The Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson on a weekly basis predicts the scores for the upcoming weekend’s/weekday Barclays Premier League matches. I must admit he is a very outspoken character at times and does have some odd or even bizarre views along with the rest of the Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday crew. On the 4th September 2015 (around 3 and a half weeks into the 2015/2016 campaign), Merson revealed his end of season league table prediction. Using the half-way stage of the 15/16 season, I will try to explain and evaluate his choices. First however, let’s have a look at some of his previous predictions.
The popular football highlights website 101greatgoals.com with the help of Twitter users “Simply Spurs” after 13 games plotted the Merson’s league table (as they called it).
Now let’s have a look at Merson’s league table for the 2015/2016 season and compare it to how the league table stands half-way through the season now.
At first, I would not necessarily see anything wrong with Merson’s predictions, however in more depth I would question his positioning on especially Newcastle, West Ham and Tottenham. As we all remember Newcastle were in a desperate situation towards the end of last season when John Carver became coach. While he regarded himself as “the best coach in the Premier League”, his tactics and style of play (4 pts from the last 11 games) did not bring any flair of excitement to the dear Newcastle supporters. They just avoided relegation on the last day due to Hull City losing to Manchester United and therefore they dropped into The Championship.
West Ham had a phenominal start to last season’s campaign (17 pts from 10 games & 31 pts after 19 games) yet Sam Allardyce’s tactics were not well received around Upton Park. With the move to the Olympic Stadium looming it is understandable that the Hammer’s board wanted a strategic change. Former Hammer’s player Slaven Bilic was brought in to replace Sam Allardyce and brought with him the tactics that West Ham fans wanted to see (20 pts from 10 games & 29 pts after 19 games).
I feel that Tottenham have finally found a manager that can bring them sustainable success. However what does that mean at Tottenham, especially when Daniel Levy is Chairperson? Levy has had a reputation in “needing” Champions League success regardless of how many managers it might take to get there. We all remember the transfer saga when Gareth Bale was sold for a world record fee to Real Madrid and Tottenham went to a spending spree. The amount of players and quality that Spurs brought in was astonishing and truly below par. Is it possible that Potchetino’s watch is ticking at White Hart Lane if they again fail to qualify for the Champions League?
I can understand Merson’s predictions about Watford being relegated straight away back to the Championship. In Watford’s previous two Premier league seasons’ (99/00 pts 24 & 06/07 pts 28) they were relegated both times. They already have 4 points more since when they were last relegated, yet how much does that mean in terms of survival? For me, the main threat which will help them survive and flourish further on into the season is the strikers’ partnership between captain Troy Deeney and Nigerian International Odion Ighalo.
Surprise Team of the Season
Without doubt though, Leicester City are the team that have ‘positively’ surprised everyone this season. When Nigel Pearson got replaced by former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri early into the season, we were all shaking our heads some bit (yes, even you. Just admit it). His unique style of play has allowed Leicester to play counter-attacking football and with players like Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and N’golo Kante they have the pace and space to break and expose opponents.
Obviously there are other teams that have sprung a surprise on us and will continue to do so throughout the season. One of these teams will undoubtedly be Crystal Palace and Watford.
On the other end of the spectrum, Chelsea were the surprise ‘negative’ team of the season. The first matchday saga between Mourinho and his medical staff is what seemed to cause some internal political chaos in the Chelsea dressing room. Before Mourinho got sacked in early December, it seemed that he tried everything to get his players going. He used different approaches such as critising the players, protecting them and blaming the referee. None of the methods seemed to work and we was dismissed. Could it simply come down to the 3 season effect that Mourinho brings with him? How will he ever manage a national team?
Top 4 Picks
I have a strange feeling that the Top 4 (Leicester City, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspurs) will pretty much stay like it is now (although not necessarily in that order). By May, the title fight will be between Arsenal and Manchester City while Leicester City and Tottenham will fight it out for third and fourth place respectively.
The relegation contingency
Believe it or not but according to my calculations every team below Manchester United (after 19 games) had a chance of being relegated this season. Obviously this percentage number is small where United stood but increased as you went down the table. Now a couple of games onwards (23 games played), every team below Southampton are at risk of being relegated.
My crying three
Sunderland and Aston Villa have both been playing with relegation the last couple of seasons. In particular, Sunderland have been close on a number of occasions (2012/13, 2013/14 & 2014/15). Yet, Aston Villa have not been much better (2011/12, 2013/14 & 2014/15). Even with all of Newcastle’s new January signings, they may be joining Sunderland in playing the North-East derby in the Championship next season.
18. Newcastle 19. Sunderland 20. Aston Villa
If Aston Villa, Sunderland & Newcastle were to drop down, then it would be the first time since the 2011/12 season that the three promoted teams in this case (Bournemouth, Watford & Norwich) were to stay up.
Enough writing for once and now go off and enjoy the FA Cup games this weekend.
Thank you for reading this and please tell me your predictions.