English Premier League 2011-12: Predicting the Season Ahead
This is my prediction for the Premier league season that begins in two weeks—exciting isn't it?
And I know going into this before the season has begun is a bit premature, but it gives a good feel into the teams in the Premiership and those who will succeed and teams who won't. Plus, there's no actual football to distract me.
So without further excuses, let's start from the relegation places.
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I'm sorry to see teams go straight back down, but the playoff winners have the odds firmly stacked against them this season.
Although they did look impressive last season in the Championship and were contenders for automatic promotion, I don't think Swansea have the players to stay in the Premiership. And as much as I'd like to see them stay up, I have to be realistic and say the best they can hope for is a relegation battle.
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It's the same story, really.
Norwich haven't bought the Premiership experience they need to stay in the top division, and as much as they have impressed with two successive promotions in two seasons, I think they're likely contenders to go straight back down.
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Yeah, this might be a surprise to few, but I still believe Wigan are going down.
Last season they played better than they have for a few seasons, but they still found themselves in a relegation battle, and I can see it happening again.
The loss of N'Zogbia, and possibly Hugo Rodallega in the future, will hinder Wigan's progress this season, and although they have bought Ali Al Habsi, who had a fantastic season, they're lack attacking power. Therefore, in my view, they will have a tough season with the constant threat of relegation.
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The Championship winners will definitely have a relegation battle on their hands this season. However, I can see them just staying afloat this season.
Wigan will be their biggest rival this season for Premiership survival, and with some of the players they have—Neil Warnock, however annoying he is—there's enough experience to do them in.
QPR seem to be going down the Blackpool route of attempting to score more than they concede, but with Paddy Kenny in goal and talented players like Adel Taarabt, I can see them staying up. Just.
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Yeah, Blackburn aren't the team that have challenged for Europe before—last season certainly showed us that—and I still don't think Steve Kean is the right choice for manager, and until they get someone else, I can see them stranded in the bottom half, which is why I've put them 16th.
I can see them conceding a lot. Paul Robinson is a great keeper but can't do everything, and with Christopher Samba on his way out and Phil Jones one of the early leavers, I can see a few heavy defeats on the cards for them (in one of my mystic moments, why don't I get these before the lottery?!)
Anyway, a low finish for Blackburn seems likely.
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Wolves had a good end of season run, which in turn kept them up last season, and with some of the performances they put in, beating Chelsea, Liverpool and the champions Man Utd, in my opinion they deserved to stay up, even if it was by the skin of their teeth.
I can see them doing the same this season, and with more experience under their belt, I can see them winning the games that they couldn't last season. It won't be fantastic for Mick McCarthy and Wolves, but survival will be more than welcome, I'm sure.
On a side note, I can't wait for more of Mick this season. I don't say this often, but he is a legend.
14th: West Brom
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Ah, West Brom, this seasons Fulham.
Woy certainly knows how to manage a mid-table team, mainly because of the defensive tactics he uses. If Hodgson stays until next season, I can see West Brom challenging for Europe, but they're still getting used to the feel Premiership life, instead of the the usual perpetual bounce-back West Brom that we've seen in the last few seasons.
Top half is definitely a goal for West Brom this season, and I'm not ruling it out, and if they can keep some of their better players—Peter Odemwingie and such—then it's going to be a good season at the Hawthorns.
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Just ahead, Hodgson's old team (who, in my opinion, he shouldn't have left), Fulham, are actually one of the teams I'm honestly not sure on; they could have another fantastic season and get one of those Europa League places, or they could plummet to the depths of relegation.
I can't decide.
With the team they've got at the moment and with a good manager behind that team, Martin Jol, then I'd opt for the former, but if they lose influential players like Bobby Zamora and Clint Dempsey to injury, for example, then it could prove to be a hard season.
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I think everyone expected Newcastle to have a hassle-free season last year, and they didn't disappoint, but I can see the same thing happening again, unfortunately.
Newcastle seem to be an average team at the moment, and until they start keeping there quality players, such as Kevin Nolan, (I still can't understand why Newcastle let him go), they'll stay around this area of the table.
The Andy Carroll transfer I could see, but Newcastle have yet to really put that money to good use. The capture of Demba Ba is a good one, definitely, and he has already proved he can play at this level, but beyond him, Newcastle haven't bought any quality players that they need to break out of the mid-table.
The team at the moment seems solid, don't get me wrong, but I can't see great things ahead.
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Stoke are another one of the those teams I'm not too sure on.
Although I don't think relegation is any real concern for them, I don't think they're going to challenge for Europe either.
Last season was good for them, they avoided the (apparently) dreaded second-season syndrome and got themselves into Europe, which is a great achievement, but I think the added games might just take their toll, so I'm going for a comfortable mid-table finish.
But hey, they still got the Europa League? No? Fair enough. My bad.
10th: Aston Villa
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When Villa finished sixth in 2010, the last thing anyone could have predicted was a relegation battle last season, and although it was a relatively comfortable end to the season and nobody honestly thought they would be relegated, it was still a shock to see them back in the mid-table region so quickly.
Many put it down to Martin O'Neill resigning, which can be seen as a main factor, but it surely couldn't have been the reason for their failings last season.
Unfortunately, I can see it happening again, and the loss of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing can't be a good sign for the season. However, I do think the signing of Shay Given will definitely boost their season overall, but I don't see them going much past a top half finish.
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Ah, the place where so many unneeded Man U players go to retire.
No, I'm joking, Sunderland are a very good team at the moment and have bought wisely in the transfer window, buying some good players for not very much at all.
Seb Larrson and David Vaughan will fit in well with the current set up, and the acquisition of Connor Wickham is going to be a useful addition to the team, maybe not at first, but definitely, given time, he will prove his price tag.
Sunderland are definitely a top half team now, and it's not that much of a jump to European qualification—which should be on Steve Bruce's mind for this season—as long as John O'Shea doesn't score too many own goals.
We can only hope.
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I was surprised that Bolton finished in such a poor position, a lowly 14th, last season, because they've got a fairly good squad, which they've added to well in the run up to this season.
Although I can't see them challenging for the Champions League, the Europa League is definitely within their grasp, but if they lose their better players, like Gary Cahill and Chung-Yong Lee, they might need a few quality additions to the team to keep them in the top half of the table.
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Everton are another one of those teams that are hit and miss.
They'll either challenge for Europe or be stranded in mid-table obscurity, which is a shame really because Everton is a good team (as much as I hate to admit it, being a Liverpool fan).
They have some quality players in defence and midfield, but it's the striker situation which is holding them back and makes me think that the best they can do this season is Europa League qualification.
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This is where things get difficult.
There are a few teams that could easily get into the Champions League places this season, but Spurs are the first one on the list.
The Europa league will hinder their performance in the Premiership, in my view, just like the Champions League did last season, and with the Europa League is winnable competition for Spurs.
Their priorities may be towards Europe rather than a top four finish this season.
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OK, I might get a bit of negativity from this one, but I've put Arsenal outside the top four because I don't think that they are up to it this season.
They've still got a keeper problem, which hasn't been addressed for at least two seasons. Their defence is still a bit shaky, and I still think that Nasri or Fabregas are on their way out, which will severely harm their chances for a top-four finish.
I do think that Gervinho is a good signing, but for them to have any title challenge, they're going to need more like him, which I don't think they'll be able to do. Fourth will be good for them this season, but I don't think they can get much higher.
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This is another I might get a bit of heat for, and, no, this isn't because I'm a Liverpool fan. (They'd have been top if I were being biased...OK, maybe second would have done.)
No, this is honestly what I think Liverpool will accomplish this season. They do not have any European distractions or a good enough squad to challenge for a top four finish.
Saying that, though, I don't believe they can challenge for the title this season. They've already shipped too many goals in preseason to give me that belief. However, I do think that a return to Champions League football is a certain possibility.
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This one is dependent on the success of their new manager Andre Villas-Boas, because we know that the team can perform under the right management and the right tactics.
It also depends on the players that they keep or buy coming into the new season. Rumours of Drogba leaving have died down, but no other players have surfaced to be on their way to Stamford Bridge. I'm assuming that they'll stick with the squad they have now.
On the basis of this, they can challenge for the title, but eventually they'll fall behind the two Manchester teams and finish just off the champions in second or third.
2nd: Manchester City
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They're the football equivalent of the Bluth family, or for anyone who doesn't watch Arrested Development, the equivalent of the phrase, "more money than sense."
Man City have been linked with every player under the sun it seems, and although they've only bought three players during the preseason, expect a few more unnecessary captures before the end of the transfer window, and due to this I believe they'll be the main challengers for their Manchester rivals this season. But again, like Chelsea, they will fall short because of their inability to have one team.
I mean, it's great having many players for one position, and having back-up is great, but the harmony of the team suffers as a consequence, and because of this, I don't think they'll win the league. And to be honest, with the money they've spent over the last three seasons, they'll never recoup that money in my opinion.
Which leads me to my prediction for the Premiership crown...drum roll...
1st: Manchester Utd
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Well, OK, the drum roll wasn't really needed, and as much as it pains me to say, I think Man U have got it again. Don't get me wrong, if they do have a poor season, I'll be delighted, but I just can't see them loosening their grip on the title, especially with Man City closing quickly closing in on them.
I mean, look at them, two of their best players retire at the end of last season, and they go out and buy fantastic replacements. David De Gea will be one of the best keepers in the world by the end of this season, without a doubt, and he definitely has the ability to be as good as, if not better than, Van Der Sar. And Ashley Young is also a great buy.
Yeah, I think a 20th league title is on the horizon. Sigh.
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So, there we have it, my predictions for the new season. If you have any opinion on this good, bad or just some sort of relevant words, then leave some comments. Go onnnnnn.
Thanks for reading
Still need a snappy ending.