Another summer of mindless transfer madness and mildly tiding international tournaments has made way for a new Barclays Premier League campaign to begin, and it's certainly one filled with intrigue. Last year's Top 3 clubs all have new managers, and with new revenue streams some of the mid level clubs have strengthened massively. This certainly will make the Premier League one of the most open contests in years, but might leave some clubs out in the cold. Without any further fluff, here are my 2013-14 predictions (which are certainly doomed to fail):
1. Chelsea 87 pts.
--> Jose Mourinho is certainly a different manager than the one that left Chelsea in 2007. "The Happy One" might still have some special left in him, even though maybe some of the shine wore off after a turbulent time at Real Madrid. But there's no doubt he certainly has a scary team to put out on the pitch. Adding to an already potent attack are newcomers Andre Schurrle, Marco Van Ginkel, and Romelu Lukaku, fresh off a successful West Brom loan spell. There is quality everywhere from the midfield up, and with Mourinho's fresh emphasis on competition, everyone will feel the pinch, even Lampard and Terry. If there are any worries about this situation, they might be with a combustible dressing room and owner, but if the points pile up, that won't be a problem.
2. Manchester City 82 pts.
--> After the Citizens failed to meet their new lofty expectations under Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini has taken the reigns mainly to implement a new holistic style of play. Some have questioned whether Mancini rightfully deserved the sack, and whether Manchester City will evolve as a club at all under new management. Well, they now have a true winger in Jesus Navas whom they didn't have at all under Mancini, which should open up their attack. Their forwards corps are still strong, and their midfield can still batter you, but the defense still seems a tad thin along its length, and Joe Hart has to rebound after a sub-par year. Maybe success will be defined by making the Champions League knockout stages, and not by league position this time around.
3. Manchester United 79 pts.
--> Welcome to Old Trafford Mr. Moyes. Over here you might be able to see the shadow of the man you are replacing, which is only dwarfed in size by the expectations in front of you. The defending champions are under the gun to improve, which is hard when they haven't bought any new senior team players (Wilfried Zaha aside), and have to adapt to a new manager. They are still stacked up front as usual, with or without one Mr. Rooney, and their back 4 is still strong, with David De Gea finally meeting his price tag. The midfield problems for United have been masked for years, but Sir Alex found a way around that. Will David Moyes be able to? That's the question.
4. Tottenham Hotspur 74 pts.
--> 3rd time's the charm? 2 late season slips cost Spurs a Champions League berth at the hands of their great rivals, and now, finally, the board has reacted to it. Their long standing issues at striker are now resolved with Roberto Soldado, and the midfield has added steel with Paulinho and Etienne Capoue joining up. As of right now, the backline is thin, but if it stays healthy it can become a major strength. With or without Gareth Bale, this team has spent to win, and the Champions League doesn't seem that far of a stretch. As a Spurs supporter, I know to expect disaster, and hope for the moon. But with the crickets rustling at a certain other North London team's HQ, it's hard not to get a little excited.
5. Arsenal 68 pts.
--> You know, at some point I'd be really sick of having smoke blown up my ass, and having Piers Morgan continue to be right about something on my behalf. Arsenal's shocking lack of transfer activity, coupled with a squad that wasn't very deep to begin with has caused panic on the red side of North London, and maybe finally it's founded. Even if their end of season run last year was incredibly impressive, the same pieces would have to do the same thing, and maybe double their form to pull it off again. And when the team's heartbeat is still one player oft-injured (Hi Jack Wilshire), confidence is rightly lacking at the Emirates. Transfer activity might change this, but even then Arsenal aren't targeting the areas they need to. Luis Suarez can't play holding midfielder, or fullback.
6. Liverpool 61 pts.
--> Brendan Rogers has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and it's not hard to see why. Some of their form last season was scintillating, and with the players up front like Phillipe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, and (gasp), Luis Suarez, they can score goals in bunches. And Steven Gerrard is still around too, isn't he? But Liverpool's problem is going to be their heavy reliance on those players to score, since the depth of scoring isn't amazing, and their back 4 still remains weak. Kolo Toure isn't Jamie Carragher. And is Simon Mignolet really better than Pepe Reina? I don't think so. Liverpool are susceptible to being jumped by the teams below them, and does the board and fans have patience to wait out another year? Who knows.
7. Swansea City 56 pts.
--> Swansea City have a new trophy in their cabinet, and European football to look forward to. And they've strengthened greatly with quality signings like Wilfried Bony and Jonjo Shelvey. But, is there a glass ceiling to their success? How much further up can they reasonably expect to go? Maybe Liverpool is prime for being jumped, but can they have a run like Newcastle did 2 seasons ago? It's certainly possible, but not probable. Michael Laudrup will have some interesting motivating to do with this team in order to keep their ambitions high when there reasonably isn't much higher to go.
8. Everton 51 pts.
Roberto Martinez takes over a club in transition, but one that has remained mainly static from the one that David Moyes left. A new system, especially one as dramatically different as they are now using, often causes a drop in form, but how steep will Everton's fall be, if they have one at all? And will the players left over be able to adapt? Everton certainly have the quality to roll with the changes, but there has to be a learning curve for the squad. It's happened with every team Martinez has taken over, and Everton will be no different. They won't plummet down the table, but they'll certainly drop.
9. Norwich City 48 pts.
--> This club might have had the best transfer window of any in England, bar none. Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, Leroy Fer, Gary Hooper, and Nathan Redmond are some of the notable newcomers to Carrow Road, and they will all make a club that stagnated plenty last season take leaps forward this time around. Could they be a similar team to what West Brom and Swansea were last season? Certainly, if they gel in time. Their defense is still a problem zone, but if it can hold up, this club could certainly challenge up beyond their likes.
10. Sunderland 47 pts.
--> Last year Sunderland flirted with relegation all season. Paolo Di Canio clearly didn't like that, so there has been incredible player churn this offseason. In are the likes of Jozy Altidore, Emanuele Giacherrini, and Modibo Diakite, to go along with the likes of Seb Larsson, Steven Fletcher, and Adam Johnson. The optimism on Tyneside is as high as it has been in years, and compared to the other half of the Northeast football scene, there is reason to be excited. How high up the table they can go depends on how healthy the team is, and also how able Paolo Di Canio is to control his temper.
11. Aston Villa 45 pts.
--> Paul Lambert's side flirted with relegation all year last year due to their dramatic youth movement, and since they were able to stay up, what use is there to change the policy? Their additions are all young and raw, to go along with the squad that mainly stays the same from a season ago. They're going to score a lot of goals, but also give up plenty, unless the back 4 grows up. It figures that they probably will. Last year's close call will make Villa better, and more able to challenge up this time around.
12. West Ham United 44 pts.
--> Mid table malaise might just be the way to describe West Ham this season. Their additions have mainly been Liverpool's leftovers, and whether that will add any diversity to their attack remains to be seen. They'll be physical to a fault, and an annoyance to play against, but will they strike fear into the hearts of the opposition? Probably not, unless Sam Allardyce just tells the midfield to batter everyone down. They're not any worse than they were a season ago, but they certainly aren't better. Mid-table malaise should probably be engraved outside their new Olympic Stadium home soon enough.
13. West Bromwich Albion 43 pts.
--> Steve Clarke did an admirable job helping his team overachieve last season and finish eighth. This season that task figures to be harder. They're not a young team, and their improvements have been minimal. Matej Vydra is an interesting player after he lit the Championship on fire, but is he an adequate replacement for Romelu Lukaku? Probably not. They're going to need Ben Foster to be great, and Diego Lugano to forget that he played for PSG pretty quick.
14. Newcastle United 41 pts.
--> If it wasn't for United and Arsenal not doing much in the transfer market, Newcastle would be under the gun. Loic Remy is their only addition, and he's on loan. Their French legion is pretty good, but will last year's division that engulfed the two halves of the squad crop up again? And will Alan Pardew realize that he was tactically hopeless for most of last season? I would expect so, but some of the same problems that existed last season still exist, and who knows if Pardew will be able to fix them.
15. Southampton 40 pts.
--> Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren are their 2 flashy new signings, and whether they will be able to help Saints climb the table is debatable, especially since their abilities have been questioned by some. They had great seasons from some players last year, but will they be able to continue that trend? Maybe, if they actually acknowledge that Gaston Ramirez is on their books, and can really help them out in generating goals. Saints might once again unnecessarily flirt with relegation.
16. Fulham 38 pts.
--> I believe in Shad Khan. I'm a Jaguars fan, therefore I sort of have to. But Fulham are too close to danger to really believe in right now. They're good enough to stay up, but that's about it. Their additions baffle me, and their problems with age and wear in the squad remain just as big of a problem as it did a year ago, and that hasn't been dealt with well considering their transfer business. Darren Bent as your marquee signing? That might work if this was 2007, but it isn't. I doubt Martin Jol survives the year at this rate.
17. Cardiff City 36 pts.
--> The Blue(red)birds are the only promoted team with a sniff of survival hopes this season, and their cash outlay proves it. Andreas Cornelius, Steven Caulker, and Gary Medel are all quality additions, and with some Premier League experience on their books with Craig Bellamy, they will have the ability to stay up. Whether that can hold up for the entire season is the question, and I think it can. Just.
18. Stoke City 33 pts.
--> Stoke flirted with relegation last season (deservedly), and adding Mark Hughes to the mix certainly doesn't make them any more likable. He wants them to play a more beautiful style of football, but when you're still dealing with the same Tony Pulis players that are better suited to playing basketball, it's going to be hard. It would be unfortunate for the American contingent to get relegated, but it's hard to see Stoke staying up unless they are saved by a Kenwye Jones revival.
19. Hull City 26 pts.
--> Hull City Tigers surely sounds American, and if this were MLS they'd probably be picking right at the top of the Superdraft. Steve Bruce's past Premier League endeavors haven't been all that successful, and he had his fair share of struggles trying to get Hull up. Their additions certainly gave them some Premier League quality that they didn't have before, but this squad seems way too much like just castoffs from Bruce's stints at Wigan and Sunderland, plus a few Spurs rejects thrown in. It's hard to see the Tigers having enough quality to last them the season.
20. Crystal Palace 20 pts.
--> Ian Holloway's last Premier League foray was admirable when he managed Blackpool, but the lack of quality that squad had was also pretty easy to see. It's also easy to draw comparisons between that team and this Palace side that probably got promoted too soon. There are a few players worth noting, and Jonathan Williams could quickly follow Wilfired Zaha to a big club soon, but Palace are way behind the 8-ball when it comes to survival.
FA Cup Winner: Manchester United
League Cup Winner: Norwich City
Golden Boot: Robin Van Persie
Sack Race Winning Manager: Martin Jol
So there are the predictions, which are probably doomed to fail, knowing me. Sorry but not sorry Chelsea fans.
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