Top Half Finish
West Brom, Swansea and West Ham made up the remaining three places in the top 10 positions of the Premier League last season and this year, the race for a top half finish promises to be even more unpredictable.
The signings of Andy Carroll, Razvan Rat and Joe Cole will reinforce many people’s views that the Hammers are capable of retaining their status as a top-10 club under Sam Allardyce, although a run in either the FA Cup or League Cup could hamper West Ham’s league aspirations given the size of their current squad.
The goals of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan will again be crucial for the Hammers, but if Modibo Maiga can hit some form in front of goal then the price of 3.50 on a top half finish could become an extremely good bet, especially given West Ham’s usual form at Upton Park.
Elsewhere Aston Villa remain an interesting proposition, particularly if the Midlands club can keep hold of star striker Christian Benteke, who fired in 17 goals for the Villains in the Premier League last term.
Paul Lambert has been relentless in the transfer market bringing in no fewer than five signings, but it is the development of players such as Matthew Lowton, Brad Guzan, Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke that could stand Villa in good stead for the coming season.
Villa’s Midlands rivals West Brom (2.62) will have to do without Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku this season and despite the arrival of Nicolas Anelka to the Hawthorns, the loss of the Belgium striker’s goals will be hard to replace for the Baggies.
Steve Clarke’s second campaign in the Midlands promises to be a much tougher proposition, but some clever signings in the transfer market could lift West Brom to a similar league finish this time around.
Over in Wales, Swansea are another side who have been busy in the transfer market, with manager Michael Laudrup again using his knowledge of Spanish football and La Liga to sign a number of cut-price players, including the extension of Jonathan De Guzman’s loan from Villarreal.
Michu’s return in front of goal will be difficult to replicate this year, but the rumoured signing of Vitesse striker Wilfried Bony would add some much needed firepower to the Swans attacking line.
Newcastle (2.00), Southampton (2.62), Fulham (3.75), Sunderland (4.00), Stoke (5.00) and Norwich (6.50) are the other contenders for a top half finish, but it is Sam Allardyce’s Hammers who provide the best value bet this season.
West Ham to finish in the top half @3.50
Aston Villa to finish in the top half @3.00
Swansea to finish in the top half @3.25
Top London Club
Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge has made Chelsea the odds-on favourite to finish as the top London club in the 2013/2014 Premier League season, with the Portuguese manager having already begun shaping his squad with the signings of Marco van Ginkel and Andre Schurrle.
The likes of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Michael Essien are all expected to form part of Chelsea’s senior squad this time around having been loaned out last term, whilst England under-21 international Nathaniel Chalaboah could become a surprise addition in Mourinho’s matchday squads.
Strikers Demba Ba or Fernando Torres appear to be out of favour with the coach and should Chelsea pull off the signing of Napoli striker Edinson Cavani then the Blues will likely find themselves at an even shorter price to be the top side in the capital.
Arsenal’s predicted big money signings have yet to be realised and despite rumours of Gonzalo Higuan’s impending arrival to the Emirates Stadium, it is Auxerre striker Yaya Sanogo who has been Arsenal’s only purchase so far.
Problems between the sticks still need to be addressed with Polish goalkeepers Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny both failing to convince, whilst continued injury problems for Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs could leave the Gunners squad short of numbers and quality should injuries take it’s toll during the season.
A lack of physicality in the side still remains an issue, particularly in midfield, but should Arsenal register a number of world-class signings in the right positions then the Gunners could become credible title contenders for the forthcoming season.
Tottenham at 8.00 remain some way behind Chelsea, but at 2.62 Spurs do offer value in finishing above Arsenal in the season match bets.
The recent signing of Paulinho will have gone some way to convincing Gareth Bale of Tottenham’s ambition and aspirations under manager Andre Villas-Boas this season and should the young manager pick up a similar coup with a big name striker, then the Lilywhites could become dark horses in this year’s competition.
Long-term target Leandro Damiao continues to be linked with Spurs, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor’s future at the club seems to be all but over, with a reported move to Besiktas on the cards.
The distraction of the Europa League could again be Tottenham’s eventual downfall, but Spurs should at least keep pace with their north London rivals.
Chelsea to be the top London club @1.40
Author Credit: Jonathan Day
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/swans100/