With the Barclays Premier League is about to kick off in three days’ time, let’s pull the curtain of a silly season by doing something silly off-course. And there are few sillier things in football than gazing at crystal balls and hoping our wishes to come true.
So, without further introduction, here’s my two-penny worth opinion. Feel free to hurl at me. Football without conjecture is meaningless, isn’t it?
Winner: Manchester United.
Truly believe they will regain 'The Crown' this term. It’s an age old cliché that retaining the title is more difficult than winning it. What will be tested is City’s mental fortitude and character. Last season, The Red Devils squandered away points from a very comfortable position which is usually not a typical characteristic of their nature. Rest assured, under Ferguson, these types of things won’t happen twice.
Champions League Places: Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal
Man City will push United all the way to the end. Chelsea will be right up there after spending ridiculous bucks with Financial Fair Play looming large (Roman hardly cares) and there is always Arsenal in the top four.
Europa League: Spurs, Liverpool and Newcastle
Erstwhile member of ‘big four’ Liverpool will improve under Brendan Rodgers and with their new acquisitions they will give Arsenal a run for money for the 4th spot. However, 5th should be their realistic target. Likewise, Spurs have to scratch it from zero. A new era, new brand of football- will take time under new manager to bear fruits. It won’t be easy this time around, especially without their midfield dynamite Luka Modric.
Relegated: Wigan, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton
Surely Wigan must go down. Enough! Footballing or non-footballing reasons, whatever, they must go now. We are bored of seeing a clueless team struggling throughout the season finally picking up brains at the later stages and somehow scrapping relegation.
Highly doubt what Steve Clarke can do, and can’t put too many hopes on new boy Southampton either. Though would love to see them stay. Visit to St. Mary gives a good feeling for the football romantics.
Golden Boot: Robin van Persie, provided he doesn’t break his meta-tarsal again while celebrating a goal. How ironic it will be, if the opposition team is Arsenal. Torres? Twitchy hamstrings are not his demon any more.
Player of the season: Luis Suarez. Signs were already there last season. OK, laugh at your own peril.
Best signing of the season: Shinji Kagawa & Nuri Sahin.
Paying only £12m for a player who in two years’ time from now, could well establish himself as a world class material has to be a bargain. For the brown-nosed sceptics, remember, Class is always permanent.
Another Dortmund player who might present Brendan Rodgers (Trusting the ever reliable Times' Oliver Kay) with perfect answer to his midfield quandary, Sahin is a top quality. Getting him on a season-long loan where the player is eager to resurrect his career since joining Real Madrid on a six-year-contract can be beneficial for all parties involved.
Breakthrough of the season: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
The growth curve is heading towards the upward direction at a tremendous pace. Not only had the boy from Southampton bagged as many as 16 first team appearances at Arsenal at the tender age of 19, he even earned a place in Roy Hodgson’s squad for the England national team.
1st manager to get fired: Just a hunch, Roberto Di-Matteo if things don’t shape up according to his plans, rather according to Roman’s plan. Of late, the owner has found a new alibi and hopefully will implement that in coming seasons, probably inspired by a rich Spanish club. He is bored of success and now demands an entertaining brand of football at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea & entertainment – dangerous cocktail !!
Overachievers of the season: QPR (As long as they don’t get relegated, it’s an achievement)
Underachievers of the season: Sunderland (A life without strikers, surely The Black Cats won’t be doing 4-6-0?)
Inevitable moment(s) of the season: Liverpool hitting the crossbar and Arsene Wenger complaining other teams are trying to damage his players.
Surprising moment of the season: Mario Balotelli antics, out of frustration breaking the doors of Manchester City’s home dressing room and Mancini shouting “Have you totally lost it?”
Anti-Climax of the season – At Emirates, Arsenal fans ready to boo their ex-skipper when reports came out he injured his groin while training just before the match.
Finally, one wishful thinking – no more Nietzsche tweet please, Mr. Joey Barton.
Follow Saikat Mandal on twitter @Saikatjourno