Sorry for the delay in getting this post up. I have decided to not comment on the results of match day 1 or 2 in writing the predictions that I made before the season started. I hope that you will appreciate the honesty and laugh at a few of the predictions.
Greetings football fans. Welcome to the first installment of my three part EPL preview. This installment will look at where I think the clubs will finish and provide some insight into why I put them where I did. I will mention some players to watch and who I think will be the top scorer. The second part of the preview will come out in the first week of September once the transfer window has closed and look at the situation of the clubs now that they can not bring in more players. The third part will be in February looking at the final months of the season after the second transfer window has closed. Without further ado, here are my projected standings for the 2009/2010 EPL season.
Champions - Liverpool
I went with the Reds to win it all after they put up a good fight last season when they were hampered by injuries. If Liverpool can avoid the injury bug, especially to their key players, then I believe they have the squad that can bring home the title. This could prove easier said than done as it looks like the talismanic midfielder (and Phil Collins fan) Steven Gerrard could miss the opening match away to Spurs. They were definitely miss Xabi Alonso in their midfield, but though Aquilani is a different type of player I don't think Liverpool will notice much of a difference. Last season's Portsmouth player of the year - Glen Johnson is a big improvement at right back.
2nd Place - Manchester United
Obviously selling Ronaldo and allowing Tevez to leave will affect the way the Red Devils play. I think that they still have a talented roster and will compete for the title. Liverpool pushed them last season when they were injured, and I feel a healthy Liverpool will be too much for United. It will be interesting to see how United get through the first few months of the season with out their starting keeper Edwin van der Saar. Michael Owen is another player to watch as he seeks to rebuild his career after a disastrous and injury filled time at Newcastle.
3rd Place - Chelsea
On paper they are the strongest team in the Premier League. However having watched them play they are easily distracted. New boss Carlo Ancelotti will have his hands full controlling the massive egos of his new charges. Chelsea aren't exactly a squad of spring chickens either, so I expect the toll of competing in Cups, Europe, and the league to keep the Blues from the title.
4th Place - Arsenal
I have learned the hard way (in past predictions) that Wenger knows what he is doing. He has a young talented squad. I think that if Arshavin is able to continue his form from last season then the Gunners will have one of the top offenses in the league, even with the loss of Adebayor. I think that the Gunners defense still needs some improvement, the addition of Fulham defender Hangeland would do a lot to fortify their back four. There has been a lot of talk that Arsenal need some toughness in their midfield. I think this is largely because their back four are so weak that they need protecting. So if Wenger does make some improvements to his back line or brings some one into protect them, then the Gunners could join the race for the title.
5th Place - Everton
Everton were another team bitten by the injury bug last season. David Moyes has done an excellent job in keeping his squad together. They are without a doubt a strong side, however they do lack the out and out talent of some of the "big 4". I have them finishing 5th again.
6th Place - Aston Villa
Villa have made some strange moves in the summer after their drop in the standings last season. They let Captain Gareth Barry join Manchester City and brought in Stewart Downing from relegated Middlesbrough. I have the Stewart Downing transfer as my worst of the off season. Mainly because Downing is recovering from an injury and won't be able to play until January. I do however like some of the other moves that MON has made such as grabbing highly touted Fabian Delph from Leeds. A lot will depend on whether Villa are able to hold on to Ashley Young and bring in more players.
7th Place - Manchester City
City have been the big spenders this off season. I think that their squad will be a little dysfunctional as all of the egos get sorted out and they find their best squad. But they will definitely be in the hunt for a European place.
8th Place - West Ham
Zola has impressed me since he took over. He has West Ham's young stars playing well and is trying to bring in experienced players like Luca Toni. I think that this will be a good year for Barrack Obama and other West Ham fans.
9th Place - Sunderland
The Steve Bruce whirlwind has blown into the only premiership ground in the Northeast, and it has brought Darren Bent, Loric Cana, & Lee Cattermole with it. Sunderland are a vastly improved squad from last season. Bruce has excelled at getting the most out of his defenders. If Craig Gordon is able to rediscover some of his earlier form then the Black Cats could find themselves competing for Europe.
10th Place - Tottenham Hotspur
Harry Redknapp continued his big spending ways and now has a lot of money sitting on the bench. It remains to be seen if he is going to move any of it before the transfer window closes. I think that this season will go much the same as the past few Spurs seasons where they get off to a slow start over-react and sack their boss.
11th Place - Bolton
Not a lot to say here, beyond what everyone already knows. Bolton don't tend to play attractive football, they are tough to beat and despite a lack of big names on the squad they are in no danger of being relegated.
12th Place - Blackburn
Big Sam is building a side much like he had when he was in charge of Bolton, I expect them to be equally tough to beat and play equally unattractive football.
13th Place - Fulham
I like what Fulham have been doing in the past few seasons, unfortunately for them they remind me a lot of Portsmouth last season, without being up for sale of course. They are in danger of losing their best player Brede Hengeland to a number of interested teams, which would be a huge blow. Also they are in the Europa League and as I know from watching Pompey last year, even if you don't get terribly far in the competition the fixtures do catch up with a small squad that is why I predicting a drop for the cottagers.
14th Place - Birmingham
I think that they will do the best of the promoted sides. They have a quality boss and have made some good signings, most notably England U21 keeper Joe Hart on loan from Man City & Geovanny Patricio Espinoza. Espinoza has been a favourite of mine since I watched him in the 2006 World Cup with Ecuador where he made a number of game saving tackles. Birmingham may be involved slightly in the relegation battle, but I think this will be a good year for Birmingham City fans.
15th Place - Portsmouth
There is a lot of turmoil at Portsmouth off the field and very few players on it. This summer we have seen the departure of Glen Johnson, Peter Crouch, Sol Campbell, Sean Davis... All in all over 15 players from last year are not back this year. With Distin, Kranjcar, & James possible to follow the others out the door, Pompey are in need of more players. There is a takeover on the horizon and if this gets done before the window closes Pompey have a chance to build a stronger squad. The key player at Pompey this season will undoubtedly be Younnes Kaboul as with Distin likely to leave he will be a key part of our defense. Pompey will restock in the January transfer window. The real question will how much work do they have to do in the second half of the season.
16th Place - Stoke
Stoke were difficult to beat at home last season, they will need to duplicate that form if they are going to stay up again this year. They will be in the relegation battle but I believe they have the strength to avoid the drop.
17th Place - Hull (staying up on goal difference)
Hull rode an excellent start to last season to premier league survival. Phil Brown has been very active in the transfer window, though he has not had a lot of success, he has managed to bring in some quality to his side.
18th Place - Wolves
Last season's Championship winners are a lot younger than last time they were in the premier league. I expect them to play good football but it will not bring them victories. And wins are what you need to avoid relegation.
19th Place - Wigan
When have had a number of off season moves. The most notable was Steve Bruce leaving fro Sunderland and taking Lee Cattermole with him. They also lost Antonio Valencia to Man Utd and released Henri Camara and didn't bring back Amr Zaki. They replaced Bruce with Swansea's boss Roberto Martinez. Teams that Bruce leaves have a habit of getting relegated and I expect Wigan to suffer that fate.
20th Place - Burnley
Burnley went on some big cup runs last season and upset a number of big teams along the way. I think that they have a few upsets in them, come May it could well be points dropped to Burnley that decide the title. Much the same way Liverpool's dropped points to Stoke cost them the title last season. I like the team that Owen Coyle is building, however they look like a team that lacks the quality to stay up this season. I think that they will go down and come right back up perhaps with more staying power next time.
Top Scorer - Fernando Torres
Players to watch - Andrei Arshavin, star players on relegation teams; their teams survival could rest on their shoulders.
EPL Preview Part 2 will be up at the beginning of September when the transfer window has closed.