A surprisingly quiet transfer period for Chelsea who will be trying as hard as ever to become Champions for the third time in four years. Unsurprisingly they strengthened at the back, firstly by letting Boulharouz go on loan and secondly by bringing in versatile Israeli Tal Ben Haim in but most importantly they acquired Claudio Pizarro from Bayern Munich on a free to cover for Drogba when he leaves for African nations cup duty. I think this well be a telling time in Chelseaâ€™s season, as I find theyâ€™re still rather over-reliant on the big Ivory Coast forward. How they fare in the months of January and February will be an indication if theyâ€™re going to be challenging for the title again. One thing that Chelsea will benefit from is the stability that not many players have left or arrived and so Mourinhoâ€™s job has been made slightly easier as heâ€™s not had to wait for players to acclimatize. Chelsea will also be helped by the fact that Petr Cech wonâ€™t have part of his skull missing and will be able to most likely play every game.
Prediction: Chelsea will definitely be challenging for the title this season again but I feel they may come a cropper in January and February when their main man will be missing.
I have no doubt Derby will work hard and do their best next season. Theyâ€™ve bought a few players that have some Premier League experience but sadly they havenâ€™t really bought any of any real quality. Robert Earnshaw is Derbyâ€™s main acquisition but even he and Giles Barnes canâ€™t work miracles. Itâ€™s nice to see Derby back in the top league but sadly I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s enough quality or experience in the squad to keep them up.
Prediction: I canâ€™t recall the last time a team came up through the playoffs and managed to survive the drop. Iâ€™m sure some statto will tell me but Iâ€™ll go along with that hypothesis when I say that I canâ€™t see Derby surviving. They didnâ€™t seem to have the stamina to last the race last season in the Championship and slipped down into the playoff places where they probably should not have beaten West Brom but thatâ€™s football for you. Giles Barnesâ€™ contribution will be vital if Derby do manage to escape the drop but sadly the gulf between the Premier League and the Championship seems to be growing and survival for promoted teams seems to be getting harder every season.
I think a lot of Everton supporters were waiting for this to be a summer of spending at Goodison Park but sadly the coffers seem to be empty. I think the most useful piece of business that Everton managed to pull off this summer is keeping hold of Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Andy Johnson. Phil Jagielka and Stephen Pienaar will help sure up Evertonâ€™s midfield which has been lacking that extra bit of steel the top teams seem to have in the middle of the park. David Moyes has assembled a pretty solid side that doesnâ€™t really excite too many people but they tend to grind out results.
Prediction: Along with Spurs, I think Everton will be challenging to get into the top 4 but I donâ€™t think they will have that extra bit of luck and quality thatâ€™s needed. If things go well then I think 5th place is a good season for them but if injuries hit the more vital players they could find themselves dropping a bit down the table.
Laurie Sanchez seems to think that recruiting the best players of his Northern Ireland squad for Fulham will help him survive in the Premier League. Donâ€™t get me wrong, Sanchez did a fantastic job as N. Ireland manager but managing in the top division in England is a completely different kettle of fish. The squad has had quite a large overhaul over the summer and a lot of the driftwood has been removed but their replacements donâ€™t strike as players that are substantially better. The big question on everyoneâ€™s lips (well at least down at Craven Cottage), is will David Healy be able to reproduce his International form in the Premier League. My guess is heâ€™ll get in the 15-20 goals margin solely on the virtue that heâ€™ll probably be Fulham penalty taker this season.
Prediction: I think Fulham will struggle to survive this season, even with Sanchezâ€™s motivational skills, Fulham lack that quality or dirtiness that is required at the top level. They may get lucky and the 3 promoted sides will all be kak, which is a distinct possibility, but things wonâ€™t be easy at Craven Cottage this season.