Time to ponder over the remaining half of the top flight in England and where else to start other than last seasons title winners from Manchester.
No more “Fergie time”, no more intimidation of match officials and no more shady decisions going the way of the men from the red half of Manchester. Life is great now old whiskey nose has departed the scene of the crime. Yep, Alex Ferguson has retired and football in England can go back to running on an even keel once more. The question on everyone’s lips is how will United shall progress under new manager, David Moyes. Supporters will be relying on another big season from Robin Van Persie and with Wayne Rooney all but a done deal to Chelsea the pressure will be immense for the former Arsenal talisman. United won’t be challenging either Chelsea or their noisy neighbours for the title though a top four finish will be imperative. United collected 29 points from losing positions last term. Can Moyes bring out the same fighting spirit?
PREDICTED FINISH: 4th
Where does one start with the continuing shambolic mess that is sometimes known as Newcastle United? For reasons unknown to most pundits, dinosaur manager Joe Kinnear has come in as the new director of football. Expect a poor and unstable start to the new season and the early pressure to build amid reports of a player/manager rift. The “toon” will have to tighten up the ship at the back during the second half of matches this season or face a relegation battle. They shipped 66% of their goals against last outing in the second 45 minutes of matches in 2012/13.
PREDICTED FINISH: 16th
The good time boys of the Premier League are a side everyone loves to watch. Norwich have come of age under Chris Houghton, a manager who has an ability to bring out the best in under performing players. By christmas last season they were 2 points outside the top 4 after victories over Arsenal and Manchester United. The key signing for the canneries is Ricky von Wolfswinkel, a stylish Dutch attacking forward who has been brought in to replace Grant Holt. With only 41 goals last outing it will be a no brainer that Norwich need a consistent run of form and goals to match or they may face a relegation battle.
PREDICTED FINISH: 10th
Supporters are still reeling from the mid-season sacking of manager Nigel Adkins, the man who had taken them from League One to the Premier League in consecutive seasons. The pressure to perform will be on from day one for Mauricio Pochettino, Adkins replacement who enjoyed a strong finish to last seasons campaign. Southampton topped the list for tackles and interceptions last term and will again be hard to break down.
PREDICTED FINISH: 12th
Better known for their rugby tactics under previous manager Tony Pulis you have to ask if bringing in Mark Hughes as his replacement is the right decision? On the surface expect a more open and attacking style of play however Stokes previous smash and grab tactics may be missed as the season wears on. With no big money signings and the pressure on the keep hold of attacking midfielder Steven N’Zonzi I can’t see any but a relegation battle for Stoke who should employ a 4-4-2 formation.
PREDICTED FINISH: 18th
When watching Sunderland I always get excited when Seb Larsson steps up for a set play. His delivery is sublime and delivers constant goal scoring opportunities for key man, Steven Fletcher. The attacking maestro will also shoulder the responsibility to deliver enough points to ensure the black cats survive the inevitable relegation dog fight should the Paulo Di Canio experiment backfire. The major problem facing Sunderland is converting the copious chances they are sure to have into goals. September and October will prove to be vital as they face Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United over a four week period. A slow start to the season will almost ensure relegation.
PREDICTED FINISH: 13th
After winning the League Cup last season the Swans fell into a hole they struggled to climb back out of. The bargain signing of the season, Michu must be wary of second season syndrome as Swansea have little to no ideas for a plan B should the passing game they perfected in the first half of last year fail to deliver the desired results. If they manage consistent football you might even see Swansea challenge for a Europa League place.
PREDICTED FINISH: 9th
Real Madrid have blown and blown and blown! Somehow they are yet to blow the house of Gareth Bale down and steal him away from London. To be frank, it seems inevitable that the season ahead for Andre Villa-Boas‘ chargers from White Heart Lane all depend on Bale hanging around for another term. All is not doom and gloom however. If Jermaine Defoe can step up to the plate and deliver more consistent performances then expect Spurs to make a serious push for the title. Big name summer signing, Paulinho may take time to adjust but given his work ethic when at Corinthians, Spurs will be a big danger from midfield.
PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Who could forget last season when the Baggies opened up with a cracking start to the season before falling off the pace? A team with very few stars and a second season manager in Steve Clarke West Brom will be looking to get off to a similar start this campaign. The aging Nicolas Anelka has been added to bolster the goal scoring ranks with a predicted 4-2-3-1 formation likely to be just the tonic for another mid table season. If things don’t go to plan expect Steve Clarke to experiment with his formation and bring in fresh legs to change things up.
PREDICTED FINISH: 9th
WEST HAM UNITED
Pundits have labeled West Ham long ball boofheads but when they want to there is an attractive style of play simmering below, waiting to explode. If Andy Carroll can remain fit then chance are The Hammers will be blowing bubbles all the way up the table. The one serious concern last term was their inability to win back to back matches, something they failed to do all season. With some interesting additions over the summer including the up and down Stuart Downing the season ahead can be a cracking one provided they get it right from the start. I can’t see West Ham living in fear of a relegation scrap.
PREDICTED FINISH: 11th
So there you have it boys and girls. My fearless predictions are out there for all to see. Feel free to add you own thoughts on how the following nine months will pan out for you team.
2: MANCHESTER CITY
4: MANCHESTER UNITED
7: ASTON VILLA
9: WEST BROM
11: WEST HAM
20: CRYSTAL PALACE