‘Premier League Preview: Maynard Chew-ses City for the Title

fter three long months the Premier League returns this weekend with Manchester United vying for their 20th domestic title.

Last weekend’s Charity Shield gave us a taster of what to expect over the coming season when United silenced the blue half of Manchester by producing  a stunning second half comeback to win 3-2 against Roberto Mancini’s City side. 

Last season saw Sir Alex’s win the league nine points clear of City who beat Chelsea into second on goal difference. However the title race looks set to be closer than ever this season with Roman Abramovich appointing Andrea Villas-Boas as manager following the departure of Carlo Ancelotti. It will certainly be interesting to see if he can carry his superb form on from Porto, where he won the domestic double and the Europa League.

Man City and Liverpool will also fancy their chances after spending sprees during the summer.

Meanwhile at the other end, will Wigan Athletic be able to fend off relegation for yet another season along with newcomers Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City?

Whilst you may agree or disagree, these are my club-by-club predictions for the forthcoming Premier League season:


Arsenal fans were expecting to see a flurry of summer signings, yet bar one or two, it hasn’t really come to fruition and instead key players have departed.

Last season saw the Gunners glaringly exposed from set pieces with an aerial presence seriously lacking, however Arsene Wenger hasn’t addressed the issue so far during the transfer market.

The main issue that has been going on throughout the summer has been the Cesc Fabregas transfer saga surrounding his move to Barcelona, which now looks imminent. If he goes, many Gooners will be hoping to see that money reinvested in weak areas within the squad.

With Gael Clichy being sold to Manchester City earlier in the summer, Samir Nasri looks set to join him. Along with Fabregas that’s three keys players that will have left and even if they’re replaced that could have a detrimental effect on their season ahead.

It remains to be seen whether a new ‘keeper will arrive, which is an area of concern for many Arsenal fans, as well as a commanding centre-back, although Birmingham City’s Scott Dann could arrive.

A powerful player in central midfield is also absent with many supporters suggesting they make a move for Joey Barton, but for the minute it looks as though Wenger wants to build around Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.

Gervinho has been signed from Lille and will provide an exciting attacking dynamic as will Alex Chamberlain, however the 17-year-old is seen more as one for the future.

If Wenger doesn’t sign two or three experienced, tough tackling players for the spine of the side then I can seriously see them missing out on the top four.

Prediction: 5th


Aston Villa

 The summer saw plenty of transfer activity for new manager Alex McLeish as he hopes to prove his controversial move from rivals Birmingham City was the correct one.

Despite losing wingers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing to Manchester Utd and Liverpool respectively and ‘keeper Brad Friedel to Tottenham, McLeish has responded well by replacing these with some astute signings.

The manager used the money from those sales (around £40million in total) to snap up Shay Given from Manchester City for £3.5million, which I believe will prove to be one of the bargains of the summer.

Charles N’Zogbia also arrived at Villa Park from Wigan Athletic for around £9.5million – a move designed to fill the gap left by Downing. In my opinion I see N’Zogbia as a better player than his predecessor and to sign him for that price is a very shrewd piece of business from McLeish.

With Darren Bent upfront you’re always guaranteed goals and it will be interesting to see how the players who broke through from the youth system last season develop.

If Villa can’t add any quality to their defence though, which I think is there weakest area then a mid-table finish will be all they can hope for.

Prediction: 10th


Blackburn Rovers

After finishing a disappointing 15th last season, Blackburn fans will be hoping for an improvement this time round, but I just can’t see it.

The impressive partnership at the heart of the defence between Phil Jones and Christopher Samba has gone after Jones signed for Manchester United for £17million during the summer, while Samba has been targeted for a move to Arsenal.

The club’s new Indian owners have yet to splash the cash that so many of their fans desired. David Goodwillie has signed from Dundee United for £2.8million, and although he impressed in the SPL, the English Premier League is a much tougher league and I think he will struggle to adapt.

Young Serbian midfielder Radosav Petrovic was snapped up from Partizan Belgrade and if the 22-year-old adjusts to the English game straight away then that could prove to be a decent signing.

There will be a lot of pressure on manager Steve Kean to improve upon last season and without significant investment in players then I predict a similar finish.

Prediction: 16th


Bolton Wanderers

Strikers Johan Elmander, who signed for Galatasaray when his contract expired, and Daniel Sturridge, who was on loan from Chelsea last season will be hugely missed in this campaign and I struggle to see where their goals will come from.

Owen Coyle has focused on recruiting in midfield in the transfer market by signing Darren Pratley and Nigel Reo-Coker on free transfers. He’s also brought in players that he’s worked with before – Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears signed from Burnley for a combined fee of £3million.

I think Eagles will bring some creativity to the side and will provide striker Kevin Davies with plenty of opportunities, but unless Coyle brings in at least one more striker I fear that another season of consolidation is on the cards.

Pre-season has been cruel to Coyle after Mears and the impressive Lee Chung-Yong suffered broken legs but the squad has enough experience to avoid the drop.

Prediction: 15th



Andre Villas-Boas is the latest man faced with the task of winning Roman Abramovich some silverware.

Following an impressive spell in charge of Porto, the 33-year-old will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of his fellow countryman and former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

The new man in charge has yet to set the transfer market alight. 18-year-old Belgian Romelu Lukaku is set to be the only main arrival after being a target of numerous clubs across Europe over the summer and he is seen by many as the man to eventually replace Didier Drogba.

Chelsea have been frustrated in other areas though, midfield target Javier Pastore joined French side Paris St Germain while Tottenham’s Luka Modric is still being chased after a £27million bid was turned down.

After Ancelotti tried and failed to create a partnership between Drogba and Fernando Torres, who had a torrid season since joining from Liverpool in January, it will be up to Villas-Boas to make it work and rejuvenate Torres in particular.

I think Chelsea are very unpredictable going into the season; a lot will depend on the form of Torres and how well Villas-Boas’ management style adapts to the English game.

They do of course have a number of world class players so they will again be challenging for the title, but they may just miss out.

Prediction: 3rd



David Moyes continues to work miracles at Goodison Park with his small squad, but how long can he keep that up without significant investment?

Bill Kenwright is still unable to attract new owners to the blue half of Liverpool so it will be another season on a limited transfer budget and Moyes continuing to get the best out of his talented squad.

They will do well to keep hold of centre-back Phil Jagielka who has been targeted by Arsenal and Seamus Coleman will be hoping to build upon an impressive season that led him to be nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award.

A number of key players, including Marouane Fellaini and Mikel Arteta missed large chunks of last season so if they can keep those players fit then I think a finish similar to last season’s seventh place could be on the cards.

Prediction: 7th



Following Mark Hughes’ resignation in the summer Martin Jol, who turned down the club last year, was appointed manager.

The core of the team still remains from Hughes and Roy Hodgson’s successful period at the club while they’ve strengthened at the back by signing John Arne Riise from Roma in a shrewd piece of business.

Brede Hangeland will continue to be the main strength at the back as well as chipping in with his fair share of goals from corners, but Jol has also added talent to the midfield by signing Swiss Under 21 international  Pajtim Kasami from Palermo.

Fulham’s season has technically already started after progressing through to a Europa League qualifying play-off against Dnipro of Ukraine and it will be interesting to see how they cope domestically while challenging in Europe. Jol does have previous experience in both though from his time at Tottenham so they are in good hands.

A top-half finish should suffice for the Cottagers.

Prediction: 9th



Kenny Dalglish rescued Liverpool’s awful start to last season as they claimed a respectable 6th place finish which earned him the role on a permanent basis.

Over the summer he’s focused on signing the best young, British players around which has now taken his spending spree since his arrival to more than £100million after signing Stewart Downing from Aston Villa for £20million, Jordan Henderson joined for £16million from Sunderland and Charlie Adam arrived from Blackpool for £8.5million.

Downing will provide the supply to striker Andy Carroll who showed glimpses of his capability after joining from Newcastle United in January while Adam’s passing ability in midfield will be a key factor.

Luis Suarez will also play a crucial role after demonstrating his impressive ability during the latter stages of last season.

Jose Enrique looks set to sign from Newcastle which will solve the left-back problem of late, although a new centre-back could now become a priority.

There is a sense of optimism around Anfield at the moment and with the squad being drastically improved I think they’ll snatch the last Champions League spot ahead of Arsenal.

Prediction: 4th


Manchester City

35 years without a trophy came to an end last season as Mancini’s men were victorious in the FA Cup and they’re showing no signs of stopping there.

It has been a relatively quiet summer of transfer activity by City’s recent standards, but they have snapped up Gael Clichy from Arsenal and perhaps more importantly Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid in a £38million deal. Young centre-back Stefan Savic has also arrived for £6million from Partizan Belgrade and looks impressive.

The main talking point though has been the Carlos Tevez saga. After his £40million deal to Corinthians collapsed he’s now back at Eastlands although he still insists he wants to leave.

A lot will depend on how Mancini deals with the Tevez situation and how it will affect the squad, having a player who doesn’t want to be there. Equally important is how he deals with the flamboyant Mario Balotelli.

Samir Nasri could be the next man through the doors and by signing him they will show real intent to win the league. David Silva will again spearhead City after becoming a fans favourite for his performances last season.

It will be fascinating to watch City in the Champions League, but they now have a squad capable of competing on all fronts and now they’re settled as a side I think this year they will just snatch it.

Prediction: 1st


Manchester United

A 19th Premier League title was enough consolation for United missing out on Champions League glory to Barcelona in May as they prepare for an assault to make it 20 this season.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who turns 70 during the campaign, is faced with a transitional campaign with many of the old guard departing following the retirements of Edwin Van Der Sar, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes and much will depend on how well the new, younger signings develop.

David De Gea has been given the task of replacing Van Der Sar after moving from Atletico Madrid in a £17.8million deal, while Phil Jones arrived from Blackburn for £16.5million.

In midfield new recruit Ashley Young will provide competition for Nani, which in turn should make his performances improve, after a £16million move from Aston Villa. 

Wes Brown and John O’Shea have also gone, but the key factor is how they replace Scholes who was a stand-out performer as United marched on to win the title. If they can bring in a world class player such as Wesley Sneijder, who they’re close to agreeing a deal with, then that would almost complete the United squad and give them that flare to go on and successfully defend the title.

Ferguson proved in last week’s Charity Shield comeback that his management skills and decisions remain decisive as ever, but I just don’t believe that the new blood coming through, Tom Cleverly and Danny Welbeck also included, will have that winning drive and determination that players such as Scholes and Neville boasted. In years to come, yes they may do, but I think it will take a year for the new look United squad to gel and become a real force.

However you can never write off Ferguson’s men and they will still be up there challenging come the end of the season.

Prediction: 2nd


Newcastle United

Winning over the Toon Army is a tough task and manager Alan Pardew is yet to fully achieve it.

It remains to be seen whether Joey Barton will remain at the club following his recent Twitter outbursts and losing him will be a significant blow following his massive improvement last season.

Having already lost Kevin Nolan to West Ham which angered many fans, Jose Enrique looks set to be the next one out of St. James’ Park with a move to Liverpool which leaves a side that is all too familiar with injuries extremely threadbare in terms of quality.

I have been impressed by Pardew’s ventures into the transfer market though; Yohan Cabaye, although unproven, could turn out to be a fantastic piece of business signing him for £4.3million from French champions Lille. With Cheik Tiote alongside him in the centre of midfield they could form a formidable partnership.

Two other Frenchman have arrived; Sylvain Marveaux signed on after moving from Rennes on a free transfer. The winger is susceptible to injury but if he can stay fit then he could prove to be a real gem. The other is Gabriel Obertan who joined from Manchester United and he will probably want to prove to Ferguson that it was a mistake letting him go.

Perhaps the smartest piece of business though was signing Demba Ba on a free transfer from West Ham. He scored seven goals in 12 league games for a relegated side last season which I think is a tremendous achievement and if the midfield can supply him well then I can see him having a fantastic season.

With Hatem Ben Arfa and Dan Gosling returning from long term injuries, the midfield is looking very strong for the Magpies and I think they’ll achieve mid-table safety.

Prediction: 12th

Norwich City

Manager Paul Lambert has led Norwich to a remarkable turnaround in the last two seasons.

Since joining in 2009 he’s guided them to back-to-back promotions from the third tier to the first, something that hasn’t been achieved since Manchester City in 2000.

Lambert has managed to keep last season’s Championship winning squad intact while at the same time adding younger players who are eager to prove that they can cut it in the top flight.

Strikers James Vaughan and Steve Morison will bolster their attacking options after they joined from Everton and Millwall respectively. Lambert has raided League One to sign two of the star players from last season – Elliott Bennett has joined from champions Brighton while Anthony Pilkington arrived from Huddersfield. He’s also strengthened in defence by signing duo Kyle Naughton, on loan from Tottenham and Ritchie de Laet, on loan from Manchester United who are both decent acquisitions.

In their last Premier League campaign the Canaries didn’t win a single away match, but Lambert will be hoping last season’s impressive performances away from Carrow Road will continue.

Lambert has added young players with a point to prove, similar to that of Ian Holloway at Blackpool last season, although I can see Norwich going one better and staying up.

Prediction: 17th


Queens Park Rangers

Neil Warnock’s side powered their way to the Championship title last season but he now faces the job of keeping them there.

QPR fans will be delighted that the influential Adel Taraabt looks set to stay after a move to Paris St. Germain was blocked by the owners of the club. How well Rangers do this season will depend highly on whether the Moroccan can emulate his performances from last season which saw him win the Football league Player of the Year.

Their attacking emphasis for the season revolves around new signings Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell, the latter of which will be aiming to build upon his impressive campaign in the Premier League with Blackpool last season.

Experienced duo Danny Gabbidon and Kieron Dyer have arrived on free transfers but they are extremely injury prone, so just to keep them fit will be an achievement.

There is currently an uncertainty surrounding the hierarchy at Loftus Road and I think that might have a detrimental effect on the players and Warnock who will be hoping his time in the top flight isn’t a short one like at Sheffield United when they controversially suffered relegation.

I don’t think Warnock’s made enough movement in the transfer market to build upon what they already have here. For me their defence may prove their ultimate weakness which could see them go down.

Prediction: 19th


Stoke City

Stoke rounded off an impressive season with a FA Cup final appearance after finishing 13th in the league. This season they could have the added pressure of Europa League football should they win their play-off so that could impact on their domestic campaign.

Manager Tony Pulis strengthened in defence with two smart free transfers, Jonathon Woodgate and Matthew Upson, although they’re both injury prone they each have a point to prove; that they can still cut it in the top flight on a consistent basis.

Last season Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant were a nuisance on the wings and if they can carry that on to this season they will be dangerous, especially at home where they get a tremendous lift from the crowd at the Britannia.

The only thing that worries me about Stoke is the lack of strength in depth, especially upfront. If they sign a top quality striker along with a central midfielder then I predict they’ll better last season’s finish.

Prediction: 11th



Steve Bruce has used the summer to bring in virtually a new squad.

Having lost Jordan Henderson to Liverpool, Bruce has recruited teenager Conor Wickham from Ipswich Town for a fee that could rise to £12.5million, Craig Gardner for £4.5million from Birmingham, striker Ji Dong-Won from Chunnam Dragons for £2.1million and Manchester United defensive duo Wes Brown and John O’Shea for a total of £6million.

Wickham will have to demonstrate quickly why Bruce paid so much money for his services and I think his price tag could cause a lot of pressure on him. Meanwhile Gardner is a good signing, as are the duo from United, O’Shea’s versatility especially could be crucial.

Bruce also added ‘keeper Kieran Westwood on a free transfer from Coventry and he will provide competition for the number one jersey. In midfield the manager has arguably made the best signings; David Vaughan, who was one of Blackpool’s stand out performers last season arrived on a free transfer as did fellow midfielder Seb Larsson who joined from Birmingham.

Bruce has used his transfer kitty wisely and if Asamoah Gyan is on form then he could propel them into the top 10.

Prediction: 8th


Swansea City

Following their victory in May’s Championship play-off final over Reading, Swansea now face a colossal task of staying in the Premier League.

 Brendan Rodgers has been unable to add Premier League class to his squad with strikers Danny Graham and Leroy Lita the main summer acquisitions. Graham, who cost a club record £3.5million from Watford and Lita will be leading the front line in a new look strike force in the hope they can provide enough goals for the Welsh side to avoid relegation.

Questions will be raised as to whether Lita can cut it in the Premier League having been given the chance before. Winger Wayne Routledge is also a new recruit and faces the same question as Lita. He impressed for QPR in the Championship last season, but many doubt whether that can continue in the top flight, where so many times he has failed previously.

A huge bonus for the Swans though will be the return of Dutch midfielder Ferrie Bodde who missed last season’s campaign with a knee injury. Just two seasons ago he was rated at £5million with a number of Premier League clubs chasing him but he will now get his chance to prove himself in the top flight with the Swans.

The main threat from Rodgers’ men will come from the wings with Routledge and last season’s star player Scott Sinclair providing the flair, however their elegant style of football could prove to be their downfall in the Premier League.

Prediction: 20th


Tottenham Hotspur

An impressive Champions League campaign involving wins against Inter and AC Milan were the high points of last season as their league form capitulated towards the tail end of the campaign which ended in a fifth place finish.

With no Champions League football this season, Harry Redknapp has faced a struggle to keep want away midfielder Luka Modric at White Hart Lane during the summer, fending off bids from Chelsea along the way. However he still remains at Spurs, where apart from the Modric saga they haven’t really seen much activity.

Only veteran ‘keeper Brad Friedel has joined the ranks on a free transfer from Aston Villa and he will provide competition for the error prone Heurelho Gomes.

Redknapp’s side still boast enough quality to challenge for fourth spot again, with Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart providing quality and class to the side. Sandro could be a player to watch, his dramatic improvement in the second half of last season was impressive, but they still lack a 20-goal striker to play off van der Vaart. If they can find one then they could soon find themselves playing Champions League football again.

Prediction: 6th


West Bromwich Albion

I respect Roy Hodgson as a manager and I believe he’s one of the best in the Premier League. Last season he again proved his ability to over perform with smaller teams as he led West Brom to an 11th place finish.

There hasn’t been a great deal of transfer activity over the summer at the Hawthorns but Hodgson has replaced Scott Carson, who’s moved on loan to Turkish side Bursaspor, with fellow Englishman Ben Foster who’s joined on loan from Birmingham and I think many Baggies fans will agree with me here when I say that that’s an improvement.

Striker Shane Long has joined from Reading for £4.5million and he’ll provide much needed competition upfront for Peter Odemwingie who was very impressive last season. Roy Hodgson will have been pleased to re-sign Zoltan Gera for the Baggies after he was released by Fulham in the summer during which time Gera played under Hodgson.

I think it will be another season of consolation for the Baggies.

Prediction: 13th


Wigan Athletic

Manager Roberto Martinez may regret rejecting the job at Aston Villa come the end of the season, but he deserves credit for staying and remaining loyal.

One person that did jump ship from Wigan to Villa though is winger Charles N’Zogbia and he’s left a huge void in the Latics’ midfield that has yet to be filled.

They also lost fellow midfielder Tom Cleverly who has returned to parent club Manchester United following his impressive loan spell.

‘Keeper Ali Al-Habsi signed on a permanent deal from Bolton which will please many fans after he enjoyed a successful season on loan at the DW Stadium, however their inability to replace key players could come back to haunt Martinez as he may look to rely too heavily on striker Hugo Rodallega.

Prediction: 18th


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Mick McCarthy’s men survived by the skin of their teeth last season thanks to a late goal from Stephen Hunt and will be boosted by some clever moves in the transfer market.

Defender Roger Johnson was snapped up from neighbours Birmingham following their relegation and the £7million spent on the centre-back, I think, represents good value as he was arguably their best player last season and McCarthy had to fight off clubs of a higher stature to sign him.

Wolves took their summer spending up to £12million when they completed the signing of midfielder Jamie O’Hara in a £5million deal. O’Hara spent the second half of last season on loan at Molineux and scored three goals in 14 appearances during an impressive spell, so he will look continue his consistent performances on into the new season. 

Winger Michael Kightly is back in contention following a long term injury that kept him out of the majority of last season, while striker Kevin Doyle has also recovered from a knee ligament injury which kept him out from March until May. Matt Jarvis will aim to build on his fantastic season which earned him an England call-up.

I think the signing of Johnson will sure up the defence and Wolves will have a much more stable season.


Prediction: 12th


Andy Maynard @AndyMaynard91

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