2013-2014 English Premier League Preview Part Four: Who Will Win It All?
After previewing just about everything there is to look forward to in the English Premier League, it's time to answer the most important question: who will win it all? I will run down each position in the table, from twenty to one, in the final installment of our EPL mega-preview.
20. Hull City Tigers
They simply couldn't score goals in the Championship division. That will translate very poorly to the Premier League, where every defense is more physical and tougher to score on. It'll be a yo-yo experience for Hull, who will go right back down to the Championship.
19. Newcastle United
What a disappointment Newcastle were last year, and I think that they will continue to disappoint in slipping all the way to the bottom three in the Premier League. They were a delight back when they had Demba Ba, but they just don't have the resources to keep up.
18. Crystal Palace
You have to earn points on the road to stay in the English Premier League, and getting three points instead of one is a huge deal. Crystal Palace were abominable away from home last season and drew 15 of their Championship matches. That's just not good enough for the big leagues.
Not Relegated, Not Relevant
17. Stoke City
Stoke City scored 34 goals in 38 Premier League games last year. Only Queens Park Rangers, who were relegated in last place, scored fewer. Teams like Stoke City are responsible for uneducated people dismissing soccer because it is low scoring. That's just a fact. I hope they get relegated, but I don't think they will.
They survived a serious relegation scare last season, and have since lost their keeper. Now they are hoping that American Jozy Altidore can play as well as he has been in the Dutch league and international competition, despite the fact that he has never played at this high a level of competition before. Good luck with that.
15. West Ham United
West Ham United finished in tenth place in the Prem last season. That is way less of a positive indictment on them than it is a negative indictment on the league as a whole last year. They will come back down to Earth a bit this season.
Last year, I predicted that Southampton would be the best of the three teams to be promoted from the Championship. I was right, as always, but they looked legitimately decent at times, including giving Man City trouble not once, but twice. They should build on that this season.
13. Cardiff City
Like Southampton last year, Cardiff are my pick to be the best newly-promoted team. In earning that distinction this year, Cardiff get us another step closer to Wales taking over the English Premier League. Nothing makes sense anymore.
I thought that losing Clint Dempsey before last season would have been a huge deal, but it wasn't and Fulham finished in 12th place. Without a very eventful transfer window, I don't see them being much worse, or better. They've found a way to tread water in a league where that is next to impossible.
11. Aston Villa
There is no way that Aston Villa plays as poorly as they did last year. Christian Benteke is a flat out assassin in the making up front, and US National team backup keeper Brad Guzan showed some serious promise. In other news, my goodness their jerseys look sweet.
So Close, Yet So Far
10. Norwich City
Norwich had a -17 goal differential last year, yet finished just outside of the top ten because they managed to just be a bit better than the worst of the league, while getting demolished by the Manchesters of the world. It's kind of a solid strategy, when you think about it. Just get destroyed by the good teams and save your best for the competition on your level. Well played, Norwich.
9. West Bromwich Albion
West Brom is going to suffer from the loss of Romelu Lukaku, whose loan expired from Chelsea. However, I thought a dropoff in production from Peter Odemwingie was going to be the end of the world for the Baggies, as well. They just seem like a team that can plug in a striker and turn him into a serviceable scorer, no matter who it is.
I love the players on Everton's squad, especially Marouane Fellaini (AKA European Ben Wallace) and Leighton Baines, but the loss of manager David Moyes to Manchester United is going to inevitably hurt. Roberto Martinez did what he could with a terrible Wigan team for years, but there's a reason his big career move was to go to Everton and Moyes' was to go to Manchester United.
Just Missing Europe
7. Swansea City
Swansea City are such a great story, and another top ten finish will be great for them. However, the top six are just too strong for them to break into without them spending more money. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the beast in the EPL.
Stuck In The Europa League
Losing Luis Suarez for the first six games will be a killer for this team, who will immediately be forced to play catch up in the standings, unless Daniel Sturridge forgets that he's Daniel Sturridge and goes on an amazing goal scoring run during those six matches. Throw in the fact that they're relying on Sunderland's old goalkeeper to try and move them past the Europa League, and expectations surely won't be met at Anfield.
I know, Arsenal haven't missed the Champions League since, like, ever. But they took a team that barely hopped past Tottenham Hotspurs in the standings last year and did literally nothing to improve it, despite vowing to spend tens of millions of dollars to contend for trophies this season. They will fail to reach the Champions League, fail to win a trophy, and heads will roll at the Emirates.
Champions League Qualifiers
4. Tottenham Hotspurs
Gareth Bale is amazing. We all know this. However, the addition of Roberto Soldado is what is going to push Spurs into the top four and into the Champions League. Soldado, from Valencia, is a top flight goal scorer in the world, and will add the second option that hasn't existed at White Hart Lane in a while. Will this keep Gareth Bale happy at Tottenham? Probably not, but it will result in some wins.
3. Manchester United
Sure, Robin van Persie is great, but the whole Wayne Rooney drama is troubling. If he is sent away, United will struggle mightily. If not, they still have to overcome the fact that the best manager in the history of the Premier League is no longer with them, and that their new manager has yet to manage an elite team. Either way, there will be no repeat title in the red side of Manchester.
2. Manchester City
City are so talented after adding Stefan Jovetic, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, and Fernandinho. Last year, they struggled in the middle of the year when Sergio Aguero went down with an injury. This year, no amount of injuries will keep them from filling the field with 11 all-world players. But, as with City teams the last few years, it will take them a while to adapt to one another and they will have to play catch up in the table. That just isn't good enough to win this league.
Two words: Jose Mourinho.