With just over the quarter of a season gone and in the midst of the final international break before an unbroken three month stretch to focus on domestic matters, now is a good time to reassess each club’s fortunes in what has thus far been an intriguing Premier League season. It promises to be one of the most competitive and unpredictable seasons in history -- thus likely making the following predictions seem rather foolhardy come next May.
[Odds come from Bet 365 and for the top ten relate to their price to win the title, while for the bottom half they are the odds to get relegated.]
1. Manchester City (11/4)
It has not been the best start for Manuel Pellegrini, having inexplicably lost four away games already. A lack of defensive cover is a worry, but they have already shown that they are a class above on their day and consistency should soon come.
2. Arsenal (10/3)
Helped by the signings of Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini, Arsenal have made an unexpectedly fine start to the season. There is no reason to think they will fade away as some claim, but a lack of depth may ultimately see them come up short for the title.
3. Chelsea (10/3)
The doubts that existed at the start of the season have so far come to fruition. The squad lacks balance in key areas, while it also doesn’t match the philosophy of Jose Mourinho. Experience and knowhow of both the coach and players could see them yet compensate for those deficiencies, but all does not look right at Stamford Bridge.
4. Manchester United (9/2)
Having failed to adequately add to a squad that had been carried by Sir Alex Ferguson’s nous in recent seasons, United’s struggles should be no surprise. There has been little to suggest that, for all his competency, David Moyes has the ability to turn good players into an excellent team and they could struggle for a top-four berth. Ultimately, quality players in key areas should rescue a place in the Champions League.
5. Liverpool (7/1)
There has been big progress made in Brendan Rodgers’s second season in charge and the striking partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge poses a threat to any opposition. However, as was exposed against Arsenal, the squad doesn’t yet quite have enough quality throughout to mount a sustained title challenge.
6. Tottenham (22/1)
Given that it was always likely to take time for so many new signings to gel, the negativity from some Spurs fans has been surprising and ultimately won’t help the side. The team will surely improve as the season goes on and a title challenge and at least a top-four place certainly shouldn’t be ruled out, but a lack of creativity from central midfield, added to the lack of goals and the form of Roberto Soldado is a concern.
7. Everton (150/1)
Roberto Martinez has made a strong start to life at Goodison Park and shown that, despite Wigan’s struggles, he is a quality coach. Despite the loss of Marouane Fellaini, the squad has been improved, but they just lack the necessary quality to push for a top-four spot.
8. Southampton (150/1)
Unlike many of the managers with far more resources available, Mauricio Pochettino has managed to implement a clear and successful philosophy for his side. They aren’t merely a flash in the pan but are short of the midfield creativity required to sustain their top-four momentum.
9. West Brom (2500/1)
The loss of Romelu Lukaku has blunted West Brom’s cutting edge, but with the arrivals of Stephane Sessegnon, Morgan Amalfitano and emergence of Saido Berahino they carry a significant threat on the break. Still solid and well organized, another top-half finish should be on the cards.
10. Swansea City (1000/1)
It hasn’t been a great start to Michael Laudrup’s second season in charge after a fine first campaign. The Europa League has and will continue to take its toll. Yet there is still too much quality in the squad to struggle and once Laudrup integrates big summer-signing Wilfried Bony consistently into the team, Swansea should go on a run.
11. Aston Villa (20/1)
Despite their struggles last season, there was always the sense that Paul Lambert was on the right track and that this campaign would see a considerable improvement. Even with Christian Benteke enduring a goal drought, they still look like they’ll have a comfortable season.
12. West Ham (9/2)
A side built so deliberately, and almost exclusively, around one man was always going to struggle if that man was unavailable for any considerable length of time. When the player in question is injury-prone Andy Carroll, it is fair to question Sam Allardyce’s decision to put all his eggs in the big striker’s basket. However, when the striker eventually returns, or if West Ham by an alternative in January, West Ham should stay clear of danger.
13. Newcastle United (33/1)
As they have shown this season, in the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Loic Remy and Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle have some quality operators that can cause any team problems on their day. On talent alone, they could easily be in and around the European places. But with Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley lurking behind the scenes, farce is never far away.
14. Sunderland (Evens)
Paulo di Canio’s reign was always doomed and the one positive that can be said about the club’s decision makers is that they brought it to an end before more damage could be done. Gustavo Poyet has made a promising start and, despite taking just one point from their first eight games, Sunderland should pull clear of trouble.
15. Hull City (3/1)
Heading into the campaign, there wasn’t much to suggest that Hull had the quality to prevent their Premier League stay extending beyond a single season. But on the eve of the season Steve Bruce signed midfield Tottenham duo Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore and they, especially Huddlestone, should be enough to keep Hull safe.
16. Cardiff City (9/4)
Cardiff did excellent business this summer, particularly in signing midfield “pitbull” Gary Medel and solid Premier League defender Steven Caulker. It’s even more ridiculous then that the man responsible for bringing those players in, Iain Moody, was dispensed with by Cardiff’s owner Vincent Tan. His unpredictability and propensity for strange decisions pose the biggest threat to Cardiff staying up.
17. Fulham (9/4)
Martin Jol is right when he says that there are several teams far worse off for talent than Fulham. The problem is that the Dutchman has built such an unbalanced squad, which lacks youthful enthusiasm and has far too many talented strollers. They should be too good to go down, but appear to be in for a fight.
18. Stoke City (10/3)
There was much over-inflated praise at the start of the season about Mark Hughes altering Stoke’s direct, physical style but they remain an uninspiring team. A lack of both creativity and goals could cost Stoke their Premier League status.
19. Norwich City (9/4)
Doubts persist about whether, for all his acumen as a coach, Chris Hughton quite has what it takes to succeed as a manager. Despite signing three forwards in the summer, none of them will be prolific scorers in the Premier League. Were Norwich, as has been reported, to replace Hughton with former player Malky Mackay then they could easily swap faces with Cardiff.
20. Crystal Palace (1/20)
Their scattergun summer recruitment drive left them with an excess of players but still a lack of quality. Indeed, their squad is arguably weaker now than it was in the Championship last season. No matter who comes in to replace Ian Holloway as manager, Palace must already be preparing for life back in the second tier.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.