Gurjot Thind and Phil Smith
It is that time of year again. Transfer records are being set, football fans are frantically creating their fantasy teams and sky sports news coverage now dominates most television sets across the country. Yes, the Premier League season returns this weekend, and we have created a guide with everything you will need to know before a single over-priced teenage footballer gets involved in a club brawl. Here are our predictions regarding who will clinch a coveted place in Europe next season.
Chelsea have recruited outstandingly well over the summer. Filipe Luis was terrific for Atletico Madrid last year and desperately unlucky not to make it into the Brazil squad. With an immense work rate, expect him to strike up an instant rapport with the Special One. Cesc Fabregas, meanwhile, needs absolutely no introduction. A lot depends, however, on the form of Diego Costa. Was last year’s stunning breakthrough a flash in the pan? If so, then Chelsea will be outscored by their rivals yet again. In the returning Didier Drogba, however, he has the perfect man to help continue to learn his trade.
2nd= Manchester City
Hamstrung by FFP, an enforced smaller squad in Europe could put their squad under enormous pressure. New recruits Fernando and Equaliem Mangala are highly rated but unproven. If they are to pip Mourinho to the post again, Sergio Aguero absolutely needs to recover his fitness and form. They will lose 1-0 away to Sunderland, naturally, and that might just make the difference.
Arsenal’s squad looks strong in almost all areas. However, they are badly missing a 3rd centre half and a real defensive midfielder. This team, however, is so bursting with goals and assists that those deficiencies might not matter. Mesut Ozil will thrive on the pacy additions of Alexis Sanchez and (touchwood) the returning Theo Walcott. Aaron Ramsey, meanwhile, will be very, very good. Again.
The Brendan Rogers revolution seems to be in full swing. Liverpool’s free-flowing football last season received praise and resulted in many of their young players forming the backbone of England’s starting XI in Brazil. Rogers has invested wisely this summer and has increased the depth and flexibility of his squad. Adam Lallana will undoubtedly fit into Liverpool’s midfield diamond while Ricky Lambert offers something different upfront. To add more solidity to the defence, they’ve recruited the impressive 6’2 Croat Dejan Lovren from Southampton. But despite this, we still think they’ll struggle without Suarez. If we leave aside his obvious problems, he remains one of the most potent strikers in the world. Because of this, we think Liverpool will finish fourth.
5th= Manchester United
Competition in the Premier League has never been so fierce. Season after season, mid-table contenders have started challenging the conventional high-flyers for places in Europe. This upcoming season will be no different. After their worst season in recent history, United have turned to Louis Van Gaal for help. The Dutchman has bags of experience at top European clubs and seems to be the perfect candidate to light a fire underneath a pretty lacklustre United squad. However, he squad remains weak. The signing of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera is promising but is still far from the powerful immediate impact that United need if they wish to climb into the top four. Because of this, we think they’ll finish fifth.
It’s almost impossible not to love Roberto Martinez. Beating Manchester City and winning the FA Cup with Wigan in 2013 was something that will go down in the history books. Taking over from David Moyes, Martinez guided Everton to an impressive fifth place. After a year at Goodison Park on loan from Chelsea, Romelu Lukaka now joins Everton permanently (or at least until he impresses Real Madrid) and will undoubtedly be hoping to surpass his 16-goal mark that he set last season. Alongside Martinez’s tactics, the fantastic crowd support has turned Goodison Park into an almost impenetrable fortress. That said, we still think Everton are someway behind the big teams. Yes they are a brilliant team that will achieve great feats, but can they really defeat the likes of Chelsea and City? We aren’t convinced and so they finish 6th in our predictions.