The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

2011-12 Predictions – Premier League

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And finally, the crème de la crème, the big boys, the “important” league, the best league in the world, and to Americans, the EPL:

1. Manchester United
Yes, they’ve not bought a central midfielder. Yes, Man City have spent and will spend billions. Yes, Chelsea have a very good young manager. But you’d still be absolutely mad to look past Man Utd for the title this year

2. Manchester City
Of all the teams in the “big few”, the one most likely for me to take the title is Man City. Why? Mainly because of the deficiencies of the other teams (more on that in a mo), but also because despite the financial connotations, it’s actually a great side Mancini has built

3. Chelsea
I am already a big fan of Andre Villas-Boas. However, he hasn’t yet improved a squad that for much of last year couldn’t buy a win and at one time looked like putting Chelsea in a position where they’d have to qualify for the Champions League. Torres is the key man – if he finds his mojo, they could do it

4. Liverpool
Make no mistake, Kenny Dalglish is a living legend and still a great manager. The focus on the acquisition of British players has been a bit odd but it could work. Their form was good towards the end of the year despite the odd hiccup. I think we’ll see them return to the front of the pack

5. Tottenham Hotspur
I actually think Spurs have a first XI as good as any of the other clubs around them. The problem, compared to the likes of Man Utd, is strength in depth. If they can crack this, Champions League football isn’t out of the question. Otherwise, it’ll most likely be Europa League again

6. Arsenal
Arsene Wenger’s time as Arsenal manager seems to be coming to a natural end. In fact, I believe it did last year, but he has persisted for another year, and I see that as potentially a bad thing. Gervinho is in, but I don’t think the lack of a player like him was the problem. No defensive solution in sight, so it’s plausible that there’s no Champions League football in sight

7. Fulham
Last year was a bit average for Fulham compared to what they’d come to expect under Roy Hodgson, but they ended the year well, and I think Mark Hughes’ departure could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Martin Jol is an accomplished manager and the team has been improved. Could be a good year

8. Everton
David Moyes has been a revelation for Everton over the past few years, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that Everton fans have come to expect a top 10 finish. Relegation battles of yesteryear seem like a distant memory. There have been few signings but it hasn’t been a problem for them in the past

9. West Bromwich Albion
Another of the form sides in the second half of last season after the arrival of Roy Hodgson, proving those who doubted the decision to sack Roberto Di Matteo wrong. Now they’re looking good for their best season yet. The only hole seems to be in the goalkeeping department. Other than that, a good side

10. Sunderland
At the end of the season, if you’d asked me who I thought would get relegated in 2011-12, I’d have said Sunderland straight away, due to their terrible form. But Steve Bruce has made some great signings with the money from the sale of Henderson. It’s a strong squad for the Wearsiders

11. Stoke City
I had been tempted to stick Stoke down to struggle, due to the curse of the UEFA Cup/Europa League, but the truth is I think there are too many sides out there that are weaker than them, so I’d be surprised if they ended up going down. But it’s not impossible

12. Bolton Wanderers
Bolton were another side who ended the season poorly and have since lost a couple of players on top of that. But I think Owen Coyle is too good a manager to let them slip into the Championship, and as with Stoke, there are weaker sides in the league

13. Norwich City
The Canaries currently have that winning mentality under Paul Lambert, who has led them to successive promotions and built a side that regularly snatched last minute winners and draws. His signings have mainly focused on the lower leagues but young talent rather than established names. A potential surprise package

14. Swansea City
The Swans’ attacking football and home record were both formidable last year, as Brendan Rodgers proved his critics wrong. They are definitely something different, in the mould of Blackpool but I think slightly more accomplished. I can see them doing well, like Norwich

15. Newcastle United
Mike Ashley’s critics have been notable by their silence in recent months, but I’m not convinced. They have lost a few key players in recent months and are gambling on a couple of French midfielders, who could easily prove to be misses rather than hits. I’m concerned for them

16. Aston Villa
A bit of a gamble, but I am worried for Villa. Young and Downing have gone, and N’Zogbia is not good enough to make up for both. The first XI looks weak and the squad looks thin. And McLeish took Birmingham down last year. The signs aren’t good

17. Wolverhampton Wanderers
A safe bet for this end of the table. However, I do fancy them to survive – McCarthy is a manager I do have a lot of respect for, and has added the likes of Jamie O’Hara and Roger Johnson. But it is a big ask to avoid the drop for the 3rd year in a row

18. Queens Park Rangers
QPR might have stormed to the Championship title last year but there is a general scepticism about whether they can be successful in the top flight, as theirs is a side built using players that are established in the 2nd tier but often weren’t good enough at the top. Warnock’s got his work cut out. Taarabt is vital

19. Blackburn Rovers
The storm clouds have been gathering over Ewood Park for some time. It just has the feel of a club that’s on choppy seas and heading for the rocks. Venky’s are, at the very least, unconvincing as owners, and the same goes for Steve Kean as manager. Not good

20. Wigan Athletic
I feel for Roberto Martinez, a talented manager and a good man. He has been given no room to work this summer. N’Zogbia seems bound for the exit but he hasn’t been allowed to improve a squad who only just survived last year. I’d say the goose is heading for the oven, gas mark 5

And finally, some other predictions:

FA Cup: Manchester United are a safe bet for the later stages at least
League Cup: Liverpool are overdue a trophy
Football League Trophy: Megson will give Sheffield Wednesday something to shout about
Football Conference: Big-spending Fleetwood Town to follow Crawley up
FA Trophy: …and the Cod Army are a decent bet for the non-league cup too
Conference North: A wild guess – Nuneaton Town to return to the Conference
Conference South: …and Chelmsford City to join them

Champions League: Methinks the Barca hype will come crashing down and that Mourinho’s Real Madrid unseat them
Europa League: A bit of a blind stab in the dark at this stage, but big spenders Paris Saint-Germain
La Liga: Real Madrid again – see the Champions League
Bundesliga: Bayern are always the safest bet to challenge for the title
Serie A: Surely you’ve got to go for AC Milan again…
Ligue 1: With Lille’s title-winning side dismantled, Marseille are the best bet
SPL: Despite a wobbly start, you can’t really look past Rangers again

And finally…

Welsh Premier League: The title to return to Stebonheath Park in Llanelli


Written by James Bennett

July 28, 2011 at 16:57

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