Everybody seems to be having a go at this predictions lark, so on the eve of the new season, RoM is going to tap in to the psychic wavelengths to have a go at predicting how the season will go. After reading preview after preview which has United down as 4th, just as they have done for the past four or five years, I figured it was time to put a different slant on things.
As far as the top six goes, with the top four now a thing of the past, I think it will look something like this: United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, City and Liverpool. I predict we will be champions every season, so I’m afraid this is a little less psychic and a little more habit, but that’s the way it goes.
United finished just one point behind Chelsea last season, despite having a poor season and getting through months of the season without a defence to speak of. We’ll be better next season. Nani and Valencia will be better, Chicharito is going to be brilliant, Rooney will keep winning us matches and our defence will be the basis for this. Believe it or not, I think Michael Carrick is the player that will make or break our season. He was poor last year and if he’s poor again, that will have massive consequences, given how thin on the ground we are in the centre of midfield. Fletch can’t do all the work and whilst Scholesy still has the ability to dictate every game, he can’t play every game. If Carrick starts passing forwards again, we’ll be sound. If he keeps going sideways and backwards, we’ll struggle. Is that too basic? We’re good enough to win the league this year because we will improve enough to make it ours, with Rooney and Fletcher our most important players again.
You can never rule out teams like Chelsea, with a striker who scores for fun, but I just think we’ll be better than them this season. Will they improve on last season? Well a fit Michael Essien could certainly make a difference, but their backbone of Terry, Lampard and Drogba are all now another year closer to retirement, with JT’s form suffering massively last season and Lamps taking until the new year before he scored more than one goal that wasn’t from the penalty spot. Malouda had a great season and if he can repeat that it again makes things more difficult for us but Benayoun isn’t a signing that makes anyone quake in their boots and I struggle to see them bettering how they did last season.
Being honest, I don’t really rate the Arsenal team, and I was in two minds over putting them third. But I just feel like any Wenger team with the likes of Fabregas and van Persie shouldn’t be written off, but they really do look pretty flimsy. If they can get a top keeper in and Vermaelen does as well up front as he did defensively again this season, they will be a lot better off. It really can go either way for them, with Fabregas wanting to give one last hurrah and the young players who have so far failed to show the bottle to last the course of a season coming good. Or, Cesc spends the season frustrated that he was made to stay, the young players struggle under poor leadership, and butterfingers Almunia/Fabianski making a pig’s ear of their season again.
Spurs showed a mental toughness that had been lacking in their seasons before, managing to see off Arsenal, Chelsea and finally City in the final few games to win their battle to claim fourth spot. A different Spurs team with a different attitude to the sides before them that crumbled away when confronted with a challenge. Harry Redknapp, as much as a dislike the man, has shown himself to actually be a decent enough manager and has done a cracking job. I know we beat them 3-1 at Old Trafford but I remember feeling unnerved ahead of kick-off last season when their team list was read out. They’ve got some bloody good players and now filled with the confidence and knowledge that they are capable of 4th. The only downside is the reward that comes with fourth spot. If they get past the qualifiers then they have the distraction of playing the best sides in Europe in between playing in the league to keep hold of that position. If they fail to get past the qualifiers, they have to deal with a confidence blow and Europa League.
Contrary to popular belief, no I don’t think City are going to win the league. I must be mad, right? As their supporters have told us for years when criticising United, money buys success. Now they have more money than anything else, now they can success like United have done all these years, right? Wrong. To be a successful team, particularly on a consistent basis, you have to have more than money. You need a top class manager, you need top class players and you need players who actually give a shit. There’s no way you can expect every single player in any team to passionately care about the team that pays their wages, but you need to have some players who are there because that is the club they want to play for. Players who would remain there even if another club matched their wages/offered them more. After booting out their former captain and player of 9 years, Richard Dunne and now getting rid of Stephen Ireland, how many players do City have in their starting XI who care less about City, who will show up when their back is up against the wall and will dig deep for the sake of the club and the fans? Tevez is depressed at City and at only 26 is talking about retirement, Robinho is desperate to leave and Adebayor is touting himself to Italy. The Project runs the risk of collapsing before it’s even got off the ground, and if City aren’t filling one of the top 6 spots come Christmas, the manager will be gone and they’ll have to start all over again. I could be accused of wishful thinking, and it definitely is something I am wishing, but I genuinely think they’re in for a shock when they realise money isn’t the only thing needed to be successful.
Of course we all enjoyed watching Liverpool‘s failure last season. There’s no but here. It was so enjoyable. This season things have the potential to be different. They don’t have that joker of a manager and if Torres stays fit, they’ll certainly improve. It’s a big if, given how injury prone he is, but despite his dreadful showing for the World champions over the summer, he’s a class act and can easily make a few league positions difference to any team.
I wouldn’t rule out Everton doing something to surprise everyone though. Moyes is a great manager and they’ve got some top players. They were crippled by injuries last season but if they can keep their players fit, I’d be really interested to see what damage Cahill, Arteta, Rodwell, Pienaar and Saha can do. And let’s see if Beckford is cut out for the Premiership too.