Premier League preview: Not staying on the ball gives rise to a murky crystal ball
Best to claim ignorance when expected to be the expert on predicting season’s winners and losers
United manager David Moyes with Steve Round and Phil Neville: the new manager has already shown himself to be his own man.
This crystal ball-gazing lark can be a hazardous business, not least if you haven’t kept up with the daily comings and goings at English Premier League clubs through the summer. Take Robbie Slater’s preview of the season for Fox Sports Australia – the former Blackburn and Australian international forecast a “wild ride” for Sunderland in the campaign ahead, but conceded “they have some class in James McLean” – unaware our James had taken his class to Wigan.
Risky, then, so it’s best not to pretend to be too scholarly about it all. Eg: How will West Brom fare in the new season? “My gut feeling is they will do alright,” said Robbie. “Why? I have no idea.”
And most people don’t, really, especially folk who reckoned QPR might push for a place in Europe last season thanks to all their spending, only to see them as good as relegated by the time Santa set off on his annual deliveries. Well, damn it, they did look like decent signings.
But if you were to be brave and push the prediction boat out, you might tip Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea to be title contenders, possibly even Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool too, but only if Pinky and Perky were to become airborne.
Much depends, of course, on the fate of Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale between now and the close of the transfer window, their apparent desire to leave their current employers and move to pastures new creating a summer soap opera unrivalled in intrigue since Dick started his affair with Biddy’s mother in Glenroe.
Wayne, by all accounts, wants to move on, possibly in to the loving arms of Jose Mourinho, because he reckons Alex Ferguson will still, effectively, be the gaffer at Old Trafford, possibly operating David Moyes by remote control from the directors’ box.
Moyes, though, has shown himself to be his own man, and has displayed a level of Ferguson-esque paranoia – “I find it hard to believe that’s the way the balls came out of the bag, that’s for sure,” he said of the draw that produced United’s fixtures – that might persuade his players that the world is still entirely against them, and so to overcome this prejudice they will have to give 125 per cent (an increase to 45 per cent would suffice from Nani). And if they do, Ferguson might be able to rest his remote control on his lap and leave Moyes to do his thing.
Still, the challenge from the noisy neighbours will be a biggish one, even if their spending thus far has been modest – just the €100 millionish – the arrival of Jesus Navas from Seville exciting most observers.
Although, the regular description of him as a “goal-getter” seems suspect in light of the fact that he netted on just 34 occasions in 393 appearances in Spain. He made piles of goals, though, so if he settles in he could make City quite attractive, which would be nice for a change.
Nobody really noticed who Chelsea signed this summer because they were still basking in the glow of Jose’s return, although the major announcement that they had clinched the signature of 40-year-old goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer might have lowered expectations a little.
But Andre Schurrle has arrived from Bayer Leverkusen, and the lad comes with no little confidence. “I am Andre Schurrle, and I don’t compare myself to others,” he declared, so he has no self esteem issues at all, a bit like his gaffer.
Will Chelsea fans take to him? Probably. As ’Arry Redknapp put it this summer: “Football supporters would sing Saddam Hussein’s name if he scored a few goals for their team.” True enough.
Any way, to cut a long predictions story short: QPR won’t be relegated from the Premier League, mainly because they’re no longer in it. And Manchester United will retain their title. Why? As Robbie would put it: “I have no idea.”