The Premier League Prediction 2008-2009
Many have had their say on the 2008-2008 Premier League season, and with just over two weeks to go to the big kick off I couldn't wait any longer to put in my two pence worth...
Everyone will remember last season for Manchester United's double, so it's easy to forget just how close Chelsea came to doing a treble of their own.
With a proven winner now at the helm, all the talent remains in the squad and they will be keen to regain their status as trophy winners, not nearly men.
"Big" Phil will work his magic early on the Blues and their famous resilience will carry them over the line. Don't expect fantasy football just yet though.
2) MANCHESTER UNITED
Three successive titles are always hard to come by. Everyone will be out to get the Red Devil's this season, even more than they usually are. The fixture list has not been kind with Portsmouth, Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal all away in the first three months.
Of course they have the talent to go all the way again, but on fine margins such things are decided, and it's unlikely that Ronaldo will have a season to match his goal feats of last.
The enigmatic Berbatov may cause more problems than he solves should he join.
I expect a healthy points tally, and fewer draws than last term with the arrival of Robbie Keane giving more attacking threat to add to Torres, Gerrard and an improving Babel.
I would dearly love to say they will finish higher, but realistically it is mighty difficult to compete with the "big two." An 80 Point haul is achievable and will satisfy most sane Reds for now.
Anything more than that would be unexpected but the title should still be a four horse race fairly late on in March.
Please note that by tipping Arsenal to finish fourth I am by no means writing them off. They will no doubt thrill us all again with some brilliant attacking play, and if they keep van Persie fit then they will score even more goals.
It will be a four horse race in 2008-2009 and Arsenal will not miss out by much, perhaps only eight points separating the top four. The reason they finish bottom of the "mini-league" is purely down to the defence.
They have the weakest back-line of the contenders, and have so far done nothing to rectify that in the transfer market. Arsenal conceded 31 in 2007-2008, compared to Man Utd (22), Chelsea (26, with persistent injury problems for Terry, Carvalho and Cech), Liverpool (28, with Agger missing most of the season).
Our 'arry is doing a fine job at Fratton Park. The signing of Crouch to play with Defoe gives them a double act to worry every Premier League defence and guarantees a steady supply of goals.
David James and Sol Campbell still provide steel at the back, ably abetted by the under-rated Distin.
The UEFA Cup is a distraction, but with their experience and numerous international's they should be able to cope with that well enough. A club on the up, with a new stadium not far away, they could soon be realistic Champions League contenders.
6) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
I am of the opinion that Juande Ramos is a very shrewd operator. Some are predicting even better than sixth, but lets be realistic, a jump from 11th last term to Champions League contenders is a step too far.
Modric, Dos Santos, and maybe Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko will ease the pain of losing Keane and Berbatov. Bentley will provide more drive and quality delivery from the midfield.
A question mark remains over the defence (what if Woodgate/King are injured?), but Gomes will at least ensure that goal-keeping calamities are kept to a minimum. The central midfield is another area in need of strengthening, but Juande might have to wait until next summer to solve that problem with lots of cash already spent, or ear-marked for spending.
7) MANCHESTER CITY
Mark Hughes first season at the helm will be a relative success as the unstable Eriksson era is consigned to history.
Hughes worked wonders on a miniscule budget with Blackburn. City are bigger in every way, but Hughes has the temperament to tame the beast.
They were good enough for ninth last term, and with Hughes' tenacity and some astute captures it will be a season of great promise for the Eastlands club. The Jo-Elano-Petrov axis will provide quality and skill, and Roque Santa Cruz could well join the party to provide the strength.
The Toffee-men are in a state of limbo at the moment. They don't appear to have the funds to make the leap from UEFA Cup to Champions League, and at the time of writing the new stadium hangs in the balance.
A smallish squad needs strengthening to avoid being overtaken, but time is running out and I fear that Spurs, Pompey and City have already got the hop on the outfit from Goodison Park.
David Moyes is set to sign a new contract, but where do they go from here? The likes of Arteta, Yakubu and Lescott will be looking enviously at other clubs if they cannot sustain European football.
9) ASTON VILLA
Villa find themselves in a similar position to Everton, the mystery difference being that they appear to have money but why is Martin O'Neill so reluctant to spend it?
They have needed a new right-back for time immemorial but still haven't signed one, Sidwell is a decent player but hardly inspirational, and two new goal-keepers are not likely to get Villa fans excited. Bouma's injury means a shaky defence is more stretched than ever coupled with Mellberg's departure.
Barry already wants to move, how much longer before Young and Agbonlahor follow suit? Villa are a solid out-fit, but they need more class and in greater numbers, particularly defensively, if they are to continue on an upward trend. I can't see it happening with only a month of the transfer window left.
10) WEST HAM UNITED
Exactly the same as last season. Frustratingly for West Ham, last season should have been so much better. Had they not been decimated by injuries, the Hammers could have easily worried the top six last term after a raft of new signings.
This time around, those signings will probably be fitter, but few have been added to the squad this summer. A fit front two of Ashton and Bellamy is as good as Crouch and Defoe, maybe even better, but the wide midfield positions are weak and more goals are needed from a steady central midfield.
Defensively, they are solid enough (bizarre runs of 4-0 defeats not withstanding), but Alan Curbishley will not have a season to excite the Hammers hordes, and he could find himself under unfortunate pressure as a result.
11) WIGAN ATHLETIC
Don't laugh, hear me out, then make your mind up. In 2008 so far Wigan have played 18 League games, they have won six, drawn six and lost six. That is perfect mid-table form, and Steve Bruce is now fully settled in at the JJB.
They have (so far), kept hold of their best players, Scharner, Kirkland, Valencia and Palacios. They have added quality and youth in Kapo, De Ridder and Cattermole and they are now a very tidy team.
A small squad, but with enough quality to be one of the surprises of the season, they won't face a relegation scrap this time round.
I imagine I will be in a minority of fans who think that Middlesbrough will finish at the top of the North-East table, but I honestly think they have a decent little team growing.
Alves will add goals to the incisive work of Tuncay and Aliadiere, while Downing is much-maligned but it is a fact that he is one of the most productive wide-men in the Premier League.
Wheater is a great dominator in both boxes, and he will be needed as two young keepers fight for the number one spot, but I think Gareth Southgate is an underrated presence who is gradually finding his feet at the helm.
13) NEWCASTLE UNITED
Many seem to be predicting Newcastle to be top six contenders, and I have to say I have no idea why. Yes Owen, Martins and Viduka are all good players, but they had them last season. They will score too many goals to worry about relegation, but the Champions League years are an increasingly distant and unlikely to be repeated memory.
The defence remains virtually non-existent, with Steven Taylor ploughing a lone furrow in commitment and quality, he needs an experienced leader to guide him, as well as two new full-backs.
The closest the midfield has to a leader is the ageing Nicky Butt, while Joey Barton spends more time in court than he does on the pitch. Gutierrez is being talked up on the wing, but Newcastle have signed so many mistakes over the years its difficult to feel confident he will deliver the goods.
14) BLACKBURN ROVERS
The biggest drop in my predictions from last term's finish, but I don't see this as a disasterous season for Rovers. Mark Hughes over-achieved with a small club compared to many, add an inexperienced new manager and the loss of your biggest creative influence (Bentley), and that usually spells a transitional year.
If Roque Santa Cruz goes to Man City, as many are predicting, then its hard to see Blackburn contending in the top half of the table, even if Alex Ferguson were manager.
Ince will do a good job, but this will be an inauspicious start as he gets used to his new surroundings, and the players get used to his methods.
Roy Hodgson did a very fine job in keeping Fulham up last term, and I can see him repeating the trick with a little more comfort this time round.
They have a big squad that is midfield heavy and defensively they must improve, but Schwarzer is a shrewd capture in goal, and Zamora will replace McBride well up front.
That midfield has an abundance of quality in Murphy, Bullard, Gera and Davies. It will not be dull at the Cottage as goals fly in at both ends, but away from home Hodgson will keep them solid enough to have a steady campaign.
Roy Keane has taken the "Tottenham reject" approach to the transfer market this summer, and as those players were good enough to get Spurs in 11th last term, they should be good enough to keep Sunderland out of trouble.
The injury to Kenwynne Jones is a major worry, but a midfield containing Malbranque and Andy Reid will have more creativity than they managed last term.
Some are predicting Sunderland as the surprise package, but the defence still looks too feeble for my money to have them finishing higher up the league. 59 goals against last season, and Pascal Chimbonda will not have a dramatic effect on that tally.
17) WEST BROMWICH ALBION
The only one of the promoted clubs who looks likely to have any chance of staying up, thanks largely to an expansive style of play and a healthy number of goalscorers.
That said, the loss of Kevin Phillips should not be underestimated, and it will not be an easy ride for a team who are far better on the attack than on the defensive.
I have them pipping Bolton to the final safe place in the league, based only on the ability of the likes of Luke Moore, Ishmael Miller and Roman Bednar to find the net on a fairly regular basis. Tony Mowbray is a good manager, and they will improve on this scary first season.
18) BOLTON WANDERERS
They survived, just, in 2007-2008, and I don't think sufficient goals have been added to the squad to see anything other than a struggle this time around.
Elmander (£11m) is a huge outlay for a player with a mediocre scoring record in France, suggesting he is more creator than scorer. That's all well and good, but who is going to put the ball in the back of the net? Kevin Davies? (Three league goals last season.)
Fabrice Muamba is a good signing in midfield, but I can only see him joining the ranks of one of those unfortunate players who gets relegated, transfers back up, and then gets relegated again.
He should thank his lucky stars he is not Hermann Hreidarsson, who managed to get relegated from the big league no less than four times in 10 seasons before 'Arry saved him from his recurring nightmare.
19) STOKE CITY
I would love to say that Stoke will finish in mid-table, and that the club of Stanley Matthews and Gordon Banks will take the Premier League by storm, but its just not going to happen.
They fought their way to the big league with a old fashioned style that Wimbledon would have been proud of, but thats not going to cut it any more in the globalisation age.
They will be better than Derby, and will have the odd moment of glory, but it will back from whence they came nonetheless.
20) HULL CITY
It's a depressing reality of English football these days that one of the main reasons teams get promoted to the Premier League is by relying on loan players from the clubs they hope to be playing against.
Frazier Campbell darted and dashed his way in to Hull City folklore, helped by his dad Dean Windass (well, he might as well be), but then hotfooted it back to Old Trafford just as quickly.
With Campbell set to spend the season on the Manchester United bench, Hull's chances of survival have decreased exponentially. They are an honest team, they have some experience in Mendy, Barmby and Boateng (and Windass must go beyond "experienced"), but at the end of the day, they surely won't be good enough.
So that's it, Chelsea to wrestle back the title in an absorbing four horse race, Portsmouth to threaten a new challenge to the established order, Villa and Everton to fall behind the pack, Wigan and Middlesbrough to be the closest to a surprise, Alan Curbishley to do what he does best and finish mid-table, and most depressingly of all, the three promoted teams to predictably struggle to retain their status, with only West Brom managing it at the death.
On three, Ready............ Aim.......... Fire your comments!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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