Telling the Future: 2011/12 Premier League Season Predicted

13 Aug

Ollie Phelan

Finally, after surviving a long summer devoid of football, the Premier League is back for its 20th edition. Last season will be remembered for the bravery and heroics of small Blackpool and for Manchester United’s record breaking 19th league title. But what will make this league season memorable? Here, I put my neck on the line and predict how the 2011/12 Premier League season will play out.

Starting with the ultimate prize, I can’t see the title ending up in any city other than Manchester. Both clubs had fantastic seasons last year and have built on that success with shrewd signings this transfer window.  Manchester really is, now, the capital of English football. Yet, whether the title ends up at Old Trafford or the Etihad stadium is a much trickier question. I believe that if United finally sign Sneijder, they will have a squad of unparalleled depth and strength and will easily win the title. Yet, reports suggest that this deal is on the rocks just as City are securing the signing of Nasri from Arsenal. With Nasri added to City’s roster, they have a team that could match any other in Europe on their day (perhaps with the exception of Barcelona). Comparing the two squads on paper, you could argue that City just edge it over United. However, even if they don’t sign Sneijder, I believe United’s squad depth, team ethic and of course the irrepressible Sir Alex Ferguson will drive the red Devils to a 20th league title.

Behind the two Manchester clubs will be four teams fighting tooth and nail for the final two Champion’s League places. Chelsea will plod along all season and easily secure 3rd place, whilst fourth will be contested right to the death. Tottenham will fall away in the final month or so, and I think then it will be down to Arsenal or Liverpool. In my opinion, if Arsenal fail to strengthen after losing Nasri and Fábregas, they will finish fifth. But, if they bring in adequate reinforcements, they will have just enough to fend off King Kenny’s attacks. Liverpool have opted more for quantity rather than quality this summer transfer window, over-paying a lot of the time for their targets. How Liverpool managed to spend 20m on Downing, so soon after Villa’s best player, Young, left for 2m less than that is beyond me. Whilst this will give them fantastic squad strength, they will come up short against some teams many would expect them to beat, due to a lack of quality. Although Arsenal have to juggle the Champion’s League, something Liverpool are free of this year, I think their prevailing class and footballing ethics will shine through in the end if the right signings are made.

So, what about the horrifying prospect of relegation? Teams who have been involved in the dog-fight in previous years, such as Villa, Stoke and West Brom, will easily avoid the drop. However, Blackburn will be sucked down by the powerful tides of a poor manager (who I believe will be the first to be sacked), hapless owners and above all the lack of depth in their squad. QPR will be my tip for survival from the promoted teams, whilst Norwich and Swansea will struggle. QPR have a wily manager in Neil Warnock, and have added a few players to an already talented squad. Bothroyd and Campbell should add the goals that could see QPR avoiding the drop. However, Norwich has too weak a squad in my opinion to compete at such a high level, whilst Swansea hasn’t really added to their attacking squad and will be too leaky in defence.  Wolves will struggle due to a lack of goals, but this year, Wigan will be spared by a combination of Roberto Martinez and congestion at the foot of the table. My bet on relegation will be Swansea, Norwich and Blackburn.

Football is very much a team game, but which players will be subject to the press’ over-the-top hyperbole this year? Surely, nothing will reach the heights of the Gareth Bale love in of last year, but I believe that Wayne Rooney will have the season of his life and find redemption in the back pages (my fantasy football team is relying on this!) Taarabt and Sinclair will be the pick of the promoted players, whilst Grant Holt will deliver a steady stream of goals to Norwich. Wilshere will continue his development, whilst Bale will have a mediocre season by his standards. The breakthrough players of the year could indeed be Tom Cleverley. He had a mediocre pre-season and Euro under-21s tournament, but with a need for flair in the Manchester United midfield, Cleverley laid his claim with a fantastic performance in the Community Shield. Whilst he may not be starting 11 at the start of the season, I believe the young Englishman will play a staring role from the bench and could push Carrick and co. towards the end of the season. Finally, the Torres problem will fail to fix it self. A mediocre season, in the shadow of the powerful Drogba, beckons. Although I believe he will reach double figures in goals. Player of the year will be Wayne Rooney. Young player of the year will be Jack Wilshere, again.

I will be watching eagerly as my predictions are undoubtedly proven wrong one by one. Now, let the season commence!


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