The new Premier League season starts today and that means it’s time for a blog update for the big kick-off, and let’s start with the one that really matters after the teams complete their 38 games…
Manchester City pulled off the miraculous title victory last season, in the dying seconds, to ensure their first League Championship since the Big Bang (or sometime around then), and it looks like Rubbertoe Mankini, sorry… Roberto Manchini, is keeping faith with much the same squad that won the league last year. Now, the fact is that all the drama should never have happened in the first place, and that’s for two different reasons. Firstly, Man City should have won against QPR at a canter, there shouldn’t have been a last minute twist, they should have won by a margin suitable for rugby and that would have been that, but hey, if you’re going to win something for the first time in 1000 years (again, just an approximation) then you need to do it in style!
My second argument is that the title should be in a trophy cabinet somewhere else in the city of Manchester, that being the city of Salford (work that one out!), so that a Scottish stalwart can prepare to hoist it in the direction of one of his Devils should they ever act out of line. No, I’m not a bitter Red, and neither am I anti Blue, like said previously I am a fan of TRFC, and now that Bolton have vanished from the top tier I have no affinity or problem with any of the 20 teams in the division, the thing is that those last few minutes could have been something that Alinas Morrisette can chuck into ‘Ironic (Part 2). For the most part of the second half QPR were extremely resolute in defence, City couldn’t get through, and until those final minutes they looked like they weren’t going to allow the hosts many shots on goal from anywhere within 18 yards, and when they did, Paddy Kenny was immense. There were sure to be scenes of chaos if it remained that way,
Liam Gallagher Joey Barton knew this from the off, so he was lucky enough to get an early bath, the rest of his ex-City now Rangers team mates were probably aware of this, as was a manager who admitted that Man City are very close to him in the post-match conference, that being Mark Hughes. Now, no one can fault the effort and determination shown by QPR, they were fighting for survival, they needed Stoke to stop the notsomighty Bolton from getting a win and they would be safe, but if Bolton did get that 3 points, then QPR would have to survive on their own merits, and that they were doing.
Cue the final whistle at the Britannia Stadium, a 2-2 draw, and Bolton were down (ha!), news starts to filter through to the Etihad Stadium, scenes of jubilation for the visiting fans, and frustration from the rest of the ground. There was going to be a mobbing after this one if the result didn’t change soon, and suddenly it did, resolute defending came to a halt, and the next few minutes is history, cue the final whistle and pandemonium literally all around the stadium, both teams had done what they had to do, both teams could celebrate, isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think?
Anyway, all that besides, a new season is upon us, and had the last week not happened then the second word of the team I think will win the league would be different, but I cannot ignore a “missing piece” when I see one, and finally SrAlex has done it. Robin Van Persie is that piece and now Man Utd have that player they have needed, someone to consistently put the ball in the net when Rooney isn’t playing, and when he is, again rugby scores look likely. Yes Man City are strong, yes they are going to be more gelled this year, and yes there are 18 other teams to consider, but Liverpool, I think, are going to go the other way under Rogers, Villas Boas isn’t going to work the same wonders at Spurs as Redknapp did, Arsenal will have their usual scrap for 3rd or 4th (no chance of title really without Van Persie, I don’t think Podolski can fill his boots), leaving just Chelsea and their new manager and ex-star Roberto Di Matteo to challenge the Mancunian candidates (see what I did there!).
Now, I can see Torres finding form again this season, he shown glimpses of that at the end of the Euros and in the Community Shield, but that alone won’t be enough for them to win the league, their players are probably a bit too old these days, and to expect them to build on 6th to win the title, despite the quality they do have in their squad, is probably asking too much of them, and the rest, as usual, can be pretty much dismissed, so for me, Man Utd should win the title once more (boo!! Hiss!! Ad libbed anger!!)
Manchester United to win the league @ 9/4 (Blue Square)
The bookies have found it hard themselves to determine who should be favourites for the drop, and it’s the first time for a while (to the best of my knowledge) that there isn’t a side who are odds-on for the drop. The three promoted sides are amongst the favourites, as is to be expected, but in recent years they have actually gone on to do pretty well, out of the 12 teams who have been promoted over the last 4 years, only two have gone straight back down (Blackpool & Burley) which makes for a good omen if you are a fan of Southampton, Reading or West Ham. The only one of those 3 I can see struggling are Southampton. The Saints haven’t really brought in anyone who can be a proven difference maker, instead they have splashed out on Rodruiguez from Burnley, and Billy Sharp from Doncaster, and no disrespect to either, but spending big on players from the level below isnt what you want to be doing as a Premier League club. What Southampton needed was a Premier League striker, and even though Billy Sharp is a class act, it is a huge gamble to think that he can do the job at this level, a few teams have gambled on decent scorers from the second tier, and many times it has failed, Southampton have taken the same risk, and without that strengthening, I think the 11/8 (William Hill) offered on them for the drop is worth taking.
Wigan are a side who have consistently avoided the drop against the odds, and this season it would be against the odds for them to make the drop, and so to not live up to expectation, I can see them finally succumbing to relegation. They had a cracking end to last season to keep themselves in the top flight, and another year at the wrong end of the table looks likely. There hasn’t been much in the way of spending to improve the squad over the summer, a few free transfers have been made, but the team from last year remains very much in tact. Is this a good or a bad thing? Well, only time will tell really, but if their heroic spirit has finally been drained then I can only see them going one way, and that’s the same way everyone has expected them to go, down to the Championship @ 7/4 (Coral)
Swansea City did well to keep themselves in the top flight last season, heir team spirit was fantastic for most of the season, and they gave sides a real game, they had a very impressive defensive record at home for the first half of the season, and ended up conceding just 19 goals in 18 games at The Liberty Stadium, and losing only 4 times. Their reward for this, preservation of their Premier League status and a lot of notice for their surprising performance, the downside, Brenden Rogers did such a good job masterminding their season that he has now gone to manage Liverpool, taking midfielder Joe Allen with him, whilst pivotal player Gylfi Sigurdsson was so influential during his time a Swansea that he has now signed for Tottenham. Their replacements, Michael Laudrup, who has no experience of the English game and has done pretty well in sustaining mediocre Spanish teams in La Liga, getting the best out of them in the process, and a stint at Spartak Moscow which saw him win 4 times in 14 games (not impressive by their standards) and Chico and Michu from abroad, it’s going to take a lot to keep them up this year, and to rely on a manager like Laudrup to do that is taking a very big risk, it’s a 50/50 gamble as to whether it works or flops, and I’d much rather be on the 2/1 (ladbrokes) shot that they flop.
That’s the three I think are destined for the drop and it’s 28/1 for the three to be relegated (bet365), the other teams in and around the drop zone should be pretty much as the bookies are expecting, Reading are going to find it difficult on their Premier League return, Norwich might be the side that suffer from ‘second season syndrome’ and despite having the ability in their squad West Ham can’t be ignored based on the fact that their promotion last season involved the play-offs. One side that could surprise a few is Stoke City having established themselves as a decent side in recent years, last season was pretty poor by their standards, and if teams are finally starting to figure them out then 6/1 could be too large a price to turn down, possibly worth considering for an interest, but they should ultimately survive.
Southampton @ 11/8 (William Hill)
Wigan @ 7/4 (Coral)
Reading @ 2/1 (Ladbrokes)
Southampton/Wigan/Reading @ 28/1 (Bet365)
There’s only one team I can see as being cracking value here and that’s Queen’s Park Rangers. QPR have been a giant in the making for some time, and they have signalled their intent to do well under Mark Hughes by signing players over the summer who would have been firmly in the first XI of the so called ‘Big 4/5’ only a year or two ago. Park Ji-Sung has signed from Man Utd, as well as Fabio De Silva on loan, Rob Green has replaced the outgoing Paddy Kenny, and despite the loss of Fitz Hall and Heider Helgusson, QPR have strengthened with Ryan Nelson and Andrew Johnson joining the revolution at Loftus Road. There’s no doubt about their striking prowess now, Johnson joins proven Premier League scorers Zamora and Cisse and with such strong credentials in their team they should be able to push for a top half finish at the very least, 15/1 for them with a 38pt start over City should be well worth backing considering they can reach at least 50 points with a decent home record.
Another side who could be worth a punt are Everton, consistency has always been their downfall, but there’s no debate as to how much of a decent job Moyes has done over the years, and the 15/1 on them with a 24pt start is a bit too tempting to overlook. They finished 33pts off the pace last season, but injuries plagued the Toffee’s and had Jelavic been there all season they could have been a lot closer, and if the top two are going to really dominate, then Man Utd are 20/1 with a 2pt start over Man City, and if RVP and Rooney click as well as they could, then Man Utd could demolish the handicap at a canter
QPR +38pts @ 18/1 (betfred)
Everton +24pts @ 18/1 (betfred)
Man Utd +2pts @ 20/1 (Stan James)
My final, and brief, port of call is the Top Goalscorer market, and it’s hard to find a decent bet now that Man Utd have two potential 30 goal a season strikers, the competition for goals there could rule then both out of the running, but then again it doesn’t stop Messi at Barcelona!
Aguero has been price up as the favourite, and yes he has the potential to score another sackful, as does Torres if his form is back, but one player that does stand out for me is Papiss Cisse of Newcastle United.
He managed 13 goals in just 14 appearances for the Magpies last season after is arrival in January, and I’d that form can carry across to this season with pretty much the same team around him, then he can go crazy and score a lot of goals, Paddy Power offer 25/1 for him to top the charts which makes for good each way claims.
Nikica Jelavic is the same sort of player, 9 goals in 13 for Everton, and no disrespect to them, but a Goalscorer like that has been hard to come by, expect a fair few from him, and maybe one from Hibbert, in their quest for Europe, and 33/1 for him looks great value
Papiss Cisse @ 25/1 (Paddy Power)
Nikica Jelavic @ 33/1 (BetVictor)
So there we have it, be sure to check out my daily tips blog – daily selections for normal match tips, currently running in profit 🙂