Armchair pundit: EPL predictions
With the EPL starting tomorrow night, I thought I'd share my thoughts on the first round of games.
The opening game this season is Manchester United v Swansea. As a United fan, watching last season was difficult. But with Louis Van Gaal replacing David Moyes, and three good transfers in Luke Shaw (Southampton), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao) and Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina), while losing Patrice Evra (Juventus), Nemanja Vidic (Inter Milan), and Rio Ferdinand (QPR), and a very successful tour of America, it's all looking good for the first game at least.
Only a win will be good enough for the fans I feel.
Swansea have been very active in the transfer market, in particular the transfer of Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham). Last year, when he was on the field, he scored regularly and looked good. He just didn't get enough game time, but he should at Swansea.
Swansea finished in the lower half of the table last season, and I feel another mid-table finish looms for them this season. I doubt (or hope), that they will be no match for a resurgent United first up.
Prediction: Man United 3 - 1 Swansea
Leicester v Everton
Leicester were promoted from the championship last season, having dominated that division for much of the season. They too have been active in the transfer market, but haven't spent a lot (all but one transfer, as at the end of July, was free).
Their task this season is to stave off relegation. A mate of mine is a true Fox. Not that I think he's good looking, but he's a true Leicester supporter and, like many Leicester supporters this season, he'll be hoping that the team that dominated last season can handle the step up to the EPL.
However, they are playing one of last season's surprise teams - Everton. Roberto Martinez was brought in to replace David Moyes and scored top dollar for Marouane Fellaini's move to Man United, which by the end of last season was an old wet fish of a deal. But Martinez managed to get some consistency out of those players, and it showed in their fifth place at the season's end.
They have finalised Romelu Lukaku's move from Chelsea, Gareth Barry from Man City, plus a few others, and have really bolstered their squad for this season. If it all goes as it did last year, expect Everton to push for a top five spot again, although I feel they won't be able to push for the title. I fully expect Everton to be too much for Leicester.
Prediction: Leicester 0 - 2 Everton
QPR v Hull
This will be an interesting game. QPR are back in the EPL after a season in the championship, and Hull finished two spots above relegation.
QPR finished fourth last season and won promotion via the play-offs. Their transfers have been light to say the least, and I expect them to struggle again this season. I doubt that Rio Ferdinand will be able to help much here.
Hull, who just managed to stave off relegation last season, have made some wholesale changes, cutting six players from their books. With the most notable inclusions being Robert Snodgrass from Norwich and Jake Livermore from Tottenham.
With Hull's inconsistencies last season, this game could be over by halftime, or end in a painful draw. So let's hope that both teams turn up and give the fans something good to scream for. However, I feel Hull will sneak a win here.
Prediction: QPR 1 - 2 Hull
Stoke v Aston Villa
Stoke had a reasonable season last year finishing ninth. The basic story is they struggled against the big clubs and dominated teams in the bottom half.
They'll need to lift their game to have even an inkling of a chance to contend for a spot in Europe, let alone a top five spot. But with few outgoings, and some good incomings, they have strengthened their squad this year, so who knows.
Villa on the other hand, were hugely disappointing, finishing fifteenth. They have loaned out a fair few players and brought in about five, and I'm not entirely convinced that the players they've brought in will help much. I fully expect Villa to finish bottom half of the ladder this season as well. I'd expect Stoke to be too strong at home for Villa this weekend.
Prediction: Stoke 3 - 1 Aston Villa
West Bromwich Albion (WBA) vs Sunderland
The way things were going for these two teams midway through the season, you'd have probably been correct in thinking they were for the chop. Especially Sunderland. Both teams were dreadful last year, and it showed in their ladder positions.
WBA finished a mere three points above relegation, saved by the utterly woeful goal differences of the teams in the drop zone. WBA have made a few transfers, so for a team that struggled last season the fans will hope that the new players will be enough to help them to a more comfortable position come the end of this season.
Sunderland... You'd have hated being one of their supporters last season. They were in real trouble of relegation for a long time, then in the last half of the season pulled off some great results to finish 14th, with a little bit of breathing room. Sunderland were very active in the off season, and they needed to be. I think that this will be the difference on the day.
Prediction: WBA 0 - 1 Sunderland
West Ham vs Tottenham
West Ham were rather disappointing last season. I follow them because of Winston Reid, who I hope makes the right call and moves to Arsenal. Even though he missed much of last season with injury, he was still their best player.
West Ham had a very disappointing pre-season, and the writing's on the wall for Sam Allardyce already it seems with Moyes ready to step in! But with Mauro Zarate the only signing of note, don't expect a stellar start from the Hammers this season.
Tottenham, last season's sixth placed finishers, have let a few people go and brought in some back-up players which means the main team might end up with some solid game time together as a unit. And, with the manager from Southampton taking the reigns, might we see them challenge for a Champions League spot?
I've a bit of a soft spot for Tottenham; the last few seasons have seen them there or thereabouts, but never real contenders. Maybe this is their year. I expect Tottenham to be on the right side of a good game, despite West Ham beating them twice last season.
Prediction: West Ham 2 - 3 Tottenham
Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Arsenal were superb at the start of last season. Jack Wilshere's goal against Norwich was an absolute gem. And Arsenal were on top for much of the first half of the season, but alas faded toward the end, finishing fourth.
Some good buys last season as well as during the off season, sees them boulster their squad. And with only one defensive position to fill (Winston Reid, Winston Reid, Winston Reid), look solid again. You'd be foolish to not bet on them finishing top five this season.
Crystal Palace, like Sunderland, had a horror start to last season and were nineteenth when Ian Holloway left. But Tony Pulis galvanised the team and got some fantastic results for the Eagles, lifting them to eleventh by the season's end.
Palace have looked to drop a bit of dead wood and brought in some reasonable players. They'll be hoping for another mid-table finish this time around too. But... against Arsenal this weekend, no chance. I expect a clean sheet from Arsenal in a dominating display of football.
Prediction: Arsenal 4 - 0 Palace
Liverpool v Southampton
Liverpool were another surprise team from last year. Brendan Rodgers had them firing right from the start, and that was without Luis Suarez. So I don't see him moving on as a major issue for the Liverpudlians.
Liverpool have been very active during the off-season, with some very good acquisitions. They only missed out on a first EPL title by a couple of weeks. Gut wrenching I know, but it should prove to those players that they are a match for the title and I expect them to be right up there again this season.
Southampton were the other surprise team last year. Mauricio Pochettino had them humming. However, the team from last season has been all but picked clean. Even the manager's moved on. Such is the price of success I suppose.
They've made a lot of money from their transfers, and to my mind, haven't spent enough of it to bring players in. I expect a lower than mid-table finish for them this season. Liverpool will be too strong this weekend.
Prediction: Liverpool 3 - 0 Southampton
Newcastle v Manchester City
Newcastle were very indifferent last year. Runs of great wins, followed by runs of disappointing losses, to the point where Alan Pardew was in line for the chop. But, as with their season, it turned around and another string of wins allowed them to finish tenth.
They've brought in some players to help bolster their team, so their fans will be hoping it works. I expect another mid-table finish for them this season.
Man City. What can you say really? In the last few years they've spent like they're owned by a sheikh!! Oh wait... Defending champs, don't expect them to be too far off again this season. Man City will be too strong for Newcastle this weekend.
Newcastle 1 - 3 Man City
Burnley v Chelsea
Burnley finished a distant second in the championship to Leister last season, but were well ahead of Derby who were third. Bringing in more players than they have released, they'll be hoping to stay above the relegation zone this season. But I'd expect them to hang about there for much of the season.
Chelsea have been very manic in the transfer market. David Luiz, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Samuel Eto'o are all gone, along with some dead wood. And bringing back two EPL legends in Cesc Fabregas and Didier Drogba, along with Diego Costa, Mario Pasalic and Filipe Luis, they are definitely looking stronger than last season. And with the ''chosen one'' not being sacked by Roman Abramovich yet, another top three finish is well on the cards again for Chelsea. Chelsea will be too good for Burnley.
Prediction: Burnley 0 - 3 Chelsea