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Year 9 of the Premiership predictions thread.
Previous 8 years:
[table="head;width=500"]|My Predicted Table|Final Table|Difference
01. |Man Utd |Chelsea |DOWN 1
02. |Chelsea |Man Utd |UP 1
03. |Liverpool |Arsenal |DOWN 4
04. |Arsenal |Tottenham |UP 1
05. |Tottenham |Man City |UP 1
06. |Everton |Aston Villa |DOWN 2
07. |Man City |Liverpool |UP 2
08. |Aston Villa |Everton |UP 2
09. |Fulham |Birmingham |DOWN 3
10. |Sunderland |Blackburn |DOWN 3
11. |West Ham |Stoke |DOWN 6
12. |Blackburn |Fulham |UP 2
13. |Wigan |Sunderland |DOWN 3
14. |Bolton |Bolton |CORRECT
15. |Stoke |Wolves |UP 4
16. |Birmingham |Wigan |UP 7
17. |Portsmouth |West Ham |DOWN 3
18. |Wolves |Burnley |UP 3
19. |Hull City |Hull City |CORRECT
20. |Burnley |Portsmouth |UP 2
2 Correct – a score of 50 points. Thats the best ive ever done. I had a quick gander at last years thread and saw a couple of you managed to dip under the 50 points mark - well done. I think anything under 50 points counts as a decent year's predicting.
(For those who dont remember or can't be bothered reading the previous threads; the Score is your margin of error - add a point for every place you were out for every team, total it up)
2005/2006 score = 62
2006/2007 score = 58
2007/2008 score = 54
2008/2009 score = 70
2009/2010 score = 70
And away we go again
01. Man Utd
I’m not basing this on the charity shield, but on the 24 years of my life watching the infuriating Groundhog Day re-run that is the Premier league. I hate to say it, but they are consistently the best-run club in the league. They introduce change gradually and never rush to sign multiple players at once, which is the correct way to build a squad. They have a system and they have a plan B. Are they the best squad man-for-man in the league (pun intended)? No, probably not. But they are like a machine, well oiled; they’re just always there. I’d love to do a negative write up and mention how I don’t think Giggs Ferdinand and Scholes will be able to give their best, I think Carrick is vastly overrated, Berbatov and Vidic’s heads might not be in the game etc but when it comes down to it they are always there or thereabouts. Rooney will be at his best again and his failure at the world cup will be forgotten. If they got a serious injury to him though it might derail them. Despite little niggles, they’ve never really had a key long term injury to a prominent attacking player in a title run in the way Liverpool (Torres, Gerrard) Chelsea (Drogba) or Arsenal (Van Persie) have in recent memory, which I find incredibly frustrating as they are good enough without being lucky. Ferguson is still one of the best managers in the league at using his resources and they will consistently find a way to beat teams in December and January when the fixtures pile up because Man Utd have a well defined way of playing. The real question is going to be when Giggs, Scholes and Ferguson all pack it in, to see if the winning culture and hard work remains or whether they become like so many other big clubs who sign players who see winning as an entitlement. I thoroughly expect to be watching ‘Premier league years’ in 5 years time, forgetting all about the 2010/2011 season and being unsurprised and sickened in equal measure at the ****ing de ja vu that is watching Man Utd winning the ****ing title.
Main Man – Wayne Rooney
Hardly needs said really, but with inconsistent strike partners and no other real attacking threats from the centre of the field, Man Utd need Rooney. Will get 25 goals, the world cup will be forgotten, and will get balder and uglier every day.
Last season with the Premier league title race neck and neck many pundits said that perhaps that was this Chelsea team’s “last chance” – for the Terry/Lampard/Drogba axis. How unsurprising then that a new season has come along and nobody has the guts to write them off all over again. I actually think they have the best first XI in the league. They have a strong central spine, which you need to churn out the results, but under Ancelloti they were also pretty explosive going forward unlike Mourinho’s borefest outfit. I also have to say i've never seen a manager get less credit for winning the double in his debut premiership season than Ancelloti did – they just cant leave the ****ing Mourinho thing alone. The only reason I don’t see them winning the league is because I suspect that they’ll endure a little bit more unease and dysfunction than Man Utd. Cashley is unhappy, Drogba might throw a sulk any minute, and there definitely still exists the sort of senior player mafia that keeps younger players out the team even when they come in and do well. There are great players in the squad; but changing between systems at Chelsea doesn’t come as easily for them as it does for Man Utd. Anelka is a great case in point; I think he’s tremendous (not as much as he does though), but he gets dicked around and shoved wide when Chelsea retreat into 4-5-1 mode and he doesn’t always respond well. I know I’m pretty unique in this too but I also think that they’ll miss Ballack who did more for them than people realised. In their favour is the fact they have a very settled side and aren’t going to have any sort of blooding in period the same way other teams might. Now that Mourinho has gone too; outsiders like Malouda and Kalou have really started flourishing. I think they have enough to make a real title push and if they won it I wouldn’t be shocked, but I’d give Utd the edge for now. Chelsea are also likely to beat the teams around them like Arsenal and City when it comes to the big games which for all their flaws, Terry and co have the experience and bottle for.
Main Man – Frank Lampard
Always a popular player to hate, but its not really fair when you look at his goal scoring record from midfield. Needs to keep it up though because if his play dips the way Gerrard did for Liverpool, Chelsea could quickly find themselves without an attacking identity.
I wonder if Cesc will think this is worth staying for? And at the end of the year, will Arsene? To sum up Arsenal’s problem in a different way, try picking attacking players from their side to form part of a point-scoring fantasy football team. Once you take Van Persie Arshavin and Fabregas, who do you have left? Are Nasri or Rosicky guaranteed starters every week? Is Walcott going to run into a blind alley? Is Wilshere going to play many games or is it just premature hype? Are you really going to trust one of your striking positions to Nicklas Bendtner? (imo underrated by pundits but still a colossal asshole). How can someone as ridiculously uncoordinated as Abou Diaby actually count as a footballer? What on earth does Denilson really do, anyway? I might sound negative but the point is that Arsenal remain a collective. They have a system and they have a philosophy, and it works, to a point. But there’s always a point they look fragile, there always has been. For them to be title contenders, they’d have to win far more often on their days off. Its all fine and well smashing 5 past someone when the whole thing clicks, but to win the title you need Lampard deflections and 2-minutes beyond injury time Michael Owen goals, (or Pires dives) and I don’t see Arsenal as having the killer instinct to take the step on. They still need a keeper, surely, if for no other reason than the fans have lost confidence in the ones they have. They are sublime when they are on though and I’d really like to see them win the title because of the type of football they play and their philosophy of bringing players through. Cant say I’m as convinced by the hype about the kids because with Arsenal we’ve heard it so many times before about how this crop coming through are going to be world beaters etc, and it just never works out like that. The defeat to Barcelona really sticks in the memory too if we’re talking about them as title challengers. You can only really lose 4 or 5 games in the season and keep the draws down to a minimum and I think too often their lack of steel, lack of direction, and just the fact that sometimes in 90 minutes you can absolutely batter and humiliate an opponent and still draw 0-0, are going to cost them.
Main Man – Cesc Fabregas
If his attitude is crap then they’ll be in serious shit. Directs the whole ship and has goals in his game too.
Controversial? Maybe. I certainly wouldn’t have put them here at the start of the summer. But all things considered, it’s been a tremendous summer for Liverpool given what could have been. Benitez is gone. I might have to retype that. Benitez is gone. No more appalling substitutions, 4-5-1 at home against promoted teams, no more hauling Torres off with games tied, no more considering 0-0 to be a goalfest, no more inability to play the 1st half of football without looking lost. I mean, ill talk about personnel but you really cant overestimate how momentous getting rid of Benitez could be for Liverpool. Torres, overrated though he is (I would have taken 40m and laughed my ****ing ass off) is still a great player the 5 games a season he’s fully fit and not injured, coming back from injury, rehabbing, playing through a niggle, or overworked because there’s no other competent strikers. Gerrard, though on the decline, is still important to Liverpool, particularly in my opinion if they start to move him into a deeper role and utilise his energy in a defensive sense, coupled with his range of passing. I’d still like him to get forward too obviously but the days of him being the central focal point of the Liverpool attack have to be moved on. Jovanovich could be good, but who knows? Joe Cole is never a player i've been fond of because I’ve always felt he is difficult to put into a side and play a formation. However, at Liverpool he is going to a side which has a severe lack of creativity, and therefore can afford him. I hope mascherano goes – good riddance to bad rubbish, the single most overrated player in world football. Cant keep his head in big games, cant complete a forward pass; the money Liverpool are asking for him is just a total joke. Kuyt for all his detractors is just an excellent premier league footballer – seriously. He’s Tevez with worse PR (and he’ll actually play for a team rather than for himself). They still have the best keeper in the league in Reina – I know Cech and Van Der Sar have their backers, but what Reina has over them is his footwork (I’ve seen him take 3 side steps over to the left or right and pluck a ball out of the postage stamp top corner where other keepers would have had to dive with everything they had) and his distribution (keepers don’t make saves all the time, and in fact, most of the shots they face 95% of keepers would be able to make as the standard is pretty high across the board.) Defence is still a problem, Carragher really looks like he’s on the way out though I highly doubt that Liverpool fans will see it that way as they are consistently blind to any of their teams faults. Agger and Skrtel need to make steps up this year. A left back is needed, and after the Fiorentina move fell through, Insua needs to be farmed out to Stockport or Leyton Orient or somewhere where his appalling level of play wont be found out so regularly. There are holes in the team and in the squad for sure, but in general, this is pretty close to the team that ran Man Utd so close just 2 years ago (remember that?) and I expect this campaign to be much more like that one than last year. The major factor they have in their favour is that I genuinely believe that Roy Hodgson is the man for the job in this consolidation period for Liverpool. Its funny, but I actually don’t really want the money from the take-over – having a reasonably settled squad should prove to be Liverpool’s strength in trying to get back into the Champions league.
Main Man – Steven Gerrard
I may think he’s on the decline, but his role is still so important. When teams marked him out of the game last year Liverpool were consistently useless. Need to find a way to share some of the attacking burden so he can be freer to do what he’s done for 10 years.
05. Man City
As you can see by where I’ve placed them; not convinced. Not convinced by the spine of the team, not convinced they have a business plan, not convinced they’re going to be a cohesive dressing room, not convinced they have a formation, not convinced they will be able or willing to play players in position, not convinced some of the players (Barry, Lescott, Hart in particular) are as good as their reputations, not convinced some of the other players (Adebayor, Silva, Yaya Toure) actually want to be there, not convinced that some of their better performers (Given, De Jong, Bellamy) are going to be the guaranteed starters that they should be if the team wasn’t picked on reputation, not convinced the younger players (Onuoha, M.Johnson, A.Johnson) are going to get a chance to play consistently enough to improve their careers, not convinced that the players who should be entering their prime (Richards, Ireland, Robinho, Jo) are either going to stay the season or get any significant game time. If they win the league this year I will literally quit the internet. They are a total wildcard and have a large amount of talent it goes without saying, but I challenge you to pick the line-up Mancini is going to go with to start the season, seriously. I saw them against Sporting Lisbon and they were hopeless, disjointed, and all over the shop and I expect nothing less all season. I started off writing this thinking I’d have to give the tough sell as to why I don’t think they’ll make the top 4 but I’m beginning to wonder whether I am giving them too much credit and placing them 5th given where they were last year. In their credit they have matchwinners – plenty of them – and I expect raw talent to be enough to brute force their way up the league table, which is a real shame to all the well run clubs they’ll overhaul. Mancini is also a better manager than given credit for. The idea someone who has won the Seria A has to ‘prove himself’ at a middling English premier league club is laughable and totally indicative of English arrogance.
Main Man – Carlos Tevez
Funny thing is I’m not actually his biggest fan, I think he’s wayward and doesn’t use his energy well – its not all about winning the crowd over. But he’ll probably play most weeks and score 15 goals so you can’t really find too much fault.
You can tell I’m a Liverpool fan (couches, swearing at the TV, long discussions about the merits of different formations) rather than Liverpool supporter (at the games, terrible scouse accent, blind loyalty, poverty due to high ticket prices and the legacy of the Thatcher government) because I actually quite like Everton. You can’t have too many of them in the league, but the way they go about their business is admirable. Moyes said that when he took over he wanted them to be playing a certain type of way (tight and long ball) for a couple of years to steady the ship, then wanted to transition them into a team capable of playing a more expansive form of the game. Now, the transition hasn’t necessarily become a reality yet, but I for one actually have faith in what David Moyes says because he is a proper football manager (and well done to Everton for giving him the time to watch his hard work pay off). Money is tight at Goodison but the squad is in pretty decent nick, albeit a bit thin. I think the defence with Phil Jagielka at its heart is rock solid, Baines and Heitinga will do a good job bombing forward, Neville will protect the defence well, Arteta will pull the strings and give license to Pienaar and Cahill to join in with Saha – who is good for 10-15 goals if he stays fit (unlikely). They’ve bought shrewdly and there’s young players coming through, the side is settled, everyone knows where they are supposed to play, and there is a feeling of gentle evolution rather than revolution. Its football as you remember it, rather than seeing small holes and plastering them with impulse signings. I’m sorry for them that Donovan doesn’t look like he’s coming back to play for them as that was a superb fit – but maybe he’ll come again in January and give them a huge boost. Not playing in Europe will help them too, and actually having the Cahill/Arteta axis from the start of the season. I remain a sceptic about Jack Rodwell, but if he proves me wrong on top of what they already have and they finally have luck with injuries, maybe they could pull something pretty spectacular off this year.
Main Man - Mikel Arteta
Isn’t it great to see a playmaker given this kind of license to use the ball from deep who isn’t afraid to get stuck in as well?
It’s funny that the phrase ‘the top 4 or 5 clubs’ gets used and it’s a grouping that doesn’t include Tottenham. I have to start this review by mentioning I’m slightly biased because I absolutely hate Harry Redknaap, with a blinding passion. I think he’s a fraud, a cheat, a one-dimensional Judas who has left a trail of destruction everywhere he’s been. If when he leaves Spurs they follow Bournmouth Southhampton and Portsmouth into administration please do not colour me surprised. He will probably still claim that he has ‘nothing to do with the financial side of it’, and as usual, the media will totally let him off. Loveable ol ‘Arry never gets held to account. Well, unfortunately this year guys, you fluked into the CL qualifiers and are playing Boy Scout troop 129 to get into the CL proper. Given that Redknaap only knows one style of football, the British one, marvel as semi-competent teams from France and Russia trash Spurs in the champions league who will be completely bewildered by the concept of a team passing the football. Subsequently their league form will suffer and they will freefall until they are punted out of Europe before Christmas and recover into a half decent position. The ironic thing is I like a few of their players. Gomes is a great keeper; shut up. I’ve always liked Dawson though I just cant forget as little as half a season ago the pelters still thrown his way by the Spurs fans for being shite were numerous; its funny to see him lauded as the answer now after a couple of England call ups. Modric has really made the transition from ‘nifty’ to ‘effective’ which is a huge leap for a player of his position and stature. Defoe is good for 15 goals. Palacios, certainly when I watched him, I liked, Assou Ekkoto too. Lennon might get abuse for his crossing but it’s usually his runs that get him to those positions in the first place. But there’s just far more players I’m just not convinced about at all. Crouch, seriously? I know the arguments about him have been done time and time again but all the lines about him bringing players into the game etc are just bullshit. All he does is get penalised for fouls, hold on to the ball at feet too long because he’s so desperate to be ‘the big man with good feet’ and jump downwards. Woodgate and King will play 47 and a half minutes of football all season between them. Huddlestone will continue to be absurdly overrated as the English press scrabbles around desperately for anyone to be the next superstar at Euro 2012. Bale will continue to be a good attacking left back, but a total joke of a left winger. And another problem, that is not just a Harry Redknaap problem, but a spurs problem; players just seem to go backwards when they join them – Bentley and Pavlyuchenko spring to mind. Spurs are the Newcastle of the South.
Main Man – Luca Modric
I think when he’s playing well they actually look like a football team with an idea how to break down a defence, and when he’s not there, its Redknaap 101 super-slugfestio-goaaaaa-ohno.
08. Aston Villa
Could be an unexpectedly difficult season for Aston Villa with the bombshell that O’Neill has had enough and walked out on them. He wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t pretty clear that Villa have also reached the limit of their ambition, too. Losing Milner is a big blow to them (equally I don’t think he’ll be a game changer at Man City though), and not reinvesting the money, well, that’s even bigger. Rumours about Friedel and or Young leaving too don’t help, and there’s just a feeling of decline around the place now. Bouma is gone after a good first year, Sidwell and Reo-Coker have never properly done it and now cant be shifted off the wage bill and aren’t replaced, Delph may yet be a good player but wasn’t the instant success people might have hoped for, and Downing, Young and Agbonlahor have never made that step from good premiership players to England players as people who lauded Villa’s youth and verve hoped. Villa fans too have to take their share of the blame. O’Neill wasn’t perfect, but he was certainly the best Villa could hope to get, and now they’ll have to go on without them. They still have a lot of talent in the team but momentum is not with them. For this reason, I’d actually put them lower than 8th were I sure of a team that I think could usurp them.
Main Man – Richard Dunne
A sensational signing last year and absolutely loved the games vs. Man city. In direct contrast to Barry’s lack of class. Will anchor the fort again well this year.
Totally fell away last year after a tremendous start and will be looking to put that right. A good opportunity here to have a good season with the teams around them not really going forward at a fast pace. Cana wasn’t the player they wanted and is gone. Bramble will be a good acquisition, so will Mensah if he comes on loan again, and when Gordon Ferdinand and Turner come back from injury they’ll be tidy in defence with plenty of depth. Injuries at the start of the season can be costly short and long term though so they might start a bit slow. Bent and Jones is a brilliant forward pairing when on form and is pretty key for them. Cattermole Malbranque and Richardson are all tidy enough players but they definitely lack both depth and strength in midfield, a real weak point for them in my opinion. If they could make a big signing here, they could be on for a top 10 finish or perhaps even make a push for Europe.
Main Man – Darren Bent
Proved that once again, players do not go forward in their careers when they move to Spurs. A solid all round forward, not worth an England place but good for 10-15 premiership goals again this year.
I expected to put them lower than this but Birmingham to me look like they’re going to consolidate last year’s good season. They’ve lost Hart back to Man City, but replaced him with Ben Foster on a permanent move, which is great business. Roger Johnson and Scott Dann were terrific as a pairing in central defence and both have been retained. Ferguson and Bowyer had great years together as the single neddiest central midfield combination in the history of the game of football – you have to question both at their age whether they’ll be able to do it again, but there’s also no reason to presume a sharp decline. They also have a decent array of attacking options; Zigic joins the club to give them a route one option, Jerome has a decent scoring record at the club, McFadden adds that bit of trickery when he plays and when he can be bothered, Benitez has flashes of brilliance too – if he was consistent he would be playing for a Champions league club. All in all they look pretty well set up and have a little bit of depth and I’m tipping them to avoid second season syndrome and have a good year.
Main Man – Barry Ferguson
A little bit prematurely written off, particularly given his time at Blackburn was underrated and his failure to ever live up to that 20 goal season at Rangers left people with far too high expectations. Still the man to dictate play and play 1,000 sideways passes a game.
Losing Hodgson is a blow and Mark Hughes is not yet as good a manager as everyone thinks he is. How come when a manager is seen as ‘hard done by’ by a club his actual perceived ability is multiplied by ten? At any rate, they’ve had a pretty good transfer period, shedding a lot of dead weight squad players. They lost Smalling for an extortionate fee given how poor he was down the back end of last year, and got in Senderos, who is still good enough imo for this level, to play alongside Hangeland in front of Schwarzer (both of which who at this time of writing, they’ve done really well to keep a hold of). The midfield really just deals in known quantities. Duff might have faded but he’ll still do you a job on the left. Clint Dempsey is one of the really underrated players of the year, its time to stop viewing him as a novelty just because he’s American, and Danny Murphy has just been sensational in central midfield and I don’t see that changing. If Zamora really has turned the corner in his career then he’s good for 10-15 goals up front, and at some point, Andy Johnson is going to come back from injury and play alongside him and do a lot of the running. The squad depth isn’t great but they have added Jonathan Greening quite cheaply to help them out. I expect them to be reasonably well run which will put them a little bit higher than some of the fragile basket cases that are around them in the middle of the table.
Main Man – Brede Hangeland
I was quite surprised when it was Smalling that Man Utd signed rather than this behemoth. Not just great in the air but a really good ball playing defender,
You know what, Bolton aren’t going to be bad at all this year I don’t think. They could be the only team in the league to play 4-4-2 with 2 wide players. Must be down to Owen Coyle’s philosophy because I cant think how else this would come about. Chong-Yong Lee on one side and Martin Petrov on the other could actually be pretty exciting to watch. Davies will do his thing up front, Jaaskeleinen is a great keeper, Gary Cahill is coming along nicely in central defence. They’ve signed well and pruned a bit of dead weight. I’m not sure outside of Matt Taylor who’s going to play central midfield and there’s a few problem areas but they also have Elmander (who simply has to improve) and Klasnic as support to Davies up front. If they can show a bit of patience with Coyle’s idiosyncrasies and not get too downhearted if they take the odd pasting I think they’ll be ok.
Main Man – Kevin Davies
If England actually wanted to persist with the ‘Play Rooney off a big man’ strategy then here’s the guy they should have picked. No one can prod poke and bully as well as Davies, and he’s good for 10 goals too.
13. West Ham
To be honest I see West Ham as a bit of a circus just now. The owners are so high profile and making so much noise that I cant help feel its all a bit of smoke and mirrors masking some serious problems. My feeling is that Avram Grant is a good enough manager to get the best out of what’s there and steer them clear of any problems but that’s about as good as they can hope for. They have a lot of middling players (Faubert, Stanislas, Spector, Stanislas, Behrami) and some hot and cold strikers (Cole, Piquionne, Diamanti). The main focus obviously of West Ham is going to be on youth. The good news is that they have a lot of young players breaking through of various ages – from Noble to Nouble via Collinson, Tomkins, Sears, Hines. The thing is that at least 2 of them really need to break through and become indispensable to West Ham, take that step up. Thankfully for them they’re at the right club, and let’s just hope they don’t get signed by Spurs and go backwards fast. A decent enough outfit but nothing really in them to consistently challenge for a place in Europe or anything like that I don’t think.
Main Man – Scott Parker
This is of course presuming he stays. I think he’s a bit overrated actually and that this is his level, but West Ham need an experienced head pulling the strings for them in the middle of the field especially with so many younger players in and around their first team.
14. Blackburn Rovers
Find it very hard to get excited about Blackburn. As you will expect with a Sam Allardyce team they’re solid at the back, Robinson Samba Nelsen is a good keeper and centre half combo, and that’s probably enough to stop them getting dispirited and falling out of the league. No signings this summer other than a second Diouf off his BFF Sir Alex, I think Fat Sam is pretty much setting up for another year of more of the same. Can I stop writing about Blackburn now I’m really really bored.
Main Man – Ryan Nelsen
A boring defensive team needs a big brute of a centre half.
15. Stoke City
Stoke may just have platteau'd, but thankfully for them their success was based on being solid rather than expansive, so that should ease their decline. Pulis will have them set up solid; and they’ll still pick up enough 1-0 home wins to survive I suspect, particularly off the promoted clubs. Its testament both to the job he’s done and the fickle nature of fans and the media that this season will probably be reported as a bad one or a step backwards for a club who by their size really ought not to have much right to be in the league in the first place. They have a range of impressive options in defence, including Collins, Huth, and Shawcross, and even in midfield they have a flat solid look about them, and of course Delap’s throws. Their best player going forward could well be Matthew Etherington who has benefited a lot from getting to play regularly. Don’t look fragile enough to go down to me.
Main Man – Ryan Shawcross
Quite surprised he’s still there actually, given he’s been pretty stand out for 2 seasons now and he’s English too. Also quite handy attacking corners and throw ins.
I have a sneaky feeling Wolves might stay up. This sort of stems from the fact that in my opinion they’ve signed really well. Stephen Hunt was excellent at Hull and will provide bite and attacking guile probably from a wide position. And Steven Fletcher played really well even though Burnley went down quite tamely in the end. If Mick McCarthy (now he has the relegation streak off his back) has the nuts to play 2 strikers some of the time he will take a lot of the strain off the very underrated Kevin Doyle, and could have a really effective strike partnership on his hands. Matt Jarvis is a decent winger too. They are by no means too good to go down, but I think they might just have enough, particularly from building on the base of surviving once in the Premiership.
Main Man – Kevin Doyle
The sort of striker you want to have in your team, as enthusiastic in defence as he is in attack. If he could have a lighter workload, he’ll get 10 goals.
I reckon that the barcodes will do enough to stay up. Have to be honest, I laughed when they went down but I’m just as happy they are back. Watching a Sunday game on TV is more interesting if its Newcastle – Leeds rather than Burnley – Hull. I know that’s somewhat elitist, but I am a TV football fan. I think they’re solid, if unspectacular, from back to front. Harper is a competent goalie, Stephen Taylor is a bit raw but a good centre half, Kevin Nolan is definitely premiership quality in centre midfield, Carroll looks like he’s got a bit about him to play up front. There’s also a decent supporting cast with Smith, Guitterez, and Ryan Taylor. The squad does look a bit thin though so I don’t always expect them to have their best line up available. Maybe it’s unfair too but I think you can also question whether Chris Hughton is cut out to be a manager at this level. Last time he was in this position, he himself said that he was not. I’ll back them to survive – they could even finish higher if they go on a run but they should be happy with consolidation.
Main Man – Kevin Nolan
Before he lost his way he was a really good player at Bolton, I remember him scoring for 8 games in a row and England looked like they were calling. Championship player of the year last year, important for them that he steps up again.
I do like Martinez in the sense that he wants to try something new and I’m just totally sick of the 4-5-1 bullshit that every team churns out. Its nice to have a manager whose first thought is attack. Also, from being totally turned off by Wigan I enjoy that they have cultivated an identity for themselves as a good team to go to for South Americans looking to get into the Premier League. But sadly in 2010 you have to be equal parts cynical and clinical and Wigan are just a little bit idealistic to survive. They conceded 79 goals last year and stayed up – quite an achievement, but not repeatable. The much-maligned Titus Bramble will leave a hole in their defence, and I know nothing of their new signings. With other teams around them improving personnel, change for them will have to come from within. Could stay up, the smart money says they go down.
Main Man – Hugo Rodallega
May not necessarily be the main man as much as the player in their team that I like watching play the best. If he could get some consistency he’d be a tremendous player.
19. West Brom
I’ve fallen for West Brom too often to predict anything other than relegation for them this year. Not out with the realms of possibility that they could stay up given that there is some dross at the bottom of the league, the relegation places remain fluid until about march, and any team that can win 3 games in a row is a large chunk of the way towards safety. Would also like to see them do well with the Scottish players they have.
Main Man – Graham Dorrans
I’m not saying this with any authority at all. I do know though that skill players like wingers and forwards have to be able to make the step up through the leagues otherwise very quickly your strengths become your weaknesses.
What’s the point in me even pretending to know anything about them? I cant imagine they’ll do anything but go straight back down as they scraped into the playoffs then somehow won a couple of big games. They aren’t premiership ready, and I know you have 2 options – either buy and try and make a fight of it, or don’t over commit and take the parachute payments etc. But zero notable signings, are you kidding me?
Main Man – Charlie Adam
I never thought I would ever type the above line.
1. Man Utd
5. Man City
8. Aston Villa
13. West Ham
19. West Brom