This post is coming early but it just feels about the right time. With our need to sell before buying and players not wanting to leave because they are earning too much on the bench, I think it is fair to say that whatever happens in the next month will be fairly predictable or not very surprising.
Lerner isn't going to put
any much more money in, as the club have no more collateral and unless Milner is sold or we get an awful lot of money for players like Steve Sidwell, Luke Young and Nick Shorey - we really shouldn't expect any surprises.
You could say that the Lerner bubble has burst if you want because it has at Liverpool, looks like it has at Manchester United and it has well and truly burst at West Ham. We shouldn't be surprised that things are now the way they were - it was always going to happen eventually with an owner out to make money.
Last season I was unrealistic with my optimism and predicted fourth, but I predicted that on August 11th with nearly three weeks of the transfer window left.
Ultimately, I don't see us finishing sixth. I think we are either going to do better or worse than last season and as it stands today, it is too difficult a decision to be sure of so I'll happily take egg on my face at the end of the season, so I'm opting for the prediction that makes me feel better and that is that we will do better and I'm going to predict fourth.
You can see clear as day that I allowed my heart to rule my head. I'm not doing it this time out and for the record - I predicted sixth correctly for the two previous seasons.
You'll think I'm mad when I write this, but the players don't really matter that much in a Martin O'Neill team. Sure, fill it with the team that just won the World Cup and they will play their football and they might very well win the league - but that is their football.
The only thing O'Neill is interested in is the players running for 95 minutes every match and giving 100%. You do that for O'Neill and he will pick you week in week out. If for a moment you look like you are not giving 100% or you say anything that could be construed as slightly critical towards his methods and that is it - you are out.
Which is why I don't think it matters if Milner is sold or if he stays because O'Neill will get someone to run like Milner and for the most part we wont be playing controlled football where the focus is on keeping the ball, so as long as whoever he plays keeps running and gives 100% for 95 minutes - whatever will be, will be, over the 38 games.
Yes, you do need some footballing ability and I'm not suggesting for a moment that O'Neill would finish 6th with a team from League One - but you can buy the quality in at this level and pay them more than they are going to get anywhere else and you'll get your quality.
Simply put, you would have to be unrealistically optimistic to think we have a chance of finishing in the top four, without significant investment and guess what, that investment would have to have happened already this summer, so the new squad could be training together and working on tactics.
Yes, I did just write that, because well, it flowed. It seemed like what is supposed to happen in pre-season.
My point is; there is no direct competition to us as we are fighting for the best we can get. It doesn't matter if we lose our first game of the season and Everton or Liverpool win. We just need to worry about our games.
You'll not like this, but I can't see us doing better than a few teams. On the list of teams that could or should finish above us is Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Spurs, Liverpool and Everton. The good news is, I think we will do better than everyone else.
There is even more good news; I'm not going to predict we will finish 8th. I think we can get seventh. My prediction is seventh but I'm hoping for 6th or fifth and even better but I just can't see it happening.