Premier League Outright:
It is over 20 years since a non "big 4" club last won the Premier League, that was Blackburn Rovers and we can rule them out this season as they are looking at a mid table finish in the Championship ! In that period, Manchester United (11), Chelsea (4), Arsenal (3) and Manchester City (2) have not only hoovered up the 20 titles, but have taken at least three of the top four places in each of the last 13 seasons. It is very hard or anyone outside the "cartel"to break into the top three nowadays, let alone challenge for the title and only Liverpool have managed to do so over the last dozen years. If any team is to do so this season, it is most likely to again be them, but they do not have the depth of the others and have sold prize assests for the second year running. Something that has changed in recent years is that it has become increasingly harder to defend the PL title and no one has done so since Manchester United in 2009 and for my money, that makes Chelsea poor value at circa 2.50-2.75 to repeat.
After a strong start they were not put under any real pressure last season, only City got close and briefly looked like making it a race around the turn of the year, but that was it. Main (only real) signing of the summer was Radamel Falcao and whilst if anyone can get the best out of him it will be Jose Mourinho, this is not the same player who would have had pulses racing a couple of seasons back. Mourinho has also never won a domestic title in his third season in charge at any club, after always winning it in his second, so another bit of history against the Blues and doubtless the Special One and Chelsea will be giving special focus to the Champions League this season. They lost out in the round of 16 last year to a PSG side who equalised late in the second leg in both regulation and extra time, despite playing 90 minutes a man short, after star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic was dismissed. If you think that will not have crushed Mourinho and that he has not thought about that every single day for the last five months, then you do not know the man, he lives for the Champions League and this season will really start for him on Setember 15th with the first Group game.
Therefore, for me it is City, United or Arsenal. I have my doubts about each to a degree, but I do feel that this will be the Gunners season and it is long overdue, since finishing top 2 for eight consecutive seasons between 1998-2005 they have not been able to break back into those elite positions and really sustain a title push for teh full nine months. However, they have their strongest squad in perhaps a decade , finished last year in tremendous form, which they have carried on in pre season this summer and there has been a seed change in Arsene wenger's approach in the last year or so, all of which we discussed ahead of their FA Community Shield game at the weekend..........
"Not a lot of love lost between these two clubs , nor the respective managers and Arsene Wenger, who has never beaten Jose Mourinho in 13 attempts, should stay out of going h2h with the Chelsea boss in the media, as he is even less likely to win the "mind games" battle than his players are the match on the pitch and he has got sucked into that over recent days. However, if the Gunners are to break their duck, today looks as good an opportunity as any and the North London side do look genuine title contenders this season in what could be the most exciting EPL race in recent seasons with a true four way battle a real possibility.
Wenger is used to getting his team ready early in the season after having to play the Champions League play off round six times in the last ten campaigns, he doesn't have that to worry about this time round , but his squad look a little ahead in terms of preparation and he and they will be looking to hit the ground running and get off to a strong start to 2015-16. Arsenal have already won two pre season titles and have beaten Everton, Lyon and Wolfsburg by a combined 10-1 and will be boosted by their record in this competition with a 5-1-1 record under Wenger, including a 3-0 defeat of PL champions Manchester City last season. Chelsea have lost on four of their last five appearances in the Community Shield and clearly have never taken this as seriously as the Gunners.
Chelsea extended their 14-15 season into June with a trip to Australia to play Sydney FC and have had a gruelling pre season , drawing with PSG and Barcelona, clocking up the air miles with some lucrative games and only returning home from the US on Wednesday. Arsenal have added Petr Cech to their talented squad and he brings with him solidity and a winning mentality, but perhaps the biggest change over the last 12 months has come from within Wenger, who finally accepted that he can play at times a little more direct and not have to always look to dominate possession. That resulted in them winning the FA Cup again and 20 of their final 26 matches, form which they have brought into pre season and will be looking to take into the new season.
I don't really see the Blues as favourites at this stage of the new season."
They won that 1-0 and yes, it was a meaningless fixture, but don't tell Wenger or his team that, it was at long last the breakthrough against Chelsea and matches versus the champions will suddenly feel very different this season. Arsenal got the monkey off their back with that FA Cup win in 2014 after nine years without a trophy, they retained that last season and now the target is a major title push. The win over the Blues was huge, a major psychological boost, they have momentum and enter the new campaign for the first time in recent memory without either having to face a Champions League play off game, or with any significant injury concerns. Alexis Sanchez will miss the first game of the campaign, but should be fit enough for the second, after being given an extended holiday following the Copa America, he returned to full training yesterday, Wenger will not rush him, but like the Gunners as a club, Sanchez is buoyed by success and the Copa win for his nation, with winning titles being very addictive !
Odds are lower now than a week/ month ago, but there is still value in my mind as the defeat of Chelsea was so important and if they had once again lost to the Blues, it would have undone much of the positivity and self belief they now have.
Arsenal to win the Premier League outright 5.0 general quote.
Palace had a great first season in the Premier league in 2013-14 finishing 11th, the second season is always the tough one and they looked in trouble at the turn of the year, but Alan Pardew arrived at New Year and the favourite son of Palace fans took them on an amazing run, 32 points in the second half of the season which equates to 5th spot over a full campaign and they finished tenth, three points and one spot better than under Tony Pulis. This was not a total surprise, ok maybe the manner or it was, but I know a couple of Palace supporters and was well aware of how much Pardew is loved there and the galvanising effect he could have on the club and when he is supported and backed, he is a good coach. We discussed his arrival in some depth and notes from his first couple of starts are reproduced below and they beat Tottenham in that first home league game.
Where can they go from here ? That is the big question and to be honest, for any mid table side and we have to now consider Palace that, it is always easier to fall back and get involved in a relegation scrap, which is obviously easier than the quantum leap required to challenge for a top six spot, but I do not see them heading downwards and there is a bit of leeway in terms of a 7-10th place finish. Pardew took West Ham United to 9th and an FA Cup Final in the same season and Newcastle United into Europe, so has history, but South London is where his heart is being a local lad and he has certainly not lacked for support from the board, who have allowed him to upgrade his squad significantly. He has signed Yohan Cabaye (PSG) a player he had under him at Newcastle, Patrick Bamford (Chelsea) and Connor Wickham ( Sunderland) , without losing anyone he wanted to keep from last season's squad, this is hugely impressive and I see improvement likely for the Eagles. There is certainly room for it in terms of home form, last season they collect 27 of 48 points on the road and lost ten times at Selhurst Park, which was surprising as the atmosphere there is incredibly good, Even if they could just find another 9 points winning three of those ten, that would have been enough for 8th and to within two points of Southampton who had a stunning season. Obviously there is good potential and still room to improve.
I am going to suggest we split our stakes and bet them to finish "best of the rest" so without the big 6 clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea, United, City, Liverpool and Tottenham, along with a top ten finish bet, they were within a spot in 2013-14, made it last season and have majorly upgraded their squad and odds look too big, for what I make a coin flip.
Crystal Palace without the "big 6" 13.0-15.0 general quote...........there is as high as 17.0 in a place or two.
Crystal Palace to finish top 10 @ 2.75 general quote.