Long ago at the dawn of the new season I made a few quick predictions. So how murky/clear was my crystal ball? To my surprise some actually seem like they might be right. Others, however need a fair bit of tweaking. Initial predictions in bold below, alongside a few halfway editions.
Champions – Chelsea. Still clear favourites, just so much more quality and strength than their rivals
Top Four (in order) – Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal, Liverpool. Well so much for the top four remaining the same, Liverpool have been an absolute shambles recently. So who to predict for fourth? It would be fantastic if Martin O’Neill’s young, exciting, and very heavily English team could make it, but with City improving and their wallet likely to be open again in January it seems hard to see beyond them. As for Arsenal and Man United, I’d call it a 50/50 race for second, and both will likely push Chelsea all the way.
Relegated – Hull (good riddance), Portsmouth and probably Burnley. Actually, I might stick with this. Hull proved today that they can be shockingly awful at the back, Pompey are just too fragile, and Burnley’s early season form is fading. Ridiculously tough to pick, but I’ll happily stick with this one.
Top Goalscorer – The Drog. Actually, why isn’t he in my fantasy football team? Well the African Cup of Nations could be all that scuppers it for him. Darren Bent will still fall just short, so if it’s not Drogba, then it will have to be Wayne Rooney.
PFA player of the year – Heart says Arshavin so I’m sticking with it. Well this one is wrong. Arshavin can be fabulous at moments, but is no-where near consistent enough to deserve the bi
g prize. Being played out of position is hardly helping him at the moment.
Newly promoted surprise package – Wolves should have the goals in them. Wolves have indeed looked increasingly at home in the top flight, but its Birmingham who have taken the league by storm, sitting just one point behind Liverpool in 8th. Frustratingly hard to beat, and largely on the back of signings mocked in the summer. Lee Bowyer, Scott Dann, Barry Ferguson and of course, Alex McLeish, you are duly saluted.
First sacked – Phil Brown. Saved by the brief return of Jimmy Bullard, but if current form continues he could well be on his way soon.
Best signing – Thomas Vermaelen/Glen Johnson. Not such a bad call. Vermaelen especially has been excellent, and although Johnson has faded he is still a remarkably effective attacking right-back when on song. The best competition comes from some slightly more low-profile signings, especially those of Richard Dunne by Aston Villa, and Lorik Cana by Sunderland.
Worst signing – Michael Owen was free so he hardly counts. Antonio Valencia/ Alberto Aquliani: Both have to fill boots far too big for their feet. Perhaps a little harsh, but unsurprisingly both have failed to live up to their predecessors. Aquilani though does look class, and Liverpool fans will be hoping he can actually stay fit now. Otherwise the league is largely short on expensive flops this year. Fingers can easily pointed at the holes in City’s multi-million pound defense.
Will the great Real Madrid experiment succeed: Unfortunately, yes. And it probably will succeed whether it be in the league or in Europe. Barcelona again look fantastic, but both sides are miles above not only the domestic competition but also the rest of Europe. A quick glance at the World Footballer of the Year lists will show just how dominant these two teams really are.