5 Premier League Predictions for 2013
If the Mayans still existed today, they would be acutely aware that making bold predictions about the future doesn't always pay off.
However, using a combination of statistical analysis and "feelings in my bones," I've thrown caution to the wind to make five assorted predictions for the second half of the Premier League season.
Manchester United Will Win the League
The blue side of Manchester may believe their neighbour's hopeless defending will give them an opportunity to close the seven-point deficit at the top of the table during the second half of the season, but statistical trends suggest Manchester United already have title number 20 in the bag.
In the past eight seasons, the team leading the table after the Boxing Day games has gone on to lift the trophy in May.
Go back a few years, however, and there is a glimmer of hope for Roberto Mancini.
In the first 12 years of the Premier League (from 1992/93 to 2003/04), only three sides leading proceedings at Boxing Day went on to win (Manchester United in 1993/94 and 2000/01 and Blackburn in 1994/95).
Furthermore, Manchester United have twice failed to win the league when leading at the festive period—in 1997/98 and 2003-04.
QPR Will Be Relegated
One need only look at the grim displays at Loftus Road to know that 'Arry Houdini cannot keep QPR from slipping into the Championship next season, but the statistical writing is also on the wall for the West London club.
In 20 Premier League seasons, only two sides who were bottom of the table on Boxing Day managed to beat the drop: West Brom in 2004/05 and Wolves in 2010/11.
West Brom's escape may offer QPR fans a quantum of solace—they also had 10 points, one win and 11 losses at this stage of the season.
Reading's survival hopes, meanwhile, would appear to have similar odds to a coin flip.
The second-bottom team on Boxing Day has been relegated in 10 out of 20 Premier League seasons.
Wigan, on the other hand, have a relatively good chance of survival. The third-bottom team at this stage has survived in each of the past eight seasons. In Premier League history, the third-bottom side has only been relegated six times.
Robin van Persie Will Not Be Top Scorer
Robin van Persie may be leading the scoring charts with 13 goals in 19 games, but the high-flying Dutchman won't necessarily get the Golden Boot for a second time in a row.
Looking past the fact that RVP is injury prone, only two players in Premier League history have earned back-to-back top scorer accolades: Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer.
Only three of 20 top scorers have been Manchester United players (Dimitar Berbatov in 2010/11, Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007/08 and Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002/03) and the only Dutchmen to have taken the prize are Van Nistelrooy and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Those who like an outside bet with good-looking odds may want to back the likes of Jermain Defoe, Santi Cazorla or even Fernando Torres—in six of the last eight seasons, the top scorer has plied his trade for a London side.
Harry Redknapp Will Not Spend Big in the January Transfer Window
Much to his chagrin, Harry Redknapp has earned a "wheeler dealer" reputation for his tendency to spend lots of money—particularly on transfer deadline day, where images of the manager being harangued by reporters through his car window have become an annual tradition.
Now at the helm of QPR—a club that allowed Mark Hughes to spend more than £30 million and introduce some eye-watering wage bills—Harry is expected to splurge next month. Rangers have been linked to six- and seven-figure moves for the likes of Nicolas Anelka (via The Daily Mail) and Demba Ba (via The Mirror).
However, in light of his predecessor's misguided use of the check book, Redknapp will be acutely aware of the fiscal scrutiny at Loftus Road in the coming window. Last month, he revealed (via The Guardian) that he may not spend in January if Rangers were likely to be relegated (which they are—see slide two!), preferring to build a side that can be sustained at Championship level.
How very sensible.
Rather than spending big, Redknapp may go for players whose relationships with their current clubs are ending, allowing a bargain swoop. Those who may fit the bill include Fulham captain Brede Hangeland (via The Express) or the nepotist's choice, his nephew Frank Lampard (via The Mirror).
Arsenal Will Finish in the Top Four, Wenger Will Keep His Job
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, nothing in this world is certain, except death, taxes and Arsenal's annual slump and subsequent recovery to earn Champions League football for another year.
In his 16 years at Arsenal's helm, Arsene Wenger has never failed to finish in the top four, and there is absolutely no reason why that will begin now.
Virtually every season, the "Arsene Must Go" boo boys cite their displeasure at disappointing defeats, lack of spending and willingness to cash in on their biggest assets, but Monsieur Wenger always finds a way to keep the Gunners among the big boys.
Arsenal have won their last three league games and sit three points outside the top four with a game in hand—they appear to be out of the sinking for this season.
With the acquisition of a world-class striker like David Villa (with whom they have been linked by The Independent) and a relatively easy run-in of QPR, Wigan and Newcastle in their final three games, Arsenal could even match last year's top-three finish.
Statistical patterns, however, suggests Wenger will earn his mythical "fourth-place trophy" once again. Since 2006/07, they have alternated between finishing in third and fourth place. In 2012/13, the pattern points to fourth.