This following set of Premier League predicitions is my personal opinion so it's not law. Feel free to disagree and tell me why.
The questions I'm faced with are, "Who'll win?" "Champions League places?" "UEFA Cup places?" and "Relegation?"
2nd. Manchester United
5th. Aston Villa
7th. Tottenham Hotspur
8th. Newcastle United
10th. Manchester City
11th. West Ham United
14th. Blackburn Rovers
17th. West Bromwich Albion
18th. Bolton Wanderers
19th. Stoke City
20th. Hull City
I have perfectly logical explanations for all my choices so don't go biting my head off just yet and below I'll tell you why I think each of those teams is destined to finish in those positions.
Chelsea: The addition of Luis Felipe Scolari, Deco, Boswinga and possibly Robinho will be the key in my mind. Last year Chelsea challenged on all fronts when ravaged by injuries but this year if they can stay fit then in my mind they have solved key questions. A playmaker was badly needed and Deco has duly arrived, a right-back was desperately needed and Boswinga duly arrived. If they can add Robinho to complement Drogba then they can challenge for the Champions League.
Manchester United: Alex Ferguson will probably come back to haunt me and win United yet another league but for me he hasn't strengthened his team sufficiently to win again. Another striker is urgently needed to fill in for the absent Ronaldo and cover Rooney and Tevez. Midfield is another year older but so are Anderson and Nani but they can't do what Scholes and Giggs do so regularly. The defence will keep them in touch but they might just miss out.
Liverpool: Selected over Arsenal for the last automatic Champions League spot? Well on the basis of their summer activity, yes. If Robbie Keane can bring his Spurs form to Anfield to complement Torres, then Liverpool will have no problems finding the net. Their defence is one of the best in the league but that midfield needs some creativity that Gareth Barry won't solve. Gerrard has shown and proved his class over many seasons and this should move Benitez's men closer to their aim but not just yet.
Arsenal: As Arsene Wenger said himself "We'll have to sell our top assets for the next 15 years." A side that has replaced Hleb and Flamini with Nasri and Ramesy will not improve. Fabregas and Adebayor can keep Arsenal in contention but they'll need Rosicky and Walcott to step up to the plate if they are to mount a title charge. Carlos Vela could be a hit but it remains to be seen when Eduardo will return to full fitness and form. If Adebayor goes through one of his dry patches then the Gunners could struggle for goals.
Aston Villa: Martin O'Neill created a quality side last time round that contained the exciting talents of Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor. With or without Gareth Barry they will be stronger this year as they've added Shorey, Young, Cuellar and Friedel to what was sometimes a vulnerable defence. Sidwell can boss the midfield like his Reading days and provide the chances for Agbolahor and Carew then Villa could have a good year both domestically and in Europe.
Everton: Maybe a bit high for their lack of transfer action but I think it's inevitable that Moyes will spend some of the 12 million from Andy Johnson's sale to buy another striker. If Moyes can get Vagner Love to Goodison to play alongside Yakubu then goals should flow. Arteta and Cahill provide the creativity in midfield but who will replace Lee Carsley? An unseen component of Everton's success has departed and the defence might be a tad more vulnerable. But with Yobo and Lescott at the heart and Howard behind them, they can qualify for Europe.
Tottenham Hotspur: Juande Ramos has left his significant mark on a team he inherited back in October. Out went Keane, Robinson and co. and in came Bentley, Gomes, Modric and Dos Santos. There is still the distant possibility that Arshavin could arrive while Berbatov departs. If so the team will have an unproven quality about it, Modric should be able to adapt but it could take the others a bit longer. The aim this year will be the UEFA Cup places despite what their fans keep telling themselves. 2009/10 will be the year to challenge the big boys.
Newcastle United: Keegan's squad is high on class but low on numbers, the starting eleven is undisputedly a quality outfit but if any injuries strike the Toon then the struggle could begin. Hopefully they won't and new signings Gutierez, Guthrie and Coloccini can prove their worth in the Premier League. Two players to watch are Shay Given and Damien Duff, both back to fitness and enjoying good pre-seasons, especially the latter. Martins, Owen and Viduka's goals can fire the Magpies up the table while their defence looks slightly better and they could challenge for a UEFA Cup place.
Portsmouth: The FA Cup winners have made a major signing in Peter Crouch to what is slowly becoming an England "B" team! Defoe should continue his form and score enough goals but the problems come from Sulley Muntari's sale to Inter Milan. The Ghanaian was one of their players of the season and his departure will hit Pompey hard. Their defence is solid but another year older can really only leave the odd gap that didn't appear last year. Expect a good run in Europe but that itself could damage their league aspirations.
Manchester City: They began the summer by signing Jo for 19 million and attempting to bring Ronaldinho to Eastlands but since then not a lot has happened. Thaskin Shinawatra's financial woes in Thailand could well be restraining City in the transfer market. Mark Hughes is in and judging by Sven's treatment he has to finish in a UEFA Cup spot pushing for the Top Four. Looking at the personnel at City, it's a possiblity especially when you can boast Elano, Petrov, Dunne and Richards. But when that pressure is applied can City cope? Probably not and Hughes could go before May.
West Ham United: What is there to say about the Hammers? Not bad enough to be considered relegation candidates but not good enough to push for Europe. It's a frustrating position for Alan Curbishley and the fans at Upton Park. Expect the odd upset from West Ham as they contain Ashton, Ferdinand, Green, Bellamy and Parker. Although as frustration mounts Curbishley could be sacked.
Wigan Athletic: They have flirted with relegation for two seasons but now have a manager who can get them into that mid-table comfort zone. Steve Bruce's departure from Birmingham was key in their relegation and Wigan's survival. He's turned them into a team no one enjoys facing and finally has Heskey scoring goals. The team has a few quality players like Scharner, Valencia and Koumas so they should survive comfortably.
Sunderland: Roy Keane kept them up last year as part two of his masterplan and stage three should be cementing their places in the elite league. His transfer activities have centred around Spurs rejects and Djiouf but they can only improve his squad. Sunderland don't contain too many star players but their key man is Kenwyne Jones. His goals were vital last year and expect the same again. They'll flirt with danger again before pulling away.
Blackburn Rovers: Paul Ince is no Mark Hughes and he will struggle to keep Rovers with the big boys. Bentley and Friedel's departures are blows and they can't afford to lose Santa Cruz and Warnock. Ewood Park must become an impossible place for teams to visit but on their travels Rovers will suffer a few tonkings. They'll be good enough to avoid relegation but come May the Ewood faithful may just realise how good things were under Mark Hughes.
Middlesbrough: They have a great young manager in Gareth Southgate but his side look very vulnerable at the back now with the departures of Young and Woodgate. Their midfield is not up to the standard of star player Stewart Downing, he could fire them to big scalps. Didier Digard and Tuncay will provide just enough goals to keep the Teesiders in the top division.
Fulham: Roy Hodgson is "Jesus Christ" to the Fulham following after last years heroics and they should move up a place thanks to the purchase of Andrew Johnson. Danny Murphy and Jimmy Bullard were great performers last time round and they'll need to chip in with vital goals if the Cottagers are to avoid relegation. They have just enough quality to survive again this year and Hodgson could enhance his reputation in London.
West Bromich Albion: I have only one promoted team to beat the dreaded drop and West Brom are them. Two reasons I fancy them over Stoke and Hull is a great manger in Tony Mowbray and they have vital Premiership experience unlike the other two. The sale of Kevin Phillips could be a mistake but the permanent signing of Roman Bednar could be key. Marek Cech is a shrewd buy and the Slovakian could thrill the Hawthorns with his long range efforts. However it could be Scott Carson that saves their Premiership status.
Bolton Wanderers: The sale of Anelka should have caught Bolton flat and sent them down but this time round it's hard to see where the goals pre January will come from. Elmander is a quality addition but it could take him a while to adapt to life at the Reebok. Kevin Davies can't keep going forever while their defence looks extremely weak, only Kevin Nolan and Fabrice Muamba provide some class to their midfield. Bolton should go down and if they don't Gary Megson is a miracle worker.
Stoke City: It's sad that I have to put one of my favourite sides down for relegation but their side is no better then Bolton's and not too much better then Hull. Lawrence, Fuller and Kitson are the only players in the Stoke eleven with any proven quality and I keep coming back to that word "quality" It's what keeps a team up and Stoke sadly don't have it. They may enjoy the odd famous victory and Dave Kitson could score enough goals to justify his price tag but it won't be enough.
Hull City: They'll finish last for three reasons, 1) Dean Windass is a good striker of the ball but not a good striker, he can't outwit Premier League defenders as he did their Championship counterparts. 2) No Frazier Campbell, one of the main reasons they went up will sit on United's bench while Hull struggle. 3) No signings that make me think, "Ye, they could do it actually." Phil Brown is a great manager and maybe this exposure will get him to a bigger club. They won't be a Derby however...
Right that was exhausting but I hope I've given reasonable explanations for my thoughts. Leave a comment if you don't agree. Now the cup competitions, nah i'll leave that for another day.
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