The 2013/14 Premier League season promises to be as exciting and memorable as ever. With so many changes in management to a potential shift in domestic honours, here is my opinion of the protracted Premier League table come the end of the season.
1. Chelsea (Champions)
The return of ‘The Special One’ Jose Mourinho will be a massive boost to the boys in blue. The Stamford Bridge outfit last won the league in 2010 – under Carlo Ancelotti, Mourinho though did have the most success in West London and his 2nd coming could prove to be as fruitful as his first stint in charge. With the ‘old guard’ still very much in effect – apparently Juan Mata is very much a player in his plans, with many of the young stars (Hazard & Oscar especially) are looking to be very keen to impress.
Key Player – Juan Mata
Juan Mata is the most integral part of the Chelsea system.
2. Manchester City (Champions League Qualifiers)
Manuel Pellegrini is a very experienced manager, which has inherited a very capable squad of doing an insurmountable amount of damage, very good business has seen him bring in Fernandinho and Spanish duo Alvaro Negredo and winger Jesus Navas, brilliant signings, very sensible considering Manchester City lacked a cutting edge last season which coincided with their very limp title defence last season. I do see them having a much better Champions League campaign this time around too.
Key Player – Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero was dogged by injuries last season.
3. Manchester United (Champions League Qualifiers)
Let’s not pretend that the loss of Sir Alex Ferguson will not have an impact on a transitional period for Manchester United, his legacy will be very hard to follow to say the least. In my view, David Moyes being appointed the manager has a positive and a negative, the positive being, that he has never needed money to build a well drilled and united squad, he did exceptionally well at Everton on a budget, the negative being, he has NEVER won any silverware, so that could be something that could work against him, he will need to be given time to stamp his authority at Old Trafford, but it will be tough carrying the burden of his predecessor and the apparent imminent departure of one Wayne Rooney, the transfer window hasn’t been too kind to him either, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara ignoring the ‘Red Devils’ advances, could that prove to be costly? Only time will tell. However, the return of Phil Neville and appointment of Ryan Giggs, who is still playing an active role in the first team (both in a coaching capacity) is a stroke of genius.
Key Player – Robin Van Persie
Robin Van Persie was the Premier League’s top goal scorer last season with 26 goals.
4/5. Arsenal/Tottenham (Champions League playoff/Europa League Qualifiers)
This rivalry over the last few seasons has heated up tremendously, but as the saying goes, it seems to be Arsenal maintaining the ‘status quo’. Not since the season of 1994/95 has Tottenham finished above their North London rivals and in this desperate situation, especially with regards to what has happened over the course of the last 2 seasons, Spurs will be as determined as ever to put that right. However, Arsenal have never finished outside the top 4, since Arsene Wenger took over the reins in 1996, they have a knack and an experience of continuously defying the odds and finishing a season strongly and with Jack Wilshere fighting to be fully fit for the new campaign, sky could be the limit for the gunners, Tottenham however do possess an ace up their sleeve, that ace being new £26 million signing Roberto Soldado, but, as twist of fate would have it, their coveted ‘number 11′, of course being Gareth Bale may be set for the Bernabeau this season, provided Real Madrid can actually meet Tottenham’s valuation of the player. Tough to call which of these rivals will come out on top.
Key Player – Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
If Arsenal are to even be considered for an automatic Champions League spot, Wilshere (above) needs to last the whole season.
Gareth Bale flourished under AVB last season, if he stays, Tottenham could find themselves causing real damage in regards to a top 4 finish.
6. Liverpool (Europa League Qualifiers)
Funnily enough, I can’t see the Luis Suarez saga dampening the mood much around Anfield should the Uruguay forward be sold. Brendon Rodgers has been tasked with bringing the glory days back to the red side of the Mersey and with the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and most importantly Steven Gerrard, who’s just signed a contract extension with the club. Useful additions the likes of Iago Aspas, Luis Roberto and Simon Mignolet should see them mounting a serious challenge for a Champions League place, but for me that’s as good as it’s going to get.
Key Man – Steven Gerrard
‘Captain Fantastic’ is coming into the twilight of his career, but still has a lot to offer and once again will be looked upon for inspiration.
7. Swansea City (Europa League Qualifiers)
Michael Laudrup has worked wonders with Swansea, many pundits and fans alike were questioning whether he’d be able to continue or even add to the ethics and tactical brilliance that Brendon Rodgers took with him to Liverpool, well, he answered those critics emphatically, bringing a trophy and another top half finish to the Swans in their centenary year. Quite the achievement for a club that only just stepped up to the big time 2 seasons ago. Laudrup has again signed brilliantly to add to his already talented squad and whilst keeping the likes of Michu and Ashley Williams this summer, the signing of Wilfried Bony will prove to be pivotal in their quest of a top 7 finish.
Key Player – Michu
‘Michu’ was a bargain signing at only 2.5 million last season.
The jury will be out on this appointment, after successfully keeping Wigan in the Premier League for the 4 seasons he was at the DW stadium, they finally did drop out of the Premier League, albeit with the success of winning the FA Cup last season. Now the question remains, can Roberto Martinez cut it at a higher level? My opinion says yes, he has the credentials to be a top class manager, with good ethics and should be given the chance to manage a higher tier, top division club, adding to the positives is that he hasn’t parted company with any of his top stars, the likes of Leighton Baines, Kevin Mirallas and of course Marouane Fellaini could and actually should prove pivotal again to Everton’s cause, the addition of former Wigan striker Arouna Kone can only enhance Martinez’s prospects of a very good debut season with ‘The Toffees’.
Key Man – Leighton Baines
This England International has a wand of a left foot and his quality from set pieces will be a huge plus for Everton.
A little bit more thought went into this one, Newcastle United, Southampton & West Brom will all be vying for this position in my view, but I have a good feeling about Fulham this season, especially with the signings Martin Jol is bringing in, notably Adel Taarabt and the possible imminent arrival of Darren Bent, without losing any of his key figures in the process. Fulham have progressed every season under Jol’s guidance and this season coming will be no different, with the spine of the team as solid as ever, Craven Cottage will be a tough place for any team to go and take 3 points.
Key Player – Dimitar Berbatov
Dimitar Berbatov seems to be enjoying his football again under Martin Jol.
10. Newcastle United
Alan Pardew endured a horrible time last season, Newcastle were never going to relegated, but a team with that much talent shouldn’t have been down there scrapping relegation dog fights, especially as they were Champions League hopefuls the season prior. There has been a French revolution at St James’ Park as of late (leaf out of the Wenger play book maybe). Lots of good things will be expected from the likes of Papiss Cisse and Yohan Cabaye, if Newcastle can keep them fit along with Hatem Ben Arfa and Moussa Sissoko, the sky could be the limit for ‘The Magpies’, but for me, a 10th place finish.
Key Player – Fabricio Coloccini
Coloccini is the glue that keeps the Newcastle defence solid. He was missed greatly last season.
11. West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion
Steve Clarke deserves a medal for the work he’s done at The Hawthorns, the loan signing of Romelu Lukaku was a stroke of genius and they were one of the surprise packages last season, a very good cohesive unit, with an explosive counter attack, they have the tools to do damage to anybody on any given day and with the acquisition of Nicolas Anelka to partner Shane Long in attack, it could prove to be a very potent partnership that could yield plenty of goals.
Key Man – Chris Brunt
Injuries and sub appearances limited Chris Brunt’s full ability last season, if he is fit for the coming campaign, there is no doubt he will feel like a new signing for ‘The Baggies’
Since the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton have added a lot more ‘flair’ to their game, that’s not dismissing the great work of former boss Nigel Adkins, but there seems to be another dimension which has been instilled and that will stand them in good stead for another strong season in the top flight, new signing Victor Wanyama, will be a very useful commodity in an already strong midfield for Southampton which contains the likes of Adam Lallana and Jack Cork, not to mention Morgan Schneiderlin. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how Southampton gets on this season around.
Key Player – Rickie Lambert
15 Premier League goals last season, Rickie Lambert certainly knows how to find the back of the net. Just ask Scotland.
13. Aston Villa
Christian Benteke signing a new contract was a major boost for the club, his goals last season practically saved Aston Villa from the drop, so his presence this season will be equally as important, Paul Lambert knows that his squad isn’t blessed with all the depth in the world and they are the youngest squad in the league, but he does have a few seasoned individuals that will see Aston Villa remain a main stayer in the English top flight. A fully fit Ron Vlaar will be crucial too.
Key Player – Christian Benteke
Christian Benteke signing a new contract can only be good for Aston Villa, but next summer will they be so lucky in retaining his services? 19 Premier League goals last campaign.
14. West Ham United
West Ham United
Sam Allardyce has always had the knack of guiding teams in a ‘positive’ direction, his accolades with ‘lesser’ clubs speak for themselves. However, this season, I think it will be a bit of a struggle for West Ham, even with the acquisitions of Andy Carroll and more recently Stuart Downing, they don’t have enough defensively for me, they will always score goals, but will always concede too. Not to be involved in a relegation battle, but a bottom half finish is as good as it gets for the Upton Park outfit this coming season.
Key Player – Kevin Nolan
He is the perfect foil for Andy Carroll and can link up the midfield to the attack with apparent ease, he’s also a goal scorer himself.
Identity is a big word in football, along with such words like character and passion, these are words that would sum up Sunderland in a nutshell nowadays, because of Paulo Di Canio. For me, his appointment late last season was a stroke of genius, he’s a motivator, he’s somebody who would be looking to squeeze out every ounce of fight from his squad week in, week out, I’m of the belief that Sunderland will start off very well, but will tail off just after Christmas, he has signed wisely, Emanuele Giaccherini being the most notable new signing, but he has literally dismembered the majority of his first team from last season, this team will need time to gel, time will tell if they gel well enough, 15th for me.
Key Player – Steven Fletcher
Steven Flethcer will be looking to build on his impressive start for Sunderland at the start of last season.
16. Norwich City
I hold my reservations for Norwich, I would’ve feared for them had they not signed an out and out goal scorer, but I think in Gary Hooper, they will have enough, especially after parting company with Grant Holt, goals were hard to come by last season for the Canaries, so this season they will be looking to make amends, considering they had one of the worst records at home the season just gone. Sebastian Bassong and Russell Martin will be looking to have big seasons defensively and I’m sure manager Chris Houghton will be happy with the final outcome of his teams league finish. Considering what he has at his disposal.
Key Player – Wes Hoolahan
The creative spark that should give Gary Hooper plenty of opportunity to hit the back of the net.
17. Cardiff City
The newly promoted side are gearing up for their first ever Premier League season and Malky Mackay has been making some very good moves in the transfer market, especially with the signing of Steven Caulker from Tottenham. It will be hard to gauge how Cardiff will fare as this will be their debut season, but if it’s anything like their Welsh counterparts over at the Millennium Stadium – Cardiff City will survive, only just though, for me.
Key Player – Craig Bellamy
Craig Bellamy will want this to be a season to remember for his beloved Cardiff.
18. Stoke City (Relegated)
Maybe a little bit harsh on Stoke City, but Tony Pulis parting company with the club can only be seen as a negative, not the most popular tactics were implemented when Pulis was in charge, but it worked and was very effective. Mark Hughes has a massive task on his hands, his last stint saw him get the chop at Q.P.R. Funnily enough, I’d go on record as to say that the Q.P.R squad he inherited is far more superior then the group he has now, individually, I guess the only positive is Stoke are very aggressive and Hughes’ style is of a very aggressive nature (his nickname is ‘Sparky’). No real movement in the transfer market though could prove to be fatal.
Key Player – Ryan Shawcross
Perhaps a little unfortunate to not get regular England call ups, but is vitally important to Stoke City’s chances of maintaining their top flight status.
19. Crystal Palace (Relegated)
Ian Holloway has earned a second bite of the cherry, if you will. His first taste of managerial ‘success’ in the Premier League came when he got his then Blackpool team into the big time, entertaining football as well as press conferences and interviews will be fun to watch, but I can’t see any other outcome, but relegation for the Eagles, even with the arrival of Marouane Chamakh. Yannick Bolasie and Jonathan Williams will be Crystal Palaces’ players to watch this season, seen as former favourite Wilifried Zaha has moved on to Manchester United.
Key Player – Yannick Bolasie
One of the star players to look out for at Selhurst Park this season.
20. Hull City (Relegated)
This was the easiest one to predict for me. Under Steve Bruce, Hull City did exceptionally well to claim the 2nd automatic spot from the Championship back to the Premier League, their second season. But again, I see it as a bridge too far for The Tigers. Very little movement in the transfer market has led me to believe that Hull could be in danger of falling out the Premier League with a whimper. Robert Koren and Ahmed Elmohamady will be the players charged with having that extra bit of quality, seen as they have had Premier League experience previously.
Key Player – Sone Aluko
Goal scoring and creative freedom will be what is required from Sone Aluko this season.
Of course this up for debate, do you have a different opinion on the final league standings? Or do i have it close to spot on? Let me know.
Until Next Time Football Headz.