Tag Archives: Watford

Predicting Premier League finishing positions (20-11) 

So the greatest show on earth – well according to the Sky Sports hype machine anyway – is about to start. On the 25th anniversary of its formation back in 1992 another Premier League season starts – this time unusually on a Friday night with a match between Arsenal and Leicester City. As usual there are plenty of questions. Will Chelsea defend the title? Can José Mourinho or Pep Guadiola bring title glory back to Manchester? Will Tottenham maintain their progress? Can Arsene Wenger regain Arsenal’s Champions League place? Who will get relegated?.

I don’t know the answer…but I’ll have a go. In the next two posts I will be predicting the finishing prediction of every Premier League club…and in time honoured tradition I will do it in reverse order. In this post I will predict positions 20 to 11. 

20. Huddersfield – Huddersfield finished last season with a goal difference of minus two. They won their play off Semi Final and Final on penalties. Had a team been promoted to League One with that record I would say they faced a battle to stay up. In the Premier League they have no chance. Thirteen Championship teams scored more goals than Huddersfield eight conceded less. Their only asset is highly rated young manager David Wagner. I suspect Wagner has more chance of being in the Premier League next season than his team has. 

19. Burnley – It was a remarkable achievement for Sean Dyche to keep Burnley up last season but it will be harder this season. They stayed up exclusively on their home form and I suspect that form is unsustainable. Therefore they will have to improve their awful away form which I suspect will be beyond them especially with key players Michael Keane and Andre Gray gone. This time I don’t think they survive. 

18. Crystal Palace – Survival specialist Sam Allardyce managed to keep them up last season but he has left. Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland were all relegated soon after Allardyce left and Palace could follow suit. Allardyce’s successor Frank de Boer is new to the Premier League and flopped at Inter Milan. Their home form is absolutely abysmal – they have lost ten or more home games in the last three seasons. If that does not improve Palace are in serious danger. 

17. Brighton – In all but three Premier League seasons one or two of the promoted clubs stay up. In most seasons one promoted team is a cert to go down (see Huddersfield) one promoted team is marginal and one promoted team stays up quite comfortably (I’ll get to the one I think will stay up OK this season later). Brighton are a toss up to stay up but the combination of home support and an experienced Premier League manager in Chris Hughton might – might – be enough to keep them up.

16. West Brom – Tony Pullis has never been relegated in his managerial career and he won’t be this season either. That said I see West Brom slipping down the table. They did not finish last season well, the fans are grumbling about the style of play, they struggle to score goals, have only made two new signings and have lost captain Darren Fletcher. All that equals a harder season than previously but I still think they will be OK. 

15. Newcastle – For the second time in seven years Newcastle bounced back from relegation at the first time of asking this time under experienced manager Rafael Benitez and they are the most likely of the promoted teams to have a comfortable season. That said their points tally of 94 was eight less than their Championship winning tally of 2009-10. They finished 12th in their first season back in the Premier League on that occasion and I don’t think they will finish that high this time. Still had they appointed Benitez earlier in 2015-16 they would probably have stayed up then and with him in charge for a full season they should accumulate enough points to stay up.

14. Watford – Watford finished last season abysmally with six defeats in a row but the appointment of Marco Silva should lead to improvement. He nearly kept a poor Hull team up last season – had he been at Hull all last season and maintained their points per game tally they would have finished 13th – and I suspect Watford will finish in that vacinity. It will be interesting to see how new signings Tom Cleverly and Will Hughes do but not only do I think Watford will stay up Silva might even survive for another season – a rarity for a Watford manager.

13. Swansea – At the start of this year Swansea were bottom of the table and after Bob Bradley’s shambolic reign looked doomed. But under the impressive Paul Clement Swansea gained 29 points from his 19 games in charge. If he did that over a full season they would probably be top ten. But star player Gylfi Sigurdsson looks highly likely to leave most likely to Everton. In predicting Swansea’s finishing position I have assumed that Sigurdsson will go. If he stays they could finish in the top half but even without him I expect them to be safe mid table. 

12. Stoke – Stoke are arguably the best run club in the Premier League but they appear to have plataued in mid table. They have sold Marko Arnautovic and their first three home games are hard –  Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. But their toughness and determination should ensure Premier League safety for another season. 

11.  Bournemouth – The smallest club in the Premier League in terms of ground capacity but not ambition. The signing of Nathan Ake – who was on loan at the club last season – is a declaration of intent. Agmir Begovic is an experienced goalkeeper and Jermaine Defoe last season scored 15 goals for a Sunderland team that were by a long way the worst in the League. Bournemouth play a nice style of football and unless another Premier League club takes a punt on manager Eddie Howe they are in no danger of a relegation battle and might even crack the top ten again.

So that is part one of my predictions done – the bottom half. Tomorrow the fun starts when I predict the top half and who I think will win the title…

Why Parks is wrong about the Scottish Cup

There is a big event in Scottish football on Sunday when Rangers play Celtic at Hampden Park in the Semi Final of the Scottish Cup – only the second derby between the Glasgow rivals since Rangers were liquidated and relegated to the fourth tier of Scottish football in 2012. But I saw something interesting in today’s Daily Record about the other Semi Final between Hibernian and Dundee United that I would like to write about.

Neither Hibs or United are in very good form at the moment. United have been stuck at the bottom of the Premiership for most of the season, have only won two of their last seven games are eight points adrift of safety and to all intents and purposes are doomed to relegation. Hibs at one time were close enough to Rangers to suggest they might deny the Ibrox club the top spot in the Championship and automatic promotion to the Premiership. But they have only won two games out of eight during which time they have lost the League Cup Final to Ross County and seen their automatic promotion hopes go up in smoke.

Gordon Parks is scathing about both teams in today’s Daily Record.  Under the headline “Arabs (United’s nickname) and Hibs have winged it to final after absolutely awful form” he starts the article by saying that “Dundee United and Hibs are in danger of bringing the Scottish Cup into disrepute” and adding that the Scottish Cup “is a competition which, clearly, no longer sifts out the best from the rest”.

But what Parks does not realise is that a knock out competition which is unseeded like the Scottish Cup is not designed to be dominated by the best. In fact that is why UK football fans like knockout football which produces both shock results and unlikely success stories. Knockout football does not guarantee the best team wins all the time as Atletico Madrid knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League last night proves. In an unseeded format like the Scottish Cup small clubs can have a long run because big clubs knock each other out. Scottish third tier side Gretna in 2006 are the best example of this.  They made the Final without playing a top division club. This was partly because Clyde beat Celtic 2-1 in a sensational giant killing but mainly because in unseeded draws the elite clubs knocked each other out. Eventual winners Hearts beat three fellow top division clubs en route to the Final – Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Hibs. Aberdeen had earlier put out Dundee United, and Hibs had earlier put out Rangers. So apart from Celtic Scotland’s big clubs had knocked each other out thus letting Gretna into the Final by the back door. Its called the luck of the draw!

Something similar happened in England 40 years ago in1976. Second Division Southampton won the FA Cup shocking hot favourites Manchester United in the Final. But to get to Wembley Southampton had only beaten one top division club and that was in the last 64. In the Quarter Finals they beat Fourth Division Bradford and in the Semi Finals they beat Third Division Crystal Palace. Again although Bradford and Palace beat one top division club each – Norwich and Leeds respectively – the main cause of the minnows success was the draw. As Rothmans Football Yearbook 1976-77 put it in its FA Cup review (page 484) “the giants were killing themselves”.  And the reason they were doing that was they were drawn against each other.

Ironically what Parks said about Dundee United and Hibs in the Scottish Cup could also be applied to this season’s FA Cup. Two of the last four – Crystal Palace and Watford  – have been in dreadful League form this year. Palace have won one Premier League game in 2016 Watford have won two. They have beaten five Premier League clubs between them en route to the Semi Finals (including Arsenal and Tottenham) two more than they have beaten between them in the League in 2016. (And one of those three wins was Watford beating Palace 2-1 on February 13th). But no one in England has said that Palace and Watford are bringing the FA Cup into disrepute or that they have “winged it to the Final” (Palace and Watford play each other in the Semi Finals so one of them will be in the Final).

In fact it is the unexpected success stories that make knockout football what it is. No one in England would have tipped Palace or Watford to be FA Cup finalists pre season. Nor Dundee United or Hibs in Scotland. But the purpose of cups is not to “sift out the best from the rest” – that is what the League is for. Cups are there to provide excitement and unpredictability. And the fact that Palace, Watford, Hibs and Dundee United despite their poor form can still win their respective Cups proves that the unpredictability of the Cup is still there. And that Gordon Parks is wrong.