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Fearful predictions

23 August 2012

Since I guess we’re doing this again, I’m going to weigh in with some belated predictions for the now-current season.

Title race
So everyone knows it’s going to be the two Manchester clubs battling it out for the title, and some think Chelsea could make a giant leap back to near the top of the table and give them a run for their money. The pride of West London will narrow the gap, but not enough to be considered true title contenders. So if the Premier League trophy is staying in the Northwest, I’m going to say it stays in Manchester with The Only Club in Manchester. United might be feeling better about themselves after blowing nearly £70 million total on a 29-year old, injury prone striker, but I think a City side that now know how to win the league will avoid the swoon that made last season’s title race competitive to begin with.

Champions League spots
I like Chelsea for third after the two Manchester clubs. Then it gets tricky. I’m a big fan of André Villas-Boas and think he got the rawest of deals from Roman Abramovich last season. As we saw at Chelsea last year, it might take a little bit for his system to take hold at Spurs, which is why I’m balking at saying Tottenham will equal last season’s fourth-place finish. If Arsenal hadn’t just inexplicably sold the grossly underrated Alex Song to Barcelona, I’d like them for fourth, too, as Arsène Wenger seems to have bought well this summer. Then there’s last season’s big underachievers, Liverpool. I think Brendan Rodgers is one of the top young managers around, but I’m not sure he’s the kind of quick-fix guy to make the Reds instantly competitive again. I feel like he’ll need a few transfer windows to get his kind of players in the door at Anfield. Do I really have to pick one of those three clubs for fourth? Okay, I’ll say… Arsenal, because every time you write off Wenger, he makes you look silly.

Europa League spots
If we assume both domestic cups will be won by clubs in the top seven — and I think that’s a fairly safe assumption with the number of top sides in the Premier League these days — that leaves Newcastle and Everton and maybe a dark horse like Fulham or Sunderland battling it out for the third and final Europa League spot after Spurs and Liverpool. You have to love the players Newcastle have brought in over the last few transfer windows, showing a great eye for value. If they can hold on to all of them, they could repeat last season’s success. I really like Everton (aside from a very, very thin strike force), and if they can avoid the disastrous starts that have plagued David Moyes’s sides in recent seasons, they could have a very good season. Fulham aren’t bad at all either, but even after jettisoning Veteran of The Great War Danny Murphy, they’re still really old, and as Andy Glockner has pointed out to anyone who will listen, there’s still the small matter of some Texan wrangling for a move. Am I really going to pass on Everton even though I think they’re primed for their best season under Moyes in a while? I guess I am. Newcastle it is.

Relegation
So I can’t just be lazy and say the three promoted sides are going down? Okay, apparently that doesn’t really happen. But surely they’re not all going to survive this time around. Right? I’m going to predict that Reading go right back down. They’ve brought in a lot of players, but I’m just not convinced they’re Premier League-caliber players. West Ham will do well enough under Sam Allardyce to stay up and Southampton could be this season’s Swansea City. That means two top-flight holdovers will be plying their trade in the Championship next season. Wigan are an easy choice. Everyone loves Roberto Martínez, but a strike force that was pretty woeful last season managed to get even worse with the departure of the less-than-the-sum-of-his-parts Hugo Rodallega. That miraculous run of shocking wins late last season saved the Latics’ bacon, but I’ll say lightning doesn’t strike twice and they finally do go down. That leaves one final spot in the drop zone. Norwich City allowed more goals than any other club to survive in the Prem last season. They did score more than anyone outside the Big Six, and though I think Chris Hughton is undervalued as a manager, I’m going to say he doesn’t have the same success as Paul Lambert as far as goal scoring, and the Canaries go through the trap door.

Promotion
I don’t even pretend to follow the Championship closely enough to make anything resembling an informed prediction here. I’ll simply predict that “Andy Glockner’s” Bluebirds (Redbirds now?) once again find a way to stick around the second tier for yet another season. It’s what Cardiff City do best.

As for who is actually going  up, if I were going by most impressive transfers when I updated FIFA 12 squads, that would probably be Forest. But I’ll go with three Bs: Bolton, Blackpool, and Boro. (Okay, that last one technically is an M, but whatever.)

So there you go. Like Luke Haines, how could I be wrong?

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