Final Thoughts Before The Premier League Opener, part 2
Read part 1 here.
The Manchester City Experiment
In an ideal world (read: my ideal world) Manchester City will finish in the exact same spot as last season. I’d love to see the cash they shelled out for players this summer come to naught in the table. I have nothing against City in general and I’m not trying to rile up their suppporters. I’m just eager to see this business model fail so more rich would-be owners won’t try to follow their lead and clubs shift toward reinforcing their youth systems rather than overinflating the market. What can I say? I’m a dreamer.
I know this ideal is impossible. City will have something to show for all that spending. They’ll have to. I see them finishing 6th or 7th and going deep in the FA Cup.
If they insist on knocking somebody out of the top four I hope its United (again: my ideal world – although I think this outcome might be one of the signs of the Apocalypse so I might rethink it) or Chelsea (so we’re swapping one bottomless checkbook for another – maintaining the balance). Of course, when I force myself to be realistic I know Arsenal are the most likely candidate for displacement – barring a last minute Wenger coup on the tranfer market, of course.
Middle of the Table and On Down
Here’s where my confidence to predict gets shaky.
I see Sunderland, Rovers, Bolton, Stoke and Wigan all playing a game of musical chairs in the lower middle. Some threatening to rise, some flailing and fretting. Like last season, most of the table is going to be up for grabs deep into the season.
- I see Sunderland leading the pack as they continue to make pragmatic yet positive moves in the transfer market. I think Bent will do well given the chance at regular starts and Cattermole can flourish with the Black Cats. To good moves. Steve Bruce will guide the club into 11th or 12th.
- Last season Wigan Athletic were bouyed by Zaki’s early season brilliance and by Antonio Valencia. Zaki seemed disinterested by midyear and Valencia is now off to Manchester United. Unless Wigan strike oil a couple of times with incoming players, it is hard to see them improve on their standings. They’ll have relegation worries until the end but will scrape by.
- Blackburn and Sam Allardyce seem a good marraige. Allardyce did well with Bolton and Blackburn feels like a similar project for him. A club that struggles but has tons of potential. Despite the loss of Santa Cruz and Tugay’s retirement (I really thought he’d keep going into his 80s), Big Sam has plenty of talent at his fingertips Rovers will finish in the middle at worst, threaten to nick a European spot at best.
- Stoke and Bolton are hard to separate for me. Bolton have been perennially awful since losing Big Sam. Stoke were solid enough for a newly promoted side last season, but can they hold on for one more year? I predict these two will survive, but only due to the outcomes of the clubs below them.
The Clubs Below Them
Another tough section. It’s hard to say which of the promoted clubs will flourish. I never would have predicted Hull and Stoke would have stayed up at the end of last season. So much seems in flux with these clubs. I’m going on impressions here.
- Hull will prove to be that club that come up, have a great season (or enough of a great season to get by) and then go back down. They had a brilliant start, but floundered in the end and survived only because of the struggles of others. Hull remind me of 06/07 Reading. Hull will go back down.
- The rise of Burnley and Wolves has an undeniable appeal to me. I just like the idea of old top flight stalwarts coming back up if only for a year. I hope one of them stays up. I’m going with Wolves. I’m hoping Sylvain Ebanks-Blake translates his flood of Championship goals into top-flight success. In part because he’s on my fantasy football team and in part because he’s got one catchy surname: sounds like an online finance company.
- Birmingham… I’m keeping this one simple: Birmingham have been going down every other year. Why stop now?
- It pains me to say this because I’ve had a distant affection for Portsmouth since they went from being the relegation battlers of 05/06 to challenging for a spot in Europe in 06/07… but I predict Pompey going down. They’ve suffered too much financial difficulty and have lost too many great players. If the takeover goes through it could be another story. But for now I predict they follow Boro and Newcastle to the tier below.
Predictions are fun, but there’s so much that can happen this season. The top four will stay the top four, with a bit of a reshuffle. City and Sunderland will do some climbing. And the bottom will be another rough tussle for survival. Nobody will be doing a Derby this year. The bottom clubs will be hashing it out into the 59th minute of the 23rd hour. All said, I think we’re in for another lively season.
The whole thing kicks off in a half hour. Happy New Year, everybody. Enjoy.