Friday, August 13, 2010

Premiership Time!

Blackpool's Stanley Matthews(l) takes on Bolton's Malcolm Barrass in the 1953 FA Cup Final

Yes, 'til the season again! And once more, we are here with fearless predictions! This year, I've decided to divide the Premiership teams up into groups, based on their rough projected finish. Furthermore, I have wittily named these groups after Clash songs. So here we go (teams are listed in alphabetical order in each group, and last year's finish is in brackets after the team name)!

"Brand New Cadillac": Arsenal (3), Chelsea (1), Manchester City (5), Manchester United (2). You can probably lay down money that your champion will come from this group, and there's a good chance that these teams will hog all the Champions' League spots. Large questions remain concerning Man City's ability to get their very expensive lineup to gel (and they're not done tinkering with it yet), but I think they're ready to make the jump. The other three teams here are long-standing members of the "Big Four," and it'll be no surprise at all to see them clustered at the top of the table again. These teams have no chance at all of being relegated, and failure to qualify for Europe will be viewed as a catastrophe.

"Safe European Home": Everton (8), Liverpool (7), Tottenham Hotspur (4). Here we have the teams that are likely to take the Europa Cup (formerly UEFA Cup) spots. These teams are dangerous, and do have a chance to creep into the Champions' League, as Spurs did last season, but they probably won't contend for the Premiership title. Fortunately, relegation is also virtually out of the question. And what is Liverpool, traditionally one of the "Big Four," doing in this lowlier group? Suffering from major financial problems, is what. Liverpool are actually very hard to figure out for this season; they could rise above it all and get in there with the big boys at the top of the table, or they could implode, sell all their good players, and finish 16th.

"Lost in the Supermarket": Aston Villa (6), Birmingham (9), Blackburn Rovers (10), Bolton Wanderers (14), Fulham (12), Newcastle United (promoted), Stoke City (11), Sunderland (13). Ah, here we have the great "meh" of the mid-table of the Premiership, with no disrespect intended. These teams generally don't have the financial clout to compete for Champions' League spots, and can really only hope (faintly) to fight their way into the lesser Europa Cup. Relegation is also unlikely for these teams; however, a bad run of injuries or loss of form could land any one of them in hot water quite quickly. The mystery team here is Newcastle. They're back, obviously, and they've certainly got the fan-base to compete with anyone, but the seers have foreseen a season consolidation before they once again assail the upper reaches of the Premiership. We also originally had Aston Villa in the "Safe European Home" group, but their manager walked out on them this week, three days before their first game, and that's not going to do their chances any good at all.

"Should I Stay or Should I Go?": West Bromwich Albion (promoted), West Ham United (17), Wigan Athletic (16), Wolverhampton Wanderers (15). No, I do not have anything against the letter "W". These teams must be a bit nervous looking forward to the season, since two of the relegation spots are likely to go to members of this group. Mid-table safety will be quite acceptable, and a spot in Europe next season would border on the miraculous. West Ham are probably the strongest of this group, and the most likely to survive.

"Train in Vain": Blackpool (promoted). Almost dead certs for relegation, unfortunately. Once one of England's great teams, Blackpool last saw the top division in 1971, and have stumbled around the lower flights ever since. Now, a couple of years back Hull City managed to survive their first ever Premiership season, so the situation isn't totally hopeless, but Blackpool's chances are slim and none, and slim's in the taxi on the way to the airport. Blackpool just don't have the resources to compete at this level. At least they'll always have "The Matthews Final."

So, in the end, your Premiership table is likely to look roughly so:

1Manchester United
3Manchester City
6Tottenham Hotspur
8Aston Villa
9Newcastle United
11Birmingham City
13Bolton Wanderers
14Blackburn Rovers
15Stoke City
16West Ham United
17Wigan Athletic
18Wolverhampton Wanderers
19West Bromwich Albion

And what of Millwall, back in the Championship, the second tier of English football? Well, to be honest, their goal this season is to finish above three other teams in the standings. I'll be happy wherever they end up, as long as they don't get relegated straight back to League 1. And they're off to a decent start; the Championship actually began play last weekend, and Millwall strolled off to Bristol City, a team with a genuine shot at promotion to the Premiership. Sometime later, they strolled back to London, having thrashed City 3-0. So that was good, but there's still a long road ahead of them.

And finally, you didn't think I'd do the whole "Clash song title" thing and then not post a vid, did you? Here's "Safe European Home":

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