Arsenal go again, Hojlund struggle, Blades doomed, Spurs daft – 10 things we got right this season

Dave Tickner
Declan Rice, Rasmus Hojlund and Cristian Romero
Declan Rice, Rasmus Hojlund and Cristian Romero

Last week we mocked ourselves mercilessly for some of the many, many things we got very wrong about this season, so it’s only fair that we now get to engage smug mode and point out the few things we got right.

What you will notice is that the things we got wrong are generally more spectacularly wrong than these 10 things we got right. Because a good few of these things we got right are still things we got wrong. And some of them are just massively, stupidly obvious.

Predicting things is hard.


Arsenal and City go again
We’re not going to pat ourselves too hard on the back for predicting Manchester City might win the league, but while six of us went down that drearily obvious and still very likely correct route, the three of us who strayed off piste all went for Arsenal. Four of the City Six had Arsenal in second, two had them in third. You can decide which of the ones to make that mistake get cut the greatest slack; the one who had them behind Liverpool, or the one who had them behind Manchester United.

This is a better prediction than it now sounds (the Arsenal bit, not the United stuff). The brilliance of Arsenal’s season is that even if they do come up just short again, they are now where Liverpool have been for the longest time: the best/only challengers to Pep Guardiola’s City.

Easy to say now that another Arsenal title fight was always on the cards, but the manner of last season’s collapse and transfer business that was not universally adored did leave some doubts. When they blew it last season, the tenor of the reaction was very much ‘When will this chance come around again?’ Now it’s very much ‘Ah, this team is going to win it sooner or later even if not quite yet, don’t fret.’

They look like they’re here to stay. Although it should be noted that three successive title tilts against Pep’s unstoppable bastards isn’t something even Jurgen Klopp has previously managed, so expect at least a few of us to be too clever and predict Arsenal to end up fifth or some such next season when they will inevitably win it all.

MAILBOX: Man City FFP cheating means Arsenal are Premier League champions


Rasmus Hojlund not being The One
It was too much money at the wrong time for the wrong player. A prospect when United needed – and paid for – the finished article.

‘Hojlund will do precisely as well as a 20-year-old striker with a roughly one-in-three scoring record thrown into a new league can reasonably be expected to do’ was one verdict and he’s scored eight Premier League goals in 25 appearances, which maths fans will already have worked out is just about ideal.

‘Will not fill the fans with confidence that he can improve on his tally of nine league goals for Atalanta last term,’ was another shout that is looking enormously strong at this moment. ‘He’ll probably come good in the long run but Man United will rely on him too much during his debut season before he is ready.’ Yes.

It tells you how obvious it all was that we managed to get this so right because we are never this right. Hojlund is clearly not without talent or promise and showed as much with that really quite startling run of goalscoring form just after Christmas.

But really, the fact seven of those eight Premier League goals came in a seven-week purple patch between Boxing Day and mid-February makes it look worse than if they’d been spread out a bit. The droughts have been long and painful, often literally with injuries playing a significant part. The other goal being the fourth in a home win against Sheffield United isn’t great either, and he is currently once again to be found where he was in the early part of the season: looking entirely unsure of  himself, getting few chances and snatching horribly at the ones that do bounce his way.

What’s really funny is that we managed to be so correct about Hojlund’s struggles but without any of us making the leap to United being plop in general.


Erling Haaland doubles up
Don’t think we’ve ever had unanimous answers for any prediction question before, but unanimity there was on the question of the Golden Boot, and sure enough he’s pretty much there now. Probably not as convincingly as anyone thought, and nobody predicted that Roy Keane would spend the season declaring him sh*t which was, in hindsight, an obvious trick missed by us given the history there.

But the reality is that Haaland has had, by his standards, an unremarkable and arguably even disappointing season in front of goal and still goes into this final week of the season with two games to add to a tally of 25 Premier League goals and a four-goal advantage over Cole Palmer, whose name was also embarrassingly absent from our August speculatings.

READ: Erling Haaland’s ridiculous statistics


Spurs being a bunch of daft lads
They’ve probably not been quite as fun as we’d hoped, and until very recently slightly more competent. That’s really very greedy of us, though, given that they’re going to end the season with more than 70 goals scored and over 60 conceded. They’ve barely kept a clean sheet since November and what we did predict was that the most fun part about them might well be defending (or lack thereof) and that this was specifically for the neutral.

Fair to say that’s come to pass. Other teams concede more goals, but few do it with Tottenham’s sheer shambolic panache. They’re a fun team to watch win but a glorious team to watch lose, the wheels not so much falling off as never properly being attached in the first place. And sometimes not even being wheels.

Set a very, very high benchmark with the now legendary 0-7-1 formation against Chelsea back in November and have come far, far closer than is reasonable or sensible to matching that level of tomfoolery on a pretty regular basis ever since. “It’s just the way we play, mate.” And don’t ever, ever change, lads.

Are still going to finish fifth, as well. Which is also funny. Anyone can be cartoonishly bad at something as important as defending, but doing it while having an objectively decent season is what makes it art.

We somehow weren’t quite right in predicting that literally every Spurs game would be a 5-1 win or ‘thrillingly silly high-scoring defeat’ but they have certainly had a good few of the latter for a team that the table still insists is quite good. They’ve lost games 4-1, 3-0, 4-0 and 3-2 this season while not once but twice they’ve been 4-0 down and rallied to lose ‘only’ 4-2. And while 2-1 cannot be said to be a high-scoring defeat, they’ve done it four times and in three of those games they scored first. So definitely thrilling and silly anyway.


Iraola for O’Neil being a good move
Gary O’Neil has certainly surprised us at Wolves, who nearly everyone thought would be in a relegation fight but never have been. They have, though, just started to look like one of those Wolves sides that finishes one season badly and allows it to bleed into the next, so something to keep an eye on there.

What we weren’t wrong about was replacing him with Andoni Iraola being a gamble worth taking for Bournemouth. They’ve had a couple of rough patches, but the good bits have been brilliant. They pulled clear of the relegation fight with a run of seven wins in nine games and there has been more than enough to suggest they could be a team to watch next year, while Iraola finds himself on the fringes of the talk about the Liverpool and Man United jobs.

Who will be the next Manchester United manager?


The eerily specific pronouncements of Lewis Oldham
Dark horse in the prediction game is Lewis. Quietly and without bombast he just drops in some spookily specific correctness. ‘Luton Town, who will put up a great fight before finishing 18th’ is the single most accurate sentence in the entire prediction piece, but isn’t a one-off either.

Pleasant surprise? ‘Bournemouth. They’ll be comfy between 10th and 14th.’ Currently: 11th. Highest possible finish: 10th. Lowest possible finish: 13th.

Champions League winners? ‘Real Madrid; a Jude Bellingham and Joselu masterclass is incoming.’ Come off it.

He’s one of the three Arsenal title tippers, which can only be good news for Gunners fans at this stressful time. But to show how blinded any of us can be by our own silly teams, he did also announce that Rotherham would survive again in the Championship; alas, they fell agonisingly short and missed out by a mere 24 points. Fine margins in this game.


Sheffield United doomed before a ball was kicked
Take the easy wins. Or more accurately in this case defeats. So very many defeats. Absolutely every single one of us predicted Sheffield United to go down so let’s focus on that and ignore all of us not just saying Burnley would be mid-table but refusing to even consider any other possible outcome for Vincent Kompany and his merry band of Championship-bestriders.


Everton, in a way
This one is a stretch, because points penalties came along and made it choppy and stressful again, and the entire future of the club is still horrifyingly uncertain. But there was a general air of ‘Everton will be fine’ in the pre-season predictions that was, on the field at least, broadly accurate. Without the points penalties they would be a solid mid-table team knocking on the door of 50 points and predictions like ‘Everton will have a relatively serene season’ and ‘Everton will be boringly steady under Sean Dyche’ look far better shouts than pesky reality now insists.

But even with the points penalties and off-field uncertainty, Everton did get themselves out of relegation trouble with plenty to spare. Everton’s idea of ‘serene’ and ‘boringly steady’ is just different to most football clubs.

READ: Everton off-field problems run so deep they cannot even afford delusions anymore


Nobody getting the top four right
That’s right, it’s cake and eat it time. If someone somehow did nail the top four, we’d be including that, wouldn’t we? You can be damn sure we’d be patting ourselves on the back for that one. Instead we’ll focus on the question itself which specifically states ‘Nobody ever gets this right’. They never do, and guess what? Nobody has. So we were right. About being wrong. No, it does still count.

Everybody had Manchester United in there. Nobody had Aston Villa in there. Only five of us even had Liverpool.

It was a damn hard question even in the Big Six days; Newcastle and Aston Villa getting themselves involved over the last couple of years has made it close to unsolvable.


Casemiro being too old for this sh*t
Fine, we were out by an entire season. But just pretend we wrote this in August 2023 instead of 2022 and it looks very clever indeed, doesn’t it?