First up, the big one: Who wins the title?
Corky Cat: Unfortunately this year I think the old partnership of Roman Abramovic & Jose Mourinho will take out this seasons comp. Chelsea have hung around the top 3 for the last 10 years (bar 11/12) and now have a manager who is respected by the players, knows the EPL and has stayed true to his word about not selling any of the main squad from last season. The addition of Andre Schurrle (Eden Hazard Jr.), Marko Van Ginkel and return of Romelu Drogba seem realistic. Even if Mr Rooney stays in Manchester, Chelsea look like the real deal this season.
Wildcard: Man Utd, but not so easily as last year. The top three (which is what it is now) have all changed managers, I think Moyes' appointment will be the smoothest transition. And I'm saying that as an impartial sports writer, not as a biased fan. Although if I wasn't, I would be.
Mystery Doctor: They have promised little for many years now, but Arsenal have the goods. They really do. Those who disagree clearly aren’t aware of the talent within the side and their long list of summer signings. In all seriousness I will always pick Arsenal. Not only because I love them, but because each season they show promise. Yes, they haven’t made too much of a dent during the transfer window, but they have a talented group of eager beavers who will be keen to make a statement and shut up a large chunk of the footballing world. Nothing left to say, I will sit in silence as Arsenal either make me proud or look even dumber than usual.
Uncle Dysfunktional: At this moment in time I’m going for Chelsea. It’s as tough as it has ever been to predict who will win the league this season as it’s so open! There is a level playing field with Sir Alex retiring which takes away the advantage of experience that United have had over opponents for decades. Three of the top 4 have new managers which is bizarre in itself let alone the way their predecessors have left. For me at this moment in time, it’s a 3 horse race, the Manchester clubs and Chelsea. That may change before the transfer deadline day where transfers will make or break teams seasons and depending who goes where we could see Arsenal become real dark horses.
Critics are saying that Chelsea will come short because they don’t have a consistent goal-scoring striker but Torres could snap back to his former excellence in a second. Not only that but how can anyone say that Chelsea will struggle for goals when they have so many goal-scoring midfielders? Hazard, Oscar, Lampard, Schurlle, Mata, and Moses can provide enough goals for two teams! A lot can and will happen in the next few weeks of the market but for me Chelsea have the edge.
And who nabs the other Champions League spots (in order)?
CC: 2nd Manchester United – Last season’s championship winning squad face a very tough first spell of fixtures, but under new manager David Moyes, this will all be about setting a platform for Europe & building from last seasons structure. Expect a cautious approach to most games and a lot of 1-0 wins. 3rd Spurs – Provided Bale stays. Daniel Levy has orchestrated some smart buys in Spur’s weakest areas and this may be all it takes to finally start chugging along nicely. If AVB can iron out the blemishes from last season and keep this squad hungry for Europe, expect some fast, exciting football and some great goals. 4th Manchester City – With just under $100 million spent on attacking impetus alone, it’s hard to see City finishing outside the top four. This week, Manuel Pellegrini stated that he is managing the best squad in Europe. And he’s probably right – on paper. Time will tell if these boys will have the time to gel and if this new manager can calm the farm with the departure of Tevez and dickhead Mancini
W: Chelsea a very close second, followed by Manchester City and then some daylight. Spurs for fourth if Bale stays all season, Arsenal if he goes.
MD: Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd. Pretty stock standard here. The talent in the Chelsea and Man City squads is amazing so it’s hard to see them slipping up anywhere this season really. With Man Utd, I think they will have many external factors that will play the role of the annoying little brother and lead them to give away a few points throughout the season. They’ll still make the top four, which will ensure that the Old Trafford faithful are left with a yummy taste of relative success.
UD: Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal – and in that order. It seems very unlikely that Bale will stay at Spurs and if he goes they’ll struggle, like Gary Neville said last season – without Bale Spurs wouldn’t be in the top 8 and although they’ll make Europe they won’t overtake the Arsenal. Liverpool will be up and around there too this year but they don’t have enough quality in depth to make that push into the top 4 and that’s WITH Suarez in the team. I could flip a coin to decide who could finish second and third – and the title as well for that matter but with questions marks over Rooney and little time to get a decent replacement now, Man City edge it.
Which three teams are going down?
CC: Sorry Stoke City, but this year has to be the last – especially with serial-relegator Mark Hughes at the helm. It’s a mystery as to how they’ve lasted 6 years… Ian Holloway is great value with his extreme post-match interviews, but after just sneaking into the EPL by the skin of their teeth, I just can’t see Crystal Palace keeping up with the big boys, even with a handful of handy new signings. Newcastle were lucky last time around but with the addition of PR masterclass Joe Kinnear, things may turn as bad off the field as they are likely to turn on it. Don’t be surprised for a QPR-esque start to the season, garnished with a nice side of relegation
W: Palace, Sunderland and Aston Villa. Of the promoted trio, I don't think Hull are as bad as people think (though Steve Bruce surely won't last the season), and Cardiff ran away with the Championship in the end. Palace will struggle though. Like, record low points total kind of struggle. Sunderland and Villa have no depth to their squads and they've been sliding for a while. The Villans can keep promoting the youth as they have been, but that will only keep rabid fans at bay for so long, especially if those kids just aren't good enough. If Benteke sticks around for the season and scores 20 goals, maybe Villa pull through, but I don't think he can do it alone. I mean, has anyone seen Darren Bent around recently? If he doesn't start scoring his face'll start showing up on milk bottles. Stoke will give Villa a run though if they aren't scoring goals themselves.
MD: Sunderland, Hull and Stoke. This one's pretty hard to pick as the shit teams have still got some good players/bought good players who will be able to get them enough points to stay up. Unfortunately for Stoke, they are battlers. Battlers just don't cut it in the EPL no more. The other two, well they're just the shittest left of the rest.
UD: Palace, Cardiff and Norwich are the three going down for me. Its easy to say that all 3 teams that come up end up going down but it rarely happens, usually one team will end up keeping their place for a second season and I think it will be Hull. A lot of people have been saying Cardiff because they’ve splashed a bit of cash and Caulker is a very shrewd signing but Hull manager Bruce is very experienced at this and although he annoys the shit out of me, he’s more than capable of keeping the Tigers up. It’s a tricky one with the league being so open outside of the top 6 but I feel Norwich are one of those clubs that just aren’t capable of staying up in the Premier League for longer than 2 seasons. They have a good manager in Hughton and some decent signings but these signings also lack Premier League experience. Holloway will give everything he has for Palace but they don’t have enough quality in that squad.
Which team(s) will surprise everyone this year?
CC: They looked amazing at the arse-end of last season, and have made some excellent signings. Add to that a soon-to-be capped English striker, and expect Southampton to finish safely within the top 10. Arsenal are set to be surprising this year – surprisingly bad. Unless Wenger can add some spice to this squad, I’m failing to see how last year’s recipe will maintain a top 6 spot. The fans are getting hot & bothered, and they’ll let everyone know.
W: Fulham. I still believe in the Berb. Plus they've made smart additions and have a very good manager in Martin Jol. Stekelenburg will be a steady presence at the back, Hangeland is basically Vidic 2.0, and Taarabt, Ruiz and Rodallega will set up a few goals. Nobody else's buying it yet, but I'm tellin' ya, they're the business.
MD: Swansea will be the biggest surprise this season in the sense that the extent of their continual rise will surprise. They are a team who have solid foundations, are a bit out of the English mix and can just focus on the job without too many distractions. I reckon they'll set up shop just outside the top four with the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Everton.
UD: West Brom and Swansea were the surprise packages last season although both dipped in form after the turn of the year. I expect both teams to have decent enough season this term but I think Aston Villa may surprise a few people now that they have tied down Benteke to the club. Aston Villa have a very young team that would have learnt a lot last season and they play some fantastic football at times. They got goals in both Benteke and Agbonlahor, they have creativity in N’zogbia, Bannan, and Albrighton, and they have a great keeper in Guzan. They aren’t expecting much and even Villas are saying that staying away from relegation will be a success but even though they won’t get into Europe I think they’ll turn a few teams over this season and these Villa youngsters will show what they got. West Ham are another team that will have a good season, plenty of quality and depth in their squad so I expect Alladyce to get the Hammers rocking this season
Who’ll be the first manager to get the sack?
CC: As Alan Pardew is in a 8 year term, it’s unlikely Newcastle will fire him – but don’t be surprised if he heads for the door or if Joe Kinnear is given his marching orders.
W: It's gotta be Sunderland's fascist dictator Paulo Di Canio. Unless he throws the toys from the cot and walks away in a huff first. Steve Bruce and Mark Hughes will be on thin ice too.
MD: Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes. R.I.P Manchester
UD: I’m thinking Martin Jol, not because I think he deserves it but Fulham have a new owner and he’s lost some key players this summer with Schwarzer gone to Chelsea and Riise on his way out. I think Fulham are a decent team but they’ve spent a fair bit of money since he arrived and if he doesn’t get off to a good start he could well get the boot. No managers are safe anymore when only a month of bad form can lead to a sacking. I really got this feeling it could be Pardew but that would be insane giving his 8-year-contract but Toon’s owner has done stranger things. The three promoted clubs could well sack their manager early which is always a common occurrence and Di Canio will be sweating if he gets off to a bad start. If I had to put money on it I’d say Jol.
Who’ll be top scorer?
CC: It's hard to see anyone matching RVP again - however I have a feeling that with a quick adaptation to the English game and a PFA footballer of the year to link up with, Roberto Soldado may hurt many teams. This guy is in his best years & had a great season with Villareal last year, bagging 28 league goals.
W: Robin Van Persie. If United are to win the title, as I've picked, RVP has to be top scorer. I'm talking 30 plus.
MD: Theo Walcott. Sir Theo will rise this season as Arsene Wenger finally figures out that they need the little dynamo front and centre. You either love or hate Theo and I have proposed to him many times. He will lead the attack, causing lots of trouble with his pace and kick the ball in to the goal lots of times, making him the top goal scorer.
UD: RVP, quite easy really. Aguero will be close if he stays fit and Suarez will find he’ll be up there if he stays in England (whether at Liverpool or Arsenal) but RVP will play the most (with Suarez banned for the first 6 games), get the better service, and can score from anywhere. Set-pieces, penalties, headers, long-distance, or in and around the box; RVP just has more goals in him.
Who’ll be player of the year?
CC: He’s now injury free (touch-wood) and you’ve got to think that it really is Jack Wilshere’s time to shine.
W: RVP. Just for consistency. Though they do like to give these things to British players.
MD: Jack Wilshere will be an absolute beast this season. Sir Jacky Boy will create chances left, right and centre, dominating the midfield. Wilshere hasn't been able to play consistent footy thanks to various injuries, but this season he will repay the Arsenal faithful with glorious performances all season long.
UD: Wilshere, he should have had a bigger season last season if it wasn’t for injuries but this time we’ll see him grow into captain material. It depends a lot on how Arsenal do this season which is any ones guess and depending on what players they end up bringing in. Wilshere is now England’s most important player, even more so than Rooney. This season he’s fully fit from the start and Gunner fans will hope it stays that way. As a midfielder he has got it all and has ability to play anywhere across the midfield. He’s determined, tenacious, skilful, and intelligent. All he needs is to add goals to his game and he’s up there with the best. This may very well be the season and if Arsenal add a couple more world-class players to their squad then Wilshere could lead them to the title. RVP will be up there of course as well as Chelsea trio Hazard, Mata, or Oscar and even Yaya Toure and Aguero but Wilshere may be a force all on his own this season.
Best new signing:
CC: Southampton splashed out big time on Victor Wanyama and it’s not hard to see why. The 22 year old Kenyan powerhouse was outstanding for Celtic last season & especially shone in the Champions League. The big dark CM’s are becoming more an more popular, and I can’t wait to see this guy face to face with the best – Yaya Toure.
W: Maarten Stekelenburg for Fulham. A world class keeper for a mysteriously undisclosed fee. It can't have been much though, seeing as it's Fulham we're talking about. He'll be better than Schwarzer (who was no mug himself), and maintains Fulham's history of attracting great keepers (Van Der Sar anyone?).
MD: Roberto Soldado – Spurs. Soldado is a shrewd signing from Andre Villas Boas as he will not only give Tottenham more strike power, but also give a bit more depth. With Jermaine Defore not getting any younger, Spurs need someone to help take the load off his wee shoulders which is what Soldado will do. Whether or not he scores a heap of goals, I dunno. But he will add to Spurs and give them plenty of class, making them a well rounded team.
UD: I don’t believe the signing of the season has been made yet, that’ll happen in the next 3 weeks and it’ll be ether Man Utd, Arsenal, or Chelsea that will make it – in Chelsea’s case only if they get Rooney. At this moment in time I think Bony at Swansea will prove to be a good signing as well as Caulker at Cardiff. In terms of value for money Everton got Kone quite cheap after he had a fantastic season at the Latics but at this moment in time Aston Villa convincing Benteke to sign a new contract may prove to be the signing of the season as they are now certain to stay up with him in the team – without him fans would be less confident, that’s the difference a 20-goals-a-season striker makes to a team.
Worst new signing:
CC: Fernandinho, the $30million back up to Yaya Toure
W: Anyone of City's new signings. I'll put it on the line and say Alvaro Negredo. £20m for a fourth choice forward? Only City.
MD: Jesus Navas. Someone just wanted to spend some dosh and bring in a Spaniard. I don't think he'll make much of an impact in the EPL and will struggle to get much game time considering the talents at Man City. I'm sure he's going to enjoy Manchester and his healthy pay check though. Just don't know which one he'll enjoy more.
UD: This is the hardest one to choose as the worst signing (just like the best) probably is still to be made. I don’t think Joel Robles is a very good signing by Martinez at Everton. He’s a very light-weight keeper and made a few mistakes towards the end of the season, in fact he made a massive era against Arsenal at the end of last season – the game that sent them down. Plus he has no chance of getting in front of Tim Howard in the Everton goal so that’s a strange one that I think will turn out to pointless. Negredo could turn sour for City simply because hes 4th choice with a 20-odd million price tag.
Biggest muppet of the upcoming season:
CC: Provided he stays in the EPL – there can only be one Luis Suarez. Otherwise you can rely on Jonathan Walters having another embarrassing season
W: Rooney or Suarez. I get it, they want out. But it's frustrating how much player power exists in the game today. The longer their respective sagas drag on, the bigger muppets they'll be. Both clubs have stuck with these two players through difficult times before; they deserve better. At least Bale is acting with a little dignity and respect for his employers.
MD: Hard to go past. Emmanuel Adebayor. Just an all round muppet really. He's not going to do anything this year so he's lucky he's getting paid well to be a muppet.
UD: Alan Pardew – mainly because he just IS a muppet, a nipple, a wet blanket, and a drip. He looks like a boring stationery salesmen, who thinks he has the talent of Richard Branson because he just sold a bulk order of pens to a school. Like a boring politician who would be disgusted by his own farts. He’s an idiot basically; he’s signed far too many French players and then complains that his team don’t speak enough English! He had one good season the year before last and has got too big for his boots. Mike Ashley wants him out but can’t sack him because Ashley would have to fork out 8 years’ worth of wages! Ashley has hired Joe Kinnear as Director of Football to undermine Pardew and hope he resigns. That may well happen but why force out one absolute twat for another in Kinnear? Actually all three of this lot are muppets in my book.
Final miscellaneous predictions:
CC: David de Gea to pick up the most clean sheets this season, mainly due to Uniteds defensive approach & an increasingly solid backline. Most bookings may go to Liverpool's Daniel Agger and I have a sneaking suspicion ex-Liverpool Jonjo Shelvey will pick up a few reds. Tottenham will score the most goals and Newcastle will concede the most.
W: Rooney and Suarez are forced to stay. Rooney gets fat(ter) sitting on the bench, while Suarez starts ditching trainings after joining a racially elitist cult. Jose Mourinho struggles initially, but turns it around after finding Jesus. He dedicates all prior, current and future success to 'The other special one'. Harry Redknapp, who is now simultaneously coaching both Hull City and Crystal Palace, hears of this and tries to sign this 'Jesus geezer'. Christ himself declines the offer out of a conflict of interest being as he is meant to be the saviour of all mankind, and anyway, he's a Millwall fan.
MD: This season will mark the dawn of a new era. Those teams just outside the top four and in the middle of the table will close the gap on the upper echelon of the EPL. Managers are getting better at picking up talented players who can do a job for a reasonable price and I think that they talent has started to get spread out amongst the shittier teams. Simply put, I reckon that this season will be a lot more exciting with more teams challenging for the title as well as more teams competing for European spots.
UD: Suarez pushes Liverpool too far and they have to sell to Arsenal but he won’t perform as well as he did at Liverpool but will curb his controversial personality. Man Utd will struggle but Moyes won’t be under any pressure and will still be able to keep up with eventual winners. Barton will end up back in the Premier League and will do well in terms of behaviour and form until around January where he will purposely aggravate Suarez, they’ll have a dust up, and Barton will be shipped out on loan again. Rooney will stay at Man Utd and be given a new roaming role behind Van Persie as Moyes compensates for not securing a creative midfielder. Torres will get back to his scoring ways first half of the season and will be at the top of the goal-scoring charts – but will then have a set-back such as an injury. Pardew will walk out from Toon and Kinnear will be temporary manager until they appoint Harry Redknapp – this will happen before or during January. Mark Hughes will be as grumpy and unimpressed as always and Pochettino will continue to think he is a Catholic prophet but will walk out once Scum go on a huge losing streak. Bale will sign for Real Madrid but then he is banned from playing football as it is found out that he actually IS part monkey.