If you are anything like me, a mad football and sports fan, you have been counting down the sleeps until one of the greatest days on the yearly calendar: round one of a fresh English Premier League season. For me and my mates it means constant banter, late nights, huge arguments and a whole lot of fun. Here are my official top 5 BOLD Premier League 2015/16 Predictions as well as a bonus prediction from a secret special guest (my Dad).
1. Manchester United Will Lift the Trophy
United have been linked with everyone this off season but importantly they have recruited well the past two years and in the right areas. The capture of Depay and Schweinsteiger particularly shows that the former Premier league heavyweights are ready to bully their way back to the title, and with Barcelona star Pedro also heavily linked to Old Trafford, I believe they have the squad, the manager and the $$$ to do it.
The Red Devils have had a strong pre-season tour in the United States with victories over Mexican heavyweights Club America and Spanish and European Champions Barcelona, a loss to PSG the only slip up in a strong tour. Perhaps more importantly new recruits Schneiderlin and Depay and young guns Lingard and Januzaj got on the score sheet. Furthermore with the experienced Rooney and Mata chiming in with a goal each the signs are very promising for Man United fans this season.
The early season draw has been reasonably favorable to United and it is completely possible that they come out of September with 7 wins from 7 starts. Tough games against bitter rivals Liverpool and European challengers Tottenham are winnable as both are being played at Old Trafford while clashes with Villa, Southampton, Newcastle, Swansea and Sunderland could result in a further 15 points if the Red Devils spring out of the blocks quickly. The big question mark over Man U is the situation with star goalkeeper De Gea and perhaps a replacement for the loss of Falcao and Van Persie up front, issues I believe a club with this sort of a prowess can overcome.
We shall see! Plus I have to admit their kit looks mint!
2. Bilic Will be First Coach SACKED
Being a huge West Ham supporter it pains me to even think of this being a possibility but I fear that new Hammers boss Slaven Bilic will be the first coach to be sacked in the 2015/16 season. Bilic has taken over at Upton Park in what is arguably the biggest season in the clubs 115 year history and the pressure and expectation from the fans, the owners and indeed the wider football community could not be higher. As of next season, the club is leaving the beloved Boleyn Ground to move into the newly renovated, multi-million dollar Olympic Stadium at Stratford. The move itself has not been without controversy, with rival clubs and taxpayers questioning it’s legitimacy, nevertheless this change is seen by many as a possible catalyst for West Ham United to become a club competing with the top English clubs for silverware in the future. West Ham need to be playing Premier League football when the ball is kicked off at Stratford next year and expect owners Gold and Sullivan to have itchy trigger fingers if early results are poor
West Ham, through the fair play system, have also qualified to compete in the Europa League this season. Now although competing in Europe is exciting for the club and it’s fans, this competition has a long history of causing player burnout and fatigue, often resulting in form slumps back in the Premier League. The Hammers also must win four qualifying home and away legs before the round of 32 and already have traveled to Andorra, Malta and will be going to Romania for a third round away leg. The competition has meant West Ham’s season started way back in June and an injury to key forward Enner Valencia on the weekend shows how injuries and fatigue can occur due to heavy scheduling.
The hammers have recruited well (Payet, Ogbonna, Lanzini) and there is still optimism that they can have a strong season, I just hope the squad has the depth and Bilic can handle the overwhelming pressure he will face this season.
3. Benteke will Flop, Sterling Set to Soar
Couldn’t write my 5 predictions without having a go at Liverpool. Just to be clear I think Benteke is a great player and Liverpool could do well this year after some smart recruitment, I am also aware of the incredible goal Benteke scored in a freindly recently, but I believe that his game does not suit well with Liverpool’s.
I love a big powerful traditional number 9, an Eden Dzeko or an Olivier Giroud, but these players thrive on their areal ability and strength to hold up play and score goals. Liverpools possession based game, short passes and little darting runs make it hard for the big men (think Carroll, Balotelli) to make a strong impact. The issue for Liverpool is that the loss of Suarez not only hurts because he scored regularly but because he is the best defensive forward in world football, chasing down opponents to win back possession like a mad man and we saw how many times that endeavor resulted in goals for the Reds. I fear that Benteke is in the mold of his predecessors at Liverpool, so much promise and skill but sometimes a lack of effort, a poor attitude and a proneness to injury.
Sterling on the other hand will thrive at City, a club that throws the cash around like no one else can. Having already scored a few goals in pre-season his touch looks as good as ever and the service from Silva and Yaya should result in plenty of goals this upcoming season for Raheem.
Sterling to outscore Benteke by 10, sorry Liverpool fans.
4. Palace to Finish Top Six
This is easily my most ambitious prediction but I think Palace are a real dark horse in the Premier League 2015/16 season and I think they can improve on their surprising 10th place finish last year. No one could have predicted that after Christmas Crystal Palace would go on to make a top 10 finish. With only 3 wins after 20 rounds, Alan Padrew was brought in to replace Neil Warnock and to save the sinking ship from relegation. Not only did he steer the Eagles to Premier League safety but masterminded a rapid rise up the ladder with a further 10 more wins, including victories over City, Tottenham and Liverpool.
There is a lot to be excited about if you are a Palace fan this upcoming campaign. A full season under Padrew will see the team employing his tactical blue print, not only getting results but doing it in style. The signing of Yohan Cabaye is a statement of real intent by the club and enough to make most other football coaches jealous and most defenders extremely nervous. His vision, passing and influence on a game will lead to many goals for Palace. Players like Zaha, Gayle, Puncheon, Bolasie and Wichkham give drive and pace to the attack while Australia’s very own Mile Jedinak is one of the biggest engines in the league.
The real banana skin for Palace is the first 2 months of the season. Games against Tottenham, Chelsea, City and Arsenal present a real tough test for Pardew’s men but if they can emerge from September with at least 14 points, they could mount a real challenge for the top six. Sometimes it is better to get the big clubs early before they run into some form.
Good Luck in Europe Eagles!
5. Tyne-Wear Derby to be Contested in the Championship
That’s right! Sunderland and Newcastle are both heading for the drop. Both clubs struggled last year and both narrowly avoided the dreaded relegation but I don’t think they will be so lucky the second time around. The only good news for the Toon and the Black Cats is that they can still contest their Tyne-Wear derby in the Championship next year.
Sunderland and Newcastle have not really made waves in the transfer market this off season and there is doubts that they have had significant money made available to do so. The real worry for both clubs is their poor defensive records, finishing off the 14/15 season with -22 (Sunderland) and -23 (Newcastle) goal difference and the spine of both teams looks likely to leak goals again.
For Newcastle the experienced players need to really step up and fight for the club. Gouffran, Coloccini, Cisse and Sissoko are so important for the Magpies survival and they definitely have the ability, I just question the effort to carry over the 38 rounds. The issue for Sunderland is that they are in desperate need of goals this season, netting a lowly 31 last year (only relegated Burnley scored fewer). This task is only made harder with the loss of Connor Wickham to Palace and the pressure mounts on Fletcher, Defoe and Johnson to put the ball in the net. If none of these players score over 10 goals, the club is in real trouble.
Enjoy the fight for promotion in the Championship lads.
6. Wenger and Mourinho to Shake Hands! (Dad’s Pick)
After years of goading and antagonism between the pair, the Premier League world will grow tired of the incessant banter. When Jose sees that the people are bored with the jibes he will extend the olive brance to Arsene, most likely at the Emirates, and look for another soft winless target….
So what do you think? Have I got my predictions right or am I way off? What other Premier League 2015/16 predictions do you have for this season? Who will finish in the top 4 after the 38 rounds? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.