|El Nino "The Godfather"'s
1. Manchester United
3. Manchester City
1. Manchester United
3. Manchester City
15.Norwich City (P)
18.West Bromwich Albion
19.Queens Park (P)
1. Manchester United
2. Manchester City
5. Tottenham Hotspur
-Newly promoted teams are noted with a (P)
-These are based on signings as of 8/12/11
Player to Watch:
"Mr. X"- Kyle Naughton, Tottenham Hotspur (w/ Norwich on loan).
The kid has a lot of pressure on him to perform, and so far he's done admirably. Moving to Spurs just before the 2010 season, he spent the last season on loan with Middlesbrough and Leicester City with a smattering of time on the Spurs youth team. During that time, he's garnered a lot of support and praise from his managers and expect him to get plenty of playing time at right back for Norwich this season as Naughton tries to showcase himself to start for Spurs next season or be sold to the highest bidder. (Runner-up: Jamie O'hara, Wolves. Bit of a Spurs kick, eh? Well, he's not a Hotspur anymore and along with Taarabt of QPR, O'hara will be trying to show everyone what Spurs will be missing for selling him off. The kid has a chip on the shoulder and a workrate that would make Thai hooker jealous. Sure it'd be easy to tell you to watch for a striker, but why hate when I was so money on Gareth Bale last season?)
"The Professor" - Sergio Aguero, Manchester City.
The son-in-law of Diego Maradona got two assists during the Europa League final win last season, but don't mistake that for an inability to score. He netted 29 times in 39 games last season for club and country. If he isn't scoring, he's assisting on goals. If he's not assisting, then he's running over opponents. Truly a complete forward and something that ought to make you scared of Manchester City this season.
"The Godfather" - David DeGea, Manchester United.
Heir apparent to the retired Van de Sar, the Spanish U-21 International looked very shaky in the pre-season but carries promise. As with Tim Howard previously, I expect Sir Alex to get the most of of his young keeper despite his inexperience. SAF has a proven eye for talent, but the performance on the pitch in high stakes matches remains to be seen. (Runner-up: Gabriel Obertan, Newcastle United- Have you ever seen this guy play? Le Frenchie has mad skills but was stuck back on the depth chart at Man U. With the Magpies undergoing systemic cleansing under Mike "I don't give a s*#@ Ashley" and Alan "Twitter is Dangerous" Pardew, look for Obertan to get a chance to display his stuff and possibly move up to forward for the Toon.).
Golden Boot Award:
“Mr. X”-Didier Drogba, Chelsea.
Placing 15th in the EPL scoring last year behind Chicharito, Bent and RVP will do something to a man's psyche. I fully expect him to get back on the hunt for goal with a new coach and anything less than 15 goals for him this season will be a disappointment. (Runner-up: Andy Carroll, Liverpool. Back from the injury that kept him out for a period last season, Andy will need to prove himself all over again to Pool fans if he wants to keep wearing those silly outfits of his out in public).
"The Professor" - Luis Suarez, Liverpool.
Say what you will about him having an Evander Holyfield moment at WC2010, the guy can score goals. At 24yo, he's young, he's quick, and he can handle himself in a scrap should some team's backline decide to try to push him around. Just remember, he finished the 2009-10 season with 35 goals in 33 appearances for Ajax. That says a ton. (Runner-up: Darren Bent, Aston Villa).
"The Godfather" - Luis Suarez, Liverpool.
While I love the ManU threesome of Rooney, Chicharito, and Berbatov, I feel that they will cancel each other out, along with Nani. Robin Van Persie is proven, Drogba is returning to good health, however Suarez was in outstanding form throughout the Copa America and I expect him to carry this hot streak into the season. Without the Torres distraction, expect Suarez to shine. (Runner-up: Robin Van Persie,
Most Improved Team:
"Mr. X"- Man City.
Just like last season, they just keep buying stronger players. Coupled with the fact that they finally offloaded some people (possibly Tevez soon as well), I still see them as the most improved team. Why? Because they win more than Charlie Sheen at a party. I see them finishing in 2nd at the end of the season. Scary as the thought is, they barely lost the Community Shield, Dzeko is still underrated and they will probably see an offer of $200K+ a new $500K car for each trophy they win (maybe not, but the owner has more money than he knows what to do with). (Runner-up: Bolton. They got Tuncay on loan from the Bundesliga, Nigel-Coker on a free and Holden is back and healthy although they lost Lee on a leg injury. If they can find the net on a regular basis, best watch out for them).
"The Professor"- Stoke and Sunderland (tie).
Each team acquired two world-class starting defenders who will immediately reduce goals allowed and will be good for several wins: Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate for Stoke City, John O'Shea and Wes Brown for Sunderland. If Woodgate can stay healthy, he can be dominating on the backline.
"The Godfather" - Liverpool.
Yeah, I picked them high last year anticipating signings. Well now they've finally come correct ridding themselves of the Torres toxin and instead have David Silva and Luis Suarez up front. Nice. Now Charlie Adam is there to provide passing and leadership, Stewart Downing a nice compliment to Maxi on the wing, and Alberto Aquilani is anxious to prove himself. I like what they've done here. Man City better watch their backs, because Liverpool might just sneak past them and their $200mil team of mercs. (Runner-up: Swansea- The first Welsh team to promote to the Premier League. A few signings this off-season to give them some depth. They have a lot to prove and will be eager to represent Wales. Some have picked them as most likely promoted team to remain in the EPL. Sunderland has made significant improvements but prior Toon-related commitments disallow me from selecting the mackems in this case).
Most Over-rated Team:
"Mr. X"- Arsenal.
Yeah, I said it. Call me a hater-Spurs fan, yet again for picking them most overated. Where did they finish to Man City? That's right, behind them. Sure, I received messages that they had a bad run of form and Man City were lucky to hold on after the Gunners went on a tear mid season, but it's all about the final standings, and Arsenal is dropping lower and lower. I'm being gracious placing them in 4th for the final standings for this year, because of who they are offloading. Fabregas is leaving after the repeated tapping up by Barcelona (even I saw it as such and they should have been penalized for it), and Nasri is going. They did pick up Miyachi and Oxelade, but Arsene's fetish for young players with potential (even if it never is realized) is legendary and they can only keep "developing talent" so long before their form falters. (Runner-up: Spurs. Again. They did well to hold 5th last season from a resurgent Liverpool, but they will need to do more than that if they are to avoid a drop in places this season. They are 2 weeks out from the TL deadline with no one sold... again. Among those talked about being on the chopping block? Keane, Crouch, Pavs, Bentley... again. Who do they need to bring in? A proven striker... again. And don't forget the tapping up of Modric by Chelsea and the talk that if Modric leaves, so too would Bale. That's a big threat. The interesting part is both have brand new 5yr contracts and the offers for Modric are less than what Nasri would receive on the open market. How's that for undervaluing someone? * as a caveat, there is current a floating rumor that Robbie Keane is going to the MLS with the LA Galaxy for a 2 yr/$9mil contract. That may lighten the load up front and see someone new brought in... maybe).
"The Professor" - Newcastle.
You sell off your team captain, tick-off a psychopathic midfielder with a twitter addiction and your only major signing is a guy with 4 career stats in the EPL riding pine for Man U? That's not a recipe for success. That's begging to be handed relegation. Oh, and they are still stuck with Mike Ashley running the show. Sigh. (Runner-up: Tottenham).
"The Godfather"- Tottenham Hotspurs.
The Spurs have at times seemed overloaded with offensive talent, yet they have not done enough this off-season to gel their team into a consistent threat. Unless Giovanni Dos Santos is ready to have a Chicarito-like breakout year, I see little progress for this once promising side. (Runner-up: Manchester City).Team to Watch:
"Mr. X"- QPR.
With a silent but deep pocketed Russian owner, QPR has made leaps and bounds over the past few seasons. Last season, they finished up the Championship with 4 pts in hand and a staggering +39 goal differential. They've got several former EPL castoffs with Cerny in goal (Spurs), Shittu on D (Bolton), DJ Campbell (Blackpool), Taraabt (Spurs), and Dyer (West Ham) among others. The downside? Most of their players are on the wrong side of 25 so they need to win, and win early or go home. (Runner-up: Man City. Taking a page from the Book of Chelsea, if you can't win, buy everyone else until you are the only team left).
"The Professor" - Liverpool.
As the sixth place team of the big six (Man U, Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea, Spurs, and Liverpool), Liverpool needed to add a lot of talent to improve. They did so, with Luis Suarez (my pick for the golden boot since he scored at such an intense pace late last season), Doni, Stewart Downing, and Jordan Henderson. Liverpool (53.1 million pounds) out-spent Chelsea (48.5 M) during the off season, not even counting Suarez, who was acquired in season. In fact, only Man U (57.7 M) and Man City (61 M) spent more during the off season. By comparison, Tottenham spent nothing during the summer, acquiring Brad Friedel on a free transfer (Runner-up: Tottenham).
"The Godfather" - Swansea
The first Welsh team to promote to the Premier League. A few signings this off-season to give them some depth. They have a lot to prove and will be eager to represent Wales. Some have picked them as most likely promoted team to remain in the EPL.
Surprise of the Season:
"Mr. X" – Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea. While his signing from Anderlecht isn't going to be the one guy to carry Chelsea to the title all by himself, at 18, he has some serious ability. He's netted 33 times in 73 matches for Belgian superclub Anderlecht and twice more for Belgium on NT duty. That, coupled with a new coach and new attitude at Chelsea equals goals.
"The Professor" - Souleymane Coulibaly, Tottenham (age 16). Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal (age 17) and Connor Wickham, Sunderland (age 18). All three are young but each has a chance of making it into the starting XI and making an impact. Coulibaly tore up the U20 WC for Ivory Coast and seems to be scoring for fun with the Spurs U23s while Oxlade-Chamberlain has been touted as the next big thing, being the son of former English International Mark Chamberlain and nephew to one Neville Chamberlain. Not a bad pedigree. Wickham has the weight of the world on his shoulders as he looks keep Sunderland in the positive while trying to make an impression in his first year in the EPL.
"The Godfather"- Adel Taraabt, QPR. The 22 year old Moroccan playmaker had a phenomenal year last season in the Championship. He scored 19 goals while tallying 16 assists in captaining the Hoops to the outright title. Previously signed by Spurs and pursued by Arsenal, the talented midfielder now has the opportunity to prove his mettle at the highest level. (Runner-up: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City)