Just how well have the journalists been doing with their pre-season predictions?

By Tony Attwood

TV pundits have it easy.  For unless we keep a collection of their ramblings on hard drives, or make notes as the programmes run, their wild comments about who is going to win the league and who will struggle are lost for all time.  TV stations don’t do re-runs of their pundits cock-ups.  Which is why the Linnekar character smiles in that funny way when he asks ex-players and the like who will win the league as the season progresses.  He’s fairly sure no one will remember what he or anyone else said last time.

Newspaper scribblers however know (but tend to ignore the fact) that much of what they write can be found on the internet.  Their one hope is that no one will bother to go back and look and that their endless hype that what happened three hours ago allows one to have total knowledge of the universe will once more be accepted.

So day after day they tell us how to think, what we think, and what really happened even when we were there and know perfectly well that it didn’t like that at all.  Key issues, such as the question about the crazy antics of PGMO, are ignored, and instead trivia is included.

Take the Guardian for example – their writers were asked among other things to note what they were least excited about seeing this season, and wrote about roadworks and half-and-half scarves (mentioned by many in all the media) at matches, one even complaining about how many steps there were up to the press box at Sunderland.

My choice for “least excited about” would have been the ongoing silence in the press about the PGMO.   And that indeed has continued despite the Chelsea Arsenal game which was a perfect opportunity to open up a discussion on refereeing.  They didn’t even mention the petition: over 100,000 signatures in the end.

As for the individual writers and reporters, Daniel Taylor had Manchester City as winners with relegated: Sunderland, Watford and Leicester, with another close call for Aston Villa.   He also went for Kane as the player of the season – a common choice.

His signing of the season was Petr Cech. “It seems bizarre that Chelsea would actively solve one of Arsenal’s problem positions. Arsenal already look better defensively.”

And indeed it is amazing how many other journalists followed suit.   If you are already bored with this article, I’ll tell you what happens.  Chelsea or Man C to win the league, (mostly the former) Petr Cech the best signing, Leicester to go down.   Choose one of three that might be right.

But I’ve done the rest of the article, and I don’t like to see modest work go to waste so in case you like to see journalists make prats of themselves here it is…

Barney Ronay also had Man City to win the title. Relegation was predicted for Watford and Norwich, just because they go up and they go down. And probably Leicester too.   Player of the season: Harry Kane

But then it got a bit more interesting.

Simon Burnton showed us why journalists often get it wrong with his “analysis” which basically said last season Chelsea “were the best two teams in the division, and… whichever one turns up this time must be favourites once again.”

But history doesn’t repeat and what happened last year is generally just about the worst guide to what will happen this year (unless you are looking at the German league.  Or the Greek league).

In the relegation places he had Leicester, Norwich and …Aston Villa.   With the players of the season being Eden Hazard and Sergio Agüero.

Burnton also did a good bit managers   “Least excited about: Hearing what José Mourinho has to say about things four times a week.”   But that implosion has been such fun Simon.  It’s been worth it hasn’t it?

Paul Doyle for his title prediction went in another direction and said, Arsenal, after Chelsea are ravaged by injuries. Relegated, West Ham, Sunderland and Norwich.   Personally I would love to see State Aid Utd go down and play their first season in the State Aid Stadium in division 2, but at the moment it seems not.

Mr Doyle also said, “Claudio Ranieri may struggle to keep Leicester City in the top flight.”  Or not as the case maybe.

Already I am wondering quite why the journalists had such a downer on Ranieri and such a love affair with Chelsea.

Dominic Fifield said, “if José Mourinho’s transfer dealings serve to reinvigorate, the champions should remain a step ahead.”  And for relegation, “Leicester may have to repeat last season’s late heroics, though can that be achieved with Claudio Ranieri in charge? Watford have virtually a new team – and manager – from the set-up that gained promotion and will have no time to settle.”

Now these people are not employed as fortune tellers, but they are employed to do analyses and pick out the key elements in what is going on, and so far it is not very impressive.

Andy Hunter announced the title would go to “Chelsea. Expect Arsenal and Manchester United to provide a stronger, closer challenge this season but they lack the champions’ defensive quality. A lot, perhaps too much, rests on Diego Costa staying fit, however.   Relegated: Norwich, Leicester and Watford.”

His player of the season was interesting too: Wayne Rooney.

Signing of the season: Petr Cech. “Seven years after Jens Lehmann ended his first spell at Arsenal, Arsène Wenger has finally got round to signing a goalkeeper of proven, outstanding pedigree. Imagine the eruptions emanating from Stamford Bridge should the veteran provide the foundation for an overdue title challenge at the Emirates.”

Well, no, I think they have other issues on their minds at the moment.

“Least excited about: The prospect of last season’s top four quickly retaking their positions, staying put throughout and three of the four once again failing to mount a credible challenge to Chelsea.”  So he is presumably rather excited then.

David Hytner went along similar lines: “Title winners, Chelsea. Arsenal and Manchester City will challenge more strongly but Chelsea have the power, relentlessness and savvy to get the job done again.

“Relegated: Leicester, Sunderland and Norwich. I fear that Claudio Ranieri will struggle at Leicester…”

He also had an interesting nomination for young player of the season: “Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Still only 21, the winger-cum-central midfielder has enjoyed several purple patches in his Arsenal career and, if he can stay injury-free, he is ready to put it together over a full season.”

That would be nice if it could start to come true after the international break.  But I fear that “Most excited about: LVG Part II,” was always a forlorn hope.

Jamie Jackson had “Title winners: Chelsea. For the first time in seven seasons, since Manchester United claimed a hat-trick of crowns in 2008-09, the same name should be embossed on the trophy in consecutive years. Manchester City are weak defensively, United lack world-class outfield players and Arsenal are again bound to be the Arsenal that crumble.”

With a view like that it is not surprising that he went for “Relegated: Watford, Leicester and Newcastle”.  He did put Newcastle in the mix though, which most others didn’t.

Jacob Steinberg pronounced that “it is hard to see past Chelsea, even though it can be dangerous not to renew your squad over the summer. They could have done with a right winger and another midfielder.”  Or a manager who doesn’t verbally assault doctors.    But actually that phraseology from Steinberg is interesting because it confirms the earlier point.  For journalists it is generally hard to see beyond “more of the same”.  A bit like economists really.   (As in “economic forecasting only exists to give fortune tellers a good name”.)

“Relegated: The bottom half is always much of a muchness but Norwich lack Premier League class, Leicester could regret replacing Nigel Pearson with Claudio Ranieri and maybe this will finally be Sunderland’s year.

“Player of the season: Eden Hazard will continue to delight.

“Signing of the season: Remind me again why Chelsea let Petr Cech go to Arsenal? Arsène Wenger’s side are probably still a top striker away from winning the league but Cech will make a huge difference in goal. His presence alone increases their confidence.”

Isn’t it interesting how so many of them could see the validity of signing Cech, but not that their favourite love-affair poster-boy could suddenly get exposed for being a petulant little self-serving head case.  Yet it has happened all through history.

Louise Taylor gave us a refreshing change: “Title winners, Arsenal. Arsène Wenger will stick a strictly metaphorical two fingers up at Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal et al before announcing his retirement next summer.

“Relegated: Norwich, Bournemouth and Watford. Well they do say what goes up must come down … Leicester could also be in the mix but Claudio Ranieri may just exceed expectations.

“Player of the season: Aaron Ramsey. Wenger’s key midfielder has improved almost beyond recognition and this could be his moment in the sun. He can play a bit himself but also possesses the invaluable knack of creating the right midfield framework for Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil and gifted friends.”

But then one starts to wonder. “Most excited about: Seeing Steve McClaren turn Newcastle into much more of a passing, attack-minded team. It will take time but should be worthwhile.”  Still maybe it is just taking time.

“Title winners: Chelsea. Best-organised defence, proven goalscorers, smart manager. With or without John Stones, this is a winning combination that could last a long time. Relegated: Leicester, Bournemouth and Watford.   Surprise of the season: Everton finishing above Liverpool in the table. To be honest I don’t see it happening. But it would be a surprise.”

The BBC went for Chelsea as “The signings of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas transformed Chelsea into champions last season and, on current evidence, it is tough to say with real confidence who will unseat them.

“Chelsea may yet produce a marquee signing but even if they do not they look immensely strong in all departments. The slight unknowns are just how long the ageless John Terry can turn back the hands of time and how often Costa is fully fit, but they will be champions again.”

Arsenal were placed second with Diego Costa saying Petr Cech’s signing means Arsenal “have a good enough side to be in with a shout” for the title.

“It has been many years since Arsenal were as optimistic as this entering a new season – but all upbeat bulletins must add the rider that we have heard all this before only for the title challenge to fail to materialise…

“Arsenal still need a world-class striker as an embellishment to the superb Alexis Sanchez and could pay the price if they fail – but let’s back the Gunners to go the distance and at least give Chelsea a run for Abramovich’s money.”

Man City were placed 3rd by the BBC because “Manuel Pellegrini is merely keeping the seat warm for Pep Guardiola’s arrival from Bayern Munich next summer.

“The wild card here, however, is City’s ability to make the sort of world-class signings that give them an added dimension between now and the close of the transfer window. It could change the title landscape in an instant.”  Now on that point I think they have been proven right.

For Man U the prediction was fourth and that was seen as a problem as “Van Gaal needs to be challenging for the title. No excuses.”

Liverpool were predicted to come in 5th.   “FSG has supported Rodgers totally in the transfer market, armed with the £49m from Raheem Sterling’s sale to Manchester City, and he must now deliver.  Rodgers cannot afford a poor start, especially with the coveted Jurgen Klopp available, and he will need to settle in a selection of new faces.”  That’s a good prediction.

Tottenham were said to be heading for sixth with Norwich Leicester and Watford making the drop.

Elsewhere J. Redknapp had a top four of Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City, Man United and with Arsenal winning the FA Cup for that magical third time and thus creating yet another cup record.  I’d  take that.

Then there was a lovely answer to the question, who would you pay to watch.  Journalists of course don’t pay to watch any game, so it is all theoretical, but here’s an answer…

There are so many good technical players in the Premier League that I love to watch – Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Alexis Sanchez. But the No 1 still has to be Eden Hazard. When he’s switched on he is incredible. The frightening thing is there’s still more to come.


Jamie Carragher had the top four as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Petr Cech as the signing of the summer.

As for “Which player needs to raise their game?” the answer was “Mesut Ozil. His form improved towards the end of last season but I still think back to the player who was outstanding at the World Cup in 2010 and I am looking for him to repeat that form.”  This from the man who threw a coin into the crowd at Highbury.

Lee Clayton had a top four of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and again Arsenal to win the cup plus a signing of the summer as Petr Cech.

Jeff Powell however broke the mould with a top four of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, but stayed with the Relegation regulars of Bournemouth, Watford, Leicester and the signing of the summer as Petr Cech.   But he had Hazard as the player to watch this season.

So there you are.  Not really that impressive was it?  And yet these people dominate the themes of the commentaries in the media which the bloggettas pick up with relish.

Makes you think.


6 November 1997. Ray Daniel died.  In 1952-3 he played 41 league matches as Arsenal won the league under Tom Whittaker.  However he then left for Sunderland after they offered him payments far in excess of the maximum wage that was allowed.  Sadly Ray was tempted and succumbed.  He never won a trophy again.

6 November 2002:  Only 19,059 turn up for Arsenal v Sunderland.  The figure is a reminder of just how quickly Arsenal moved from being a club which could still play to a half empty ground into a club in which every seat would be sold for every game in a 60,000 capacity stadium.

15 Replies to “Just how well have the journalists been doing with their pre-season predictions?”

  1. I confess:

    If you had asked me about predictions who would go down, I would have gone with the names of Watford, Leicester and Norwich. Both Watford and Leicester had sacked their successful managers (Jokanović and Pearson) to replace them with bigger names while Norwich have never impressed me. Oh boy.

    If you had asked me about predictions on the top, I would have told you that we have a team to challenge Manchester City for the top spot but only if we add another winger/striker to our team and a cover for Coquelin. For this one I will quote Arsene Wenger: “Judge me come May”.

    And, I was very worried because Louise Taylor had labelled us as the future champions. Her record is hardly 100 percent.

  2. The only footballing predictions we have based on facts are the decisions made by PGMOL referees when when refereeing Arsenal games.

    The evidence is available for all to see.

  3. @Judge
    November 6, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Monkey fodder is worth every penny when given to monkeys; they are generally cute, interesting, live in a real world engulfed in nature and work/hunt for their living whilst serving other monkeys agendas!

    Pundits?? I wouldn’t feed quite honestly; they are far from cute almost bordering on frightening, very boring at best, exist in a virtual self-serving world full of lies and innuendoes blended with propaganda, and are handsomely lazy whilst serving who ever on the planet will pay them more to serve an agenda!!

    Thats how it is.

  4. The funny papers and petty plundits on the wireless who modelled their careers upon alan partridge are leading with the story Bellerin is out.

    This is the same player that they refused to include in their squad lists as they trolled the gullible at the start of last season with their “only six defenders”/”no outfield signings” gibberish. Same old same old! “Groundhog Day!” 😉

    The trolls on the injury article they tried their best (wasn’t very good) to airbrush the impact of previous hacks upon players resulting in long term injury troubles and their consequences, and the rehab required. I suppose this is because they were being very sincere in trying to blame say Arteta’s problems on the manger and not the stomp from Ba in the first game last season since when he’s, not surprisingly, had injury problems.

    Likewise I don’t need to be an unemployed and dishonest physio or simply a lame troll upon someone else’s blog in order to understand that if the linesman at Swansea had been able to raise his flag in time that Hector might have spared his, um, his groin a bruise or two. 🙂

    I don’t blame the official. I don’t blame the manager, I don’t blame the players. But I do question those who try to mindlessly and pathetically attempt and fail to blame everything, such as Hector’s strain, upon the manager. On someone else’s blog. Which is what they were trying to do. Very odd behaviour.

  5. I think we ought to give them a second chance in the New Year , by giving them questions set by the Arsenal faithful . Let us see if their bias still persists or if they have seen the light of day.
    We will not further embarrass them by not asking any questions of Chelsea , their moaning manager or their stars’ nose diving performances .

    1. Question – Is Arsene Wenger the best manager ever to ply his trade in the EPL ?
    If ‘YES’ – Go on to the second question .
    If ‘NO’ – Give us your reason .

  6. For relegation, it was clear that Aston Villa and Sunderland’s squads were already weak, and getting weaker (Villa particularly – lost almost all their good players and didn’t replace well). I thought Leicester may struggle but was wrong. I thought Newcastle would improve – wrong, so far…

    Bournemouth have been severely handicapped through losing nearly all their strikers with serious injuries at the start of the season. Thought Norwich would likely be the best of the newcomers as have more recent PL experience and a good manager.

    At the top, Man City bought two £50mm players – and already had an extremely expensive squad. Man Utd’s squad overhaul has been scattergun and unbalanced. Chelsea’s collapse is a pleasant surprise. Even more surprising has been Mourinho’s absolutely ham-fisted attempts to turn it around.

    Liverpool were clearly incomplete and had a very egotistical manager. But it will take Klopp time to bring in the players to fit his style.

    All good entertainment!

  7. The one pundit ( with no Arsenal connections ) who was most gracious to us was Robbie Savage of all people. He thought we’d challenge all the way but had reservations about our lack of DM cover, and made the point about who would sit on the bench waiting for Coquelin to get injured. Said we had the players in the squad already, but this was before Wilshire’s injury.

  8. @apo Armani do you think we will ever have that dick again officiating our matches or he is the one to do the one with our noisy neighbors?@BrickFields gunners that will be a nice one?

  9. @KampalaGun
    November 6, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Not sure who you are referring to. I didn’t make any comments about officials on this article.

  10. Making predictions is always a dicey proposition, so pundits having the particulars wrong wouldn´t bother me if the analytical process used in these exercises was interesting and sound, something we could learn from whether the final results were right or wrong. Alas, it seems there really is no thought process behind their auguries, just a general belief in the status quo, coupled with the blatant feather-fluffing of their personal favourite and cheap digs against whoever it is they dislike. What good does this do, for anyone? How frustrating when journalists strive for mere entertainment, instead of educating and enlightening.

  11. apo,

    The d**k in question was Mike Dean. I really sincerely and totally hope that we’ll never see him again at our matches.

  12. Wow ! None have replied to my quiz . They must be befuddled and flummoxed , again !

    Since the moaning one has a stadium ban , and him being him , he would surely be there in disguise .

    Question : – How would spot Moanin’inho at the stadium ?

    a) He’s the one trying to ‘blend ‘in as an Orc . Without a mask !

    b) He’s the guy in the crowd making impropriate hand and facial gestures at the cameras at all the refs decisions.

    c) He’s the Portuguese mime – Nada – a nothing .

    d) He’s the guy who is shaking hands and leaving 5 minutes before the end.

    e) He never made it, as he was booed and abused by both sets of fans at the train station and never got to board it.

  13. @ -KampalaGun -November 6, 2015 at 12:38 pm – As I normally am sure that the PIGMOB would sent a choice arsehole for most of our games , I do pray that some calamity befall them on their way to the stadium.
    So far God has not answered my prayers ! What I then hope that he gets sandwiched between two of our players , and that his whistle is elbowed down his throat . I would then absolutely luv’ it as he is interviewed by the world press !

  14. Brickfields Gunners – it would only emphasize the fact that PGMO blow whistles out of their behinds! Spineless cheats! I’m praying that someone takes them to court or the fraud squad investigates their finances.

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