English Premier League Preview Review 2011-12

The Premier League season is at an end. The bunting is down, the light blue open top bus is back in the garage. There’s only one thing left to analyse – how did I do with my pre-season predictions as to how the English Premier League would end up? The answer – not very well.

Actual positions are in bold, my attempts are in italics.

1st – Manchester City – Manchester United

I was so nearly right. Seconds away, before Balotelli provided that assist that rather a number of journalists have been suspiciously quiet about, and Agueerrrrroooooooo finished so coolly. As it was, I was only goal difference away from getting this one right – not a terrible effort. United have been good in bits, by their standards ordinary in others, but ultimately it was that crazy 4-4 draw at Old Trafford against Everton which let, as El Diego would say, the tortoise get away from them.

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2nd – Manchester UnitedChelsea

This is kind of where it starts to go a bit wrong. At the start of the 2011-12 season, Chelsea were about to enter a new era, where the old chaff would be replaced by new wheat. It of course all went horribly wrong by January, with Andre Villas Boas (who has so far ended up being sacked by Paderborn on my current Football Manager game – let’s hope it doesn’t come to that for him) being out on his ear quicker than you could say £24m. Roberto Di Matteo has of course steadied the ship but with the same old crew; at some point Chelsea will have to stick with a manager long enough for him to replace Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba.

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3rd – Arsenal Liverpool

This is then where it really starts to go wrong. At the end of 2010-11 Liverpool looked like a team on the up, Luis Suarez starting to make them tick big time, and Andy Carroll a good pre-season away from getting back to the form which had seen him get into Capello’s England squad. As it turned out, Dalglish bought Adam (£9m), Downing (£20m) and Henderson (£15m), and ended the season with a penalties win in the Carling Cup final and finishing below Everton to show for it. And of course King Kenneth is very much unemployed.

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4th Tottenham – Manchester City

Yup, not getting any better here. I predicted Mancini’s man-management skills would let him down and he wouldn’t be able to push his team forward. As it turns out, I wasn’t too far wrong (Tevez, Balotelli), other than the fact they ended up 3 places higher… I don’t even have the excuse of saying that Aguero signed for City after I wrote the piece last year. Spurs have done reasonably well to finish 4th, though the oft-repeated stat of 16 points from 13 games to end the season says it all – it could have been rather better.

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5th – Newcastle United Arsenal

Arsenal started the season as I’d predicted – with some malaise, it being best shown in that incredible 8-2 defeat at the Playhouse of Rapid Eye Movements. They ended it with one of the best strikers in the world having, at last, a full season under his belt and Arsenal once again desperately trying to keep one of their best players. I kind of hope they’re more successful at keeping RVP than they were with Fabregas/Nasri/Vieira, etc. Szczesny, Koscielny and the now-unfortunately-leg-broken Sagna were excellent all season for Arsenal, Koscielny in particular being a bit of a revelation after his difficult first season.

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6th Chelsea – Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs, as I mention above, had a promising season which was a little let down towards the end by their players’ uncertainty over Harry “The Chairman Handles That For Me” Redknapp’s future. I wonder if he’s taken them as far as he possibly can.

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7th – Everton – Everton

Excellent, a correct decision! 7th is about the limit of Everton’s abilities. They don’t have enough money to challenge the top 4, but they have a fantastic manager and a reasonable squad of middling-to-good Premier League players. They were lacking a striker until Nikica Jelavic (he of the pre-administration Rangers departure) turned up. And I was even right about their good cup run too (semi-finals of the FA Cup anyone).

8th – Liverpool- Newcastle United

I like to feel I should take some prediction credit for this. At the start of the season, talk was variously about Newcastle being either relegated or at least being not very good. In the end they of course finished 3 places higher than what I’d thought – largely down to performances from chaps like Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye and the two Dembas, Ba and Cisse. As it was, Newcastle had a great season, and Alan Carr’s dad must be delighted at the fruits of his labour.

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9th – Fulham Sunderland

Wasn’t a million miles off with this – although once Sunderland knew they were safe they went a little downhill from mid-table. As it was, their season went the opposite way to the last two – a terrible start this time round, with a massive turnaround in form when Martin O’Neill took charge. They did also take 4 points off Manchester City, 4 more than Manchester United managed.

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10th – West Brom Bolton

Very very wrong on this one. I expected Bolton to take their stylish-ish football from last season and kick on. It very much didn’t happen – they will now be taking that brand of football to Hillsborough next season. Ultimately, and coincidentally, it was their draw with West Brom, having been 2 up at home, which finally knackered their chances of staying up.

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11th – Swansea City – Fulham

Not too far off with this one – Fulham have improved as the season’s gone on. Plus it’s great to see Martin Jol back in the Premier League and doing rather well after he was so shoddily treated by Spurs. Getting another season like the one just passed out of Clint Dempsey will be key to 2012-13.

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12th – Norwich City Stoke City

Again, not massively wrong with this, although in this part of the league everything is much of a muchness. As it was, Stoke invested a lot of time and effort (admirably) in their Europa League campaign, and probably fulfilled their European potential, eventually being knocked out very un-disgracefully by eventual semi-finalists Valencia. Once their safety was secured, the foot predictably came off the accelerator.

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13th – Sunderland – Queens Park Rangers

Hmm. N0t an awful lot to say about QPR, other than they did just about enough to stay up, and Djibril Cisse is a bit of an attention seeker with his goals and red cards and that.

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14th – Stoke City West Bromwich Albion

Good season for West Brom. Roy Hodgson had helped his side stop being the ultimate yo-yo team – their next choice of manager will be absolutely cruical in preventing that from occurring again. As with all Hodgson sides, they were built on a strong foundation and an ability to take chances when they came. And beat Liverpool, like a lot of other sides.

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15th – Wigan – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves were on a bit of a hiding to nothing once Mick McCarthy left. Sack the manager, yes. Have no replacement and no clear plan in the middle of a season, when at the point he’s sacked your team still has a fair chance of survival, no. Ultimately, poor Terry Connor was on a hiding to nothing, and spent much of the remainder of the Premier League season looking like a man who’d lost his keys and found the local branch of Timpsons closed for refurbishment.

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16th – Aston Villa Aston Villa

Two out of twenty ain’t bad. Villa were insipid, boring, toothless and just downright bloody awful this season. Alex McLeish managed to relegate one half of Birmingham – he nearly got rid of the other. Had it not been for the strangely wise signing of Shay Given, there might well have been a second city derby in the Championship next season.

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17th – Queens Park Rangers Norwich City

I’m generally delighted for Norwich City. A squad that has changed little since their League 1 title win in 2010, they have applied themselves admirably in their latest return to the Premier League. Grant Holt has gone from a has-been to a man seemingly on the verge of an England call-up, and John Ruddy has deservedly got one for Euro 2012. Keeping hold of Paul Lambert will now be key to their medium to long-term survival in the top division.

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18th – Bolton Wanderers – Wigan Athletic

What a turnaround from Wigan. At Christmas they looked done for; by May they have beaten Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal in the league, and given Chelsea a run for their money. Roberto Martinez is an inspiring manager, doing a lot with very little (in Premier League terms) – for a side with Gary Caldwell at the heart of its defence to perform this well in a league with so much attacking flair is saying a lot. Like Norwich, Wigan will have to keep hold of their manager to move on next season. And attempt to keep a hold of their better players too, which may be nigh on impossible.

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19th – Blackburn Rovers – Swansea City

I got this one very wrong, and I am absolutely delighted I did so. The cliche previously rolled out has been that sides who play like Swansea can’t succeed in the Premier League – in the end this was entirely incorrect. Swansea played with a style and verve unlike most sides in the division, and when they played to their fullest (the 3-2 win over Arsenal at Xmas being the highlight) they were as good a footballing side as any in the league.

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20th – Wolverhampton Wanderers Blackburn Rovers

Wasn’t too far wrong with this. Blackburn were awful, Steve Kean was awful, Venky’s were awful, the fans were awful. Hello mediocrity.

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That was 2011-12 – roll on the European Championships starting on 8 June. Preview of that to come, as well as a small analysis of the England squad (Downing!).

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Big Woy

Brief post as I am currently broadband-less and having to rely on the WordPress iPhone app.

Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager is an interesting one and I for one wish him the best of luck (to a point, leaving my football-based nationalism to one side).

However, the fact that the FA has offered him a 4-year contract utterly baffles me. Capello’s resignation was the FA’s chance, in my view, to take on a one-championship, no-risk appointment and then assess that person’s performance thereafter. This approach particularly made sense to me after Capello was offered a new contract before England’s World Cup experience in South Africa.

So, before going into a major championship, England offer their new manager a 4-year deal. Before! The old fool me once/twice quote leaps to mind. If England’s performances in Ukraine and Poland are terrible, there could be yet another large managerial payoff to come.