Story by Seng Ton
Premier League – expectations and predictions
As there will most likely be additional analysis on the forthcoming Premier League season, this is merely an article about expectations and predictions. I believe the Premier League is separated into at least 4 groups of teams. The groups are below:
1. The Title Contenders
- Manchester City
Roberto Mancini will hope his star performers are once again firing on all cylinders to help defend the Premier League title for the first time in their history.
Key Players: Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany.
- Manchester United
So close to being the league champions for a record 20 times, but perhaps this is the incentive to go the extra way and get it this season. Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund looks like a shrewd buy.
Key Players: Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia and Nemanja Vidic.
Arsene Wenger has already signed two prolific goalscorers to his squad, and if he can keep hold Robin van Persie then I reckon they could once again try for the title.
Key Players: Robin van Persie, Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen and Jack Wilshere.
Coming off the back of FA Cup and Champions League victories, new manager Roberto di Matteo should fancy his chances at winning the Premier League crown this season. To add to his already impressive trophy list as a manager.
Key Players: John Terry, Juan Mata, Michael Essien and Fernando Torres.
2. The European Hopefuls
- Tottenham Hotspur
At one point were challenging for the title, but with the loss of influential manager Harry Redknapp, will the top players at the club follow him out of the club?
Key Players: Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric and Scott Parker.
Brendan Rodgers already has a strong squad with a lot of depth and quality, but are they going to gel into that team, one which was so feared not so long ago.
Key Players: Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher.
- Newcastle United
After an outstanding season which saw The Toon finish above most fans expectations, this has been down to some amazing bargain buys and positive football. If they can keep their key players, then I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t emulate their 5th place finish.
Key Players: Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote, Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Cisse.
Always slow starters to the season, but make up for it with strong finishes. And this was the case last season, with David Moyes pulling off some brilliant results despite the limited resources he’s had.
Key Players: Nikica Jelavic, Phil Neville, Maraoune Fellaini and Tim Cahill.
3. Mid Table Safety
- Aston Villa
After a dismal last season that saw us avoiding relegation, after many Villa fans thought we’d at least get a mid-table finish. This is where we should be aiming first before disillusion comes into play.
Key Players: Darren Bent, Stephen Ireland, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Shay Given.
In his debut season as Fulham manager, Martin Jol has done a tremendous job establishing them as a top 10 club. There’s no reason that with some quality transfers he can’t do the same this year.
Key Players: Clint Dempsey, Moussa Dembele, Brede Hangeland and Damien Duff.
- West Bromwich Albion
Roy Hodgson has left Steve Clarke a great squad, and with these foundations I can see that they’ve definitely got the potential to record another top 10 finish. Players like Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie have been absolutely vital to The Baggies. Club captain Chris Brunt is also an important figure for them.
Key Players: Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie, Chris Brunt and Jonas Olsson.
- West Ham United
After a nervy play-off final, it is clear to see that there is a lot of fight in the current squad. Usually promoted clubs from the Championship are touted for relegation but not The Hammers, they will need to find a suitable replacement for Robert Green.
Key Players: Kevin Nolan,CarltonCole, James Tomkins and Mark Noble.
- Stoke City
A fully established team in the top tier of English football, with a strong home record and roaring support. Made strides inEuropelast season and with internationals like Peter Crouch signing, they are clearly a club on the up.
Key Players: Ryan Shawcross, Peter Crouch, Matthew Etherington, Wilson Palacios.
Sunderlandhave heavy investment and a proud solid fan base. And any club that has Martin O’Neill at the helm is going to perform well as he’s an exciting man motivator. I expect The Maccems to finish just outside the top 10 but comfortably avoiding relegation.
Key Players: Lee Cattermole, John O’Shea, Craig Gardner, and Sebastian Larsson.
4. The Relegation Battlers
- Wigan Athletic
Always in and around the relegation places at the end of the season,Wigan play a lot positive attacking football but let common lapses in concentration and consistency affect the final result as well as their league placing. They’ve got talented individuals that can carry the goal burden though.
Key Players: Victor Moses, Shaun Maloney, Gary Caldwell and Ali Al-Habsi.
The winners of the Championship last season, after having slow start to the campaign. It was the turn of the year whenReadingshowed their title winning form. A team with this amount of fight will be tough to break down but I think they’ll still struggle.
Key Players: Adam le Fondre, Alex Pearce, Adam Federici and Ian Harte.
Runners up in the Championship last season, but with two successive promotions this is a team which is in scintillating form. They’ve spent most of the season at the top of the table, so a winning mentality is running strongly through this group of players. But unless there’s some activity in the transfer market, I can see a difficult year ahead.
Key Players: Rickie Lambert, Kelvin Davis, Jack Cork and Danny Fox.
- Norwich City (danger of 2nd season syndrome)
Paul Lambert had a fantastic debut season managing in the Premier League with attracting football and a no fear attitude running throughout the team. Key players like John Ruddy ever reliable between the sticks and Grant Holt banging in the goals.
Key Players: John Ruddy, Grant Holt, Anthony Pilkington and Kyle Naughton.
- Swansea City (danger of 2nd season syndrome)
Just likeNorwich, had a fantastic season. But have also lost their manager in Rodgers. Probably the most comfortable team on the ball, and have a passing accuracy to rival the top European teams. Brian Laudrup could hit the ground running but there is also a chance that players could leave following Rodger’s departure.
Key Players: Scott Sinclair, Alan Tate, Ashley Williams and Nathan Dyer.
- Queens Park Rangers
After a busy year in the transfer market, QPR almost have a new first team from the one that won them promotion the season before. As with any team that’s got a lot of new faces, time is needed to gel. Also some of the individual characters in the dressing room have a short temper too, which won’t help the team spirit and I fear it will disrupt The Hoops’ season.
Key Players: Joey Barton, Adel Taarabt, Jamie Mackie and Shaun Wright-Phillips.
The Championship – expectations and predictions
The Championship is probably one of the most open leagues in European football, so it would be difficult to spot the relegation candidates. There are however, a few teams that are always in and around promotion.
Seng’s Picks for Promotion
- Birmingham City (unfortunately)
By competing in the Europa League for the first time in their history a year ago, this experience will be invaluable to both the senior players and young guns. Playing against top quality opposition is a good training exercise for The Bluenoses, and should give them a slight advantage when attempting to once again achieve promotion to the Premier League. I imagine that Birmingham will be near the top of the league for most of the season, and as there is no distraction of Europe this time, it bodes well for them.
Key Players: Chris Burke, Stephen Carr, Nikola Zigic and Marlon King.
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves still have some quality individual players at the club, but luck with injuries has been harsh and the fringe players not stepping up when they needed it most. This contributed to a 20th place finish in the Premier League, embarrassing for both the manager and the proud fans of theBlack Country club. Players like Steven Fletcher, Matt Jarvis and Kevin Doyle will be vital, if they can keep hold of them. I also fancy them to finish near the top, with a play-off place very likely.
Key Players: Steven Fletcher, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle and Stephen Ward.
- Cardiff City (always the bridesmaid, but never the bride)
The Bluebirds fans and players have suffered play-off heartache at least 3 times in as many years. You would have to feel for them, as they always deliver near the start of the season and then seem to peter out at the end, much to the fans displeasure. Cardiff deserve to experience joy at Wembley for change, as they are pretty much always near the top of England’s second tier division.
Key Players: Peter Whittingham, Kenny Miller, Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor.
- Leicester City
Backed by some rich Thai businessmen, The Foxes are perhaps the most financially stable club in this league. Not only are their owners rich, but so is their recent history and support. Add to that an already “Premier League ready” squad at their disposal, you can certainly expect a great deal but it’s also important not to rush. Last seasons expectation was similar, but only a 9th place was achieved. Of course, now the lads have that extra year of playing together which should go a long way to exceeding the proud Foxes supporters expectations.
Key Players: Jermaine Beckford, Kasper Schmeichel, Paul Konchesky and Paul Gallagher.
- Leeds United
Perhaps one of the biggest clubs outside the Premier League, with a proud history and passionate support nearly every home game. It’s been over a decade since Leeds competed in the Champions League semi-final. But with administration troubles the club has suffered a major drop down the leagues, they have used this time rebuild the squad. Currently Robert Snodgrass, Luciano Becchio and Ross McCormack are some of the players which are significant to Leeds’ promotion push, and they would feel the time is now after coming so close on so many occasions.
Key Players: Robert Snodgrass, Luciano Becchio, Ross McCormack, Adam Clayton.
- Blackburn Rovers
One of the relegated clubs from last season’s Premier League, ending an 11 year stay. Things just weren’t going their way, unrest about the gaffer, they all added to the feeling of uncertainty. This reflected in their results, but this will be a chance rebuild as many other teams have done before them. Keeping hold of their key players, and introducing young hungry players seems like the way forward for the Lancashire club. Steve Kean will feel he has a point to prove to the fans, after his treatment for most of last season.
Key Players: Paul Robinson, David Dunn, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Steven N’Zonzi.