Expect the Gunners to push Manchester United for the title

FIRST, a confession. My attempts at predicting last season's Premier League ended up being a tad awry.

Not massively wrong, of course. More a case of being a little out when forecasting in the Yorkshire Post where all 20 sides would finish during the 2009-10 campaign.

Such as tipping Liverpool to win the title, as opposed to their actual finish of seventh. Or that both Hull City and Portsmouth would stay up, as Bolton and Wolves joined Burnley in being relegated.

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I did get one prediction right, Manchester United to finish as runners-up. But that was it.

Still, hope springs eternal and with the help of a new crystal ball, here goes my stab at predicting what the next nine months will bring for the top 20 clubs in the country.

With regards the title, for the first time in many, many years it looks like being more than a two-horse race.

Arsenal being a year older and a year wiser, together with Manchester City's millions, mean either are capable of sustaining a challenge this time around alongside the usual suspects of Manchester United and Chelsea.

Of that quartet, it is United who appear best equipped to prevail.

Wayne Rooney may have had a dreadful World Cup and been jeered by a section of the Wembley crowd last week during England's friendly with Hungary.

But he remains the Premier League's best player and it would be a brave man who bets against Rooney repeating the goalscoring heroics of last season that brought 34 goals before injury struck in late March.

The addition of Javier Hernandez is a promising one, while Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen bring depth to Sir Alex Ferguson's pool of attacking talent.

As for United's rivals, City could be hampered by Roberto Mancini simply having too many options in terms of selection while age is starting to catch up with many of Chelsea's senior players.

Putting six past West Brom in August is fine but come the depths of winter it may well be a different story.

That leaves Arsenal, who after warding off Barcelona's interest in Cesc Fabregas look most capable of giving the Old Trafford club a run for their money.

Another team buoyed by holding on to their best players in the summer are Liverpool, but Roy Hodgson will do well to lift his new charges beyond fifth place.

Others to keep an eye on in the battle for UEFA Cup qualification include Spurs, Everton and Sunderland.

Down at the bottom, once again it is difficult to imagine the three promoted sides doing anything but struggle.

Of those, Blackpool, despite such a stunning start at Wigan, look the most vulnerable after a less than inspiring summer in the transfer market.

Newcastle United also could be in for a long hard season on their return, especially as the side that travels to Old Trafford tonight does not look massively different from the one that went down in May 2009.

Completing the trio of relegated clubs will, I believe, be Wigan.

The failings of others helped the Latics survive last season as Roberto Martinez's side finished 16th.

Conceding 79 goals in 38 games as Wigan did under Martinez last term takes some doing and it is because of this defensive frailty that the club's stay in the Premier League could be over by May.

Sutcliffe's (doomed) predictions: 1 Manchester United, 2 Arsenal, 3 Chelsea, 4 Manchester City, 5 Liverpool, 6 Tottenham, 7 Everton, 8 Sunderland, 9 Aston Villa, 10 Stoke, 11 Birmingham, 12 West Ham, 13 Fulham, 14 Bolton, 15 Blackburn, 16 Wolves, 17 West Brom, 18 Newcastle, 19 Wigan, 20 Blackpool.