August 17, 2012, 1:04am
WHO WILL WIN THE TITLE?
Kevin Keegan: Manchester City are the team everyone’s got to catch. They have got a very powerful squad and I wouldn’t be worried that they’ve only signed Jack Rodwell. The only problem they could have is if they argue among themselves, because they have so many good players.
Craig Burley: If Robin van Persie has the same luck with injuries he’ll be a real coup for United and could just make the difference. Fergie will have a wry smile on his face right now. The last player he nicked off City, Dimitar Berbatov, didn’t work out but this is different as Van Persie is coming off a tremendous season.
Frank Leboeuf: I still go for City. They haven’t made changes, which is a concern for Roberto Mancini, but I also think it’s a plus because the players know each other very well. With a new team, it might take Manchester United time to settle down, and that time could be crucial.
WHO WILL MAKE UP THE REST OF THE TOP FOUR?
KK: I think the title is going to Manchester, but you wouldn’t be surprised if United won it back. Signing Van Persie is a masterstroke from Alex Ferguson. The top four will probably be them, Chelsea and Arsenal. But Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle will be waiting if they slip up.
CB: I’ll go for a reverse of last season, so City second. There’s a gulf between those two and the rest. I fancied Arsenal to have a better season, but now Van Persie has gone a lot will rest on how Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski do. If they can get that right I can see them jostling with Chelsea for third.
FL: It’s still going to be a Manchester race. My heart says Chelsea but it’ll be huge battle for third spot. I’d put Liverpool there because I have great respect for the manager; the way he sees football is exactly how I see it. I love what he did with Swansea – for me it was no miracle, there was a lot of work behind it.
WHICH TEAM WILL BE THE SURPRISE PACKAGE?
KK: A lot of people are tipping them to go down but I think Southampton might get some momentum, especially now they’re at St Mary’s. They’ve got a tough opener at Man City but even if they lost 4-0 I think they’ll be OK; Swansea did last year and they stayed up.
CB: Newcastle aren’t a surprise any more but it would be if they could do it for a second season. But it’s a going to be tough for them. It would be nice to see Liverpool get back into the mix, but I think that could be a bit down the road.
FL: Liverpool aside, I don’t see any big surprises. There is a world between the top six or seven and the others.
WHO WILL BE RELEGATED?
KK: If I have to name three, then I’d say Wigan, Norwich – although I hope not because I like Chris Hughton – and Swansea. They have lost their manager but also some key players, like Joe Allen.
CB: Norwich have lost Paul Lambert and I could see Chris Hughton going back to where he’s come from. The manager’s gone, the surprise element’s gone, maybe players have got a bit more comfortable – I can see Norwich coming a cropper. It’s a massive problem for Swansea too. Both of those clubs were about the managers, not the players, and they’ve both lost them. Don’t know what Nigel Adkins is going to do at Southampton.
FL: It’s always hard – and harsh – but Wigan, Swansea and West Brom.
Swansea have lost players and the coach, the second season is always harder and there seems to be a curse on teams who build a new stadium.
WHO IS YOUR PLAYER TO WATCH?
KK: I wonder if there’s more in Luis Suarez’s locker. If he can step it up then Liverpool fans could be in for a real treat. Bill Shankly once said to me, “Go around and drop hand grenades everywhere”, meaning “go anywhere you like but cause trouble”. I see Suarez like that. He excites me more than any other player in the Premier League.
CB: Podolski will do a good job – I’ve always been a fan. He’s coming from the Bundesliga, which is a robust league, so the Premier League won’t be a problem. With Van Persie leaving he is going to be massively important, but I think it’s a burden that he can shoulder.
FL: Chelsea’s new attacking players will help Fernando Torres, who there will be a lot of focus on. Eden Hazard and Marko Marin will bring pace, and pace makes space. It’s easier to stop Torres when his back is to goal and he is 18 yards out, but with more forward players alongside him he will be more efficient.