The English Premier League is set to begin the 2009-10 campaign on Saturday August 15, and goodness, we are in for an exciting season. England’s Big Four have clearly been de-strengthened, with Manchester United losing Christiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Liverpool losing Xabi Alonso, and with Arsenal clearing house. All this while the rest of the league seems to have improved makes for what should be a very tight table this season. Manchester City are obviously the biggest threat to disrupt the Big Four’s consistency, while all of Everton, Tottenham, Sunderland, Fulham, and Aston Villa look fit to challenge for fifth and sixth place finishes. As for who gets relegated, that should be quite a battle as well. Here’s my take on the final table come May 9, 2010 when the season concludes…
2. Manchester United
4. Manchester City
8. Aston Villa
12. West Ham
14. Stoke City
15. Bigmingham City
16. Hull City
Predicting the 2009-10 Top XI (4-4-2): Fernando Torres (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Nani (Manchester United), Andrei Arshavin (Arsenal), Steven Ireland (Manchester City), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Yuri Zhirkov (Chelsea), Brede Hangeland (Fulham), Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United), Tim Howard (Everton)
Golden Boot: Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
Player of the Year: Andrei Arshavin
Manager of the Year: Steve Bruce (Sunderland)
There you have it. Between Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool, it’s a toss-up for the title. Though I hate to say it, my gut tells me Chelsea. They are the only Big Four club not to lose quality personnel and even Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted they should be his biggest challengers. I feel like the pre-season Community Shield match last week was a precursor of good things to come for Chelsea, and struggles at times this season for United.
I do, however, remain skeptical about Chelsea’s managerial status, always an inconsistency at the Bridge. Carlo Ancelloti is a class manager with an impressive resume, but do not forget this is his first year ever in England as player or coach. In this right, I would not be surprised if Chelsea’s European campaign is more successful than their domestic showing.
As for the Manchester City vs. Arsenal race that has been hyped up for this year, I am making a bold prediction, tipping City for a fourth-place finish. Arsenal still do have the better squad, alas one of injury-prone players. Inconsistency could very well be an issue for the Gunners, and their challengers for the final Champions League spot, who are not done spending yet, field a scary-good squad.
My table predictions are otherwise pretty uninventive, honestly. Look for Tottenham to end their spell of underperforming in recent years; Harry Redknapp is bringing the club in a positive direction. Also, Wigan and Sunderland are my sleeper picks to exceed expectations as this year’s surprise clubs. Aside from that, enjoy the season. It will be quite a thrill to follow.