Park The Bus’ 2011-12 Massive English Premier League Preview

It’s been way too long. The Premiership is back. After an exciting summer for- wait. Scratch that. There’s been a lot of football this summer, but it wasn’t anything like the real thing. The Premiership is as real as it gets.

Manchester United is the obvious favorites to win the league, but they will have a significant amount of competition from the so-called “Noisy Neighbors,” Manchester City. Some still would like to include clubs like Chelsea or Arsenal and (some nutters) Liverpool. But for this season, it will be a two-horse race. And United may not be able to pad that thin first division title lead.

Can Roberto Mancini's boys lift the Premiership trophy come May?

Also, the relegation battle will be as interesting as it was last season – if not moreso. New boys QPR, Norwich and Swansea City will all be trying desperately to stay up, while clubs like Wigan, Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton will be fighting for their Premiership lives, as well.

Without further ado, here are the club-by-club previews and predictions from Park The Bus.

Arsenal F.C. 2010-11 Premiership finish: Fourth, 68 points

Arsenal is coming off of one of the club’s poorest seasons in years. While finishing six points ahead of rivals Tottenham, the club just wasn’t impressive. It’s been six seasons without a trophy, and with sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri imminent, the club is also running out of talent. Arsene Wenger has not yet brought in enough quality talent, and with other clubs finding ways to improve, the Gunners could be left in the dust. However, many Arsenal supporters still have faith that the “Professor” could pull something out and keep them in Champions League competition. Here’s a hint, Arsene: buy some talent.

Biggest addition: Gervinho (Lille)

Biggest loss: Gael Clichy (Manchester City)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Fifth

Aston Villa 2010-11 Premiership finish: Ninth, 48 points

Aston Villa finished surprisingly high last season, but they will have to perform miracles in order to match it. Losing both Stewart Downing and Ashley Young hurt. They made the Villa attack tick. Losing their starting keeper Brad Friedel didn’t help either, as the club doesn’t seem to have any faith in backup Brad Guzan.  Luckily for Villains faithful, the additions of Charles N’Zogbia and Shay Given should keep the club in the Premiership. The fact that the bottom few clubs are also weak can’t hurt for Villa, either. New manager Alex McLeish may have a difficult first season on the other side of Birmingham.

Biggest addition: Charles N’Zogbia (Wigan)

Biggest loss: Stewart Downing (Liverpool)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 13th

Blackburn Rovers 2010-11 Premiership finish: 15th, 43 points

Sometimes a person has to wonder, how the hell do Blackburn do it? How do they manage to stay in the Premiership every year? The answer is unknown, but the club manages…somehow. Other than Phil Jones, the club hasn’t lost much in the way of quality players. If Rovers can keep Christopher Samba, then that would be another big positive. Additions of Radislav Petrovic and David Goodwillie will help add depth. Blackburn should do just enough, again. Maybe we should start calling them Fulham?

Biggest addition: David Goodwillie (Dundee United)

Biggest loss: Phil Jones (Manchester United)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 15th

Bolton Wanderers 2010-11 Premiership finish: 14th, 46 points

Bolton really had a great summer transfer-wise. But injury-wise it has been a disaster. Stuart Holden still isn’t healthy, and Chung Yong Lee has a fresh leg break to mend. Despite this, manager Owen Coyle is doing good things. The team may struggle unless the healthy players come up big, but either way, the club is finding stability. That’s always a good sign.

Biggest addition: Tuncay (Wolfsburg)

Biggest loss: Johan Elmander (Galatasaray)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 14th

Chelsea F.C. 2010-11 Premiership finish: 2nd, 71 points

Chelsea choked toward the end of last season, handing the title to a much more talented United side. Out goes Carlo Ancelotti and in comes Andre Villas-Boas. It takes guts to bring in a young manager such as him, but Roman Abramovich is not one for conservatism. Villas-Boas has a lot of promise, but can he be the next Jose Mourinho? Time will tell, but it won’t matter this year. The team has talent, and should get another Champions League berth. Beyond that? They can’t compete with Manchester.

Biggest addition:  Oriel Romeu (Barcelona)

Biggest loss: Yuri Zhirkov (Anzhi Makhachkala)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Third

Tim Howard's acrobatics may keep Everton competitive.

Everton F.C. 2010-11 Premiership finish: Seventh, 54 points

David Moyes continues to work miracles with no money, but how long can he continue? The club is nearing two calendar years without a paid transfer, but they haven’t lost much, either. The club may experience a bit of a down season, but a top 10 finish is not out of the question. If they can somehow muster to bring in some talent before September or during January, a good season could be had.

Biggest Addition: None

Biggest Loss: James Vaughan (Norwich City)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 10th

Fulham F.C. 2010-11 Premiership finish: Eighth, 49 points

Fulham got rid of Mark Hughes and brought in Martin Jol. Now they have to try to best last year’s eighth place finish and maybe a return to Europe. The Cottagers have done some great things over the past few years and since then, they have established themselves as a top 10 side. One of the most polite sides in Europe, the Fair Play rule could keep getting them into Europa League, but Cottager faithful wouldn’t mind. More Europe, more improvements. Fulham is a side to keep an eye on.

Biggest addition: John Arne Riise (Roma)

Biggest loss: Zoltan Gera (West Brom)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Eighth

Liverpool F.C. 2010-11 Premiership finish: Sixth, 58 points

The first half of last season was forgettable for Liverpool supporters, as the club languished under Roy Hodgson and American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Out with the old and in with the new. Under New England Sports Ventures and Kenny Dalglish, there is hope on the Merseyside again. In what may be the most improved team, additions such as Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique and Jordan Henderson, the club is looking squarely at the Champions League places. If everything meshes, the club could be feared once again. But don’t get ahead of yourselves, Scousers. Liverpool aren’t title challengers. Yet.

Biggest addition: Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)

Biggest loss: Milan Jovanovic (Anderlecht)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Fourth

Stewart Downing may be the biggest piece to the Liverpool puzzle.

Manchester City 2010-11 Premiership finish: Third, 71 points

Who said money can’t buy happiness? City are relevant again, and in a big way. Roberto Mancini’s boys are definite title challengers, especially with the addition of Sergio Aguero. Even if Carlos Tevez is on his way out, the club look like prime competitors, and could be the best of the bunch. Ignore the Community Shield result. There’s 38 matches left that actually count. The blue side of Manchester will celebrate come May.

Biggest addition: Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid)

Biggest loss: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Champions

Manchester United 2010-11 Premiership finish: Champions, 80 points

United is on top of England. The club surpassed Liverpool’s title record, much to the delight of the Red Devil supporters. Of course that will not be enough for Alex Ferguson, who has a team that is just as talented as last year’s squad. Their only competition is Manchester City, and expect nothing less than a dogfight for the title. This time, United falls short. Sorry, Chicharito. You’ll still have a shot to win Champions League. Without Edwin Van der Sar, the club has too much of a question mark in net.

Biggest addition: David De Gea (Atletico Madrid)

Biggest loss: Edwin Van der Sar (Retirement)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Second

Fergie could be in tears come May.

Newcastle United 2010-11 Premiership finish: 12th, 46 points

It’s Murphy’s Law being played out on Tyneside. Between Joey Barton’s outburst, Mike Ashley’s greed and Alan Pardew’s suck, there isn’t a lot for supporters of the Magpies to celebrate about. Well, there is one thing. Newcastle stayed up last season, and the club is primed to do the same again. In such a bad situation, this is a success. Sadly, the club deserves better than the revolving door it has been the past few years. The additions of Demba Ba and Sylvain Marveaux will help, despite losing Jose Enrique, Kevin Nolan and possibly Barton. This club still has a much more quality side than the basement-dwellers.

Biggest addition: Sylvain Marveaux (Rennes)

Biggest loss: Kevin Nolan (West Ham)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 12th

Norwich City 2010-11 Championship finish: 2nd, 84 points, Promoted

Great job by Paul Lambert to get the Canaries to back-to-back promotions. Very difficult, obviously. However, the honeymoon is over. When James Vaughan and Kyle Naughton are the best additions to a club, it’s going to be a long season. This won’t be the last Premiership fans see of Norwich, but their taste of the Premiership will be a short one. Expect them to put up a valiant effort, but the Canary won’t survive the mineshaft.

Biggest addition: James Vaughan (Everton)

Biggest loss: None

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 19th, Relegated

Queens Park Rangers 2010-11 Championship finish: First, 88 points, Champions, Promoted

It’s been a long time for the not-so-little club from Shepherd’s Bush, but under Neil Warnock, the club seems primed for success. Adel Taarabt is staying until at least January, and this is a huge boost for the R’s. Players such as Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell will make them a real threat to play giant-killer, and no club is going to have fun traveling to Loftus Road. That being said, it won’t be a stellar finish, but staying up is the goal. The goal should be achieved.

Biggest addition: DJ Campbell (Blackpool)

Biggest loss: Pascal Chimbonda (Released from the club)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 16th

Stoke City 2010-11 Premiership finish: 13th, 46 points

The man with the funny cap, Tony Pulis, is really building the Potters into a Premiership mainstay. The club snatched up Matthew Upson and possibly perma-injured Jonathan Woodgate. If those players can feature, and feature often, the club will be comfortably sitting in mid-table by season’s end. Matthew Etherington will also need to have a stellar year, but Stoke looks like they are improved. Take a sigh of relief, Potters supporters. Enjoy the year.

Biggest addition: Matthew Upson (Unattached after release from West Ham)

Biggest loss: Eidur Gudjohnsen (Released)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Ninth

Sunderland AFC 2010-11 Premiership finish: 10th, 47 points

If it weren’t for Liverpool, the Mackems would be the most improved side in the Premiership. Additions of Connor Wickham, John O’Shea, Sebastian Larsson are just a few of the rabbits Steve Bruce pulled out of his transfer hat. Far and away the best club in the North East, Sunderland have to go out and show they can not only continue to be a top side, but are a threat to go to Europe as well. The pieces are there. Now it is time for the club to show the rest of the country they are a force to be reckoned with.

Biggest addition: Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham City)

Biggest loss: Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Seventh

Swansea City 2010-11 Championship finish: 3rd, 80 points, Promotion Play-off winners

Well, the FA’s stomach may have turned a bit to see a Welsh side in the Premiership, but here they are. Swansea’s valiant run gets them in as the last club promoted. But with a real lack of quality signings, it looks like this will be a short stay for the Swans. The club gained Wayne Routledge from Newcastle, but there isn’t much in the way of improvement beyond that. It isn’t likely that Craig Beattie can keep the club afloat by himself. Sorry Swansea, but you will be terrible. Better than Derby County did, but not good enough to stay up.

Biggest addition: Wayne Routledge (Newcastle)

Biggest loss: Darren Pratley (Bolton)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 20th, Relegated

Tottenham Hotspur 2010-11 Premiership finish: Fifth, 62 points

It wasn’t too long ago that being a Spurs supporter was a great thing. The club went to Champions League and did quite well. But after a disappointing fifth-place finish, the club is stagnant. Using all of their might to hold onto talisman Luka Modric, the club hasn’t made a meaningful signing outside of Brad Friedel. That may shore up their goalkeeping situation, but with talk of getting rid of one or more of their strikers, this could be a disappointing season for the North London outfit. The cancellation of the first match due to the London riots may be a bad omen of how the season could end up.

Biggest addition: Brad Friedel (Aston Villa)

Biggest loss: Kyle Naughton (Norwich City)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: Sixth

Tottenham's European hopes are dependent on whether Luka will stay put.

West Bromwich Albion 2010-11 Premiership finish: 11th, 47 points

WBA’s quest for stability was successful last season, as the club finished a respectable 11th in the league. On the back of Peter Odemwingie, the club impressed many. The club hasn’t lost much, but they have added some firepower in Shane Long and Zoltan Gera. Also, WBA shored up their goalkeeping situation after losing Scott Carson and sending Boaz Myhill out on loan by bringing in Marton Fulop and Ben Foster. It would be a surprise if the club cracked the top 10 this season, but they could be primed for the future.

Biggest addition: Shane Long (Reading)

Biggest loss: Scott Carson (Bursaspor)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 11th

Wigan Athletic 2010-11 Premiership finish: 16th, 42 points

It is absolutely mind-boggling how Roberto Martinez manages to keep this club in the Premiership year-in and year-out. But he does. Except for this year. The Latics lost Charles N’Zogbia to Aston Villa and now have to depend almost solely on Hugo Rodallega to score up front. It’s been a pretty spectacular ride, Wigan. But for you, time is about up. Would not be surprised if Martinez doesn’t last the season. It could be a dour one before they finally bow out.

Biggest addition: Ali Al-Habsi (Bolton)

Biggest loss: Charles N’Zogbia (Aston Villa)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 18th, Relegated

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2010-11 Premiership finish: 17th, 40 points

Survival on the last day saved Mick McCarthy’s Wolves side, and possibly his job. And if you actually read through all of this post, you will be happy to know that Wolves should stay up again! After adding Jamie O’Hara, the club might be able to continue its scrappy fight to avoid the drop once again. It is hard to believe that this club is worse than Norwich, Swansea and Wigan, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. Look for another roller coaster, with another possible Great Escape.

Biggest addition: Jamie O’Hara (Tottenham)

Biggest loss: Marcus Hahnemann (Released)

2011-12 Premiership predicted finish: 17th


And for those keeping score at home, here is the final predicted table for the 2011-12 campaign:

1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
3. Chelsea
4. Liverpool
5. Arsenal
6. Tottenham
7. Sunderland
8. Fulham
9. Stoke City
10. Everton
11. WBA
12. Newcastle
13. Aston Villa
14. Bolton
15. Blackburn
16. QPR
17. Wolverhampton
18. Wigan
19. Norwich City
20. Swansea City


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