Premier League predictions 2011/12

Finally, another Premier League season has begun. After a long football-less summer, football fans were chomping at the bit on August 13th in anticipation of this, the 20th Premier League season.

Despite Joey Barton’s latest attempt to get on the new year’s Oscar listings the first weekend fixtures were somewhat underwhelming, yet the season is picking up pace and promises all the usual drama and entertainment, as well as controversy in equal measure.

Here are my predictions for what I believe each sets of fans can expect from their clubs this season.

Arsenal

With the Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri transfer sagas dominating much of the Gunners’ pre-season, it is easy to forget their that their year would have effectively been over with elimination from the Champions’ League in the qualifying stages. 1–0 down against a formidable Udinese team, and with the TV deals (and potential transfers) seemingly going down the drain, they showed considerable mettle in coming back and qualifying for the tournament proper.

However, this has proved to be but a brief respite for manager, players and fans, as a demoralising and deeply disappointing 8–2 defeat to Manchester United has left the team in crisis. With no leaders and very little backbone of which to speak of, the gulf between these two ‘title contenders’ was shockingly highlighted. True, they have had injuries; true, they have had suspensions (albeit from a lack of discipline rather than any bad refereeing decisions), but it merely serves to show the frailty and lack of depth in Arsene Wenger’s squad.

Fans appear to be fast losing patience with their manager’s ‘preparation for the future’ policy, when paying £12million plus add-ons for 17-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain takes precedence over a quality centre back or creative midfielder to replace the gaping hole which losing Nasri and Fabregas has created. A frantic transfer deadline day saw the addition of Yossi Benayoun and Mikel Arteta, as well as Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos, which whilst they have plugged their gaps, were not the ‘showcase’ signings many were expecting. Doubts of the team’s tenacity and defensive frailties remain and Arsene Wenger’s last minute dealings will need to make an immediate impact.

League Prediction: 6th, with possibly a cup thrown in.

One to watch: Mikel Arteta; the new recruit, his cult status acquired at Everton could project the leadership qualities onto an Arsenal team that is severely lacking in leaders.

Aston Villa

After an indifferent 2010/11 campaign, it’s been all change at Villa in the close season. Enter Alex McCleish – a controversial appointment, with his Birmingham City connections – and a few new faces.

Whilst the departures of Ashley Young, Brad Friedel and Stuart Downing would weaken any squad, some shrewd signings may prove to be worthy replacements. Charles N’Zogbia and Shay Given, have the potential to be absolute steals and Jermaine Jenas and Alan Hutton from Spurs should slip straight into the first team. Added to the new recruits are the seemingly-rejuvenated Gabby Agbonlahor, and building on impressive previous seasons are Marc Albrighton and the irrepressible Darren Bent. It can be a solid, if unspectacular transitory year for the Villains.

League Prediction: 8th

One to watch: Charles N’Zogbia; the sole reason Wigan stayed up last season, he has the ability to turn a game on its head (just ask Arsenal) and is one of the best dribblers in the league.

Blackburn Rovers

Judging from the opening four games of the new season, it looks like . Three ignominious defeats, and no sign of the millions that their Indian owners promised materialising, suggests it may be a long, hard slog for Rovers. Christopher Samba looks disinterested, the strikers are not firing, and the usually unflappable Paul Robinson has looked shaky so far; Steve Kean undoubtedly has one of the toughest jobs this year. The sacking of Sam Allardyce still baffles and has shown no evidence of the ‘long term progression’ the owners talked of last term.

With the departure of Brett Emerton back to Australia the Blackburn squad looks threadbare and short on quality; the replacement of Phil Jones with the talented Scott Dann is a good start, but Rovers will surely need more. Venky’s will need to cough up possibly as soon as January, and it may not be too long before Steve Kean’s job looks in peril.

However, for any Rovers fans in need of cheering up, Youtube the Venky’s advert with David Dunn in; his face is priceless. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYwf2SBWa5o

League Prediction: 19th

One to watch: David Goodwillie; the young Scottish international has a lot to prove – and he will need to if Blackburn have Premiership aspirations next season.

Bolton Wanderers

14th seemed a poor reflection on Bolton’s achievements last year – an FA Cup semi-final, as well as refuting the myth of ‘long-ball football’ that supposedly pervaded the Trotters’ game, and only an underachieving final few weeks of the campaign deprived them of a top-ten finish. Johan Elmander’s goal against Wolves, and Mark Davies’ team goal against Blackpool were two of my favourite goals last season.

However, the loss of the former, and the lengthy injuries to Lee Chung-Yong and Stuart Holden will seriously affect the dynamics of the team this season. Already their defensive frailties have been exposed by the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea, and their strike force looks dangerously one-dimensional with Kevin Davies and Ivan Klasnic. Owen Coyle will hope that new-signings Tuncay and David Ngog can fill the void left by Daniel Sturridge’s departure from last year’s loan spell.

I do not see Bolton flirting with relegation, but I don’t see them seriously challenging the top-ten either, as much as I respect Owen Coyle and what he has tried to instil into his team.

League Prediction: 11th

One to watch: Tuncay; a journeyman with considerable guile, he could be the person to replace Johan Elmander after the Swede’s departure on a free transfer.

Chelsea

Chelsea’s exploits last season can only be described as a disappointment; in contention for Europe and the Premiership, they let both slip through their fingers and finished with nothing. With an ageing squad, their play had become stale and predictable. Enter a shake-up in the form of Andre Villas-Boas, with a pedigree similar to a certain other Portuguese Chelsea manager. Young and charismatic, he appears to be the source of a new, revitalised Chelsea, the question is whether the Chelsea ‘old guard’ will allow that transition.

However, so far there seems to be little improvement in either the team’s play or their transfer ambitions. In fact, both West Brom and Norwich, with hardly the most devastating attacking forces have exposed some rather worrying chinks in the Chelsea defensive armour, were it for better finishing Chelsea may well be looking at a rather less flattering points tally at the start of the campaign. Fernando Torres is still looking a shadow of his Liverpool days, and with Villas-Boas apparently still unsure of his first eleven, I cannot see them keeping up with the early pace-setters (I’m looking at you, Manchester).

Juan Mata looked promising on debut, but players like Florent Malouda and John Obi Mikel have gone backwards. Romelu Lukaku will take a while to settle in, and I still think that the manager needs to bring in a new centre-back and creative midfielder. The Modric transfer saga has dragged on for far too long now, and whilst their rivals are strengthening and rebuilding, Chelsea seem to be stagnating. Even the late signings of Raul Meireles and Juan Mata I feel will not provide the Blues with the midfield creativity that they so desperately need. I believe that they will get Champions’ League football, but not seriously threaten the top of the table.

League prediction: 4th, and a domestic cup.

One to watch: Juan Mata; with David Silva making such an impression on the British game, all eyes will be on the Spaniard to see if he can replicate it. He has great skill, but whether he will affect games enough remains to be seen.

Everton

You have to feel an immense amount of pity for David Moyes and Everton fans. Another season of slow starts and consolidation, and yet there is still no money in the coffers for transfer investment. With the tiny resources at his disposal, the Scotsman has done wonders.

However, this season will be a difficult one I feel for the Toffees. The likes of Tim Cahill and Louis Saha have become increasingly injury-prone, and Moyes’ threadbare squad is already pushed to its limits; what will it be like come May? Their creative lynchpin Mikel Arteta has left for pastures new, and midfield signing Royston Drenthe will need time to settle in (and cheer up). They do have a good British core in Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, the evergreen Phil Neville, Leon Osman, and up-and-coming talent in 17 year-old Ross Barkley, perhaps attributing to a team spirit which has served them well under Moyes. It remains to be seen if without too much firepower up front this is enough to keep them clear of a relegation dogfight.

League Prediction: 12th

One to watch: Leighton Baines; vital to Everton’s defensive and attacking play, Moyes will hope that his star player can turn on the style as he did last season.

Fulham

The Cottagers are often a team that go under the radar of many watchers of the Premiership; never threatened by relegation, yet never seriously gunning for Europe (except via the Fair Play League where their true potential seems to be consistently harnessed), they are considered by many to be the definition of mid-table mediocrity.

However, with a new manager, the much-admired and loved Martin Jol, and a few shrewd signings, this may all change. True, their beginning to the season has hardly been showered in glory – a scoreless draw and two away defeats – with only one goal scored, but as with Everton, Fulham are never quick starters. Bryan Ruiz has the potential to be fantastic for them in tandem with either Bobby Zamora or Andy Johnson, and John Arne Riise has bags of Premier League experience, and combined with the impressive Brede Hangeland, Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele, they have the makings of a pretty nifty squad. Their problem is injuries – and their consistently dire away form.

Whilst there has been wholesale changes, I honestly cannot see a significant change at Craven Cottage in terms of Premier League position, even if Jol brings a more attractive style of play to West London.

League prediction: 15th

One to watch: Bryan Ruiz; after a fantastic season with FC Twente, it will be interesting to see if the Costa Rican can deliver the goods in British football.

Liverpool

It appears that over the last nine months Liverpool have done what is called in the business as a ‘Manchester City’, signing over £100 million worth of footballing pedigree that would make the mouths water of most teams. After an inauspicious draw against Sunderland on the opening day of the season, they have have taken all three points away from the Emirates and whilst they were defeated at Stoke most recently, will take encouragement from the performances of the new players.

Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Andy Carroll, Jose Enrique and Stuart Downing are all quality signings that will benefit Liverpool’s fast-paced and midfield-orientated style of play (even for inflated prices), but their key player has to be Luis Suarez. A bundle of energy, skill, and clinical finishing, he has the potential to be not only one of Liverpool’s, but the Premiership’s great players. If he stays fit and gets the service – which, looking at the Reds’ midfield, he will – they could be mounting a title challenge this season. Craig Bellamy is also a useful acquisition that can give opposition defences something different to worry about.

They have started to gel quickly, which is important, and the weaknesses in the squad (depth in strikers, full-backs, depth in centre backs) have been smoothed out; with the reliable Pepe Reina between the sticks too, it looks like this season could be considerably better than the last. Will they challenge United? Yes, but I have a feeling they will fall just short.

League prediction: 2nd, plus FA Cup.

One to watch: Luis Suarez; an absolute steal for around £20million (not often you say that), he has skill, tenacity, and wonderful technique on the ball, which should see him as one of the top scorers in the Premiership this season.

Manchester City

My, my, my, what a squad Roberto Mancini has at his disposal. With the likes of Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez (even in his current frame of mind), Micah Richards and James Milner only making the bench for their demolition of Spurs last weekend, it is clear that the Mancunians really mean business this year. A rejuvenated Edin Dzeko (who has netted 8 times in 5 games), a footballing puppet-master in David Silva, and a defensive rock in Vincent Kompany – not to mention the talismanic Yaya Toure – it is difficult to see anybody beating them, at least in terms of quality on the teamsheet.

With an attacking joie de vivre that is a far cry from the tentative, ‘park the bus’ strategy for away games last season, their impressive start was consummated by what can only be described as an annihilation of one of their top 6 rivals, Spurs (away from home, no less). Growing in confidence with every passing victory, this season looks to be extremely exciting for the blue side of Manchester.

The only nagging criticism that I have with this current crop is that with all this creative flair, their defence has been somewhat neglected. The goals that they have conceded have been avoidable, and their set-piece defending has been average at best. Combining all this with their added continental aspirations, I feel that the top two may be beyond Mancini’s squad this season, but watch this constantly-shrinking space.

League prediction: 3rd, and a good run in the Champions’ League.

One to watch: Sergio Aguero; with the (supposedly) impending departure of Carlos Tevez, another diminutive Argentinean has the potential to sew his name into the hearts of City fans. Quick and with a bullet shot, he will score (and create) goals from all over the pitch.

Manchester United

It was a case of another season, another Championship for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men – they were hardly at their fluid best for much of the season, but dominant home form saw them overtake their Liverpudlian rivals on league titles (they are now on 19, in case you didn’t already know). I expect much more of the same this season, but some scintillating football to be thrown into the bargain too.

Their proactiveness in the transfer market has meant that their new acquisitions – including the dangerous Ashley Young, the future England star Phil Jones, and the slightly suspicious-looking David De Gea have had a chance to embed themselves into the squad long before the start of the season. And it shows. Three wins out of three, including very comfortable wins against Spurs and Arsenal (the latter crumbling completely in an 8–2 drubbing), and the Red Devils are certainly flying, even without the influential Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov, joint top scorer in the league last season. Wayne Rooney looks like he is en
oying his football again, Chris Smalling has deputised excellently at right back, and even Anderson looks like he has a new lease of life. Between themselves and their biggest rivals (Liverpool and City), it promises to be one of the best title races for years.

However, their one frailty is their young goalkeeper, and he may be the sole reason why United could throw away the top spot. Shaky with his handling and with collecting crosses, he looks anything but the security in front of the sticks that his predecessor, Edwin van der Sar, offered them. That said, I am confident that United will have the firepower and defensive solidarity to win their twentieth Premier League trophy, and Sir Alex’s thirteenth.

League prediction: 1st

One(s) to watch: Ashley Young, Phil Jones; both exciting young(ish) England internationals, Young has impressed with some phenomenal attacking performances, whilst Jones is sure to become the centrepiece of great United defences of the future.

Newcastle United

Before the start of this season, I would have put Newcastle as sure-fire relegation candidates; lacking quality up front and midfield creativity, and without any sign of the £30million gained on Andy Carroll surfacing any time soon (and the purchase of Gabriel Obertan), I feared the worst for them.

Whilst it is dangerous to judge any season on the first three games (sorry Blackpool and Hull City fans), what they have shown so far in their games is a tenacious solidarity, with everybody working for each other in their unbeaten start to the season – including an impressive draw at Arsenal, and an even better win at local rivals Sunderland. Alan Pardew has to take much of the credit for a team that, on paper at least, should be embroiled in the relegation quagmire.

Of their signings, Yohan Cabaye looks astute in the midfield, and Demba Ba will hopefully offer the brief glint of firepower which he showed at West Ham. However, the less said about Gabriel Obertan the better, I think. Overall, there may be an overall lack of quality going forward which may show as the season progresses, but they should keep in the division at the very least.

League prediction: 14th

One to watch: Yohan Cabaye; the largely-unknown Frenchman will have a massive part to play in Alan Pardew’s midfield – he will be the engine room and enforcer, and has impressed in both aspects so far this season.

Norwich City

It is an understatement to say that Paul Lambert has done a fantastic job at Norwich. Successive promotions have escalated the Canaries back to the big time, and it is no exaggeration to say that Lambert has been more than partially responsible for this meteoric rise, which will see them play at Manchester United, rather than Carlisle United.

With a squad of hungry young players, and a solid (if unspectacular) start to the season, their fans will be more optimistic than their last, all-too-brief tenure in the Premiership. After two draws, and an impressive performance against Chelsea, in which the late sending off of John Ruddy marred their chances of a point, I have a feeling that they will have enough to remain outside of the bottom three come May.

The likes of Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan are imperative for Norwich’s season, and if they remain fit, they are a match for any team on their day. The loan signings of Richie De Laet and Kyle Naughton should also bolster their defensive options, whilst the aforementioned John Ruddy also looks like a quality goalkeeper.

League prediction: 16th

One to watch: Wes Hoolahan – the top of Norwich’s ‘diamond’ midfield, the Irish international is constantly in the action, and contributes both goals and assists to the cause.

QPR

After their fantastic, Championship-winning season last year (amassing 88 points and a +39 goal difference), the expectations at Loftus Road are high for their first season in the top tier of English football in sixteen years. Results so far suggest however that the club have taken up Wigan’s mantle of being one of the more ‘unpredictable’ teams in the division. An ignominious 4–0 defeat by Bolton was followed up by a well-fought victory against Everton, and then by a 2–0 loss to Wigan. Famed for their expansive, attacking football, it appears that the West London club are struggling to adapt to the increased pressures that come with playing on the big stage.

However, new ownership has forced a new approach. Manager Neil Warnock, spurred on by new chief shareholder Tony Fernandes, certainly used the final few days of the transfer window to fine effect, signing a plethora of players with tried-and-tested Premiership pedigree to compliment his talented, but sometimes naive squad. Joey Barton, for all his baggage, is a fantastic acquisition, and should provide a great foil for Adel Taarabt (whose 19 goals and 16 assists almost single-handedly propelled QPR to the big time). Anton Ferdinand and the much-maligned Shaun Wright-Phillips should provide some experience, and young Jason Puncheon is a player to look out for, after a few impressive performances for Blackpool last season.

With these purchases (especially Barton), I think that Rangers have gone from potential relegation candidates to mid-table, which all things considered, would not be a bad return for their revisit to the top flight.

League prediction: 13th

One to watch: Joey Barton – for a multitude of reasons, some less complimentary than others.

Stoke City

If there is a team who used the transfer window better than Manchester United or QPR, it has to be Stoke. Snapping up the likes of Matthew Upson, Jonathan Woodgate (who, but for injuries would surely be in contention for an England first-team place), Cameron Jerome, Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch has certainly sent out a message that they are looking at a European place, this time through league position.

Tony Pulis now has a great squad, full of variety and verve, that are well-served to build upon their 13th position this year. Famed for their late goals last season, their opening three games have once again indicated that they give their all for all ninety minutes (just ask Norwich or West Brom fans). With the likes of Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, not to mention Rory Delap’s signature throw-ins, their front line (surely now the tallest the Premiership has ever seen) can be assured of more than ample service with which to create shooting opportunities from. Combine this with their imperious back line, and it makes the Potters even harder to play against.

The only thing they lack is a creative central midfielder, something Pulis may want to address in January, but I feel that this may be the year in which the Potters’ stamp their mark upon the Premier League.

League prediction: 7th

One to watch: Matthew Etherington; the unsung hero of the Stoke midfield – he scores, he crosses, he defends, and if can produce the kinds of balls into the box that he is capable of then Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones should lap it up.

Sunderland

For the Black Cats last year, it was a season that flattered to deceive. An impressive first half was followed by an abominable run post-Christmas (incidentally after they sold Darren Bent to Aston Villa), in which they picked up just one point in nine games, effectively ending their pursuit of European football for another year.

As has become customary, Steve Bruce has been busy in the transfer window, bringing in no less than thirteen players this summer – which maybe has accounted for their slow start; a good draw at Anfield has been followed by an insipid loss at home to Newcastle and a turgid goalless draw at Swansea. Asamoah Gyan’s loan departure to the Middle East (purely for footballing reasons of course) has compounded the pressure on Bruce, and it seems Nicklas Bendtner will be thrust into the spotlight immediately (where he is most uncomfortable) to rejuvenate Sunderland’s stuttering start to the campaign.

Connor Wickham has a great future ahead of him, but as for the present, John O’Shea and Wes Brown will be sure to tighten up the defence with their top-level experience, and Craig Gardner and Seb Larsson all have the potential to provide some good attacking impetus to a midfield that was too-often flat and lifeless last year. With a strong squad, surely Sunderland will have to click soon?

League prediction: 9th

One to watch: Seb Larsson; a game-changer. Whilst he flits in and out of games, he always has the potential to produce a wonder-goal or a defence-splitting pass.

Swansea City

Premiership new boys, they performed spectacularly well not only to get promoted, but to do so by leapfrogging their Welsh rivals Cardiff City. Winning the Playoff final 4–2 against Reading, they became the first Welsh club to play in the Premier League since 1992, well and truly winning the bragging rights over their fellow countrymen.

Brendan Rogers has done a fantastic job, encouraging possession-heavy football that creates some wonderful goals and exciting games (again, see the Playoff final). This has not quite clicked as yet in the top division, in which whilst they have continued to retain possession, they have done so by going sideways rather than forwards. An annihilation by Manchester City in their opening game was hardly a good indication of what the Swans could offer this season, and their failure to score in their first three games indicates that this could be where they fall down.

Even with the signings of Danny Graham (who has been largely disappointing so far), and the impressive-looking Michael Vorm, who single-handedly kept City to single-figures, I fear that the Premiership will be a bridge too far for the Swans. If they are to stand any chance, they must focus on their home form and get the likes of Scott Sinclair, who was so impressive for them last year, to start firing. However, even with this, I don’t think that they have enough top-level quality in any department to stave off the dreaded drop.

League prediction: 20th

One to watch: Scott Sinclair; a revelation in the Championship, it will be interesting to see if he has big an impact in the upper echelons of British football.

Tottenham Hotspur

Fifth last season was actually not a bad reflection on last year’s achievements for Spurs – when on your debut season in the Champions’ League you reach the quarter finals, you cannot be too disappointed. They lost to very few teams, but their overriding problem was their tendency to draw at home, rather than win.

Luka Modric and his proposed move has dominated the headlines, and Daniel Levy deserves a lot of credit for sticking to his word about the Croatian’s unavailability for a transfer, but again (much like Dimitar Berbatov three seasons ago) it acted to the detriment of the club’s progression in the transfer market. Many were fervently expecting a Redknapp-esque deadline day panic, buying players here there and everywhere (very much like Arsenal, actually), but personally, I believe that their transfer activity was good overall. Emmanuel Adebayor could be the missing link for the Spurs team; more powerful and potent than the all-too-ineffectual Peter Crouch, he could be the man to turn the crosses of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale into goals. Scott Parker also will have a big part to play in Spurs’ midfield make-up, allowing Modric to pull the strings whilst he doggedly harasses the attacking team, and Brad Friedel can only provide a safer pair of hands than those of Heurelho Gomes.

Their attacking potency is well documented, and with Jermain Defoe allowed a full season, Spurs fans can be assured that there will be a lot more goals scored in this campaign. Defensively, it is a different story – against Man United and City, they were ripped open at will; Younes Kaboul does not have the experience as yet to mark the more canny strikers (i.e. Edin Dzeko), and Spurs should really have bought another central defender (like, for example, Gary Cahill) to cover this obvious failing. This, combined with the continued presence of Roman Pavlyuchenko and Europa League commitments, (especially with the mass exodus of their fringe players) could prevent Spurs from regaining that cherished Champions’ League spot at the expense of Chelsea or LIverpool. However, I think that they will finish above Arsenal, and I’m sure most fans would take that as the sign of a successful season.

League prediction: 5th

One to watch: Kyle Walker; the stand out player in England’s largely disappointing European U21Championship campaign and Aston Villa’s defence last year, he has the attacking and defensive potential to be one of the great right backs.

West Bromwich Albion

I think a lot of credit has to go towards both WBA managers last year – Roberto Di Matteo for forming the foundation of their squad and instilling a style of game into his players that suits both them and the Premier League, and Roy Hodgson for taking it to the next level, to (comfortably) ensure their survival. Baggies fans must have feared another ‘boing-boing’ season of pogo-sticking between the divisions, but 11th was a fantastic return on a wholly impressive season.

Could it be the ‘difficult second season’ for West Brom though? With very little investment into their squad, especially defensively, I fear that it may be a tough nine months. Shane Long looks to be a great signing already from Reading, taking the goalscoring pressure from Peter Odemwingie (who has looked a shadow of the player he did last season). With a defensive line that looks shaky at best, one that is unchanged from the side that only kept two clean sheets for throughout the whole of last season, and the accident-prone Chris Kirkland in goal, I think that this is where West Brom will fall down.

One of their great assets is their midfield, with Chris Brunt, Paul Scharner and Youssef Mulumbu being their main creative powerhouses. If the Baggies have aspirations of staying up, they will need to keep these players fit and firing on all cylinders. I think that Hodgson has enough nous and experience to steer them clear of the dreaded bottom three, but it will be a close-run thing.

League prediction: 17th

One to watch: Shane Long; two goals in three appearances and already he looks like he could be the key to WBA staying in the league.

Wigan Athletic

Simply, how did Wigan stay up last season? I had them propping up the table both at the beginning and midway through the season, and yet Roberto Martinez (with some able support from the likes of Charles N’Zogbia) and his team yet again defied the odds, their late show against West Ham on the third-last game allowing them to leapfrog Birmingham and Blackpool and survive.

At times the most unpredictable of teams, their main positive factor is their infallible sense of work ethic and teamwork; without the benefit of a top striker however, they are too reliant upon goals from all around the team (Hugo Rodellega blows too hot-and-cold to be called a ‘top’ striker). N’Zogbia is a huge miss, and during the transfer window they did little to replace him, and I feel that this lack of creativity will hurt them as the season progresses.

Whilst they have had an impressive unbeaten start to the season (5 points from 3 games), I feel that they will not have the capability to keep it up, and will get relegated. Mind you, I have been wrong before.

League prediction: 18th

One to watch: James McCarthy; the midfield lynchpin, his creativity and combativeness add an extra dimension to an otherwise ordinary midfield.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves fans must must win the fingernail biting awards
or the final day of last season – losing against Blackburn, and with Blackpool leading against Manchester United, they were condemned. Fortunately for them, United hit back, and Wolves hung in there to ensure Premiership status for another year.

This season I feel will be slightly more comfortable. The signings of Roger Johnson from Birmingham and Jamie O’Hara from Spurs will benefit Mick McCarthy’s squad greatly, from the defensive rigidity of the former and the midfield creativity (from open play and set pieces) of the latter. They have started fantastically, with seven points from four games (it took them until the end of October to reach that last season) and playing confidently, the season looks bright for them. They are tight as a defensive unit, and in Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher they have two out-and-out goalscorers; Matthew Jarvis will also continue to offer from wide positions the great service he provided last year, which saw him gain his first England cap.

Personally, I believe that it will be season of consolidation for the West-Midlanders, and that McCarthy’s no-frills (yet strangely inventive set-pieces) approach to the game will pay dividends, allowing the team to build for the future.

League prediction: 10th

One to watch: Jamie O’Hara; a snip at £5 million, his deadly set-pieces and never-say-die attitude epitomise Mick McCarthy’s Wolves philosophy.

The final Premier league predictions according to James Day:

Manchester United

Liverpool

Manchester City

Chelsea

Tottenham

Arsenal

Stoke City

Aston Villa

Sunderland

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers

Everton

Queen’s Park Rangers

Newcastle United

Fulham

Norwich City

West Bromwich Albion

Wigan Athletic

Blackburn Rovers

Swansea City

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