Last season: 5th
Tottenham should be pushing on and crafting a title challenging team, but instead they seem to be stuck in neutral. Harry Redknapp has decided he doesn’t like any of his forwards, a bizarre set of circumstances. Redknapp is a strange manager. Capable of getting the best out of a squad, but only for a limited period of time it seems, Redknapp has an insatiable lust for tinkering. In Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch, they have a good forward line, but Redknapp isn’t entirely happy. He does need a more prolific forward to join them, but he hasn’t got the blank cheque he is used to, Spurs seemingly not prepared to follow Redknapp’s former clubs Portsmouth and Southampton into financial oblivion as a result of his profligate spending.
But Tottenham have a hugely talented squad, and a quartet of wonderfully skilled creative players in Luka Modric, Niko Krancjar, Rafa van der Vaart and Steven Piennar. But that sums up Redknapp’s flaw – Tottenham didn’t need four players of that type, and in doing so he has limited his ability to sign new players. Thinking ahead isn’t ‘Arry’s strength.
Tottenham have a strong defence and an organised unit, and are in a stronger position than Liverpool to challenge for the Champions League this season. If they can bring in a new forward in addition to the tremendously promising young Ivorian striker Souleymane Coulibaly, Spurs can challenge for the top four at least.
Prediction: Champions League push
Last season: 11th
West Brom seemed to find new and ingenius ways of conceding goals last season until Roberto di Matteo was sacked mid season. A sacking decried by the populist, ignorant football media as they quite liked the Italian, who is a very nice guy. But a nice guy does not make a team, and West Brom were in danger of relegation. Bringing in Roy Hodgson steadied the ship and with his defensive organisation the club finally have a solid foundation to build on. They have always been a team committed to attractive passing football and under Hodgson they will be encouraged to keep the ball on the floor, and combined with his organisation and discipline they should have much less to worry about this year when it comes to the relegation dogfight.
Having finally stopped bouncing between the top two divisions, they have made useful signings; swapping Scott Carson for Ben Foster is like trading in a broken CD-player for an Ipod4, and Zoltan Gera should be a great addition in the attacking third.
Prediction: Another third quartile team.
Last season: 16th
Two seasons ago Wigan were 2-0 down at home to Arsenal, and seemed set for relegation. Suddenly it all turned around, with Charles N’Zogbia scoring a remarkable last minute winner to win the game 3-2 and Wigan were safe.
Last season, at home to West Ham Wigan were again 2-0 down at home in a crucial match. Defeat would have almost certainly seen them relegated, but once more N’Zogbia got a last minute winner to beat the Hammers.
N’Zogbia is now gone, though they still have Hugo Rodallega, but Wigan have been surviving by the skin of their teeth for some time now. Roberto Martinez is a good manager, but with little money to strengthen and a porous defence, he has relied on attacking talents to see them through in the past. This year though, it might be asking just too much. They could finally bite the Premier League dust, but then again, they might just find another remarkable escape route.
Prediction: They play Wolves on the last day, and it could be a relegation decider. Another dramatic survival?
Last season: 17th
Wolves were a strange team last year, beating Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester United and Liverpool. But they lost some games in desperate style. Many of their problems came down to simple mistakes and lapses of concentration at the back. A team who can play with a bit of style when they want to, and with the ability to press their opposition back, they are a capable side, but they aren’t significantly better than last year. Roger Johnson is a good signing from Birmingham, but can he prevent individual errors from his team mates? He will help, but he can’t do it on his own, as shown last year.
And Jamie O’Hara is not worth £4.5 million in a year of Sundays. Like Steven Fletcher last year at £6 million, a huge waste of money, and Wolves may come to count the cost of such a pointless and wasteful signing at the season’s conclusion. That last day of the season trip to Wigan could prove their undoing.
Prediction: The victims of Wigan’s 2012 Houdini act – 18th.