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Forecasting 2010-2011

13 August 2010

You see them everywhere right now, so I’ll give it a shot. Here’s my predicted Premier League table for the upcoming season:

1. Arsenal
Arséne Wenger’s kids put themselves in pole position to win the league with a couple of months left last season, only to blow the opportunity with some unexpected stumbles. Wenger made a mistake in not buying a striker last January with van Persie out, but he did a great piece of business bringing in the promising Chamakh on a free.

2. Chelsea
Carlo Ancelotti got much more credit than he deserved after the side that should’ve breezed to the title ended up needing to win at Old Trafford to eke one out. With just £5m spent this summer on Benayoun, Roman Abramovich’s spending has slowed to a trickle, despite an aging squad that really needs some fresh blood.

3. Manchester United
United have the least talented roster of any of the my predicted Top Four, but they have the best manager in the game. As long as Ferguson is in charge at Old Trafford, they’ll be right there in the mix. Chicharito is the only significant summer addition, but he’s an improvement on Michael Owen and could prove to be a steal.

4. Manchester City
We’ll assume City dump some unexpected points along the way and achieve the minimum acceptable finish. Mancini has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, but I think Adebayor needs to show up more consistently and the defense needs to figure out a way to stop shipping goals at an alarming rate.

5. Liverpool
The Reds were better than their showing last season, when the players clearly tuned out Benitez. With Hodson now in charge and Joe Cole at Anfield, look for a bit of a rebound this season. Still, they’re too far behind the new Big Four to get back into the Champions League, which means Torres almost certainly is gone next summer.

6. Tottenham
It pained me to admit it, but by May it was obvious Harry Redknapp had built a legitimately solid side in North London. At least at home. All those midweek European matches could be bad news for King’s bad knees and a squad that lacks depth at some key positions. Still, with quality like Modric and Lennon, they won’t fall far.

7. Everton
Injuries and the Lescott transfer led to a disastrous start for Everton that saw them in 19th place as late as September 19. When Arteta returned and Landon Donovan joined on loan, the Toffees fortunes changed in a huge way. Look for Everton to pick up where they left off, with an outside chance at a Champions League place.

8. Aston Villa
It’s a frustrating time for Villa fans, who’ve seen their club flirt with a Top Four finish the past two seasons before succumbing to fatigue late in the season. Martin O’Neill’s departure has thrown the club into chaos just before the start of the season, and the sale of talents like James Milner and possibly Ashley Young is a real blow.

9.  Sunderland
A bizarre midseason slump saw Steve Bruce’s men flirting with the drop zone before finding their legs near the end of the season. Darren Bent can’t seem to get any respect, despite netting 25 times in his first season at Sunderland, and Bruce’s loan signings should help lead the Black Cats to contention for a Europa League spot.

10. Blackburn
If Blackburn had boasted some better attacking options, last season could have been even more impressive. Rovers were very tough to beat at home — only City, Spurs, and Everton left with three points — so if they can find a way to play as well defensively away from home, they could make a run at a European place.

11. Stoke City
Anti-football of the worst kind, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Tipped to drop right back down two seasons ago, the Potters now are a consistent mid-table side. It would be great to see Tony Pulis soften his approach a bit and encourage his side to play some real football, but it seems Rory Delap’s towel is here to stay.

12. Bolton
It’s a welcome relief to see Owen Coyle bringing some actual football to the Reebok. Sam Allardyce’s ugly longball had survived through Sammy Lee and Gary Megson, but with quality like Petrov now in the side, Bolton can turn on a style a bit. Coyle’s arrival signified a change in fortunes last season, and look for that to continue.

13. Fulham
Following the wildly successful Hodgson Era, it’s going to seem like a pretty boring season at Craven Cottage. I liked the hire of Mark Hughes — I maintain he was the victim of some bad luck at City. With a low ceiling and a high floor, unless Fulham sell Hangeland, Zamora, or Dempsey, it should be a calm mid-table campaign.

14. Birmingham City
Last season’s surprise package, Alex McLeish did a great job in the transfer market and rode a very tight defense to a top-half finish. However, opposing sides seemed to figure out Brum as the season wore on, and without Joe Hart between the pipes, look for them to concede many more goals this season and take a backward step.

15. West Ham
The very underrated Avram Grant has brought some good talent to Upton Park this summer, and West Ham never should’ve been flirting with relegation like they did last season. If Carlton Cole isn’t sold, look for him to bounce back with a much more productive campaign this time around as Hammers fans are spared drama.

16. Wigan
Wigan may have gained some American fans after Roberto Martínez’s appearances in the ESPN studio during the World Cup. He certainly gained his share of admirers last season with the way his Latics played. Two flukish London hammerings made Wigan look worse than they were, so expect a more comfortable season this time.

17. West Bromwich Albion
Now slapped with the “yo-yo club” tag after a string of promotions and relegations, look for Roberto Di Matteo to be more pragmatic than Tony Mowbray was two seasons ago. The Baggies should still play reasonably attractive football, but Di Matteo will make sure they take a utilitarian view to increase their odds of survival.

18. Wolverhampton
Possibly the most boring side to watch in last season’s Premier League, Mick McCarthy’s summer signings don’t give much hope of that changing any time soon. Last season’s lowest-scoring side — including just 13 at home — there’s just not enough attacking quality to see Wolves surviving another season in the Premier League.

19. Newcastle
They may have set the Championship alight last season, but this is pretty much the same side that was relegated two seasons ago. I’m also still not sold on Chris Hughton as a Premier League manager, though he did do an admirable job piloting the Magpies to promotion in their first attempt.

20. Blackpool
This is one pick that is pretty much unanimous in every prediction. The Tangerine Army will enjoy their season in the sun, but they’ll be back in the Championship next season. They weren’t ready to come up, finishing sixth and going on a surprise playoff run to promotion, so expect them to be on the wrong end of some real hidings.

FA Cup: Chelsea over Manchester United

Carling Cup: Manchester City over Everton

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