I find it hard to do these, I can never correctly predict where teams will finish in the Premiership year after year, notoriously due to bias, so instead of specific positions I’ve split it into mini-groups, they are as follows:
1-4: Top 4/Champions League
5-7: Europa League
13-16: Well clear (this could become 13-15)
17-20: Relegation Dog-fight
Arsenal: As like every year, Arsenal have a fighting chance of the title from the word go. With new signings Chamakh and Koscienly looking good in pre-season and emergences of Jack Wilshere and others, Arsenal look in for another good season. However, with departures of 3 centre-halves, they could be helpless at the back and against the big teams last year were caught so many times. If they want to win the title, they need a better defence. Another major problem is their goalkeeping. With no summer signing between the sticks, they could be in an even worse position. With 3 weeks left to sign a keeper, Arsenal and Arsene will be looking round frantically for a new safe pair of hands.
Final Position: Top 4 – they’ve had problems in areas before, and they’ve finished in the Top 4 every time. I don’t see them slipping out but if they don’t get their act together at the back, the title wont be theirs.
Aston Villa: The building of Villa into a European force once more is still on-going, but could this be the year Villa finally break into the Top 4? Villa may keep onto James Milner for now, however, no new faces have arrived at Villa Park as of yet. With 3 consecutive 6th place finishes, do new players need to be added? One of my criticisms were the lack of game-changers last year. Carew and Heskey being too alike and someone like a Theo Walcott needed to be added. However, Villa have come close many an occasion. What’s to say they wont make the top 4? Well me.
Final Position: Europa League – I don’t think right now, the Villa squad is good enough to break the top 4 like a Tottenham did. They still don’t have the squad to quite make it. However, I could well be proven wrong. They are a dark horse.
EDIT: THIS WAS WRITTEN BEFORE THE RESIGNATION OF O’NEILL AND I HAVEN’T HAD THE TIME TO RE-WRITE.
Birmingham City: Birmingham had an amazing season last year, but how much was that down to Joe Hart? They’ve brought in Zigic and goalkeeper Ben Foster. However, I wouldn’t rate Foster as highly as Hart and Zigic isn’t the greatest player either (just really tall). But, who knows, Birmingham aren’t in danger of going down at all. They have a stable team and to be honest, anyone with Kevin Phillips in their team could really upset a few.
Final Position: Mid-table – No danger in going down but they wont make Europe. They haven’t gotten anyone really with a pedigree to get them to Europe this year and with teams queuing round the block to get in European positions I don’t quite see them making it.
Blackburn Rovers: Blackburn finished a healthy 10th last year, and with no major changes at the Lancanshire club I don’t see them struggling for survival this season either. There isn’t much at all to say.
Final Position: Well clear – I don’t think they’ll do as well as last year, but I don’t see them doing really badly either.
Blackpool: Okay, now we’re into the nitty gritty of the new boys, and they’re actually new to this league as well. Ian Hollyway and Blackpool are an exciting addition to the Premiership and I look forward to his interviews on Sky and Match of the Day. However, I don’t think Blackpool will be here very long. It’s fair to say they are probably the smallest club to join this league and all that comes with a cost, I just don’t think they can cut it. It’s always a massive jump from Championship to Premiership, and with that jump investments need to made and new players need to brought to sustain your place in the league, and so far no-one has come in. Either Blackpool are overly confident they’ll stay up with possibly the smallest squad in the league or they just can’t afford it. However, clubs like Fulham, Wigan, Portsmouth and Reading, who all had the smallest stadiums in the Premiership have all stayed up in their first season and two have reached the UEFA Cup/Europa League, Fulham even making the final last season.
Final Position: Relegation – it’s a big shame but they just don’t seem big enough to stay up. Any club that goes up needs to buy new lads to try and stay up and the lack of signings may prove a weakness. Especially when you went up 6th through the lottery of the play-offs.
Bolton Wanderers: Owen Coyle was a miracle worker saving Bolton from relegation and again this year I think they’ll be fine. Some good signings of veteran Robbie Blake and Martin Petrov, a lot like Blackburn there isn’t much to say.
Final Position: Well clear – Again they have got a solid manager and a solid team, they’re not in danger of relegation but they're not pushing past about 13.
Chelsea: Of course Chelsea have a chance of the title. Last years double winners as always up for anything in their path. With new signing Benayoun looking good over the last few seasons, they can only hope Joe Cole is not missed. However, after a really terrible pre-season and a 3-1 loss to Man Utd in the Community Shield are Chelsea in a lot of trouble? When Cech is injured Hilario and Turnbull have been really poor between the sticks during pre-season. Which tells me injury prone Cech needs to be careful not to get injured or suspended. However, they aren’t in any danger of losing their Top 4 place.
Final Position: Top 4 – Chelsea may have some problems, but even with these problems they still aren’t in danger of dropping out of the Top 4.
Everton: Everton were unlucky to miss out on Europa League football last season. However, could missing out help them progress back up the table. With teams like Tottenham and Man City having to balance Europa League and Premiership football this season with restricted teams could really have a negative impact on them. However, Everton haven’t brought in anyone else either due to money. The team is good and if players remain fit they can be a Top 6 team, but when City have players coming out of their ears and with all their talent coming in, Everton are in danger of coming 8th again unfortunately.
Final Position: Mid-table – Unfortunately, City, Liverpool, Villa and Tottenham all have better teams than them I think. As much as I think Villa will probably be in 6th or 7th, I don’t think Everton can get passed them with their wafer thin squad.
Fulham: Fulham had a worse season last year because of their Europa League commitments. Unfortunately, I don’t see the Europa League runners-up going back into the tournament anytime soon. Even with new manager Mark Hughes, I don’t see him as good a manager as Roy Hodgson and breaking what looks like a formidable top 7 looks too much of an impossible task.
Final Position: Mid-table – They should improve on last seasons 12th but I don’t see them making 7th unless they really power through the league with their new-found European pedigree. Even with new manager Mark Hughes, they probably wont equal the achievements by former manager Roy Hodgson.
Liverpool: From old club to new and now to Liverpool. After Rafa’s failure’s last season, can Hodgson turn a falling club around? Keeping Gerrard and Torres over the summer and getting Cole could really boost to their squad. With Gerrard needing to prove himself after the failings in South Africa, and perhaps Torres too after he didn’t really have a good World Cup, maybe Liverpool could really be back up there. I think Liverpool under Hodgson could really get back into the Top 4 and perhaps make a slight push for the title. We shall see.
Final Position: Top 4 – A better manager, a great signing in Cole and I see the Top 4 being whole again.
Manchester City: This is by far the most interesting one. With all the money in the world, with this new squad rulings, will they be hard-done by? They’ve brought in Silva and Toure who to be fair, Toure is sort of a Barcelona reject now and Silva isn’t the best winger in the world. They too haven’t had a great pre-season and whether this season they’ll challenge for the title, I don’t know. Bottom line, most of their squad is going out of the door for different reasons and I don’t think the additions they’ve made will boost them to 4th or further. I also don’t think Mancini seems quite the manager to take them to 4th either, but there isn’t anyone out there now they could get in to help them.
Final Position: Europa League – Like I said I don’t believe they’ll make the Top 4 this season, their additions don’t seem good enough to boost them to the top and I don’t think the manager is either, plus if he starts to lose games I believe he’ll be soon out of the door.
Manchester United: Well, they really are in decline, I see them going down this season. Okay, joking over, like Arsenal and Chelsea, United are too up for the Premiership for the record 19th time. New signing Hernandez looks very good and Berbatov in the Community shield looked really good with Hernandez. Hard as it is to say, United look like the only team that have little faults right now, other than perhaps Wayne Rooney being out of form right now. However, like Gerrard he has something to prove after the Summer. Don’t be surprised if United win it this year, well we never are, are we?
Final Position: Top 4 – No real explanation needed really.
Newcastle United : Last years record breaking Championship Champions are looking to re-cement themselves as a Premiership power-house. Since the end of the late Sir Bobby’s reign at the club, Newcastle has slipped down to a new low, the Second tier. However, Chris Hughton has built a team on the verge of ruins into winners again. I feel, Nercastle with their winning belief back could they be climbing up and up? Well, I don’t feel they’ll be European football contenders this year, but they should be in a good position.
Final Position: Well clear – They shouldn’t be anywhere near the Relegation positions, but it seems too early to speculate anything better.
Stoke City: Stoke have made themselves a proper Premiership club with a good two years in the top flight. Again, I don’t see them in any danger this season under Pulis. Stoke this season should probably be around Mid-table or well clear.
Final Position: Mid-table/Well clear – I’m not really sure how highly I should rate Stoke. They’ll be high well clear and low mid-table and that’s probably about it.
Sunderland: Sunderland were a healthy 13th last season and weren’t at all in any danger. I think this season under Bruce they’ll progress. Bent is yet another player who wants to prove people wrong and if he keeps banging in the goals I see Sunderland finishing a healthy top 10 finish.
Final Position: Mid-table – Loads of new signings this year, if they all gel well, they’ll be fine in the top half.
Tottenham Hotspur: They finally made Top 4 last season, now in 4 competitions can they balance the lot and still maintain their Top 4 place? Well, I don’t see them maintaining 4th. I think they got lucky last year sort of. Teams like Liverpool and City weren’t quite up to scratch and I think that helped them nick 4th. I think they’ll have a tough time maintaining their 4th place this season with even more challenges from Liverpool and City, which will probably be stronger. I don’t know, they will be up there but I just don’t see them in the Top 4 again this season. I think the expectations will be too high this time.
Final Position: Europa League – I just cannot see them in the Top 4 again, maybe it’s Arsenal bias talking but I see Liverpool pippin them to it.
West Bromwich Albion: West Brom have a poor history of not staying up and falling back at the first attempt, and I feel this will probably happen again. With no-one really there to stop Albion falling down a division again you have to say, they’re probably favourites for the drop.
Final Position: Relegation – I just cannot see them staying up, if they do it’s great for the Midlands, but in all fairness, they are kings of the Championship and Jester’s of the Premier League.
West Ham United: With Avram Grant taking charge, I’m not 100% sure whether he is a step-up from Zola. No doubt he’s a good manager and he’s done some remarkable things with Portsmouth and Chelsea but I’m not sure whether the Hammers will be in the well-clear group. To be honest, they’re looking for big money legend signings instead of focusing on helping the club get out of a dog-fight. Plus, how confident will Rob Green be after the Summer? He may well be very shaky in the goal in the first few weeks. Bottom line, if they lose Scott Parker, I feel they could be in bags of trouble.
Final Position: Relegation – I just have a feeling they wont be safe this year, though I don’t see them in the Relegated trio.
Wigan Athletic: Wigan were too doomed last season until they pulled off some remarkable results at the tail-end of the season. However, I just again, see them going down this season. I don’t believe Martinez will keep them up and may well be doomed if things start badly. They haven’t brought anyone in to help stop the decline from last season either.
Final Position: Relegation – Similar to West Ham really.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wolves had a really good return season and if they can build on it with returns of Michael Kightly and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake along with signings Van Damme, Hunt and Fletcher. Wolves will be well clear again. Their only problem is to avoid Second Season Syndrome but with their rivals in the league this time, I think they’ll try extra hard to become a Premiership regular.
Final Position: Well clear – Not going to be mid-table but will be clear of the drop.
Don’t take my predictions to heart, I’m usually wrong and too pessimistic or optimistic, lets hope for a great season and I’ll look back and see you in May.