EPL: Revising the Preseason Predictions (Part One)

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EPL: Revising the Preseason Predictions (Part One)

Before the 2008-2009 Premier League campaign kicked off, Jeff Harbert and I co-wrote a set of predictions for the season.

Now that the new year is upon us, it's time to take a look at my predictions and see how they're faring.

Here's how I thought the table would look at the end of the season:

1. Arsenal
2. Man United
3. Chelsea
4. Liverpool
5. Aston Villa
6. Portsmouth
7. Everton
8. Tottenham
9. Newcastle
10. West Ham
11. Sunderland
12. Blackburn
13. Man City
14. Wigan
15. Fulham
16. Boro
17. West Brom
18. Bolton
19. Hull City
20. Stoke

And here's how the table actually looks halfway through the season:

1. Liverpool
2. Chelsea
3. Man United
4. Aston Villa
5. Arsenal
6. Everton
7. Wigan
8. Hull City
9. Fulham
10. West Ham
11. Bolton
12. Portsmouth
13. Man City
14. Newcastle
15. Sunderland
16. Tottenham
17. Boro
18. Stoke
19. Blackburn
20. West Brom

At this point in the season, only Man City and West Ham occupy the exact slots I predicted them to be in at the end of the season. I was fairly close on the Chelsea, Man United and Aston Villa picks.

And I appear to have been completely off on my assessment of Hull City, Fulham, Tottenham...pretty much everybody but Stoke.

Arsenal

What I said: The Gunners started out quickly last season, only to fade down the stretch thanks to some untimely injuries. Nicklas Bendtner seems to be ready to carry a bigger load this season.

Samir Nasri is the real deal; pairing him with Cesc Fabregas will give Arsenal one of the best midfield combos in the world.

How the club has proven me wrong: Injuries and inconsistent play. The Gunners have missed most of their first-choice XI at some point during the season, and Fabregas is set to miss months after suffering an injury against Liverpool.

Arsenal has also only dropped two points in three matches against Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool, but has managed to lose to both Stoke City and Hull.

 

Aston Villa

What I said: Villa is set in the goalkeeping department after signing a former US International (Brad Friedel) and a current one (Brad Guzan). But how long will Gareth Barry be around? Will Stilliyan Petrov and Gabriel Agbonlahor be enough to lead them into Europe? Yes.

How the club is making me look somewhat smart: They've gotten great goalkeeping play out of Brad Friedel. The Villains have also won all the matches that they were supposed to, and some they weren't.

 

Blackburn

What I said: Roque Santa Cruz, Blackburn’s best player, is a player coveted by many different teams. If he goes, Blackburn will suffer. I think somebody is willing to make a large enough offer.

How the club has proven me wrong: Santa Cruz is still around, but nobody else has been able to consistently step up for Blackburn. The only club not named Man U, Arsenal or Chelsea to ever win the Premier League might be going down at the end of the season.

 

Bolton

What I said: Bolton just barely escaped relegation last season, as they sorely missed Big Sam Allardyce on the sideline. They won’t be so lucky this time around.

How the club has proven me wrong: I'm actually not quite sure...only West Brom (12) has lost more league games than Bolton (11) this season. But, Bolton is only three points out of the relegation zone despite sitting 11th in the table. Their fortunes could change in an instant.

 

Chelsea

What I said: Chelsea grabbed what was perhaps the steal of the summer with Deco, but Manchester United ended their reign as EPL champions last season. Expect them to keep it close, but come up just short in the end with some injury problems.

How the club is making me look somewhat smart: First off, Man U has two games in hand, so Chelsea may well finish third if Man U and Liverpool can maintain their success.

The Blues have indeed had to deal with injury trouble this season, which has exposed a lack of depth up front.

Everton

What I said: Everton may have surprised some people last year as they snagged a UEFA Cup place, and even challenged for a top four finish early on.

They will probably regress a little bit as they have not done enough to strengthen themselves in the off-season.

How the club is making me look somewhat smart: They didn't do enough in the offseason to be a serious challenger for a Champions League slot, but the talent they already had is more than enough to distance themselves from the bottom of the pack.

 

Fulham

What I said: The Cottagers escaped relegation on the last day of the season in 2008, but have since lost some firepower with Brian McBride returning to America. Jimmy Bullard is still there, and he’ll have Andy Johnson to receive his passes.

How the club has proven me wrong: They've gotten more contributions from up front that I expected. I didn't expect Clint Dempsey to do so well, but he's tied with Andy Johnson for the club lead in goals. USA! USA! USA!

 

Hull

What I said: Hull City’s most well-known current players are George Boateng and 39-year-old Dean Windass. They’ll fall, but not threaten Derby’s record for futility.

How the club has proven me wrong: They've attacked everybody that they have faced this season. They even had a very strong Manchester United side on the ropes for awhile. Geovanni has been a revelation for Hull this season.

 

Liverpool

What I said: Despite great play from Fernando Torres, the Reds looked out of sorts last season. Rafa Benitez in on the hot seat, but Liverpool has not done as much to improve as some of the other clubs battling for European places.

How the club has proven me wrong: They've weathered injuries to Torres without missing a beat. A very stingy defense has helped them stay on top.

 

Man City

What I said: Canning Sven was the dumbest move that Thaksin Shinawatra could have made. He made the club competitive in his first year in charge, but a ninth-place finish, coupled with a sweep of the Manchester Derby, and a bright future was not enough for Thaksin. Look for a backwards slide in the standings this season.

How the club made me look like a genius: Ownership has changed, Robinho was brought in after I made my prediction, but the squad hasn't gelled. They've had little trouble scoring goals, but plenty of trouble preventing opponents from scoring.

Man United

What I said: United was in great form for the entire season. They were the only team in a good position to challenge Arsenal after their hot start, and did so with authority.

Look for a slower start as Cristiano Ronaldo comes back from an injury suffered at Euro 2008 this summer.

How the club made me look somewhat smart: They did get off to a slow start, with only five points from their first four matches. They've only dropped nine points since then.

 

Middlesbrough

What I said: Mido is always an enigma of a player. If anybody can get him motivated to stay fit and play hard, he’ll produce. A big "if" though.

How the club made me look somewhat smart: They're um, not very good. Boro is conceding too many goals and might need to be a little concerned about the possibility of relegation.

 

Newcastle

What I said: How much mediocrity can one fan base deal with? Kevin Keegan aims to turn things around this season. They need Michael Owen to stay healthy, and the defense to be a lot better than they have been recently.

How the club has proven me wrong: They're Newcastle, I should have known not to expect big things from them.

 

Portsmouth

What I said: Portsmouth was the feel-good story of the season early on last year, even topping the table for a brief time. Harry Redknapp has done wonders since he pulled off a miraculous relegation escape a couple of years ago.

Portsmouth will just miss out on a European spot in the final table, but may qualify through cup competitions.

How the club has proven me wrong: Redknapp hasn't stuck around. Aside from Crouch and Defoe, nobody seems capable of finding the net. Also, losing 6-0 to a mediocre Man City side may have hurt their confidence.

 

Stoke

What I said: Former Reading striker and current redhead Dave Kitson will not be enough to keep Stoke in the Premiership. They’ll prop up the entire table at the end of the season

How the club made me look somewhat smart: Because aside from beating Arsenal and Rory Delap's long throws, they haven't had too many bright spots this season.

Sunderland

What I said: After an absolutely abysmal run in the EPL three seasons ago, newly promoted Sunderland finished 15th in the table last season. Roy Keane has some serious competitive fire in him, and Sunderland will surprise some people. There are some seriously talented pieces in place on this squad.

How the club has proven me wrong: I may have overestimated Roy Keane's managerial talents. He's since moved on, but the club has shown a little bit of fight this season. Djibril Cisse has been enough to make them reasonably competitive.

 

Tottenham

What I said: Tottenham always seem to not quite meet expectations. Every year, they hope to break into the top four, and every year, they fall short. New coach Juande Ramos will bring more of the same this season, but perhaps more promise for the long term.

How the club has proven me wrong: The Juande Ramos era was an abject failure. Before he was sacked, it looked like Spurs could have been headed for relegation.

 

West Brom

What I said: West Brom has just enough talent to stay up. Luke Moore and Craig Beattie will be key to their survival.

How the club has proven me wrong: West Brom has nowhere near enough talent to stay up. My mistake.

 

West Ham

What I said: Dean Ashton looked very dangerous against a quality MLS All-Star team this summer. If he stays healthy, the Hammers might be competitive in the domestic cups. They are still a mid-table Premier League team, though.

How the club made me look like a genius: Dean Ashton has been a non-factor, but the Hammers have gotten scoring contributions from many other players. A diverse attack is keeping them in the middle of the pack.

 

Wigan

What I said: Wigan is a scrappy little bunch who have managed to stay afloat in the EPL for a few seasons now. I expect more of the same out of this squad. They won’t wow anybody, but their style of play will disrupt some of the flashier teams enough for them to steal a point here and there.

How the club has proven me wrong: They didn't let four straight losses in weeks 7-10 demoralize them. Instead, they've gotten great play up front from Amr Zaki, who is so far the acquisition of the season.

So there you have it. Some predictions were more wayward than a John Terry penalty, some were as close as Arshavin is to moving from Zenit, and some were a perfect match like Mark Viduka and pie.

In part two, I'll analyze the rest of the preseason predictions; Surprise package, disappointment, Golden Boot, best buy, and biggest bargain. I'll also make a few more predictions for the second half of the season, so be sure to tune in!

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