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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
All summer long I've been dreading this moment. The time when I have to stop procrastinating, stop talking myself into corners and finally sit down to write my annual predictions preview of the season. No word of a lie, I've been struggling with this all summer. I've never known a season to be so wide open and so unpredictable. I really haven't got a clue what's going to happen, but at some point in the next 500 words a decision must be made.

There's Manchester United to start with, they're always a good bet, aren't they? Admittedly, there's no Cristiano Ronaldo, but there is that steely defence to contend with and just look at the quality in that squad. Mind you, no-one has ever won four league titles on the bounce. Not ever. I guess if anyone is going to do it, it will be Sir Alex Ferguson, but even so....

I thought that Liverpool might be worth a look after they experienced their first proper title race in decades, but after Xabi Alonso's sale I'm not so sure. Glenn Johnson is a fine acquisition and he'll offer them a greater attacking threat on the right flank, allowing Dirk Kuyt to squeeze in and help Fernando Torres out, but is it possible to win a title with Lucas in your starting line-up?
I was so close to backing Arsenal this season but, as I wrote last week, until they strengthen those defensive positions I can't bring myself to do it. With Andrey Arshavin, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie, they'll always terrorise defences, but just take a look at that midfield. It's not exactly the most intimidating of line-ups, is it? One injury to Alex Song and there's no-one who can tackle.

I'm really not sure about Chelsea, especially after Sunday's Community Shield. They may have won in the end, but that diamond looked all over the place for much of the first half. If the midfielders get bogged down in the centre, the full-backs are awfully exposed. I'm sure that Carlo Ancelotti will get to grips with it in time, but will the Chelsea supporters and, more importantly, Roman Abramovich, allow him a sticky start?

There are other teams of course, not that any of them will challenge for the title. Aston Villa and Everton chased the elite hardest this year, but Gareth Barry has jumped ship to the Eastlands and Joleon Lescott is doing his level best to join him. Despite these and numerous other acquisitions, I really, really don't think that Manchester City have what it takes to hurt the big boys. They have good players, granted, but title winning teams need balance, experience, maturity and,above all, time. And Mark Hughes is unlikely to get it. Of the rest of the pack, Tottenham are a good bet to build on their remarkable recovery and mount a claim for Europa League football, assuming they can go the length of the season without sacking their manager, something they haven't managed since the 06/07 campaign. Keep an eye out for Sunderland too. They've bought well, they're well supported, well funded and, in Steve Bruce, they've got a first class manager.

At the bottom of the table, you can kiss goodbye to Hull. They've won two league games since October last year and they're not going to add many to that total before May. If Portsmouth can't sort out their financial problems then they will surely join them in the bottom three. As for the final member of the doomed triumvirate, I can't see much joy for Birmingham. There's uncertainty behind the scenes, a manager who clashes regularly with his employers and some risky looking signings. It's not an encouraging combination.

So that's it then. Enjoy the season and keep reading The New Paper! What's that? Oh...you want to know who's going to win the title? Really? Erm....Liverpool?...no, no that's silly. Er...how about Arsenal? Yes, Arsenal.....no...Manchester United? Yes, that's it! Manchester United will win the title. I think.

1, Manchester United
2, Liverpool
3, Arsenal
4, Chelsea
5, Everton
6, Tottenham
7, Man City
8, Aston Villa
9, Sunderland
10, Blackburn
11, Fulham
12, West Ham
13, Bolton
14, Wolves
15, Stoke
16, Burnley
17, Wigan
18, Birmingham
19, Portsmouth
20, Hull