The Premier League Season is just around the corner, and I can hardly contain my excitement. The World Cup was great (most of the time), but I have missed Premier League so I’m going to let you all know how I think it will pan out. Feel free to dig this article up in May and laugh at my lack of psychic skills.
The Top 4:
There’s no point pretending the top 2 won’t be Chelsea and Manchester City, (in either order). The two clubs with effectively unlimited funds have gone even further in completing their squads and adding depth; Chelsea have confirmed the signings of Felipe Luis, Diego Costa, Cesc Fàbregas, while Courtois has returned from his loan at Atlétic, van Ginkel has returned from injury and King Didier Drogba has returned to his adopted home 2 years after that night in Munich. This will mean no more Ramires starting at CM, no more Ivanović at full back, added creativity from deep, and most importantly, a clinical striker. The lack of quality in Chelsea’s strike force stuck out like a sore thumb last season. But now, Eto’o’s contract has ended, Ba has been sold and Torres has been demoted to the bench as a consequence of the arrival of two superior strikers as well as El Niño’s staggering decline over the past 4 years. City, too, have an even stronger squad than their title-winning one from last season. Improvement in central midfield through the sale of Rodwell, and the additions of Fernando and Lampard on loan will allow for more rotation, which will allow Touré to be kept fresh for the most important games. Defence is the other area in which they have strengthened; Sagna on a free transfer is an excellent acquisition. He offers a solid option at right back and centre back, without the risk of making blunders that Micah Richards carries. Eliquam Mangala, despite his extortionate fee, is another sensible and astute signing. With him alongside Kompany, and Nastasić and Demichelis on the bench, they will not have to worry about the possibility of Boyata playing. So that’s why those two teams will finish in the top 2.
The other two Champions League spots will be fought over by Arsenal (almost definitely going to finish 3rd), Manchester United and Liverpool. Let’s start with Arsenal, they’ve lost Sagna, whose defensive solidity will be missed, but they’ve replaced him with Debuchy, who is an adequate replacement and actually offers more offensively than Sagna. Chambers is another acquisition who should be able to showcase his talent in a variey of positions on a bigger stage than Southampton and possibly break into an England team going through a transitional period. Last but by no means least, Alexis Sánchez. The Chilean attacker will compliment Arsenal’s attack beautifully and offer a winger/auxiliary striker option twice as good as Podolski. Özil will be in assist heaven with Alexis, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott (upon return) running around him. Also, Giroud may enjoy playing in a team with more runners around him, rather than the more static Cazorla and Podolski, although the team would benefit from the signing of a world class striker such as Cavani. A defensive midfielder is equally important, so Arsène may decide to invest his remaining cash in that department with an attempt to buy William Carvalho.
Liverpool. Firstly, please don’t take offence if you support Liverpool. I like your club, ok? Last season was fantastic for you guys, until Dwight Gayle ruined your title chances in 10 minutes in a meaningless game for Palace (sorry, had to). But now, with the loss of Suárez, even though the money has been invested in added depth in all departments through the signings of Lallana, Lambert, Marković, Can, Lovren, Manquillo and Moreno seemingly done, they lack the match winner they had in Suárez, even if he was a despicable raci— another time.. So, while they will probably concede fewer goals, and they do boast a very exciting front line, getting into the top 4 will be much harder this year. So I’m predicting a 5th place finish for the Reds.
United *should* climb back into the top 4 this season, under Louis van Gaal. But it won’t be easy. Liverpool will put up a very tough test so there are no guarantees. However, with luck regarding injuries and a couple more late additions to the squad in central midfield and the left side of defence, they will have a strong enough squad to compete in the Champions League again. Their new 3-4-1-2 formation allows Shaw and Rafael to attack with slightly less defensive duty, while also allowing Mata, Rooney and van Persie to play in their preferred positions simultaneously. Furthermore, it could offer Januzaj more chances to play in the 10 role: the position I envision him growing into as he matures. I’m going to predict United to come 4th, but would not be surprised if they missed out for the second season in a row.
Everton and Tottenham should secure 6th and 7th place, having both made a few good signings. Besić will add mobility to defensive midfield for the Toffees, while Barry’s permanency there will be beneficial to them off the pitch too. Lukaku has been their marquee signing. The young Belgian’s ambitions were not going to be met yet at Chelsea, so after a successful loan spell in Merseyside, he has signed permanently for a club record fee. They’ll miss Deulofeu, who ha returned to parent club Barcelona, but Christian Atsu could be a similarly energising addition to their front 4.
Spurs haven’t signed a striker, so Pochetino may be stuck with mis-firing Soldado, and giraffe-like Adebayor, but goals can come from other areas and together, these two strikers actually compliment each other nicely. Ben Davies is an upgrade on Danny Rose, and Mateo Musacchio’s transfer should be completed in the near future, who will be an upgrade on the ageing Dawson. If Lamela can replicate his Roma form after a strange, inactive season, their attack will have an added dash of excitement, too.
Obvious relegation candidates are the newcomers: Burnley, Leicester and QPR, but it’s very rare that all three go back down. I think the most likely of them to be relegated is Burnley, but I think the other two will stay up, just. Aston Villa are almost guaranteed relegation, I reckon. Lambert’s ‘plan’ hasn’t worked, and now they’re just filled with mediocrity with no evident hunger to progress except in Delph, who should leave the sinking ship for a better club, as should Benteke, when he’s fit again. The last spot is very hard to predict. Any of Hull, Sunderland, Swansea, Stoke, West Brom, West Ham and I hate to say it but Palace could underachieve and slip into the dreaded bottom three. Of these teams, I think West Brom are the most likely to go down.
Thank you for reading.
Follow Reuben on Twitter @MarcoReubs
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