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Just another set of prognostications (you know you want them)

13 August 2010

Forget about City Boy’s Fulham-hating prediction of 13th. He and all the British “media” have no idea. That said, I don’t entirely disagree with him on the shape of the table for the coming season:

Projected final table
1. Chelsea
2. Arsenal
3. Manchester United
4. Manchester City
5. Tottenham
6. Liverpool
7. Everton
8. Aston Villa
9. Sunderland
10. Fulham
11. Bolton
12. West Ham
13. Birmingham City
14. Stoke City
15. Blackburn
16. West Bromwich Albion
17. Wigan
18. Newcastle
19. Wolverhampton
20. Blackpool

And instead of providing a low-value, Twitter-style assessment of each club, here are a few themes to watch:

Manchester City can win the league
Forget the jersey and the club history. This is the modern Prem and money matters. A lot. City spent at least four times as much this summer as any other Premiership side and their 25-man squad is now loaded to the point that there’s no room for mercurial stars like Craig Bellamy and Stephen Ireland. If City somehow lands David Luiz to shore up some lingering CB questions, there is no weakness on this team other than whether the chemistry required not to drop points in silly places can hold up over 38 games. On paper, they’re as good as anyone.

Movers and shakers: Sunderland and Bolton up; Aston Villa down?
Sunderland were quietly decent last year and were very difficult at home, losing only three times while claiming 34 points. Any improvement in their poor road form could see the Black Cats push further up the table, and maybe step into the vacuum possibly left by teams like Birmingham, Fulham and even Villa. Bolton has improved its talent, especially with the poaching of winger Martin Petrov from Cash City, and also developed into a pain to play at home in the second half of last season. Meanwhile, will Villa fell the effects of another late-season sell-off of a prized asset plus the unexpected walking of Martin O’Neill, who may not have had the greatest support of his players but got a lot of out them (until they keeled over down the stretch).

Highest impact newboys
I was hoping Martin Petrov would somehow find his way to Craven Cottage, and if he can stay healthy, he should do wonders to invigorate a typically dull Bolton attack.  The Chicharito Saga at Old Trafford started as a marketing means, but he could rapidly develop into a key component of a United title run. It seems highly unlikely, with niggling injuries and some burnout, that Wayne Rooney can match his devastating output from last campaign, so the young Mexican may be a welcome source of goals. Marouane Chamakh could be a huge addition for Arsenal, as he gives them variety in attack and a threat to score with the head. The Gunners were overlooked last season due to the two-headed race for the title, but the youngins did pretty well and now they have more ammo this season. If they can get their GK situation straightened out, it’s not unthinkable that they could win the title this season. It ain’t happening with Almunia, though.
Oh, and if Stephen Ireland does end up moving to Aston Villa in a deal for Milner, I think the Villains will be laughing to themselves for years about how they came out way ahead in that swap.

The tiers
The Premiership may be a 20-team league, but it’s pretty clearly broken down into sub-tiers this season, with my Cottagers strongly in contention to win “Division C” and finish 9th. The top four (Chelsea, Arsenal, United and City) are clearly better than anyone else (please, stop with Spurs and Liverpool) and are playing to see who gets to avoid having to beat up Young Boys next August. Tottenham, Pool, Everton and (assumedly) Villa will be jousting for the three Europa League spots. Sunderland, Fulham, Notlob, Wet Sham, Brum and Stoke are competing for top-half honors. Any of the three promoted clubs would do well to stay up, with Wolves, Wigan and Blackburn as potential targets. Oh, and if things go poorly, Blackpool could challenge the inept Derby County team from ’07-’08 for futility. Of course, that probably means Fulham will settle for two draws with the Tangerines … sigh.

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