Stadium of Light.
If Sunderland can re-capture the form they had when O'Neill first signed for the club, they could finish in the top half.
10) Stoke City
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Since their promotion to the Premier League after a second-placed Championship finish in 2008, Stoke City have been a solid Premier League side.
Manager Tony Pulis has created a fortress at the Britannia Stadium as every manager in the League will use some sort of cliche to describe the difficulties of any game against the Potters.
Stoke already look to be a busy club in the transfer window as they look set to sign Rangers midfielder Jamie Ness if the Glasgow club cannot figure out their financial crisis.
Michael Owen has also been linked with a move to the Potters but they face competition with teams in the UAE for the ex-England international's signature.
Pulis will wheel and deal his way to a few more signings over the summer and Stoke should be able to hang on to a top-half finish that slipped away from them at the end of last season.
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Another side that will be eagerly anticipating the decision of their star player this offseason will be Fulham and American striker Clint Dempsey.
After the woes of a few seasons ago and near relegation, Fulham have put together a strong side capable of a top-half finish but they never seem to be able to challenge for a European spot.
If Clint Dempsey gets his wish of Champions League football, Fulham could slip further down the table.
Dempsey would be sold for a cut-price due to the time remaining on his contract which would have a negative affect on Fulham. They will struggle to find a Dempsey replacement for £7 to £10 million.
Midfielder Danny Murphy has left for Blackburn but Fulham shouldn't miss his presence too much but they will miss striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, who has signed for Reading.
8) Newcastle United
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This is probably harsh on Newcastle but it will be tough for them to repeat their fifth-place finish of last season.
With the outstanding development of striker Papiss Cisse, fellow forward Demba Ba seemed to tail off after a wonderful start to the campaign in 2011.
Ba's relatively low £7 million contractual release clause has been subject to much transfer speculation this offseason but even if Ba stays, he will have to learn to play alongside Cisse and start scoring goals again.
Newcastle's season will hinge on their performances in early 2013 as both Ba and Cisse should be in South Africa for the African Cup of Nations, pending qualification and selection.
A series of strong defensive displays early in the year that sparked a long run of clean sheets saw Newcastle maintain their form throughout the year.
Their defense will have to be as good this year if the Magpies want to emulate their success of last term.
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The future of left-back Leighton Baines and centre-midfielder Marouane Fellaini will go a long way to deciding Everton's season in 2012-2013.
With manager David Moyes slowly falling down the Tottenham wish-list, Everton will give another strong showing this season.
Even if Baines and Fellaini leave, Everton still have a strong side and Moyes would surely be given some of the sale funds to strengthen his squad after his star duo's departure.
If Everton can start well, something that has eluded them for years, expect to see them challenging for Europe next season.
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The Brendan Rodgers era at Liverpool is barely underway so Reds fans must be cautious with their optimism, but sixth seems like a good return in year one.
An eighth-place finish last season—a place behind neighbours Everton—will have startled the Reds but some blushes were spared thanks to a League Cup win and FA Cup Final defeat.
Liverpool's success will hinge on their ability to play the Rodgers way; passing football on the Anfield turf could prove difficult with a target man like Andy Carroll leading the line.
Rodgers is a great, young manager who understands the development of the game of football. What he needs are time and funds to make this Liverpool side his own.
An historically inaccurate season saw Liverpool hit the woodwork more time than any other team since records began last season and the Reds form after Christmas was woeful.
If Rodgers can make Liverpool a difficult side to beat at home, much like Swansea were last year, Liverpool could be on the right track again following the disappointing spell under Kenny Dalglish.
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While the management situation at White Hart Lane is still uncertain, Spurs have been able to persuade star winger Gareth Bale to sign a new four-year with the club.
Luka Modric's future with the club looks a little more uncertain with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea sniffing around the Croatian playmaker.
Spurs are no stranger to Modric rumours though and chairman Daniel Levy was able to keep hold of his prized midfielder even after the player himself asked to leave the club.
Once a manager is appointed—at the moment the favourite is Andre Villas-Boas—Spurs' chances in the Premier League will become more clear as they will dip into the transfer market after Euro 2012.
As it stands, Spurs should be able to push for fourth place yet again spurred on by the fact that they were denied their place in the Champions League thanks to Chelsea's European heroics.
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The Premier League looks set to be a three, probably two, team race next season so fourth place and the Champions League spot that comes with it becomes all important for the other top-tier sides.
Chelsea, after a poor Premier League showing last season, should be good enough to secure fourth next season despite the loss of Didier Drogba.
I'm still hesitant to say that Fernando Torres is the striker and goal-scorer that he was at Liverpool, but there have been signs of life both at the end of last season and in the early games in Euro 2012.
The addition of Eden Hazard looks set to benefit the Chelsea attack immensely as he's been one of the best young players in all of football during his time at Lille.
With Roberto Di Matteo now appointed permanent manager, or as permanent as a manager can get at Chelsea, the early woes of last season shouldn't be a problem this time around.
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Arsenal's Premier League campaign really hinges on the man in the photograph: Robin Van Persie.
After an abysmal showing in Euro 2012, all Arsenal attention will be focused on his standing at the club and whether he will try and force a move to Manchester City.
Arsenal have also been busy with incoming transfers as German striker Lukas Podolski and French forward Olivier Giroud will either compliment or replace the Dutch star.
It was the defense that let Arsenal down at points last season as injury ravaged the full-back position and the Gunners faltered early.
If the side can avoid as many injuries and keep hold of Van Persie, expect a strong showing next season.
2) Manchester City
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The way things stand this offseason, Manchester City's reign as English Champions could end next season.
City won the closest Premier League season in history last year thanks to an injury-time winner in the last game of the season against Queens Park Rangers.
While rivals Manchester United have added to their squad already this offseason, City have been quiet.
They have an incredibly talented squad with good depth but a select few upgrades could see the side cruise to another Premier League title in the coming season.
City never really struggled with injury last term but the loss of Carlos Tevez, and the baggage that came with it, had an affect on the team which will should not be a factor this year.
Expect another tight season at the top of the Premier League but thanks to United's early activity, they can be considered very slim favourites.
1) Manchester United
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Normal service resumes at the top of the Premier League table as Manchester United should be crowned champions again.
Neighbours City's success last season has put a dent in the seemingly invincible armour of Sir Alex Ferguson and his Red Devils.
Manchester United have already improved their side that came so close to yet another title last season with the addition of Shinji Kagawa and two young strikers in Nick Powell and Angelo Henrique.
Add to this the return of 2011-12 casualties Nemenja Vidic, Tom Cleverley, Anderson and a catalogue of other United regulars and Manchester United, at the moment, look a good bet to snatch the title from their city rivals.