Posts Tagged ‘spurs’
Another season of top flight football begins tomorrow, and it’s the time when everyone is out to prove their knowledge of the game by making bold predictions for the next 9 months.
However, there is frequently a touch of the unexpected in all sports and football is no different. How many people would have confidently placed Newcastle in contention for a Champions League spot last season? At the other end of the table, correctly guessing the teams who will be relegated is perhaps the most difficult of all Premier League predictions.
So, following some mixed fortunes last year, here are my 2012/13 Premier League predictions.
Champions: Manchester City
My hope for this season is that the title is a bit more closely contested throughout the whole season. There can’t possibly be a final day to match the drama of last season, but before each of the Manchester clubs had taken turns in throwing away big leads at the Premier League summit, it had looked as though Man City would be wrapping up the league championship with half-a-dozen games to spare.
Most of the pressure coming City’s way is likely to be applied by local rivals Man United, as well as from big-spending Chelsea. Each of those two sides will be boosted by star signings such as Eden Hazard and Oscar at Chelsea, and Robin Van Persie at Man United, but the overall squad strength of Man City is the reason that I consider them still to be the favourites.
As I mentioned at the same stage last year, it’s likely to be City themselves who are the biggest threat to them winning the title, and there’s sure to be something – or someone – to cause unrest within the squad. But they still had just enough to be able to overcome their off-pitch difficulties last season, and I expect that to be the case again.
Top Four: Chelsea, Man United, Liverpool
The top four used to consist regularly of what became known as the big four – Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. Everton managed to break-up the establishged quartet in the 2004/5 season, and Tottenham threatened to push Arsenal into fifth place on a couple of occasions. But it wasn’t until Man City really began to demonstrate their power in the transfer market that the “big four” was truly dismantled. City’s surge up the table coincided with Tottenham finally living up to the potential that they’d shown for a number of years, and in successive seasons, both clubs qualified for a first taster of Champions League football.
Liverpool have been the biggest losers of that so far, but Arsenal have also looked to be at risk of failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time under Arsene Wenger, and it seems only a matter of time before they do miss out on the top four.
Liverpool finished the season poorly in the league, but regular bad finishing in front of goal was the primary reason that so many good performances during much of the first two-thirds of the season failed to earn the deserved number of points. For that reason, I don’t consider Liverpool to be too far away from genuinely being able to break back into the top four, although I can’t see them finished higher than fourth.
Tottenham were another club who had a period where results were poor even though the performances themselves were good. Fortunately for Spurs, they were in a strong position to begin with and also finished the season well.
With Arsenal weakened significantly by the loss of Van Persie, I think the race for fourth will be between Spurs and Liverpool. Both have managers who I rate highly, though if Brendan Rodgers can make the slight adjustments needed to help Liverpool turn many of their draws into victories, I predict Liverpool will edge it.
Relegation: Wigan, Southampton, Norwich
Predicting the three teams to go down is almost like picking three random names out of a hat consisting of 10 or 12 clubs. It’s often the case that one or two sides struggle to the point of being written off by Christmas, but it’s not always the most obvious club. Managerial changes can make big differences too, either for the better, such as Fulham appointing Roy Hodgson, or for the worse, such as Wolves’ sacking of Mick McCarthy last season.
It’s rare for all three promoted sides to survive, and of the three clubs to come up last season, only QPR ever looked in danger of the drop. I expect there to be much more discomfort for Norwich and Swansea this year, with both clubs having lost the managers who masterminded such respectable league finishes last term. Of the two, I think Norwich are most at risk, and they looked particularly vulnerable in a few of their matches at the end of the season.
Of the promoted sides, West Ham have enough experience to remain in the top flight. Southampton and Reading only have to look at last season to realise what is possible, but I don’t expect either team to match the mid-table finishes of Norwich or Swansea. Both have prior experience in the Premier League, but having been in League One only 15 months ago, I can see Southampton struggling the most to avoid the drop.
Wigan complete my trio of teams and having enjoyed some of the drama produced by their previous relegation escapes, I’m actually hoping that I’m proved wrong. If Roberto Martinez can see his team getting the kind of results that Wigan were achieving at the end of last season, then perhaps this will be a year without quite as much stress for the Wigan fans.
It’s fair to acknowledge that even when results were bad, Martinez stuck to his style of playing football and it was that which proved the catalyst for wins at Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as at home to Man United. Can Wigan perform like that from the start of the season? Will they cope without the likes of Hugo Rodallega and Mohammed Diame? If so, they have every chance of staying up. But it’s unlikely that even Wigan have any more rabbits to pull out of the hat should they find themselves in such a precarious position again.
The 20th Premier League campaign saw its final round of games yesterday and a chance to reflect on a mixed bag of pre-season predictions.
Back in August, I picked Man United as title winners – purely based on Man City’s unique ability to shoot themselves in the foot whenever they seem to be making progress.
Ironically, after Man City had done exactly that – losing a comfortable lead in the title race and falling eight points behind Man United in April – it was their Manchester rivals who self-destructed, and in doing so left themselves needing a highly improbable combination of results on the final day in order to take the title.
Yet it was a combination of results which looked set to occur at the moment when the final whistle was blown at the Stadium of Light, where Man United had beaten Sunderland.
Man United were technically the league leaders at that stage, with Man City’s home match against QPR still to finish, and with QPR holding a 2-1 advantage as the game entered a second minute of added on time, there was every likelihood that Man United would stay on top.
Even an equalising goal by Edin Dzeko wasn’t enough to swing the title race back in favour of Man City, but an almost immediate winner in the 94th minute by Sergio Aguero sealed one of the most remarkable title wins, and City’s first since the 1960′s.
Chelsea and Liverpool – my picks for 3rd and 4th place – both had disappointing league campaigns, though each club did at least collect some silverware to show for a more impressive showing in knockout competitions.
Arsenal did qualify for the Champions League after a roller-coaster season of their own. Recovering from a poor start, a surge in form put them in pole position for 3rd place before a late wobble almost led to Arsene Wenger’s side throwing it away.
Tottenham’s form was quite the opposite. After a slipping out of contention for the title shortly after the turn of the year, they went on to drop out of the top four altogether before recovering in recent weeks to finish ahead of Newcastle, who lost three of their final four games.
Spurs still have a week to wait in order to discover whether or not their efforts will be enough to see them qualify for the Champions League. A Chelsea win against Bayern Munich would see them, rather than Spurs, claim one of the four slots allocated for English clubs.
Away from the teams battling for the title or for a top four position, I predicted that Everton would be 7th, which they did. Unfortunately for David Moyes’ team, the Carling Cup was won by a side finishing lower in the table, which prevented a Europa League place from being available to the 7th placed team in the league.
Offering predictions as to who will go down is always a risky exercise before the season has kicked off, but only a late Stoke goal denied me a two-out-of-three success rate! Swansea never looked in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle, and deserve credit for following the likes of Wigan, Stoke and Reading in surviving a first year in the top flight when so many people expect them to go straight back down.
Bolton’s inability to hold on for a win at Stoke yesterday meant that it was they, rather than QPR, who would go down. They joined Blackburn and Wolves in dropping into the Championship next season.
Blackburn’s miserable 18 month spell in the hands of new owners had already seen them end a 12-year run in the top flight, and after Wolves sacked the man who had kept them in the Premier League during the previous two seasons, they went on a 13 game run without a win to ultimately finish 12 points from safety and end the season rooted to the foot of the table.
For the neutral, it’s been a great end to a season which at one point looked on course to have every major position decided long before the campaign ended.
As a Liverpool fan, it’s just been great to end the season!
So, with a third of the season played, what better time to look at how the Premier League has unfolded so far – and to check out how those predictions are looking!
In terms of the title, it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that Man City look almost unstoppable at the moment. Man United and Spurs are reasonably close behind but both have had to scrap for points in certain games and look likely to drop more points than City, who have brushed aside virtually everyone they have faced. Including both Man City and Spurs.
No silverware is handed out in November, however, and although most of the off-pitch distractions have had no bearing on Man City’s league form, there remains a potential for self destruction with so many volatile characters amongst the squad. They face a tough set of fixtures during December and January, and their credentials will be thoroughly tested over the next few weeks, or even earlier than that should they be eliminated after this week’s final round of Champions League games, a situation which may affect the mood within the club.
With Spurs enjoying a strong start to the campaign, Chelsea have found themselves coming under increasing pressure and not only look like they’re out of the title race, but they’ve been less convincing than usual in cup competitions, and suffered an uncharacteristic slump in their home form.
Liverpool remain a work in progress and will have mixed feelings over the first 14 games. Denied injury time victories thanks to world-class goalkeeping in games against Norwich and Man City, and highly contentious decisions to disallow goals against Sunderland and Fulham may have cost further points. But it hasn’t all been down to bad luck, and the reason why Liverpool are in 7th place is also because they simply haven’t helped themselves often enough with their finishing. Amongst the obvious progress remains plenty of potential for more.
The surprise package of the season has without doubt been Newcastle. I am doubtful whether they can pose a serious threat to the top five or six come May, but at the start of the season, a top seven position might have sounded a little optimistic to the St James’ Park faithful, though it is certainly within their capabilities after the start they have enjoyed.
At the bottom, Wigan really look like a team in trouble. I’m a great admirer of what they’ve achieved since gaining promotion to the Premier League, but each season appears to present a tougher challenge to their top flight status. Roberto Martinez worked wonders towards the end of last season in keeping Wigan in the top flight, but few teams manage that twice in a row and they’ll quickly need to start picking up points to avoid being in a similar boat this season.
The one positive is that a handful of teams are within reach. Lancashire rivals Blackburn and Bolton look just as likely as Wigan to be in a relegation scrap, having shown nothing to suggest that they are currently in a false position. Sunderland, too, could be a surprise candidate for the drop, although a managerial change in bringing Martin O’Neill to the club should improve the mood amongst fans.
Two of my other tips for the drop – QPR and Swansea – have begun life at the top level in impressive fashion, and neither look out of place.
It goes without saying that there will be plenty of twists and turns as the season goes on, and if Man City can be prevented from running away at the top of the league, it promises to be a fascinating year from top to bottom.
It’s difficult to see beyond the two Manchester teams and Chelsea for the 2011/12 Premier League winner.
Man City weren’t entirely convincing last season and have the added challenge of Champions League football this time around. But they have the most expensively assembled squad in the league and one which should have enough quality to compete on two fronts. If Roberto Mancini can keep most of his team happy then Man City will almost certainly be competing for trophies and I could see them as title winners.
But this is Man City. A club who don’t do things smoothly, and still have too many of the game’s most temperamental characters on their books. There is bound to be unrest of some sort, and reluctantly leaves me opting for Man United.
Arsenal may not have enough to overhaul all three sides already mentioned and claim the title, but they will still be expected to finish within the top 4, though Spurs and Liverpool will both provide strong competition for a Champions League place.
Spurs have experience of playing in Europe’s premier competition but it’s difficult not to think that they missed an opportunity to consolidate their domestic position when they missed out on a second successive top four finish, caused by a dramatic dip in league form following their European exit.
Liverpool start the season with a far stronger squad than they had available when Kenny Dalglish took over in January. The lack of European football may be seen as an advantage but will be hoping for extra games in domestic cup competitions. If the likes of Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam can add the creativity they were signed for, I predict Liverpool will be strong enough to claim fourth place.
Should both the League Cup and the FA Cup be won by a club who have already qualified for Europe through the league, a Europa League place will be on offer for whoever finishes 7th.
Aston Villa were at a similar level to Spurs only a couple of years ago, but after squandering two good opportunities to secure Champions League football they have appeared a side in decline ever since. A fact emphasized by the sale of two star players which leaves them looking too weak to compete for a European place.
Sunderland are another side who have looked to be on the verge of reaching the next level in terms of league performance only to fall spectacularly when the season entered its most crucial stage.
All of which leaves Everton as the most obvious contender. Notoriously slow starters, but David Moyes’ team are usually amongst the most consistent teams around once they’ve got themselves going.
The newly promoted trio are likely to start as favourites to go down, but rarely have the same three teams returned straight back to the Championship after only one season in the top flight.
As with last season, I expect up to seven or eight sides to be involved and there’s always a surprise or two amongst those fighting for survival.
Newcastle could be one of those, given the loss of some key players, and I don’t think Blackburn will fare much better than last season which would put them at risk of the drop, too.
Picking the three teams to be relegated before the season has started is always risky, but to avoid sitting on the fence I’ll go for QPR, Swansea and Blackburn to finish in the bottom three places.
Thank goodness common sense has seen Spurs fail in their bid for a judicial review into the decision to grant occupancy of the Olympic Stadium to West Ham following next year’s London Olympics.
With plans to rip up the running track and convert it into a football only stadium, Spurs always risked losing out when the decision was made.
One of the pledges made when bidding to host the Olympics was that there would be a track and field legacy for the stadium. Unlike the 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium, which was built with a view to completing it after the Games had concluded and transforming the stadium into one designed solely for football, there was no such plan with the London Olympic Stadium.
Any such work would require dismantling and partially rebuilding the stadium. The result of that would be that despite hosting both a Commonwealth Games and an Olympic Games event in the space of a decade, England would be left with no suitable venue for a major athletics event in the future, something which would be a quite ludicrous situation.
It’s true that athletics is not amongst the most popular sports in the UK. But that doesn’t give football a right to trample all over it and ensure that things remain that way.
What if thousands of youngsters are inspired to get involved, not only in athletics, but in a host of other less high profile sports, directly as a result of the Olympics? What if those who are too young to compete in next year’s Games saw the 2017 World Athletics Championships – an event which London may bid to host – as one which they could work towards competing in? Inspiration generated a prospect of competing in a major championships on home soil.
The original decision to award occupancy to a tenant who would retain the stadium’s ability to host track and field events was the correct one. Daniel Levy and Spurs need to simply accept that.