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How will the Premier League pan out?

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Phil McNulty | 11:00 UK time, Thursday, 12 August 2010

Chelsea and Manchester United may have formed part of the traditional Premier League guard of honour as they battled for the Community Shield once more but last season hinted at an increasing vulnerability among English football's established powers.

Carlo Ancelotti's march to a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season at Stamford Bridge was not without stumbles, while Sir Alex Ferguson's Old Trafford empire had to be fortified by the relatively meagre rations afforded by a Carling Cup victory.

Manchester City's latest splurge of summer spending will only increase demands for at least a trophy at Eastlands, while Liverpool - my flawed title tip last term - responded to a dismal campaign by replacing Rafael Benitez with Roy Hodgson.

Martin O'Neill's sudden departure from Aston Villa only adds to the drama ahead of the new season, while the return of Newcastle United and Blackpool to the top flight provides both stature and romance.

So, with cracks in the crystal ball repaired, it is time to predict how the Premier League might play out in 2010/11.

ARSENAL

After five years without a trophy, it is time for Arsene Wenger to stop trading on "jam tomorrow" promises and deliver the trophies this proud club requires. For those who believe I have some sort of downer on Wenger, it would be a delight to see his unshakeable principles on how football should be played receive tangible reward.

Arsenal were never more than on the margins of the title race last season, while Wenger's pretensions on the beautiful game were stripped bare by Barcelona in the Champions League.

The decision of Cesc Fabregas to ignore the advances of Barcelona and pledge his immediate future to Arsenal is a huge morale-booster, while Wenger has addressed obvious weaknesses in central defence by signing Lorient's Laurent Koscielny.

Wenger is actively seeking another defender, while the glaring faults of Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski will surely lead to a new goalkeeper arriving before the transfer window closes. If this does not happen, then Arsenal will not challenge for the title.

Wenger will have high hopes for new England recruit Jack Wilshere, while the hugely promising Kieran Gibbs will pressurise Gael Clichy - no bad thing on last season's evidence.

Arsenal have never been short of attacking options but the arrival of Marouane Chamakh from Bordeaux will give them an extra dimension alongside fit-again Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin and the improving Nicklas Bendtner.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
It is time for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to deliver further trophies

As ever, hopes are high at The Emirates. I expect Arsenal to be exciting, vulnerable and a delight for the purist - but more likely to enjoy success in the cups rather than the Premier League.

VERDICT: Threat in cup competitions if Wenger takes them seriously but face fight for top-four place.

ASTON VILLA

Martin O'Neill's decision to quit Aston Villa just days before the start of the season plunged a club that was already facing a difficult campaign into chaos.

Villa progressed last season, with losses in the Carling Cup final to Manchester United and the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea made even more painful by dreadful refereeing injustices. Nevertheless, there was an underlying sense of discontent surrounding O'Neill in the closing stages of the season.

With the influential James Milner seemingly heading for the exit and Ashley Young drawing envious glances from elsewhere, it appears O'Neill's frustration finally became too much - complete with devastating timing - although he can hardly complain of a lack of financial support from owner Randy Lerner during his reign.

Whether his departure actually clears the air at Villa Park remains to be seen and whoever replaces him will inherit a talented squad, although it would appear opportunities for expansion may be limited. Self-evidently, the choice of O'Neill's successor will shape the future direction. Villa may also benefit from a change to a tactical system that was often too one-dimensional.

These are crucial times for a club that has stood at the doorway to the Champions League and success without ever quite making it over the threshold.

VERDICT: Top eight and possibly a cup threat.

BIRMINGHAM CITY

Birmingham City's ninth-placed finish last season was an outstanding achievement and a testimony to the shrewd tactical approach of manager Alex McLeish and his wise work in the transfer market. The Blues will rely on the same qualities of organisation and discipline once more, backed by a fan base that will have renewed belief after last season.

The loss of Joe Hart, the best English goalkeeper in the Premier League last term, has been offset by the arrival of Ben Foster from Manchester United. Foster's career ran into the sidings at Old Trafford, resulting in him dropping down the pecking order and missing the World Cup in South Africa. He will fight his predecessor Hart for a place in Fabio Capello's affections with much to prove.

Up front, McLeish's capture of the giant Nikola Zigic from Valencia will add, literally, huge presence to their team. The impact he makes will have a big bearing on their season.

McLeish is still hoping to add more quality to his squad as he insists owner Carson Yeung will provide backing. But the Birmingham will once again lean heavily on the influence of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann at the back and the guidance of veteran Barry Ferguson, who certainly exceeded my expectations last season, in midfield.

Birmingham's biggest asset, however, is their manager and I back him to plot another season of consolidation - and build on his growing reputation within the game at the same time.

VERDICT: Mid-table respectability.

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Sam Allardyce's tactical methods are not universally well-received but Blackburn finished in the top 10 last season after some turbulence early on and this should be regarded as vindication of his approach.

Allardyce's achievements were built on the foundations of formidable home form, allied to the physical strength and power game that is his trademark. He will expect no less this time around.

With takeover talk at Ewood Park, he may even get a windfall to show some expertise in the transfer market. He has already signed emerging talent Mame Biram Diouf on loan from Manchester United.

VERDICT: Solid, unspectacular - but survivors.

BLACKPOOL

Last season it was Burnley, now an another great old power returns to the Premier League in the shape of Blackpool. The team that started among the Championship as relegation favourites won promotion by beating Cardiff City at Wembley, further proof that there is more to manager Ian Holloway than a swift soundbite.

They had barely left the Wembley turf before the killjoys were writing off their Premier League hopes but reality dictates they face a huge struggle to survive. This does not mean, however, that they should not enjoy the ride as they attempt to defy the odds.

This region deserves the lift a Premier League profile will give them and Blackpool will look to Charlie Adam to sprinkle the stardust in the absence of any serious cash to play with.

I,. for one, cannot wait to sample the atmosphere at Bloomfield Road and on a purely personal note am overjoyed that Jimmy Armfield, an absolute gentleman as well as an outstanding BBC broadcaster over so many years, will see his beloved Blackpool in the elite once more. Sadly, I do not seem them pulling through.

VERDICT: With a heavy heart, relegation.

BOLTON WANDERERS

I took a hammering from Bolton fans last season by suggesting Owen Coyle made a sideways move by leaving Burnley for Bolton. He proved his quality by easing Bolton to survival - clear testimony to my assertion that he is destined for greater things.

I expect Bolton to have their times of struggle this season but do not see them as relegation fodder. Coyle has high hopes for free-transfer signing Martin Petrov, highly gifted but injury troubled, and he has turned to old Burnley stalwart Robbie Blake for experience. Coyle is also excited about his teenage signing from Real Madrid, Marco Alonso.

Coyle has the basis of last season's squad in place, so the aim will be the same again, namely survival. I expect him to achieve this.

VERDICT: Not high fliers but not destined for the drop either.

CHELSEA

With so many stalwarts still in place despite the loss of Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Deco, Carlo Ancelotti's double winners will fancy their chances of a repeat Premier League title triumph this season.

Ancelotti clearly felt he had to move things along in midfield and the return of the outstanding Michael Essien will be a huge factor. It looks like Benfica's Brazilian midfield man Ramires is also on his way in to provide further reinforcement.

There are questions, though. Will John Terry's traumatic World Cup cause a Premier League hangover? Chelsea's spiritual leader was showing signs of wear and tear last season and he is not getting any younger, so how he performs will be vital.

Chelsea were also more vulnerable than usual away from Stamford Bridge last season but the compensation came in the shape of some devastating demolitions at home - and who in reality can seriously question a season that ended with a domestic double?

I expect this season to have plenty of twists and turns but Chelsea are my tip for the title.

VERDICT: No doubt to the huge joy of Manchester United fans, champions.

EVERTON

Everton played some outstanding football in the second half of last season, with Chelsea and Manchester United beaten at home and Manchester City eclipsed at Eastlands.

It has sent a surge of optimism around Goodison Park despite another summer without serious transfer cash.

Everton made maintaining the best squad David Moyes has assembled in his eight years at the club the priority - and on that basis it has been a job well done by the manager and chairman Bill Kenwright.

Jack Rodwell was kept from the clutches of admirers such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal with a new deal, while Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines and - most crucially of all - Mikel Arteta, their most gifted player, pledged their long-term futures to the club.

Steven Pienaar's future is unresolved but the signing of Jermaine Beckford on a free transfer from Leeds United is an interesting wild card. Can the man who was so prolific in the lower divisions repeat his feats on the highest stage? If he can, his arrival will be regarded as an inspired move by Moyes.

If Everton keep their squad fit, I expect an excellent season.

VERDICT: Top four outsiders and good cup bet.

FULHAM

Fulham had their season of dreams in 2009/10, reaching the final of the Europa League and finishing comfortably in mid-table of the Premier League - only to be rudely woken by the departure of manager Roy Hodgson to Liverpool.

Martin Jol's decision to turn down a move to Craven Cottage and stay at Ajax came as a blow but the club wasted no time in bringing in another big name in the shape of Mark Hughes, a man with real pedigree who is no doubt burning with a point to prove after his premature exit from Manchester City.

The reputation of Hughes can lure big names to Fulham and he will hope to keep players of the calibre of Brede Hangeland. No big rebuilding job needed here, simply the odd tweak and a point in the same direction.

VERDICT: Hughes wants top 10 and could achieve it.

LIVERPOOL

My title tip last year - and one that was only off target by the merest margin of 23 points and seven places.

A huge summer at Anfield has been well handled so far. Rafael Benitez's turbulent reign ended with a measure of dignity, as it had to do after more unrest, no trophies and a failure to deliver his promised top-four place.

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson
Liverpool will hope that new manager Roy Hodgson can provide stability this season

Roy Hodgson's appointment was not greeted by huge fanfare but, in my opinion, was the perfect choice. Liverpool need his level-headed, common sense approach, backed by huge experience. The mood music is suddenly more harmonious.

Joe Cole's signing has excited the frustrated Anfield faithful, while the feared departure of captain Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres has instead been replaced by pledges of commitment. If Gerrard and Torres had gone, the club would have been in turmoil. Instead, they will be expected to spearhead the new Hodgson era.

Javier Mascherano appears destined to be the one big name to exit but his annual agitation has become a tiresome irritant and I regard him as vastly over-rated in any event.

Hodgson has started well, although all judgements will be shaped by results.

VERDICT: Top four contenders and worth a punt for a cup.

MANCHESTER CITY

Where do we start? After the lavish spending of last summer yielded fifth place, just edged out of the Champions League after a home defeat by Spurs, the Eastlands hierarchy placed faith in Roberto Mancini and allowed him to indulge in yet another "scorched earth" transfer spree.

City will edge up towards splashing out £125mi if proposed deals for James Milner and Inter Milan's Mario Balotelli proceed without a hitch.

With such expenditure comes not not simply expectation of success but an insistence upon it. Already there are players signed for huge sums last summer, such as Joleon Lescott, Roque Santa Cruz and Emmanuel Adebayor, being tipped for the exit door.

Make no mistake, this is a stronger City squad than last season, with Yaya Toure, David Silva and the possibly Milner giving the midfield a new look and feel. There is also, however, a need for some stability and structure. City have yet to achieve this.

My feeling is that the real A-list signing - a Fernando Torres, for example - has not yet arrived and City will not be title challengers unless they can make that breakthrough, although there is still time for that player to arrive given the apparent non-existent purse strings at Eastlands.

I also remain to be convinced about Mancini. He needs a fast start because the ground rules were effectively set by the sacking of Mark Hughes last season. The Italian will need rare skill and plenty of deft man-management to keep his vast resources happy.

If he does, City can make a real impact. If he does not, there is genuine potential for unrest. I will err on the side of optimism, maybe out of a misplaced sense of goodwill towards their superb and long-suffering supporters, and take City to make the top four, providing Carlos Tevez comes somewhere near his magnificent form of last season.

Man City boss Roberto Mancini
Man City's owners will demand success from boss Roberto Mancini

Do I do this with complete conviction? No, not really.

VERDICT: Top four and must contest for silverware - or it could be the end as far as Roberto Mancini is concerned.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Sir Alex Ferguson has yet to make the stellar signing many expected after missing out on the Premier League and Champions League last season but he has iron-clad belief in his current squad and may yet add to the fresh faces of Chris Smalling and the exciting Javier Hernandez.

The Community Shield produced firm evidence of the unique and enduring talent of Paul Scholes. Ferguson does not do favourite players at United but the "Ginger Prince" would be a prime candidate if he did.

How much Ferguson can get out of veterans Scholes and Ryan Giggs will be crucial, while once again Wayne Rooney will be their most important figure. Like everyone else, I am still mystified by the desperately poor Rooney I saw in the World Cup in South Africa but he has such strength of character and natural ability that I expect him to respond in style to that disappointment.

United have talent elsewhere that goes some way towards justifying Ferguson's faith.

Nani, for so long so frustrating, showed signs of developing into a player of the highest calibre under Ferguson's careful tutelage last season. If he maintains this progress, the Portuguese will be a potent force.

I harbour doubts over United's central defence, where Rio Ferdinand's injury problems occur with increasing regularity, and the over-reliance on the veteran Edwin van der Sar in goal. I fear this is where they may suffer over a long Premier League season.

Will Dimitar Berbatov finally make the contribution Ferguson expected when he paid Spurs a club record fee? Ferguson still believes in the man he believes can be "a genius" when the mood takes him but that has not been often enough.

United will be positive and their in-built will to win saw them push the title race to the final day last season, even when they rarely produced their best. You write them off at your peril but I will go with Chelsea to just pip them for the Premier League once again.

VERDICT: Second - but will win at least one cup.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

The Toon Army marches on the top flight once more after Chris Hughton did an admirable job of guiding them out of the Championship after just one season but do not expect big things on their return.

Newcastle's fans always expect great deeds despite the club's lack of serious success in living memory. This time around they should regard survival and respectability as an achievement - and I think they will succeed in this limited aim.

Hughton has not had huge funds to spend but Dan Gosling - signed on a free transfer from Everton in contentious circumstances - will be a player of promise once he is fit, while Sol Campbell will provide experience and guidance at the back.

The 35-year-old's signing has been criticised in some quarters but he showed plenty of his old form at Arsenal last season. Newcastle fans will be right to remind sceptics that Sunderland, not to mention Celtic, were just as keen to secure his services.

Andy Carroll will be keen to test himself against Premier League defences, too, while Kevin Nolan will want to prove he can once again be a force in the top tier of English football.

Newcastle have enough quality around the squad - and a fine keeper in Steve Harper - to ensure there is no repeat of their relegation last time out.

VERDICT: Survival.

STOKE CITY

Tony Pulis has done a superb job at The Britannia Stadium, one of the most intoxicating and vibrant places in which to enjoy the Premier League experience.

Pulis has also been backed by the Stoke board and mere survival did not even cross their minds last season. It was consolidation and more besides. Their expectations will level out eventually but once again I see Stoke in the upper reaches of mid-table this season.

Snobs attack Pulis's style but you will not find many complaints in the Potteries. There appears to be money for one marquee signing - and if that comes off then Stoke will enjoy another satisfactory season.

VERDICT: Aspirations for the top 10.

SUNDERLAND

Steve Bruce enjoyed - and at times endured - a mixed first season at Sunderland but he will have learned his lessons and he is a manager I admire.

He has brought in Titus Bramble from Wigan Athletic, a defender he has the highest regard for despite his accident-prone nature, while he has high hopes for Paraguayan midfield man Cristian Riveros. Nedum Onuoha is another shrewd signing by a manager who has a track record in these matters.

Darren Bent, however, will be his main man. Regular readers will know I am a confirmed Bent fan - a proven Premier League goalscorer who I would have happily had in England's World Cup squad ahead of the vastly inferior Emile Heskey.

If he scores goals again, I will repeat my prediction of last season and say a good finish for the Black Cats.

VERDICT: Top 10.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Harry Redknapp's team deservedly won a place in the top four last season - and they were entertaining in the process while showing the grit to get results when they needed them.

Now it is time to prove they can consolidate their move into the 'Big Four', although it will be quite a challenge given Manchester City's spending power and Arsene Wenger's aversion to letting his north London neighbours steal a march on Arsenal.

Redknapp has a talented squad - and who seriously thinks he will not bolster it in the coming weeks?

Spurs may need a touch more genuine quality up front to make their mark in the Champions League but they will enjoy themselves once more in the Premier League.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp will be hoping to consolidate his side's place in the top four

Redknapp must decide how to handle the Robbie Keane conundrum - by selling him presumably - while Peter Crouch's star appears to have fallen suddenly, so those attacking reinforcements may well come. But cast a glance around the White Hart Lane squad and it is one of the strongest in the Premier League.

Spurs are always cup contenders, too - and next year ends in a '1' remember.

VERDICT: Top four a realistic target once more and my FA Cup winners.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Great to see the Baggies back in the Premier League - big club, big crowds and a great atmosphere at The Hawthorns. It will be a real feat, however, if Roberto di Matteo stops them boing-boinging back into the Championship.

He has worked well to sign goalkeeper Boaz Myhill, while Nicky Shorey is a solid performer having arrived from Aston Villa. West Brom are also to be commended for fighting off the attentions of West Ham United for the excellent Graham Dorrans.

For all this, I fear for Albion's lack of quality and cutting edge over a long season.

VERDICT: Relegation.

WEST HAM UNITED

Avram Grant arrives at West Ham United with plenty to prove. Was he simply in the right place at the right time when Jose Mourinho left Chelsea and did he simply benefit from a total lack of expectation at Portsmouth?

Grant has added to the Hammers squad with Tal Ben Haim, while Winston Reid, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Pablo Barrera and Frederic Piquionne are intriguing additions. Scott Parker is West Ham's big player, while it will be interesting to see who goes and who arrives before the season starts.

David Gold and David Sullivan admit they have a big rebuilding job, so staying in the Premier League is probably as good as it gets at Upton Park.

VERDICT: Will stay up - but not a season of distinction.

WIGAN ATHLETIC

Roberto Martinez did himself huge credit by sticking to his strict footballing principles and keeping Wigan up last season. Can he perform the same trick again?

He will apply the same code - and for that one of the Premier League's most promising young managers deserves great credit - but I think Wigan are in for a season of struggle.

Paraguay defender Antolin Alcaraz has arrived and Hamilton Academical midfielder James McArthur follows the path trodden to the DW Stadium by James McCarthy - Scottish, young, hungry, talented. Real Wigan hopes.

Martinez excelled by keeping Wigan up last season. May need to be even better this time.

VERDICT: Relegation candidates.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

I did not win any popularity contests among Wolves fans for criticising manager Mick McCarthy's decision to field a reserve team at Manchester United last season but I don't back down. On the other side of the coin, any side that counts former Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple giants Robert Plant and Glenn Hughes among their fans has my total admiration.

McCarthy sent out a team that was committed, honest, organised and thoroughly deserved to stay in the Premier League. I think they will do so again - and the derby dates with West Brom will be special occasions.

It has been fairly quiet at Molineux this summer but Kevin Doyle is still there, as is the pragmatic McCarthy, who has added Stephen Hunt and Steven Fletcher to his squad, so I back Wolves to survive another campaign in the battling, disciplined style that served them so well last time out.

VERDICT: Bottom half but survival. Just.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Once again under-estimating Utd

    Brilliant news then. We all know how good your predictions are

    Chelsea to not finish in the top 2

  • Comment number 2.

    What's Charlie Adam got to do with Burnle?

  • Comment number 3.

    I think Spurs will have their work cut out to maintain a Top Four finish but I have great faith in Harry's abilities and our squad, which as you rightly pointed-out is one of the strongest in the Premier League, will have had an extra year playing together and all of the major players will be retained.

    There's still plenty of time to bring in one or two key players, in addition to Sandro who looks like he'll arrive at White Hart Lane with a Copa Libertadores winners medal in his suitcase.

    With Chelsea favourites for the title and United up there too, I feel the two remaining Champions League places will be fought over by four clubs - Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool - and it would be a brave man to put money on which two will be successful.

    Harry has the best record, statistically speaking, of any Spurs manager since the club joined the Football League way back in 1908:

    http://www.myfootballfacts.com/TottenhamHotspurManagersRecords1898-2009.html



  • Comment number 4.

    Nobody ever predicts United to win the league. Even when we were winning it a few years back it was always "Chelsea will in it next year". Well they were only 1 point better last year - bring it on

  • Comment number 5.

    so chelsea finish fifth, united win the title and arsenal second place!! it looks like so!!!after all last season liverpool won the league!!

  • Comment number 6.

    So only two teams are going to get relegated? It really will be an interesting season...

  • Comment number 7.

    So Phil, following the back-firing of last years Liverpool claim, this article is the stick we can use to beat you with for the rest of the season!! :)

    I actually think this will be a very interesting and difficult to call season, you will see the traditional top 4 drop more points than before.

    Apart from Blackpool this is a very strong league, with all capable of beating each other on the day.

    Top 4 -

    Manchester United (with a new breed of youngsters)
    Chelsea
    Arsenal
    Liverpool (just)

    Not exactly sticking my neck out, but it is what i think.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    From my point of view I can't see Man U winning this season, no real quality has been added, the over reliance on Rooney will come unstuck at some point and without him they look ordinary.

    Chelsea won last year but their best players are all over 30 and another long hard season after last years campaign and a world cup in-between means I think they might come unstuck at somepoint.

    Man City buy too many players, it takes time for a team to gel and if you keep buying 5/6/7 new players every year, they will never work as a team. However I expect them to get top 4.

    My beloved Arsenal are looking in good shape, however still a bit light in defence and a new goalkeeper is needed. I would have preferred a powerhouse in midfield as well, we lack that grit needed in a cold winter away game.

    I guess what I am saying is that this campaign will be the closest yet, and there is no reason by any of 7 teams couldn't make top 4 and no reason why any of 5 couldn't win the premiership, all the teams has problems and issues and I personally think that Chelsea of 2006/2006, The Man U of 1997 or 2007, or the Arsenal of 2002 would have run away with the title last year...

  • Comment number 10.

    If Chelsea do win it this time round(and I'm adding my tipping curse to them as well)it may well be the last time they do unless Roman unleashes the cheque book.The squad is still at a peak but key performers are closer to the end of their very top level careers.

    The top 6 should be last seasons top 5 plus Liverpool,but you could argue for any of them to win it.So I'm going with this.....

    1.Chelsea
    2.Un**ed
    3.Arsenal
    4.Citeh
    5.Liverpool
    6.Spurs
    7.Everton
    8.Villa
    9.Fulham
    10.Stoke
    11.Bolton
    12.Birmingham
    13.Sunderland
    14.Blackburn
    15.West Ham
    16.Wolves
    17.Newcastle
    18.Wigan
    19.West Brom
    20.Blackpool

    Having said that,as the old Robbo regulars can confirm I'm useless at this so that should cheer up the Un**ed fans and sadden MrBlueBurns.....

  • Comment number 11.

    I just can't see Chelsea retaining the trophy. It is going back to where it belongs - OLD TRAFFORD. I still can't understand how people are underestimating United. From the way people talk, without big signings clubs can't win trophies; but I think upon the evidence of last season, we all know this doesn't hold water. Real Madrid bought a lot of superstars but won nothing, so were Manchester City. This season is for UNITED!!!
    For the top four, I perceive Man. City breaking into it. At the end of the season, this is how the table will look like:
    1. United
    2. Arsenal
    3. Chelsea
    4. Man. City

  • Comment number 12.

    Welcome back, Phil. Where had you been hiding post World Cup?

    Ohh, you are back with your famous predictions, I see. Did you consult Paul, the octopus before he retired in his aquarium? Surely not.

    The good thing of the blog is you now know what to anticipate from the blog followers here. So you're almost sure to face wrath of fury from Man United fans.

    Btw did you know this? The only team that was unbeaten during pre-season was Arsenal. And what this means - Nothing much significant.

    Phil, your predictions are as good and as ever! Up the Gunners!

  • Comment number 13.

    Phil again you underestimate Arsenal and even put te boot in when you can. You never give them any respect. I mean "VERDICT: Threat in cup competitions if Wenger takes them seriously but face fight for top-four place." Surely you still dont understand Wenger. The Carling Cup is for the fringe players. If you can have a better than average time without injries to key players then I think we will be pressing to the title. I do agree with you about the goalkeeper and maybe one more central defender but apart from that I think this could be a title winning team.

  • Comment number 14.

    Here is what's going to happen.

    Arsenal will start brightly in the sunshine, make it last until Christmas, realise they haven't got the midfield bully of Viera-esque, lose the fight, Fabregas will start texting Barca, will end up passing along the edge of the box against Fulham with no end product and end up 5th.

    Liverpool will improve on last season just on being a happy place to be again. No more baffling tactics and managerial faux-pas, attacking football will be allowed and they'll displace Spurs from the top 4.

    Spurs will sink after inevitably falling down to the Europa League where the amount of games will inflict fatigue and diminishing morale. 7th.

    Everton will have a good season, so long as the injuries that crippled them last term don't come back again. Will fight it out with Man City for 5th, and probably come out on top, due to better squad harmony and balance over the field.

    City are a bunch of high paid mercenaries with 4 players for every spot and strangled by the new home-grown players rule. Have a bigger squad though for cup competitions and will allow them to rest the first team, unlike Spurs.

    Chelsea will run it close with United, but Ferguson, who cannot possibly again suffer the injury crisis of last year, will not allow the title to slip for a second year running.

    Oh, and Bolton will go down.

  • Comment number 15.

    And here's a more realistic view how the season could pan out. And I wish I am wrong too.

    1) Manchester United
    2) Arsenal
    3) Manchester City
    4) Chelsea
    5) Liverpool
    6) Tottenham Spurs
    7) Aston Villa
    8) Everton
    9) Newcastle United
    10) Bolton Wanderers
    11) Stoke City
    12) Fulham
    13) Sunderland
    14) Birmingham
    15) Wigan Athletic
    16) West Ham United
    17) Blackburn Rovers
    18) West Brom
    19) Wolves
    20) Blackpool

  • Comment number 16.

    Phil

    Welcome back.

    Are you going to be able to sort the modding on this blog for this season please? it ruins debate when it takes an hour to mod each comment!!!

    Thanks

  • Comment number 17.

    I think ManU will win the Premiership.

    I just think that they have the better balance and depth in the squad although it will be close.

    I think Tottenham could be a realistic challenger for 3rd place, let alone 4th. They have a very good squad and manager in Harry.

    Unless Arsenal get a decent goalkeeper and defensive midfielder (like Viera or Mascherano for example), they could struggle for top 4 place.

    Chelsea will finish second thanks to Essien, Lampard and Drogba mainly. They need to have injury-free seasons. Just think that John Terry has been found out in the last 8 months (let alone the world cup). He really needs to up his game.

    Unfortunately unless Blackpool have a very good start, they will be relegated and if they are already adrift at the foot of the table by New Year, they may sell Charlie Adam just so they could make some money (after all they only paid £500K from Glasgow Rangers).

    Also think Wigan and Sunderland could struggle this season.

  • Comment number 18.

    Jacks, How are you mate? Long time no see.

    Please start posting on Robbo's.

  • Comment number 19.

    Predicting is a mugs game, of course, especially when you put it out there for the whole world to read. Liverpool let you down big time last year, and apart from Benitez, nobody got more stick for their failure than you.
    However, your top two prediction this year is a no-brainer and apart from all the United fans being bitterly disappointed that everyone doesn't think that that the signing of a the Mexican, turns them into world beaters, I imagine you will have an easier time this year.
    My candidates for being much worse than last year. Spurs and Villa! Spurs I can see getting knocked out of the CL before the group stage, and Villa will go into free fall without MON. Top four back to its usual look, with UTD and Chelsea proving themselves to have the legs to make it to May, while Liverpool and Arsenal fade and scrap for third and fourth.

  • Comment number 20.

    oh, i had forgotten the broadband joys of McNulty moderation.. :o(

  • Comment number 21.

    Phil, you are so wrong about Spurs and Liverpool, neither will finish top 4 nor will they win a major cup. I don't know how you've come to this conclusion, especially regarding Liverpool. Oh you're a fan of course.

    Top 4 in no particular will be Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal

    Relegated: Blasckpool and any two from 6 or 7 - that's where the excitement will be.

  • Comment number 22.

    As a Chelsea fan, I think it will be hard for the club to win the title again this season. I'm not certain if there is the strength-in-depth of last season. With some big named departures, it would have been good to have replaced them, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So far, just bringing in Benayoun has not filled me with confidence. However, having Michael Essien back is a major boost.

    To win the title, we need to get off to a flyer, however, pre-season has made me sceptical. I hope that some of our younger players can step up and show that they can cope in the Premier League.

    I'd be happy with the Champions League and considering the final is at our second home this coming season, then, who knows?

    1) Man Utd
    2) Chelsea
    3) Man City
    4) Arsenal.

  • Comment number 23.

    Last season was probably two of the weakest Chelsea and Man Utd sides and they still finished comfortably above the rest even with both teams losing key players to injury. I think it will be another close one but I expect Man Utd to win the league just because I think Chelsea will be more focused on the Champions League. I hope the quality of football improves though because last year was definitely a dip in terms of quality.

    Personally as a neutral fan I would love to see a new name on the trophy just to spice things up a bit and break up the Big Two that have won it for the last 6 years. Would also love Spurs to become the first London club to win the European crown just for the fact no-one would have thought that could happen 10 years ago!

  • Comment number 24.

    Welcome back Phil. I have to admit I missed your blogs even though I've never been a big fan of them.
    As a Man Utd fan I am a little surprised you've tipped us to do so well this season (i.e finish second in the league and win at least one cup). If you ask me, we haven't really improved from last year except of course the addition of hernandez. What worries me the most is the lack of creativity in midfied. Apart from scholes there are no central midfield players who possess any creativity whatsoever. What then happens in games where scholes doesn't play because at 35 he definitely cannot play every game.
    So far Fergie has deliberately chosen not to strengthen this area because in the close season he has signed two strikers, a defender and no midfielders. Do you think Fergie is really comfortable with the midfield he already has or will he still sign someone before the transfer window closes?

  • Comment number 25.

    As a chelsea fan, can i say

    WHY?!?!?!

    I dont want this curse. Ack.

  • Comment number 26.

    two teams for the drop and fifteen teams for the top ten..... how does that work?

  • Comment number 27.

    "It has been fairly quiet at Molineux this summer" - are you serious?

    Five full signings and one loan BEFORE the World Cup, I don't call that quiet compared to 75% of other teams in the Premier League.

    Regardless, I don't necessarily disagree with your prediction. That would do me just fine.

  • Comment number 28.

    #13

    Little pass sideways. Little pass forwards. Little pass back. Repeat x5. Lose the ball. Repeat.

    Can you guess what team this reflects upon?

  • Comment number 29.

    Arsenal
    Man U
    Chelsea
    Man City
    Liverpool
    Tottenham

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.


    I honestly thought and hoped that you have been sacked amidst all the cost-cutting and we wouldn't hear from you again.

    But back to your unenviable task of covering this decaying league and overblowing the substandard quality of its teams, managers and footballers.



  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    Plus I'm afraid that almost nobody criticised (yourself included) the various other 'weakened' teams throughout the season. Fulham were the worst culprits, on more than two occasions - but no inquiry, no fine, no nothing.

    I didn't like Mick's selection either, but I think people need a reality check if they think we were the only team who are at it.

  • Comment number 34.

    The Gunners haven't had that bad a record in getting to the latter stages of cup competitions over the last five trophieless years even with playing a lot of reserve and youth players along the way. Arsene could have taken the pressure off a bit if he took some of the opportunities in those matches and played the more senior players and picked up the odd bit of silverware - but he tends to stick all his eggs in one basket by only going all out for the league and CL. He also considers a top 4 finish as equivalent to a trophy win!

  • Comment number 35.

    I am a Man Utd fan, and I'd be worried if we are tipped for winning anything by these so called, pundits? Thank gawd for that btw!

    Bring on the season!

  • Comment number 36.

    Thanks for the transfer news summary but the rest of the article is virtually pointelss. So Chelsea to edge Man Utd and Blackpool to get relegated? I might just go and hibernate until May now all the excitement is over.

    Liverpool had an anomally last year - can a supporter of another team say they look at them on the fixture list as a 7th place team? City will also need time to gel and have another team of strangers this year. Will be great going forward but suspect defensively.

    Arsenal now have a striker but the distractions around Fabregas will surely be great - no one can deny that he would have had a huge smile on his face pulling on a blue and red shirt this season (if he could make the first team). They also need a new goalkeeper, with very few world-class goalies currently available.

    Spurs look very strong and this is the year that Defoe needs to really stake his claim to be a great footballer. I reckon they will be very close with Liverpool and Arsenal to finsh 3/4/5.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    United to win it, simply because they were not really fluent last year but Chelsea, for all their 7 and 8 goals hauls, did not kill them off, the fact it went to the last match and at one point near the end they almost bottled it despite winning the crunch at OT.

    Yes, you say almost but did not but the point is Chelsea and United were like chalk and cheese last year, OT tends to be a fortress for several reasons, that should continue to garner enough points to build pressure on Chelsea.

    United by 5 points


  • Comment number 39.

    I have an uncomfortable feeling that Liverpool could do very well this season: Cole is an excellent acquisition, no more baffling managerial tactics and tantrums, and Gerard and Torres staying. Provided the three named players stay fit for most of the season (a big if) and Hodgson sorts out the defence at set pieces, I fear Liverpool will relish the title as dark horses and surprise many.

  • Comment number 40.

    Chelsea p1

  • Comment number 41.

    'Where's my comment?All new members are pre-moderated initially, which means that there will be a short delay between when you post your comment and when it appears while one of our moderators checks it.'

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    When did I suddenly become a new member after 3 - 4 years?!!

  • Comment number 42.

    1) Manu
    2) Arsenal
    3) Chelsea (squad too old and abram to concentrate on IPL Cricket)
    4) T'ham

    Man City "C" team to win the Carling Cup!!!!!
    Liverpool to go into Administration, ha haaaaa "dreaming"

  • Comment number 43.

    Dear Sir
    may I take issue with your assessment of Arsenal last season and this. I agree they were peripheral in the title race but had they won at Spurs I think they might have won the title. This season you will be surprised; shipping out the sulky Gallas is a huge plus on and off the field; from the moment he joined we became a disjointed and grumbling dressing room. The new centre back is excellent and Chamakh is a big, big plus. At the end of the season people wil be talking about Nasri and Diaby, they are going to have huge seasons. You are completely right about the keeper though; if he does not sign one then they will never ever win a thing.

  • Comment number 44.

    "Sir Alex Ferguson has yet to make the stellar signing many expected"

    Hernandez is more than just a potential, and the rest of the squad is looking good. What we lacked last season was more goal support for Rooney, but with Berba looking better, Owen looking fit, and the new signings it looks good to me.

    Biggest threat is City, not Chelsea. Anelka and Drogba are on the wane, and Terry is a creaky calamity i look forward to seeing happen regularly.

  • Comment number 45.

    Marcos Alonso, not Marco Alonso

    Please correct this Paul McNulty.

  • Comment number 46.

    Was this not the very same BBC Sports Chief Writer who this time last year predicted Liverpool to romp away with the Premier League after becoming "Vice Champions" the season before?

    Beware the curse of the said BBC Sports Chief Writer !

  • Comment number 47.

    As a Gooner, I can see us struggling unless we bolster the defence. If we keep the same aquad, it will be a case of having to score more than we let in, rather than the old style 'boring boring Arsenal' that won so many games 1-0. Coul dmake games at the Emirates very interesting.

    I can see Everton moving up the table this year as they have hung on to so many of their better players. If they all stay fit, they will be Europa League certainties, but not yet top four.

    Liverpool cannot be as bad as last year. Man City will take time to find out their best team and get players to gel and Villa will struggle, especially if they lose both James Milner and Ashley Young. Spurs? I can't see them getting out of the Group Stages of the Champions League, if they get that far. They may well win a cup but 5th is probably the highest they will finish in the league.

    I think Man U and Chelsea will be the top two, with Arsenal third again. At the other end Blackppol are relegation certainties, West Brom will probably join them and the third will be West Ham, Wolves or Wigan. Newcastle to finish 14th or 15th, which will be good enough for their first season back.

  • Comment number 48.

    Saying Spurs will win the FA Cup is just daft. Predicting any winner is, most it it depends on the draw and it's impossible to speculate accurately on. I'm sure Tottenham will have their minds elsewhere anyway...

    Arsenal also won't win it, they've barely improved at all. Koscielny is a good signing, but him and Vermaelen are the only two quality-centre-backs in the squad and with Arsenal's injury record, it doesn't look good. As usual they still have far too many attackers (Chamakh, Van Persie, Bendtner, Vela, Walcott, Nasri, Rosicky, Arshavin), they're almost giving City a run for ther money in terms of costly benchwarmers. It'll be another trophyless year for them.

    Chelsea have been poor in pre-season and they just look a bit of a mess really. Why they're buying Ramires I don't know, with Essien and Mikel they just don't need him. They need another quality striker, a right back, and a plethora of new midfielders (expect for in the Essien/Mikel role), because there's just not enough quality there and out of all the teams in the big four they have by far the poorest youth prospects. Borini and Di Santo... really?

    If Fergie sticks with two up front and can either get Nani being creative every week or sign a clever playmaker (Joe Cole would've been perfect...) United will win it. Good squad depth, and Hernandez and Rooney could well be the best strike pairing in the league this year. With Owen as a super-sub and Berba if things get desperate I have high hopes :)

  • Comment number 49.

    Phil, Phil, Phil, a quiet summer at Molineux? Until a few days ago we were the second highest spenders in the summer, spending £6.5 million on Fletcher, £3 million each on Mouyokolo and Hunt, £2.5 million or so on Van Damme...

    Still, don't worry about research, it's highly overrated!

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    I personally tip Wigan for relegation especially if their defence is as atrocious as last season.Man U to win the league with Chelsea a close second.

  • Comment number 53.

    "Arsenal were never more than on the margins of the title race last season"

    Maybe my memory is even worse than I thought but weren't Arsenal top of the league with about 6 or 7 games to play and everybody and his brother saying they had the easiest run-in?

    Welcome back Jacks!

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    Im' a Blackpool fan and i definitely think we will go down, however there is a shed of hope we will stay up. Look at Reading and Wigan back in the day who spent more than one season up after being ripped off by the bookie's. Obviously we're favourites to go down but it was the same case in the Championship. I think Liverpool will break the top four again and City have that much talent they'll end up like Real Madrid 3 years ago where the players thought they were better than the manager and don't get the results, leading to Tottenham or Everton finishing 5th.

  • Comment number 56.

    ...and obviously this season, only Man U will threaten Bolton's hopes of the title.

  • Comment number 57.

    Prediction:

    Man Utd
    Arsenal
    Chelsea
    City
    Everton (dependent on injuries)
    Spurs

    As a Gooner can I just ask why do we need a midfield powerhouse?

    Diaby adds good physical presense in attack and Song was one of our top performers last year. Now we have have Djourou back (originally was a DM) and Frimpong is breaking into the first team.
    Just need to get a spare CB and sort out the goalkeeping issue and it's a contending team, the fact I've predicted second though shows I have little faith we will sort out the goalkeeper issue. The problem is we haven't figured out what to do with Szczesny's development, he will be a top keeper but should we give him the jersey now or buy new?


    Also Chelsea third as they just didn't seem to have the hunger for it, they had by far the strongest squad last season but still allowed United and Arsenal to stay in the race for the whole season. Now they've lost a bit of squad depth (Belletti, Carvalho, Deco/Cole) and key players are getting older.

  • Comment number 58.

    I agree with the blog - I would like to see Arsene take cup competitions seriously. Fine, use the kids for the matches not involving Prem or Championship opposition, but use the main team - perhaps with the best kid or two - for the later rounds. Give Arsen(et)al a chance at some silverware, y'know?

    It's not like Arsenal will be winning the Champions League any time soon, after all.

    PS: Not too many Champions League predictions, eh? Mine is that at most one English team will reach the semis - and if one does, it won't reach the final.

    Arsenetal had a lot of injury problems last year, and it's actually surprising in retrospect that Arsene was able to get them to third - the return of RvP etc will be like bringing in new players.

  • Comment number 59.

    As a neutral, I would love to see Blackpool claim a couple of top scalps. I'm sure that most fans though would be content with ending with more points than Derby had in 2008.

    If they stay up, I promise that I will eat a whole tomato. And that's saying something.

  • Comment number 60.

    So Chelsea to be champions, Man U second and then we've got Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Man City and Spurs to be in the top 4 and we've got just 2 teams to be relegated?! Interesting

    Your predictions would be slightly more interesting if you actually picked which of those 5 contenders was going to actually finish in the top 4 as there's a big difference between 3rd and 7th. Everyone knows those 7 and Villa will be in the top 8 but in which order is the question!

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    Didn't even mention Wigan's record signing Boselli and then you proceed to tip them for the drop. Irritating.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think Villa will fall apart at the start and never really recover.
    Liverpool, unlike last year, will be a real threat
    Arsenal still 2 players short of greatness
    ManU, SAF getting the best from his players means top two finish for sure, plus they will be fun to watch.
    Tootenham too inconsistenet but also fun
    Everton, if they start well (unlike last yea) may be a top three contender
    Chelsea, solid but uneventful, possibly might falter
    Citeh inconsistent and sometimes brilliant

    So Manu
    Liverpool
    Arsenal (higher if they sign)
    Everton
    Citeh
    Chelsea
    Spurs

    then Birmingham
    Sunderland
    Villa
    Stoke
    Bolton

    relegation battlers
    West Ham
    Blackburn
    Fulham
    Newcastle
    Wolves

    go down Wigan
    Blackpool and
    West Brom

  • Comment number 64.

    Chelsea are gonna bomb, so will Villa My final table

    Man U
    Arsenal
    ManC
    Chelsea
    Liverpool
    Spurs
    Everton
    Villa
    Fulham
    Stoke
    Newcastle
    Sunderland
    Birmingham
    Bolton
    Blackburn
    Wolves
    West Ham
    Wigan
    West brom
    Blackpool

  • Comment number 65.

    Phil,
    can't help but notice you've tipped six sides to be in the top 4. Given that this is unlikely at best, who are your tips to miss out on CL football again. Personally I think missing out would be somewhat of a disaster for Liverpool given their debt (takeover notwithstanding) but feel that they and Spurs may be beaten by the spending power of City.

  • Comment number 66.

    As a neutral, I don't quarrel with a top two of Utd and Chelsea, in either order. But change is coming. Both teams are ageing, whether we're talking Scholes and Giggs, or Drogba and Lampard. The balance here actually favours Chelsea, who have got nearly as much money as Utd have got debt.

    But the wild card is obviously City. They've got almost bottomless resources - think Abramovich x10 (or maybe more). So far they are a collection of stars, not a team, and that's the tricky bit. I'm not completely convinced by Mancini, and in any case there's a huge difference between a collection of stars and a top team.

    But I don't think we can be in any doubt about one thing - it might take a long time, but City's wealth dictates that they WILL be top dogs one day. We need to get used to it.

  • Comment number 67.

    Chelsea are not retaining the title sorry.

    It's Man Utds' year this year with the up and coming youngsters to regain it for me

  • Comment number 68.

    Phil
    As a Blackpool fan I find your words quite kind. Jimmy's 5Live commentary from the DW on Saturday promises to be emotional.
    We're here to have fun, enjoy the ride and bloody a few noses.

    Yes we may very well go down, but it won't be without spirit, commitment, passion, pride and colour.

  • Comment number 69.

  • Comment number 70.

    "It has been fairly quiet at Molineux this summer"

    If you're going to write an article at least do a little research, after Man City Wolves have been the highest spenders so far this summer bringing in Steven Fletcher, Steven Mouyokolo, Stephen Hunt and Jelle Van Damme. Along with the permanent signing of Adlene Guedioura and loan extension of Geoffrey Mujangi Bia.

    Plus we've seen the permanent exit of Andrew Surman, George Friend, Chris Iwelumo, Jason Shackell, Daniel Jones and Mark Little, along with Stefan Maierhofer and Sam Vokes going out on loan.

    Very quiet summer....or not if you do some research.

  • Comment number 71.

    Looks like this year really will see a big four, no less than 6 teams in it and maybe a seventh! And 2 teams certain to go down and only one other candidate. Phil, look at ALL your predictions together before posting.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    "It has been fairly quiet at Molineux thti Summer"

    ...We have spent nearly £18m and signed six players!!

    As long as everything clicks from the start and we don't get too many injuries I think Wolves will surprise a few people this season.

  • Comment number 74.

    Last season means nothing. Tis a new day. Mostly with the general consensus I think Tottenham and Villa will both fall a little, though that will be due to Everton and Liverpool both coming back towards their more "common" positions. Saying that, how Liverpool will get on with Hodgson in charge is going to be interesting to see, is Torres heading for a career of injuries? Man U and Chelsea should still be top 2, but if either Arsenal or City get going they could threaten them.

    As an Everton fan I am (like many others) feeling quietly optimistic about this season. Third best record post xmas and a fitter and fresher squad with no Europa League fixture madness. Would be massively chuffed with 4th :)

  • Comment number 75.

    Wolves quiet in the transfer market? Go and do some research Phil.

    We made all of our signings before the World Cup rather than waiting until the season is upon us meaning any new players won't have settled into the squad.

    All our new lads (6) have had a full pre season with their new team mates, a much better strategy than waiting until deadline day.

  • Comment number 76.

    Can't agree with the predictions for the top four. Chelsea looked old and tired during the Charity Shield. I'd go with:-

    1 Man Utd
    2 Arsenal
    3 Chelsea
    4 Liverpool/Spurs/Man City [On a par with each other]

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think that this season will be a three horse race as Man City can compete with the other 2 'money' clubs Chelsea and Man Utd. Sadly the Premier league is a closed shop and unless your club gets purchased by a Billionaire, then all you can hope for is survival or mediocricity.

    On a seperate note can people stop hyping the 'race' for 4th place. Fourth place is not an achievement!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 79.

    I also think that Arsenal will win the title, and my team (Newcastle) will finish around the 15th mark, depending on if we get any new signings in the next 10 days.

  • Comment number 80.

    This has got to be the most pointless blog I have seen on this site for a while and I am a big fan. Of course the usual suspects will be up there but how can you call it when a single ball hasn't been kicked. Who would have predicted Newcastle would have been relegated a few years back? And Liverpool last season (only just making it into Europe). All a team needs is a big injury to a star player and that can make the difference. Wolves were my favs last year to be relegated and they were superb.

  • Comment number 81.

    I think Chelsea's defence is a little thin in the middle. IMO Ivanovic is the best they got and with Alex injured, they look very thin. Fereira may be called upon or essien to fill the gap in defence. Not very convincing.

    Utd look strong. They have the same squad and added a few players who look promising.

    Arsenal will do well if their defence is sorted out. Esp the partner for Vermaelen.

    I think pool will snatch 4th.

    My predictions

    1. Man U
    2. Arsenal
    3. Chelsea
    4. Liverpool
    5. Man City
    6. Spurs
    7. Everton
    8. Villa
    9. Stoke
    10. Fulham
    11. Bolton
    12. Blackburn
    13. Sunderland
    14. Birmingham
    15. West Ham
    16. Newcastle
    17. Wolves
    18. Wigan
    19. WBA
    20. Blackpool

    And Phil - the term sideways step is again wrong and you yourself have admitted it! If you feel that he can manage a better team, then wouldnt Bolton be a better stepping stone for him than Burnley (no disrespect intended)

  • Comment number 82.

    Interesting blog

    It’s just a shame you had to ruin it by taking a poke at Emile Heskey... As Graham Souness would say ‘get your medals out!’
    He’s won far more than Bent surely? So the term ‘vastly inferior’ is very questionable.
    Yes Bent should have gone to the world cup – it astounds me that someone with his proven goalscoring record was overlooked by Capello – but it’s about style of play! He wanted to play a particular system and it’s a system that proved effective in qualification. Heskey played well during the world cup, – Rooney was the massive flop!

    A lot depends on injuries – if Van Persie misses a lot of the season I see Arsenal struggling for a top four finish.
    Would like to see Man City in the running at the end of the season, if they can keep the squad happy it could be their year.

  • Comment number 83.

    Same old story with the mods on here it's a bl**dy waste of time!!!

    PS Hello to jacksofbuxton, MrBlueBurns & TrotterUSA long time no speak!!! how is everything on Robbos "NEW" blog???

  • Comment number 84.

    Phil
    After singeing your whiskers last season. I notice that apart from Chelsea n Man Utd, you have chosen FIVE teams for the next two places. Arsenal Everton Liverpool Man City and Spurs, our cat could predict that. At least last year you had some conviction about you. Lost your bottle Phil? Come on! Who will finish 3rd n 4th.

  • Comment number 85.

    #51 foonyroo. I agree with you. Scholes and Carrick looked very good together in the Community Shield while fletcher and giggs didn't look so good. Let's hope Fergie has that Ozil signing up his sleeve.

  • Comment number 86.

    1.Arsenal
    2. Citeh
    3.Un**ed
    4.Liverpool
    5.Chelsea

    10. T'ham

    18. Wigan
    19. Villa
    20. Fulham

  • Comment number 87.

    Phil, You are STILL obsessed with Wolves weakened side at Old Trafford, and how you won't back down! When was the last time you wrote about them without bringing it up again? Let it lie,...if only cause you were so completely wrong about it anyway.

    Nearly as wrong as highlighting Wolves 'quiet transfer activity'...err, 5 signings, including a new club record 7.5M fee, with a total of 18M spent so far.

    Other than Man City, who else has had as much transfer activity, so why are you picking on Wolves as being the only quiet ones when they clearly aren't?

    Why? ...you tell 'em Phil...its cause Wolves once fielded a weakened side a year ago, & you're not going to back down. WE KNOW!

    Anyway, this is exactly how it will finish, with the bottom 10 seperated by goal difference.

    1) Manchester United
    2) Chelsea
    3) Arsenal
    4) Everton
    5) Manchester City
    6) Liverpool
    7) Spurs
    8) Aston Villa
    9) Sunderland
    10) Stoke City
    11) Blackburn Rovers
    12) Birmingham
    13) Fulham
    14) Wolves
    15) West Ham United
    16) Newcastle United
    17) Wigan Athletic
    18) West Brom
    19) Bolton Wanderers
    20) Blackpool





  • Comment number 88.

    Fabregas has not ignored Barcelona anymore than Berbatov ignored Man U or Lescott ignored Man City

    He is being kept at Arsenal against his will and it will show as Arsenal, like Spurs and Everton did, have a disastrous start to the season

  • Comment number 89.

    Stop deleting posts which criticize your writing.

    There are so many spelling mistakes in this it is actually scary.

    Man United will either win it or come very close. I think a lot depends on Berbatov (a player I have admired since Bayer 04) He is the sort of player who needs a man next to him and it seems he and Rooney did not get on last year. Hence, hopefully he and Hernandez will make a strong duo.

    Also, it will be interesting to see how Sturridge gets on at Chelsea because I personally think he has a lot to offer.

  • Comment number 90.

    Are United still a one man team now that everyone's decided Rooney's just a waste of space?

  • Comment number 91.

    I think:

    1. Arsenal
    2. Man City
    3. Chelsea
    4. Man Utd
    5. Spurs
    6. Liverpool

    ..........................

    18. Blackburn
    19. Wolves
    20. Blackpool

  • Comment number 92.

    Ah, the joys of moderation! I do wish the moderators would explain why they mod some posts. I've been modded again for no reason at all.

    Oh well. Shall I say it again, or is there any point? I just wanted to mention that far from it having been a quiet summer at Molineux, we were until a few days ago the second highest spenders in the division, having spent £6.5 million on Fletcher, £3 million or so each on Mouyokolo and Hunt, and £2.5 million or so on Van Damme. A little research might help, Phil - or why not actually ask a Wolves fan or two about what's been going on with us. We'd be happy to oblige.....

  • Comment number 93.

    if united start right this season, for change!!!! rather than coming from behind it"ll be better, i feel we hav the strongest unit in the league, i think sir alex il concentrate more on champions league esp after last seasons disappointment

  • Comment number 94.

    hmmm, only two relegated, about 16 of them top 10's, why not man up and give us an order?

  • Comment number 95.

    No offence Phil but you haven't used as much as a crystal ball as you have last season's final league table. Come on man use your own imagination, we can all look at last season's table and say "I think it will pan out this way again". It really doesn't matter if you get it wrong.

    On a slightly more personal note...Wolves really are an unfashionable team aren't they. After last season's performances and after the ambition shown during this summer I would not dismiss the relation possibilies of West Ham, Bolton, Blackburn among the obvious Blackpool, West Brom and Newcastle.

    Besides you note "It has been fairly quiet at Molineux this summer"... if by quiet you mean swarming with activity then yes it has been quiet. The only team that have been busier is the silly-money-city.

    And just so you know Phil; 8 of the "reserve" players that were fielded against Man Utd prior to the "first team's" easy victory over burnley actually finished the season as first team players. It wasn't much of a reserve side after all.

    I apologise; I don't want to come across too annoyed, it just saddens me to experience such a lack of open mindedness from the people on the pulpit.

  • Comment number 96.

    Chelsea no way will win this year.The Shield game showed that. Utd, may be. Citeh...hahahaha..keep spending but still football is still beyond their grasp despite the billions at their disposal.Liverpool are the most exciting so far this season. A Great manager, decent cheap signings and already classy players..Torres Gerrard eager to prove themselves under a new man. Spurs, doubt they will be in the top 4. Arsenal will be upthere but i don't see them winning unless they spend big now and add a few impressive names to the squad. Sad but Aston Villa will be going into the mid table again without O'Neil.

  • Comment number 97.

    I'm actually an Arsenal fan but I agree that Manchester United are being under-estimated. They proved what they can do in the community shield and are strong in every aspect of their squad. They've got experienced players in Giggs, Scholes, Neville and young sparks Hernandez, Nani and Obertan.. and then of course they've got Rooney. If they manage to keep most of their squad fit throughout the season then they're my favourites to win the league. Arsenal still need a new goalkeeper and at least two defenders, probably a holding midfield player too, and with 2 weeks of the window remaining, and Wenger being Wenger I don't think out team will be strong enough to contest for the title. Here's my prediciton:

    1.Manchester United
    2.Chelsea
    3.Arsenal
    4.Manchester City
    5.Liverpool
    6.Everton
    7.Tottenham
    8.Aston Villa
    9.Sunderland
    10.Fulham
    11.Stoke
    12.Birmingham
    13.Blackburn
    14.Bolton
    15.Newcastle
    16.Wolves
    17.West Ham
    18.Wigan
    19.West Brom
    20.Blackpool

  • Comment number 98.

    All predictions are is a bit of fun really. This season more than any other Premier League season I can remember has the most potential for suprises. No one can claim to make a prediction with any kind of authority this year. Having said that I'm gonna go out on a limb with some ludicrous predictions:

    1) Man City
    2) Man United
    3) Chelsea
    4) Arsenal
    5) Liverpool
    6) Spurs

    And no I'm not a City fan!

  • Comment number 99.

    So, Phil, you've got 7 top four and 7 cup contenders (I know the clues in the word 'contender'). But, really, are there enough cups and places to go around? Someone's going to be awfully disappointed. Or are you hedging your bets?
    And, besides, I really don't get why pundits are so enamoured by City. Dazzled by the 'open wallet' policy they are pursuing? I mean, if I wanted to build a car and went to buy up all the best, most expensive parts available, is it safe to assume that the result would be the best car too? Seems to me that, unlike Chelsea of the Abramovich era, Man City haven't got a core of players to build around. They are, in fact, dismantling it as we speak. And who's to say that, with the 25 man rule, it won't eventually dawn on players that, come next season when the City magnates try looking for another solution (organised around another spending spree), there may be players looking at nowhere to go and little opportunity to play - apart from getting hived off to all and sundry as City try to ditch some of their load? Hmmm, top 4 finish? Guaranteed? To be such contenders, they have to have 'a team' and that remains to be seen.

  • Comment number 100.

    Phil, personally I would play Gerrard in the hole behind Rooney.

 

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