The 2014/15 Premier League season is nigh. While the NFL is just kicking off it’s preseason, players in the BPL are wrapping their’s up as they prepare to embark on the long campaign that will stretch from summer’s end, through the long, cold English winter, and culminate next spring with the title winners hoisting the coveted hardware on Sunday, May 24th.
And with the dawn of each new season comes unbridled passion and expectations from not only the club’s themselves, but perhaps more so with us, the onlookers and armchair managers; those who will forfeit sleep on a Saturday morning in order to cheer on our favorite club (alright, that may be just us American’s); the one’s who dawn the colors, throw on the kits (sometimes full), and prepare to lose ourselves in an hour and half of screaming at the television in hopes of spurring our club on to three points; in short, those who refer to themselves simply as “fans”.
Being one of those myself, while I do indeed throw my support to one club in particular (don’t worry, we’ll delve into that shortly), being the lover of fantasy sports that I am, naturally there are many players, and, in turn, clubs that I enjoy watching. With that said, I have a few bold predictions of my own. Now, being that this is primarily a fantasy sports website, most of these predictions will be of the fake football variety. But, as you undoubtedly well know, often times results in fake football are indicative of what’s taking place in the real version. As such, I have a few predictions that relate to where I feel a team or teams will finish in the table.
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Everton Will Win the Title
This is one of those “it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”-type deals. Everton is my club, so naturally I’m pulling for them to win, but I’m also fully aware that the “Toffee’s” lack the firepower and, more importantly, the financial capabilities of Arsenal, Chelsea, either of the Manchester clubs, and yes, even the club that wears the bad color on the other side of Merseyside. Having said that, allow me to make my case.
First of all, I’m fully on board with what Roberto Martinez has done and is doing. Last year, in just his first with the club, he delivered one of the best seasons in club history, and narrowly made good on his promise of Champion’s League football after just one year at the helm! (Exclamation marks !!!!) Ownership trusts him, and players, now more than ever, want to come Goodison. This is clearly evidenced by the signing of Romelu Lukaku. In years past, the club (had they been able to or not) likely would not have granted any manager £28m for one player. But that’s exactly what they did when they gave Martinez the necessary funds to lock up a young, proven striker. One who, despite interest from other clubs, really didn’t have eyes for anyone else but Everton – a testament to the bond formed between he and the first year manager last season.
Secondly, despite lacking the financial muscle of some of their peers, Everton has managed to assemble a truly deadly side. From font to back there’s a world of talent that’s fully capable of making an assault on the top of the table: in Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines the club possess arguably the finest pair of attacking full backs in the league; the combination of centre backs Slyvain Disitn, Phil Jagielka, Antolin Alcaraz, and young John Stones should provide plenty of solidity at the back; the midfield houses exciting play makers such as Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas but also sees the return of last year’s impact loanee, Gareth Barry, who was an unsung hero just in front of the back four, recycling possession and providing some muscle in the middle; and of course, Lukaku (a.k.a. “the Beast”) looks to continue his dominance up front.
Martinez has built a machine, and has done so largely by locking up his young stars, which is what a smaller club (at least in terms of the Premier League elite) has to do to contend with the big boys. Which means, that while they may not win this season, the club’s future is secure and the club should be perennial contenders.
Liverpool Will Finish Outside the Top Four
You had to see this one coming, right? Of course I had to take this opportunity to dog my sworn enemy. However, I will admit that while they are the enemy, they have a handful of players that I do enjoy watching and will secretly cheer for them to score buckets of fantasy points.
Getting to the prediction, there really isn’t much to this one other than I think they’ll miss Luis Suárez more than they realize and probably won’t score as much as they did last year, thus putting pressure on a suspect defense. You add in the fact that they’ll be playing some Champion’s League games this year, and I think the “Red’s” will find themselves a wee bit stretched and will take a slight step back. I’ll pencil them in for a sixth place finish.
West Ham’s Adrián Will Be a Top Five Fantasy Keeper
Full disclosure, I’m not a believer in West Ham’s defense. But I’ll tell you what I am a believer in…Adrián’s shot stopping ability. In an injury-shortened season last year he saved 87 shots in just 20 league appearances. If you were to project that out over a full season, he’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 saves. No, the clean sheets won’t be there, but the chances to make saves will be. And if he can notch 10-12 clean sheets whilst continuing to stop shots at that rate, then we’re looking at one of the best keepers in fantasy land.
Kieran Gibbs Will Be Arsenal’s Best Fantasy Defender
Gibbs has always demonstrated the ability to get forward, but for whatever reason has lacked the finishing touch. That all changes this year. After two full seasons, heading into his third, the recent recipient of the famous “number three” will take advantage of the potent Gunner attack – and a beefed up defense – and will prove to be a fantasy steal.
Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling Will be Top 10 Fantasy Midfielders
This one’s a doozy because midfield is stacked to the gills with talent – especially for fantasy. But if you saw either of the two play last year and the brilliance they displayed at times, then you might very well agree with me.
Sterling himself was close to the mark last year, finishing as the 13th fantasy midfielder with nine goals and seven assists. The departure of Suárez opens things up, and for a young, dazzling player who’s stock was soaring anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if he posts double digit goals and assists this year.
Barkley didn’t quite enjoy the year that Sterling did, but he left little doubt that he’s ready to become one of the next, great Premier League midfielders. He has it all: the size; the speed; the power; the touch, and this year’s he’s expected to be a focal point of the Everton attack. He, too, like Sterling, should have no trouble at least notching double digit goals and assists.
Alexis Sánchez Will Be Fantasy’s Top Player
Yes, I realize newcomers often struggle in their first taste of English football, but Sánchez is the type of talent that can – and should – be able to transition seamlessly into his new surroundings. His signing should prove to be the most pivotal of any that took place this summer, and that includes Chelsea’s marquee signing of Diego Costa (and yeah, I suppose even more important than the Lukaku one, too).
19 goals and and 10 assists on a star studded Barcelona team last year is indeed quite the accomplishment, and while the supporting cast at Arsenal can’t match that of the Spanish giants, they’re more than capable of assisting in elevating Sánchez into elite Premier League status. I previously went on record predicting a 14-goal, eight-assist season for the Chilean international, but I’ve come to think that may be a tad to modest. Don’t be surprised if he scores 18-20 goals and provides 10-12 assists.
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