Come on then. Let's get it out of the way.
1. Man Utd **Champions**
They actually finished..... 1st.
Yay! one to me!
I said: "....Hargreaves in particular should be crucial in adding a bit of ballast to a very attack-heavy team. The signing of Tevez could also be a masterstroke (match fitness permitting). How the hell do you go about marking a front three of Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo?"
Well, they did look unplayable at times....
"One to watch: Michael Carrick. Two-footed, great passer of the ball and with something of an eye for goal...It should be interesting to see how he blossoms now he will be free of anchorman duties. Giggs and Scholes are also crucial."
"Fantasy Football signing: blimey, take your pick. The defence will be tight and the forwards will be free scoring. I've gone for Patrice Evra myself."
Hmm. That's not bad, I guess, albeit a bit obvious. Hargreaves ended up playing a bit at right back though, which I hadn't quite foreseen. Carrick had a steady season, I suppose, and Evra did alright for my FF team as well (although Vidic or Ferdinand would have been better).... but how can you possibly look past Ronaldo?
They actually finished.... 2nd
Back of the net!
I said: "One to watch: Jose Mourinho. The special one looked on the edge of walking out a few times last season. He's apparently patched up his relationship with Abramovitch, but will he make the end of the season?"
"Fantasy Football signing: Plenty of people will opt for Terry, Lampard or Drogba, but I always go for Petr Cech. His injury last season cost Chelsea the title."
Well, if you'd picked Terry, Lampard or Drogba for your team, then you might not have got as many points as you expected, but then again the same was true of Cech too, who looked shaky for the first time in his career (and sadly for the Czech's, not the last). That bit about Mourinho? You can quote me on that.
They actually finished.... 4th
I said: "The new owners are certainly splashing the cash in an attempt to bridge the 21 points difference between them and Manchester Utd. Will Torres, Babel, Benayoun et al make any difference? Nah, they'll still finish 3rd. Expect a lot of bleating about history and tradition – as if this should somehow actually count for something in a title race."
Balls. All true, but I thought too much of them
"One to watch: The real question is not where Liverpool will finish in the league, but how long will Rafa's beard last before he realises it is a catastrophic mistake...
FF signing: One of the defenders. Torres will be pricey and won't score enough goals."
Well, the beard's still there and Torres scored a hatful. Hey ho.
They actually finished..... 11th.
I said: "This is a big season for Martin Jol. Spurs have made steady progress in the last few years, but with Arsenal's apparent slump, this looks like being their big chance to break into the top 4. Jol has been given time and money. If he doesn't do it this year, what odds on the Tony Soprano-a-like wearing a concrete overcoat and sleeping with the fishes?"
Well, Jol didn't last long, but long enough to bury their season.
"One to Watch: Jermaine Defoe. If he doesn't get the hint and do one soon, he'll be getting a lot of splinters."
"FF signing: Berbatov or Bent are worth a look, although both will be expensive. Should be some value in the defenders though. I've gone for Michael Dawson."
Well, I think I ended up with both Bent and Berbatov... and kept Bent too long and ditched Berbatov too early. Oh well.
They actually finished..... 4th.
I should have know better than to underestimate Wenger, eh?
I said: "Interesting times at the Emirates. Thierry Henry limped and sulked his way to 11 goals last season and on the face of it will be very hard to replace. In practice though, the team might actually thrive now they have to look elsewhere for their inspiration. Fabregas is developing into one of the best midfielders in the world and players like Hleb, Gallas, Rosicky, Eboue, Adebayor and the like have a lot of quality."
Right on Fabregas, and hit lucky with Adebayor, but were the others anything much?
"FF signing: Eboue has been playing on the wing in some pre-season friendlies. Could be worth a look as the defence is likely to be solid."
Well, he played on the wing, but I dropped him pretty quickly.
They actually finished...... 5th
I said: "Everton under Moyes have seemed to lurch from good season to bad season and then back again. They did well last year, but I reckon they'll break the jinx this time around and push for Europe again this year. They've not signed much, but what they've signed looks like it could "do a job"."
"One to watch: Phil Jagielka. Where will he play? Full back? Centre Back? Midfield? Goal? Truly the MacGyver of footballers."
The MacGyver of footballers? That's good, I might steal that. Oh... I said it?
They actually finished..... 7th
Back on track!
I said: "....I imagine they’ll be effective again this season, although quite how useful Roque Santa Cruz will be in the Premiership remains to be seen."
Not bad, it turns out....
"FF signing: David Bentley. The new Beckham?"
Yeah.... he does a reasonable job, even if the old one simply refuses to go away.
8. Aston Villa
They actually finished..... 6th
I said: "Martin O’Neill’s arrival last time seemed to be the most important thing to happen at Villa Park in years, and although his first season was one of steady rather than spectacular progress, perhaps we should expect more this year. "
True enough, although I underestimated quite how much.
"FF signing: Gareth Barry. Solid points scorer with steady assists and the odd penalty. I’ve also got a soft spot for Olof Mellberg, for some reason."
Both legends, although it looks pretty likely now that Barry will follow Mellberg out of the door.
They actually finished..... 8th
I said: "Surely they can’t do as well as they did last season? They’ve got a nightmare start with games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Man Utd and Liverpool in their first 6 games. Mind you, with David James, Sol Campbell and Linvoy Primus anchoring their defence again this year, who knows?"
Well, they didn't do badly in the end...picking up the FA Cup along the way.
"One to watch: David Nugent. He was by far and away the best striker in the Championship last season and scored on his full England debut… he’s clearly brave because he snubbed Roy Keane and a possible move to Sunderland, but is he going to cut it in the Premier League?"
"FF signing: Matty Taylor. He did brilliantly last year, partly because he was still being classified as a defender and thus benefited from all those clean sheet points…. But he also scored some absolutely cracking goals."
Sidelined by Portsmouth but when he moved to Bolton, he was soon scoring points again and looks like he might be worth a shout this year too.
They actually finished..... 12th
I said: "Surely the biggest news for Newcastle is that they have finally got rid of Fat Freddie Shepherd and in Big Sam Allardyce, they might finally have a manager with the drive and ambition to take them somewhere"
Well, Big Sam didn't last long, eh?
"....if Michael Owen stays fit then who knows where they could go? What’s going on between the chairman and Big Sam though? Where are the really big signings? Why is Dyer still there?"
Was Michael Owen fit? Not really? Did Dyer stay? Not for long. Where are the really big signings? Still waiting....
"One to watch: Shay Given. Always the key for Newcastle when they had such a shaky defence… perhaps he’ll have a bit of protection now?"
They actually finished..... 18th.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Maybe should have seen this coming.
I said: "Steve Coppell is a genius. They were almost everyone’s favourites for relegation last year and they nearly got into Europe. They’ve lost Steven Sidwell to Chelsea, and not signed much, so will they be able to pull off the same trick this year?"
In a word? No.
They actually finished...... 16th
I said: "Little Sam has a tough act to follow in Big Sam, that much is for sure. We’re told that the rather robust Bolton style is going to be replaced by a shorter passing game, but frankly I’ll believe that when I see it. Kevin Davies and a fast, fluid passing game does not compute. Surely the only way is down?"
Yes, but much further down than I imagined, and Little Sam didn't last long either, before he was replaced by the awful lot more pragmatic Megson. My pick of Gary Speed didn't last too long either. Anelka would have been okay as a fantasy pick, as I suggested, I suppose... but only up to a point. Rubbish.
13. West Ham
They actually finished...... 10th
That high? Really?
I said: "I’m sure Alan Curbishley will just be delighted to put last season behind him, but surely things won’t be as bad this year? The signings of Scott Parker, Craig Bellamy and Freddie Ljunberg will surely help, but perhaps the biggest bonus of all is the return of Dean Ashton from injury. No Tevez this time though…. But surely they won’t need a miracle this term?"
Not a vintage season, and far too many injuries to really assess them properly.
"One to watch: Craig Bellamy. He’s quick and talented and sure to score goals. Mind you, he’ll be worth watching just to see how quickly he blows up and goes after one of his team mates with a golf club. If Kieron Dyer ever signs, it might be worth watching Lee Bowyer too… ding ding… round 2."
Bellamy? Get out of town.
They actually finished......13th
I said: "This is a big season for Gareth Southgate. He’s lost Viduka and is under pressure to sell Yakubu. How will he cope without the heaviest striking partnership in the league? I predict a difficult season."
Well, Yakubu soon followed Vuduka out of the door, as did Woodgate, but somehow Southgate muddled his way through the season. Lucky or genius in the making?
"One to watch: Gaizka Mendieta. Wasn’t this guy one of the best players in Europe? What the hell happened? Where is he? Why can’t he keep people like Lee Cattermole out of the side?"
Heavens above. If you find him, let me know.
"FF signing: Stewart Downing. Does he really want to be at Boro? Will he be an even better pick if he moves to somewhere like Spurs?"
They actually finished..... 15th
Yes! Back on track!
I said: "Of the promoted sides, they are comfortably the favourites to avoid the drop. Whether they can or not probably depends as much on the manager as it does on the players."
"One to watch: Roy Keane. He’s confounded almost everyone with how he has carried himself as a manager, but how will he cope if his team struggles? He’s tried to sign a number of players and failed in pre-season and is the £9m signing of a Scottish goalkeeper an act of genius or of desperation? Time will tell. If he loses it, I imagine he will lose it big time."
Keane seems stable enough, as it goes, but very much the same is true this year. Will he build or will they fall back? Seems to like ex-Spurs players.
16. Man City
They actually finished.....9th
I said: "Eriksson has splashed the cash, but it seems likely that most of the players haven’t even met the manager yet, never mind any of their colleagues. It could be a long season."
Well, they started better than they finished, but for Sven it was a triumph really.. even if it ludicrously ended with him being sacked. He actually looked like he knew what he was doing.
"FF signing. Perhaps worth taking a punt on Bianchi. Italian strikers have a dreadful record in English football, but this guy got 18 in Serie A last year… so you never know, right?"
No. Just don't.
They actually finished......17th
I said: "This is Laurie Sanchez’s big chance in the Premier League, and he gave up the Northern Ireland job to make the most of it. Still, his signings should make him feel right at home: Baird, Davies, Hughes and Healey were all members of the Norn Iron side that beat Spain. They only avoided relegation by a single point last season, and I imagine it could be more of the same again this time around."
Fulham stayed up in spite of Sanchez's best efforts and because of the talent of Roy Hodgson.
"One to watch: David Healy. Phenomenally successful for Northern Ireland but often starting off the bench with struggling Leeds. How will he take to the Premiership? The answer will be critical to Fulham’s chances."
Well, they stayed up and he hardly played, so what do I know?
"FF signing: Jimmy Bullard. Not quite back from injury yet, but is capable of scoring a lot of goals from midfield. As he was out for most of last season, he should also be relatively cheap."
Well, he looked good for the last few games of the season, but they're the only ones that he played.......
They actually finished......19th
I said: "Steve Bruce did really well to get Birmingham out of the maelstrom of the Championship last year, and rumour has it he was inches from getting the boot at Christmas… but he hung on and his side came back strongly to clinch automatic promotion. What are their chances this year? Where are the signings? Where will the goals come from? A struggle ahead, I think."
Yup. And Bruce escaped with enough time to rescue Wigan too.
"FF signing. Hmm. Maik Taylor and Franck Quedrue are probably the best of a bad bunch, but you wouldn’t want to be relying on any clean sheet points. Forssell has done well in the past, I suppose."
You'd've been better with no one, frankly.
They actually finished......14th
I said: "Wigan narrowly avoided relegation last year and the signing of Titus Bramble hardly fills me with any confidence that they’ll be able to avoid the drop again this year. Paul Jewell is another tough act to follow… and is Chris Hutchings really the man to do it?"
Well, no.... but it turns out that Steve Bruce was.
"One to watch: Titus Bramble. Once touted as an England defender in waiting, now just openly laughed at for his physique and his tendency to drop at least one bollock every single game. Perhaps the politest thing to say is that he has a lot to prove."
Still very much a clown with lots to prove.
They actually finished.... 20th.
Not a difficult pick, I'm sad to say.
I said: "Hmm. I think this is going to be a long hard slog."
Yup. Turns out it was. Even Paul Jewell could do nothing with this lot.
"One to Watch: Billy Davies. Seems a bit combustible and threatened to walk out immediately after the play-off victory last season. Who knows what he’ll do when his side start losing?"
Well, as it turns out, Davies was combustible, but with results like that he was never going to last long with a gob that big.
"FF signing: Robert Earnshaw is unpredictable, but has scored goals at this level before."
Good luck with that one, Nottingham Forest.....
So, the usual rubbish mixed in with a few lucky guesses.
More of the same in the next few days?
Well, I'll do my best to get to it before the season actually begins, but I'm making no promises.... you hear? This kind of half-arsed punditry takes flippin' ages.
So. In summary.
|# ||My League table: ||Actual League table:|
|1||Manchester Utd||Manchester Utd|
|7||Blackburn Rovers||Blackburn Rovers|
|12||Bolton Wanderers||Newcastle Utd|
|16||Manchester City||Bolton Wanderers|
|20||Derby County||Derby County|
Not as easy as it looks, this punditry thing.
Matty Taylor's goal above? That's the one that cost me the title in my Fantasy Football League. The last goal scored in the whole damn season and it costs me the title. By one measley point.