JOE’s Premier League predictions 2012/13
Right, time for the JOE writers to make their bold Premier League predictions for 2012-13. Feel free to let us know how wrong we are every week from now until May.
Mark O’Toole’s picks:
Champions: Man City
Fairly simple reasoning here, City did everything in their power “not” to win the league last season and still won it – this season they’re stronger.
Contrary to Roberto Mancini’s moaning about the lack of transfer activity at the club this season, it’s probably a blessing for them that their only significant signing has been Jack Rodwell.
Sides that strengthen are good, but sides that know each other well and have a familiarity with their teammate’s style of play are better. The first relaxed close season they have had in a while will do City a world of good as will Carlos Tevez’s renewed enthusiasm, which is as good as a new signing.
As good as a new signing…
Man United have strengthened too and will be looking for vengeance, but City should be more polished.
Rest of the Top Four:
Man United – have made some interesting signings and will have that extra motivation this year. Even with Kagawa, they still need more in creativity in midfield.
Chelsea – have made some fantastic signings but it will take a while for them to find the best combination of players and that’s even if Di Matteo is allowed to do that by some of the old guard. They will also need Torres on top form as their undisputed striker for the first time.
Arsenal – a toss-up between Liverpool, Newcastle and Arsenal here, but Wenger has made some good signings and has the experience to guide them to fourth position. He still needs a striker that is of the calibre of Van Persie. Everyone knows of Newcastle’s capabilities now and Liverpool will require time to get settled.
One to watch: Southampton
After being relegated in 2005 and falling as far as League One and administration, Southampton are back. They are one of the best clubs at producing talent in the country with Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott both alumni and hopefully we will see some new superstars blooded this season. They also have a nice blend of youth and experience who are all quite professional in their approach and like to play a bit of ball. I expect them to do well, especially if Messrs. Guly, Lambert and Foxe perform.
To Flop: Tottenham
Andre Villas Boas could do a lot with Tottenham and indeed his philosophy in the game is quite similar to the traditional one Spurs carry.
I don’t think they will break into the top six this season and their Champions League run was a once-off. There are too many mediocre players on their books beyond the first team and Luka Modric, who is so pivotal to their playing style, looks to be off. As well as that, the clubs that are the yardstick that they should be measuring themselves against in Liverpool, Newcastle and Arsenal, are all better than them.
Villas-Boas needs time to implement his structure, gameplan and ideas in the team, in the meantime Spurs fans should lower their expectations for this season.
I expect both Swansea and West Brom to struggle this season having lost Brendan Rodgers and Roy Hodgson respectively. Hodgson is incredibly influential at creating an atmosphere and structure that a club can maximise its ability with. Swansea have replaced Rodgers well with Laudrup. West Brom for the drop unless Lukaku can score often enough.
Uninspired last year, overpaid. Nearly got relegated and it would have served them right. I can’t see that anything has changed.
I expect them to do well initially due to the mystique Big Sam’s teams carry around them and then fade badly as teams figure them out. West Ham barely got up last season and they have a lot of older players in their side. As well as that, Sam Allardyce hasn’t done anything since Bolton (and even when he left there, there were signs of them beginning to creak).
Sean Nolan’s picks:
Champions: Manchester City
Bit of a no brainer this. Yes Manchester United have improved but a full season of Robin van Persie being fit is far from a guarantee. Shinji Kagawa is a good buy but the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are still too important for Fergie’s men to compete all the way to May.
Chelsea and Arsenal don’t have the squads to do that either. City managed to win it last year with Carlos Tevez playing more golf than football so they will be stronger this year with the Argentinian around. Their team is exactly the same as last term, only now they have the added confidence of a title behind them. I expect them to win it at a canter.
Rest of the top four
Chelsea: I see the Londoners surpassing United this term simply because of the wealth of creative talent Roberto Di Matteo has at his disposal. Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar and Marko Marin is a pretty tasty foursome. With Fernando Torres showing flashes of his old self near the end of last season, and during the Euros, I expect the Spaniard to fire this term.
Providing John Terry doesn’t do something else stupid and misses half the season, I see Chelsea finishing a distant second to Man City.
Man United: Third place for Fergie’s team this season. The aging defensive pair of Rio Ferdiand and Nemanja Vidic could come back to bite them and Phil Jones and Jonny Evans aren’t quite there yet. Patrice Evra looks to be on the slippery slope too.
Up front a consistent year from Wayne Rooney would be a bonus. The squad has easily enough ability to finish in the top four, but not enough to catch City.
Arsenal: Another summer of upheaval but I expect Arsenal to keep rolling in 2012/13. The three big arrivals, Olivier Giroud, Santi Carzola and Lukas Podolski, all look like solid purchases and whenever Jack Wilshere returns he really will be like a new signing, so long has he been absent. The title is way beyond them, but fourth certainly isn’t.
Big year for Reading’s Noel Hunt
One to watch: Reading. With a few decent signings (Danny Guthrie, Pavel Pogrebnyak) and a few talented players out to make a name in the top flight (Jimmy Kebe, Adam le Fondre, Adam Federici, Jobi McAnuff, Noel Hunt) we think Reading could sparkle, at least initially, on their return to the top flight. If they hit trouble their new billionaire owner may spend a few quid to get them out of trouble but Brian McDermott may not need any help if they play as well as they did for most of last season in the Championship.
Flop: Jack Rodwell
We’re not quite sure why City splashed out so much (£12m) on a player with such a bad injury record (88 league appearances in five years). The young midfielder has looked good in the brief runs of fitness we have seen but how he slots into City’s system is a bit of a mystery. A different type of player but this looks like Adam Johnson Mark II to us.
Swansea: Brendan Rodgers, Joe Allen and (probably) Scott Sinclair are gone. New boss Michael Laudrup has a patchy managerial record at best and no Premier League experience. Add in second-season syndrome and we reckon there will be tears in the valley by May.
Wigan: I have picked them for the drop every year but this time they will definitely drop out of the league, right?
QPR: A scattergun summer of purchases (Ryan Nelsen, Andy Johnson, Ji Sung Park, Fabio da Silva, Junior Hoilett) doesn’t inspire confidence and they were very lucky to escape last term. They won’t be so lucky again.
Conor Heneghan’s picks:
Winners: Manchester United
While they still didn’t sort out their most glaring deficiency and sign a truly authoritative central midfielder in the summer, the acquisitions of Kagawa and Van Persie adds serious clout to an attack that suffered whenever Wayne Rooney was off-form last season.
Kagawa is one of United’s two big signings this term
The Van Persie signing is a tad risky, but the fact that they snatched him from under City’s noses and were willing to pay such a large sum for a 29-year old was also a reminder that, despite the limitations enforced on United by the Glazers, they can still be a force in the transfer market when they want to be.
Providing Nemanja Vidic stays fit, his return is a major boost and a more mature David de Gea should be far more confident between the sticks than he was for the first half of last season. All in all, United look a fair bit stronger than last season, while City’s squad has more or less remained the same, although that could well change between now and the end of August.
It will be arse-clenchingly tight again, but we think United will shade it in the end.
Rest of the top four: Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal
As I said above, there won’t be an awful lot between the two Manchester clubs, who I believe are still a class apart from the rest, although Chelsea appear intent on closing that gap as soon as possible. When the current Chelsea outfit do eventually gel they will be a serious side, but it could take a season or more before they are ready to compete for Premier League honours.
Despite losing RVP, Arsenal have recruited well and should have enough to claim the last Champions League place again.
Surprise package: Southampton
A theme of the Premier League in recent seasons has been the success of at least one of the promoted clubs – Swansea and Norwich last season, Newcastle two years ago, Stoke a few years back – and of all the sides to go up, Southampton might just turn a few heads.
Nigel Adkins has his side playing attractive football and their rumoured acquisition of Liverpool target Gaston Ramirez shows the extent of their ambitions. The Saints are a welcome return to the top flight and they’re intent on sticking around for a while yet.
Flop: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
Arsenal fans would love it if Robin van Persie endured a Fernando Torres like lean-spell at Old Trafford, but we think that barring injury, RVP will continue to bang them in.
His replacement at Arsenal on the other hand, Olivier Giroud, will be under pressure to impress immediately. The last time Arsene Wenger bought a striker from France it didn’t exactly go according to plan and he will be hoping lightning doesn’t strike twice; Marouane Chamakh’s hair is still obviously feeling the effects from when it struck the first time.
Three to go down: Reading, Wigan and Swansea
It’s incredibly hard to pick three relegation candidates, but of the three promoted clubs, I think Reading are the most likely to drop straight back down. Magnificent as Wigan’s survival was last season, their luck has to run out some time and the loss of Rodallega and possibly Moses might cost them dear.
Lastly, the departure of Joe Allen, Brendan Rodgers and possibly Scott Sinclair could have dramatic implications for Swansea as new boss Michael Laudrup hasn’t lasted more than a season at any club he has managed since his reign at Brondby ended in 2006.
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