With the Premiership season set to kick-off tomorrow, I thought that rather than focus purely on the opening set of fixtures, I would offer my opinion on who I think will be lifting the trophy in May.
In a post earlier this week I said that Manchester United and Chelsea remain the teams to beat. They have dominated the league for the least five years so they have the right to be labeled 'the big two'. That being said, I would not put my money on either to continue that domination.
The chasing pack has grown and intensified and I think this season's winner may well emerge out of this second group of four teams – Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham.
United and Chelsea will always be in contention but for some reason, which I would struggle to explain, I lack the confidence to say that either will win. They are too vulnerable in certain positions and overly reliant on key players.
I think that Manchester City will do well but not win it. I would say they need time to gel but I am not even sure that time will help their current squad gel. Mancini has bought in big names from across Europe but few seem to add any extra strength to the team.
Their best players last season were Tevez and Bellamy because of their work rate. Do the new players such as David Silva or James Milner and Mario Balotelli (who seem set to sign for the club in the next 48 hours) greatly add anything to the team? Not dramatically.
Spending huge amounts of money on these players may do more harm than good in the long run. It will be an interesting to see how the dressing room full of massive egos on enormous wages coexists. The talent in the squad means City will do well but I think they will lack the unity to put together a serious title challenge.
As the case is every August, many think Liverpool could have a good season. I am almost tempted to agree. Hodgson has kept Gerrard and Torres while adding Joe Cole and Poulsen (both of whom I think are very good signings). The squad looks good and Hodgson could mobilize the team for a successful season.
For me, they still lack strength in depth. Gerrard and Torres are key. If injured Liverpool will struggle more than most teams do when their big players are absent. As such, it is hard to see them having enough quality to finally win the Premiership this time but I think they will do a lot better than they did last season.
I do not believe Tottenham will pose any threat to the bigger five teams. Redknapp has a good team but it is not nearly good enough. They should have a solid campaign but to think they can win the title seems foolishly optimistic. I believe that, with the extra factor of playing midweek Champions League games this year, they will struggle to finish in the top four this time round.
My tip for the title would be Arsenal. With Fabregas staying at the Emirates they should be able to build on last year's success and make a strong bid for the trophy. Good value at around 6/1.
It could well be a break through season for emerging star Jack Wilshire and the signings of Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny have given the squad a healthier look. It is still a young team but is improving all the time. I think this could be their year.
It is very difficult to call this year. No one team stands out. Moments of luck or misfortune could decide the title. Each team will need the likes of Rooney, Fabregas, Torres and Lampard to stay fit. Injuries to key players could prove pivotal. Ultimately, it is great that we look set for an exciting title race this year that seems certain to involve more than just 'the big two'.
2. Manchester United
5. Manchester City
8. Aston Villa
10. West Ham
14. Newcastle United
18. West Brom
I would love to hear your predictions over the weekend...