Barclays Premier League: What to Expect

With the Premier League taking off, Impact’s Dan Adams takes a look at each team and gives his thoughts on how they are likely to fare this coming season.

Surely it will be the usual season for Arsenal, involving some sparklingly keep-ball and no one able to finish a move. The usual fragilities will be less obvious with Vermalean coming back but there is a distinct lack of belief in the team and the Great Wenger is looking more and more isolated. Before they’ve relied on players who are simply not good enough, now it will be down to their very talented youth to see them through. The emergence of Wilshire and Ryo Miyaichi into the first team will push Arsenal on but signings like Gervinho simply aren’t good enough. The sales of Fabregas and Nasri have left Arsenal looking extremely vulnerable.

Key player: Robin Van Persie.

Prediction: Top half of the table, missing out on Europe.

Aston Villa
It is difficult to know how Villa will do this season. McLeish needs a good start to quell any discontent. Losing Young, Downing and Milner in the last season is disappointing but they have decent young players coming through especially in Albrighton. Agbonlahor is a real talent and staying fit could link up well with Heskey. Given is a like-for-like replacement for Friedel. A lack of strength in depth could hinder them.

Key player: Marc Albrighton.

Prediction: Top half of the table.

Blackburn Rovers
A poor team under an unnecessary manager and curious owners. By February last season I was fairly sure Rovers would get relegated. They survived but with little conviction. Without a change of management and some new players, Blackburn are drifting to inevitable relegation.

Key player: Paul Robinson.

Prediction: Headed for relegation to the Championship.

Bolton Wanderers
Despite the disastrous FA Cup semi-final loss to Stoke, Bolton has a pretty good season last year. Coyle is a good manager and added some flair to the team. They need some investment especially if they lose Cahill. Their summer signing don’t inspire a sense of progress.

Key player: Gary Cahill.

Prediction: Mid-table.

A difficult to assess this season. Chelsea are ageing but still look efficient. Torres looks keen to lead the line and they have enough flair to provide the chances. Lakaku is no Drogba, a player with underrated skill and the loss of Essien is a serious blow. I’m not reading much into this new manager yet. He may have worked under Jose but there is only one Jose Mourinho. Roman should have known that.

Key player: Fernando Torres.

Prediction: Champions League qualification.

Moyes will do it again. Bringing in unheralded players and moulding them into a winning, or at least, very difficult to beat team. Everton only lost 10 times all season but ended the season with only a 6+ goal difference. There is no point calling for more investment. It just can’t happen under the board. How long Moyes can continue this brilliant job or wants to, I don’t know but if Moyes does leave, Everton are in trouble.

Key player: Jack Rodwell.

Prediction: Top half of the table.

We will see another solid over-achieving season from Fulham, this time under Martin Jol. Fulham are a team re-born, forged into a solid defensive outfit and an attractive attacking team especially at set pieces.

Key player: Bobby Zamora.

Prediction: Mid-table.

Kenny has no excuses. The board have lavished money on the squad. Dalglish has bought well (even if he has overpaid especially for Downing and Henderson) and the youth team re-organised by Rafa is finally coming through. Lucas came of age and Suarez is a real talent but there remain many questions over Carroll, Gerrard and the right side.

Key player: Luis Suarez.

Prediction: Champions League qualification.

Manchester City
Winning the FA Cup and finishing 3rd hardly seems enough for such an expensively created team. Despite still looking like a Championship Manager team, for me they should have done better and Mancini wont have too many excuses next summer. He has quality in De Jong, Toure, Silva and Aguero. However they still look vulnerable at the back. Any team with Lescott in it, won’t win the league.

Key player: Carlos Tevez.

Prediction: Runners-up.

Manchester United
United have invested for the future but right now are they stronger than last year? They will have more dynamism, Nani might finally do more than show off, Anderson can lead the midfield and Young will add more finesse to procedures. De Gea doesn’t convince me at all but Rooney looks comfortable and they have quality at the back. Definite favourites for the league.

Key player: Wayne Rooney.

Prediction: Champions.

Newcastle United
The usual messy season coming up but mid-table is all Mike Ashley aspires to. While allowing Nolan to leave is a bad decision, Newcastle have the organisation and defensive nous in Tiote to overcome their lack of flair. A solid season but nothing spectacular.

Key player: Cheick Tiote

Prediction: Mid-table.

Norwich City
Paul Lambert is yet another up-and-coming Scottish manager. He has brought in 8 new players and kept the old squad on the books. I am told that Grant Holt is the greatest Norwich striker since Robert Fleck. I’m not sure what that means in reality, but Norwich should have enough to stay up especially if they garner points at Carrow Road.

Key player: Grant Holt

Prediction: Relegation dogfight.

Queens Park Rangers
QPR are a rough diamond according their new owner Tony Fernandes. He could have been talking about Neil Warnock as well. Warnock has sensibly invested upfront bringing in Jay Boothroyd and DJ Campbell, two marginal Premier League players. They will inhabit the lower echelons of the league for most of the season but its competitive down there. That will suit Warnock.

Key player: Joey Barton.

Prediction: Relegation dogfight.

Stoke City
Stoke will be Stoke. They will take no prisoners and make compromising tackles. But they won plaudits last season for playing some attacking, but pragmatic football. Europe may be a distraction for Pulis but ultimately they have enough to finish mid-table and give the fans a few nice European away days.

Key player: Matthew Etherington.

Prediction: Mid-table.

The loss of Bent last season hit them hard along with injuries. They’ve invested in a few quality defenders in Wes Brown and John O’Shea and Connor Wickham looks a good shot for the future. But the future can’t wait. Bruce needs a good start or this season and his tenure will begin to look difficult.

Key player: Wes Brown.

Prediction: Mid-table, potential do get dragged into relegation struggle.

Swansea City
Swansea have promised to play attractive football in the Premier League so prepare to get relegated. Coming up via the play-offs they’ve brought in 6 players, none of whom will save them. I hope they have some good days home and away but I suspect they won’t last longer than a season.

Key player: Craig Beattie.

Prediction: Headed for relegation to the Championship.

Tottenham Hotspur
Harry’s team have improved and now challenge the big boys. In Van Der Vaart and Modric, they have real talents in midfield. But there are gaps. I fear for their defence. They can’t keep wheeling out Ledley King and Kaboul or Bassong aren’t good enough replacements. How Gomes starts ahead of Freidel is beyond me. And too many draws last season (14) indicates they lack a prolific goalscorer.

Key player: Luka Modric.

Prediction: Top five finish.

West Brom
Finishing 11th last season was more than the Baggies could have wished for. Hodgson will repeat the trick this season. The squad remains intact and Shane Long could be a good signing. But it all rests on Hodgson who will see them to midtable again.

Key player: Chris Brunt.

Prediction: mid-table

Wigan Athletic
I can’t believe they survived last season. I like Martinez but his team is poor. I know its Wigan but I expected more. Having lost their only real talent in N’Zogbia, they will really struggle this season. Only the poor league can save them.

Key player: Charles N’Zogbia.

Prediction: Headed for relegation to the Championship.

Similarly to Wigan, Wolves pulled it out on the final day. Mick McCarthy instigated a clear-out but has brought little in. Roger Johnson is a solid defender but Jamie O’Hara was there last season on loan. Wolves will struggle, that’s a guarantee but similarly to Wigan, there may be a way to survive.

Key player: Jamie O’Hara.

Prediction: Relegation dogfight.

Dan Adams

One Comment
  • Luke Place
    28 September 2011 at 09:05
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    I think you’ve got a bit carried away suggesting that Arsenal will finish below 5th.

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