From the exciting title chase that went down to the final day of the series (well technically I guess), to the dramatic slide of Manchester United, the 2013/14 Premier League campaign certainly made up for the sub-par season that happened a year earlier.
So why am I not super pumped up at the moment for the 2014/15 campaign? I mean, you have a lot of new managers coming in, big name players leaving the Premier League as other top talent arrive, and another very tight title race seemingly on the horizion.
To be honest, it doesn’t feel like we’ve had a real off-season this year, especially since we just had an amazing World Cup that concluded only a month ago. It’s as if I just went to an all-night rave party and then with little to no sleep, I’m being flung right into another one.
But your not here for that are you? You’re here to see how wrong I am going to be once again with my annual Premier League predictions. Well, without anymore delays, let’s begin.
1) Manchester City
When Manchester City won the Premier League title in 2012, I was confident that they wouldn’t repeat as champions because of the fact that they hardly did anything in the transfer market. This time around, I expect them to be in the driver’s seat to win their third crown in the last four seasons.
Now granted, they didn’t make the flashy signings like some of the other teams that will battle for the title, but the additions of Bacary Sagna from Arsenal, the Porto duo of Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala, and Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero should mesh nicely with players such as Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, and Sergio Aguero.
However, I’m convinced that the six-month loan of Frank Lampard from sister club New York City FC will only end in tears.
In almost all of the posts that I have seen regarding this year’s Premier League campaign, Chelsea seems to be the hot pick to win it all, and for good reason.
Even though players like Ashley Cole, David Luiz, and Frank Lampard have all moved on, Jose Mourinho has a bunch of shiny new toys in his arsenal with Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa, and Filipe Luis all coming from Spain. Plus, he has two top-class goalies now as Thibault Courtois returns from his loan spell at Atletico Madrid to join Petr Cech.
Despite having a crazy strong midfield with Fabregas, Eden Hazard, and Oscar leading the way, I am slightly concerned about the strikers. Yes, Costa was a dominant force for Atletico Madrid last year on their way to the La Liga title. But if he goes down, the attacking core consists of a returning (and older) Didier Drogba and the ghost of Fernando Torres.
Andre Schurrle might be able to help if an injury situation happens, but the selling of Romelu Lukaku to Everton might prove to be something that The Special One may regret if the title chase comes down to total goals.
With the long trophy drought coming to an end following their FA Cup victory over Hull City in May, Arsenal’s main focus now is to win the Premier League for the first time since 2004.
After for leading the way for most of last season before dropping out of the title fight, things look pretty good for the Gunners heading into this year with Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, and Jack Wilshere all part of a strong attack. Sure, the defence might not look that great, but who needs that when you have a great looking midfield and striking force.
Arsenal’s attack has been strengthed even more by signing Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona during the World Cup, which might make them even scarier. If everyone remains healthy, and they don’t get blown out 6-0 by Chelsea once again, this might be the squad that wins the title when everything wraps up in May.
4) Manchester United
After the total train wreck they had last year, why am I expecting Manchester United to return to the Champions League mix this time around? Well there’s a couple of reasons.
One is the fact that new manager Louis Van Gaal is kind of a mad-man (I mean, he substituted his goalkeeper before a penalty shootout at the World Cup this year for the Netherlands), so he may provide the kick in the butt this club needs. The biggest factor for me though is the fact the Red Devils don’t have to play in Europe this season, which should be a big help for them.
However, they still need to bring some guys in to replace the likes of Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra (oh and cult hero Bebe). They made two big deals already with the signings of Luke Shaw from Southampton and Ander Herrera of Athletic Bilbao, but if they aren’t able to strength the squad before the transfer deadline, there might be some issues yet again.
They were two points away from winning their first top flight title since 1990. They are heading back to the Champions League for the first time in five seasons, and they have brought in a bunch of new singings.
So why am I not expecting Liverpool to be in the top four this time around? Well, it’s because Luis Suarez has moved to Barcelona.
Following his latest biting incident at the World Cup, it was time for Liverpool to sever ties with the striker. But you can’t replace a world class player with his goal scoring skill over night.
Like Tottenham Hotspur when they sold Gareth Bale a year ago, Liverpool have brought in a ton of new players, with Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren all coming from Southampton. But like Spurs a year ago, I expect it wil take a while for everyone to gel, and it might mean that they miss out on the Champions League again.
6) Tottenham Hotspur
After buying what seemed like 300 players before Gareth Bale (swooooon) went to Real Madrid last year, Tottenham’s been rather quiet thus far in this transfer window, as they have only brought in Michel Vorm and Ben Davies from Swansea City, Sporting CP’s Eric Dier, and DeAndre Yedlin of the Seattle Sounders (although he won’t arrive until January).
Former Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino will be a nice change from the interesting Tim Sherwood experiment from the second half of last year, and those players that came into the team last year should be settled in now. However, I’m not sure that Spurs will have enough to get into the top four as the other teams have gotten stronger.
No one major has left the team that finished in fifth place in the Premier League in May, plus they now have the full-time services of striker Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea after buying him for a club record transfer fee of 28 million pounds.
Although they might be without the services of midfield Ross Barkley for two months following a knee injury, Everton should be the sleeper team in the Champions League mix yet again. However, I’m not convinced that they can have a second strong campaign under Roberto Martinez that will get them into the top four, but I might be totally wrong in that assumption.
8) Newcastle United
The second half of last season was a massive train wreck for Newcastle, but things should be a bit better this time around, provided manager Alan Pardew doesn’t do anything silly on the touchline.
I’m really excited to see what Siem De Jong can do in the Premier League after starring for Ajax, along with fellow midfielder Remy Cabella of Montpellier. They probably won’t be in that top six fight, but this side may end up being the best of the rest.
9) Swansea City
Provided that Wilfried Bony isn’t sold during the season, the lone Welsh club in the Premier League should finish in the top half of the league table.
Granted, Michu has moved to Napoli on loan, and I’m not sure how Lukasz Fabianski will do in goal compared to the departing Michel Vorm. However, they have brought back Gylfi Sigurdsson from Tottenham Hotspur and nabbed Columbia international Jefferson Montero, which should make for a very strong midfield presence.
I’ll admit it, I’m a huge fan of manager Gus Poyet. Not only did he bring Sunderland out of the depth of relegation last season, but he nearly brought Brighton & Hove Albion up into the Premier League during his time there.
With Jack Rodwell now in from Manchester City, and a off-season that was quite stable compared to last year, I think Sunderland should be safely in the mid table this year. The one question mark for me though is with their strikers, as I fear they may end up relying to much on Connor Wickham replicating his late season form.
11) Queens Park Rangers
Thanks to Bobby Zamora’s late goal against Derby County in the Championship Playoff, the team with a higher payroll than Atletico Madrid is back in the Premier League. This time around though, things should go much better than it did in QPR’s previous go-around in the top flight.
Overall, I think this squad’s rather solid, although there might be some question marks around their forward core of Charlie Austin, Loic Remy, and Zamora. I like everything else on the roster though, as the Rio Ferdinand signing might not be bad for the short term to help things out at the back.
12) Hull City
This may be a little bit too high for last year’s FA Cup runners-up, especially since they have to deal with playing in the Europa League. However, I feel like the Tigers should avoid having to deal with the relegation fight.
The squad’s been strengthened with Jake Livermore, Tom Ince, and Robert Snodgrass all coming in, and they look to be in pretty good shape when compared to the squads below them. They might not excite you, but they should be solid.
13) Stoke City
What I wrote about Hull City you could also say for Stoke, who certainly won’t get your heart racing but be solidly in the mix for a mid-table result and may pull off a shock upset or two.
While I’m not expecting a lot from this squad, they do have one of the most interesting newcomers to the league this year in Bojan Krkic of Spain. The 23-year-old has played for Barcelona, Roma, AC Milan, and Ajax over the last few seasons, and if he can ever find the form that made him so highly touted when he first started, this might be the biggest coup by a team in quite some time.
14) West Ham United
Despite what some of the supporters have wanted, Big Sam Allardyce is still the manager of West Ham United, who are again starting off the season without the service of striker Andy Carroll because of injury.
They have brought in Mauro Zarate and Enner Valencia to help with that issue, but I still don’t think this will be a squad that is going to be scoring a ton of goals. They should survive, but I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s a managerial change at the midway point of the season.
15) Aston Villa
Remember when Christian Benteke had a hat-trick for Aston Villa in their 6-1 win over Sunderland in April of last year, or when the club stunned Arsenal at the start of the 2013/14 season and it seemed like things were on the upswing? That seems like halcyon days compared to what’s currently happening at Villa Park.
For starters, owner Randy Lerner is still trying to sell the club after putting it up for sale in May, and manager Paul Lambert is the leading candidate for the sack race even though that has technically already been won (more on that in a minute).
Roy Keane’s seemingly waiting in the wings to take over if Lambert slips up, Benteke’s out still with an achilles injury, and Joe Cole has shown up for some reason. The signing of Columbia international Carlos Sanchez Moreno isn’t bad, but it seems like this club is just treading water in a quest to fight off the drop.
After an eighth place finish last season, Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino left for Tottenham Hotspur, and the club lost Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), and Calum Chambers (Arsenal) in the span of a month.
So what’s left for new gaffer Ronald Koeman? Well he did sign goalkeeper Fraser Forster away from Celtic, and guys like Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez are all still around, so he has that going for him. But with so many players leaving, a sudden drop for Southampton seems likely.
17) Crystal Palace
The season hasn’t even started yet and we’ve had our first managerial change, as Tony Pulis took his ball and went home on Thursday, apparently because of the fact that he was unable to bring in any of his summer transfer targets.
With Keith Millen filling in as the manager until a new one is hired (former Cardiff City boss Malky Mackay and one-time Celtic manager Neil Lennon are the front-runners as write this) the big question for me remains the overall look of the squad itself. It looks more like a Championship side to me, but if they get the right hire, they should be able to survive by the skin of their teeth.
18) West Brom Albion
Alan Irvine moves from the Everton youth set-up to become the new manager for the team that finished 17th a year ago, but I’m not sure that he will be able to prevent this side from going down.
They did bring Joleon Lescott from Manchester City, and they have broken their transfer record to sign striker Brown Ideye from Dynamo Kyiv to try and get the goals they couldn’t last year, but I just feel like this might be the season where West Brom’s run finally runs out. Crystal Palace might seem more likely to be relegated, but I just have a hunch on this one that will probably turn out wrong.
19) Leicester City
The Foxes cruised to the Championship title last season and are back in the Premier League for the first time in ten years, but I don’t believe that their stay will last very long.
They did get Matthew Upson as a nice veteran pickup, and Peter Schmiechel’s son Kasper is the starting netminder, but I’m having a hard team believing that a striking attack led by David Nugent will be the difference in this team surviving relegation. With that said, midfielder Anthony Knockaert is highly touted, so it will be cool to see what he can do at this level.
Canadian David Edgar was released by the club after last season, so they are going down automatically because of that.
Seriously though, while manager Sean Dyche’s work is being highly praised after the club’s surprise run to a runner-up finish in the Championship, I don’t think they’ve done enough to ensure they don’t go straight back down. They do have two young strikers in Sam Vokes and Danny Ings who can score goals, but they might end up getting snatched up by another club in January if Burnley’s struggling.
Anyways, that does it for this preview of another new Premier League season. If it’s anything like last year’s, we should be in for another fun ride.