English Premier League Predictions Vol. 2: A Quick Look at the Mid-Table Dwelllers

Felix TangCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2008

After covering the five bottom teams last time around, it is now time for the next set of five teams.

While none of these teams face immediate threat of relegation, neither are they in serious contention of the UEFA Cup.

15. Bolton

Bolton has gone through a lot this season.

Losing Big Sam in the close season was damaging enough.  Of course 'Small Sam' Sammy Lee stepped up, but he could not produce the results that the board expected, and so was replaced with current boss Gary Megson.

They sit now at 15th place, and although they seem quite safe from the drop zone, they are actually, points-wise, level with the three teams below them: Birmingham, Wigan, and Sunderland.

With Nicolas Anelka making the big money move to Chelsea, Megson and his team must utilize that cash flow to fill in the attacking void.  Recent tabloids have suggested the former Liverpool Djibril Cisse as a possible replacement.  I hope Bolton can pull off better performances in their remaining 16 games, and rebuild their squad next season.

14. Middlesbrough

It's Gareth Southgate's second season in charge, and making mid-table ranks is not too bad for Boro.  Last weekend they joined a host of teams to force Liverpool, unexpectedly, to drop two points.  If it were not for Fernando Torres's dazzling equalizer, Boro would be on to their winning ways.

Their recent form suggests they are a team with potential, but potential is not always enough.  With experienced players such as skipper George Boateng, keeper Mark Schwarzer, and Luke Young, combined with pacy left winger Stewart Downing, they have quite a complete squad in all three departments.

Middlesbrough will be looking at a top-half finish and maybe a glimpse at qualifying for Europe.  But they should not be too ambitious yet, as they still must secure the 40-point safety mark.

13. Reading

Reading's match of this season so far would be defeating Liverpool 3-1 at home, marking the first victory at one of the Big Four clubs.  Apart from this fantastic performance, however, the team provides little news worth writing home about.

Reading fared well as debutants last season and finished at a promising eighth, one point and one place shy of qualification for the UEFA cup.

Their current squad does not boast any big names, but my personal favorite would be Nicky Shorey who, based on his performances, deserves to be at a bigger club.

Their sophomore season has not shown great improvement in form, but they would be pushing for another top-half finish.  Relegation should not worry them much.

If they want to match last season's performance, they have to drastically improve their away form by bagging their first win.

12.  Tottenham Hotspur

The Spurs had a bad start to the season, but new boss Juande Ramos is turning things around for the team.  

After Martin Jol's departure, the team is slowly climbing back up to where they should be.  However, in the last two seasons they have finished 5th and there is a lot to do in the remaining 16 games in order to push for a place in Europe.

Needless to say, the attacking partnership between in-form Robbie Keane and star hitman Dimitar Berbatov is terrorizing for defenders.  They have combined to score 18 of Spurs's 30 goals, proving they are of great value.

Their recent draw with North London rival Arsenal was evidence that they can only get better.

If they continue to improve their form, this team has the potential to make a push for Europe.

11. Newcastle United

Newcastle is in deep trouble.  With Big Sam gone packing, the new caretaker manager Nigel Pearson has not pleased the board—they were given a six goal hammering by league leaders Manchester United.

The Newcastle defense was in pieces—the summer recruit from Lyon, Claudio Cacapa, has been very disappointing.  Michael Owen has just recovered from an injury and Obafemi Martins is representing his country.  The squad is in pieces.

So what is next for the Toons?

Mike Ashley better find a permanent manager soon.  Clubs like Chelsea and Bolton have suffered drawbacks as their managers have left mid-season.  This affects the morale of the players, fans, and everyone connected with the club.

There's no denying that the Magpies have one of the best squads outside the Big Four, but good players won't necessarily bring in good results.  It is about teamwork, chemistry—and they are lacking in these areas.

There is promise for Newcastle, but whether promise turns to improvement is another matter.

This is my take on the current situation of these five teams.  Whether you agree or disagree, voice your opinions.

Tomorrow I will present the third article in this mini-series, which will deal with the next 5 teams in the Premiership.  Don't miss out!

You can look back at my first article here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/6281-Birmingham_City-Derby_County-Fulham-Sunderland-Premiership_Predictions_I_A_Peek_at_the_Relegation_Fighters-110108


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