Pre-season predictions revisited: Chelsea U-turn

Date published: Thursday 3rd September 2015 2:52

Manchester City: Backed to beat Bournemouth

With the transfer window now closed, our writers revisit their pre-season predictions, with faith in Chelsea and Wayne Rooney quickly disappearing.

Who will win the league?

James Marshment: I’d convinced myself Chelsea would carry last season’s form into the new campaign and had tipped them as champions again. But they genuinely look devoid of confidence and mentally and physically spent. The defensive mistakes they’re making were virtually non-existent last term and Brasislav Ivanovic and John Terry have literally become bad players overnight. Whilst still very early days, City have started the season with real determination and the signings they’ve made have enhanced their starting XI, so it’ll be hard to look past them now.

Mark Holmes: We’re only four games in, but I’m still feeling pretty smug about being the only one to tip Manchester City. Even before the new signings they looked a better team than Chelsea, who had a poor season and haven’t strengthened enough.

Ian Watson: I said Chelsea. I should have said City, who I seem to have misjudged horribly. Chelsea, like every other contender except City, did not strengthen as they would have liked or as they should have. I also suggested City wouldn’t make progress under Manuel Pellegrini. Wrong again. They’ve bought very well, having addressed their weaknesses and built a frightening-looking attack.

Matt Briggs: I was another guilty party expecting Chelsea’s machine to roll on this season, little did I know of the burning desire at Man City to right the wrongs of last season. Chelsea will come good again, but at this moment in time it’s hard to see them making up eight points with the form they are in. I hate being a turncoat, but it’s fair to say that’s what I am.

And who, in order, will make up the rest of the top four?

James: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool. Arsenal have had stick for not doing more in the transfer window, but I think they still look like the team most likely to pose the strongest challenge to City. I’d originally tipped United for fourth, but think the David De Gea situation – and the failure to sort out his replacement – could leave them vulnerable. Liverpool look most likely to cash in.

Mark: I’m sticking by my pre-season prediction here, too: Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United. Arsenal didn’t get the new striker they needed, and I still don’t think United are quite ready to challenge for the title again. Chelsea look vulnerable, but I fully expect them to recover now Jose Mourinho knows he can’t sign any more players.

Ian: I had City at fourth. Bump them up to first, everyone else drops a place, so Chelsea, Arsenal, United.

Matt: Chelsea will finish second to City despite their poor start, with Arsenal in third and Manchester United in fourth. I originally had City out of the top four with Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool in that order.

What about fifth and sixth?

James: Man United and Everton. I’d stupidly suggested Newcastle might sneak sixth this season, but despite stick from their fans for not doing more, I think Everton had a good window in light of them keeping their best players.

Mark: I still think Liverpool will finish fifth, and I still reckon Spurs will sixth, even though they’ve clearly not signed all the players they need.

Ian: I stand by my prediction of Liverpool in fifth. I had Spurs in sixth, but they could be under serious threat from Swansea and Southampton.

Matt: Like Ian, I think Tottenham could be in a spot of bother, but they might just nick sixth spot with Liverpool making fifth place there own – some way behind United in fourth.

Who will finish as this season’s ‘best of the rest’?

James: I’ll stick with my original assessment of Swansea. Garry Monk continues to prove what a great manager he is, but Swansea’s biggest issue might be keeping hold of him.

Mark: I tipped Everton originally, but Swansea’s new signings have hit the ground running. They might even have their eyes on sixth place.

Ian: I predicted a bright season for Swansea. What I’ve seen so far makes me think I underestimated them still.

Matt: I went for Southampton to make another bid for Europe under the vastly-underrated Ronaldo Koeman, but I think Swansea might just outdo them. Garry Monk’s reputation is growing by the day and he’s made some astute signings.

At the other end, who is going down?

James: I’d originally said Norwich and Watford, so will stick with them. But I think Sunderland will finish bottom of the pile, as they look in complete disarray, and not Leicester, who I’d originally said.

Mark: I said Norwich would definitely go and then backed two of Watford, Bournemouth, Leicester and Sunderland to join them. I’m off the fence now and going for Norwich, Watford and Sunderland.

Ian: I haven’t changed my mind about Watford and Norwich going down. Leicester are making me look stupid right now, and while I don’t think they can maintain their start, I’m far less certain they’ll struggle as I thought they would. I don’t want to say Bournemouth, but I’m struggling to come up with an alternative, perhaps aside from Villa.

Matt: I suggested the promoted trio would all struggle, but I still think Sunderland will beat one of those three to a relegation spot, with Bournemouth the ones to survive.

And who else is going to struggle?

James: The loss of Max Gradel to injury is a terrible blow for Bournemouth as he was starting to look like a really good player for them, but I think they’ll have enough about them to stay in the league – just.

Mark: I tipped West Ham to be the ‘shock’ strugglers of the season, but they had a fantastic deadline day. I still think Villa will do OK, but West Brom haven’t strengthened enough so could be in for a long season.

Ian: I said Villa are in for a tough time. I stand by that.

Matt: Aston Villa are going to find it difficult and if Scott Sinclair goes missing then they could be in big trouble.

Who will be top scorer?

James: I said Sergio Aguero at the start of the season. I’ll stand by him, but I just hope he stays fit.

Mark: My tip of Wayne Rooney isn’t looking too clever at the moment, but I still think he’ll have a decent season. However, even though he’s only scored one so far, I’m switching to Aguero also.

Ian: I went with Rooney to score most on the basis I thought United would add pace and penetration alongside him. They haven’t so he won’t. With all City’s creativity, it’s hard not to see Aguero scoring an absolute bucketful.

Matt: I said that Sergio Aguero would take all the beating and I’ll stick by that – he’s the best striker in the league, but he is prone to injury. But I fancied Christian Benteke at 16/1 and I’ll go with the big Belgian to bag 20-plus this season.

Which manager will be sacked first?

James: I think we had a near clean-sweep in all saying Claudio Ranieri. However, Dick Advocaat is the favourite now – and rightly so.

Mark: I went with Quique Sanchez Flores, which I still think is a decent bet just because of the size of the overhaul of Watford’s squad.

Ian: I wasn’t alone in saying Ranieri, so I’m in good company in the wrong. Tough one, this… I think Rodgers is in a spot of bother, especially with Jurgen Klopp available, but I’m not convinced he’ll be sacked first. Er, Dick Advocaat.

Matt: I went for Claudio Ranieri at Leicester or Dick Advocaat at Sunderland. And in light of their respective starts I’d have to lean towards Advocaat – the bookies’ favourite.

Of the players signed so far, which one will enjoy the most success?

James: Georginio Wijnaldum was my originally pick and he’s started fairly well at Newcastle. Speaking in hindsight, I think Mateo Darmian looks excellent at Manchester United, while Salomon Rondon has looked lively for West Brom. 

Mark: I mentioned Memphis Depay and Christian Benteke originally, but Raheem Sterling has really impressed me for City so far. There might not be so much sniggering about his fee come the end of the season. Andre Ayew has also been brilliant for Swansea, and I have to mention Son Heung-min, who has impressed me every time I’ve seen him play over the years.

Ian: I said Benteke would be a big hit, and that James Milner, Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin would all do well. I’ve no reason to change any of that. I also think Pedro will do well at Chelsea and will probably prove to be a bargain.

Matt: I went for Memphis Depay at United and I’m still convinced he will be a big hit this season. He’s already shown glimpses of his huge potential and I’m sure he will be a massive signing for LVG. Raheem Sterling looks to have been reborn too at Manchester City and I think he could well get close to 20 goals for the prospective champions.

And which player is going to prove the biggest failure?

James: I’d said Roberto Firmino originally, but Nicolas Otamendi – while he will get games at Man City – might just struggle to adapt to the Premier League.

Mark: I said Matteo Darmian, mainly because I hadn’t seen much of him, but he looks like a brilliant signing. I can’t eulogise too much about Clinton N’Jie, also because I haven’t seen a lot of him, but it’s hard to see Fabian Delph having any impact whatsoever now City have signed Kevin De Bruyne.

Ian: I went for Delph on the basis that he won’t play very often, which was perhaps harsh. I’ll go for the Argentinian defender Everton signed, Ramiro Funes Mori.

Matt: Bastian Schweinsteiger was my tip for top of the flops and I’ll stick with that. If you’re after a high pass completion of five-yard passes sideways and backwards then Bastian’s your man, but I think his effectiveness in the Premier League will be minimal. His legs have also gone.


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