The new Premier League season kicks-off this weekend and the Soccer Saturday boys have been sharing their predictions for the 2012-13 campaign with skysports.com. Paul Merson has his say...
Last Updated: August 18, 2012 10:22am
Who will win the Premier League?
Man City will take all the beating again. They're a very good team and the only question is how much they'll be going for the Champions League. Over the years we've seen teams like Tottenham go far in Europe, but not really perform in the league. It's difficult to do both. Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea are seasoned pros, but will Man City get used to it? That's the big question.
Man United have got Robin van Persie and they'll be right up there. They've also got Nemanja Vidic coming back, which will be like a £30million signing. They won't be too far off.
Who will make the top four?
I think it will be Man City, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal. I honestly think Arsenal will sneak into fourth because they play great football. They may have lost Van Persie, but in Olivier Giroud they have a Plan-B now and they haven't had that for a long, long time. Also, Chelsea will be better than last season. They've bought players that are going to attack and Fernando Torres will have a big season.
As for Tottenham, I don't think the new manager is that great and they haven't sorted out their forward line yet. They've lost a top-drawer manager and in a couple of years' time I think the fans will realise the unbelievable job that Harry did.
Who will finish in the bottom three?
My dark horses to go down this year are West Brom. Steve Clarke is a great coach, but being a manager is completely different. We saw Brian Kidd, who played a huge part in Manchester United winning the Premier League in the 1990's, go to Blackburn and he got relegated. I fear for West Brom because they won some big games last year and if they don't win those games again they could be in trouble.
I also think Southampton will get relegated. Rickie Lambert is a good player and they've signed Jay Rodriguez from Burnley, but moving up into the Premier League is a big jump and I think it will be very difficult for them. I reckon Swansea could be the other team this year. Teams started to catch onto their style at the end of last season and I wonder how Michael Laudrup will play. The pressure is on him, they've lost Joe Allen and I think they could end up going down.
Who will be the surprise package?
I don't see Reading going down at all. They've got pace to burn up front and I think they'll cause teams problems. People like Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe are quick and that's a massive key in the Premier League. I think they'll comfortably stay up.
On another note, I think Big Sam will keep West Ham up - as long as the fans' expectations aren't too high. When Newcastle got relegated it was a wake-up call for their supporters and they were very realistic in the first year when they came back. If West Ham fans are like that - and don't get on the players' backs if they're not winning 3-0 after 20 minutes - then they'll stay up as well.
Who will finish as top scorer?
I think Fernando Torres is going to have a big season this year. He's got people like Eden Hazard and Juan Mata - who are both phenomenal players - to provide him and if you ask any centre-forward, they're only as good as the people supplying them. With the people he's got around him I honestly think he could have a big season for Chelsea. He should be confident after winning the Golden Boot and the European Championship with Spain.
Who is your player to watch?
I'm going to go for Jobi McAnuff of Reading. I played against him when he was a kid at Wimbledon and thought he was going to be a good player. He didn't quite live up to the expectations that I had, but if you watch him he's an out-and-out winger and he'll run at players with unbelievable pace. He could be the player to watch out for in the Premier League this year. He could be very important if Reading are going to stay up. I expect him to get a lot of the ball because of the way they play.