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End of season top of the table predictions – post transfers edition.

The club that changed football

Making the Arsenal

By Phil Gregory

Following on from my last article looking at the summers movements and likely additions, I took the plunge and made some predictions for the top of the table come May. With the close of the transfer window and a couple of games under our belts, how much have things changed?

Well originally I plumped for (1st) City, United, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool to be the top seven come the end of the season.

From those, I feel the main changes are around Chelsea and Spurs. Our North London rivals had a bit of a summer of upheaval, and new manager Villas Boas is evidently still making his mark on his squad. Arry didn’t do a bad job, but he’s a “first eleven” manager, and only focuses on the here and now, so Villas-Boas inherited a somewhat disjointed squad with a strange age structure. That, and the departure of Modric, has posed some difficulties for Spurs, which I’m sure is truly upsetting to our readership here.

Chelsea on the other hand, have started strongly,with Hazard especially bright in the early games. I feel it’s foolish to change my position radically based on a few games; we’ve all seen teams start strongly in August, get hyped and then be nowhere near come May.

I still feel managerial uncertainty will unsettle Chelsea if they were to struggle at any point in the season, and Di Matteo’s inexperience makes that all the more likely. That said, they got a right back in so their defence looks quite a bit more solid and deeper, so it’s not outlandish to improve my prediction and tip them to come in fourth this season.

Some may argue that prediction is a bit on the low side, but I’d argue that those people are underestimating the amount of improvement Chelsea have to make. They came sixth last season, coming from that far back to win the title is simply not going to happen. Even if you bought an entirely new, world class squad it would take time for them to adapt: for some time the whole would be less than the sum of its parts. For me, an inexperienced manager who wasn’t the owner’s first choice, said owner clearly being heavily involved in the selection of transfer targets, and a few declining senior pro’s that have egos too big to be sidelined seems like a nice brew for a mid-season meltdown to me. Fourth would be a solid season.

Spurs on the other hand have started weakly, and look a little lost which is to be expected, given the to-ing and fro-ing that occurred this summer. As we  have found, changing key personnel in attack can cost you some initial fluency, and this will come in time.

A season out of the top four wouldn’t be a disaster for Spurs, given they’ve improved the age profile of their team this year and may well have some Modric cash in the bank to further strengthen. Lloris for one looks like an astute buy, even if he doesn’t get into the team to begin with. Their lack of depth up front may have been dealt with too – if they play a single striker system, one of Defoe and Adebayor at a time should be enough to keep them going, if they get adequate support from the likes of Siggurdsson in behind.

One injury and it all begins to look a little light however. Not replacing Modric is a real blow though, and they will be reliant on Dembele for midfield creativity. 5th would be a solid season to build on, but another year below the Arsenal.

Most importantly for us however, is how things look for the Arsenal. I pinpointed in my early article that the defence could be much improved this year, and it has indeed been so thus far. Much of the praise for that has gone to Steve Bould’s appointment, but I feel that is simplistic. Bould was heavily involved with the Arsenal set-up prior to this summer – if he had something to offer the first eleven Wenger is open minded enough to take it on board.

I’m sure having a man with such a top level defensive background is only going to help the back four, but for me the improvement is down to a group of three excellent centrebacks benefiting from a pre-season of playing together to build  the familiarity that was sometimes lacking last season, given injuries forced us to regularly chop and change at the back.

A solid back four, greater depth on the flanks (Podolski, Walcott, Gervinho, Chamberlain…) and greater creativity in the middle of the park thanks to Santi means that Arsenal could well be looking at an improvement this year compared to last. The car-crash start that was last season didn’t recur which is nice too. Sure, Giroud could do with scoring soon but goals will come given the solid back four and greater creativity. Oh, and did I not mention? Abou is BACK!

United and City… not much has changed. United have themselves a world class striker who is a country mile ahead of Rooney, but I still think City will prove themselves to be the team to beat. Newcastle are steady away and may find it tough being seen as a top side this time around, though they strengthened wisely (avoiding Carroll) and so should be in Europe.

Liverpool have the quality everywhere but up front, where Suarez couldn’t finish his dinner and Borini needs time. Keeping within touching distance of the top eight is key for them until the prospect of a January goalscorer.

All in all – not too much change. The Goons will kick on nicely this year, but will need a summer of stability in the squad before we can expect a real claim for the title. Walcott is expected to sign on at some point, so that just leaves Sagna, to my mind, who could possibly depart next summer –  finally a bit of stability! A clear top three for me this year, with Chelsea likely to pull away from the Champions League pretenders below. I look forward to seeing just how wrong I am!

  1. City
  2. United
  3. Arsenal
  4. Chelsea
  5. Spurs
  6. Newcastle
  7. Liverpool

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15 comments to End of season top of the table predictions – post transfers edition.

  • Phil,

    I do not think Spurs will get 5th. The loss of Van Der Vaart and Modric is huge for them. Dempsey and Dembele are not in the same class (though good players).

    As for us, if we can make it to January still in touch, we may do more than you think. If we are in touch and strengthen in January (or get lucky with injuries), who knows…

  • JohnW

    Phil,
    The Arsenal season will depend on the next three PL games. Should we win against City and Chelsea or win and draw, I feel that momentum may well allow us do very well this season, even finish second. But last year’s precarious situation is still not far away this season. Because should we lose all three games coming up, we could very well taste the disaster we all loathe.

  • Damien Luu

    @JohnW: Yeah, that’s why they (FA, who else?) made such a great schedule for us. Can you figure out any more they could do to harm us?

  • colario

    The Chelski players believe in their manager and play for him as was evident in the cup finals. With that factor and the good players they have bought they are going to do well this season I would not be surprised if they broke up the NW duo or at worst finished rd.

    Spurs will drop down, the test of their manager will come next season – if he is till there.

    I agree that Liverpool could recover from their bad start.

    My heart says Arsenal 1 st and I hope that Everton will have their best season so far with Moyes as their manager he deserves a big reward.

    I think Moyes would be a great manager of England. If we can have a Swede and an I ty for a manager why not a Scot?

  • Sammy The Snake

    One of two Manchester clubs will flop this year, with Arsenal stealing 2nd. Chelsea 4th sounds right. Both Spurs & Liverpool might finish out of top 8, with Everton looking like they can take one of their places. I just can’t imagine who could be the last top 8 team (Stoke, West Brom?).

  • Mike T

    First Man City it will be very very difficult for them to retain the league but without doubt their squad is the best in the league
    Next Man U. I honestly believe that they flattered to deceive ( I know they say the final table doesnt lie) but I look at their squad and really cant see how they continue to hit the heights they do .
    Arsenal. Without doubt you are a weaker team without Song and a far weaker team without RVP. I think ou will struggle to get 3rd or better
    Newcastle. Did they hit it lucky last season? I saw them live at Chelsea a week or two ago and I wonder if the players and the manager believe their own press.
    Spurs. I feel that the supporters and their chairman really didnt quite understand the Harry factor and with him gone as well as Moderic an Van Der Vart it will be interesting. AVB is quite simply too clever and it will end in tears. They have brought in a couple of decent players in Dempsey and Demblee.
    Liverpool. Here we see a great club kicking and screeming but sadly in decline. Rogers wouldnt be first choice nor would you expect players like Borni to hit great heights.
    Everton. Great first 11 and indeed manager but once fatigue or injury kicks in well it will be interesting.
    Last us (Chelsea) a team in transition. Early signs in terms of offensive really great and yet to see how the deadline days fit in. JT will start to miss more and more games (through injury and possibly suspension) but at some time he will have to be replaced. A simple tweak of David Luiz as a defensive midfielder as oppossed to a CB would sort a lot of things out.
    So my predctions

    1 Norwich
    2 Southampton
    3 Wigan
    4 Sunderland

  • Goona Gal

    @ Phil, I have to say I disagree about Dembele, I think he is good now and with a better quality of player around him, he will be better for the Spuds than VDV. If anything I hoped that AVB kept hold of VDV because he has yet to complete a full season and in the dressing room he would challenge AVB and make dressing room harmony impossible. If like you say Dembele was bought to replace Modric, then that is really suprising.

    Moving on to more important matters, this current team is a bit of an enigma, we have no idea what this group of players are really capable of. I know of the individual players capabilities, but that does’nt help me decide who I think are my preffered starting eleven. I love the bullishness of AW in his press conference yesterday and I am inclined to follow suit regarding how far this team can go. The fact that the team has so many unknown qualities, it makes us more difficult to line up against and managers that like to make man for man tactical line ups will have to put in a lot more work.

  • nicky

    I think it’s far too early to start predicting the top echelon of this season’s EPL.
    Of all the selected likely top five, Arsenal appear to be the most improved, both in men and experience.
    The wantaways have gone, to the benefit of the dressingroom, last year’s signings start their second year in the EPL with that added experience, three top class players have joined, Diaby is back and Wilshere soon will be.
    Much will depend on the curse of serious injuries of course and we can only hope that for once, our share will be average.
    The support of all fans will, as usual, be the secret key to success as without it we cannot prosper.

  • Sam

    This gooner agrees with Mike T, particularly on the top 4.

  • Phil

    Goona Gal – looking at the personnel changes, Siggurdsson seems to be the VdV replacement (goal scoring attacking midfielder). While Dembele can be seen to do that on occasions, he seems the more likely candidate to slot in for Modric in that deeper midfield role.

    I don’t actually think they’ve done badly out of that “two for two” in and out swap, considering they still have cash in the bank. The squad in general seems a little light, so money in the bank could come in useful in Jan/next summer.

  • Phil

    Nicky – it’s much easier to predict closer to the event, hence why I’ve stuck my neck out here!

  • bjtgooner

    Interesting article Phil.

    I agree with nicky’s comments but additionally hope to see Giroud finding some form. I like Giroud’s general play and once he refinds his scoring touch we will look like a very good outfit.

  • Ong Bing

    Thanks for the article Phil.

    Every team that win the league has a few key players. These key players must be fit almost all season.

    For us, the key players is Vermaelen, Arteta, Abou, Santi and Poldi. If these players fit all season, we will win the league, and maybe, with a little bit luck, Champion League.

    Last year, City key players is Kompany, Yaya, Villa and Kun. And this year still they are.

  • Goona Gal

    @ Nicky – I agree, the fans this season can really galvanise the players and encourage them to go for it. We want the team to play without inhibition and not be afraid to try different things even if they don’t always come off for them. Jenkinson having a shot at goal at Anfield was rightly applauded by our away fans as it took Reina by suprise.

    @ Phil – fair enough, I have’nt watched any of the Spud games.

  • Adam

    I thought Man u would struggle this year, But I forgot the referee influence. I believe Fletcher will be important for them if he returns as predicted. He and RVP seem suited to play together. Chelsea have surprised me as did Liverpool in their game against City. I still believe we will improve on last seasons third place or rather hope we do.