15th Aug 2013 5:05pm | By Editor
Last year we got 11 of our Premier League place predictions right, and predicted David Moyes's move to Old Trafford. In this season's Premier League preview can we do better?
It's been a dire summer in the transfer market for the North London club. With fans begging for big name recruitments and money allegedly in place the only player to come in as yet is Yaya Sanogo, another of Arsene Wenger's typical exciting French prospects, but by no means a proven quantity (and even he arrived on a free transfer). Meanwhile former first teamers, Santos, Arshavin, Denilson and Squillaci, have all been sold whilst Coquelin and Djourou have gone out on loan, amidst a formidable clearing of the decks at the Emirates that has seen no less than 25 players leave the club. Suspicious Gooners might speculate that the 'money' in place for transfers is more like wage-savings. Top target Luis Suarez looks to be staying at Liverpool, and the scuttlebutt suggests Wolfsburg will beat Arsenal to the signing of Luiz Gustavo from Bayern. Arsenal are in danger of doing all their business in the last two weeks of the window yet again. A state of affairs that landed them with the underwhelming signings of fans' least-favourite Per Mertesacker among other letdowns. Either the youngsters turn their promise into results or Arsenal finish sixth.
After surviving by the skin of the skin of their teeth Villa were dealt an early summer blow with the retirement of their talisman captain Stiliyan Petrov who continues his battle against leukaemia. Paul Lambert though has invested shrewdly bringing in a host of players for around the £3/£4m mark. Danish centre half Jores Okore is a classy brute who'll fit right in in the Premier League. Aleksander Tonev is a solid winger with good delivery if not the keenest eye for goal. Lambert's only real gamble is £500,000 on 16-year-old Torquay forward Liam Prynn. Lambert was criticised for playing an inexperienced team last season and his purchases show he's keen to stick with youth. They've also managed, somehow, to hold onto Belgian powerhouse Christian Benteke so far in the window, doing so is essential to their position. However, if the big Belgian CF goes down with injury or goes missing I can't see them staying up.
After threatening to for years Cardiff finally joined rivals Swansea in the Premier League. In the end the switch of colour from their traditional blue to the Malaysian colour of luck red (at their new owner's behest), did the trick, along with the good work of manager Malky Mackay. The Bluebirds (redbirds?) topped the Championship last year with a 10 point cushion and will arrive in the Premier League with a few familiar names among their ranks. Craig Bellamy, Peter Whittingham and Steve Caulker all have solid experience of the top flight, and may have give the Mackay's men the steel they need to make a fist of it in the top flight. Newly arrived Gary Medel will certainly add bite in midfield and towering Danish Andreas Cornelius looks a handful. That said, it will be immensely tough for Cardiff. I predict a relegation dogfight only for them to stay up – just.
The chosen one, the special one, Chelsea's only one, is back, Jose Mourinho will be in the dugout at Stamford Bridge this season. And he is already in an enviable position. The team he has been bequeathed is one of immense talent. The blues three amigos Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, will no doubt form one of the most fluid and implacable midfields in the league. There remains the sticky problem of converting all that sexy football into goals. Is Fernando Torres's talent lost forever? Is Mourinho the man to bring it back? Can Demba Ba carry the weight of expectation of his questionable knees alone? Rooney would be an ideal purchase for Chelsea, but it ain't going to happen. Are hopes being pinned on the returning Romelu Lukaku?
Everyone is glad Ian Holloway is back in the Premier League. Press conferences are rarely more quotable than when Ollie is holding court. Palace have got scant top flight experience among their ranks with Danny Gabbidon and Peter Rammage the only players to have played consistently in the Premier League. Holloway has signed 40-year-old Kevin Phillips as a bit part player with Arsenal's Marouane Chamakh also added to the books. Even with forwards Dwight Gayle, Glenn Murray, and Aaron Wilbraham - all of whom have spent the majority of their careers scoring sporadically in the lower leagues - it's hard to see how they'll notch enough goals to stay up.
And lo, thus comes to an end the David Moyes era. Never have so many, owed so much, to a manager who won so little. Whilst Moyes settles into the mammoth boots vacated by Alex Ferguson (an appointment predicted in this column last year) Roberto Martinez has been quietly strengthening his squad with some genuine, cost-effective, quality. Hitman Arouna Kone and centre-half Antolin Alcaraz arrive from Wigan, the latter on a free and former a snip at £6m. Also new to the hallowed turf of Goodison are players from Spain's two powerhouses, Joe Robles from Real Madrid and Gerard Deulofeu from Barca. These represent perhaps the shrewdest signings in the whole league; there are no punts here. Four players of solid reputation for £8m. Everton may lose more games under Martinez, but they'll probably win more too.
Fans of The Cottagers tell me they worry their club is starting to go backwards, but their worry might be misplaced. Martin Jol has held on to most his most significant talent during the summer, including the superb Dimitar Berbatov. The only significant departure is that of Aussie keeper Mark Schwarzer to Chelsea, however his replacement, Maarten Stekelenburg, may turn out to be one of the signings of the summer. If you're keeping Michel Worm and Tim Krul warming the bench for the Netherlands, chances are you're pretty shit-hot. Also inbound are the once highly prized Sasha Riether whose loan deal has been made permanent, classy Bilbao centre-half Fernando Amorebieta and Adel Taarabt from QPR. I'm confident Fulham will finish higher than their 12th of last season and grab some big scalps en-route.
Guess whose back with a brand new flavour? It's only the bloody Tigers! Hull were great value last time they were in the top flight. The goals of last-of-his-generation Nick Barmby, Geovanni's strike against Arsenal in that famous 2-1 win, the half-time antics of Phil Brown, the loveable japes of Jimmy Bullard. Well, I'm not sure how much of that we can expect this time round. Steve Bruce has put together a robust team, who are hard to breakdown and even harder to watch. However he has recruited some attacking talent in the shape of poacher Danny Graham and winger Ahmed Elmohamady. It's going to be a relegation battle from day one, and Hull fans won't expect anything else.
Much was expected of Brendan Rogers at Liverpool and all he asked for was time to put his plans in place. Well, he's had one season of time, and plenty of cash and his vision only looks marginally closer than it did before he joined. Were it not for Luiz Suarez it's hard to imagine where Liverpool would have finished last season. However, such speculation is facile. Rogers has signed promising strikers Iago Aspas (who could prove a great signing) and Luis Alberto and strengthened his defence with the signing of Simon Mingolet and Kolo Toure. Liverpool are the hardest team to predict for the coming season, will things have finally clicked, has Rogers got enough of the kind of players to play the way he wants? Even if he does, will it be effective? Sadly I'm predicting another season falling short of the top four.
Manuel Pelligrini is an atypical South American coach. His ethos, far from those of his Spanish contemporaries (where he has spent the majority of his career), isn't one of measured control, taking a leaf out of his new Mancunian neighbour's hymm book, Pelligrini's policy is attack, attack, attack. And my gentle jesus, what an attack. A midfield which would leave even the likes of Robert Huth quaking in his size 14s. The newly arrived Jesus Navas and Fernandinho will join stalwarts Yaya Toure, and David Silva in a formidable midfield. They've also landed the much-lauded Stevan Jovetic, an old fashioned target man centre forward with the deftness of touch to play in those around in. It's easy to see him becoming a lynch-pin of City's attack. On the other hand fellow sky blue recruit Alvaro Negredo is a pure and simple poacher who rarely scores from beyond the penalty spot. Their squad though still has a fair bit of chaff and if injuries occur or the side doesn't click they could struggle to stay in the top three. If it works they could run away with it.