On the eve of the new Premier League season A
Mushtaq Quraishi: With few major transfer ins or outs, Manchester City will have the advantage of fielding a team that has gelled together well and so Roberto Mancini’s side will win the Premier League title once more, with local rivals United trailing them closely following the impressive acquisitions of Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie.
Chelsea should, by rights, also be challenging for the title after splashing out on Belgian star Eden Hazard and Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar, but there are doubts over whether Roberto Di Matteo can get the best out of his side consistently in the league. The man who guided the Blues to Champions League glory could face the chop early on.
Arsenal should seal fourth spot with Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla slotting into the team with ease, though Tottenham and Liverpool may be in contention for a good chunk of the campaign.
Swansea could be the surprise package of the season and seal a top-ten finish, while QPR, West Ham and Southampton may also threaten to break into the top-half.
At the other end, Wigan will finally go down and they will be joined by newly-promoted Reading and Chris Hughton’s Norwich, who will suffer from second season syndrome.
Meanwhile, the Gunners will finally win some silverware – the FA Cup.
Scott Johnson: Despite a lack of spending, I expect Manchester City to be stronger this season. Carlos Tevez looks lean and mean and I cannot see anyone finishing higher than them.
Robin van Persie should make Manchester United more fluid in attack, but long-standing weaknesses in midfield remain. Chelsea should be stronger, but it is very difficult to predict how Liverpool and Tottenham will fare with Brendan Rodgers and Andre Villas-Boas. I expect Everton to be in the mix for fifth.
With a full season led by Mark Hughes, QPR and Aston Villa, under the stewardship of Paul Lambert, should improve while Stoke may stagnate and start to struggle. Southampton’s formidable home form should keep them up, but Reading may find the goals required to avoid the drop hard to come by.
West Brom and Swansea could struggle with bosses that are new to management and the Premier League respectively. The latter have also lost Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair may follow, and without Steven Caulker the defence is also likely to concede more too.
With Victor Moses expected to depart and uninspiring signings thus far, Wigan look destined for the drop, despite the best efforts of Roberto Martinez.
Alan Robins: Manchester City’s existing squad strength with the experience of last season may see them as favourites to win back-to-back titles. Manchester United, with the capture of Robin van Persie may run them close, but the squad [including the Dutchman] may be prone to injury and a question mark remains over the younger players’ readiness to replace the older stars.
Tottenham and Arsenal should have enough quality to claim top four places. Chelsea have bought numerous midfielders without apparent thought to where or how they will all play. The Blues have also not addressed the issue of an aging defence.
Newcastle will hope to build on last season and Everton with a whole season of Nikica Jelavic and after some typically astute recruitment could have a good season. It would be no surprise to see them finish above their neighbours. Have Liverpool addressed their inherent problems? It may be difficult to see them improving on last year.
At the bottom end, Wigan still appear weak and whether Martinez can perform another miracle is doubtful. QPR are arguably more a large collection of individuals than a team and survival may depend on Mark Hughes’ ability to bring the players together. The relegation fight will go to the wire and West Ham will be involved in it.
And below is the full Premier League table as predicted by the A Different League team.
1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
9. Aston Villa
14. West Ham
18. West Brom