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Season Preview

With the traditional season curtan raiser less than twenty four hours away, and the serious stuff beginning for us on Wednesday in Arnhem, I thought it might be worthwhile assessing each team's chances and put my proverbials on the line by predicting their eventual finish. Of course there is still time for business to be done with the transfer window not closing until 31st August. With the transfer market looking very slow this summer as economic realities bite, I would expect there to be a lot of last minute business to be done close to the deadline this year. With the obscene amounts of money pouring into the top flight, precitions such as this have become easier than ever and the league is as predictable and monastic as it has ever been. The main area of interest therefore has to be the small band of clubs chasing fifth place.

ARSENAL- The harsh lessons learned last season as well as the disappointment should spur Arsenal on and imbue them with a little more wisdom. However, in Gilberto, Lehmann, Hleb and Flamini; Arsenal have lost experience they have not begun to replace. Wenger will have to buy a world class keeper, a domineering centre half and a defensive midfielder before the window closes or else Arsenal will not be champions. Crossing one's fingers for better luck with injuries is not a tactic that fills me with much hope I am afraid. We need to plan for them, particularly with the brittle trio of Rosicky, van Persie (wish I could get a pay rise for taking six months sick leave a year) and Diaby. That said, the development of Walcott and Bendtner, the arrivals of Vela and Nasri and the retention of Adebayor make us the most potent attack in the league. Prediction: 2nd.

ASTON VILLA: The summer has been disrupted by the ongoing saga surrounding captain Gareth Barry. I can understand O'Neill holding out for a big price, but his constant harping to the media has allowed his preparation to become disrupted. This has also hamstrung his own attempts at bringing players in. Friedel and Sidwell look decent purchases, but Mellberg has yet to be replaced and they do not possess a single recognised right back. But expect Agbonlohor and Young to develop further this year.
Prediciton: 7th.

BLACKBURN ROVERS: Questions abound as to whether Paul Ince can make the jump from League Two to the Premiership. Personally, I think it's too big a jump too soon and that Rovers will struggle without Hughes. Friedel and Bentley were big players and the signing of Robinson is a very poor one. Hanging onto Santa Cruz will be vital but who's to say he won't be a one season wonder? Particularly without Bentley's delivery and with Gamst off the boil. Tough season ahead. I don't expect Ince to last beyond January.
Prediction: 15th.

BOLTON WANDERERS: Survived last season largely due to Reading's total lack of desire to save themselves, Megson looks to have spent poorly this summer, £11m Elmander looks risky to me. At least Fat Sam's flops were cheap! Diouf and Campo have gone and Nolan's steakand kidney pie addiction shows no sign of abaiting. Bolton will drop and I won't be sorry to see them go.
Prediction: 18th

CHELSEA: Will be more hungry than ever after last season's disappointments, they surprisingly haven't upset the apple cart with a wholesale squad change and have hung onto Drogba and Lampard. Expect a winger, probably Robinho, to arrive and complete the picture. Scolari is Mourinho like in his winning mentality and, provided Abramovich keeps his oar out, I see this being Chelsea's year. Ruthless in defence, dangerous upfront and with very wounded pride.
Prediction: 1st.

EVERTON: The club who have favoured stability and prudence over big words and broken promises will chase UEFA qualification again this year. Though they rarely make big splashes in the market, you get the feeling the silence on the transfer front could harm them. A long term injury to Cahill, Yakubu or Arteta could ruin them. However, with £11m deposited in their account for the sale of the one season wonder Johnson, expect a few arrivals to little media fanfare.
Prediction: 6th.

FULHAM: Hodgson seems determined to build on last season's miracle escape, having bought Johnson and Zamora to carry the threat now the excellent McBride has departed. The signings made in Janaury have now bedded in and Bullard is fit again. However, they still look to have a little bit of a soft centre. They'll struggle, but not as badly as last year.
Prediction: 16th.

HULL CITY: Will be eager not to beat Derby's poorest points tally. No chance of survival.
Prediction: Errr, can they finish any lower than 20th?

LIVERPOOL: Simply cannot seem to maintain any stability under Benitez, with playing staff seemingly transforming every summer. For every Torres, Agger and Babel, there are a dozen Kromkamps and Bellamys. I'm not sure where Keane fits into the equation, but I think another season of heavy rotation is on the cards. With Crouch sold their most potent plan B has disappeared. Expect more reliance on the flat track bully that is Stevie Me (he of a thousand shots a game and zero football brain) and the sublime Torres will have to prove he's no one season wonder and start scoring away from Anfield.
Prediction: 4th.

MANCHESTER CITY: Have hired a good manager in Mark Hughes, but they had a good manager and the mentalist Shinwatra sacked him.Hard to see what Hughes can do to avoid the same fate. Jo has no Premiership pedigree and I do wonder how much Hughes has to dowith signings. City have the set up and potential for a good season, but expect their meglomaniacal owner to ruin it all. Prediction: 9th

MANCHESTER UNITED: Following last season's heady heights, the target for United will be to maintain the hunger. I may be setting myself up for a fall, but I think the Ronaldo situation will harm them. He has intimated he will leave next summer, which is a very unhealthy situation. Ferguson should have been his ruthless self and cashed in. Now I can see Ronaldo's ego overtaking the team ethic, as the players scrabble to give him the ball every time he demands it and sacrificing their own talents to please him. I cannot see how his mind can be on the job and I can see his inflated self opinion getting the better of him, to the detriment of the team. Particularly if they bring in a striker as Fergie has promised, I can see that clashing with Ronaldo's vanity.
Prediction: 3rd.

MIDDLESBROUGH: More of the same, Southgate seems to be learning his trade and I think we'll see a good campaign from Afonso Alves, but they don't seem quite ready to kick on from mid table to challenge for UEFA qualification. More mediocrity for Boro.
Prediction: 11th.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Hamstrung in the transfer market, ownership confusion, a hierachy that doesn't seem to talk to the manager about their plans and a manager who's walked away from a challenge more than pnce in his life. I think Keegan will get fed up with Ashley and leave before November and the Geordies will once again be confined to their perennial soap opera. The continued employment of Joey Barton will see them take heat from the press and I don't see Keggy, nice a fella as he is, coping with that.
Prediction: 14th.

PORTSMOUTH: I do wish Redknapp would shut his trap and stop moaning about his squad (you're in charge of them Harry) because Crouch is an excellent addition and will look to develop a deadly partnership with Defoe. Though I feel Campbell is getting on and a quality centre half for cover is necessary, put with the likes of Diarra, Kranjcar, Crouch and James on board, I expect Pompey to help their league campaign by going out of Europe early, but storming to fifth.
Prediction: 5th

STOKE CITY: The route one football that bought Stoke up won't cut ice in the top flight, a little more variety will be required and I don't see that Stoke have the players to do it. Hard to see them staying up.
Prediction: 19th

SUNDERLAND: Roy Keane will have learned lessons in the transfer market last year after purchasing a lot of dead wood and has bought in top flight experience. Having avoided the drop, the Mackems will find mid table obscurity just hunky dory thanks.
Prediction: 12th.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Spurs had no problems scoring last season, but their problems were all defensive. The signings of Hutton and Woodgate in January looked good, but relying on a pairing of King and Woodgate will not bare fruit long term. A lot of very similar lightweight playmakers have been added to the mix, if it's true they're looking to replace Berbatov with Ashton, then it's not hard to see why Ramos' points return was behind Jol's. That said, they will improve on last season, selling Robinson alone ensures that.
Prediction: 8th.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION: The perennial yo yo club will now look to finally establish themselves as a topflight outfit. This season will be a struggle, but they will be aware of that from the offand I think the Baggies will stay up. Then they can worry about maintaining their status.
Prediction: 17th.

WEST HAM UNITED: More of the same from Curbishley, ensure survival by January and then stop bothering. With West Ham having to readjust their cloth in the wake of Magnusson's departure. Curbishley needs to stop signing treatment table dwellers to challenge for Europe. That said, considering the state the Hammers when Curbs took over, perhaps he is being harshly dealt with.
Prediction: 10th.

WIGAN ATHLETIC: Bruce did a fantastic job steering the Latics away from the drop and will look to kick on and a mid table finish will be his aim. I think he can achieve it too, Bruce will have learned lessons from his stint at Brimingham and I see an average season of obscurity for the Latics. Which will suit them just fine.
Prediction: 13th.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday August 9 2008

Time: 5:29PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
only on vital arse would you find this kind of article
Report Abuse
09/08/2008 19:03:00

You'll find something similar on VitalSpuds too only a little less grounded than this one.
Report Abuse
09/08/2008 20:03:00

True, it's not like it's an open letter with instructions to the manager that can't read english.You find those at spurs!.Anyway, the top 4 sounds about right, I can see Liverpool slipping to fifth though.Aston Villa and pompey are most likely to pressure pool.
Report Abuse
09/08/2008 20:07:00

I share your concerns about the Arsenal LD. This season, we will need a lot of luck with injury and ref decisions to win the Premiership. Though the optimist in me suggests that might still happen, realistically, it might be too much to ask for. Cant see Chelsea winning it, for me, its still going to be ManU & Arsenal chasing the title for large parts of the season.
Report Abuse
09/08/2008 20:10:00

Everyone needs the luck, decisions and run of the ball prits. You can't win it without those in you favour. We were a little more ready for the season this time last year I feel. It's as well that our start isn't the toughest because I reckon that we will be a few weeks into the season before we are at the same point physically as we started the last.
Report Abuse
09/08/2008 20:16:00

id say ur dreaming mate
Report Abuse
10/08/2008 00:33:00

I think the title race this year could become very interesting. ManU could win it because they are filled with quality, Chelsea could win it because they have quality, a desire for revenge and an inspiring new manager, and Arsenal (with a bit of luck) could win it too because we have a dangerous squad and a f*c*i*n*g genius of a manager!
Report Abuse
10/08/2008 01:15:00

Spurs could win it too if you'll only included the lower-half of the table.
Report Abuse
10/08/2008 02:35:00

last year we "were" winning it til the last few games of the season. this season we have lost 2 key players IMO (hleb & flam, becos jens and bert only played bit parts last season). but we have brought in nasri and vela. and all our so called "youngsters" are a year older, and they are hungry to prove their worth. i think we can do it.
Report Abuse
10/08/2008 04:31:00

Good appraisal of the Latics Tim, makes a change from people talking about our crowds or the rugby, cheers
Report Abuse
10/08/2008 10:29:00

That's one ballsy prediction LD. As things stand today, I'm not as confident as you. I would have put both us and the Spuds a couple of positions further down :-)
Report Abuse
10/08/2008 17:33:00

Think Broadmoor's calling Timmy. I know that's high security but some of those predictions really were criminal :)
Report Abuse
10/08/2008 21:21:00

I'd had a few, maybe you're right, maybe I was too generous to Tottenham.
Little Dutch
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10/08/2008 21:26:00

It's a miracle for an Gooner to predict us higher then 18 so I'm over the moon at 8. I knew you loved us
Report Abuse
10/08/2008 21:54:00

So Jol is now better than Ramos because we were linked in the sun to dean ashton? first of all our points total was so bad because when jol left we were 18th in the league. Come on try harder u can do better than that. A lot of very similar lightweight midfielders... you mean like nasri ramsey and fabregas? and best attack in the league, are you joking? a fine attack it may be but adebayor walcott and Vela is not Rooney Tevez and Ronaldo is it?
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 00:41:00

Firstly, Vela and Walcott are back ups, it's Adebayor, RvP, Rosicky and Nasri. And yes, I think that matches and outstrips anything in the league at the moment. Who are United's back ups? Saha? The fact is, it just looks to me Spurs have spent a lot of money on very similar players, all of whom are attacking when Tottenham's major problem was defensive. Nothing has been done to rectify that beyond selling one of the Premiership's worst keepers. And Jol bought you two fifth place finishes, realistically, that is the absolute maximum return you can get from Ramos too, because the top four is virtually impenetrable. Spurs' league improvement under Ramos was non existent and the statistics bear that out, had Ramos' points total been evened out through the whole season, you'd have finished 10th. Hardly a massive imrpovement on the 11th place you actually managed. Seriously, you finished in the bottom half last year, why do you guys think you have a divine right to have everyone revere you? You're a midtable club, get over it.
Little Dutch
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11/08/2008 09:08:00

Think we'll struggle to be 1st or 2nd this season. Don't think we've really strengthened from the last campaign, we have just replaced people who were leaving. Very frustrating, considering last season our much-bemoaned problem was a lack of strength in depth.
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 10:22:00

Why do people think The Arsenal will struggle??? We have lost two players only who contributed anything last season, Hleb and Flamoney. We have replaced Hleb and Flamini's replacement is round the corner (Wenger said he would purchase someone) we have added to our squad with Bischoff, Vela and Ramsey and the youngest squad in the EPL is now a year older. That is more strengthening than Man Utd and Chelski put together. Only Liverhoof have improved mor ethan us, might even see them lastuntil January in a title race for once!
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 12:37:00

Woodgate Hutton Gomes and Gunter? theres 24million pounds worth of defensive talent ive just mentioned. But nothings been done to rectify that youre right...Plus the excellent Gareth Bale is now fit. Youre a talented writer and i suppose its what *****es me off so much about you, the amount of ***** you come up with about our team. but i suppose what else do i expect from a gooner. good luck this season.
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11/08/2008 13:32:00

Just my opinion. Like I said, Woodgate is a sicknote as is King, do Spurs have the depth to cover two centre halves who have an injury record to rival Darren Anderton? Hutton and Woodgate came into the team last season and couldn't stem the tide, they will a but now they've played together some more. But the fact is, you finished 11th last season, I've predicted a big improvement on that and you still get *****ty? This is what I mean, the mass delusion of Spurs fans beggars belief. I don't understand what evidence there is that dictates the Premiership should be *****ting their pants about Tottenham. Especially when you've all been desperately trying to convince us Robbie Keane has been world class all this time. If he's half as good as you've been saying he is, you're in trouble. Thankfully for you, he's not.
Little Dutch
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11/08/2008 14:00:00

Come the season kick off Sp*rs will have been 1 whole year without seeing the top half of the table. 8th is a more than fair prediction.
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11/08/2008 15:00:00

I think after kast years pathetic surrender in the league, almost from day one, Spurs should be grateful any fan that follows one of the "big four" agree's they will improve. They have signed some good players, but scoring goals wasn't the problem for them last season and they haven't as yet bought anyone to help stem the tide of goals, why higher than 8th then?
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 15:48:00

Because now...they have.... The Special Juan, amigos!
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11/08/2008 17:56:00

Mass delusion? You need to take a look at yourselves lads. You think youre about to finish higher than the european champions. Personally i think we will finish 6th and id be delighted with that, however many people again are tipping us for the top4 and although thats impossible at the moment you can see why theyre doing it with the team weve assembled at the moment.
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 17:59:00

The goals tightened up big time when we had woody and hutton, and robbo was dropped. No improvement...errr we were 18th when Jol took over Ramos despite focusing on the excellent cup runs we had last year got us up to 11th despite a carling cup hangover also. Nobodys saying the prem should be scared..what are you on about? i just deeply disagree with your judgement on our chances this year, the way youve slagged of Ramos because he was linked 2weeks ago on page57 of the star to dean ashton, the fact weve signed 2many lightyweight midfielders (real funny that one coming from arguably the most lightweight midfield in the prem) although talented, but so is ours. And your definatley not deluded opinion that you have the best attack in the league and that youre about to finish higher than man utd. But like i said before what did i expect, a fair and balanced opinion of us...on here??? What was i thinking!!??!
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 18:07:00

It is an opinion HudYid. It is rationalised. The arguments are made and supported. Your only beef is that it doesn't place you as high as you would like to be and it places Arsenal higher than you would like to see us. But it is just opinion. If what you want is to indulge in an orgy of Spurs salivation then VitalSpuds and anyone of at least 3 front page articles declaring that a 5-0 win in a friendly against Roma entitles you to claim that Europe will be crushed as Spurs will now sweep all before them should more than satisfy your lust for more favourable, if slightly hysterical, judgement of your chances of success.
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 19:15:00

You think you'll finish sixth, I think eighth, I say at the beginning of the article the only difficult part of the league to predict is the chase for fifth. I really don't see what your beef is for that hysterical reaction. Our lightweight midfield did well enough to finish four points off the top of the league, is predicting a four point swing really deluded? Surely no more deluded than predicting a jump from 11th to 6th.
Little Dutch
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 22:30:00

Its not the position at all im cross with although it is a opinion i disagree with. Its the reasons behind it you stated which annoyed me. And exactly your lightweight midfield proved that size isnt everything and talent is the most imprtant attribute. We have bought lightweight midfielders in Gio, Bentley and Modric yes but like you said its works well for you why not for us. I think Ramos likes his sides to keep possession and attack with pace and creativity,so im hoping it will work. Anyways im bored of this now were never gonna agree you keep changing your argument. Good luck in ur champs league qualifier.
Report Abuse
11/08/2008 23:10:00

Our midfield being too lightweight is precisely the reason I've written off my own team's chances of the title, I think you'll find my assessment of Arsenal was quite harsh in places. And is it really deluded to think we can finish above the European Champions? It only requires a four point swing. When Liverpool won the CL in 05 we finished three places above them! Bottom line, I've predicted a big imrpovement for Spurs, but still think you have a decent attack but a gash defence. End of.
Little Dutch
Report Abuse
12/08/2008 09:05:00

But LD - you never said the spuddies were gonna win something or finish 4th or higher.....! Boo hoo, Waaaaah!
Report Abuse
12/08/2008 14:17:00

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12/08/2008 14:23:00

Unnited4life, don;t forget there was only 4 points seperating the top 3 teams last season and results were close enough that the order could of changed overnight, so 3rd is a possibility for all 3 teams, but then so is 1st!!!
Report Abuse
12/08/2008 15:09:00


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