I know that I said that I would write this article last Friday, but the truth is I simply had no idea how the top half of the table would end up, and in particular the top six. The bottom half was slightly clearer but I was still very unsure of who would end up in the bottom three, and I decided I would write this after the weekend’s matches in the hope that I would have a more coherent view of how this season would pan out. Well, the games have been played, and if I’m honest they have only served to make me more confused, but I’d better do this post sooner or later, so here goes…
1. Manchester City
Before Sunday’s Manchester derby, I might well have predicted the red half of the city to win the league this season, but City’s win was so comprehensive that I feel they will come out on top. It’s not that I really think that they will win the league, more that I don’t think anybody else will. I’m still not entirely convinced by Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs aren’t there yet, Liverpool will fade away and United have looked poor so far. That leaves me with Man City, and while they have been very erratic this season – you never know which City side will turn up from week to week – I think they have the strongest squad in the league, and are probably the most likely to win it.
Chelsea are a funny team. There’s no doubt that they are stuffed to the brim with quality, but Mourinho seems to be making some strange decisions, such as leaving both Juan Mata and David Luiz, arguably Chelsea’s best players last season, out of the whole squad for their last match against Fulham. I don’t think Mourinho’s first season back at the helm of the London club will be as rosy as many seem to think, but I think they should have just about enough quality to finish above their two rivals in the capital.
Arsenal have looked very impressive so far this season, lying as they do at the top of the league on goal difference. Ozil is a fantastic signing for them, and I cannot believe that Real Madrid let him go so easily. Ramsey is on the form of his life, Giroud is scoring for fun, their defence is looking more solid than it has done for the last couple of years, and I think they’ll have a good season this year. I doubt they’ll seriously compete for the title, but they should get top four.
4. Tottenham Hotspur
Villas-Boas has brought in a host of very good new signings, and they seem to have gelled remarkably quickly, with Spurs currently sitting in second place. This Premier League season is widely acknowledged to be the closest for years at the top, but I don’t think Spurs are in a position to challenge for the title yet. If you’d asked me last week where they’d finish I might have said sixth, but despite needing a last-minute goal to get all three points against Cardiff, only a superb keeping performance kept it from being four or five nil; they looked very impressive.
5. Manchester United
Had I written this article before the most recent set of fixtures, United would have been first. Football is a crazy game, and they were so poor against their local rivals that I’ve dropped them out of the Champions League places altogether. Is this a knee-jerk reaction? Almost certainly, but they had a very poor transfer window this summer, and with a new Manager and Chief Executive this might be a season of transition for the champions. They haven’t lost anybody, however, from the team who won the title last season, so I might well be proved wrong by United.
As with so many of the teams in these predictions, I’d have predicted Liverpool’s fortunes this season very differently before last weekend. I was going to put them in fourth place, ahead of Man City and Spurs respectively, but they were so dire against Southampton, carrying on the decline from the poor performance against Swansea. They could be dark horses this season though; their defence is solid, they made decent acquisitions in the summer and Suarez will return from his suspension next match. Still, I think sixth is about right for them this year.