Premier League 2013/14 season review.

At the start of every Premier League football season for the past three years I, for no real apparent reason, have liked to predict the finishing position of each of the twenty teams and post it here on my blog. Usually, if I’m not very successful, I tend not to mention it again until the following year.

The fact that I’m mentioning it again here now doesn’t mean I’ve been terribly successful this time around either, but it does mean I’m working on being more objective and self-accountable. Plus I just like to do this kind of thing in my free time. So let’s look back at this season and judge teams’ actual finishing positions against my pre-judgment of them, shall we?

  1. Premier League Champions: Man City. My pre-season prediction: Champions! They were expected champions for many people in the end, but Man City made it hard for themselves on a few occasions. Beginning with a 3-2 loss to Cardiff in the second week of the season, crucial defeats against Chelsea and Liverpool looked to have lost them the title. But fortunately for them, the team above was, shall we say, not quite ready for the honour…
  2. Runners-up: Liverpool. My pre-season prediction: 5th. On the one hand, Liverpool had an excellent season. On the other, it should have been even better than it turned out to be, were it not for the naivety shown in matches against Chelsea and Crystal Palace towards the end. Their priority next season has to be to avoid a hangover from this year and retain that all-important top 4 status. They certainly have the attacking talent for it.
  3. Chelsea. My pre-season prediction: 4th. Inconsistency against mid-table teams such as Aston Villa and Palace, not to mention a catastrophic home defeat against Sunderland, cost Jose Mourinho another title. I wouldn’t bet against them coming back even more determined to win next season.
  4. Arsenal. My pre-season prediction: Runners-up. A (very) shaky period after Christmas was masked in the end by a vital FA Cup win, which has secured Arsene Wenger at least another year at the club. For as long as he’s there I don’t see them dropping any lower than their signature 4th spot, although they do still have glaring problems when one or two big players get injured. Need a bit of luck if they’re going to get any higher next season.
  5. Everton. My pre-season prediction: 11th. Yet another over-performing season for Everton. It seems I am continually harsh with them in my foresight, having predicted mid-table finishes in each of the last two years. They’ve made an excellent transition to a new manager in Roberto Martinez, who has largely gone under the radar for the ‘manager of the year’ awards due to some equally outstanding candidates elsewhere. The big question, of course, is how long they can keep this kind of thing going on their limited budget?
  6. Tottenham Hotspur. My pre-season prediction: 6th. According to BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was Spurs’ best player last season! This despite their 6th placed finish; it probably doesn’t fill fans with much confidence for the near future. Manager Tim Sherwood was sacked for finishing above last season’s champions – at least he can put that on his (otherwise quite bare) C.V.
  7. Man United. My pre-season prediction: 3rd. A lot can change in ten months. Back in August I remember there were some predicting Man United would actually retain their title; yeah, you, don’t pretend you weren’t one of them! A botched managerial transition was in stark contrast to Everton, ironically the club they acquired their (former) new man from, and all of a sudden they’re in an uncomfortably similar position to the Liverpool team of 2009/ 10. The old guard has expired: now they must begin anew. But it is their arrogance that may stand in the way…
  8. Southampton. My pre-season prediction: 13th. Quite simply one of the pleasant surprises of the season, overshadowed perhaps by the achievements of Palace and Liverpool.
  9. Stoke City. My pre-season prediction: 18th. A quick look at my forecast will tell you how much credit I think Mark Hughes deserves for securing a top half finish with Stoke – one that looked highly unlikely back in December. For me, Hughes is right up there in the top two managers of the year.
  10. Newcastle. My pre-season prediction: 7th. Typically inconsistent season for Newcastle; if they’re not careful it could turn into a dramatic fall next year. The season couldn’t have ended soon enough for them.
  11. Crystal Palace. My pre-season prediction: 20th. Here’s a quote from me on August 17th: “If they were to stay up, it would be, in my opinion, the biggest shock (and achievement) of the entire Premier League era.” Not sure what more I can say here. Manager Tony Pulis is quite obviously manager of the year, or perhaps, of the past 22 years.
  12. Swansea City. My pre-season prediction: 8th. Laudrup’s sacking and Monk’s swift appointment was done in distinctly bad taste, but their slightly deceiving finish will justify it in the hierarchy’s mind. Could be sucked into a relegation battle next year without improvement, though.
  13. West Ham. My pre-season prediction: 12th. ‘Big Sam’ keeps them up and will keep doing so for as long as he is there. But how long will it take for the owners to get as bored of him as the fans clearly are?
  14. Sunderland. My pre-season prediction: 19th. Up until just a couple of weeks before the end of the season, I thought I had called this one perfectly. Their own little miracle was achieved, and they finished the season looking like a top ten team. Who knows, they may actually get there if they carry their momentum into next season too.
  15. Aston Villa. My pre-season prediction: 9th. I thought they’d improve. They didn’t. At all. Should they fail to do so again, they’ll be right down scrapping among the bottom six next year. Their owner will be hoping to sell up before they get to that point because, frankly, they’re starting to look like a mid-table Championship team in the making.
  16. Hull City. My pre-season prediction: 14th. A decent season saw them get into Europe (via their FA Cup final appearance), but manager Steve Bruce will know his task is even bigger next year as they need quantity and quality in their squad to survive on two fronts.
  17. West Bromwich Albion. My pre-season prediction: 15th. Have been in freefall and were lucky that there were three worse teams in the league than them this year. Next time, they probably won’t be so fortunate…
  18. Norwich City. My pre-season prediction: 10th. Some, including myself, got carried away with Norwich’s potential after they flattered to deceive last season. This year, unfortunately, they plummeted. Huge flops in the striking department is not what you need when you’re fighting to stay in the Premier League, but Van Wolfswinkel, should they decide to hold onto him, has every chance of finding his scoring boots in the Championship…
  19. Fulham. My pre-season prediction: 17th. Panic appointments in management and little squad investment have seen Fulham’s lengthy stay in the top league come to an end. Like Blackburn and Bolton before them, I can’t see them bouncing straight back up either.
  20. Cardiff City. My pre-season prediction: 16th. Owner seemed to be overconfident that they would stay up, and ended up appointing a manager more for marketing reasons than anything else. It’s a shame for them on their first season back at the top in many years, but in all honesty you couldn’t really make a case for them deserving to stay up. A marvellous 3-2 win against champions Man City in their first home match, way back in August, was as good as it got for Cardiff.

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