As you may have realised by now, I like to make predictions about football, with varying results.
I may have tipped Holland to reach the World Cup final, but some of my other predictions for the tournament were less than accurate.
That hasn’t stopped me though, and today I will bring you the first part of my team-by-team predictions for the new Premier League season. Just wait a few months and you can laugh at them come May (or maybe even sooner).
Manager: Arsène Wenger
Last Season: 3rd
Players in: Laurent Koscielny (Lorient, undisclosed); Marouane Chamakh (Girondins de Bordeaux, free)
Players out: Eduardo (Shakhtar Donetsk, undisclosed); Fran Merida (Atlético Madrid, free); Philippe Senderos (Fulham, free); William Gallas, Mikaël Silvestre (released)
Arsenal coped well without key players for large parts of last season, and they should be able to maintain their place in the top four as long as Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas stay fit. While Fabregas looks like staying for another year at least, Wenger will need to turn his attention to defensive matters – expect him to invest in a goalkeeper before the end of the transfer window, and maybe another centre-back as cover for the untested partnership of Koscielny and Vermaelen.
Manager: Martin O’Neill
Last Season: 6th
Players in: None
Players out: Steven O’Halloran (Coventry City, free); Wilfred Bouma, Marlon Harewood, Andy Marshall (released)
Villa faded badly towards the end of last season, with players like Ashley Young running out of steam after a testing campaign. With O’Neill often reluctant to use a number of his squad players, it is imperative he keeps hold of the core of his first team squad. A lot will depend on how he replaces wantaway midfielder James Milner, assuming his seemingly imminent move to Manchester City goes ahead. Europe may provide Villa’s best chance of success this season.
Manager: Alex McLeish
Last Season: 9th
Players in: Ben Foster (Manchester United, £6m); Nikola Zigic (Valencia, £6m), Enric Vallès (NAC Breda, free)
Players out: Gary McSheffrey (Coventry City, free)
Birmingham over-reached themselves last season, exceeding all expectations to finish in the top half, and the manner in which they did so suggests this season may be one of consolidation. Boss McLeish has already experienced relegation once with the Blues, and his desire to avoid a repeat might lead to them playing a cagy game yet again in the notoriously ‘difficult’ second season. He has spent well, with Foster an able replacement for Joe Hart and Zigic able to lead the line alone or alongside Cameron Jerome. There will be fewer 1-0 victories, but City should have enough.
Manager: Sam Allardyce
Last season: 10th
Players in: None
Players out: Steven Reid (West Bromwich Albion, free); Andy Haworth (Bury, free)
Some Blackburn fans may be concerned by the lack of transfer activity at Ewood Park, but they need not be. Sam Allardyce showed last season that he is able to get results for a small, relatively inexperienced squad and we can expect more of the same in the 2010/11 campaign. ‘Big Sam’ will look to build a team around youngsters Phil Jones and Steven N’Zonzi, and we can expect him to bring in another striker to deliver the goals Rovers need to keep their heads above water.
Manager: Ian Holloway
Last season: 6th (Championship)
Players in: None
Players out: Alhassan Bangura (Mersin Idmanyurdu, free); Ben Burgess (Notts County, free); Daniel Nardiello (Exeter City, free); Hameur Bouazza (AC Arles-Avignon, free); Joe Martin, Danny Mitchley (released); Stephen McPhee (retired)
We can expect Blackpool to be everyone’s second team this season, but it is difficult to see them staying up. Enthusiastic players and an enigmatic manager in Holloway can only get you so far, but ‘Pool’s squad looks on paper like it would struggle to survive in the Championship, let alone in the Premiership. The romantic in me wants to see them surprise us all, but in all likelihood the harsh reality of Premier League life will soon set in. When that happens, the likes of Brett Ormerod and Ian Evatt probably won’t have what it takes to turn things around.
Manager: Owen Coyle
Last season: 14th
Players in: Robbie Blake (Burnley, free); Martin Petrov (Manchester City , free)
Players out: Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan, loan); Ricardo Vaz Tê (Panionios, free); Aaron Mooy (released)
Freed from the shackles of Gary Megson’s negative football, which irked more or less every single fan last season, Bolton should enjoy a resurgent year. Owen Coyle has moved fast to bring in Martin Petrov in one of the transfer coups of the summer, and for once the Wanderers fans could see their sides winning games while playing exciting football. Still, a European finish may be beyond them unless they can bring in a quality striker to fill the gap left by Nicolas Anelka’s departure in 2008.
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
Last season: 1st
Players in: Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool, £5.5m); Tomáš Kalas (Sigma Olomouc, £5.2m); Matej Delač (Inter Zaprešić, 2.7m)
Players out: Miroslav Stoch (Fenerbahçe, £4.95m); Michael Ballack (Bayer Leverkusen, free); Juliano Belletti (Fluminense, free); Joe Cole (Liverpool, free); Nana Oforo-Twumasi (Peterborough United, free)
Chelsea’s league win last season was perhaps more a result of their opponents faltering than of Ancelotti’s side impressing, although when it came to the crunch they played some of their best football all year. Their squad may be ageing, but the likes of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka have arguably reached their peak at the age where others are said to be past their prime. That said, the departures of Ballack and Cole (and probably Deco too in the near future) will leave a big hole to fill, and they may fall just short of a repeat triumph barring a marquee signing between now and the end of August.
Manager: David Moyes
Last season: 8th
Players in: Magaye Gueye (Strasbourg, undisclosed); João Silva (Aves, undisclosed); Jermaine Beckford (Leeds United, free); Ján Mucha (Legia Warszawa, free)
Players out: John Ruddy (Norwich City, undisclosed); Dan Gosling (Newcastle United, free); Carlo Nash (Stoke City, free)
Everton suffered last season due to long-term injuries sustained by some of their key players. Young replacements like Rodwell and the now-departed Gosling impressed when asked to fill in, and this season – with Arteta, Fellaini and Cahill returning – David Moyes’ side should be able to push on. Question marks remain over their strikers, with Beckford unproven and Yakubu seemingly a shadow of his former self, but enough goals should come from midfield.
Last season: 12th
Players in: Jonathan Greening (West Bromwich Albion, undisclosed); Philippe Senderos (Arsenal, free)
Players out: Chris Smalling (Manchester United, undisclosed); Wayne Brown (Bristol Rovers, free); Christopher Buchtmann (FC Cologne, free); Erik Nevland (Viking FK, free); Stefan Payne (Gillingham, free); Michael Uwezu (Lincoln City, free); Andranik, Toni Kallio (released)
Fulham have shed a lot of their squad in the build-up to the 2010/11 season, but no loss will be felt more than that of manager Roy Hodgson. The former Internazionale boss got the best out of a largely mediocre bunch of players, taking them to the Europa League final and a respectable mid-table finish. Whoever replaces him will have a tough task grinding out the same kind of results, and their Premier League survival will depend a lot on the form of striker Andrew Johnson when he returns from injury. In a relatively strong Premier League, Fulham are my surprise tip to fall through the trap-door.
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Last season: 7th
Players in: Danny Wilson (Rangers, £2m); Jonjo Shelvey (Charlton Athletic, £1.7m); Joe Cole (Chelsea, free); Milan Jovanovic (Standard Liège, free)
Players out: Yossi Benayoun (Chelsea, £5.5m); Mikel San José (Athletic Bilbao, £2.6m); Nikolay Mihaylov (FC Twente, £1.5m); David Martin (MK Dons, free); Robbie Threlfall (Bradford City, free); Fabio Aurelio (released)
Fulham’s loss is Liverpool’s gain, and Hodgson should help ensure a certain degree of stability at Anfield. Finances appear to be tight, meaning his thriftiness in securing the services of Joe Cole counts for even more, and Fernando Torres may well be forced to leave the club this summer. If that is the case, Hodgson can be trusted to replace the Spanish international with players who can benefit from the service of Cole, Jovanovic and Steven Gerrard. The Champions League may be beyond them, but any fears of further decline can be put to bed.