With the Premier League season a mere 11 days away, it’s once again prediction time. The time you put your neck on the line with some bold, and usually completely wrong predictions for the upcoming season.
With the Olympics in London, the impending start of the Premier League season has rather gone under the radar in the media. So here we go, I fully expect some sort of medal if these all come off.
Champions – Manchester City
It is hard to look past the current holders to go and do it again. They opened the floodgates with their 2011 FA Cup win and the stream of trophies shows no sign of slowing down. Mancini has not yet opened his chequebook this summer but has consistently stated his desire to add depth to this already burgeoning squad. They have recently stepped up their chase for Liverpool defender Daniel Agger and look likely to get their man. His signing should provide some added steel to a defence which looked decidedly shaky when deprived of either Lescott or their goliath of a captain, Vincent Kompany. Despite their seemingly aborted chase of Arsenal hitman Robin van Persie, City still have an abundance of attacking options at their disposal and scoring goals should not be a problem for them. If they can continue their invincible home form, expect them to dominate this year.
Runners-up – Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson has seen it all before. He has been in this situation before when Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea. He came through that challenge with flying colours. But this time it seems a bit different. Last season it was City, not United, who came through in the clutch. United, for the first time, were the ones to capitulate in the closing stages and surrender the title. Ferguson has added Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa to his ranks, but there is still the general feeling that United need more quality in the centre of midfield. Kagawa tends to operate further up the pitch and will add some much needed creativity to United’s title challenge. But doubts still remain. With Ferguson’s public chase of Van Persie becoming less and less likely to go through, the Old Trafford faithful must be praying Ferguson addresses the glaring weaknesses in the middle of the park. A combination of Carrick (who can’t get in the England side) and the ageing Scholes and Giggs will not win United the title. It looks like they will once again be relying on Rooney to pull them through.
Direct Champions League entry – Arsenal
Despite 7 trophyless seasons, Arsene Wenger sure is good at qualifying for the Champions League. Even after Arsenal’s disastrous start to the last campaign, which included the horrific 8-2 loss to Manchester Utd, they recovered to finish 3rd. It was a very impressive performance and expect something similar this season. Wenger has bucked the trend of recent seasons and has splashed the cash on experienced, world-class players in the shape of Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla. With Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin expected to follow, the Gunners will certainly not be found short in attack. Mind you, that’s rarely been their failing. After conceding 49 goals last term, many fans felt defence was the most pressing concern but Wenger has shown faith to his current crop of defenders. The probable back five of Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen and Gibbs certainly has potential and if they can stay fit (admittedly a big if), Arsenal could certainly surprise a few people and possibly finish even higher than 3rd. This could be Arsenal’s year.
Champions League qualification – Chelsea
This was a tricky one, and before the Cazorla signing I think I would have picked Chelsea for 3rd. They could easily prove me wrong and finish 3rd or even higher, but I still have my doubts. Di Matteo is far from proven at this level. Despite his remarkable Champions League run last year, Chelsea’s Premier League form was still far from impressive. They have made some big signings, all intriguingly made in attacking midfield positions. Marin, Hazard and Oscar have all arrived with other areas still waiting to be strengthened. One person who will certainly be excited by Chelsea’s transfer activity is Fernando Torres. With a likely 4-2-3-1 formation, Torres will probably be spearheading a triumvirate of Hazard, Oscar and Mata. Much has been written about Torres’ decline, I have personally given up on ever seeing the Anfield version of Nando ever again. But if I am to be proven wrong, then this is the season for it. If Torres cannot rediscover his goalscoring touch with the array of creative players behind him, his demise will surely be confirmed. If Torres does struggle, expect Chelsea to struggle too as they do not have any proven Premier League replacements for the Spaniard (as yet).
Euroupa League and Relegation spots to follow…