By: Tyler Garling
Manager – Arsène Wenger
Key Players – Santi Carzola, Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen
Prediction – 4th
Bottom Line – Many Arsenal supporters were unsure if Wenger was right to sell Robin van Persie to Manchester United over the summer, but with two great attackers in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, their worries will be lifted if the German and Frenchman can find the back of the net. A good home record and playmakers in Santi Carzola and young Englishman Jack Wilshere will secure Arsenal a fourth place finish. Hopefully, Wilshere can make this season a tremendous one after he was out for 14 months due to injury.
Manager – Paul Lambert
Key Players – Darren Bent, Marc Albrighton, Stephen Ireland
Prediction – 12th
Bottom Line – After sacking the very unpopular Alex McLeish, The Villains brought in former Norwich City manager Paul Lambert. If Darren Bent and Stephen Ireland perform well, Aston Villa will be happy after match days. However, many of Villa’s players like Marc Albrighton and Charles N’Zogbia have inconsistent form; Aston Villa will most likely finish anywhere from 12th to 14th.
Manager – Roberto Di Matteo*
Key Players – Eden Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata
Prediction – 3rd
Bottom Line – Having secured the FA Cup and the long awaited Champions League last season, The Blues are feeling anything but their nickname. Manager Roberto Di Matteo did a fantastic job during the transfer window bringing in young talents like Eden Hazard and future Brazilian maestro Oscar. Chelsea, arguably, has the best midfield in the league. However, with Didier Drogba gone, the striking role falls upon Fernando Torres. Torres has the midfield to do the dirty work for him, with Hazard, Juan Mata, and Oscar both incredible playmakers, but Torres will need to score like he did at Liverpool if Chelsea wants to win the title this year. When January rolls around, we could see Torres packing his bags and Atlético Madrid striker Falcao taking his place as Chelsea’s number 9. Even if Falcao comes in, it may be too late for Chelsea to secure the title, which may cost Di Matteo his job.
*Di Matteo was sacked after Chelsea lost 3-0 to Italian club Juventus in the Champions League on November 20, 2012. On November 21, 2012, Rafa Benetiz was appointed as the new interim manager until the end of the season.
Manager – David Moyes
Key Players – Leighton Baines, Steven Naismith, Marouane Fellaini
Prediction – 7th
Bottom Line – Everton have had an amazing start to the season. The Toffees have also lived in the shadow of Merseyside neighbors Liverpool, but may very well finish above them for a second consecutive season. Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini will be very important in Everton’s plans for success. Former Rangers striker Steven Naismith will want to forget about the injury that kept him from playing for most of last season and do his job up front. If Everton can keep their form going, they will be very happy this season. Everton’s start was incredible, but they’ll find it difficult to keep the streak going. If the rumors are true and Fellaini leaves Everton in the winter, the team will struggle.
Manager – Martin Jol
Key Players – Hugo Rodallega, Dimitar Berbatov, Mladen Petric
Prediction – 9th
Bottom Line – Fulham sold American superstar Clint Dempsey to Tottenham over the summer. Unfortunately for Fulham, he was their top scorer and best player. Fulham also sold Moussa Dembélé to Tottenham. With two of their best players gone, Fulham will have trouble competing to stay in the top half of the table, unless Dimitar Berbatov, whom Fulham bought from Manchester United over the summer, can provide the goals. If they perform well, they have a chance at achieving a 9th place finish, but I see them sitting comfortably in 10th when the end of the season rolls around.
Manager – Brendan Rodgers
Key Players – Luis Suárez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger
Prediction – 6th
Bottom Line – It’s been tough to be a Liverpool supporter in recent years (trust me). Liverpool’s performances in the past five years would’ve been shocking to any scouser back during the70’s and 80’s. Liverpool has been desperate to bring glory days back to Anfield. After sacking Kenny Dalglish, the Reds brought in young, former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers. With a new playing philosophy, Rodgers wants to be the man to make the people happy. Liverpool made two great buys during the transfer window, Joe Allen and Fabio Borini, but failed to replace Andy Carroll (who went on loan to West Ham) during the final day of the transfer window. Rodgers will definitely want to compensate for his mistake in January and bring in another striker to help take the pressure off of Luis Suárez. Liverpool needs to make Anfield a fortress and keep developing young players like Raheem Sterling and Suso. Though a 7th-6th place finish is Liverpool’s diagnosis, the future is starting to look bright.
Manager – Roberto Mancini
Key Players – Sergio Agüero, Vincent Kompany, David Silva
Prediction – 1st
Bottom Line – Manchester City was my favorite team to watch last season. Sergio Agüero’s last minute goal against QPR won them the league but, more importantly for City fans, snatched the title away from town rivals Manchester United. The question for Mancini though is if he can do it again. City has one of the best squads in the Premier League, with talents like Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tévez, Joe Hart, and Samir Nasri (along with their key players) all available for a starting XI. If City’s players perform past their expectations, City will have two Premier League titles. Hopefully for Mancini, he won’t have weekly headliner Mario Balotelli causing fireworks again and players taking vacations. City are big spenders and didn’t do much action in the summer transfer window, with the only big names being Jack Rodwell , Maicon, and Javier García, so they might take full advantage of the January transfer window. City does have a tendency to leave things late and win at the last minute. If City does what they did last year, lighting will strike twice and there will be happiness at the Etihad once again.
Manager – Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Players – Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic
Prediction – 2nd
Bottom Line – Manchester United is very similar to the United States basketball team, they can easily dominate opponents, but they aren’t the Dream Team anymore. United made perhaps the greatest buy over the summer in last season’s top scorer Robin van Persie and the Rooney-van Persie striking partnership is becoming what every Red Devil dreamed of. On top of that, they have two great strikers in Danny Welback and Javier Hernández. Though they have a very strong frontline, their midfield isn’t very strong. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs can only play so many more games until Fergie will need to oil them up to keep them going. If skipper Nemanja Vidic can stay healthy, which he probably can’t, United’s defense will be in shipshape. Goalkeeper David de Gea needs to find the confidence that he didn’t have throughout last season if United wants to win the title. Though the title race will be very close, I think the feelings around Old Trafford will be very reminiscent of last year.
Manager – Alan Pardew
Key Players – Papiss Cissé, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye
Prediction – 5th
Bottom Line – Newcastle performed unusually well last season with strikers like Papiss Cissé and Demba Ba playing incredibly well. The biggest question for Newcastle this year is if they perform like they did last year. The French duo of Ben Arfa and Cabaye will provide Newcastle with some creativity on their wings and midfield and if skipper Fabricio Coloccini puts in outstanding performances, Newcastle won’t have many worries. Pardew will want to get Cissé and Ba working together up front and score for fun. I worry that expectations will be too high for Newcastle fans and they may be disappointed at the end of the season. A Champions League finish is possible, but unlikely.
Manager – Chris Hughton
Key Players – Grant Holt, John Ruddy, Wes Hoolahan
Prediction – 15th
Bottom Line – After previous manager Paul Lambert left for Aston Villa, the Canaries brought in former Birmingham City manager Chris Hughton. This was a great move for the Canaries since Hughton has a point to prove in the Premier League. Grant Holt, a player well overdue for an England call up, will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to provide the goals, but he’s used to it. Holt staying faithful to Norwich was great news for the club and, hopefully, he’ll get that long desired England cap. John Ruddy will also need to be exceptional in goal, much like he was last year. Wes Hoolahan will also be called upon to create the goals. Norwich City may suffer from “second season syndrome” where teams that were promoted to the Premier League the season before (Norwich City were promoted to the Premier League during the 2011-2012 season) find it difficult to survive a second season. Norwich City have never been one to give up and, though they’ll have some close calls, they should survive again.
Queens Park Rangers
Manager – Mark Hughes*
Key Players – Adel Taarabt, Ji-Sung Park, Junior Hoilett
Prediction – 17th
Bottom Line – For many, the final day of the 2011-2012 season was all about Manchester City but, for QPR, it was all about survival. A loss to City would’ve meant relegation for QPR but, thankfully, they survived due to a result from another game being played. Owner Tony Fernandes definitely allowed Mark Hughes to spend the cash over the summer hoping to avoid a repeat of last season. Ji-Sung Park (Manchester United), Junior Hoilett (Blackburn Rovers), Andy Johnson (Fulham), Robert Green (West Ham), Júlio César (Inter) all joined the London side. However, QPR have struggled in the beginning of the season and are facing relegation. The pressure is on Hughes to deliver the wins because if he doesn’t, QPR will be looking for a new manager. It may take a lot more than a new manager (or some motivation) to rescue QPR from relegation.
*On November 23, 2012, Mark Hughes was sacked after a run of poor results. The following day, former Tottenham manager Harry Redkanpp was appointed manager.
Manager – Brian McDermott
Key Players -Pavel Pogrebnyak, Adam Federici, Adam Le Fondre
Prediction – 20th
Bottom Line – Reading won the Championship last year thanks to a good defense and some good attacking. However, the Premier League is a whole different game. Reading hasn’t been playing on the same caliber they did last year and that will not help them in the highest tier. Though some teams have revived their success during the middle of the season, Reading simply doesn’t have the talent to do so. Pogrebnyak is a good attacker and will provide the goals, but he won’t score like his opponents. Reading will have some wins here and there, but their results will consist of mostly losses and draws. Survival will be the objective for Reading, but the newly promoted club may be enjoying the Championship yet again when next season rolls around.
Manager – Nigel Adkins
Key Players – Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Gastón Ramírez
Prediction – 18th
Bottom Line – Southampton’s Premier League storyline will be very similar to Reading’s. Though they finished second in the Championship, they will find it very hard to survive in the Premier League. Rickie Lambert, who many thought would take the league by storm, has been performing exceptionally well against his superior opposition. Southampton will find the Premier League to be a struggle and will most likely be back in the Championship.
Manager – Tony Pulis
Key Players – Peter Crouch, Michael Kightly, Ryan Shawcross
Prediction – 11th
Bottom Line – Stoke is one of the biggest, as in the literal sense, teams in the Premier League. Though they play “long ball” soccer, their players play it well. Peter Crouch is one of my favorite strikers to watch and will make Stoke fans happy throughout the season. Ryan Shawcross will have the motivation of earning an England cap to help him play better during the season. Stoke have nothing to worry about this season and will continue being a mid-table club.
Manager – Martin O’Neill
Key Players – Stéphane Sessegnon, Steven Fletcher, Sebastian Larsson
Prediction – 10th
Bottom Line – Martin O’Neill has been an exceptional manager for Sunderland and the Black Cats don’t need to worry about relegation. However, they do need to worry about their striking options. While Steven Fletcher is a fairly good player, they may need to bring in some more talent during the January transfer window. Sessegnon will be a driving force in the midfield and Larsson will provide some assistance. Sunderland will sit comfortably in the middle of the table.
Manager – Michael Laudrup
Key Players – Michu, Leon Britton, Nathan Dyer
Prediction – 16th
Bottom Line – Recently, people have compared Swansea’s style of play to that of Barcelona’s, pass the ball, keep possession, tire out your opponent and go for goal. Unfortunately, Brendan Rodgers instilled that philosophy into the team, but he’s traded the Swans for Liverbirds. Another huge loss for Swansea is Joe Allen also going to Liverpool and Gylfi Sigurðsson going to Tottenham. New manager Michael Laudrup will hope to retain the playing style Rodgers implemented. He also did some very nice work in bringing striker Michu from Spanish side Rayo Vallecano. Michu has been spectacular at the beginning of the season. Leon Britton and Nathan Dyer will both be able to support Michu in scoring. Swansea will face the relegation battle here and there, but I think they’ll be able to survive for a second consecutive season.
Manager – André Villas Boas
Key Players – Gareth Bale, Scott Parker, Clint Dempsey
Prediction – 8th
Bottom Line – Tottenham’s preseason was a stumper for me. Harry Redknapp, who did an excellent job at Spurs, was sacked. An even bigger question was if bringing in André Villas Boas from Chelsea was the right move. AVB was humiliated at Chelsea and couldn’t handle the pressure from owner Roman Abramovich. Though he won the treble at Porto, AVB hasn’t been able to replicate his success in England. Though bringing in Gylfi Sigurðsson, Jan Vertonghen, and American Clint Dempsey were great moves, I wonder if they’ll take the place of Luka Modrić who went to Real Madrid. Welshman Gareth Bale will continue to threaten the opposition with his speed, pace, crossing, skills (and everything else. That boy is incredible). Scott Parker in midfield will also be able to create some good goal scoring chances for Spurs. I hope AVB gets the time he needs at Tottenham. Champions League is unlikely this season for Spurs, but I wouldn’t doubt that they’ll be playing in it in a few years.
Manager – Steve Clarke
Key Players – Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie, Romelu Lukaku
Prediction – 14th
Bottom Line – Having worked under managers like Kenny Dalglish and José Mourinho, Steve Clarke now has the opportunity to manage a team all on his own. Shane Long will be expected to provide the goals along with Peter Odemwingie. Clarke has the experience to guide West Brom to success, but I see them sitting comfortably in anywhere from 16th to 14th. West Brom proved they can handle the big teams after beating Liverpool 3-0 on the first day of the season. West Brom will want to continue getting results like that against the likes of Chelsea and the two Manchester teams.
Manager – Sam Allardyce
Key Players – Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll, Mohamed Diamé
Prediction – 13th
Bottom Line – West Ham is a big stumper for me. Though they have a good team, they struggle to get the results they want. Kevin Nolan will be a major playmaker for West Ham and, with the arrival of loanee Andy Carroll, Nolan will have some options in the air. Diamé will also help the midfield. In the case of Carroll, he will want to perform above and beyond if he wants to stay at his parent club Liverpool. West Ham will fight for survival this season and, by the end, the Hammers will be very pleased with the results.
Manager – Roberto Martínez
Key Players – Ali Al-Habsi, Arouna Kone
Prediction – 19th
Bottom Line – Wigan will find this year very difficult since they want to survive in the Premier League again. Wigan lost some good players over the summer and the only interesting talent they brought in is Ivorian Arouna Kone. Kone will threaten the opposition with his speed and pace, but one player isn’t enough. Every year I always think Wigan will finally get relegated and 2012-2013 may be the season that finally knocks them down.