With the season already started now for everyone, it’s time for the annual “lets annoy certain teams” with some rank predictions and assumptions. So read on, disagree and make some money by doing the opposite – it’s my gift to you all.
PREMIERSHIP: Winner – Man City –> Seems an easy call to make despite Man Utd making numerous purchases. They still look like a more complete squad and can create numerous chances regardless of who they are playing. A team containing Aguero, Balotelli, Dzeko and Tevez (if he stays) will score more than you. Will be interesting to watch in the Champions League again too as they should make it out of the group stages.
2nd – Man Utd –> The title isn’t going to leave Manchester, but I can only see the Red side being just pipped yet again by their neighbours. Fergie has bought well offensively with Kagawa (who will settle in over time) and Van Persie but last season they conceded more goals than they ever have at Old Trafford since the start of the Premiership. With Ferdinand past it, Vidic will have a lot of responsibility if Fergie adds no more at the back. They cannot afford him to get injured again.
3rd – Chelsea –> Best of the rest could go a number of ways again, but again I’ve gone with Chelsea under Di Matteo. Hazard looks an excellent signing complemented with a group of players who should respect the manager a bit more this season. Nobody expects them to retain their Champions League trophy and nobody expects them to win the league, so with the pressure off it will be interesting to see what they achieve.
4th – Arsenal –> Will be hurt by the sale of RVP but this will allow Podolski to take up his preferred FC Koln style role as the head of the attacking force. While Santi Cazorla looks an inspired signing, there just appears to be too many weaknesses in the team to mount a serious challenge higher up.
Europe (5th & 6th) – Tottenham & Newcastle –> While I appreciate that only 5th may get a Europa League spot (depending on the Cup winners), I think Spurs and Newcastle will get a European spot through their league position. With Spurs under AVB, while they have lost Modric (and a Champions League spot) in have come Sigurdsson and Vertonghen which should be enough to secure a Top 6 finish. With Newcastle, with no major departures (at the time of writing) and a couple of new additions with Vurnon Anita and Romain Amalfitano to add to an already excellent squad. While the element of surprise may be gone, the Toon still should be able to secure Top 6 again.
Relegation – Swansea City –> Manager gone, key players gone and going and add a fairly untested manager. (One Superliga title doesn’t equate to experience) Seems Swansea will struggle this season. Laudrup will need to add a Plan B very quickly as when teams got wise to their quick passing system, they would normally take 3 points off them.
Reading –> They may have smashed the Championship last season, but I think Reading will drop straight back down this season. Lack of goals nearly cost them last season and while bringing in Pogrebnyak and Jason Roberts should get them a few goals, I can’t see it being enough at this level and while they won’t get humiliated, a lot of narrow defeats may cost them.
Wigan –> While I didn’t tip them to go down last season for the first time since writing this blog, I think losing more key players will hurt and this may be the season where they can’t conjure up a great escape.
Final positions: 1st – Man City, 2nd – Man Utd, 3rd – Chelsea, 4th – Arsenal, 5th – Tottenham, 6th – Newcastle, 7th – Everton, 8th – Liverpool, 9th – West Brom, 10th – Sunderland, 11th – Aston Villa, 12th – Fulham, 13th – Southampton, 14th – West Ham, 15th – Stoke, 16th – Norwich, 17th – QPR, 18th – Wigan, 19th – Reading, 20th – Swansea
CHAMPIONSHIP: Winner – Bolton –> While it may take a while for these new players to come together (15 left the club in the summer), once they do, the squad have the experience and talent to win this League and go straight back up. And if in January, more players need to be brought in, the money is there to do so. Immediate return expected.
2nd - Blackburn –> I have told a few people about this prediction and all of them gave me raised eyebrows. The squad Blackburn have should win promotion from this league, that’s not really an area for debate. Danny Murphy and Nuno Gomes are masterstrokes. Regarding Steve Kean, should he start to struggle with this side, then he will be gone and someone (surely) will come in and lead them up.
Playoffs – Cardiff City –> While the fuss has been all about their change of kit colour this season, on the pitch Malky Mackay has a team that should challenge for promotion and reaching the playoffs should be the minimum. Adding players such as Bellamy and Jordan Mutch will easily add to that promotion chase. Considering the prices and wages they have paid and paying, they will need to.
Leicester City –> Another team owned by foreign investment and another side that should reach the play-offs this time out. Having a strong spine to the squad already helps but add Jamie Vardy for some fire power and some decent backups with Ritchie De Laet coming in will help Nigel Pearson out in his quest. Anything less and Pearson will be gone.
Leeds United –> A team featuring Neil Warnock, El Hadji Diouf, Michael Brown and “Leeds” will be physically imposing side and should batter some lesser sides off the park, however with Snodgrass leaving for Norwich, Leeds do lack a little creativity when they will come up against better sides and this will probably cost them automatic promotion this season.
Watford –> There is always a surprise team that reaches the play-offs and I think Watford will be that side out this time. Under a new manager with a new style, it may take some time to full gel but some class players such as Matej Vydra coming in as part of the Pozzo family’s portfolio, Watford have the quality to reach these heights. With potential players from Udinese and Granada to come over as well as cash, Watford can be the surprise team of the season.
Relegation – Bristol City –> Derek McInnes’ side barely avoided relegation last season and with key players leaving or already left, it looks like a major season of struggle for the Robins.
Millwall –> Were surprisingly in a mini-relegation fight last season as they stumbled towards a 16th place finish. If Andy Keogh can bang the goals in, then they might just be ok, if not…
Peterborough United –> Tipped to go down by everyone last season (including me) so an 18th place finish was celebrated in Cambridgeshire. However, the “if we concede 4, we’ll score 5” surely cannot go on much longer, especially as Boro still haven’t filled the void by Craig Mackail-Smith. A struggle awaits.
Final positions: 1st – Bolton, 2nd – Blackburn Rovers, 3rd – Cardiff City, 4th – Leicester City, 5th – Leeds United, 6th – Watford, 7th – Blackpool, 8th – Birmingham City, 9th – Wolves, 10th – Sheffield Wednesday, 11th – Middlesbrough, 12th – Charlton Athletic, 13th – Brighton, 14th – Ipswich Town, 15th – Burnley, 16th – Nottingham Forest, 17th – Hull City, 18th – Crystal Palace, 19th – Derby County, 20th – Huddersfield Town, 21st – Barnsley, 22nd – Bristol City, 23rd – Millwall, 24th – Peterborough United
LEAGUE ONE: Winner – Swindon Town –> League 1 this season is really quite evenly matched I feel so picking the main clubs took AGES. I’ve gone with Swindon to win the league as they have improved on an excellent squad and Di Canio has the determination and drive to keep pushing this side up. How long will he stay on for though?
2nd – Doncaster Rovers –> After last season’s shambles with the Willie McKay experiment, Doncaster boss Dean Saunders has gone back to basics and used his contacts to sign Dave Cotterill and Robbie Blake. If they can replace Sharp’s goals then Donny should bounce straight back.
Play-offs – Sheffield United –> Here we are again. After being oh so close to finish oh so far from the Championship, I think United will just miss out on the automatic spots again and have to deal with the play-off lottery. Desperately need a striker who can score the goals Ched Evans did to push them up.
MK Dons –> Is Karl Robinson worth the hype? MK Dons with a decent budget and Robinson have been made one of the bookies favourites and signings such as Alan Smith and Jimmy Bullard will help their cause. But so far MK Dons under Robinson have missed out when it mattered most and with owner Pete Winkelman demanding automatic promotion can it be done this time? I can’t see it.
Bournemouth –> With some Russian investment and a gun ho attack to trouble any defence, Bournemouth should be right up there this season. If they can get some defensive solidity going and avoid the PR mishaps of last season, they might be even further up.
Coventry City –> I had fancied Cov to reach the play-offs even before boss Andy Thorn was sacked earlier this week. Some new blood, in new surroundings should be the detox Coventry need to start reaching the higher end of the league table again.
Relegated – Walsall –> Even by being in this league, Walsall are punching well above their weight and it seems it will be this season that they drop down into League 2. 6 first teamers from last season turned down a new deal and with a new crop of players on a limited budget, a struggle seems inevitable.
Bury –> Were probably going to struggle anyway before Richie Barker decided to join Crawley. Now with a new boss coming in (still not picked as I write this) and a team in need of more quality, Bury could be joining old friends Rochdale in the basement next season.
Leyton Orient –> What a difference a year makes! Last season I tipped them for automatic promotion before no win in their first 10 games set the scene for a season of struggle. The new players that have come in need to make a quick impact or there could be very few wins at all.
Hartlepool United –> An awful home record last season for the Pools hindered their chance of finishing higher than 13th, but with key players on their way out, Neale Cooper will need to use all his experience to keep them up this season.
Final positions: 1st – Swindon Town, 2nd – Doncaster Rovers, 3rd – Sheffield Utd, 4th – MK Dons, 5th – Bournemouth, 6th – Coventry City, 7th – Preston NE, 8th – Brentford, 9th – Carlisle Utd, 10th – Stevenage, 11th – Tranmere Rovers, 12th – Scunthorpe Utd, 13th – Colchester Utd, 14th – Notts County, 15th – Crewe Alex, 16th – Yeovil Town, 17th – Crawley Town, 18th – Shrewsbury Town, 19th – Oldham Athletic, 20th – Portsmouth, 21st – Hartlepool Utd, 22nd – Leyton Orient, 23rd – Walsall, 24th - Bury
LEAGUE TWO: Winner – Rotherham United –> While odious Steve Evans is in charge of the club they aren’t going to win much support from neutrals, but with a large wage budget (sound familiar?) and new ground to get the locals in, this should be Rotherham’s year.
2nd – Fleetwood Town –> Much like Crawley last season, when Fleetwood finally find their feet at FL level (which shouldn’t be long), the players they have at their disposal (John Parkin, Steve Gillespie, etc) should take a promotion place. Only won’t be first because of the loss of Jamie Vardy to Leicester.
3rd – Gillingham –> Martin Allen has inherited an already decent side that just missed out on the play-offs last season. With some “Mad-Dog” magic and Andy Frampton to sow up defensive problems, the Gills should easily reach the Top 7, with 3rd place being a realistic chance too.
Play-offs – Southend United –> I feel that Southend, despite improving their already excellent squad with players such as Anthony Straker and Freddy Eastwood, will just miss out on automatic promotion and will have to settle for the play-offs again.
Bristol Rovers –> I tipped Bristol Rovers to go up last season and in the end they did fuck all under Paul Buckle before he was rightly punted for Mark McGhee. McGhee turned the season around and finished in 13th which should be a good stepping stone for a play-off charge this time out.
Oxford United –> Pressure is growing on boss Chris Wilder to finally deliver a play-off place for the Us and I think as long as they can keep striker James Constable at the club (and scoring goals!) then a Top 7 spot should be theirs.
Exeter City –> Probably the only relegated club from League 1 last season that I can see making a good stab at an instant return to the league above. They will need to improve defensively but new signing Kevin Amankwaah looks to have already made a good impact. Good offensive qualities with players such as Alan Gow and Guillem Bauzà will test League 2 defences also.
Relegated – AFC Wimbledon –> Maybe in today’s footballing world, Wimbledon’s natural league is one league lower than they currently are. After storming into the FL last season, an awful mid-season saw them lose a lot of games and in the end they recovered to finish 16th. With a small budget and defensive frailties, maybe the Dons will be wombling back to the Conference.
Barnet –> Their last season at Underhill before they move to “The Hive” next season and into the London Borough of Hendon. I’ve read comments from some fans who are clearly annoyed at the decision to completely move away from Barnet and this is surely going to effect them on the pitch. With a new rookie boss, he will need all the resources he can take, but releasing your club’s top goal scorer is a bizarre and laughable decision.
Final positions: 1st – Rotherham Utd, 2nd – Fleetwood Town, 3rd – Gillingham, 4th – Southend Utd, 5th – Bristol Rovers, 6th – Oxford Utd, 7th – Exeter City, 8th – Chesterfield, 9th – Cheltenham Town, 10th – Torquay Utd, 11th – Wycombe Wanderers, 12th – Aldershot Town, 13th – Rochdale, 14th – Port Vale, 15th – Bradford City, 16th – Morecambe, 17th – Accrington Stanley, 18th – York City, 19th – Northampton Town, 20th – Plymouth Argyle, 21st – Burton Albion, 22nd – Dag & Red, 23rd – AFC Wimbledon, 24th – Barnet
SCOTTISH PREMIER: It seems fairly pointless to write out a spiel for all 12 clubs here so I’ll keep it brief. Scotland’s 2nd shame should coast to league title and Dundee United should have enough quality (and consistency) in their squad to keep Hearts and one season wonders Motherwell away from 2nd. Dundee look hopeless and should fall back down to D1, although promoting them with only a couple of weeks to go before the season isn’t their fault, nice of the SFA to resolve the Rangers debacle quickly!
1st – Celtic, 2nd – Dundee United, 3rd – Motherwell, 4th – Aberdeen, 5th – Hearts, 6th – Hibs, 7th – St Johnstone, 8th – Ross County, 9th – St Mirren, 10th – Kilmarnock, 11th – Inverness CT, 12th - Dundee