The Barclay's Premier League season kicks off this weekend, and what better time than now to poll the Cartilage Free Captain writers and get their (informed? wise? drunken?) opinions on how the clubs will finish the season. Thirteen of our writers ranked the clubs in a spreadsheet in order of how they thought they'd finish, and we compiled the results.
Of course, the danger of ranking clubs now is that the transfer window is still open, meaning there's still time for key signings to join clubs that could make major impacts. And of course, while we fancy ourselves knowledgable football fans and students of the game, this is still just opinion, and even a mash-up of varied opinions at that.
So we're probably going to be hilariously wrong.
Our Predicted Table
|3 (t)||Manchester City||3.1||0.760|
|9||West Ham United||10.1||2.253|
|11 (t)||Swansea City||10.5||1.854|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||15.5||1.266|
We get accused of "masthead groupthink" quite often, and while we rail against that notion, we talk (and argue) a lot as a group, and it is true that we do tend to have similar opinions on a lot of issues. So that being said, there were some trends that popped up in the individual rankings.
Chelsea will win it all.
With the exception of one writer, all of us picked Chelsea to repeat as EPL champions this season. It's not difficult to understand why. Chelsea were nigh dominant last season and while they haven't exactly improved, no single team has done enough yet to knock them off their pedestal. There doesn't seem to be much risk of a backslide from the Blues, and while the rest of the top four are getting better, it may not be enough. The only writer to pick a club other than Chelsea chose Manchester United, who came in a solid second overall.
We all agree that the top four will not include Spurs.
To a person, all of us picked Manchester United, Arsenal, and Manchester City to finish in the Champions League positions. Yep, not a single Tottenham Hotspur blog writer chose Spurs to finish higher than fifth. We suck and are plastic septic fans, we know. It's more a recognition that while we hope Spurs will improve, they won't improve enough to break through that ceiling.
There are four distinct "tiers" in the table.
What's interesting about our rankings is that we all independently ranked the teams in four distinct tiers, but we differed somewhat on the club rankings within those tiers.
The top four clubs are one tier. Spurs and Liverpool make up a second tier. Clubs ranked 7-13 are a third tier, and 14-20 are the fourth. There's some variance in how high or low a particular club falls within the tier, but for example nobody ranked Aston Villa higher than 14th, and no one ranked Newcastle lower than 13th.
Nobody's sure what to do with West Ham, Norwich, and Everton.
As you can see by the standard deviation column, there are a few clubs that we ranked pretty divergently. West Ham and Everton in particular are clubs that had the widest range of rankings: both of their rankings ranged between 7 and 13. In short, we all think they're both mid-table, but none of us can agree just how mid-table they're going to be: they can be either be crappily decent or decently crap, we just don't know. Norwich is the club we are most confused about: ranked from 14th through 20th, we individually think they're either going to be halfway decent, or they're going to be terrible.
Leicester and Bournemouth are probably screwed.
However, at the bottom of the table we all more or less agreed that Leicester City and Bournemouth are the two most likely clubs to be sent packing to the Championship by the end of the season. All of our writers picked these two clubs to finish in the bottom three. Leicester lost Esteban Cambiasso and has had a very underwhelming transfer window thus far, with their most high profile signings being Shinji Okazaki (a fourth striker on a club with no midfield or defense), Robert Huth, and Christian Fuchs. Bournemouth have been active in the window, signing the likes of Artur Boruc, Sylvain Distin, Max Gradel, and Christian Atsu... we're just not sure it's enough.
Elsewhere, the final relegation slot is not as clear to us. Norwich (38%), Sunderland (31%), and Watford (31%) all were voted in the relegation zone by at least one person; West Brom and Aston Villa juuuuuuuuuust squeaked by.
Predictions are fun. They're fun when you're right, and they're also (usually) fun when you're wrong. Our predictions are just that: our best guess. We desperately hope that we're wrong about Spurs. I personally think it'd be fun to see Tim Sherwood relegated. There's a lot we're going to get wrong, but hopefully a good amount we're going to get right, too. And we'll break down everything at the end of the season.
Feel free to share your EPL table predictions in the comments!