Jeff Stelling is a legend. We know because he spent a couple of hours at Prostate Cancer UK HQ this week. We can't tell you why just yet, but we can tell you all about who Jeff thinks will win the Premier League this season, and let you in on the rest of his predictions.

Sit back and enjoy his thoughts on the new campaign, and then join Men United to find out (in time) why he'll be a Men United legend before long.

1 Aug 2015

Jeff Stelling

We're just days away from the start of the season. Premiership first, Arsenal put a bit of a marker down in the Community Shield. They also have filled the one position that's been speculated about being their Achilles' Heel for many years. How do you rate Arsenal, and how do you see the battle at the top to start with?

Well it's interesting, you know the Community Shield is a glorified friendly. So we shouldn't get too carried away with that. But my two sons both went to the game and came back with an interesting question about Arsenal. How is Alexis Sánchez gonna get into that side? Now he will get into the side. There's no question about that. But at whose expense?

Because with Oxlade‑Chamberlain fit again, Theo Walcott fit again they have a fantastic squad. Okay defensively I still think they can look a little bit vulnerable. You know if you looked at Chelsea's back four and Arsenal's back four you would pick all four Chelsea players ahead of all four Arsenal players I think it's fair to say. But going forward they are as exhilarating as ever.

And as long Arsène Wenger can control those attacking instincts on occasions, you know when they go to the big sides away from home, we've seen that they can go to the Manchester Cities of this world and win. And win in a very un-Arsenal like way.

You know if Arsène Wenger can just balance the attacking desire with a bit of pragmatism then I think that they will be the team to beat this season.


But have they got the steel to actually see this one out, because people will be rating them more this year. Arsenal have gone under the radar but for years they've been kind of on the fringes.

I just think that, you know, I think every Arsenal fan would have liked to have seen them sign another holding midfielder player or another defender. And they may, look, they may do so. That, that's the difficulty at this stage of the season. You're not quite sure you know the squads are not finalised.

Coquelin did a fantastic job for them last season where he came and surprised everybody, grew into that role. You know, and if he can perform at that level throughout a season then I think you know he is a huge, huge player for them.

I think it's important, he's got some real competitive football at Charlton (on loan last season). He came back a more complete player. He'll have learnt a lot. There's no doubt about that. But, look - he surprised everyone. I bet he surprised himself as well, and surprised Arsène Wenger at how well he did last season. He certainly surprised all the Arsenal fans.

And you know, good luck to him. Well done. It's been a fantastic journey for him and all the star names Arsenal have got, he could be their key player this season.

...every Arsenal fan would have liked to have seen them sign another holding midfielder player or another defender.

You look at Arsenal and feel they are a couple short of pieces in their defensive jigsaw. Is Petr Čech the man, the missing piece Arsenal have been looking for?

Yeah. Look, he's a high quality goalkeeper. There was no question about that. Still got a lot of good years in front of him. I wasn't as big a critic as some of Wojciech Szczęsny. I thought he was decent, is decent Premier League quality.

So how many extra points will Čech be worth during the course of the season? I'm not so sure. But what he does give is that defensive authority. He's just a commanding presence.

He'd make a good Arsenal captain. Well you know traditionally goalkeepers are never made captain. But it might not be a bad shout, because he is such a dominant figure and character. So again he's gonna be an important player to them that's for sure.

How do you see the Champions and the two Manchester clubs doing? The same top four perhaps, in a slightly different order?

Possibly, but I think Liverpool may not be far away this season. They had a disappointing season last season. But I think Brendan Rodgers has signed some fantastic players. Obviously Benteke has started brilliantly. Nathaniel Clyne I've seen on a regular basis at Southampton and he is a terrific player. Fantastic engine, gets up and down all the time. James Milner has a lot of experience there you know.

And you know they've added in midfield, it's Flaminio, isn't it, they added - and to Coutinho, and together... though they may look a bit lightweight. I'm not sure if you can play them together in every single game. But great, great options to have.

And Danny Ings too. You know, I think they could have a really good season. I'm not sure where they'll finish but I certainly think they're absolutely top four contenders, no doubt about that.

I think Liverpool may not be far away this season.

And Chelsea?

I'm not sure if Chelsea are as strong this season as last season. And again transfer window has not closed yet so Jose Mourinho may well do something.

But I, you know, purely in squad strength terms. You know we've mentioned Čech, he's gone. Didier Drogba, bit part player but nevertheless in the squad and a big influence at the club, he's gone. Start of last season had André Schürrle, who I liked as a player and certainly gave them more than Cuadrado's done so far as replacement. So I think they're not quite as strong.

And I look at John Terry and Branislav Ivanović, and a couple of others who have played every single game last season. Is that gonna happen again this season? I'm not so sure.

I think they're a bit more vulnerable. And of course, Diego Costa's hamstrings. You know every Chelsea fan's gonna be looking at them every single time he plays. I think they'll be right there. But if I was to be bold, I'm gonna say Chelsea to finish second. Sorry Jose.

And the Manchester clubs... Louis van Gaal has invested again.

They have, yeah, and what that means for me is that out of all of the top managers, Louis van Gaal's under the most pressure by a long, long way because they've spent hugely and they've brought in some good players.

No doubt about that Schneiderlin, fantastic in the Premier League already. Schweinsteiger if they can keep him fit. A big if. If they can keep him fit, it'll be terrific for them as well.

But I think the big question Manchester United fans will be asking themselves is - is he hasn't addressed, hasn’t really addressed their defensive issues at all.

You know if they lose David de Gea, who is gonna play in goal? Sergio Romero wasn't good enough to get in the Monaco team and the Sampdoria team over the last couple of seasons. He hasn't addressed the central defensive situation, and up front they look like they're putting all their eggs in the Wayne Rooney basket. I'm not actually convinced they will be stronger - they need to start well.

Manchester City have spent big money spent on Raheem Sterling. Will he be a success there? Yes, I think he will. I think he's a quality player. I think at times he was unfairly criticised last season. He was certainly badly advised.

Then they brought in Fabian Delph, who unfortunately has picked up an early injury as well. But City's problem is they still have too many players who are, you know, getting a little bit older a little bit less athletic.

You know they have some ordinary players, Fernando, Fernandinho, you know defensively I think they're vulnerable as well. Mangala doesn't look the part. Demichelis is getting on in years, and I think they could be in for a relatively difficult season.

Louis van Gaal's under the most pressure by a long, long way

You mentioned Liverpool, but who will really surprise us this season do you think?

Two teams. Crystal Palace, you know Alan Pardew, I met him at Gatwick Airport this year. When he was Newcastle manager, you know he was Mr Angry, Mr Frustrated, you know sometimes his passion got the better of him, and you know you just see the times he hated himself. And went to Crystal Palace - worked wonders.

Saw him at Gatwick Airport, he hadn't got a care in the world. He looked like a man who had just won the lottery, and I think he's recruited really, really well.

You know Connor Wickham is a proper unit up front. Patrick Bamford will score goals and Yohan Cabaye is a lovely footballer. And it's a real coup for them to get Cabaye, I think. Paris Saint-Germain is one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Wow. It tells a lot about Pardew's personal appeal that he's got Cabaye to go there.

And I think they're gonna have a cracking season. They've got people like Scott Dann who's rock solid, and, yeah, I could certainly see them being top seven; top eight would be a terrific achievement.

And Stoke as well. I think Stoke will have another good season, you know. Bojan's fit. They've signed Afellay as well. You know, I mean they've got players coming from huge clubs to come to play for Stoke. It's fantastic. I think they'll have a very good season under Hughes.

He's done wonders, Hughes, in the short time he's been there. He's actually changed the philosophy around and, yeah, he and the club are attracting these players in, aren't they?

He had a great foundation, make no mistake about that. They were solid, they were organised, they had good players. And he's just added to that and made them a bit more expansive, and given them a bit more flair. And it works brilliantly, 'cos they're still hard to beat and they're still hard to break down.

But when they attack, they, you know, they attack with you know some real sort of zest. It's a great time to be a Stoke City fan.


New faces? Bournemouth, Norwich, Watford. I saw Bournemouth against Charlton the last game of the season, and they actually played them off the park and won the title. There's been some amazing stories about their respective rises. Watford, perhaps, have been a little bit more under the radar, if you like. But how do you see the three of them - have they all got competitive chances to compete?

They've all got a chance. One thing about Bournemouth is you know how they're gonna play. Because Eddie Howe's team, they get the ball down and they pass it and pass it and pass it.

You know, and then they've got half a dozen players, Callum Wilson on who can stick the ball in the back of the net. And they're a great team to watch. And a lot of big sides are gonna to go there. 12,000 people will be literally breathing down their necks.

It's gonna be a culture shock for some of the bigger clubs who go there, 'cos we don’t get that in the Premier League any more, you know. All big new purpose built stadiums, and you're yards away from the action. Not at Dean Court or the Vitality stadium, you're not. And I think he's (Eddie Howe) signed well, you know - paid big money for the full back from Ipswich (Tyrone Mings).

Sylvain Distin's 37, but he's still got a turn of foot, you know, and that experience will really help. I fancy Bournemouth to survive.

I think Watford are an unknown quantity. You know Quique Flores, the Manager, well, the manager at the start of the season shall we say. I mean it was crazy (last season with the number of managers). But he's got a great track record in Europe. Obviously won the Europa League.

I think he's a top quality manager, and never had a chance to do it in this country. Brought in a lot of players and a lot of experienced players as well, particularly defensively. Interesting to see how they do. They've got a lot of goals in them. Always had - Deeney, Ighalo, Vydra - you know, they score a lot of goals.

And I think he's immediately identified that what they need to do is tighten up at the back, that is for sure. But they're much more of an unknown quantity for me, so I think they're hardest to predict how they'll do.

And Norwich, well I worry for Norwich because you know they came through the playoffs - they were fantastic in the playoff final. A lot of people have said they've got a lot of players with Premier League experience. And yes, they have, but a lot of those players were the players that took them down a couple of seasons ago, and that worries me.

And they've signed the likes of Robbie Brady, who I like a lot as a player but he's come from a club that went down last season as well. And Alex Neal is a young guy and this is a huge test for him. I mean he covered himself in glory last season, 'cos he came from Hamilton and everybody thought they'd lost their minds. You know some of the players are older than him. He did a brilliant, brilliant job.

They've all got a chance.

Newcastle or West Ham?

Newcastle. I've got a lot of time for Steve McLaren. I mean, you know, it's taken him a long time really to clamber back up the managerial ladder if you like after the England job. But he did brilliantly abroad again. He's come back, he was really unlucky with Derby, which a lot of the time last season looked the best side of the championship by a distance, and just didn't get over the line.

He's been given a little bit of money to spend, which is a big plus point. I think the style of football they'll play will please the Toon Army, you know. They will play a lot of exciting, fast-paced football.

If they can find somebody to stick the ball in the back of the nets which was an issue last season. And I mean they signed Mitrović, who'll probably start up front for them. Siem de Jong is gonna be fit again, which is a big plus for them.

I think they'll be okay. And I hope Newcastle fans would take that. I think they'll be okay this season under McLaren.

As for West Ham... Well you'd have to be alarmed by what's happened, you know, pre-season. You're well up the league, okay, played kids and the such time, but nevertheless not beating sides that... that really, a West Ham reserve team should have seen off. That's a worry.

You know, going in front in friendlies and not killing off the opposition. As well already picking up a big injury to Valencia. I think they'll score goals, you know, 'cos I think Diafra Sakho'll have another good season. 

I think they desperately need Andy Carroll fit and firing, you know, 'cos he is a... I'm, look, I'm a big fan of Andy Carroll. I know he's got his critics. I'm a big fan. He is a major, major handful when he's fit. But I worry they're gonna leak too many goals. That's my biggest concern for West Ham. And I think... I think it might be a difficult season for Bilić.

They will play a lot of exciting, fast-paced football.

So that's it. Jeff's predictions for the season. Top stuff from the North East's finest. You can join Jeff at Men United and be the first to find out why he'll be a Men United legend before the 2015/16 season. That's our prediction this season.

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