It has come to my attention that the Premier League thinks they are the QMJHL as they are starting this season quite a bit earlier this year.
I suppose it’s because of Euro 2016 (where England with probably crash out in heroic fashion) but it does feel strange that the year is starting so soon after the Civic Holiday weekend.
However, I’m pretty excited that everything is getting underway. Although last year was kind of a dud, the even numbered seasons usually turn into a giant train-wreck in the race for the title. As such, I think this year might be a classic.
As such, I am again attempting to predict how the final table will shape out. Let’s see how wrong I will end up being in a few months time.
As their main title rivals reloaded, the defending Premier League champions stood pat, and you can easily see why. Their midfield of Cesc Fabregas, Oscar and Eden Hazard is sublime, Diego Costa will be scoring goals for fun and Thibaut Courtois is on his way to becoming a world-class goalkeeper.
The one issue may be if Costa does down due to injury as it remains to be seen how good Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao can be. However, I suspect Chelsea may add another striker or have just enough to hold off the other title threats.
I was really close to picking the Gunners to win their first top-flight title since 2004. Bringing in Petr Cech as the goalkeeper might be the best purchase off the summer transfer window, and they have talent all over the pitch already.
However, I’ve seen this movie before with Arsenal. They get off to a blinding start and then slowly fade out as the year progresses. I have a feeling I’ll be proven wrong about that come May, but I can’t shake that assumption after seeing it happen time and time again.
3) Manchester City
On paper, this squad matches up well with Chelsea and Arsenal, especially with Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph joining the roster as they will add strength to the midfield, and in Sterling’s case, run all over the pitch at breakneck speed.
My biggest concern though is up front. I like Wilfried Bony but if Sergio Aguero goes down, how is the strike force going to handle that loss, especially since Edin Dzeko is moving on to Roma as of writing.
4) Manchester United
Not only are Manchester United back in the Champions League (albeit in the qualifying round) but they have also made some splashes as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin have all come in while Nani, Robin Van Persie and Angel Di Maria have all moved on.
While they might not be done yet in purchases with Sergio Ramos’ name floating around, it looks like goalkeeper David De Gea is set to join Real Madrid. If he goes, it’s hard to see United moving ahead of the other top teams in the league.
It’s going to take quite awhile to get used to the fact that Steven Gerrard is no longer with Liverpool and is now playing in Los Angeles, but I think Liverpool is ready to move on with a pretty good looking squad.
Now sure, Brendan Rodgers is on the hot-seat after last season’s sixth place finish and a massive loss to Stoke City in the final day of the season. Plus losing Raheem Sterling isn’t a great thing. However, they’ve made some nice signings in Christian Benteke, Nathaniel Clyne and Roberto Frimino that should put them back in the mix for Champions League qualification.
6) Tottenham Hotspur
When looking at Spurs this year I get the feeling that I’m looking at the team this club had a few seasons ago when Gareth Bale was around or Liverpool a couple of years back when Luis Suarez was scoring goals for fun.
Simply put, while this is a good team, they will only go as far as striker Harry Kane will take them. If the Englishman can match his 23-goal performance in the league from last year, they will be fine. If he struggles at all, I’m not sure they will even get close to a Champions League spot.
Last year was a massive letdown for Everton. After finishing in fifth in 2014, they struggled big time on their way to an 11th place finish.
Although they added Tom Cleverely and Gerard Deulofeu, in addition to being rumoured to be close to signing Xherdan Shaqiri, the squad is relatively similar to the last couple of years. If they can keep John Stones and Romelu Lukaku can keep on scoring goals, they should easily be the best of the rest.
8) Swansea City
Even though they sold the aforementioned Wilfried Bony to Manchester City in January, the Welsh wonders had another great season as they achieved a club best 8th place finish in the Premier League.
I’m expecting more of the same this year. Pretty much everyone is back from the last few years and the club does things the right way. This is the model that all mid-table sides should look too.
9) Stoke City
Don’t look not, but Stoke City’s actually becoming a mid-table side that’s worth watching. Mark Hughes has led the side to a pair of ninth place results and they have some flash players now with Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay.
You still have your players that have been there for awhile like Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch that fit into the whole team you don’t want to face on a cold and wet Wednesday night narrative. That old statement might not be true for much longer as this group might sneak into the Europa League discussion.
10) Newcastle United
After a stunning fifth place results in 2011-12, Newcastle United have been a bit of a hot mess over the last couple of seasons and almost got relegated last season. They defeated West Ham United 2-0 on the final match day of the year to stay alive, but the optics did not look good.
So why do I have them in 10th? Well despite his disastrous run as England manager, I think Steve McClaren has done a good job with a young Derby County squad that couldn’t quite get into the Premier League from the ultra-competitve Championship. There’s a number of young players that have been signed for this season and I think that should be enough to let them stick out from the mid-table mess.
Even though almost all of their big names and their manager left in the summer transfer last year, Southampton had a fantastic campaign as they finished in seventh place, thanks in large part to the management of Ronald Koeman.
The club has lost Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, and while they still have almost everyone coming back from last year, I think Southampton will drop off slightly as they will have to deal with the long and winding road that is the Europa League.
12) West Bromwich Albion
Thanks to Tony Pullis, West Brom were able to survive relegation with a strong second half showing and they look to be set for a comfortable mid-table result this year.
James Chester and Rickie Lambert have brought in during the summer and Saido Berahino is probably going to score goals for fun once again this year. If the young striker isn’t sold off, West Brom should have no problem avoiding relegation.
In the last three years a trio of different managers (Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat) have kept the Black Cats from going down. Advocaat has returned for another go-around as he tries to prevent this team from being in another relegation fight.
While their striking force is a tad bit interesting with Jermain Defoe, Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham not really getting the pulse racing, I’m always high on this team given their overall depth and get burned on it in the end. In the end though, I think they are still better than the other sides that I’ll be talking abut shortly.
14) West Ham United
Big Sam Allardyce is out at manager and Slaven Bilic is now in charge with one goal in mind for this season. With the club moving from Upton Park to Olympic Stadium next season, they need to stay in the top flight or things could get ugly.
While they splashed the cash on Juventus’ Angelo Ogbonna and brought in Carl Jenkinson from Arsenal on loan to help the back-end, this isn’t a very exciting side and they may need some help up front to stay up. I mean, do you want to be relying on Andy Carroll staying healthy to avoid being relegated?
15) Crystal Palace
After Tony Pulis left the side just two days before the start of the season and Neil Warnock was canned around Christmas, Alan Pardew was brought in from Newcastle United and led a stunning charge to a tenth place finish. In the summer, they made two big deals as Connor Wickham and Yohan Cabaye have joined the club.
So why do I have them lower? Well after Pardew has a really good season, things end up getting kind of ugly and I think that might happen again here. Also, I don’t think the overall depth is there for this side compared to the other ones in the mid-table discussion.
16) Norwich City
After a year away, the Canaries are back in the top flight after winning the playoff final over Middlesbrough 2-0, which concluded a stunning run in the second half of the season after Alex Neil was brought in from Hamilton Academical.
The side is pretty much intact from a year ago and they haven’t really strengthen things quite yet. However, I think they are the best looking side of the three that are coming up from the Championship and they should be able to survive. Though a strike force of Cameron Jerome, Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel has to be one of the most bizarre trios ever.
17) Aston Villa
Christian Benteke, Ron Vlaar and Fabian Delph are gone and a new ownership group has yet to materialize. After years of just holding on to a spot in the Premier League in the final moments, the signs are pointing at Villa finally heading towards relegation.
However, it’s hard to see a club of this stature going down. Now sure, Tim Sherwood is a bit of a divisive fellow in his management, but he did a great job in making things better after Paul Lambert’s tenure ended. If they are able to add Aaron Lennon and Emmanuel Adebayor as is currently being rumoured, their presence might be enough to gel with the younger guys and ensure survival.
18) Leicester City
In things I wasn’t expecting to type in 2015, Claudio Ranieri is managing in the Premier League again as he replaces Nigel Pearson at the man in charge of the Foxes.
Last season, Leicester won seven of their last nine matches to survive, even though they look doomed to go down for months. Even though they have a much calmer man in charge and they brought in Robert Huth and Shinji Okazaki, I’m not sure if this squad has enough in order to survive. The late-season finish last spring was amazing, but I think how Leicester City looked for most of last season is probably how this year will play out.
For the first time in eight years, Watford is back in the Premier League though they are with a different manager than from when they finished in second in the Championship back in May. Slavisa Jokanovic, who the club’s fourth manager in five weeks a year ago, was unable to agree on a new contract with Watford and Quique Flores was brought in.
On the surface, this looks like a Championship squad still. If Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney can score goals like they did a year ago, Watford will survive. If not, it could be a long season.
With that said, since the owners of the club also own Udinese, maybe Antonio Di Natale can come in on loan and save the day.
20) AFC Bournemouth
After almost being relegated from the Football League back in 2009, the Cherries have made an incredible run to the Premier League which culminated with them winning the Championship last year. The fact that the big clubs will be heading into a ground that holds just 11,500 fans is going to be amazing this year.
As much as I want Bournemouth to be like Blackpool were a few years ago and being a club that is fun as heck to watch while trying to survive relegation, I just can’t see it. They’ve made a couple of nice veteran signings with Artur Boruc and Sylvain Distin coming in, I’m not convinced the rest of last year’s squad can do enough to stay in the top flight. I’m excited to see what manager Eddie Howe can do though, as I think he’ll probably stay in the Premier League next year no matter what happens to Bournemouth.