Will Tidey - My Premier League predictions for the new season
Published: 11 Aug 2011 - 06:30:07
This weekend brings the return of the fastest, richest, most watched league in the world. It might be full of pouting prima donnas and moaning managers, but let's be honest - we couldn't be without it.
After a summer bereft of a major tournament and instead dominated by endless, mostly pointless, transfer speculation, it's time to finally talk about what happens on the pitch again. Some will say the football season has barely been away, but I for one am seriously excited to have it back. I sense most people feel the same.
With that in mind, let me get on with the business of delivering my predictions for the new campaign. Hopefully you'll have forgotten them by next May, but if they turn out to be eerily spot-on I'll be sure to remind you.
Premier League champions
It's hard to look beyond Manchester United, again. Sir Alex Ferguson prevailed last season with arguably the worst of his 12 title-winning squads. That squad has now been bolstered by Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David de Gea - while the likes of Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck are ready to make telling contributions this season on the evidence of their Community Sheild showing.
Champions League spots
Along with United, I'm going for Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool - in that order - to fill the four Champions League spot. City still don't have the X Factor they need to win the title in my opinion, but their squad is sprinkled with gold and in Sergio Aguero they could have one the standout players of the season. City are well drilled and can grind it out under Mancini. I see them coming runners-up.
New Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas may yet have a big-name transfer up his sleeve, but thus far the Blues have added just two relatively unproven youngsters in Romelu Lukaku and Oriol Romeu, along with a back-up goalkeeper in Thibaut Cortois. With their squad as it is, it's hard to see a Chelsea in flux making a serious, season-long push for the title. For that to happen it's essential Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba stay fit throughout the campaign. I don't see it happening.
The race for third will be between Liverpool and Arsenal, and I see Kenny Dalglish's rejuvenated team edging it. In Luis Suarez Liverpool have the form striker in world football and providing they can come upon a formula in midfield Liverpool have more to offer than Arsenal. Stewart Downing could prove one of the shrewdest signings of the summer if he provides a regular supply line for Suarez and Andy Carroll.
The obvious choice is to go with the three promoted teams, but I think Norwich and QPR will have just enough to buy themselves another season. Swansea won't be so lucky, and they'll be joined by Blackburn and Wigan in my opinion. The latter two were poor last season and have done precious little over the summer to improve their chances of survival.
Three players to watch
My first choice is Aguero. The Argentine striker has all the attributes to thrive in the Premier League and his goalscoring exploits at Atletico Madrid came with less quality around him than he'll have at City.
Another to star this season will be Manchester United's Chris Smalling. The young defender could potentially hold down the right-back spot at Old Trafford play himself into the England team if he shows the kind of form he did at Wembley last week.
My third choice is Manchester City's David Silva. The Spaniard is potentially the best creative midfielder in the top flight and this will be the season he truly displays his potential.
And with that, I'll leave you to anticipate what promises to be a humdinger of an opening weekend.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
- Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey
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