Premier League predictions – the run-in

With 12 games left, and the January transfer window closed, the Premier League is really starting to hot up. The top four are separated by just four points, and the table is split into two distinctive halves. The top nine all have realistic hopes for European qualification with no fear of being sucked into a relegation battle. But below Newcastle, any of the 11 other teams could be in danger of relegation in possibly one off the most exciting relegation battles in recent memory.

Arsenal

Current position: 2nd

How they are doing: Arsenal had defied all expectations by topping the Premier League until just a couple of weeks ago, with many doubting their ability to finish in the top four at the beginning of the year. However it seems as if the Premier League’s nearly-men look set for their annual collapse. The signing of Mesut Özil seems to have boosted the performances of the team, with the likes of Aaron Ramsey taking the league by storm. The Gunners will face a crucial two months now, as they still have to travel to Spurs, Chelsea and Everton, whilst having to host Manchester City. These fixtures, combined with the injuries of Ramsey and Walcott could lead to their threadbare squad dropping down the table. This hasn’t been helped with Wenger’s incompetence in the transfer window, where he didn’t sign a striker and ended up with an injured midfielder whose past his peak.

Pre-season prediction: 5th

Projected finish: 3rd

Aston Villa

Current position: 12th

How they are doing: Aston Villa are towards the top of the relegation battle, which is surprising as they’re sat in twelfth. After a tough start, facing Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Man City in the opening weeks of the season, Villa have picked up recently. They have been very inconsistent, with the victories at Arsenal and at home to Man City being balanced out by losses to Fulham and Crystal Palace. Their counter attacking style and attacking flair should see them safe, but they still have to face the likes of Chelsea, both Manchester clubs and Tottenham.

Pre-season prediction: 13th

Projected finish: 10th

Cardiff City

Current position: 19th

How they are doing: With the madness of the Malky MacKay situation over the New Year, Cardiff have slipped back down in to the relegation zone. Mackay had kept Cardiff out of the relegation zone, with a victory against Manchester City and a spirited draw against Manchester United being two particular high points. Another was the 1-0 win against rivals Swansea, so when Mackay was sacked, there was uproar. New boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought in some new faces from Norway, and these added with current crop of players have the potential to upset a few teams at the Cardiff City Stadium. This home form will be crucial as the team look to rise up and steer themselves clear of relegation, but it will be a big test for a relatively inexperienced manager.

Pre-season prediction: 17th

Projected finish: 18th

Chelsea

Current position: 1st

How they are doing: Chelsea find themselves top without really having clicked in to top gear so far. They have been very consistent, taking 21 points from their 10 games against the rest of the top 8. Doing the double over City will prove crucial towards the end of the season, for both morale and points. The loss of Juan Mata will surely be seen as a mistake if Chelsea fail to win the title, but they have shown how well they can play without him. As you would expect, Jose Mourinho’s set his team out to have a solid base, conceding the least goals so far this season. The strength in depth and winning mentality of both players and manager should see Chelsea take the Premier League trophy out of Manchester for only the second time in 7 seasons.

Pre-season prediction: 1st

Projected finish: 1st

Crystal Palace

Current position: 15th

How they are doing: Crystal Palace have had a strange season, winning the most games out of any of the teams in the bottom half, yet they still find themselves in 15th.Most of their defeats came in the early months of the season, where Ian Holloway’s open style led to the Eagle’s being vulnerable at the back. They have only been thrashed twice (by Fulham and Newcastle), and have run a lot of the big boys very close. Tony Pulis has to take some of the acclaim for their upturn in form, which has seen them rise out of the relegation zone, as Palace have found a way to grind out victories under his new style. However, they still have to play a lot of the teams above them, including three of the top four, and will find it difficult to maintain their Premier League status.

Pre-season prediction: 19th

Projected finish: 19th

Everton

Current position: 6th

How they are doing: Everton’s start to the season has exceeded everybody’s expectations. Many believed, myself included, that Martinez would struggle to adapt to life at a bigger club, however he has took to it like a duck to water. The loan signings of Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry have definitely helped, but the performances of Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley and, more recently, Kevin Mirallas have helped the Toffees rise to 5th. Victory at Old Trafford and at home to Chelsea show the progress that Martinez has made to the team, however the recent 4-0 defeat to Liverpool will be one to forget for players and fans alike. The same problem still remains though, as the squad isn’t big enough to cope with a Champions League push. Injuries to Lukaku, Barkley and Deulofeu could end Everton’s chances of reaching the top four, and they will have to hope that Lacina Traore and Aiden McGeady will settle in quickly if they are to avoid dropping away.

Pre-season prediction: 8th

Projected finish: 6th

Fulham

Current position: 20th

How they are doing: Fulham are doomed. Simple as that. Conceding 58 goals in only 26 games is a sure fire way to be relegated, and now they can only hope that Konstantinos Mitroglou, William Kvist, Lewis Holtby and Johnny Heitinga fit straight in to their team. Another positive is that they have managed to offload the passengers that they couldn’t afford to carry, with Brian Ruiz, Dimitar Berbatov and Adel Taarabt all leaving during January. A spirited first half against Southampton followed by a draw at Old Trafford and a late 3-2 loss against Liverpool show that they do have some life in them. However, after their FA Cup replay defeat to Sheffield United (who were second bottom in League One at the time), Fulham fans must be wondering whether their club can sink any lower. More uncertainty will come with new manager (yes another one!) Felix Magath has been brought in as the third permanent Fulham manger of the season. This instability cannot be a good thing, therefore the Championship probably awaits for the Cottagers.

Pre-season prediction: 14th

Projected finish: 20th

Hull City

Current position: 13th

How they are doing: Hull started this season by defying all expectations with a very good start. I for one thought that they would finish this season bottom with a record low in terms of points. Robbie Brady’s injury may be a reason why the Tigers have tailed off over the winter. A 3-1 win over Liverpool and a 6-0 demolition of Fulham have been particular highlights so far this season. They face most of the teams around them in the run in, so should have enough about them to stave off any fears of the drop.

Pre-season prediction: 20th

Projected finish: 12th

Liverpool

Current position: 4th

How they are doing: Liverpool have had a really good start to the season, despite a few blips. Their SAS partnership up front has be banging in the goals, scoring 39 out of Liverpool’s 66 goals so far. A 5-0 win over Tottenham, a 5-1 demolition of Arsenal and a 4-0 derby victory have been the stand out performances so far this year, but Liverpool will need to be more consistent to maintain their Champions League push. Losing to Hull and drawing with West Brom, Villa and Swansea were poor results for a team looking to finish in the top 4, but luckily the frontrunners have had similar setbacks. They still have to host Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea, and victories there would see Brendan Rodgers’ team secure a Champions League place.

Pre-season prediction: 6th

Projected finish: 4th

Manchester City

Current position: 3rd

How they are doing: Manchester City have been by far the most entertaining team to watch this season. 68 goals in 25 games has been incredible, including a 7-0 against Norwich, 6-0 and 5-1 against Tottenham, a 6-3 win over Arsenal and a 4-1 derby victory. Despite these massive score lines, their defence does look very suspect at times, and that combined with Joe Hart’s drop in form earlier in the year led to a few suspect defeats at the hands of Cardiff, Villa and Sunderland. City play more of the relegation threatened teams than the rest of their title rivals, apart from Chelsea, so the title isn’t out of the question. They also have a game in hand, so a win against Sunderland would see them rise to the top on goal difference. Those two defeats against Chelsea could prove pivotal in the title race with the Blues being City’s main title rivals.

Pre-season prediction: 2nd

Projected finish: 2nd

Manchester United

Current position: 7th

How they are doing: The signing of Juan Mata appears to have papered over the cracks in the United team, despite appearing to not be the sort of player that they need. Despite needing a box-to-box midfielder amongst others, Moyes has brought in an attacking midfielder. When United do get forward, they will be very good to watch, with a front line of Mata, Januzaj, Van Persie and Rooney. But the defeat to Stoke showed up their defensive weaknesses, and they have been unable to field a consistent back line, often playing Smalling and Jones out of position. David Moyes’ tenure at United has been disappointing thus far, and the squad is unlikely to regain a top 4 place.

Pre-season prediction: 3rd

Projected finish: 8th

Newcastle United

Current position: 9th

How they are doing: Losing Yohan Cabaye will hit Newcastle hard, as shown by their results since he left. A goalless draw with Norwich and a 3-0 Tyne-Wear derby defeat have shown signs of the wheels coming off for the Magpies. Luckily, they have built up enough points before losing their key player, making sure that they don’t get drawn in to a relegation scrap. Loic Remy’s goals have dried up recently, so the signing of Luuk De Jong on loan should help Newcastle in the final third. Newcastle still have to play a lot of the big teams, so they may be dropped off of the top group of clubs in to mid-table all by themselves.

Pre-season prediction: 16th

Projected finish: 9th

Norwich City

Current position: 16th

How they are doing: Norwich may be sitting in 16th so far, but they are well and truly in a battle to beat the drop. They backed Chris Hughton in the summer, but the signings of Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer haven’t been successful. Gary Hooper, after overcoming an injury at the start of the season, has been finding the net fairly regularly and the performances of Nathan Redmond could be seen as a positive for Norwich fans. They have been very poor this season, and the fans aren’t happy with Chris Hughton’s overly-defensive style of management. A team with the attacking players that Norwich boast should look to be more adventurous, and their cautious approach may just cost them their Premier League status. With their final four games of the season against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, Norwich will need to accumulate enough points before then to avoid having to trips to Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool next season.

Pre-season prediction: 11th

Projected finish: 17th

Southampton

Current position: 8th

How they are doing: After a great start, a combination of tough fixtures and injuries had led to Maurico Pochettino’s team dropping as low as 9th. The first choice team have proved a tough test against the top teams, securing draws against Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, whilst also beating Liverpool at Anfield; but strength in depth is the big worry for Saints. With the welcome departure of Pablo Osvaldo on loan to Juventus, young Sam Gallagher is the only back up to Rickie Lambert, whilst the untried Matt Targett looks to be the back-up for Luke Shaw. But if any team’s young players can perform at this level, it will be Southampton’s, as proved by the emergence of right-back Calum Chambers. Much relies on the form of Adam Lallana and the return of Dejan Lovren from injury, but the Saints should finish comfortably in the top half, maybe even above the champions.

Pre-season prediction: 9th

Projected finish: 7th

Stoke City

Current position: 14th

How they are doing: Stoke’s recent win over Manchester United was their first win since December 21st. Although Mark Hughes is trying to change the style of play, they still seem to lack any bite in attack, scoring an average of just over 1 goal per game. Sitting in 14th, you’d expect Stoke to be comfortably safe and just playing out the remainder of the season for a mid-table finish, however they are just three points above 18th placed Sunderland. Keeping hold of Asmir Begovic was a big boost for the Potters, as he has been as reliable as ever in goal, as well as being their joint-sixth highest goal scorer after his goal against Southampton. Stoke’s final five games are fairly favourable, apart from hosting Tottenham, so you would expect them to get themselves well away from trouble by the end of the season.

Pre-season prediction: 18th

Projected finish: 13th

Sunderland

Current position: 18th

How they are doing: Sunderland’s season has been a rollercoaster ride to say the least. They started under Paolo Di Canio in disarray, and sat bottom of the table with just 1 point when he was sacked. Under Gus Poyet’s guidance though, Sunderland have at times looked like a good team. Two victories over Newcastle and having the League Cup final to look forward to will have Sunderland fans overjoyed with how the season has gone. The re-emergence of Adam Johnson has been the catalyst to their recent run of form, where they appeared to be lifting themselves away from the relegation scrap and towards a mid-table finish. However, defeat to Hull and a postponement against Manchester City have led to them dropping back to 18th. Fabio Borini and Phil Bardsley’s performances deserve a mention, as they have also been very influential in Poyet’s revolution. Sunderland will definitely be safe, and will end up around mid-table.

Pre-season prediction: 15th

Projected finish: 11th

Swansea City

Current position: 10th

How they are doing: The sacking of Michael Laudrup came as a big shock to most people, especially as Swansea lifted the League Cup only last year. However they had only won 8 games since their Wembley success until his sacking. Gary Monk’s taken over and began well, with a 3-0 victory against Cardiff. Somehow Swansea find themselves in 10th despite their poor form. A contributing factor to this lack of league success may be their progress in the Europa League, but as they face Napoli in the next round they will probably be out by the end of the month, which may help their League form pick up. Michu has had an injury hit season, and Wilfred Bony has been fairly inconsistent, as although he has scored 8 league goals, most of them haven’t affected the result.

Pre-season prediction: 7th

Projected finish: 15th

Tottenham Hotspur

Current position: 5th

How they are doing: Apart from two thrashings, Tottenham’s season was going reasonably well when AVB was sacked. The new signings were struggling to settle in, however the team were seventh. Tim Sherwood has taken over and has done well, apart from the 2-0 derby loss in the FA Cup and the 5-1 thumping at home to Manchester City. Emmanuael Adebayor has boosted the team since being reintroduced by Sherwood. Spurs’ end to the season should be pretty steady, apart from a tough March, but I wouldn’t expect them to catch the top four.

Pre-season prediction: 4th

Projected finish: 5th

West Bromwich Albion

Current position: 17th

How they are doing: The sacking of Steve Clarke came as a complete shock to most. West Brom were doing okay, and certainly didn’t look as if they would be under any threat of relegation. But Clarke’s sacking and then not appointing a manager for two months unsettled the team and drew them towards the bottom three. Beating Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time since 1978 will be seen as a particular highlight of the season. The board’s panic sacking of Clarke could have really cost West Brom at the end of the season, but playing most of the teams around them in the run-in means that their fate is in their own hands.

Pre-season prediction: 12th

Projected finish: 16th

West Ham United

Current position: 11th

How they are doing: Where to start with West Ham? A month ago they were playing abysmally, not scoring and leaking goals for fun. However four straight clean sheets and 3 straight wins have lifted them out of the relegation zone and up to 11th. The Ravel Morrison situation seems to dominate West Ham at the moment, after looking a world-beater at the start of the season he has been frozen out by ‘Big Sam’. They seem to have got back into the form that led to a solid return season in the Premier League, and a few more performances like those over the last month would see West Ham safe.

Pre-season prediction: 10th

Projected finish: 14th

 

Table Prediction

1st – Chelsea – 93 points

2nd – Manchester City – 89 points

3rd – Arsenal – 84 points

4th – Liverpool – 77 points

5th – Tottenham – 76 points

6th – Everton – 70 points

7th – Southampton – 64 points

8th – Manchester United – 62 points

9th – Newcastle United – 55 points

10th – Aston Villa – 41 points

11th – Sunderland – 41 points

12th – Hull City – 38 points

13th – Stoke City – 38 points

14th – West Ham – 37 points

15th – Swansea City – 36 points

16th – West Brom – 34 points

17th – Norwich City – 31 points

18th – Cardiff City (R) – 31 points

19th – Crystal Palace (R) – 27 points

20th – Fulham (R) – 22 points

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