On the eve of the new Premier League season A
Mushtaq Quraishi: Andre Villas-Boas will get Chelsea back to playing at their destructive best, using the effective 4-3-3 formation both he and they are so familiar with. The Blues will win the title. Manchester United may struggle to go all the way after losing some highly experienced players. They also look light in central midfield, but will challenge Chelsea to the end.
Liverpool could seal third place without the distraction of Europe, while losing Carlos Tevez will prove to be a big blow for Manchester City, who will be fighting on four fronts – something which takes a lot out of you as Tottenham proved last season. City will finish fourth.
At the other end, Norwich, Queens Park Rangers and Wolves will go down. The Canaries concede too many goals and the noises coming out of QPR don’t sound too promising. Swansea will just about avoid the drop.
Arsenal will lift the FA Cup and Manchester United will win the Carling Cup.
Jonathan Swindlehurst: For the title it is difficult to look past both Manchester sides. United again are looking strong in pre-season following a good summer in the transfer market. An improvement on the away record must arrive, but they look by far the strongest side this season. Regardless of whether City hold onto Carlos Tevez their strength and depth in midfield will make them very difficult to beat and with the forwards at their disposal they are always likely to nick a win. Chelsea on the other hand have added little star talent to what is an aging squad and for Andre Villas-Boas to wrestle the title away from United in his maiden season is a huge ask.
That said Chelsea have been a force to be reckoned with in the FA Cup in recent seasons and this may well be an ideal opportunity for the new manager to add some silverware in his first season. After the huge disappointment for Arsenal of losing the League Cup last season Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly take this competition very seriously again and with the likely addition of a ball-winning centre half, the Frenchman could finally get his hands of some silverware.
Alex Irani: Chelsea fell away over a three month period in the middle of last season but with no World Cup hangover this time round and Andre Villas-Boas in place they should just get over the line ahead of Manchester United, while Manchester City have to contend with the extra demands of Champions League football. Arsenal’s lack of transfer activity and series of departures mean Liverpool will take their place at football’s top table.
At the other end of the division, Queens Park Rangers have not strengthened and are too reliant on Adel Taarabt, who seems disinterested. Wigan have lost their two best players in Charles N’Zogbia and Tom Cleverley and not replaced them so will not avoid last year’s heroics. Swansea will replicate Blackpool’s fate.
In the FA Cup, the core of hungry British players at Manchester United will respect the trophy and want to lift it, and with the talent they possess they have the ability. Everton have no money to spend but a good squad that can beat anyone on their day. Their lack of additions mean they could struggle in the league but could well win the League Cup.
Tom Doyle: If Wesley Sneijder (finally) arrives at Old Trafford and David de Gea grows into his role as Edwin Van der Sar’s replacement, then Manchester United will be difficult to dislodge as champions. However, if rivals Manchester City hit the ground running, and Roberto Mancini is able to combine Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero’s devastating potential, then Sir Alex Ferguson’s noisy neighbours could be throwing an almighty street party come the season’s end.
Expect familiar clubs to struggle, with a few bigger clubs thrown in for good measure. Blackburn and Newcastle will be casting nervous glances downwards if the Toon Army fail to replace Kevin Nolan (and possibly Joey Barton), or if the Lancashire club lose Chris Samba. The loss of Charles N’Zogbia could well spell the end of Wigan’s top-flight status.
Liverpool should do well in both cup competitions with a rejuvenated squad and no European trips to tire them out – a cup double could possibly be on the cards for King Kenny’s return, although Andre Villas-Boas will surely want to present Roman Abramovich with something shiny at the end of term.
And below is the full Premier League table as predicted by the A Different League team.
1. Manchester United
3. Manchester City
6. Tottenham Hotspur
10. Aston Villa
11. Stoke City
12. Bolton Wanderers
13. West Bromwich Albion
14. Wolverhampton Wanderers
15. Newcastle United
16. Queens Park Rangers
17. Blackburn Rovers
18. Swansea City
19. Norwich City
20. Wigan Athletic