And we’re back with our first Jumble since before the World Cup!
For those new to TSG, the Jumble is just a series of questions posed to experts outside the TSG family of writers. Each question serves as its own post to comment on.
Today, we kick off our new EPL Jumble with the new season still wet behind the ears, just like Jack Wilshere.
First, our panel, moderated by no one:
• New to our Jumble series, are The Followtonians. Eric Howell is stateside in Kansas City and his podcast partner is Peter McPartland overseas on scene nearby Liverpool. Got a question on Everton, they can answer it. Rumor has it they know all the key listening posts nearby Finch Farm.
• You know Jay Bell for his high quality video montages on YouTube (less the copyright police); however, he’s also a clever writer. Jay authored our Charlie Davies Salute video (we’re trying to get that back up there).
• Shaun Webb is a contributing writer here at TSG, a handsome man, a solid ultimate frisbee player, a good photographer, a nice guy and travels more than a suitcase.
• This man needs no introduction. He’s GeorgeCross and he’s memorized the roster of every team in England down to League Two. He provides a good counterbalance to some of the more pro-American sentiment on this site, and if you mention the two phrases “Theo Walcott” and “World Cup” to him you can literally see sparks fly out of his ears. Pretty amazing stuff actually.
• And then you have Matthew from TSG, with an as stunning command of the English language and understanding of soccer as…a ref from Mali?
We kickoff our Jumble with…
→ Which team will be the biggest surprise this year, positive or negative?
• GeorgeCross: Birmingham City. The smart money would be for a bottom half finish. I think Alex McLeish did a great job last year and I think that he will follow it up with another Top 10 finish this year, even though the teams around *them* probably have a better team/squad, player-for player.
He will have his team very well organized and disciplined, and they will be difficult to beat–especially at home. They might not break into the Top 7, but they will be fighting Everton for an 8th place finish. They will beat their 2009/10 points total of 50, too. Considering their resources, I think that will be a remarkable achievement.
• Jay Bell: 1a: Bolton. Coyle added Petrov, Klasnic, and a healthy Holden to a team that was already playing well at the end of last season. They have been picked to finish towards the top of the bottom half of the table, but I think this team could push for the top half.
1b: Wolves. I can’t see this team fighting relegation for a second year in a row.
• Shaun, TSG: Merseyside. Both teams from the city of Liverpool will do better than last year. Liverpool were miserable, but now with Uncle Roy at the helm there is a sense of rejuvenation. Life had become stale under Benitez and the players had stopped playing for him. Everton need a good start for once and to keep their training room empty for them to get to the next level, and I think this year they will. Their midfield is second to none and Howard does well in the back.
Sunderland too will make a charge into the top 10. Sadly Aston Villa and Fulham will not be able to recreate the heroics from last year as the teams around them have improved and they have lost their influential managers.
• Matthew, TSG: See I don’t see Birmingham or Bolton sneaking up or surprising anyone this year. Birmingham especially, they were consistently good as a team all last year.
I’m in Shaun’s court in that I think if Sunderland (and Lee Cattermole as I mentioned yesterday) get their act together, they could be a top 10 or top 8 team.
The team I “think” could surprise is Blackburn, who earned the victory yesterday against Everton.
Boss Sam Allardyce, who’s been managing since 1741, knows his stuff…cold. Last year Blackburn relied a little too much on long in the tooth veterans. This year they’re letting some, mostly unsung, youngsters take to the pitch. If those youngsters can just buy into Big Sam’s preaching–a big if–you might see Blackburn creep into a top 8 spot. If they’re not ready…well they might stumble to hiccup above relegation.
Remember Steven N’Zonzi? Blackburn’s POY last year is a Michael Bradley clone who is only going to get better.
• Eric, Followtonians: I am going to say Man Citteh. And it won’t be in the positive direction. I see City much like the England national squad and the MLS All-Star Team. Too many stars and not enough supporting cast members. I would say Everton in a positive manner, but that wouldn’t surprise me with last year’s second half season form (3rd only 3 points behind Man U).