Back of the Net Special: The New Season

by Ray_North on August 8, 2015

Back_of_the_NetIs it really that time again?

The suncream has barely been put back into the drawer, the sound of leather on willow can still be heard from he village green and the kids are still hanging round the park drinking lager until they’re made to go back to school – but, it back again, the football season.

And, so as is customary, I’ll look at this season’s potential Corbyns, Cleggs and Camerons and make my usual predictions which will almost certainly be as wide of the mark as a Balotelli shot.

So who’s going to be crowned Kings next May?

Well, what better place to start than at the defending champions Chelsea - Mourinho has been weirdly quiet this transfer window, in fact the most significant bit of business he may have done was to let his keeper Cech go off to rivals Arsenal. They still have a magnificent midfield in Fabregas, Hazard and Matic, and their defence will be as stubborn as ever, perhaps their weakness, if they have one is up front, where Diego Costa is injury prone and always a flailing arm away from a suspension – my hunch is that Chelsea will have problems at some stage this season.

Arsenal always have problems at some point in the season, and in the last few years, its been a string of bad results at around October November time, that has done for them. This season, though could be different, Cech is a magnificent signing, and though they do remain a little light up front, I expect Sanchez to be even better second season around, whilst Walcott being fit is a real bonus. Central defence and central midfield is still a worry for the Gooners, but, having predicted glory for them last year, this year, I feel they’ve got everything in place for a serious title challenge.

Man United have spent millions and assembled a massively exciting squad, Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin are great signings, but the best could turn out to be the wonderful German schemer, Bastian Schweinsteiger. Alas for United, I still see issues in defence, where, for me, Smalling and Jones are not a title winning combination, and if their keeper De Gea leaves on the eve of the season, his gloves will be difficult to fill. I’m predicting some occasional great football from the Mancs, but, I can’t see them being consistent enough to lift the trophy.

Their neighbours Man City have added Raheem Sterling to their squad, and with the likes of Aguerro, Silva, Nasri and the likes on the pitch, they will always score goals and will always be able to pull a result out of the bag when needsbe. But, for Sky Blue fans, surely, their biggest concern will not be whether Sterling can live up to his massive price tag, but whether Vincent Kompany, who wins the Nick Clegg award for fallen star for his drop in performance last season, and Yaya Toure, who looked disinterested for most of last term, can once again start performing. I can see turbulent times ahead at the Ethiad.

There could also be turbulent times as Anfield if Liverpool don’t get off to a good start. I think Brendan Rodgers has bought pretty well this summer, Clyne is quality, Firminho is exciting, Milner is experienced and Benteke is surely going to be a step up from the woeful Balotelli. They’ve lost Sterling, but most reds got over that quite quickly and in Jordan Ibe they have a potentially even better replacement. Liverpool will push for the Champions League, but a lot will depend on quickly the team can bed in and whether the defence can improve on last season.

Coming up on the rails behind the ‘big five’ are the sleeping giants – Spurs Newcastle, Everton, Aston Villa and Sunderland. Of these, I fancy Spurs to the best, they’ve not spent big in the close season, which suggests that their telented young manager, Pottecini is fairly content with his squad, which is never a bad thing, Harry Kane will continue to lead their attack and Ericsson will improve again on his promising first season.

At Goodison, at I expect Everton to have a better term than last year when their form was baffling. In Stones, Coleman and Baines they’ve got three of the best young defenders around, whilst in McArthy, Besic and Barkley, their midfield is not bad either. Lukaku does need to live up to his billing mind if they are to improve.

Up in the North East, Newcastle have been busy buying a ruck of players no one’s heard of – I’m told that Wijnaldum is the real thing, and the Toon army are definitely excited by their new mad centre forward Mitravic – and Steve McLaren will definitely try to get them playing football, but the reality is that Newcastle are too badly run in the boardroom to put together a decent season. Actually, I fear the worst.

The Villa, have also spent a lot of money on new players, almost all of them French and previously unheralded. Losing the goals of Benteke will be difficult, and a lot will be asked of the likes of Grealish, Westwood and Abgonlahor – hmm, I’m glad I’m not a villain.

Sunderland may have already done their best bit of business, by persuading Dick Advocaat to stay on as manager, the wily Dutch veteran has a calming influence on what can often be a fractious club, and appears to have got rid of the players he doesn’t want and introduced a couple of gems in M’villa and Lens. I think they’ll be alright.

Southamton and Swansea City will also be alright. They are both well run clubs from the boardroom to the changing room and have continued to build on the success of previous seasons. They both play good football and score goals. Swansea have bought well, especially Ayew, whilst Montero, Gomis and Sigrudson will continue to prove themselves quality performers in Premiership. Southampton will replace the departed Clyne and Schneiderlein by dipping into their academy, which is brilliant, though I do worry about goals, especially if Pelle plays like he did from Christmas, rather than at the beginning of the season, when he was brilliant.

Of the perennial also rans, Stoke are poised to do well, and West Brom will also improve on last seasons strong showing. Stoke have added a load of Barcelona fringe players to their squad, the best of whom could be Krkic. They also have Anautovic who I liked last term and Affellay, who is highly-rated. They have however, lost Ryan Shawcross for the first couple of months of the season, which could be unsettling.

My prediction for the Baggies, is that they will have one of their least eventful seasons in years – which means no relegation dog-fight and no managerial turnaround. Tony Pulis is a great manager and a mark of stability for any club. He’s worked hard in the close-season and the additions of James Chesters from Hull and Rickie Lambert from Liverpool look pretty shrewd to me. No ‘boing’ this year, is my prediction.

Leicester have replaced their mad manager Nigel Pearson, with the likeable Tinkerman Claudio Ranieri, they’ve added a couple of new signings in Okazaki and Mahrez, who, I profess to knowing little about, and will once again rely heavily on the likes of Morgan, Vardy and Moore. I’m not confident.

West Ham will do alright in their last season at Upton Park and Crystal Palace will do even better.

Of the newbies, Bournemouth are the most exciting, a tiny club who were on the brink of extinction less than a decade ago, they have a very talented young manager in Eddie Howe and a squad that is settled, confident and plays good football. Look out for Marc Pugh and the striker Callum Wilson who’s scored lots of goals in the lower leagues. Sure, they’re going to take a few hidings, but I for one, hope that they can stay up.

I’m less bothered about Watford – sorry, to all fans of the Hornets, but, last season they sacked five managers! What was that about? But, still despite that, they must have something going for them, because they managed to get promoted out of one of the toughest leagues around. Troy Deeney will terrorise defences if allowed, and midfielders Capoue and Vydra know what they have to do – but, do they have the strength to stay up? Not by my reckoning.

Norwich are a yo-yo club. Their fans will provide great value, they will occasionally take points of the big boys and they will often come up short. Nathan Redmond is a good player who has all the hallmarks of being Man City’s next signing.

Sorry if I’ve missed your team, right here’s my prediction for the table:

1. Arsenal
2. Chelsea
3. Man United
4. Man City
5. Liverpool
6. Spurs
7. Southampton
8. Sunderland
9. Crystal Palace
10. Stoke City
11. Everton
12. West Ham
13. Swansea
14. West Brom
15. Newcastle
16. Bournemouth
17. Aston Villa
18. Leicester
19. Norwich City
20. Watford

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

George_East August 9, 2015 at 10:52 am

On Arsenal, if they do land Benzema then its their best chance in years.

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