ST Picks

Columnist Rob Hughes


Admittedly, the champions are alone among the elite teams in not (yet) making a statement signing. Their starting XI are no stronger, whereas United's, Arsenal's and Manchester City's all look better.

Yet, the pretenders have a considerable gap to close. Chelsea had the best defence last season and, when the votes were tallied, the man crowned the best player, in Eden Hazard. Cesc Fabregas chalked up most assists and, had he stayed fit, Diego Costa might have been the top scorer.

In Jose Mourinho, they also possess the best manager, one with an extraordinary record of winning domestic titles.

This could be his ninth since 2003.


The chances are that the top four will be the usual suspects, with Liverpool and Tottenham their closest challengers. So it may be necessary to go a little further down the table in search of a shock, and Crystal Palace could be the best of the rest.

Yohan Cabaye may prove a game-changing signing, one who can elevate Palace's ambitions and give them the playmaker who can dominate at home. Their pace and skill make them a counter-attacking threat.

In Alan Pardew, they have a manager who is happier than he was at Newcastle and whose teams can go on extended fine runs. Such sequences could take Palace into the top eight.

Football writer Richard Jolly


The easy answer would be Chelsea because the measure of their win last season, when the title was in the bag by March, has not been altered by transfer dealing to date this summer.

However, I'm going for Arsenal. Not because of the Community Shield win, not just because of the signing of Petr Cech, but because the Gunners looked the best team from Christmas on last season.

They know they cannot start so badly this time. And readers probably know there is romance, an addiction to the style built into Arsenal, that colours my forecasting.


I have a hunch for Crystal Palace to do well. The small club have lived on relatively meagre means but now, being rebuilt by former player Alan Pardew, dare to splash out for the likes of Yohan Cabaye.

Stoke City similarly is turning solidity into something more expansive.

And it would be a marvel if Bournemouth not only survive the first season in their history in the top flight, but also continue to pass the ball as if they believe they are Barcelona.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2015, with the headline 'STPicks Columnist Rob Hughes Football writer Richard Jolly'. Print Edition | Subscribe