WITH THE START of the new Premier League season just around the corner, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about each team’s chances.
Who’ll stay up? Who’ll go down? Who’ll be this year’s surprise package? And most importantly, who’ll be crowned champions next May?
Over the next four days, we’ll review and rate each team’s prospects, largely based on whether we think they over- or underperformed last season and how their squad has been strengthened or weakened in the summer transfer window.
So without further ado, welcome to TheScore.ie‘s inaugural Premier League power rankings — starting today with numbers 20 to 16.
20. Norwich City
Last season: 2nd (Championship)
Paul Lambert’s men did excellently to win automatic promotion from a very competitive Championship, but their stay in the top flight looks likely to brief. Norwich didn’t have a problem finding the net last season, scoring 83 goals, comfortably the highest total in the league. Twenty-one of those came through captain Grant Holt but, at 30 years of age, there are reasonable questions to be asked about his ability to do it against Premier League opposition. At the other end of the pitch, an often shaky defence has only been bolstered by the acquisition of Ritchie de Laet and Kyle Naughton on loan. The manager knows how to get the best out of this crop of players, but we can surely expect a couple more “let’s be ‘aving you” moments towards the tail end of the season.
19. Blackburn Rovers
Last season: 15th
The league table may show that Blackburn finished a semi-respectable 15th last season, but the reality of the situation is that they were fortunate to avoid relegation, finishing just four points above the drop zone. On their day, Blackburn are capable of putting it up against the best team in the league — as they showed against Manchester United during the title run-in — but “their day” seems to come all too infrequently. The club’s ownership expects significant improvements, but there is little to suggest that Steve Kean is the right man to guide the team out of trouble. As with last season, they’ll be hugely reliant on decent home form to survive. If that deserts them, as well it might, Blackburn will struggle.
18. Wigan Athletic
Last season: 16th
As with Blackburn, Wigan are another team who can count themselves lucky to still be in the Premier League, and the summer’s transfer dealings look to have made matters worse rather than better. Only relegated Birmingham scored less than the Latics last season, so the decision to sell last season’s top scorer Charles N’Zogbia seems ill-advised, irrespective of the generous £9.5m price tag. Some of that money has gone into improving the back line, and new keeper Ali Al-Habsi is a solid, if sometimes inconsistent, stopper who will be an asset. But if Wigan have another nine-win season, trouble won’t be too far away.
17. Swansea City
Last season: 3rd (Championship)
Swansea are many people’s tip to finish rock bottom, but there are reasons to be confident that Wales’ first Premier League side might avoid the drop. Under Brendan Rogers, the Swans played an open, attractive passing game last season and one would hope that the pressures of Premier League survival don’t see that abandoned. Of all the relegation candidates, they have been the most shrewd in the transfer market, snapping up Championship top scorer Danny Graham from Watford as well as Leroy Lita and Wayne Routledge. The loss of midfielder Darren Pratley to Bolton will smart, but former Chelsea youth Scott Sinclair showed plenty of glimpses of Premier League ability last year and he could have a huge season.
16. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Last season: 17th
Mick McCarthy conducted his summer transfer business with the care of a man who knew that the club’s Premier League status might well be at stake. The signing of Jamie O’Hara, a first-team regular after Christmas, was McCarthy’s top priority, followed shortly afterwards by the capture of Roger Johnson from Birmingham. It’s hard to expect much more than a gradual improvement from Wolves this season, and they will need to improve their form away from Molineux where they picked up only 12 points last year. A fully-fit Kevin Doyle would be a huge boost in their quest for survival.
Are Norwich, Blackburn and Wigan really going to go down this season? Have your say in the comments below.
Check back tomorrow for part two of the Power Rankings series.