The Premier League’s “Penthouse and Basement”
I really don’t give too much credence to what people predict for the premier league season. So naturally I thought I’d offer yet one more prediction to go with the other one million you can find if you were to just google “Premier League predictions”. Why, you ask? Well, part of it is an unnerving desire to hear myself speak (or see myself type, I suppose). At least I admit it! The other part is that I really have a strong feeling about who will wind up playing Champions League football in 2013/14, and who will find themselves on their way to relegation. After looking at my picks, feel free to make your own “Penthouse and Basement” picks.
Naturally, when we consider who is going to challenge for the Premier League title, it must start with Manchester, both City and United. I would have to be hopped up on goofballs not to consider them as the front-runners for this year’s crown.
The Winners: Manchester City
Manchester City have far too much money, and as a result, far too much talent. It’s really as simple as that. Despite the very close race with their cross-town rivals last year for the crown, with another year of experience together I only expect them to improve their play. From top to bottom, City is a spectacular team. Joe Hart is still an excellent keeper. Their quality in their own end has grown together, as has their midfield, but it’s their play in opposition’s territory that defines them. Mario Balotelli is a year older. Whether that means he is more mature remains to be seen, however, I’m sure he’ll still do something stupid this season. Assume Tevez will play a full year, and there is also that Aguero guy…he’s not bad, eh? City is a team built to win. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go fairly deep in the Champions League as well.
Battling for Top Spot: Manchester United
Relax, United fans. RvP is certainly one of the best strikers in the world and will only help their goal-scoring along with Roo. However, I throw caution to the wind. First, goal-scoring wasn’t their most pressing need this summer. I still feel they might be a little susceptible to the counter and to sloppy play in their own end. Vidic will certainly help. Also, as any Arsenal fan will be very willing to tell you these days, up until last year van Persie’s career has been riddled by injuries – serious, long-term injuries. While we can’t anticipate an injury will occur, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me either. I am only mild on the prospects of Kagawa. He comes highly regarded, but let’s wait and see on him.
Not to be forgotten: Arsenal
Arsenal have lost their captain, again. Last year was Cesc Fabregas, this year Robin van Persie. The difference, however, is that Arsenal seem to have become much more proactive in replacing lost talent. Podolski from the Bundesliga, Giroud from Le Ligue and Cazorla from La Liga are very impressive signings. For me they more than make up for the loss of van Persie. One of Arsenal’s biggest issue last year was having to rely so much on RvP as their second options were not options. But now the team is much deeper, mature, and many holes have been filled. Cazorla will be one of the top attacking midfielders in the Premier League, and look to Giroud (who is a giant) to cause havoc off set pieces this year for the Gunners. Podolski is very highly regarded, and it seems as though Wenger is going to play him more to the middle of the field. If they can get Jack Wilshere healthy again, I like Arsenal to challenge both United and Chelsea for second spot. Expect a slow start to the season considering some major pieces to their squad need time to come together.
* Note: It appears Alex Song is off to Barcelona, and Arsenal will replace him with Nuri Sahin from Real Madrid.
Rounding out 2013-14 Champions League : Chelsea
I really think there is going to a log-jam for second spot this year in the Premier Leauge. I really like the Hazard signing, especially because he complements Oscar and Marin. Chelsea grossly underachieved last year, and with their mammoth Champions League win, I am sure they will rebound strongly this season. Chelsea does have a few big question marks, most importantly surrounding whether Torres will show up or not. If his form returns to that of old, I like Chelsea’s chances to finish top four, and maybe even as high as second. Without Drogba, if Torres plays like he has of late in the Premier League, then I can’t see them making much of a serious challenge for a top spot. You wouldn’t think so much hinges on one player, but I think for Chelsea it does. They have a great unit in midfield, and decent backs led by Ashley Cole (who I regard as the best at his position in the league, and possibly the world), but they ultimately need to regularly score.
Clearly I’ve not gone out on any limb here as many people have predicted very close to what I have. I can only really see Tottenham making a challenge for one of those four spots. They have a great team, but I just don’t like their chemistry. I think we saw that last year. They were off to an incredible start, but fizzled badly to finish the season. Which Spurs team will we see this year?
Let’s switch to the League’s basement. Unfortunately for these teams, I really think they will be hard-pressed to remain in the Prem past this season.
The Bottom of the Bowl: Southampton
As an Arsenal fan I have a soft-spot for Southampton, as it has churned out some great young talent in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott before him. I still think they are a team that seems to find exciting young players and develop them accordingly, however, I am concerned they are a bit green for the Premier League this year. We know Southampton can score (they did plenty of that in the Championship), but will the improved competition prove too much? Unfortunately, yes, I think it will.
At Least We Didn’t Finish in Last: Reading
We’ve heard that defense wins championships, and Reading proved that last season. However, the Premier League is on a much different level than the Championship. Playing defensively is one thing, but if you can’t put the ball in the net defense won’t matter much. I think Reading will have a lot of trouble finding the net this season, and they will realize soon enough that their defense isn’t enough.
Oh, we were so close: Norwich
Norwich has brought in Chris Hughton to instill a defensive system, which was missing last year almost entirely. In fact, it was only their ability to find the back of the net that saved them from being demoted. But with a defensive minded coach, they will have to sacrifice goals, which is what saved them in the first place. For me, if Hughton can get their defense working as a solid unit fast enough, they might avoid relegation. I just happen to think they will be far behind before they figure it out.
There you have it lads – my predictions for the ceiling and basement of the Premier League for this year. Feel free to leave your own “Penthouse and Basement” in the comments below and follow me on Twitter – @TwoLeftCleats
Until next time, lads.