Sport

Standard 22.

Here it is! My 2013-14 Premier League table prediction. I’m confident that this season, my success rate will be much improved on the last two years…

Arsenal – Will they be getting Suarez? I had felt if Arsenal sped into the transfer market this summer and got two or three top players, they would be nailed on for the title due to them now having the longest serving manager in the top six. Yeah, I know this doesn’t guarantee anything, but they give the impression of stability and therefore, even should they add little to their current squad, I can see them finishing as runners-up in the league, and will be in the running to finally win a trophy in the cup competitions. Prediction: 2nd.

Aston Villa – Towards the end of last season, we saw signs of improvement for this young squad, who will also benefit from their experience of a relegation battle and won’t be wanting to repeat the feat. They also ended last season in promising form, and how many times have we seen a team carry that on to secure a top half finish the following year? We’ll have seen it once more by the end of this season. Prediction: 9th.

Cardiff City – May rely on Bellamy for goals and experience (who, let’s remember, doesn’t have that many years left in him), who will need to prove he can still do it at the top level. The euphoria of their first season back in the top league after fifty years – and being one of only two Welsh clubs in the party – should carry Cardiff to safety. Prediction: 16th.

Chelsea – If the new Chelsea manager had been anyone other than Mourinho, what would the headlines have been in the run-up to this season? For the second time in one season, they discarded a successful manager who won them a European trophy (Benitez may have been a ‘stopgap’ in the first place, but he did enough to earn a longer tenure). We all know what for, of course. To bring back the man who is now expected to keep the Chelsea fans happy: Jose Mourinho. That he may very well do, but I don’t see the Chelsea team improving their league position this season. At the moment they look like a younger team in transition to me, a mixture of experienced players who could be (whisper it) past their best, and players who are unaccustomed to playing in a title-winning team. Remember this is still the majority of a squad that finished sixth two seasons ago, and all of a sudden Mourinho is expected to do more with them than Benitez could? I don’t think so. Retaining their position in the top four should be their priority. Prediction: 4th.

Crystal Palace – They simply won’t have enough quality; even Blackpool came into the league at a better pace during their campaign. One needs only look at Palace’s form towards the end of last season (one win in ten: relegation form, and that’s in the championship) to see the impossible challenge facing them this year. If they were to stay up, it would be, in my opinion, the biggest shock (and achievement) of the entire Premier League era. No pressure then, Mr Holloway. Prediction: 20th.

Everton – They could struggle to an extent, but are still a good team. They now have a manager who perhaps won’t get them to the same heights as Moyes did; without investment, I think this sort of mid-table position could be their limit. Prediction: 11th.

Fulham – Will struggle, but should have enough to survive – partly thanks to the money available to spend in January from their new owner, perhaps? Regardless, I have seen Fulham be on a steady downward spiral ever since Hodgson left and I think they will need some kind of major change or turnaround to motivate the squad again – remember, they are not one of the big teams in the division and, in fact, surviving every year should be their primary target in the first place. Prediction: 17th.

Hull City – Manager and squad have Premier League experience, and for that reason I can see them finishing highest of the three promoted sides. Perhaps they won’t be doing anything spectacular, but could surprise a few people with a somewhat consistent season. Prediction: 14th.

Liverpool – They have no Europe once again this season, and that could be seen either as an advantage or disadvantage. I think it will play in their favour, though. The heart of Liverpool’s squad is still full of quality; the only thing they’re lacking to challenge the top four is consistency, which I’m backing them to find again this year. It still may take more than one season to find themselves back among the elite though, especially if they end up losing Suarez for more than his 10 match ban. If they keep him, or replace him with someone better, I expect to see a more positive attitude come season’s end towards Liverpool’s league performance. Prediction: 5th.

Manchester City – They’ve largely revamped their squad and have had a great pre-season. Much could depend on how well – and how quickly – Pellegrini settles into English football, and whether he handles the big personalities better than Mancini. So far the signs of this have been encouraging; the big players seem to like the change, not least due to the fact that the majority of them will turn out to be new signings made by Pellegrini himself by the time the season starts. Regardless of whatever else may happen, Man City simply have the best all-round squad in the league (by quite a way, in my opinion) and I can’t see them finishing anywhere but top. Set to be champions for the second time in three years. Prediction: Champions.

Manchester United – Will they be getting Fabregas? Losing Rooney? The outcome of those two transfer sagas could decide whether it’s possible title contenders or just hanging on to third place for a team in transition. Either way I think they’ll end up coming just short of the very top this season, but without Moyes I would argue it could’ve been worse. If their squad remains largely the same as it is now, likely they’ll finish in this position. Prediction: 3rd.

Newcastle United – Without the distraction of Europe, Newcastle will be hoping to find themselves in the top half of the table again. If all players stay fit this season, something which is apparently easier said than done, they are very capable of achieving it – regardless of whatever ‘discontent’ people are trying to put into their dressing room already. Prediction: 7th.

Norwich City – Impressive signings, such as Van Wolfswinkel, will give Norwich’s squad the improvement they need to lift them from the threat of relegation to a mid-table team. In the past two seasons, Norwich have tended to surprise a few of the big teams – expect similar results this season. If they concentrate more on their consistency in being able to beat the teams in the bottom half as well, they are more than capable of reaching tenth place in the league at least. Prediction: 10th.

Southampton – They have a good young foreign manager who I can see emulating what Michael Laudrup has achieved at Swansea. I’m not saying they’ll win a trophy or even reach the level of class in their play that we’ve seen from the Swans, but expect a better all-round league performance this season. Steady improvement beyond that in future is a strong possibility. Prediction: 13th.

Stoke City – I actually think new manager Mark Hughes will restore some respectability to his reputation with Stoke this year after the Q.P.R. debacle, but with the lack of goals in Stoke City’s squad (only Hughes’ former club scored less than them last season), I’m afraid I can see a season of struggle ahead nonetheless. This may well end in relegation for a club that has already punched far above their weight in surviving for five years in the Premier League. Prediction: 18th.

Sunderland – Will their influx of foreign signings cope with the EPL, especially through the winter time, when it will be just as physical but with cold conditions thrown in as well? And what kind of nonsense will Di Canio have in store for us this season? I think they could drop like a stone. Historically, the team finishing in seventeenth the season before doesn’t often survive the following year. Sunderland are perhaps better equipped than others, but I can’t see their season passing without upheaval of some sort. Prediction: 19th.

Swansea City – This prediction isn’t just about good form. On paper, Swansea City’s squad are now one of the top eight teams in the league. The question, of course, will be where they go after this, especially if they are destined to lose manager Laudrup to a bigger team? Prediction: 8th.

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs will have the distraction of the Europa League to look forward to once again, a competition which their manager gives a lot of respect to. For that reason, I’d expect Spurs to win that competition this season. As for the league, while fans may not like me saying it, I think sixth is a position that Spurs should be expecting to finish in, should the clubs around them perform to their best. Their finishes in the last few seasons have been largely due to Chelsea and Liverpool vastly underperforming; I don’t see that happening again this year. But there are positive signs; they’ve signed Spanish striker Roberto Soldado for a club record fee, and look set to either hold on to Bale (who may struggle to reproduce his form of last season regardless) or get a hefty transfer fee for him. And hey, a top six finish should secure another European place for next season… Prediction: 6th.

West Bromwich Albion – They’ve lost their best player (Lukaku, returned to Chelsea) and it’s hard to see them recapturing the form they showed for parts of last season. Could flirt with relegation this year and finish in the bottom half, which won’t be a bad performance; due to the size of this club, I think this kind of position is perfectly respectable for West Brom. Prediction: 15th.

West Ham United – A touch of second season syndrome perhaps, but they have enough quality about them to stay up with Big Sam in charge. Still can’t see them doing any better than mid-table this year though, in what I think will be a better quality league in general. Prediction: 12th.

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