Football is back. The Premier League is back.
Article by James Harris
The fixtures are out and the transfer gossip this summer window is bigger and better than ever before. The managers have chopped and changed between clubs more than usual in this off-season and now it looks like some big name players want a change of scenery too. Having looked at last season, the transfer deals that have already taken place or the ones that are still yet to happen, here is my preview for the 2013/14 Premier League season....
It kills me to say but Wenger did it again last season didn't he? They squeezed into that prized 4th position after a win at Newcastle on the final day of the season to maintain their impressive Champions League qualification record. Transfer wise, their summer has been relatively muted, although offloading Andre Santos and Andrey Arshavin are probably genius bits of business! They've teased their fans by mentioning names such as Higuain, Rooney and Suarez, but with just 4 weeks left in the window, still nothing major has been done.
The quality in their 1st XI is undoubted, but they are surely lacking strength in depth. Keeping Jack Wilshere fit for an entire season is a task in itself, but if they can achieve it, and with Wenger at the helm, there is no reason to suggest that Arsenal won't be in that top 4 come 6pm on 11th May 2014.
My Prediction: 4th.
It was a far from convincing season for Villa fans last year, who must still be in a state of shock when considering it was only 2011, when the Midlands club were a serious shout for Champions League football, yet had things gone differently a few months ago, they could of been watching Championship football at Villa Park this year! Extending Christian Benteke's contract could prove to be the most important bit of internal business from any club all year, as unquestionably his goals last term kept Villa in the division. Villa's multiple signings this window have kept within their theme of young, exuberant talent and it will interesting to see how the likes of Luna, Okore and the other young foreign additions cope with the demands of the Premier League.
Paul Lambert now has an opportunity to really prove himself in England's top division, and his young British talent, all of whom are a year older with a season of premier league experience under their belt which will surely help them this time around. It will still be a difficult season for them, but I imagine that threat of relegation won't be so intense this season.
My Prediction: 14th
One of the three new boys to the league, but the only side to have never experienced the Premier League before. They were by far and away the stand out side in last season's Championship and after years of turmoil in failed play-off matches, they're finally up - and with money to spend too. Malky MacKay has made some big signings and shown that he is not afraid to spend big money. After completing the signing of Danish international Andreas Cornelius, he has also brought former Spurs defender Steven Caulker to join his already impressive squad. Yes, a brand new team with little Premier League experience, but I'm hopeful that these boys are in for a good season.
My Prediction: 12th
He's back. He's building an almighty force ready to recapture the Premier league from Manchester, where it has been for the past 3 years. If you look at the strength at the Chelsea squad, you can see why Mourinho hasn't needed to add much more to his side and so transfer dealings have been relatively quiet as yet, but Jose is keeping a keen eye on the progress of unsettled Wayne Rooney, so don't be surprised if one big deal isn't just around the corner.
Chelsea have previously had major striker issues, but if Jose can be the one to get the best out of Fernando Torres, then the blues will have a serious chance this year. Youngster Romelu Lukaku is on the back of an incredible goal scoring season with West Brom and if he can get the opportunities in the 1st Team and carry that into this year, then Chelsea's attacking force will be even more frightening, especially when you include Mata, Hazard, Oscar and of course Frank Lampard to that. Defensively, they are sound, providing they can withstand interest from PSG and Barcelona who are still in the hunt for Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz respectively. All the boxes appear to be ticked at Stamford Bridge and this could be a very good season for blues' fans.
My Prediction: 1st
Yes, Holloway is back! Up via the playoffs, Palace are back in the big time for the first time in 8 years, but I'm yet to see anything to suggest that they're going to be here long. Their summer additions aren't going to light up the Premier League and losing Wilfried Zaha leaves Palace with serious shortage of quality. They've already gained a reputation for being a "yo-yo club" when it comes to Premier league promotions from their previous visits to the division and I fear they're not going to rid that perception. This could be a long season for Palace, but nevertheless i'm buzzing for all the interview's with Ian Holloway.
My Prediction: 20th
This really will be an interesting season for Everton this year as Roberto Martinez takes over at Goodison. Everton fans can expect a complete overhaul in the style of football played as undoubtedly, Martinez will try to introduce his European approach to play. Losing Moyes could prove a fatal blow for Everton as he really did work wonders under such a tight budget - Martinez is a quality manger, but it will surely be difficult for him to get the same results. The acquisitions of Alcaraz and Kone could be useful, bet they're are not star quality so if Everton are to get European football next year, they must call on big season's from Baines, Fellaini and Jelavic. I predict a slow start for Everton as adapting to something completely new will take time, but if given that time Martinez can get this Everton side back fighting for Champions League qualification - I don't think we can expect to see that this year however.
My Prediction: 8th
I don't expect much from Fulham this year sadly. Martin Jol has made signings this window that but I still fear they could face a relegation dog fight come spring time. Berbatov is clearly their stand out player and the addition of Adel Taarabt on a season-long loan could add to the flair quality going forward for Fulham. Aside from that however, okay and maybe Maarten Steklenburg in goal, the squad is really suffering from an overload of mediocrity. Like Benteke for Villa last season, Berbatov for Fulham this year could be a telling reason as to why they stay in the league. I think they'll just scrape it, but don't be surprised if the London club do just slip under.
My Prediction: 17th
Another promoted side and back in the Premier League for the first time since 2010. Back then they had 2 seasons in the top flight, however I fear they may not get so many this time around. Steve Bruce is an experienced manager and he's made the right steps in this transfer window by signing the likes of Danny Graham, Maynor Figueroa and Ahmed Elmohamady. So yes, he's bought in premier league experience, but you can argue it's not players with a successful Premier League experience behind them. I mean it seems like years since we last saw Danny Graham stick the ball in the back of the net and both Figueroa and Elmohamady only know as much as a playing in relegation battling sides. I always wish newly promoted sides well, but the step up from Championship to the Premier League is massive, and I doubt that Hull have the right attributes to survive.
My Prediction: 19th
Luis Suarez is clearly taking all the headlines ahead of Liverpool's new season. It is clear the guy is not happy and wants to move away, but understandably Liverpool are reluctant to sell - he is after all, a world class talent. It's not been mentioned for a few years now, but if they can hold on to their Uruguayan star, then the chance of Champions League football is a serious one, however as each day passes, it looks as if Suarez is off elsewhere, which will be a huge blow to Liverpool. The signings of Aspas and Alberto help bolster the Liverpool front line and switching Mignolet for Reina in goal is a fantastic move. Towards the back end of last season, Liverpool really began to impress - Coutinho looks magic and if they can hold on to Agger and Skrtel in the centre of their defence, they're going to have a fantastic side. That said, if they lose Suarez, they lose a lot! And if he signs for Arsenal too, then qualifying for Champions League football ahead of them will be an almighty task.
My Prediction: 6th
Once again, City have spent big in an attempt to get the Premier League back off their bitter rivals. From Game 1 last season, they always seemed to be chasing Man Utd and never looked like defending their title. This year, they've got a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini and the signings of Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, Stefan Jovetic and Fernandinho add to immense quality already in the squad clearly making City genuine contenders. That said, getting a newly formed squad of big names to gel and work together is always hard work and I believe that when it comes to winning those "nitty-gritty" games that always come in a season, they may just struggle.
They fell behind United last year and I think they'll be behind Chelsea too this time, but still a comfortable shout for Champions League qualification. City fans will obviously hope for success in the league, but I think progress in the Champions League will also be expected after two years of group stage disappointment.
My Prediction: 3rd
This will be the first ever Premier League season without Alex Ferguson and United have a mammoth task ahead of them if they're to defend their title. Moyes has struggled to really put his stamp on the side after failed attempts to bring Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas to Old Trafford. It would appear a Manchester United without SAF is not the attractive proposition it might previously of been when he was around. They can't be dismissed however - this is after all the same squad that won the league just 3 months ago. They still have quality in van Persie, Vidic and Valencia and the hunger and ability to know how to win titles, despite having a manager who may not know as much. Despite being adamant that Rooney is not for sale, it is becoming more and more apparent that the sooner he leaves the better and the club can move on. It looks like Arsenal and Chelsea are heading the chase for the England international. Unfortunately, I don't see a 21st league title for United come 11th May - close but no cigar.
My Prediction: 2nd
The last two seasons have been pretty mad for Newcastle United having finished 5th in 2012 to fall to 16th just one year later, so it's very difficult to suggest how this season will go for the Toon Army. They have added Loic Remy to their squad on loan from QPR and I'm hoping he fulfills the reputation that he bought with him to the Premier league rather than repeating the unimpressive time that he had at Loftus Road. There is no question that on paper they have the quality in their squad to compete for European places, with the likes of Debuchy, Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Cisse, yet they need to prove their doubters wrong after a very poor 2012/13 campaign. I see them settling comfortably in mid-table, and any European aspirations will have to come through a cup run.
My Prediction: 11th
After a good end to the season the Canaries finished 11th last term and this summer they've been one of the busiest clubs for in and out goings. The additions that Hughton has made look extremely promising and there is real optimism that Gary Hooper and record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel could be the natural goalscorers that Norwich have been lacking for the past few seasons. Hughton has also bought in experienced defenders in Javier Garrido and Martin Olsson, who although not world class will be useful additions to what is quite a young selection of defenders at their disposal. Add this to their impressive midfield options including Snodgrass, Pilkington, Hoolahan and now Leroy Fer, this Norwich squad is shaping up nicely - A top 10 finish is surely not unthinkable.
My Prediction: 9th
I'm fearful that the infamous 'second season syndrome' could hit St. Mary's - don't get me wrong, I'm hopeful it doesn't, but there is that nagging doubt in my head. Unlike others who have suffered before, Southampton do have money to spend, and lots of it. They've already added star quality in Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren to the squad for a combined £21million and it would appear they are still after a striker too. There were high hopes for Southampton this time last year as players such as Ramirez and Rodriguez were added yet Southampton could only muster 14th and it took to the last few weeks of the campaign before they could confirm safety. I think they'll stay up, but it could still be another nervy season for Saints fans.
My Prediction: 15th
They've been on a steady decline for the past few seasons and a change in management was probably necessary, yet Stoke still in my opinion, have a poor squad. Their old fashioned, long ball style has been worked out and sides no longer fear a visit to the Brittania. They have a fantastic goalkeeper in Begovic, but that's about it; their centre back pairing is slow, they lack quality across the entire midfield and they don't appear to have settled player who can stick the ball in the back of the net consistently. Mark Hughes has had a pretty dismal few years in management recently with Man City, Fulham and QPR and although I agree with the sacking of Pulis, I don't think Hughes is the man to take the club forward. They'll fight hard, but this could be Stoke's final season in the top flight.
My Prediction: 18th
Di Canio is another man who's press conferences I can't wait for this year - his sides performances, well I'm less excited for. They've made a number of additions to the squad in this summer window, but I still don't believe that they will meet their own high expectations. The talk is that Di Canio is already proving a difficult man to work under and I'm not sure his strict approach will rub off well on his players. We'll only find that out in the coming weeks. Sadly though, I have Di Canio down as one of the early managerial casualties for this campaign and I'm unconvinced that Sunderland's season will really ever get going. It could be another frustrating season for the Black Cat's fans.
My Prediction: 16th
They encounter European football and everything that goes with for the first time this year. It's undoubtedly going to be a tiresome season for the Swan's who face over 50 games between now and the middle of May. In fact their competitive season has already begun in the early qualifying rounds of the Europa League. It surprised many that in the wild frenzy of managerial changes back in June that Michael Laudrup was not involved at all, as many had touted him to leave for a major club elsewhere in Europe. They've bought in more European talent to improve the squad and to increase the size of it as they will have learn to cope with the demands of 3 games in a week. They have the quality in their squad and a quality manager in charge that could see them finish high in the table, yet it is not uncommon for any side competing in Europe to see their league form slip. I hope they can manage both, but I won't be surprised if they do fall out of the top 10.
My Prediction: 7th
Bale stole the headlines last season and he has done it again this summer. Levy continues to resist the increasing interest from Real Madrid for the Welsh winger but it is becoming more and more clear that the Spanish club want him at whatever price. Missing out on Champions League last season was a serious blow for Spurs who will have to settle for Europa League once again. With or without Bale, AVB is preparing his side well ahead of the season and the signing of Roberto Soldado for a club record fee of £26million should offer a constant flow of goals. If Bale is sold, then even with £90million to spend, replacing him will be extremely difficult and any hope Champions League qualification takes a serious hit. If incredibly, they can hold onto him, then the Spurs' side is ridiculously strong and anything other than Champions League qualification will be a serious disappointment. At the end of the day though, is it possible to reject nearly £100million for one player?
My Prediction: 5th
West Bromwich Albion.
2012/13 was a strange season for West Brom as by Christmas they were flirting with the Champions League teams, yet in the second half of the campaign hit a real sticky patch and ended up 8th and 12 points off of Liverpool in 7th. Losing Romelu Lukaku back to Chelsea this year is surely a big disappointment for the midlands club and although they have bought in Nicolas Anelka, I don't imagine he will provide as much influence. They still have a strong, talented and settled squad, but I think this might just be a bit more of a steady and uneventful season. If they spend money in the next few weeks, then it could be different, but from what I've seen so far, West Brom will probably have to settle for mid-table.
My Prediction: 10th
West Ham United.
West Ham are another side who I don't really see mounting much challenge to anything other than 10th spot. The permanent addition of Andy Carroll to the squad is a good one and will help the striker in his bid to get into Roy Hodgson's Brazil 2014 World Cup Squad. They have a decent squad that is far better than deserved of a relegation battle, but still not good enough to compete for European places. It should be another solid season for Big Sam and the Hammers but expect nothing else apart from mid-table safety.
My Prediction: 13th
Here are some of my other predictions as far as football is concerned:
Premier League: Chelsea
Champions League: Real Madrid or Bayern Munich
World Cup: Brazil
Europa League: Spurs!
Let me know your thoughts on what I had to say about your club.