The new season is just days away so we decided we’d make some predictions and share our thoughts on both United and our rivals. Bookmark this so you can tell us how wrong we were come May 2013! We hope you’ve got your new kit and football equipment all ready for Saturday!
Nik - United (Chelsea and City pushing hard)
Doron - City
Herzog’s Child - Like I predicted last year: If a midfielder arrives, us. If not, that blue lot again.
Rob – Manchester United, because I say this every year.
Stretford End - United
Bricki – City (Unless United get Van Persie – then United)
Nik - Reading, Norwich and West Brom
Doron - Reading, Norwich and Swansea
Herzog’s Child - Reading, Southampton and Wigan
Rob - Liverpool, Manchester City, Leeds United, the writing staff of The Newsroom, Jack Warner. Oh, I thought it was a wishlist. OK, here goes: QPR, Reading and… err, oh I don’t know, Norwich.
Stretford End - Swansea City, Southampton and QPR
Bricki - Swansea, QPR and Wigan
Best signing so far:
Nik - Cazorla (Arsenal) or Hoilett (QPR)
Doron - Kagawa/Cazorla – both bargains at roughly £12m
Herzog’s Child – Kagawa’s clearly increased excitement levels before the season starts, so large things are expected. If he plays to the level he looks capable of, the price paid will be soon looked at as miniscule. Elsewhere, Spurs snaring Vertonghen looks a clever move. On the occasions where I’ve seen him, he looked to have all the traits necessary to be a true leader from the back. Given King has retired, Spurs now need that. I’m quite confident he’ll do the job.
Rob – Santi Cazorla to Arsenal. Like Agüero, Silva and Mata, he probably wasn’t appreciated as much in Spain as he should’ve been, because he didn’t play for Barcelona or Real Madrid. As with those three, I think he’ll be a huge hit in the Premier League.
Stretford End - Pavel Pogrebnyak looked decent for Fulham last season, so Reading have a got a bargain on a free transfer. Also, Carzola looks an Arsenal player – I think he’ll have an impact.
Bricki - Cazorla – alongside Wilshere (if he gets fit) and Song (if he stays) he could be a delight for Arsenal
Team that might surprise people (positively or negatively):
Nik - I think Stoke could struggle
Doron - I think QPR will finish top half, pushing close to Europe
Herzog’s Child - Spurs, oddly enough. If Modric stays – and I realise that’s an enormous if – they’ll still have a midfield that can contend with most in the league. Defensively, they’re pretty well stocked; they do, however, need to add a striker or two before the month’s end. I quite like Villas-Boas, for what it’s worth. It didn’t work out for him at Chelsea, but those logical enough to assess that situation will know that’s no barometer to judge a man by. He has a clear idea of what he’s trying to do. He just needs a little trust.
Rob – Liverpool will surprise us positively, as none of their playing or coaching staff will assault anyone*. West Ham will surprise us negatively and avoid relegation.
*Kidding. Charlie Adam already tried to kill the annoying homunculus that lives on Gareth Bale’s ankle. Again.
Stretford End - I think Chelsea might struggle, whilst AVB will do a decent job at Spurs.
Bricki - Spurs, think their moment to truly push on has gone and they will struggle to break top 5/6 next season with or without Modric
Thoughts on United’s business so far:
Nik – Good. At the end of the season I wanted a fullback, two midfielders and an experienced forward in an ideal scenario; was perturbed not to procure the services of Moura, but if we sign RvP, then I have had my wishes more or less granted. Fergie will undoubtedly bring in a midfielder to succeed the deeper lying Scholes in the next 12 months.
Doron - Pretty happy so far, just want that star central midfielder…
Herzog’s Child - Mixed. Rather chuffed with Kagawa, who’ll enliven areas that too often lay dormant over the last few years. If he’s played in his right position and not wasted elsewhere, he’ll ensure fluidity takes precedence over functionality. Wouldn’t that be nice? Too early to judge Powell, who – going by the few pre-season encounters he’s been involved in – looks neat, tidy and crucially a threat. Many scoffed at the price paid, but having missed out on Bale, Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain, I was happy his signature was grabbed. We haven’t, of course, addressed the areas that are in dire need of addressing: midfield and the left back position. Nor do I expect us to by the end of the window, which is both depressing and predictable. It’s negligent and something that may, like last season, ultimately have its catastrophic say come the end of May. Or maybe the master-plan, in place since 2009, is to create a super massive black-hole in the middle of the park – to vacuum up every team we face.
Rob - Good. Nick Powell looks promising, and Kagawa’s already impressed everybody. But you still get the feeling they haven’t addressed weakest areas of the team. Sir Alex’s central midfield scout (Robert O’Mancini) is back for another season, so the situation there remains more or less unchanged. At left-back, there’s even less cover for Evra as Fabio’s gone on loan and Leighton Buzzard hasn’t signed because it is a train station.
Stretford End - Kagawa looks a good player, whilst Fabio Da Silva going on loan will give him some much needed playing time. Lucas Moura was just too expensive at £35 million.
Bricki - Positive but still needs to be completed with a midfielder and possibly a left back.
Reckon we’ll see any more United signings:
Nik - Hopefully Robin.
Doron - Aside from RVP and Henriquez, no.
Herzog’s Child - One, probably, in an area we’re already well stocked in.
Rob - I hope not, but it looks like the club are going all in for Robin van Persie. Apparently Sir Alex wants to “send out a statement” with this signing, the statement ostensibly being: “Hey rivals, we really want to send out a statement with this signing, so be intimidated. Please?”
Stretford End - Yes I do. Many, with good reason, are looking to strengthen the midfield – however, van Persie would be an unbelievable signing for United, even at 29.
Bricki - RVP
Key man for United:
Nik - Kagawa/Carrick
Doron - Vidic
Herzog’s Child - Wayne Rooney.
Rob – Kagawa. If used right – i.e. not in a 4-4-2! not in central midfield! – he could make our attacks much less predictable, reduce the dependence on wide players for creativity, and help us to break down tough defenses – so essential in the big games.
Stretford End - Wayne Rooney
Bricki - If no further midfield signings are made then I feel it’ll be Carrick because unless we have someone holding it all together in the middle, the quality we have up top will not be exploited to its fullest.
Where will United finish?
Nik - 1st
Doron - Second, not far behind City
Herzog’s Child – Second, I fear.
Rob – 1st, because… err, when I was a child and somebody asked me “why did you say that?” I would say “because” and get away with it. So yeah. United will win the league because.
Stretford End - Champions
Bricki - Without Van Persie – 2nd. With Van Persie – 1st. If we don’t sign him I think he’ll end up at City hence the differing positions.
Liverpool – by Nik
So, Rodgers has been tasked with an almighty clean up at Anfield, left of course in such a state by ‘fan favourite’, Kenny Dalglish. His status should never have factored into his appointment however, and his dallyings in the transfer market embodied this feeling. In came the distinctly average Henderson, the often unfit Adam, the extortionate Carroll and Stuart Downing. The latter, the manager played wide-left, a position Downing had not played consistently for over a season, having scooped Villa’s player of the year award by coming in from the right and assisting for fun. Rodgers has delivered a 180-page dossier to the board, in which he has emphasised his desire for Liverpool to press high and keep possession of the ball. The ‘Welsh Barcelona’ were a fantastic side to watch, and his challenge, as it was with Hodgson in many respects, is to impart his ideals at a more ambitious club. Carroll can think himself slightly unlucky, but team development is where Rodgers excels over his predecessor: he will know the players who are capable of applying his style of play, and Carroll requires a team that emphasises width. In this sense, perhaps Kuyt, clever out wide, was released a season too early? Another priority is in midfield, where Allen will keep the ball, and will probably be the player Adam should have been last season. Alongside Lucas, the pair should be able to exert control on the game from deep allowing Gerrard to extricate himself from the proverbial no mans land (not quite an 8 or a 10). He can link with Suarez up front at times, and Borini and Downing may well feature as inverted wingers, or as part of a fluid front 4.
At the back, Carragher will be used sparingly, and in truth has become a liability of late – but Skrtel and Agger should form a solid central pairing. The team can expect a push on the CL places, but with Newcastle an Spurs and city rivals, Everton, nipping at their heals, a tough transition season could lie ahead for the typically impatient and over-idealistic Liverpool support. Prediction: 6th
Man City by Herzog’s Child
The blue rapscallions will be an intriguing collection this season. They’ll go one of two ways – jittery under the burden of reigning champions, or superior again, fueled by the confidence that last season, and in particular that day, delivered. Mancini has been lamenting their failure to sign anyone of note thus far (Rodwell doesn’t fall into this category… yet, at least), but a case can be made that they’re fine as they are. A few need to be shifted, it would seem, to make way for whoever the circus wishes to parade next. Unfortunately there’s the very real possibility that they’ll have learned from their stumbling last season and be better again this year. Tevez, whose return from face-reddening exile ignited their path to glory, will be there for the entirety of the campaign this year, unless he decides an eternal holiday is needed again. They have considerable firepower and are backed by what is probably the best midfield in the league and a defence that doesn’t leak as often as others would like it to. Like last year, expect a tight race to the end-line, and the games between both United and City to again be decisive. It may well rest on Ferguson abolishing last year’s fear and embracing the stylistics of the United of old – who, rather than retreat, raced towards the opposition with a relentlessness that crushed all who we faced. If we see that, we may – just may – be smiling next summer.
Chelsea by Rob
1. From watching their preseason games, Chelsea are seriously lacking in width. They’ve obviously gone all in for really talented creative types like Mata, Hazard and Oscar, who will very often look to cut inside to thread a pass or have a shot. From the fullbacks, you can’t expect Cole to get forward with his usual dependability given his advancing years, and they still haven’t solved their long-standing problem at right back. It’s quite like City last season, actually – very dependent on their attacking midfielders, but they’ve got some really good attacking midfielders so it’s not that bad of a plan.
2. Look at their lineup from the Community Shield. There’s been a huge change in the identity and feel of the team, i.e. they aren’t powerful and scary anymore. Terry might be the emblem of Chelsea, but Drogba was their actual focal point on the pitch, and he set the tone for the style of football they played. Now that he’s left, now that Lampard is older and has grown (very well) into a deeper position, now that John Obi Mikel is still John Obi Mikel, Chelsea don’t have the trusty Plan B* that they used at the end of last season.
3. This is really important: it didn’t feel weird when Torres scored on Sunday. Throughout Sunday’s game, his movement was good** but it also felt like he could score or create a chance for himself anytime he was in advanced positions. He basically looked like a slower version of Liverpool Torres, which is probably the best we’ll see of him from now on, but that’s still pretty good.
4. I think they’ll have a lot of joy against the weaker teams in the division (read: Torres will score 20 goals this season), but might struggle against teams which can dominate them physically or through possession in midfield. I have them down for a comfortable 3rd.
* Plan B: also known as “Give it to Drogba”, or “See, Really Rich People Can Forge an Underdog Team Spirit Too!”
** “His movement has been excellent” was the line that pundits have been using over the past 24 months when they needed to avoid saying things like “you’re right Pierpont, he hasn’t kicked the ball into the goal there” or “he missed an open goal again, but his headband remained intact.”
Spurs by Stretford End
AVB was given an impossible task at Chelsea and although he attempted to change things at Stamford Bridge (most noticeably the ‘resting’ of Lampard) it really didn’t work and Abramovich issued the Portuguese his P45.
Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that Tottenham were “the most entertaining team in the league”. I couldn’t actually argue with that – some of their counter attacking play was reminiscent of their North London rivals when they were in their pomp. Ironically, their season derailed in February when Fabio Capello stepped down as England manager, but more tellingly – when they were hammered 5-2 at the Emirates. Tottenham had that third spot, but they blew it and Chelsea’s win in the Champions League meant Europa league football once again.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was snatched from under the noses of Liverpool and he should be a decent player for Spurs, however they still do need to strengthen their strike force. Modric’s future remains uncertain, especially considering he went ‘on strike’ earlier in preseason. However, I do think that AVB is a talented manager and has a very difficult task in following Harry Redknapp, who most probably only lost his job due to a clash of egos. I’m tipping Spurs to go one better this season and qualify for the Champions League.
Arsenal by Bricki
It’s been another summer of turmoil at The Emirates with another transfer saga to follow Fabregas and Nasri. The end appears nigh for Van Persie as an Arsenal player but the business done by Wenger looks to have created a much more imposing forward line. With or without him Arsenal now have definite quality in Podolski and Giroud alongside a great signing in midfield of Cazorla. If Wilshere can make a successful return from injury and Arsenal have a bit more luck with injuries in general theres no reason why Arsenal cannot break this trophy hoodoo of recent seasons. Will it be the league title? I don’t think there is quite enough yet in midfield and defence for them to last a full campaign on the title front but this summer’s business is the most positive in a long time.
Expect some cheerier Arsenal fans this season (and possibly a more deluded Piers Morgan!).
Best of the rest by Doron
Everton – another summer where in theory they should have money to spend but they probably won’t. A favourite of mine and fabulous servant, Cahill, has moved across the pond whilst Rodwell was a surprise signing for City. Pienaar and Naismith have come in but Everton’s squad could probably do with some depth at the back. If Jelavic can carry on his form since signing they’ll easily push for 7th and above. As ever, if (history suggests this is a massive ‘if’) they can get a good start, good things will follow.
Newcastle – much of the same for them. A few fringe players have left and a couple of talented youngsters have joined. You get the feeling they’ll struggle to repeat last year and will be heavily reliant on key men not getting injured. However, in Tiote, Cabaye, Ba and Cisse they have some top individuals who will only gel further as the season goes on. Potential for the European places but gut says it’ll be 7-11th.
QPR – my tip to surprise people. Hoilett, Andrew Johnson, Rob Green and Ryan Nelson all in on a free whilst Park joined for £2.5m. Towards the end of last season they actually got their act together and played some good football. They’ve now added experience and depth to the squad whilst Hoilett’s a huge coup. Mark Hughes will need to find the right balance in his team and sort out their away form – sometimes they need to set up for a draw rather than a win – however, I think if they get it right and add another player or two, they could get into the top half.