By The Soccer Guys
Joe Meloni’s Picks
For two months Barcelona players spoke of Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas as if he had already signed for the Catalan side. While an eventual move seems inevitable, Arsenal will have one more season with Spanish ace roaming the field at Emirates Stadium. A determined Fabregas paired with a squad healthy for the first time in years will mean glory for the Gunners as they end their five-year title drought. Arsenal will win the Premier League on the shoulders of Fabregas, van Persie and new signing Marouane Chamakh.
2. Manchester United
On paper, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side has the perfect combination of youth and experience to capture its 19th top-flight championship. Still, there’s just something missing from United’s side this season. Signing Javier Hernandez late in the summer seems to have ignited the Red Devils and added a new dimension to their attack. No matter Hernandez’ impact, though, Wayne Rooney is key to United’s success. Something didn’t look right in South Africa, and the fiery front runner was entirely absent this summer until Sunday’s Charity Shield win over Chelsea. With all the new faces playing integral roles in United’s campaign, they’re going to need time to come together. And Rooney’s never been the most patient guy.
Didier Drogba has been the best finisher in the English Premier League for a few years now, and he claims to be completely healthy for the first time in six seasons. However, Drogba, like most Chelsea starters, isn’t as young as he used to be. At some point, Blues’ legends John Terry and Frank Lampard will show signs of their age. An abbreviated summer in South Africa and consistent criticism from their countrymen may be enough to motivate them to another league championship. There’s just too much youth and desperation in North London to overcome for Chelsea, if you ask me.
There’s excitement on White Hart Lane as Spurs look to build on their success from last season. While Spurs have managed to lure and keep gifted young players such as Giovanni Dos Santos, there’s only so far this club can go. Harry Redknapp has proved he’s capable of consistently building on success, and he’s the reason Spurs will better than they were last year. Unfortunately there are three pretty sizable road blocks standing in front of Tottenham this season.
18. Wigan Athletic
Wigan Athletic defeated Arsenal 3-2 on April 18, which guaranteed the Latics a place in the Premiership for the sixth consecutive season along with banishing the Gunners from the title race. There were a few hiccups in the 2009-10 season, but manager Roberto Martinez kept his side strong enough to avoid relegation. However, there’s just too much standing in Wigan’s path this year. With Newcastle back in Premier League and other fledgling sides getting stronger, Wigan won’t be able to maintain its place.
19. West Bromwich Albion
Roberto DiMatteo’s first season as the manager for West Brom was a little more than successful than Tony Mowbray – his predecessor with the Baggies – experienced with Celtic. Mowbray was gone before April 1, and DiMatteo led West Brom back into the Premier League — 13 points clear of the playoff round. DiMatteo managed to attract a few reinforcements in the form of goalkeeper Bobby Myhill and defender Nicky Shorey, who will be charged with keeping gifted Premier League offenses from running all over the Baggies.
Anyone rooting against Blackpool this season is a bad person. With a stadium that holds fewer than 13,000 people and a limited transfer fund, the Seasiders don’t need anything else working against them this season. Even with the recent arrival of experienced midfielder Charlie Adam from Rangers, there’s just too much to overcome. However, Blackpool has rightfully earned a reputation for tenacity after working its way up the English soccer ladder. They’ll be back in the Championship next season, but they’ve earned the respect of everyone already.
Manchester City will not finish in the top four, and Roberto Mancini will not finish the season as the club’s manager.
Kevin Koczwara’s Predictions
Arsene Wenger has his team primed and ready to push for the title this year with the additions of Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny to sure up the squad. The Gunners were able to hold on to Cesc Fabregas, and the development of Samir Nasri and the rest of Wenger’s young squad has progressed nicely into an underrated but highly talented bunch.
2. Manchester United
Age and injuries should catch up to Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad this year. The lack of a true creative midfielder who can take off some of the heavy load from Wayne Rooney’s shoulders will wear on the English international.
Age and a lack of new blood in the squad will cause this squad to be complacent on the league, but they will make some noise in the Champions League as Ancelotti looks to try and pass Jose Mourinho as the best manager in club history in only two years.
I am going out on a limb here, but I see Roy Hodgson’s appointment as manager and the additions to the squad as pushing this team back into the Champions League. The club has plenty of first team talent and the lack of Champions League play will actually help the squad as they try to turn last season’s disappointment into a positive.
I will be rooting for the small club that accomplished what seemed to be an impossible dream last year in making it to the Premier League. Its been 39 years since the Seasiders have been in the top-flight, and they will do well to wrap up a few wins and excite their fans.
19. West Brom
The Baggies have been up and down in the Premier League for the last 10 seasons, and this year will follow suit again with the club having a snowball’s chance to survive in England’s elite league. They lack the sufficient funds and skill players to score enough goals to stay out of the relegation zone.
18. West Ham United
The Hammers have been trying to make themselves a bigger club in England for the past few years and in doing so they have put themselves in a financial hole. West Ham has tried to bring in big names to their squad and make a few splashes in the transfer market, but so many of the players they have moved for have struggled to adapt to the EPL’s pace and the English way of life. This could be a dreaded season for the London club.
Bold Prediction –
Newcastle United will finish in the top 10 in the league. The club dumped the dead weight players that hampered the team as it sank into relegation in the 2008-09 season. The team impressed in the Championship last year while working toward promotion and will continue to play workman like soccer and score timely goals.
Ryan Fleming’s Predictions
1. Manchester United
Finishing one point behind Chelsea last year for the top spot in the EPL was certainly heartbreaking. The addition of Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling will sure up some weak spots for Sir Alex Ferguson and the Red Devils. Hernandez could prove extremely vital if Rooney continues to struggle finding the net (doubtful).
I’m doing this to be a bit different here. I’ve watched almost every preseason game the Gunners have had and have come to three conclusions.
1. If they don’t win it this year, next year will they will.
2. Jack Wilshere will be a stud. No one has impressed more this summer than the 19 year old. He might not be a fixture on Wenger’s first team, but he is the future.
3. The addition of Laurent Koscielny will prove more useful to Wenger and his team than the former Bordeaux forward, Marouane Chamakh. Despite the slip-up against Celtic in the Emirates Cup (which Arsenal won) the Frenchman has looked all but worthy of a starting spot in Arsenal’s back four.
The Blues were toasted in the Community Shield. Manager Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t seem to be concerned and he maintains that sentiment despite his team’s exhibition loss to Ajax. Ancelotti is right, there is no reason to be concerned. Still, the Blues, despite their EPL crown last year, won’t retain their title. With the addition of Yossi Benayoun from Liverpool and the €22m Ramires from Benfica the Blues will be among the top four again.
White Hart Lane will be the place to be this season as the Spurs venture to Champions League play in more than half a century. With revitalized players like Robbie Keane and Gareth Bale, the North Londoners will prove to be one of the team’s to beat this upcoming season. Not to dig into the past, or their opposition’s for that matter, but with the rumor of Loic Remy joining Spurs from French side Nice, one gets the illusion of a Thierry Henry-esque player up front. Needless to say, it would be a huge addition.
Now, before you look and make judgements, I really don’t have any problems with the color black. Honestly. Blackburn’s got lucky in last season’s 10th place finish, but this year, its luck will run out. Mame Biram Diouf, who recently joined Rovers on loan from Manchester United, will have tremendous pressure on his shoulders to score goals for a team that doesn’t have a solid striker, especially if the sale of Jason Roberts goes through. If Diouf doesn’t show up, the midfield will have to take over.
In agreement with Joe Meloni, if you’re cheering against Blackpool this season, you’re a bad person and you lack a heart. The Seasiders are one of the best stories to come out of the or into the English first division in years. Unfortunately, for Ian Halloway and his newly promoted team, their time in the EPL will only last one year with their midfielder Billy Clarke suffering a serious injury and a squad that has yet to spend over £500,000 for a player. Despite the new renovations that were were done at their home stadium, Bloomfield Road, the Seasiders will fare better in the Championship than in the EPL.
20. West Brom
Unfortunately for club manager, Roberto Di Matteo, the first four games (Chelsea, Liverpool, Sunderland, Tottenham) will immediately see his team near the cellar if not on the ground floor. New signing Nicky Shorey will feel overwhelmed immediately, given the task of slowing down oppositions offenses.
Blackburn being relegated is bold. But Newcastle forward Andy Carroll being in the top five in goals is bolder. Sol Campbell losing 15 lbs is reaching.