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Deflected Free-Kick: Football Blogjams

How the Premier League WILL finish this season…

How the Premiership WILL finish this season…

By James

1. Manchester United
2. Chelsea
3. Arsenal
4. Liverpool
5. Manchester City
6. Tottenham Hotspur
7. Everton
8. Aston Villa
9. Fulham
10. Sunderland
11. West Ham United
12. Blackburn Rovers
13. Stoke City
14. Wigan Athletic
15. Bolton Wanderers
16. Wolverhampton Wanderers
17. Birmingham City
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18. Burnley
19. Portsmouth
20. Hull City

Arsenal

Key Player – Andrey Arshavin
The most Russian-looking Russian you’re likely to see, this man is a world-class talent. Really caught the eye last season, not least of all with 4 goals at Anfield. Fantastic schemer with an eye for the killer ball and an eye for the killer goal too.

Watch out for – Eduardo
Ok, so it’s difficult to watch him play without imagining that horrific leg snap but if he can get a good run of games will be like a new signing for Wenger. Clever mover around the box and a tidy finisher, Arsenal could get a rejuvenated Eduardo this year.

Top Scorer – Robin Van Persie: 15 – 20 goals

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Improved greatly at the end of last year to save their own blushes and nab a Champions League spot from fading Aston Villa, and they may well kick on this year now. The combination of Van Persie & Arshavin is a truly exciting one and if they strike a chord, fed by a fit and firing Fabregas, Arsenal should have a much better year. This is a big season for Eduardo to finally prove his goalscoring pedigree in the Premiership and even Nicolas Bendtner adds a bit of variety to their frontline…namely towering headers and terrible ball control. If Walcott doesn’t prove his class this season one starts to wonder if he ever will. It would be nice for England if he did.
The problem with Arsenal is that they are a confidence side, and have been even in the heydays of Henry (they went a whole season without losing then lost to United and couldn’t buy a win anywhere). They are fantastic on their day, the fast flowing football irresistible on the eye. If they get on a good run they can be difficult to halt but if their heads start dropping they don’t seem to have the characters to lift them again. However I just have a sneaky feeling they could go on a really good run of confidence this season, with Russian magician Arshavin pulling the strings, Fabregas fit and Van Persie firing (as long as they all stay fit), and this might just propel them unexpectedly into the top three. Altogether now, up the arse!
Final Position: 3rd – Controversial I know but I just have a hunch.

Aston Villa

Key Player – Ashley Young
How this man hasn’t been given more of a shot at England’s left wing slot is beyond me. Has great pace and a wicked delivery. There won’t be a player in the league with more successful crosses this term. And he’s much better than Downing.

Watch out for – James Milner
He too has a devilish delivery and if Villa can get Young and Milner raiding down the flanks this season their prospects are good. Big season for Milner to prove just how good he can be

Top Scorer – John Carew: around 10

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
First of all Martin O’Neill is to commended for his clever investment in some of the best young English talent around these past two years, it has been a breath of fresh air for the Premier League and it was a real shame they couldn’t hold off the Arse to claim 4th spot last season. Ashley Young is a top winger and expect James Milner to come on leaps and bounds under O’Neill’s guidance too. However, Barry and Laursen are big losses to the spine of their team and O’Neill has some work to do replacing these two influential figures. Sidwell is a gifted midfielder when fit but the jury remains forever out on Reo-Coker. Downing looks a bit of a bum signing, mainly due to his start being delayed till December and the fact it might serve to unsettle the also left-sided Young.
Most of all they need more goals from the less than prolific pair of Carew and hold-up merchant Heskey to challenge the top six this year. And Agbonlahor needs a more consistent strike-rate to challenge for the World Cup squad next summer. But one just gets the feeling there just aren’t enough goals in that trio to do so. More difficult job for O’Neill this time around one suspects but will still be aiming for Europa qualification again.
Final Position: 8th – definitely no lower than this

Birmingham City

Key Player – Benitez
The Brummie’s £9 million gamble. No Premiership experience and hampered by not much of a pre-season. However seems to have the pace and power to trouble defences in this division. A lot on his shoulders to score the goals Birmingham need to stay up.

Watch out for – Sebastian Larsson
Caught the eye last time Birmingham were in the top flight with some top notch free-kick raspers. Goalkeepers will have to be on their guard again this season. Has a wonderful left foot.

Top Scorer – Benitez: they’ll be praying for over at least double figures

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Any team with a player called Mitchell McPike has a fighting chance in my book, even if he doesn’t get many games. Watch out for dead-ball expert Sebastian Larsson who can swing a zinger against any opposition. Alex McCleish has spent heavily, particularly on Benitez, but he has also brought in some experienced Premiership performers. But boy are they old. Can Lee Carsley and Barry Ferguson really still cut it week-in, week-out in this high-flying league? It’s great to have the battle of Birmingham back, it has thrown up some entertaining encounters in the past. It’s also good news that Joe Hart has the chance to get regular top flight football. You never know he might just be the answer to England’s goalkeeping quandary…anyone but David James. Something tells me Hart will be kept busy with Birmingham all right. They really need the Benitez gamble to pay off, otherwise they may not have a striker who can score enough goals to keep them up. The biggest question of all though is how many of the ageing blues midfield will be bringing Zima-frames on to the pitch with them this season?
Final Position: 17th- Dangerously close to the drop-zone…if not in it

Blackburn Rovers

Key Player – Benny McCarthy
Can certainly get the goals Big Sam needs to push Blackburn in the right direction. A real poacher around the box and great header of the ball. Blackburn will be looking to McCarthy now without Santa Cruz (who was injured most of last year anyway).

Watch out for – Kalinic
£6 Million is no small sum for a club like Blackburn and with a few other Premier League clubs monitoring him there must be something about the Croat which indicates he can be a success. An exciting prospect.

Top Scorer – Benny McCarthy (10 – 12 goals, depending on service)

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
The Sam Allardyce factor at Blackburn is undoubtedly a big one, if it wasn’t for him Blackburn might have been playing Championship football this season. As it was he brought some consistency in that tireless way of his and will be hoping to push on from there in the coming campaign. The squad looks a bit thin though to be honest and the midfield, in particular, seems to be lacking any real creative talent. It would help if people like David Dunn and Steven Reid got their arses off the treatment table.
Allardyce can inspire though and rest assured the progress to make Blackburn play more like his old-school Bolton team will continue apace this year. And old-school is meant literally, as he goes after the hottest old talent out there, with rumours Michel Salgado is the latest to be asked to dust the cobwebs out of his wrinkles for some Premiership action. But there is one question above all others which looms over Ewood Park at the moment…does JayJay Okocha still play football?
Final Position: 12th – slow progress under Allardyce, but progress nonetheless.

Bolton Wanderers

Key Player – Matthew Taylor
Megson did well to steal this guy away from Portsmouth. Left-sided player not only capable of scoring some truly spectacular goals but actually getting them on a fairly regular basis.

Keep an eye on – Johan Elmander
A player a few years ago I thought was just an invention of the Championship manager game (Kim Kallstrom is another). If he can develop as rapidly as he did in my wonderful season with Spurs in that game Bolton will have a great player!

Top Scorer – Kevin Davies: 5-10 goals…probably closer to 5

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
It’s a few years since the heyday of Sam Allardyce, where they reached the giddy heights of the top 10 but not much has changed since then. They still bully and punt people all around the Reebok Stadium on a fortnightly basis, with battering ram Kevin Davies spearheading these particularly brutal assaults. As ever will be tough to beat, especially at home and they have enough solid Premiership campaigners to see them safe again this year. Scoring goals regularly will be their main problem with most of their three points coming from narrow, hard-fought games.
Megson hasn’t earned the plaudits Allardyce did doing essentially the same thing but at least Bolton are still plying their trade in the top-flight…just don’t get caught watching any of their games if you enjoy, well, watching a game of football.
Final Position: 15th – Safety, but in the blandest way imaginable

Burnley

Key Player – Steven Fletcher
Burnley haven’t spent big trying to stay in the top division this year. Most of their kitty has gone on Fletcher, a consistent scorer up in Scotland. Burnley need to pray he can demonstrate that form south of the divide.

Watch out for – Barry Eagles
Ok, so he’s one of the only Burnley players I’ve actually seen play (during his time with Man Utd) but he did look a decent prospect then. Tight dribbling skills, even if he did go down some blind alleys. Could be a menace to defences this season.

Top Scorer – Steven Fletcher: 5-7 goals tops

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Everyone goes on about Burnley’s story being such a wonderful one. I’m not particularly schooled on it myself but they are certainly a welcome addition to the Premier League. I’m not gonna lie to you, I know little about Burnley but I do know they will struggle. Most of their players are severely lacking in Premier League experience and they have the added disadvantage of being promoted late through the play-offs. They need many super-human performances to stay up.
Amazingly, thanks to Burnley, Ade Akinbiyi is back in the top division, so expect some hilarious howling misses from half a yard out. The real hope for Burnley lies in their record against top Premiership opposition in the cups last season, when they beat Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea. The worrying thing is that, despite these impressive results, four championship sides were still better than them last year. They will be hoping that at least three Premier League teams will be worse than them this year or its back down with Burnley. As with all promoted teams it’s vital they start the season well. So let’s see, they start away to Stoke, hmm, quite tricky that one, who’s next…oh dear, Manchester Utd, Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea! Good luck Owen Coyle.
Final Position: 18th – valiant fighters but not enough I’m afraid

Chelsea

Key Player – Frank Lampard
I don’t like Frank Lampard. He frustrates me when he plays for England because he seems so ordinary and then he frustrates me when he plays for Chelski because he plays ordinary for them too. But then he goes and scores a deflected free-kick or penalty. And he does get 20 goals a season from midfield. What a prick.

Watch out for – Nicolas Anelka:
Weird that I should be saying watch out for last year’s Premier League top scorer but he went about his business so unassumingly one almost failed to notice. I expect him to be on fire again this year. A finisher of the highest order.

Top Scorer – Didier Drogba: if he doesn’t strop 20 goals…maybe more

Premier League Prospects for 09/10

While they don’t get any younger Chelsea’s team of powerhouse Premier performers are more determined than ever to end their Premier League drought. But have they got what it takes? A lot depends on how quickly they adapt to Carlo Ancelotti’s proposed diamond format, which puts heavy emphasis on the full-backs for width. Essien looked out of position protecting a very rigid Ivanovic down the right in the Community Shield. The creative flair element in midfield is still missing but if Lampard can take quickly to his role at the point of the diamond and Anelka and Drogba play regularly together they will be a mighty force this season. If injury besets any of these two though much pressure will be on young Daniel Sturrudge to step into the breach…word round the campfire is he has what it takes.
I expect them to be much stronger than last season with Anelka and Drogba playing together and will as ever be water-tight at the back, having held on to nobface John Terry. A fast start may be difficult due to the adoption of a new and unfamiliar formation. If they do well early on they will push United all the way.
Final Position: 2nd – will go the wire this season

Everton

Key Player – Tim Cahill
I can’t rate this guy highly enough. Reminds me so much of what I used to love about Paul Scholes, ghosting into penalty-areas, timing his runs to perfection, and bagging crucial goals when it matters most. Must stay free from injury for Everton to do well.

Watch out for – Yakubu:
Injury kept him out virtually all of last year and will be a massive addition to Everton’s squad when back fit. Capable of getting a consistent level of goals whilst maintaining the laid-back manner of a stoner on a beanbag (sorry, terrible stereotype).

Top Scorer – Louis Saha: around 10 –12 if played regularly

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
The strengthening of Spurs and, in particular, Man City will make it difficult for cash-strapped Everton to compete for 5th place again, but you can be sure they’ll give it a darn good go. David Moyes is a top-class manager, who will have his players well drilled, and if their key players stay fit or don’t want away (I’m looking at you Joleon Lescott) they will be a strong team again this year. If injuries do strike it could cost them Europe. It will be a testament to Moyes’ miracle management if he manages to push Man City all the way for 5th spot, especially considering his main striker is a player City have been willing to chuck Everton on a free two years running! Worries persist in pre-season over the fitness of funky afro-man Fellaini, who chipped in with important goals last campaign.
Will be strengthened immensely by the returns of Arteta and Yakubu, both top players, but may struggle early on without them. Solid defensively with players who can score from midfield, Everton will provide stern tests to the best of them once again.
Final Position: 7th – Another solid season for Moyes

Fulham

Key Player – Brede Hangeland
A massive man and a massive player for Fulham. Arsenal have had their sighters trained on him for some time and knowing the big clubs and their greedy ways they may just get him. Great organiser at the back and an intimidating presence.

Watch out for – Bjorn Helge Riise
Yes, watch out for Riise because if he possesses even half the power in his shots that his ex-scouser brother had there could be some screaming goals crashing in. Or some screaming own goals…whichever.

Top Scorer – Andy Johnson: about 10 goals if he stays fit

Premier Prospects for 09/10

The tough thing for Fulham is how on earth do they top last year’s Herculean, Europa League qualifying efforts? Well clinging on to the Herculean Hangeland in defence would be a start. If they do, under his lofty stewardship, expect their backline to frustrate even the most crafty attacks once again. With the steady guidance of Roy Hodgson Fulham fans should have more to cheer about again this season, including some European nights down at the cosy Craven Cottage.
Hodgson has done a phenomenal job in the last year in a half, as good as any manager in the Premier League, and it would be more phenomenal if they just matched last year’s finish. Europe may distract what isn’t the biggest of squads but with Danny Murphy’s steadying influence in midfield and Andy Johnson slaving away up front they have a fighting chance of the top half once again.
Final Position: 9th – Mid-table, sneaking into top 10

Hull City

Key Player – Jimmy Bullard
Hull are going to need their £5 million signing back in action quickly this season. His return helped spark the revival of a seemingly doomed Fulham two seasons ago. A real talisman, he’s going to need to draw on all those qualities for Hull to stay up.

Watch out for – Stephen Hunt
Did well for two seasons in the top flight with Reading and will be well up for the fight again with Hull this time around. A solid, work-a-holic wideman with a decent cross on him too.

Top Scorer – Geovanni: 5-7 goals

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Hull won’t be under any illusions about the size of their task this year. After last season’s spectacular collapse, which saw them stay up purely due to the fact that Newcastle somehow managed to be worse, Brown has got to somehow instil the confidence into his players that they had one year ago. And boy, Brown will really earn his tigers their stripes if he keeps them up this year, showboating manager he may be but if he pulls it off this season he will have performed some miracles. I envisage a season of struggle ahead following a frustrating summer of rejections in the transfer market. Jimmy Bullard may well come back from injury, which would be a major plus but even he might not be able to prevent Hull getting that sinking feeling. In last-ditch efforts to improve his squad Brown has resorted to calling in a number of untried foreigners to help the cause. These players must adapt quickly for Hull to have a chance. Geovanni has a wicked shot on him but even his goals dried up after Christmas.
They also have a manager who seems more intent in revelling in the media spotlight this league affords him than actually doing what’s right for the team. Perhaps he could save his bollockings for the dressing room this season? Because otherwise, the way I see things going, he could be dragging them onto the pitch to wag his finger at them most weekends.
Final Position: 20th – Pure hell for Hull

Liverpool

Key Player – Steven Gerrard
No surprises here. The driving force of their team for donkeys years. Can do it all, & as close to the complete midfielder the Premiership has to offer. His fitness record isn’t great of course, he Pool need this to improve if they’re to claim their first title in 20 years.

Watch out for – Alberto Aquilani
A talent no doubt but another player with a rotten injury record. Seen as a direct replacement for the likeable Alonso. Must adjust quickly to the pace of the league. Will have a late start as he’s out for the first month.

Top Scorer – Fernando Torres: 20+ goals if he ever stays fit

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
It is noticeable that for all key 3 players picked out above I have felt compelled to use up space highlighting their injury-records. This is a problem for Liverpool. In Gerrard and Torres they have arguably the best two players in the league but one almost gets bored of saying it, if they don’t stay fit (which they have struggled to do in the last 2 seasons) or aren’t on form, who will get the goals? David Ngog? Nabil El Zhar? The support cast still doesn’t seem strong enough to win the league. Is Aquilani the answer? His injury record doesn’t read well, playing just 14 times for Roma last year and 21 times the year before that.
Benitez is a good manager when it comes to the big games, hence his praiseworthy record in the Champions League, but getting results consistently enough to claim the biggest domestic crown has eluded him thus far. £18 million on a right back won’t win them the league (and his ability is questionable) but Alonso shouldn’t be quite the loss the pundits have made out…after all, he’s not Gerrard or Torres. Liverpool will be up there no question but it does seem, from the summer activity at least, that they’ve taken a step back rather than a step forward…of course the same point could be made about United. I just can’t see them going one better than last year. And of course, I’m praying I’m proved right in this!
Final Position: 4th – eek! Thought I’d stick my neck out on this one

Manchester City

Key Player – Kolo Toure
Not a world-class defender by any stretch of the imagination and if the Lescott (not world-class either) chase proves fruitless, he needs to be the answer to the question-marks hanging over their defence if City are to challenge for honours.

Watch out for – Stephen Ireland
This one is not so much a ‘watch out for’ as a ‘keep on watching’. Everyone knows how good he was last season but the improvements made to City’s squad will only improve him further…if he plays. An exciting, if rather ill-looking, talent.

Top Scorer – Emmanuel Adebayor: 15 – 20 goals, if City have a good season

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Hmm, ok. Manchester City. Big money spent, who knows what could happen? Well, one thing seems sure, if they don’t make a good start Mark Hughes is likely to be given the boot…and then they’ll be in the mire. So the all-star cast, hastily assembled, need to gel quickly.
The most obvious potential problem is in keeping their expensive array of attackers happy, because they have characters that are apt to spit out their dummies and then showily stamp on them if things don’t go as they demand (namely Bellamy, Adebayor, Tevez). The centre midfield pairing of Barry and Ireland should work well for them and I have a feeling Robinho will revel in sharing the star spotlight that was solely trained on him last season…hey, he’s certainly got more talent than Tevez (and that’s not a bitter swipe, it’s just plain truth). Their pursuit of John Terry was laughable and bound to end in failure. Kolo Toure is not the answer to any question marks defensively, though the overly-expensive Lescott would help.
They are likely to destroy a few of the struggling teams but digging deep to get results against tougher opponents will see them drop points. They’ve surely got too much talent to finish lower than 5th…but this might be regarded as a failure.

Final Position: 5th – Champions League places may be closed off as I expect Arsenal to improve, definitely no title challenge.

Manchester United

Key Player – Wayne Rooney
It had to be really. There’s no Ronaldo now and for United to push on all fronts it is imperative Rooney has the best season of his career to date. And with Fergie promising a more central role this season United, and England, may get just that.

Watch out for – Dimitar Berbatov
Ok, so he didn’t justify his £30 million fee last season. This is true. But the guy is as gifted a forward as you’re likely see. Playing higher up the pitch will help his goal tally, which must improve. A delight to watch, now needs more end product.

Top Scorer – Wayne Rooney: 20+ goals if played through middle

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Not many are tipping United for the title this year. It’s not hard to see why. For a start, no club in English history has won it 4 times in a row. So history is stacked against them. But it’s the loss of Ronaldo, with no obvious replacement, which is the main cause for pundits to point elsewhere. Much is also made of Tevez leaving but whereas Ronaldo’s absence leaves a gigantic goalscoring crater to fill, Tevez leaves but a pinhole to plug. In response Ferguson has asked for fans to have faith in his faith in the already assembled squad (although not splashing out does slightly pang of Ferguson’s stubbornness to make a stand against the prices paid by Manchestermadrid City and the Real Madrid). So be it…but, you know, it takes a brave man to right Ferguson off.
Certainly the biggest season of Rooney’s and Berbatov’s careers is needed, and expected. Macheda (a very hot prospect) and Owen should contribute healthy goal tallies too. There is no doubting Owen will score goals if he plays but his fitness is no guarantee. He’ll be no use to United in a wheel-chair…referees will never allow him onto the pitch in one, not even at Old Trafford. The midfield carries the biggest question marks…will there be enough goals from here? Maybe not…but Valencia is a astute creative talent and young Michael Jackson look-a-like Nani seems determined to come strutting out of the shadow of Ronaldo that has been cast over his time here so far.
It has been problematic writing this whilst also trying to banish any bias I almost certainly have…however, I do believe the title will go to Old Trafford again. Chelsea will push them all the way, and to be honest it could go either way…maybe it is my bias after all that tips it the way of the 18 time Champions.
Final Position: 1st – Yep, champions for a record 4th time in a row…go ahead, shoot me down

Portsmouth

Key Player – Sylvain Distin
At the time of writing he is still a Pompey player but with the financial dire straits Portsmouth are in and many Premiership clubs coveting his services he may well not be much longer. Portsmouth will be in real trouble without his commanding presence.

Keep an eye on – Frederic Piquionne
I know nearly nothing about him but he has netted some goals in pre-season which is at least a promising start. If he doesn’t score goals they’ll be relying on David Nugent and, lets face it, he’s a bit poo.

Top Scorer – David Nugent 5-7 goals…if Piquionne doesn’t score who else will?

Since the glorious highs of only 15 months ago, when they clinched the FA Cup against Cardiff City at Wembley, Portsmouth fans have endured a pretty torrid time. Redknapp out, Adams promoted up and then out, Paul Hart promoted up and somehow staying in. The signs are not good for a Pompey side that have lost all their key players and have little money to buy with. One can’t see past a season of very few ups and then one final, devastating down. And this is not meant to be an offence to Hart but surely only the most skilled and experienced manager would seem to have a chance of saving Pompey this season. A dwindling squad with dwindling resources, an ageing defence and no proven goalscorer, they are a side that have had the core ripped out of them. There is no Premiership club more desperate for a takeover than Portsmouth. If Paul Hart does keep them up he’ll be candidate for manager of the season.
It is hard not to feel sorry for them but what can one do? More pertinently, what can Paul Hart do? Not much I fear, it’s a season of struggle ahead…I was tempted to put a season of serious struggle ahead but then, when has struggle been anything other than serious…oh yeah, when Derby County went down with record few points, that was downright hilarious…Ha! They were crap!!
Final Position: 19th – Even from the start they look doomed

Stoke City

Key Player – Rory Delap
It feels a bit of a cop-out picking Delap but, what can I say, he probably was their key player last season. His mighty throw wreaked havoc in even the most organised of defences and will continue to do so again…so long as his arms don’t drop off first.

Watch out for – Liam Lawrence
Has a good cross with his left foot and nifty footwork. Spent much of last season in the treatment room. Could have a good season this time around.

Top Scorer – James Beattie: could get up to 10 goals

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
This time last year they were prime relegation fodder but after the season they’ve just had one can easily pick four or five teams that look more susceptible to the drop than Stoke. Tony Pulis has worked wonders, he really has. He has made Stoke a tricky venue to take points away from, with even the top clubs wary that if they drop their performance levels here they are likely to be undone. Man Utd almost succumbed here last season, Arsenal actually did. In James Beattie Stoke have a proven goalscorer at this level and in Rory Delap they have a weapon no other team in the league possess.
It was nothing less than a thrilling season last year for Stoke’s boisterous fans, and expect the noise decibels to reach fever pitch again this time around, espiecially every time Rory Delap winds up another of his rocket launchers from the touchline. There will only be one sentence coming from the tongues of Stoke fans this week ahead of a brand new season of Premier League football: “More of the same please!” Utmost respect to the man in the cap for making it happen.
Final Position: 13th – Bottom half, perhaps creeping towards mid-table

Sunderland

Key Player – Darren Bent
Ok, so the prices clubs have paid for his services have over-valued him somewhat. The truth is he can score goals in this league when given the chance. At Sunderland he should feel more loved than at Spurs, he is the main man now. Time to get scoring.

Watch out for – Frazier Campbell
Could prove a canny little signing by Bruce. This should be a big season for Campbell as he finally gets a chance, for the first time in his career, to prove what he can do at this level.

Top Scorer – Darren Bent: 10 goals, depending on service, maybe closer to 15

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Sunderland surely must have a better campaign than last year. Surely. For a start, new manager Steve Bruce and his broken nose certainly know how to sniff out a bargain transfer, simply see who he managed to dig out for Wigan Athletic last year. If I’m honest, I wasn’t too sure about Bruce as a manager during his early years but he did very well at Wigan last term, scouring the planet for cheap but productive foreign imports like Zaki and Valencia. And in Darren Bent he has a man capable of getting a steady supply of goals in this League if given the confidence to do so. Scoring enough goals was Sunderland’s main problem last season and Bruce has invested well trying to resolve it. The partnership of Bent and Kenwyne Jones could well reap rich rewards for them.
Midfield options also looked thin on the ground last season (even with Andy Reid’s podgy presence) but Bruce has recognised this, spending a combined £11 million on Lee Cattermole and Luka Canas, which will provide the Black Cats with extra snarl in this central area. And with the noble Steed Malbranque and Kieran Richardson still on patrol they should be much stronger in this region than last year. The challenge now will be tightening up a defence that leaked some sloppy goals late in games. If Steve Bruce can plug the gap the Black Cats could well claw their way into the top half.
Final Position: 10th – even a mild flirt with relegation this year would be a disappointment

Tottenham Hotspur

Key Player – Robbie Keane
The much travelled Irish international has played the best football of his career in a Spurs shirt and he will be proud to captain a Tottenham side eager to break into the top six this season. Has a keen eye for creating an opening out of nothing.

Watch out for – Luka Modric
Everyone keeps gushing about the awesome talents of little Luka but he hasn’t quite hit the heights of the all hype…yet. A lot rests on his shoulders to get busy creating for Tottenham’s talented front-line. If he succeeds Spurs could be in real business.

Top Scorer – Jermain Defoe: 15+ a season man if playing regularly

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Optimism abounds at White Hart Lane ahead of the new season. Why? Well, firstly, it’ll be the first full season in charge for their new manager, a chance for him to really start shaping the team the way he wants and he’s only gone and brought in some hot and expensive new talent. Surely a season of success is on the cards at last…except, well, this all sounds a tad familiar doesn’t it? Wasn’t this the mood at the start of last season? Wasn’t Juande Ramos supposed to be the cure for Tottenham’s apparently rampant underachievement? And we all know what happened there…
However, let’s not put a downer on them just yet. After all happy Harry Redknapp is the man that holds the reins now, and he’s got more Premier League pedigree than Spurs have got right backs. And they’ve got a lot of right backs. They also have three top Premier League frontmen in Keane, Defoe and Crouch. Defoe, in particular, is one of the top goalscorers in the country and will be spurred on just that little bit more by the prospects of a World Cup campaign next June.
Two factors will be the difference between Tottenham having a successful campaign this year or simply having another, what some would claim to be, under-achieving one. The first factor is whether any of their centre-backs will be able to stand up long enough to protect their erratic but gradually improving goalkeeper Gomes. The second is whether their midfield can create enough openings for their talented trio of strikers. This second factor will have much to do with the form of diminutive Croat playmaker Luka Modric. It’s a make or break season for the little man, to prove he can truly cut it amongst what are mostly much bigger boys in the Premier League. Now, I know it’s always perilous picking Tottenham out to do well so I’ll try and say this as tentatively as I can…Tottenham will finish…………..6th!
I just know I’m going to rue saying that.
Final Position: 6th – But I won’t be putting any money on it

West Ham United

Key Player – Mark Noble
The combination of Noble and Scott Parker in central midfield proved a dependable one for Zola in his first season in charge. Noble, still only 22, is improving all the time, whilst having a good eye for a pass and a cool head when it comes to spot-kicks.

Watch out for – Dean Ashton
He’s endured two long, long seasons devastated by injuries since he exploded on to the Premier League scene in 2007. If West Ham can get him fit and back in form he’ll be the quality presence they sorely need up front.

Top Scorer – Carlton Cole: if Ashton remains injured, and no-one is brought in, the onus will be on Cole…7 –10 goals

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Life has not been kind to Gianfranco Zola during his first foray into English football management. Although bagging himself a top job at a club rich in tradition and brimming with Premier League potential he has had precious little in the way of transfer kitty to work with and precious little in the way of fit and functioning footballers to work with either. It’s been testing for the little Italian magician but so far he has responded brilliantly to the challenge, steering the Hammers into the top half last season and playing some entertaining football along the way.
They need a top striker like the roses need the rain, maybe actually more than the roses need the rain. If Dean Ashton can patch his broken limbs together long enough to kick a ball in anger he could well be the answer. Injuries continue to plague Wset Ham however. Luis Boa Morte is out till January and as for the poor, brittle Kieran Dyer, his injury record makes Michael Owen seem like the indestructible man. There must be times when Zola is tempted to put his size 3s back on and grace the field himself. I hear they’ve been eyeing up Eider Gudjohnsen, which would be a marvellous coup. Can’t understate the importance of English pairing Scott Parker and Mark Noble to their cause in centre midfield. Zola will no doubt have West Ham playing football the right way again this season but his hands are tied by their financial position.
Final Position: 11th – no top half finish this year for cash-strapped Zola

Wigan Athletic

Key Player – Titus Bramble
Yep. That’s right. Don’t rub your eyes, you are not mistaken. Titus Bramble. He’s come on leaps and brambles since absconding from the disaster area of Newcastle Utd’s backline…though he is still prone to the occasional comic howler.

Watch out for – Jordi Gomez
Apparently gifted midfielder, though ain’t really seen him play. Who else was I supposed to pick…Marlon King? Seriously though, much is touted about young Jordi Gomez, so just you watch out for him.

Top Scorer – Jason Scotland: unproven, no more than 10

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Wigan might just be the biggest unknown quantity in the league this year. Ex-Swansea City boss Martinez has a big challenge taking on from the sterling job done by Steve Bruce. In accepting this challenge he has sought comfort in familiarity, bringing two players with him from his former South Wales club.
The narrow selection of strikers at his disposal should be his major concern, none of whom have scored consistently in this league before. Defensively they have kept the same solid base as last year but they could feel the loss in midfield of Sunderland-bound Lee Cattermole. The vibe coming from Martinez pre-season is that Wigan will try to pass and play, in much the same that way Zola succeeded with West Ham last season, and therefore choosing to shun the all-action, “putting the boot in” tactics of the likes of Bolton & Blackburn. This may well result in Wigan being more attractive to watch than Bolton or Blackburn but will this tactic be more productive points-wise? I would like to say ‘yes’ but realistically not so sure, it could go either way…my hunch is that they’ll avoid relegation but it might well be a topsy-turvy season for the Latics and their exciting young manager.
Final Position: 14th – a respectable start for Martinez

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Key Player – Sylvan Ebanks-Blake
The promising 23 year old has the pace and nimble feet necessary to trouble Premiership defences, if given the service. Should he fulfil his promise Wolves might have enough to stay up.

Watch out for – David Edwards
This particular writer has marked him (out of the game I might add) in a school county cup final on the Gay Meadow many years ago. If Edwards can cut it amongst the best what does that say about the ability of yours truly…?

Likely Top Scorer – Sylvan Ebanks-Blake: could easily reach double figures

Premier League Prospects for 09/10
Well, the only way is up for Mick McCarthy’s Wolves, who currently lie 20th in the table before a ball has been kicked. They have a potentially spicy strike duo in the form of ex-Reading man Kevin Doyle and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, both prolific scorers in the Championship last year. Doyle has shown he can net goals regularly at this level and Ebanks-Blake, whilst unproven in the top flight, will come cruising into the Premiership on the tidal wave of confidence his Golden Boot trophy will have given him. Their partnership could prove the difference between survival and the dreaded drop.
Manager Mick McCarthy will be hoping there is no repeat of the humiliation he suffered with Sunderland a few years ago. They were relegated at the time with the record fewest points for a Premier League team. He has spent money strengthening and as long as they can start the season soundly should be fine.
Final Position: 16th – No new trauma for McCarthy

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Discussion

One thought on “How the Premier League WILL finish this season…

  1. Very interesting, I’m not sure when you made these predictions but they look pretty dead on, you are going out on a limb with Arsenal though. I noticed a few similarities to my picks, although I wish I had waited until now to make them, haha. Good stuff, cheers!

    http://whitsport.wordpress.com/page/2/

    Posted by whitsport | September 23, 2009, 3:17 pm

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