It’s time for our annual ritual. To put my head on the line, to take the abuse and guffaws and predict how I think the 2011-12 Premier League table will look at the end of the season.
But I’m not doing it alone. I encourage each of you to share how you think the table will finish by posting it in the comments section below.
Before I share my predictions, I want to mention a few disclaimers. First, I’m posting these predictions before the season has started and before the transfer window has closed. A lot can change between now and the end of August. Add to that the possibility that several managers may get sacked during the season as well as ownership changes (such at QPR) could have major impacts on a club’s fortunes on the pitch. One more thing. It’s always the same every season, but a few of the readers post their predictions in January, February or March — which is far easier to do than in early August.
At the end of the season, I’ll go through all of the predictions (including mine and the ones posted by you in the comments section) to see whose prediction was the closest to being perfect. Best of luck.
And now, drumroll please, here is my prediction of how the 2011-12 Premier League table will finish at the end of the season:
- Manchester United (C)
- Manchester City
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Newcastle United
- Aston Villa
- Stoke City
- West Bromwich Albion
- Swansea City
- Norwich City
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Bolton Wanderers
- Wigan Athletic (R)
- Queens Park Rangers (R)
- Blackburn Rovers (R)
I still believe that few teams will get in Manchester United’s way of winning a record 20th top flight title this season. Manchester City will give them a run for their money but will ultimately fall short. Chelsea may do better in Europe but still have a lot of work to do in the league to replace an aging (and injury-prone) squad.
I predict that Liverpool will make great strides this season but will be too inconsistent to push higher up the table. Arsenal still flatter to deceive. They’re the purveyors of the best football to watch in the league, but they lack the mental toughness and consistency (as well as depth in key positions) to mount a serious challenge.
Sunderland, with their key acquisitions over the summer, will push up the table. Whether Steve Bruce is at the helm to help them finish in sixth position is questionable, but he’ll definitely get the team half way there until I predict someone else will take over in charge to get them into a European spot. Tottenham meanwhile will suffer from Gareth Bale being found out where clubs will continue to mark him closely and prevent him from being the threat he was the earlier part of last season. The White Hart Lane club will also suffer from a lack of resources up front where they’re stuck with a few strikers that are not up to the level of where Tottenham should be at this time.
Elsewhere in the league table, there are few surprises. Fulham, Everton, Newcastle and Aston Villa will continue to enjoy mid-table safety. Stoke and West Brom will settle for Premier League safety next season. New Premier League manager Brendan Rogers will surprise most pundits by not only keeping Swansea up, but by playing a tactically sound game that will earn precious points when needed to secure Premier League football for another season. Norwich will do well but will lack the striking prowess to move up higher.
In the relegation zone, Wolves and Bolton will struggle but will eventually survive. But Wigan’s long reign in the Premier League will come to an end despite Roberto Martinez’s best attempts, while Queens Park Rangers will suffer from a lack of money spent by their owners. Blackburn Rovers, while starting the season well, will eventually be doomed by Steve Kean’s inability to motivate the squad when they need him the most as well as the Venky’s meddling ways and lack of leadership.
If you agree or disagree with any of the above predictions, please be constructive in your criticism and tell us why you agree or disagree.