Last season’s Premier League was a two horse race up until almost the last kick; had Chelsea not conceded that 91st minute goal to Wigan, if they’d managed to hold out 2 more minutes at 4-3 against Spurs, and if Paul Scholes had been rightly red carded for his body check against Wigan at 0-0 on the last day of the season it could and would have been a different story.
Those ifs and buts are what made it the most thrilling conclusion to a Premier League race in years, two teams going at it until the last kick, brilliant! The last time that happened was in 1968, that year United were pipped to it by another team in Blue, Man City!
So can we hope for the same again? Steven Gerrard says “I don’t want to look back and say I was never in a title race.” Will Liverpool finally answer his prayers and put another side in the frame in 08/09? Not according to the experts.
When Helen Chamberlain gave me her predictions for this season she was more excited about the Blue Square Premier than the top flight, and went so far as to say the Premier League is as boring as the SPL these days. Same winners, same contenders, every season. She may have a point, the last time a team outside if “The Big 4” won the league was back in 1995 (when I paid £73 for a season ticket to watch top flight football at Loftus Road) when Blackburn and Shearer came good.
In a preview of the season by Setanta Sports presenters (mostly ex-Premier League footballers) 5 more experts line up behind Helen and predict that the top 4 in the Premier League will be made up of the same teams as they have been since time began. 3 think Chelsea will win it, and 3 have gone for Man United, with only one brave enough not to predict that Chelsea and Man U will occupy the top two slots.
Tim Sherwood (who incidentally was captain of the Blackburn side that last rocked the Big 4 boat) reckons Liverpool can push Chelsea down to 3rd, and I agree with him. Torres, and Keane could really put a few teams who Liverpool struggled to finish off last season to the sword this time around. Their odds on the title are way too short at 8-1 but if I was a true red I’d certainly be tempted by a heart-lead £20 bet.
Premier League Tri-cast: 1st Man United, 2nd Chelsea, 3rd Liverpool : 11-1 (Coral)
So who’s my Money on?
United we stand!
I hate to say it, but I’m backing Fergie’s boys to do to again this year; even at only 6-5 I’d back them. But those odds are short considering that Ronaldo may not repeat his heroics of last season. He scored 39% of all Manchester United goals last season, and without his goals in at least 10 key games, United could have finished as low as 5th last season.
Just as Arsenal found out when Pires dried up and eventually left, if that hole can’t be filled quickly the team will need time to find its balance again. Pires scored only 20% of Arsenal’s goals in the Invincibles season (It took Vieira, Gilberto, Ljungberg, and Wiltord to bring that number to 39%) and he managed the same number of goals the season after, but when he dried up in 05-06 Arsenal finished 4th.
United to win the league Best Odds: 1.86-1 (Betfair)
Ronaldo to be top league scorer: A very generous 12.5 — 1 (Betfair)
2nd Chelsea, 3rd Liverpool, 4th Arsenal
Arsenal — Another “Transitional” Season
Arsenal don’t play anyone from the Big 4 until game 13, and with Liverpool facing Aston Villa, Manchester United and Chelsea in the first 10, I think Arsenal will get off to a flying start like they do most seasons, but expect them fall back after Christmas and completely self-destruct at the crunch part of the season when the League Cup, Champions League and Premier League approach their climaxes and the injuries start piling on.
Arsenal have been guilty of this flakiness for at least the last 2 seasons, usually at the hands of the same mediocre teams and due to the same lack of depth. This season it might even get worse. I think there’s a real danger that Adebayor’s god syndrome will turn him in to a one-hit wonder and he’ll dry up. With the exodus of Arsenal players this summer and only Nasri coming in an established first-teamer, this season could be real a headache for Wenger and Arsenal’s season might hinge on Van Persie and Walcott stepping up and Eduardo coming back quickly.
I think at 11-2 they’re a good shout for a Gooners fan willing to lose a few quid, but I won’t be putting anything on them.
There is an underlying weakness in the Arsenal squad, and it was best demonstrated by the spineless crybaby antics of so-called Captain Gallas on several occasions towards the end of last season, and no matter how good they are, Wilshire and Ramsey cannot address that issue.
Adebayor to be to league scorer: 12.5-1
Arsenal to be top after 10 games: 3.25-1 (Skybet)
Arsenal to win the FA Cup: 7-1 (Ladbrokes)
Chelsea — Surely They Can Squeeze Out Just One More Point?
Big Phil’s Chelsea are getting old, and why they signed a central midfielder when they already have Ballack, Lampard, Mikel, Cole, and the mighty Essien is beyond me. They desperately needed a right back, so at least they got that sorted. I think Big Phil will be good for the Prem at 2-1 for the league, and you’d be right to think that surely Big Phil can add just one more point to Chelsea’s tally this season and really push United, but that’s all he’ll do.
I think they’ll fall just short again. I would stick a £10 on Chelsea for the Champions league at 7.5-1 (Betfair).
Liverpool — Robbie Keane Could be The Missing Link
Liverpool can really make this the season they’ve been waiting for (no, seriously. Really). Last season Reina kept 18 clean sheets, and the defence looked strong, they’ve got the impressive Skrtel and Agger, not to mention Carragher, so they look sound there.
Torres only managed to score 3 of his 24 goals last season away from Anfield, but with Keane there and possibly Barry coming in, I think they’ll cure his away day stage fright this season. Also keep an eye out for 19-year old Hungarian Nemeth. Whilst he might find it hard to break in as a striker, his record for Hungary’s youth sides shows real promise.
Unlike their Big 4 rivals, Liverpool are weak on the flanks – if they can improve their attack down there, they can mount something close to a serious challenge. If you fancy them to really up the tempo, they’re 10-1 with Paddy Power for a Man Utd 1st, Liverpool 2nd finish in the Prem.
Top Tips for the Top 4
Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool finish: 11-1 (Coral)
Arsenal to be top at Christmas: 3.5-1 (Bet365)
Liverpool to finish 3rd: 3.3 — 1 (Lassaters)
Helen to be right: Dead certainty, same teams, same finish, but worth every glorious, nail-biting minute.
The Pikum Pundit