Tag: newcastle

English Premier League Predictions for 2013/2014 – Part 2

6 weeks ago, I posted predictions for the upcoming Premier League season.  If you happened to miss it you can read the article here.  With the transfer window half over, here are my updated predictions based on rosters and rumors as of today.  Over at premierleague.com, you can view the latest up-to-date official transfers for all the Premier League clubs.

Tier 1

1) Manchester United (+0) – Eerily quiet in the transfer window for the Red Devils.  However, you know the old motto: “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”.  If they start the season with their current squad, they should remain favorites to repeat.  However, losing Rooney would put a big chink in their armor, especially if it is to another Premier League club.

2) Manchester City (+1) – What a difference 6 weeks makes.  I had Chelsea at the #2 spot last prediction, but Manchester City has made two more key signings.  To go along with Jesus Navas and Fernadinho, they also added Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic to their attacking side.  These are two great signings and much needed with the departure of Balotelli last season and Tevez most recently.  Aguero, Negredo, Jovetic give City top class options at the attacking positions.  We’ll see how Jovetic fairs in his first Premier League season.

3) Chelsea (-1) – Chelsea has been quiet since the transfer window opened.  Only adding Andre Schurrle, who was an early summer signing.  They missed out on Cavani, who ended up at PSG.  Can they steal Rooney from United as the reports suggest they are trying to do?  If Rooney does make a move to the Blues, it would certainly close the gap among the top 3.  However, I was expecting another high profile signing or two by now which is why they dropped below the ambitious Manchester City.

Tier 2

4) Tottenham (+1) – For now, Bale is still a Hotspur.  However, if the latest reports are true regarding Real Madrid’s bid, maybe not for long.  As of today though, they have added Paulinho, who is a good signing to bolster the midfield.  They are also in advanced talks to sign Soldado which would be a great signing as they are in need of a quality striking option.  With that said, if Bale leaves, you can kiss 4th place goodbye.  I see 4th as their highest possible finish, but could drop to as low as 6th or even 7th should Bale depart.

5) Arsenal (-1) – Arsenal’s transfer rumors have been discussed at length on this site and there is seemingly a different development daily.  With that said, their ONLY signing thus far is Yaya Sanogo, a French U-20 International with a checkered injury record.  They missed out on likely transfers Higuain and Jovetic, and have put all their focus on signing the controversial Luis Suarez.  They have done very well in clearing out some of the dead weight that has plagued them for a few seasons, they just need to fill those spots with some quality signings now to challenge the top 3.  Suarez would obviously bump them up to the top tier while simultaneously dropping Liverpool into the Tier 3 range.  We’ll see how Arsenal’s summer plays out but this could be the make or break year as they always seem to be a few players away.  I don’t see them dropping any lower than 5th, so they can only go up from here depending on who they happen to acquire.

Tier 3

6) Liverpool (+0) – Not too much has changed with Liverpool since the last post.  Suarez is still on the squad, for now.  They did ship the struggling Pepe Reina off to Napoli and brought in Simon Mignolet as a replacement and potential upgrade.  Otherwise, they have been fairly quiet this offseason which doesn’t bode well for an above average squad.  Should they lose Suarez, they would need to replace him with two quality signings to remain in tier 2.

7) Everton (+0) – Also having a quiet transfer window thus far.  They did bring in Arouna Kone from Wigan, which could be a good risk/reward type of transfer should he stay healthy.  If they can hang onto Baines and Fellaini, and add another quality player or two, they could potentially fight for a Champions League spot, but as of now are a couple signings away from that level.

Tier 4

8) Swansea (+0) – Swansea has been relatively busy this transfer window.  They have added a few good players that should help them finish in the top half of the table yet again.  Wilfried Bony should prove to be a great signing to take some of the goal scoring pressure off of Michu.  Jonathan De Guzman could be a valuable loan signing that will solidify their midfield, while Jonjo Shelvey will look for a career resurgence after his move from Liverpool.  I look for Swansea to be a pesky team for the top clubs and certainly not an easy club to earn points from.

9) Newcastle United (+0) – Still no forward replacement for Ba.  However, they have retained all of their important players and look to rebound from a disappointing campaign last season.  They have the talent, let’s see if that leads to results this time around.  The chemistry should be there this season if they can maintain focus.

10) Southampton (Unranked) – Rounding out the top 10 I think will be Southampton.  They have only made two signings so far, but two signings that will greatly improve their squad.  By spending a combined 20m on Defender Dejan Lovren and Forward Victor Wanyama, they added quality to both ends of the pitch.  Wanyama could be one of the most underrated Premier League signings this season.

Dropped from top 10: Fulham

Tottenham and Manchester City have made the highest impact signings so far, which is represented by their bump up in the projected table.  I have a feeling this will be a very interesting final month of the transfer window.  I will post my final predictions following deadline day, once the clubs are finalized at least until January.

Have your own predictions?  Want to win a free jersey?  Check out the details on our Premier League Prediction contest and submit an entry before it’s too late!

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English Premier League Predictions for 2013/2014 – Part 1

All of the top European leagues are now completed for the 2012/2013 seasons and the transfer season is now upon us.  What better way to close out a season than to look toward the next season?  There has been a noticeable increase in searches for Premier League predictions for the upcoming season so I will offer my personal predictions before, during, and after the transfer window in three separate parts.  The first part is now, mainly based on transfer rumors and the squads from last season.  Around the end July/beginning of August, part two will be available as an update to how the transfer window is shaking out.  Part three will commence on September 1st following transfer deadline day as all squads will be final for the most part.

Check out my first ever prediction post from last season as a part of my prediction history and also if you need to refer to last season’s final table.

Here is how I see the top 10 stacking up for the 2013/2014 season as of today:

Tier 1

1) Manchester United – I think they are strong enough to repeat as Champions, especially if they can keep Rooney and Chicharito.  If Rooney leaves, it all depends who they bring in to replace him.  But as of today, they are still the favorites in my book to win the title once again.

2) Chelsea – With the recent addition of Andre Schurrle, Chelsea have added a quality young (22 years old) forward who will only get even better with time.  Schurrle, Hazard, Mata, and Oscar are a great young nucleus to build a squad around.  With the impending departure of Terry, I could see Chelsea bolstering the back four with a transfer or two and if they do, they could contend for the title.  I think Chelsea adds at least 2-3 more high profile transfers.  Possible additions being Cavani, Hulk and a top defender or two.

3) Manchester City – They are definitely spending cash early on in the transfer window by adding Jesus Navas and Fernandinho for a combined £50 million.  Are they good players?  Absolutely.  Are they top class players that will propel Manchester City to a title?  Probably not.  I think there are better ways to spend £50 million than on two “good” midfielders in their late 20’s.  When you already have Yaya Toure, David Silva, Nasri, Javi Martinez, and even James Milner, it’s already a bit crowded in the midfield.  Also throw in the possible departure of Dzeko and Tevez and you have a squad that has not improved from last season.  They will have to spend wisely the rest of the summer if they wish to contend for the title.  However, if you throw Cavani and/or Hulk into the mix, that would instantly make them a much better squad so I don’t think they are too far away.

Tier 2

4) Arsenal – Finally a transfer window where they aren’t selling their top players.  The opposite is occurring as they are dumping the dead weight that has handcuffed them for the past few seasons.  With all the rumored purchases (some highlighted here), you would think they would get at least a couple of them.  However, Arsene Wenger has disappointed before so this is a ‘wait and see’ situation before anyone can tell if Arsenal will be contenders this season.  As of now, they are behind the top 3, but ahead of the next tier of squads.  They are in their own tier at the moment and it all depends if Wenger can bring in top quality this summer.  If they add a Higuain, David Villa, and/or Jovetic, then they could get a bump up into the top tier.  However, if they sit back and buy mediocre talent and don’t bring any top quality in, they will be forced to fight it out with Spurs/Liverpool/Everton for a 4th place “trophy” once again.

Tier 3

5) Tottenham – A 5th place finish here is solely dependent on retaining Bale.  They were a top 5 squad last season because Bale carried them and earned the squad countless points throughout the season.  If he leaves, so does their hope of finishing in the top 4.  However, if they can somehow retain Bale and add one or two quality starters, they can absolutely push Arsenal for a 4th place finish next season.

6) Liverpool – Similar to Tottenham, Liverpool’s spot here is dependent upon retaining Suarez.  He is their scoring machine who can single-handedly win matches, much like Bale for Tottenham.  They have added a couple decent transfers thus far in Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas, but nothing that will make them significantly better than last season.

7) Everton – The departure of manager David Moyes to Manchester United has been the biggest blow so far this offseason.  I would imagine Moyes would be looking to bring with him some of his top players he brought into Everton.  Rumors of Leighton Baines and Fellaini being linked to a move to United comes as no surprise.  Should they lose even one of those players, they are in trouble with regards to challenging for a Champions League birth.  On top of that, they are in desperate need of a quality striker.  They have some work to do this transfer window.

Tier 4

This tier is very difficult to predict considering just 8 points separated 9 clubs from 8th all the way down to 16th.  With that in mind, here’s the squads in the next tier that I see finishing in the top half of the table:

8) Swansea – A fairly young club with one of the best Premier League scorers from last season, they should improve upon a relatively successful season.  Michu is obviously the man that makes them tick.  As he scores, the club earns points.  Unfortunately, there is not much help from the rest of the squad in the scoring department.  Their defense should be better with 20 year old Ben Davies getting a full season under his belt.  I look for them to add a couple mid-level talent transfers to provide depth up front, which could go along way to taking some of the goal scoring pressure off of Michu.

9) Newcastle United – One of the more disappointing squads last season (aside from QPR), Newcastle looks to regain its 2011/2012 form that saw them push for a top 4 finish.  The loss of Demba Ba to Chelsea obviously hurt their goal scoring chances.  However, they are a relatively young squad and with players like Cisse, Cabaye, Tiote, and Ben Arfa, they have the quality to make a run at the Tier 3 clubs.  Let’s see if they can add a forward to replace Ba this transfer window.  If they do, I could bump them up to as high as 5th depending on the player(s) brought in.  

10) Fulham – Fulham had a horrible last two months of the season, only earning 4 points out of a possible 24.  This bad run of form entrenched them at the middle of the table after beginning the season with a promising run of form.  Fulham is an aging squad that will need to be replaced with some youth in the upcoming seasons.  Berbatov will be another year older, but he is still a clinical finisher.  The ageless Mark Schwarzer will also be 41 next season so his days are numbered, however, he is still one of the better Premier League keepers despite his age.  This doesn’t mean they can’t finish in the top half of the table next season, it just means they are a club on decline and need to infuse some youth if they would like to improve.

Keep in mind these predictions are mostly based on last years squads so obviously there’s not much movement from last season’s final table.  With that said, there should be some more shuffling in the  predictions as the transfer market takes shape so these are far from my final predictions for the upcoming season.

UPDATE: Make sure you read my updated predictions here.

Have your own predictions?  Want to win a free jersey?  Check out the details on our Premier League Prediction contest and submit an entry before it’s too late!

January Transfers Already Paying Dividends

Rosters are officially locked in for the final 4 months of the football season.  The recent closing of the January transfer window provided the last opportunity for clubs to add quality to their rosters.  There wasn’t what some would consider a “blockbuster deal”.  There wasn’t a transfer fee over £20m and in today’s world of football economics, that is fairly tame to say the least.  However, that is not to say teams did not significantly improve their squads.  Here are a few of the most recent transfers that already could be considered successes.

Nacho Monreal – Malaga to Arsenal (£10m)

Some will say this was a reaction to the expected month without Kieran Gibbs due to a leg injury and that may be true, however Arsenal were in need of a much needed upgrade at the left back position.  Gibbs is a great young player, don’t get me wrong – he simply can’t stay healthy.  It just shows you how much of a need Monreal was to Arsene Wenger when he immediately thrust him into first team duty a day after signing to the club.  He answered the calling as he helped an inconsistent back 4 come away with a clean sheet against Stoke City on Saturday.  Granted, Stoke didn’t exactly provide the attacking prowess of a Manchester club, but that also hasn’t stopped Arsenal from giving up goals to lesser opponents either (see Swansea, Fulham, and the  Liverpool matches).  God only knows how many goals would have been conceded if Santos played an entire 90 minutes at left back.  Not only did Nacho provide some stability to the defense, he showed some skill on the ball going forward.  Many Arsenal supporters will argue Arsenal could have used another attacking signing or two, but it seems Arsene has once again found value in a quality player on deadline day.  (For a more in depth look at Arsenal, check out another recent blog post from kvenezia.)

Daniel Sturridge – Chelsea to Liverpool (£12m)

With the impending arrival of Demba Ba from Newcastle at the beginning of the transfer window, Chelsea suddenly had a surplus of attackers and Daniel Sturridge was the odd man out.  So he was abruptly shipped to Liverpool who were in dire need of an offensive spark.  Liverpool immediately saw glimpses of Sturridge’s potential as he scored a goal in each of his first 3 appearances for his new club.  His fourth and most recent goal tied up the match against Manchester City at 1-1 where the teams saw out a 2-2 draw.  They still haven’t beaten a team ahead of them in the standings; however, the last two matches could be considered statement matches for Liverpool.  A 2-2 draw against Arsenal and Manchester City may provide the confidence they need to finally push for a top 4 finish and Sturridge may very well be the attacker they were looking for to compliment Luis Suarez going forward.  You can’t ask for much more from a newly acquired player than to score 4 goals (2 Premier League/2 FA Cup) in his first 6 matches for his new club.  Daniel has already played more minutes for Liverpool in the last 6 matches than he did for Chelsea during the first half of the season.  It seems like this transfer was a win-win for both teams involved and it’s not very often that can be said.

Moussa Sissoko – Toulouse to Newcastle United (Undisclosed Fee)

With Demba Ba off to Chelsea, Newcastle had some cash to spend.  It took them a couple of weeks but they landed Moussa Sissoko a week before the window closed.  The 23 year old midfielder had been at French side Toulouse since he was a youth at just 13 years old.  So his switch to the Premier League should have required a bit of an adjustment period for Moussa considering the higher level of play in the Premier League.  He was also thrown into the starting lineup right away.  In his first Premier League match against Aston Villa, Moussa provided the assist to Papiss Cisse to open the scoring.  Newcastle ended up seeing out a 2-1 victory.  He followed up his good debut with an even better showing against Chelsea this past Saturday by scoring a brace in a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Blues.  Down 1-2, Moussa put in a rebound past Petr Cech to level up the score.   As extra time ticked on, Moussa took a pass at the top of the 18 yard box and fired a low line shot through the Chelsea defenders and past Cech again to win the match 3-2.  Moussa has shown that a Premier League “rookie” can step right in and provide a spark to a new club.  Newcastle can only hope he keeps up his form since joining the club.  (For more on Newcastle, check out another recent blog post from leftymagic.)

Mario Balotelli – Manchester City to AC Milan (£19m)

The highest profile and most expensive transfer of the January window was of course the Italian International and former Manchester City player Mario Balotelli to AC Milan.  Another deadline day deal that was thrown into the starting lineup following day, Balotelli had a marvelous debut for the club he supported as a youngster.  Milan knew they were getting a player with massive potential, but could he put his focus on the pitch to be the player everyone thinks he can be?  If his first match was any indication, it’ll be a fun ride for Milan and its supporters.  Against Udinese on Saturday, he volleyed home a beautiful side-footed goal from close range.  He followed that up with the match-clinching penalty kick in the93rdminute (see what I did there?).

For additional transfer saga reading, you’ll want to check out mcmigs’s take on the Wilfred Zaha transfer.

Picture Sources:

http://i1.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article1514808.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/%C2%A3%C2%A3%C2%A3+Daniel+Sturridge

Cabaye Has Saved Newcastle’s Dreadful Season… At Least for Now

It is incredible where a calendar year can take you. Amazing how in a year’s time a team can go from competing for a Champion’s League spot to battling for the right to stay up! Newcastle, a dark horse of last year, showed promise and potential for a relapse to the team of old with the legendary shadow of Alan Shearer guiding a beleaguered team to a valiant 5th place finish.  After a less than promising 2010, Newcastle turned it around in the 2011-2012 season. The team found ways to win games and ended the year with 65 points, in fifth place, with a spot waiting for them in the Europa league. This was thought to be the turnaround; a chance for Newcastle to take back the Barclay’s Premier League.

But it was not to be. Prior to yesterday’s 2-1 win over a dreadful Aston Villa side, Newcastle was a point out of the relegation zone.  The Toon had lost five of its last six games and eight of its last ten. Its lone win was against bottom dwellers QPR. But, all is not lost. The first away win of the season is a season changer for United. Not only does it put them in 15th place in the premiership but it can be a catapult of sorts to keep them in the league for the coming season.  This combined with the incredible influx of French players into the team during the transfer window will be a major determinant in Newcastle’s success in the second half of the season. The Toon Army is appreciative of the signings and when you are fighting a relegation battle you need the fans on your side. Newcastle has that as you can see below.

French Love

Newcastle also has a midfield capable of silky attacking movement, clever passes and clinical finishing. This was apparent in yesterday’s game when Newcastle’s savior, Yohan Cabaye stunned the Villa crowd with a ludicrous, side-swerving volley that froze Brad Guzan and left Villa scrambling to pick their jaws off the floor. His return from injury has already proven dramatic and incredibly influential in Newcastle’s play. With the departure of goal machine Demba Ba, the midfield and defense will need to sure up the back and find other ways to get goals! Pappa Sisse is a good player but he is not the answer. The likes of Ben Arfa, Anita and Cabaye will need to be the breadwinners if Newcastle wants to survive to see another premier league campaign.

Tell me that face doesn't breathe confidence into your lungs.
Tell me that face doesn’t breathe confidence into your lungs.

Lastly, Fabricio Coloccini came out and said how sad he is about his transfer back home falling through. This could be the best thing for Newcastle. He is an excellent defender for them and sures up a shaky back four that have is leaking goals like stupid faucet you can never fix. The 31 year old insists that he will give 100% and a statement like that coming from a veteran like him makes smile with joy.

Organized, composed and ready to shutout everyone.
Organized, composed and ready to shutout everyone.

24 hours ago, Newcastle was a lost cause. Not anymore, not anymore. Newcastle will stay up this season. Newcastle will finish in the top ten. Alan Pardew knows what he is doing. Krul is one of the best young goalies in the world. The combination of players are ready to make a run. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. I won’t be surprised when Newcastle shakes things up.