The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

The Welsh Gull and Friends present the 2012-13 Premier League Prediction Q and A

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For the first time, I asked a few friendly folk to answer some questions on what lies ahead in the rest of the 2012-13 Premier League season. Here’s what they/we came up with…

People
JB – James Bennett
SC – Sam Crocker
AH – Andrew Harding
JoH – Joe Harrison
JkH – Jack Howes
PH – Phillip Horton
MM – Maher Mezahi
JR – John Reid
SR – Sam Robinson
JS – Joe Shennan

1) Who’s going to win the Premier League?

JB: It will be between the two main contenders but I think it’ll be closer than people think. United have some tough fixtures right at the end of the season – after hosting City, they have to travel to Stoke, then host Chelsea on the penultimate weekend, and finish up with a trip to The Hawthorns. If they lose to City, which is a perfectly plausible scenario, their lead isn’t big enough to withstand tripping up at some of these. Plus City’s goal difference is better. They might just edge it again – given that everyone else will go with United, I’ll be different and go with City.

SC: Manchester United. Assuming RVP remains injury-free, he’ll carry them all the way, despite relative lack of form from the rest of the team. Can’t see City improving, as they seem inherently incapable of dealing with all the egos in their team, with Mancini going at the end of the season.

AH: Manchester United. As soon as City started celebrating last May, I said it and I’ve seen nothing to change my mind since.

JoH: Manchester United have a leaky defence, an average midfield, no creative or wide players in
particularly good form and three of their four forwards have been patchy to say the least. That they look like winning the league comfortably is a pretty damning indictment of a mediocre bunch. That and evidence of just how good Robin van Persie is – being a one-man team is underrated if it’s the right man. Manchester City are the only conceivable challengers at the moment and they’ll need to return to pre-Christmas 2011 form and hope for a bit of a collapse from their neighbours. With another derby still to play, and a squad of City’s calibre, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them get back into it and make it close, but I don’t expect United to throw the league away in two consecutive seasons.

JkH: Liverpool. As we all know in the modern game (and most importantly according to Brendan), possession is everything. And though Liverpool aren’t even top of average possession per game statistics, they do actually have the highest percentage of possession in all of football if you look closely enough. And the team that keeps possession the best wins the Premier League. League wins, points gained, goals scored, none of that is relevant. Possession isn’t nine tenths of the law, it’s ten tenths of the law. And it’s why Liverpool will win the Premier League. Not on points obviously. On keeping possession.

PH: I don’t think it takes an expert to deduce that the winner will come from Manchester, unless Chelsea pull off an absolute miracle. I think it depends on how United fare in Europe, but I reckon they’ll cling on to their lead.

MM: Manchester United. They just have too much firepower and too much experience.

JR: I can’t see past Man United – they won’t let what happened last year happen again and I feel that they have improved – at least in attack – with RVP compared to last season. Also City haven’t played really that well this season and I don’t trust Mancini – he is far too cautious – see the recent game against Arsenal for example.

SR: I think Manchester United will last the distance. That said, if van Persie gets injured then it may be a completely different matter. Oh, and they still need a top-class central midfielder. They should still have enough; they’ve been winging it for long enough anyway.

JS: I shall stick to my pre season prediction and say Manchester City. Mancini’s men, whilst looking largely unimpressive for large parts of this season have narrowed the gap to 5 points behind United, and of their remaining fixtures, all are perfectly winnable for a side which has begun to show some of that ruthless efficiency again in recent weeks. The derby on April 6th at Old Trafford will of course, be pivotal and once again I could see it going down to the final day.

2) Who will finish in the top 4?

JB: Aside from the obvious two, Chelsea will finish 3rd but some distance behind the leading pair. Then after that, Spurs have some tough fixtures but Arsenal will inevitably trip themselves up at some point, so I can see Spurs finishing 4th.

SC: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. I honestly can’t really see Spurs continuing this good form without a big blip at some point (Spurs being Spurs) and I’d imagine Arsenal will make at least some signings in January to give the team a bit of a boost. The other three just seem miles ahead. Would have perhaps included Chelsea in the mix for dropping out of the top four had they not signed Ba, thus not relying on Torres, who proves that the phrase “form is temporary, class is permanent” is definitely contestable.

AH: United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.

JoH: Outside of the Manchester duopoly, I expect Chelsea to finish in some sort of no-man’s-land in 3rd: Rafa’s much-loved rotation should serve them well heading in to the run-in, while their squad is simply better than those around them at the moment. I think Everton will struggle to maintain a real challenge for 4th – with Jelavic in poorer form they’re too dependent on Fellaini and Baines for goals. That basically leaves ‘The Battle For Fourth'(TM) to be between Spurs and Spurs’ inferiority complex about Arsenal. Villas-Boas’ side have the advantage in the league, a better team on the pitch (though losing Sandro for the season is a huge blow) and seem a club far more at ease with themselves than their neighbours. However, Arsenal have staggered into a position from which they can challenge and if you combine the facts that they always finish in the top 4 under Wenger and they always finish ahead of Spurs under Wenger, it would be no shock to see them pip their rivals yet again. I think I’ll go for Spurs to edge it and be utterly unsurprised when proven wrong.

JkH: Liverpool. They’ll win the league stupid.

PH: Manchesters United and City, Chelsea and Arsenal…just.

MM: United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea. In that order.

JR: Man City, Spurs and Chelsea. City have too many points to even look like dropping out of the top 4. I fancy Spurs to finish third even though I’m not really that impressed with AVB – he has had some brilliant results – like the win at Old Trafford – but Spurs still seem flaky to me, they were poor at QPR for example, but I feel they can overhaul Chelsea, will finish fourth. Despite how bad they have been at Stamford Bridge and the extremely unpopular Rafa, I feel that their older players will inspire one last hoorah to drag them over the line into the Big Cup qualifiers.

SR: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.

JS: Manchester United, Chelsea, and Spurs. Villas-Boas is increasingly impressive at White Hart Lane and one or two additions in specific areas could see Spurs fare even better next season. Arsenal meanwhile look as far away from challenging for the title as they have ever been, and Wilshere’s magic alone will not be enough to lift the inconsistent gunners into the Champions League places. Which means Arsene Wenger simply must deliver a trophy before he loses his credibility.

3) Who will qualify for the Europa League?

JB: Arsenal, by virtue of finishing 5th. After that, money’s on Liverpool to finish 6th but it will be typical (and funny) if we had two different cup winners to prevent them from qualifying. Money’s on Swansea to win the League Cup which would mean the team in 6th would need the two FA Cup finalists to not have qualified for Europe already. That said, it might happen, or even Liverpool getting to the FA Cup Final. So those will be my 3: Arsenal, Liverpool and Swansea.

SC: Everton and Swansea. Everton have impressed me no bounds this season, and I can’t see them slipping up to be honest, especially with European qualification in sight. As for Swansea, this is a bit of a hipster choice following their excellent form this season, and that I really don’t want Liverpool to qualify – for their treatment of Nuri Sahin as much as anything.

AH: Arsenal and Everton. One team disappointed, the other should be pretty chuffed.

JoH: Given that I said Spurs will finish 4th that pushes Arsenal down to 5th with Everton picking up the last spot in 6th (assuming two teams already qualified for Europe make the FA Cup final, which normally happens). With Swansea looking like beating Chelsea in the Carling Cup (2-0 up after the first leg at the time of writing), it seems 7th place will not be a Europa League spot, but if Chelsea turn it around and win the tournament, I’d imagine Liverpool would be the beneficiaries (though I’m not sure they’d see it that way).

JkH: Liverpool. They’ll win the league stupid. And if they’re lucky, West Brom continue to collapse and Daniel ‘Danny’ Sturridge becomes 3.5% as good as he thinks he is, they might even qualify for the Europa League. On genuine merit.

PH: Tottenham, Everton, Swansea City

MM: Spurs and Liverpool. I’m expecting LFC’s new signings to revitalize them and for Everton to start dropping more points.

JR: Arsenal, Swansea and Everton. I think Arsenal will finish fifth, which will lead to a lot of complaints from their fans and calls for Wenger to go but he’ll still be there next season. Swansea will win the League Cup – against Villa in the final, sorry ‘romance of the league cup’ fans and Man Utd will win the FA Cup, so whoever finishes sixth in the Prem will get in, which will be Everton, but I do think David Moyes might leave during the summer…

SR: Arsenal via the league and Swansea via the League Cup. Everton to take the last spot if the FA Cup finalists are already in Europe.

JS: Arsenal will win the FA Cup and finish 5th, giving 6th placed Liverpool the second Europa spot. And Bradford City will win the League Cup (as a lower league enthusiast, I can but dream) giving them the final spot and a chance to embark on a Phil Parkinson lead European journey.

4) Who’s going to be relegated?

JB: This is a really tough one. Even some of the teams considered ‘safe’ now aren’t out of it, because there’s always one team that starts well plummets. I think it could be Norwich this time, though that is influenced by the fact that I predicted them to go down at the start of the season. Of the main contenders now, Reading look doomed but I don’t think they necessarily are. Villa for me are the most likely, followed by QPR. It’ll be between Reading, Southampton and possibly Norwich for the other spot. I’m going with Southampton. Wigan will be fine as ever.

SC: Villa, Reading and QPR. Villa’s seeming refusal to both signing anyone who isn’t Irish and over 21 really doesn’t bode well in a relegation battle. Whilst I love Darren Bent, as well as Benteke and Ciaran Clark being decent, they really haven’t judged this season well at all (and I win money if they get relegated). Reading just seem utterly incompetent at defending, despite scoring a strangely high amount of goals, which makes it a bit of a shame they’re going down due to the excitement they provide. And QPR – well I just hate them. How a team with that many good players can be so incompetent I just don’t understand. Signing a load of over-paid, egotistical morons in an absolutely absurd summer makes relegation a serious problem if they can’t flog all the players, and I am determined to prove that Harry Redknapp is a horrific manager. I would like to included Sunderland in these three, but sadly they seemed to have improved a bit.

AH: QPR, Aston Villa and Wigan. QPR are a mess and probably need relegation to give the club the reality check it deserves. Aston Villa have been shambolic and while they might at some point string a couple of good results together, I doubt it would be sufficient enough to save them. Quite frankly the only reason they survived last season was that there were a lot more teams worse than them. This time around they don’t have that security in numbers. As for the third team, I think Reading will perform this season’s escape act and Newcastle and Sunderland will be similar to Aston Villa last season. Wigan seem to have avoided relegation chat despite being very close to it yet again. The whole staying up by the skin of your teeth thing they have had going on is getting dull and just perhaps this time that thread will snap and they will take the plunge.

JoH: I think QPR may well stay up but I’ll say them purely because I desperately want them to go down. They got away with cheating to get promoted, which nobody seemed to care about (seriously, how can playing an illegally signed player all season be deemed only worthy of a fine?!), and the financial insanity of their transfer policy means they deserve relegation like no other (to any QPR fans reading I can only apologise – I know it isn’t your fault). To paraphrase Bill Shankly: Reading and Aston Villa are the other two teams currently in the bottom three and by God they’ll take some shifting. I think Reading are doomed, they looked a decent Championship team who went on an exceptional run last year and now look a decent Championship team getting found out in the Premier League. Villa’s existence is so miserable at the moment I think relegation would probably do them good, and they’re often utterly abject, but I have a feeling they may just find a way of escaping. Southampton sacking Adkins could prove disastrous and may lead to them being reeled in, while I suspect Wigan to perform their customary survival act. They haven’t had much attention in this context, and it is unlikely, but Fulham could be sucked serious trouble if they don’t sign a decent midfielder. I’ll probably stick with QPR and Reading but tip Villa to sneak past Southampton late on.

JkH: Liverpool. On actual league points points. Their defeat to Manchester United and with Brendan Rodgers’ declaration in a press conference that “You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God” sparking his six month stay in a psychiatric hospital, Liverpool completely collapse, don’t win a game for the rest of the season and go down on the final day of the season.

In my answer to question 3, I did say Liverpool would qualify for the Europa League ‘if they were
lucky’. Which I don’t think they will be.

PH: It’s going to be a close one yet again. I don’t want Reading to go down, but I reckon they will. Wigan always seem to survive, so I’ll go for Reading, QPR and Aston Villa.

MM: Reading, Villa and Wigan.

JR: Aston Villa, Reading and Fulham. I feel that Villa have that doomed look about them, the 8-0 loss to Chelsea seems to have permanently damaged them, which was evident in the defeat to Bradford. Even though they will in my opinion beat Bradford, it won’t do them any good in the league and they’ll go down. Reading just don’t have enough quality to stay up, they don’t score enough goals and just haven’t really played well enough to say they’ll stay up. Fulham haven’t really impressed this season, even though Martin Jol did well at Spurs and Berbatov can at times be excellent, they have lost a lot of games and they’ll be dragged down the table and will go down on the last day of the season.

SR: Wigan, Reading and QPR. Unless Wigan suddenly find their form from the end of last season I really do fear for them. Reading just won’t have enough and QPR, well, what can you say? The club is a mess. Fernandes and co have brought a star culture to Loftus Road that there’s no need for at all. It’d be interesting to see what happens to the club if they were to go down. I could see the other two coping, but QPR, hmm.

JS: Again, I’m going to stick with what I said pre-season. Norwich, Southampton and Wigan Athletic. Norwich have peaked and are about to embark on a slide from which they won’t be able to recover. They generally lack quality – Snodgrass is top scorer with just 5 goals, and they are porous at the back. They also miss John Ruddy, despite Mark Bunn’s relatively solid form. Southampton’s decision to sack Nigel Adkins will backfire – and lets be honest, who would shed a tear for Nicola Cortese? Mauricio Pochettino has a mammoth job on his hands, and I’m not just talking about his English lessons. Wigan are finally destined to go, surely? Stats dictate that they can only cheat footballing death so many times. It’ll be close though, and I could be completely wrong about all 3 teams, but that’s the beauty of the Barclays Premier League.

5) Who will sign the most players on Deadline Day?

JB: QPR is the obvious answer but I’m not sure they will – I think they’re blowing all their money on M’Vila and Remy now so won’t have much to spend on Deadline Day. I’m going to say Reading and Southampton, as they have money and a need to bring in players. Or maybe Fulham. All 3 jointly.

SC: Would have said Sunderland, but they seem to be conducting business a bit earlier than most, so will punt for Norwich. Think there’s plenty of bargains knocking about on the benches of EPL teams (Danny Graham for example) who people will fight over, and seems like the perfect fit for Norwich. Arsenal might also be up there if Arsene decided to get his cheque book out.

AH: Newcastle United with Stoke City running them close. Newcastle will leave their business until quite late on and there will be an element of panic purchasing no matter what Alan Pardew says.

JoH: That’s normally the preserve of the desperate, stupid and Harry Redknapp. I doubt I’ll be alone in saying this, but all roads lead to QPR.

JkH: Liverpool obviously. The departures of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Sebastian Coates and anyone linked with the previous ‘Dalmolli’ regime who isn’t Luis Suarez leaves gaping holes in their team. Suarez’s deportation after a campaign orchestrated by The Sun to eliminate ‘Uruguayan imperialists from these shores’ leaves them toothless up front. They sign literally dozens of players to fill these gaps, from decent players such as Luke Shaw and Kevin Gameiro, to rubbish comedians such as Lenny Henry and Jack Whitehall, who turn out to be the ‘glamour signings’ John W Henry truly wanted at the club.

PH: Arsenal. Ha! No, it could be anyone really. I think Reading might try and sign a few players.

MM: Newcastle. They’ve looked to do business but have been pipped to their targets so far. Will get their signings later on in the window.

JR: Predictable I know, but Harry’s QPR. Even though he’s not a wheeler-dealer. I’d say Newcastle also need to sign a fair number of players – and to an extent Arsenal – but I doubt any club will sign as many as QPR.

SR: Southampton‘s new manager may see things he wants to change so I’ll plump for him. If Mike Ashley dips his hand into his pocket up in the North East, Newcastle may be an outside shout.

JS: Spurs generally sign a few, don’t they? Aston Villa, Norwich, and Fulham will also be in the mix. You can never rule out the big guns either.

6) Which managers won’t survive until or beyond the end of the season?

JB: Lambert will go when Villa go down. I think Adkins will go regardless of whether Southampton stay up or not (ed: good call). I think Jol might leave Fulham as they’ve been disappointing of late and that slide may continue, though I’d be surprised if they went down. At the top, you’d expect Wenger to leave Arsenal and, if they don’t finish the season well, possibly Rodgers to leave Liverpool, but nothing’s certain.

SC: Mancini will definitely go if he doesn’t win the Premier League along with his Champions League exit. Can see Martin O’Neill getting sacked at some point (hopefully, anyway) as well.

AH: Alan Pardew shouldn’t but I won’t second guess Mike Ashley. Martin O’Neill also shouldn’t survive but that reputation he has seems to still be just enough for him. I’d like to think Roberto Mancini will be gone but the lack of genuine quality replacements might mean he starts next season and lasts a few months. Otherwise, once QPR go down Redknapp will resign and somehow the media will gloss over his involvement in their relegation. I think Martin Jol will be elsewhere come the start of next season.

JoH: Benitez is the obvious answer. I understand why they dislike him, but the vitriol from Chelsea fans towards an excellent manager has been stupid, however it will ensure he doesn’t stay longer. I think Villa will stick with Lambert (they should, even if relegated) but that McDermott will be replaced by Reading’s relatively new owners at some point, possibly after relegation. I also suspect the Martins, Jol and O’Neill, may be under pressure come the summer, but Pep Guardiola’s move to Bayern could save Roberto Mancini’s skin.

JkH: Rodgers, as his megalomania reaches new levels and he becomes the first ever Premier League manager to be given 24/7 psychiatric care.

PH: Unless Paul Lambert stops the rot, he might be toast. I’d add Pardew to the list but cutting that contract would be pricey. Beyond the season, McDermott probably. Redknapp assuming QPR go down.

MM: Rafa Benitez is only on a six month contract so you can expect him out in the summer. As much as I like Paul Lambert, I fear that Villa will get relegated and he’ll be gone. Roberto Martinez won’t get fired, but he himself will go. Brilliant tactician and any club will be lucky to have him. McDermott also looks over his head with this Reading squad. He will, most likely, be fired.

JR: I don’t think any manager will leave before the end of the season, but after the season ends it seems a certainty Rafa will leave Chelsea, if Fulham go down Martin Jol will go, I also think Mancini could leave City if City fail to win anything this season and David Moyes will exit Everton in search of ‘a new challenge’. Wenger will stay at Arsenal even if they don’t qualify for the Big Cup.

SR: Pardew may not make it to the end of the season based on current form but he needs support from the chairman with new signings. Most other managers seem fairly stable. Fulham are struggling, I guess, so Jol might come under a bit of pressure as the season goes on.

JS: Martin Jol, Roberto Martinez, Rafa Benitez, and Mauricio Pochettino.

7) Will Harry Redknapp spontaneously combust on the last day of the season?

JB: I expect something a bit weird to happen, whatever the outcome is. If QPR do go down, I can imagine him announcing his resignation to the media via a car window (hurr). If QPR stay up, he may lose it and start making brilliantly barbed comments in the direction of the FA. With lots of water being tipped over him. It’s certainly a rather odd situation, as we’ve become so accustomed to football’s walking cliché generator to be towards the top of the table.

SC: Oh gosh I hope so. I really do hope so. And I hope someone records it.

AH: We live in hope.

JoH: No, one look at his bank balance should console ‘Arry if the worst comes. The worry, if they are
relegated, would be QPR themselves disappearing in a puff of IOUs.

JkH: Yes. He will replace Rodgers in the Anfield dugout, be despised by everyone, attempt to sign Frank Lampard (senior, not the one at Chelsea), get Liverpool relegated and spontaneously combust in the Anfield centre circle. A neat way to end the season.

PH: Yes. Utterly.

MM: I’m afraid I cannot comment on speculation.

JR: Much as I’d love Harry to explode – I think he’ll keep QPR up. I know he’s doing his usual ‘throw money at a problem to solve it’ routine, the Prem has so many poor teams this season that I think they can go on a run – of sorts – and just stay up. And Harry will be hailed as the messiah by his mates in the media. Again.

SR: I hope that it coincides with QPR’s relegation. That’d be lovely, wouldn’t it?

JS: Quite possibly – but only through sheer joy and happiness. QPR are staying up. And you can quote me on that.

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Written by James Bennett

January 20, 2013 at 17:56

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