A couple of days ago, Mystic Matt braved the retribution of the Russian Fortunetelling Society to bring you some predictions for the new Premier League season; now he’s back with a few more. Enjoy!
So we come to the most important position in the Premier League, the fourth place trophy. And this year, it will go to Liverpool. They may have a little less bite in attack now that Luis Suarez has left (sorry), but the likes of Coutinho and Sterling were starting to show last season that they could handle the extra creative burden. I know it’s only preseason, but Coutinho in particular has looked like a man playing against boys, or if you prefer like Michael Jackson amongst boys: gracefully dancing through their midst before choosing a moment to strike. Liverpool have vastly strengthened their squad over the summer, which given they made the fewest substitutions in the Premier League last season was a necessity, and unlike Tottenham last year their signings actually seem planned to help the team (for example, buying a centre-back and two fullbacks to help out a fragile defence). With Dejan Lovren organising the defence and Rickie Lambert, Markovic, and Adam Lallana ready to come off the bench to change games, Liverpool look reasonably strong. They might not reach the heights of last year, but unlike their closest rivals at least they don’t have Tom Cleverley in their midfield…
5th: Manchester United
New manager, new formation, finally a new midfielder (Fellaini, being a walking afro rather than a footballer, doesn’t count); you’d think everything was looking up for the Red Devils, but whilst they’ll be better than they were under Moyes last year, there are still a couple of glaring deficiencies in their squad. For one, playing a system with three centre-backs when you currently have only two centre-backs and Chris Smalling
might not prove as much of a genius move as some of the papers are predicting; their one left-back, nineteen year old Luke Shaw (total seasons in the Premier League: 2), is out for a month with a hamstring injury, and this after being told he wasn’t fit enough for Van Gaal’s team anyway; their midfield may now contain Ander Herrera but still doesn’t contain much else; and whilst Mata, Rooney and Van Persie is a pretty formidable front line, the latter two aren’t getting any younger and might not be able to bail Utd out of every mess they get themselves in to. Don’t get me wrong, van Gaal is a damn good tactician, by all accounts, and there’s enough quality still in the squad that a challenge for 4th is perfectly plausible… but he isn’t a miracle worker, even if he could get Robben walking on water in the World Cup, and I don’t think there’s enough squad depth for Utd to get back in the Champions League.
And the rest:
Given that barely anyone cares about the rest of the Premier League, unless you support one of the teams in which case you’ll know far more about them than me, I’m not going to give the other teams an individual entry but just give a general impression of their chances. Everton will have another solid season, after having consolidated their position well in the summer; Tottenham will start well then dissolve into a shambles, with several team-mates rounding on and ritually sacrificing Roberto Soldado for missing seven open goals in as many matches; Stoke, Southampton, Newcastle, Sunderland and Hull will be fine and mid-table; everyone else will struggle badly, playing some genuinely dire football, and any one of them could go down. The bottom three will be managerless Crystal Palace, soon-to-be managerless West Bromwich Albion, and one of the newly promoted teams… let’s say Burnley. Any thoughts, don’t hesitate to comment!
The more astute of my readers (disclaimer: I have no justification in making that word plural) will have noticed that I haven’t updated this blog in a long time. This is for a variety of reasons, but mainly because Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea caused such intense psychological damage that it’s taken several months and several hundred counsellors to get over it (though that is still probably less time than it will take Stevie G).
Anyway, I’m back, at least until Gerrard slips again. And now that the new season is almost upon us, it’s time for some almost-certain-to-be-wrong predictions. To that end, I’ve manage to rescue Mystic Matt from the hideout of some nice gentlemen in Russia (it was like Die Hard V only I have hair), and he’s agreed to write some out as long as I don’t reveal the location of his safe house.
So without further ado, his predictions for the Top 4…
1st: Manchester City
Oh boy, oh boy. Let’s face it, it’s between Man City and Chelsea for the title, all the way through. They have the best squads, the best first elevens, the most money, and though it pains me to say it probably the best managers too. City won the thing quite easily in the end (MAN ON STEVIE! MAN ON!), and have only strengthened their team since. Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala have come in to replace Joleon Lescott (the man
with the world’s largest forehead) and the poster-boy for overhyped and English, Micah Richards; midfielder Fernando has replaced Javi Garcia, the one Spaniard who can’t play football*, and Willy Caballero has come in to challenge Joe Hart, who is no longer Head and Shoulders the best‘keeper at the club. All excellent players in their own right, all improving a squad that was easily the best in the League last season, and all coming in quietly and with little fuss. If Pellegrini can keep Jovetic injury-free to ease a little of the burden on Sergio Aguero, I can’t see them dropping many points to anybody. Except maybe…
Another side that have strengthened significantly over the summer, Chelsea are going to push City all the way this season. Having managed to get
rid of liability David Luiz, who during the world cup showed all the footballing skill of Sideshow Bob, for a ridiculous €50 million is already the best transfer deal of the year. When you consider he’s been replaced by Felipe Luis (which will in turn allow Azpilicueta to push across to right-back and Ivanovic into the centre), well, they aren’t going to be letting in many goals this season, especially with Thibault Courtois between the sticks. Admittedly this wasn’t Chelsea’s problem last year; they deservedly finished behind Liverpool thanks to their inability to break teams down or play anything like pleasing football unless given space to counter-attack (NO STEVIE, MAN ON!). The signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa should help there, you’d think, especially if Oscar can be reintegrated alongside them. Mourinho, for all his personality flaws, remains an excellent and proven manager, and will be confident of leading his team to success… but they’ll come second, because despite Costa’s arrival, you won’t win a league when your back-up strikers are Fernando “How did he miss that?” Torres and Didier “How old?” Drogba. They’ll score more goals this season, yes… but it still won’t be quite enough.
3rd : Arsenal
And so onto the least remarkable of all the Top Four positions, second loser. Though on many internet message boards the arrival of Messiah Van Gaal has persuaded football fans that Man Utd will claim this spot, Arsenal are clearly a superior team, and for once have recruited pretty damn wisely in the transfer market. Alexis Sanchez has a good shout of being the best player in the Premier League this season, he really is that good; with Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey and Walcott around him, not to mention excellent support acts in Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain, the Gunners are going to play some lovely and what’s more effective football. They look a little light at the back-Debuchy in for Sagna is reasonable, but asking Calum Chambers to deputise for all four defensive positions is a little risky- but like Liverpool last season, an irresistible attack should make up for any shortcomings there. They haven’t quite got the squad depth to mount a consistent title challenge, not with the way Chelsea and City’s squads have lined up; but with Liverpool losing Suarez, and Man Utd retaining Chris Smalling, they should have enough to finish a comfortable third.
Right, that’s it for the top 3. I’m off to cry about Liverpool again. More predictions to follow, if Mystic Matt can keep a low profile….