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The after-math, hangovers and comedowns of the Olympics are still burning brightly – but Premier League football takes its place back on center stage as the new season begins this weekend.

Will Manchester City retain the title they claimed with the last kick of the seasonor will Manchester United restore what Sir Alex Ferguson will regard as normal service?

Chelsea have spent big over the summer but can they challenge under Roberto Di Matteo, a largely unproven Premiership manager? And it would take a fool to overlook the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool, under new management in the shape of Andre Villa-Boas and Brendan Rodgers?

Here are my predictions for the upcoming season.
All this is written on the 17/08/2012, the day before the season starts, so first day fixtures or future transfers can’t be taken in to account.

Despite the loss of last season’s top scorer Robin van Persie there is cause for real optimism thanks to a few eye catching transfers from Arsene Wenger. It seems he has learned from last seasons mistakes by not making any signings until the very last day of the window!

Arsenal were hugely written off at the beginning of last season, but for all the troubles, they still finished third and the signings of Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski gives them a real potential for goal threat, something that was heavily relied on from a certain RVP last season. Wenger might also have pulled off one of the deals of the summer by landing winger Santi Cazorla from Malaga.

A first trophy in seven years is a must for Wenger, especially with the fans on his back for the sale of captain and top scorer RVP – not title contenders in my eyes but top four easily once more and contenders in the cups.

Finishing position – 3rd

Aston Villa
A new manager in Paul Lambert to replace the not-so-fans-favourite Alex McLeish is good business from Villa, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s as far as the positivity goes.

I can’t see where they have improved and after a disappointing season last year, only just avoiding relegation, I see them replicating last year’s panic in the final few games and only just surviving.

Keeping Darren Bent fit will be the difference between being in the Championship or Premiership next season.

Finishing position – 17th

Roberto Di Matteo has deservedly been given the manager’s job after a truly remarkable conclusion to last season, following up an FA Cup triumph with an incredible success over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

Abramovich has responded, opening up his cheque book, something we haven’t seen since the days of Mourinho. Marko Marin, Oscar and Eden Hazard have all arrived, taking the total spending to over £100m, so the pressure on Di Matteo to succeed is huge.

I can see them making a strong start only to go through a rough patch over the Christmas period when all the pretty boy foreigners will struggle to produce quality with a game every other day at horrible away grounds in the rain.

Abramovich will expect the title. A lot of this will be down to if Torres rediscovers his form. I can see another disappointing season in the league, with maybe the Capitol One Cup as a mere consolation. Di Matteo to be sacked before the season ends.

Finishing position – 4th

Everton are notoriously slow starters and usually produce championship winning form from January onwards. Shake this away, and they will be real contenders for an European spot.

Unfortunately for Everton, they have lost more than they have gained (Rodwell and Cahill out, Pienaar (overpriced) and Naismith (Scottish football is garbage) in).

Despite this, Moyes seems to be a genius to work with no money and not many players, and will enjoy another successful season.

Finishing position – 7th

Fulham are just a solid mid-table side. Nothing spectacular. Woeful away from home, but Craven Cottage is a bit of fortress. I can see a good run in the Capitol One Cup, but they won’t be turning any heads in the league.

It looks increasingly likely that top scorer and by far their best player, Clint Dempsey will be leaving, but they have made two good signings in Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega.

Finishing position – 13th

Good news for Liverpool is that “King” Kenny has gone. A terrible manager with terrible PR skills. He was the downfall for this used-to-be-massive club.

New manager Brendan Rodgers will be a breath of fresh air for this club and will start taking them back to where their fans think they belong. I can’t see them quite getting in the Champions League spots, but they won’t be far off.

The main men will once again be Steven Gerrard, and the controversial Luis Suarez. Keep the first fit, and the latter in the headlines for the right reasons and there could be goals galore at Anfield this season.

They won’t be happy finishing below fierce rivals Everton last season, and expect a big backlash.

Finishing position – 5th

Manchester City
Reigning champions. Richest club in world football. Surely favorites again?! Not in my opinion. The secret to prolonged success is to keep building, keep the other teams guessing. As of yet, the only new recruit is Jack Rodwell, an average youngster who even Mancini has admitted won’t be first team choice. It’s easy to win your first title. The challenge is to retain it and keeping ahead of your rivals.

Saying that, the squad is a strong one and more than good enough to be top of the pile come May, and don’t be surprised to see one or two more signings to liven things up at the Etihad.

Finishing position – 2nd (more signings could change this to 1st)

Manchester United
Apparently Manchester United’s worst ever squad in the Premiership era, yet they only lost the league to the greatest ever Manchester City side on goal difference with the very last kick of the last game of the season. Write United off at your peril.

Sir Alex Ferguson and the Red Devils will be hurting, which for ever other team in the league can not be good news. The transfer of Van Persie is one of real intent, and sends out a message to their rivals that they are well up to win back their trophy.

Shinji Kagawalooks to be the business in attacking midfield and will bring much needed creativity to that area of the field.

But, the biggest news for United this season is the return of Nemanja Vidic, the best central defender in world football. His presence was missed hugely last season, and will be their main man again this season.

United will win a trophy this season – hopefully the Premier League, but certainly not the Champions League. I fully expect a serious title challenge though and they will still be feared if they are anywhere near contention towards the end despite those writing them off.

Keep RVP and Vidic fit and the title is ours.

Finishing position – 1st

Having had an unbelievable season last year, everyone is talking them up once again, but I’m not buying in to it. I genuinely see Cisse as a one season wonder and will struggle to reproduce the form shown last year.

Will still be a solid season, and very tough to beat at home.

Finishing position – 8th

Norwich City
Sorry Norwich fans, your going down in my opinion. Did much better than everyone expected last season, but I can see second season syndrome hitting them with a vengeance. No eye catching signing and losing their young promising manager are two reasons I think this will be a season to forget for the Canaries.

Finishing position – 19th

Queen’s Park Rangers
This could go either way in my eyes. A huge rebuilding programme has gone underway this summer and if they can blend together quickly, a top half finish in my opinion. If not, they could be one of the favourites to go down.

I think they will blend and will be a spectacular improvement on last year. Park Ji-Sung and Fabio are huge arrivals from Man United while Robert Green, Ryan Nelsen and Andrew Johnsonall provide Premier League experience, whereas Junior Hoillet is a hugely exciting player who wouldn’t look out of sorts at a top 4 club. At time of writing it also looks like Jose Bosingwa will be signing. A few years ago he was one of the best full backs in the world, so another huge signing for Mark Hughes’ club.

Finishing position – 9th

Looking at their squad, there’s nowhere near enough Premiership quality to make a statement. They will be an easy team to beat. Expect to see a shed loads of goals conceaded. Bottom.

Finishing position – 20th

Another team with nowhere near enough quality to survive. However, at the time of writing, there are reports claiming a deal has been agreed with Gaston Ramirez, a hugely exciting player linked with Liverpool all summer. Nathan Clyne is also a great singing at right back who reminds me of Spurs and England right back Kyle Walker.

They could surprise me, but no, straight back to the Championship I’m afraid.

Finishing position – 18th

Stoke City
Stoke City
are unloved
due to their anti-football tactics. However, manager Tony Pulis has done an amazing job, and from a selfish point of view will hopefully be future Wales manager.

A visit to the Britannia is always daunting – if any club (including the top 4) come away with a point, it has to be considered a good one.

Another solid season.

Finishing position – 12th

Martin O’Neill is one of the best managers in the league, and will bring the best out of this bunch of talented players. Stephane Sessegnon is one of the best players around outside the top 4, and Sunderland will be hoping for a big season from him.

At the moment, no significant improvements in the transfer window, but they have more than good enough a squad to compete for a top half finish.

Finishing position – 10th

Swansea City
Not the ideal summer for Swansea with the departure of Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool, followed in the same direction by Joe Allen. Also Gylfi Sigurdsson, their star player in the second half of last season, and Caulker are both now at Spurs.

However, in the signing of De Guzman and Michu, they have two exciting players. Michu, at £2m (£13m less than the sale of Joe Allen) was the top scorer from midfield in the Spanish League last season with 15 goals and an absolute bargain. Hopefully will slot straight in to the style of football Swansea have become accustomed for.

I don’t see Swansea suffering from second season syndrome, and I fully expect them to push on again.

Finishing position – 11th

The sacking of Harry Redknapp, who over 3 seasons got Spurs from bottom to the Champions League was a strange one, however, the task of improving further now falls to Andres Villas-Boas.

Spurs will struggle. They will lose Modric and they have no goalscorers having failed to land Adebayor. If they can sort the strikers out, then they have a chance to push the top 4, and no matter what, they will give the others a run for their money.

Defensively, they are looking solid with the signing of Jan Verthongen from Ajax, a defender who looks like the real business. In Bale, van der Vaart and Sigurdsson they have huge creativity from midfield, but as mentioned, do they have the players to finish it off? At the moment, no.

A season of frustration becons.

Finishing position – 6th

West Bromwich Albion
West Brom’s brilliant season last season meant the manager Roy Hodgson got snapped up by England. Therefore, a little slide is inevitable this season in my opinion.

I have never been a fan of assistant managers becoming managers, and in Steve Clarke they have an experienced assistant manager – not a manager.

The signing of Lukaku from Chelsea could be a great one. Huge potential, and if he starts banging in the goals, he could be lethal with Odemwinge up top.

West Brom will be safe, but a disappointing season compared to last year.

Finishing position – 14th

West Ham United
West Ham are a Premiership club, make no mistake about that. It felt weird without them, and they will be safe. Again, they won’t set the world on fire, but in Allardyce they have a good manager.

Their squad looks small, with no strength in depth, so they will be close to the relegation zone, but first season back in the top flight, even a finish of 17th should be considered a success at Upton Park.

Finishing position – 16th

Wigan Athletic
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez was hailed as a genius for his work in the last two months of last season and victories against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United (bastard) and Arsenal that saw them stay up.
Similar to Everton they aren’t nowhere near good enough until the closing stages – get rid of that and they could be challengers for top 10. Unfortunately, I think it will be the same old story, but again doing enough to stay up.

If they keep Victor Moses, an unbelievably talented player, they have more than enough quality up top. Ramis is a great signing from Mallorca, a tough defender, and also, remember the name Miyachi, a loan signing from Arsenal – a very tricky and useful player.

Get the team ticking straight away and it could be beautiful for Wigan, but I’m not convinced.

Finishing position – 15th

By, Rhodri

1 Comment
  • Anonymous on August 19, 2012

    Great article, well written and great to see variation in content of the blog

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