By Alex Miles
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7th – Newcastle
It seems there are two schools of thought for Newcastle this season: Legitimate European contenders or lightning in a bottle one season wonders. I fall in to the latter school. The Cinderella story of last season isn’t going to continue. My reasoning on this is twofold: I don’t believe Alan Pardew is a particularly talented manager, and I think there’s going to be a problem with the Demba Ba/ Papiss Cissé partnership. Ba was excellent last season, only to drop off when he was shunted to the flanks to accommodate the arrival of Cissé, scorer of spectacular goals. However, strikers are inherently selfish by nature, and I foresee problems emerging as Ba’s desire for goals and attention grows throughout the season.
Key Man – Alan Pardew – The manager must push on from last season, and as I’ve mentioned, he has quite a task in front of him keeping two similar strikers happy.
6th – Tottenham
They’ve hired Andre Villas-Boas to replace ‘Arry “luv meself a good mate” Redknapp. We’ll see how AVB balances his own team’s priorites and his desire to set things right after the Chelsea sacking. The big problem for Spurs is replacing the excellent Luka Modric, and the fact that as of right now they’re entering the season with just two strikers (Jermain Defoe and Harry Kane). That isn’t exactly reassuring, and with Modric off, Gareth Bale may be tempted to look elsewhere to achieve. The defense has been bolstered by the addition of Jan Vertonghen (a quality player), but Spurs are desperate for a striker.
Key Man: Gareth Bale (MID) – Bale is Spurs’ best player, without a doubt now that Modric has left. He is an electric winger, AVB must understand this and keep him on the flanks as opposed to the central deployment Redknapp tried to use at times last season.
5th – Liverpool
Another season, another manager for Liverpool. However, it seems that this time, Liverpool have finally got their man. Rodgers is an astute manager with a distinct system he wants to implement. Early signs have been promising, with Liverpool romping Gomel in the Europa League. The Scouse Boom/Bust Cylce is much more tempered this season, but the signings of Borini and Allen should give Liverpool fans hope for a more astute, more promising future. Rodgers will face a difficult start (Arsenal, Man City, and Man United in the first 6 games), but he looks to be the right man to bring Liverpool back to their glory days.
Key Man: Luis Suarez (ST) – Wonderfully talented, somewhat of a bastard. Suarez is equally as capable of mesmerizing fans and opposing defenses alike, but he’s been wasteful in front of goal for the Reds thus far. Liverpool need him to stay focused and in the goals next season more than ever.
IF YOU AIN’T FIRST YOU’RE FOURTH (THERE’S NO REAL DIFFERENCE)
4th – Arsenal
Robin Van Persie has now departed for Manchester United, leaving Arsenal in the lurch. He carried the team throughout last season, and with Alex Song also seeming likely to depart, Arsenal could be in trouble. They’ve added reinforcements (namely the very, very good Santi Carzola – watch out for him), but it is becoming increasingly difficult for Arsenal when their best players keep leaving season after season. However, Wenger is an excellent manager, and should keep them in the top four this season. How long they can keep this up is another matter entirely.
Key Man: Lukas Podolski (FW) – Mystery wrapped inside of enigma. Brilliant for Germany and Cologne, Podolski disappointed when given a chance at Bayern Munich. Arsenal will need him to defy doubters of his ability to succeed at big clubs and show his quality.
3rd – Chelsea
They’re not going to be pretty this season, despite spending a shed load on attacking quality. Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Marko Marin will all vie for an already competitive attack. Chelsea’s problems lie in defence, and they did very little to address those issues in the offseason. John Terry looks increasingly more liable every game, and David Luiz is a perpetual liability. Despite his run in the Champions League, I expect Roberto Di Matteo to be the first manager sacked this season, keeping in Chelsea tradition.
Key Man Fernando Torres (ST) – With Drogba and Anelka gone, Chelsea are trusting Torres to lead their attack this year. He’s had an indifferent career thus far in blue, but Chelsea will need him to continue his rich form preseason and international form.
2nd – Manchester United
Perpetual contenders, winners at all cost. Manchester United will always be in the mix for the championship by merit of their excellent manger. Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie are excellent additions, but they are luxuries that don’t address the issues that have troubled United for years. Lack of a midfield presence hurt the Red Devils last season, particularly when you watch Yaya Touré obliterate their midfield. However, they are talented and show a knack for winning games throughout the entirety of the season.
Key Man Nemanja Vidic (DEF) – He is United’s best defender, and one of the best in the world in his position. They need Vidic to stay fit and dominant to provide stability in their rather mix and match back line.
CHAMPIONS: MANCHESTER CITY
They are just too good, evidence of how money can buy success. Tevez and Aguero were in great form in the preseason, showing signs of a blossoming partnership that could terrify defenses for seasons to come. It is difficult to find a weakness in their squad, mainly because they have bought stars in just about every position and then some. Yaya Toure is world class, Kompany is one of the best in the world, Hart is an elite keeper, they are stacked and poised to dominate for many years. The only obstacles come from within the squad itself, and Mancini must manage egos effectively.
Key Man David Silva (MID) – Sublime and delightful in the first half of last season, Silva tailed off as fatigue became an issue. He is a world-class talent, but Mancini must manage him better if they are to win the title this year. They cannot afford for him to suffer a run of bad form again.