A friend of mine recently sent me a link to an article on SCANonline, accompanied by the text: “Fancy a laugh?” I opened the link with understandable trepidation to find it was an old article from this column, from the start of the season in fact, titled “Premier Predictions”. It was my attempt to predict what might happen over the course of this Premier League season. Naturally, none of the predictions look like coming true – neither at the top of the table, or the bottom.
For example, I predicted Chelsea to win the league. The idea of the Blues retaining the title this season was a reasonable assumption to make back in August, to be fair. To look at the table now and see them sitting in fifth place, nine points off leaders Manchester United who have a game in hand, is shocking but perhaps testament to the way the competition has played out this season.
Chelsea’s form has been exceptionally poor. At the time of writing, they have had just one league win in ten matches, thanks to Malouda’s goal in an unconvincing performance at home to Bolton, where the Blues failed to get a shot on target in the duration of the first half. If I had predicted a run of form like that in August, I might well have lost my job as Sports Editor due to incompetence.
Some of their results are shocking to look back on even now. Of course, recently the Champions lost 1-0 away at struggling Wolves; but remember some of these results from November: 1-1 at Newcastle, 1-0 away at Birmingham, and of course 0-3 at home to Sunderland.
Ancelotti isn’t to blame as much as some managers elsewhere in the League. Roman Abramovich has clearly grown tired of football, with a lack of investment allowing the Chelsea squad to become stale. The ridiculous decision to sack assistant manager Ray Wilkins also forced unnecessary instability on the club.
I went on to write – don’t laugh – that Liverpool would be the biggest challengers to the title. Having just left Roy Hodgson to walk alone, Kenny Dalglish is now back in charge at Anfield with Liverpool sitting in twelfth position – just four points off the relegation places.
The road had ended for Hodgson. He is a man I have a lot of time for, and a very good manager. You might be able to hold your position if the fans are on your back, but once a manager has lost the dressing room, it is time to go quietly. He was seen as a safe appointment, someone to gently rebuild Liverpool to allow them to mount a strong challenge for the European places next season after new owners were found.
While the promised new investment has come in, the Kop was forced to witness some truly disgraceful performances such as against Blackpool and Northampton Town in the League Cup. A top half finish will now be an achievement. Hopefully Dalglish will be given the respect, and investment, he deserves to rebuild this once great club.
This might be one of the most exciting and wide open Premier League seasons for many years. It is now January, and at the time of writing, ten points separate 20th position from seventh.
Even at the top, things are open. The sentence “Arsenal have no hope, and Man City will be reminded that winning the league takes more than money” from my original article completely overlooks the fact that the former are in third place and the latter are in second. We will ignore the top scorers prediction. If you want to find out what was said, you’ll have to look on the SCAN website; it is not being re-printed. As for managers: who would have called Sam Allardyce’s sacking, Gérard Houllier’s return, or this strange speculation about Diego Maradona going to Fulham?
Somehow, I don’t think there will be a Premier League predictions article next season.