Arsenal

The Top 4 & The Trash, Then.

So it’s about this time of year everyone throws in their pennies worth attempting to predict the coming season’s eventual winners and losers. Which team is this year’s Burnley? Who is this year’s Tottenham? Will Chelsea be successive victors? With the help of an octopus, I can exclusively reveal you the answers below…

Blackpool will be relegated

Far from a shocking prognostication, I’ll grant you. But even though Blackpool’s return to the division from whence they came may be as predictable as a Saharan weather report, at least I’m safe in the knowledge that I’ve got some points on the board if all my other predictions go awry.

I suspect we’ll all grow to love Ian Holloway’s refreshing honestly and affable personality, but his goodwill and matter-of-fact parlance won’t be enough to keep the Tangerines afloat in the most competitive league in the country.

This week the club gave a trial to much maligned striker Francis Jeffers, and really that speaks volumes about the sort of qualities Blackpool have at their disposal. Under limited means Holloway has done remarkable things with the Seasiders; but with players like former Manchester United reserve goalkeeper Paul Rachubka and veteran striker Brett Ormerod, Blackpool will consider themselves incredibly fortunate if they stay up.

Manchester City will earn a Champions League place

Last season, Manchester City finished just three points off the pace of the final Champions League spot; only in their penultimate game at fellow contenders Tottenham were their hopes finally vanquished.

Yes, Tottenham were certainly more deserving that day but the new additions to Roberto Mancini’s squad this year infer that this time the Citizens really mean business.

The signing of David Silva, in particular, gives the impression that City are no longer trying to recycle big names into their ranks. And, although the Spaniard was marginalized for most of the World Cup, City’s acquisition of his talents represent a new focus on constructing a team both for the present and for the future.

The Top Four

It might be slightly early to contemplate the makeup at the pinnacle of the Premier League given that the transfer window is still in full swing, but, let’s evaluate the candidates anyway.

As has already been alluded to, the last Champions League spot will be grasped by Manchester City.

Just missing out by the smallest of margins will be Liverpool who, although growing increasingly sturdy under Roy Hodgson, may not quite have the firepower to breakdown the more defensively organized sides of the Premier League. Of course, that prediction may be precluded by a fit and on form Fernando Torres.

Above Manchester City should sit Arsenal. The Gunners may find it tough to keep it tight at the back after the departure of some key defenders in the summer and the relative inexperience of those drafted in. However, going forward, they should be effective as ever as long they keep their Spanish talisman away from the prying eyes of Barcelona. On their day, Arsenal will cause any team a plethora of problems.

Furthermore, whereas Manchester City’s players may struggle to synchronize on a wet and windy night in Wolverhampton, Arsenal should have the togetherness and fluidity to earn those points that will separate them from the chasing pack.

So, what about the top two? Well, it’s still unclear whether United and Chelsea will complete any significant business in the transfer window this summer. With that in mind, it’ll be a close run thing just as it was last year. On current inspection, Manchester United may just nick their twelfth Premier League title.

To retain the title Chelsea will have to bring in some fresh blood, having lost Joe Cole, Michael Ballack and Juliano Belletti this summer. Yossi Benayoun for Joe Cole doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid; that’s like swapping ballet tickets for a musical, it doesn’t matter which you have, you’re going to see some idiot dance around in front of you anyway and you’re going to be cursing the fact you didn’t fork out a little extra for something better.

Whether that means Roman Abramovich will force open his considerable cheque-book, or whether Carlo Ancelotti will look at players like Gael Kakuta to freshen up the side, either way, Chelsea’s first team side of last year is beginning to look in need of refurbishment.

Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard are both 32 now. As is Ricardo Carvalho. Nicolas Anelka is 31. Florent Malouda is 30. Surely these names won’t be able to play to their full potential throughout the busy, congested season.

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