Despite having established that we're basically incompetent when it comes to predictions, we here at 7500 to Holte have decided to keep up our tradition of semi-seriously previewing the season to come! We talk about the state of Aston Villa going into the season, but we also look at the rest of the Premier League and even take a furtive peek at the Champions League and at one point Matt mentions that he'll be supporting a definitely doomed Bundesliga club. Also: do you like thinly-veiled trolling of other clubs in the Midlands? Because we have that too. As always, you're invited to contribute your own answers in the comments, unless you are a West Bromwich Albion supporter, in which case you're invited to kick rocks. On with the roundtable!
Where will Aston Villa finish in the league?
Aaron: I'm gonna be a weenie and say that they'll finish comfortably out of relegation danger and well out of reach of Europe. There's just a ton of separation between teams 1-6 and the rest of the pack, and I think Villa's good enough that relegation is very unlikely. But the rest is just a crapshoot.
Andrew: Last season we were all so wrong about this. I'll go ahead and give a pessimistic answer and say 15th. My heart says higher though.
Gareth: I think that Villa have the quality to finish in the top ten, but I can't actually bring myself to pick them any higher than 12th. Honestly, I'd be happy to just spend the season without the threat of relegation looming.
Kirsten: I've been burned by the last few seasons, so I'm going with 13th and just hoping I never have to deal with the gut-wrenching fear of relegation
Matt: 11th. A solid building season with no relegation battle needed.
Robert: 10th, though I'd be happy with anything that wasn't relegation battle, to be honest.
How will Aston Villa perform in the FA Cup?
Aaron: It's all in the draw, but if Villa gets one that's remotely fair I could see them making a quarterfinal run or something of that nature. After that the big teams start playing their best lineups, so it gets much tougher.
Andrew: I hate these predictions because even crap teams can have a good run in Cups. I'd rather see Villa do well in this cup than the League Cup. So let's say final eight.
Gareth: I think this team could well have a cup run in them, but I don't think they have two. I'll hedge my bets and say they use that in the League Cup and exit relatively early here.
Kirsten: Like Gareth, I think we'll concentrate on the League Cup. Quite honestly, I don't want two deep Cup rounds.
Matt: I'm thinking Last 16. Beat a couple lower league sides and run into a big side in 5th round.
Robert: Quarterfinals. I think they've got the depth up front to score tons, and it strikes me that they could use that to overwhelm teams in busy weeks.
How will Aston Villa perform in the League Cup?
Aaron: I wouldn't be stunned to see them in Wembley, and I also wouldn't be stunned to see them go out in the first round. If they can get past the early trap games, getting to Wembley is a realistic target.
Andrew: They'll lose to an inferior team and everyone will be mad but it'll probably be a good thing in the long run.
Gareth: Finalists. Hey, why not? They almost got there last year.
Kirsten: I know the FA Cup is more prestigious, but I prefer Villa focus on the League Cup and make it to Wembley again.
Matt: Quarterfinals, but just don't lose to a League Two club, please.
Robert: Finals, and heck let's say they win it. Seems as if an unlikely club does quite often, so why not us?
Who will be Aston Villa's player of the year?
Aaron: Andreas Weimann. I'm all but resigned to Benteke taking a step back next year, but I think Weimann takes a major step forward.
Andrew: Christian Benteke just signed a new deal and if he wants to achieve his bigger dreams he's going to have to be even better than last year. I say he will be.
Gareth: How can it not be Christian Benteke? Preseason is meaningless, but did you see those goals? In the madness of this summer, I had forgotten that what an absolute joy it is to watch Christian Benteke play for Aston Villa.
Kirsten: Gabby Agbonlahor. No, I don't want Benteke to drop in form this year, but I think he will just a bit, whereas Gabby is coming into his prime and was a beast in the second half of last season.
Matt: Yeah, it has to be Christian Benteke. Even if this season doesn't go as well as the last, he can still probably score like 15 goals. And in that case , I'm not sure anyone would be better.
Robert: I want to be cute and come up with a unique answer, but it's got to be Benteke
Which of Aston Villa's new signings are you most excited to see play?
Aaron: Jores Okore, because I have a serious weakness for young defenders and haven't learned my lesson yet.
Andrew: Given all my fullback complaints over the past two season I want Tony Moon to be a solid player for Villa. Imagine having two solid fullbacks. This could be the season.
Gareth: Leandro Bacuna, because he's exactly the type of player I always end up loving despite everyone else giving up on him because he's too flashy or inconsistent or Charles N'Zogbia.
Kirsten: Nicklas Helenius because man I love a four-forward attack
Matt: Aleksandar Tonev, because I'm a sucker for wingers.
Robert: Nicklas Helenius, because I'd love to see Villa wreak havoc with a giant.
Who (or what) will be the season's biggest surprise?
Aaron: My immediate response was Weimann, but I already used that answer. I'll go with Villa breaking the 60 goals-scored barrier.
Andrew: Villa take six points from the first three matches. I feel like everyone's writing them off with the tough early schedule. A couple of wins or more and Villa will have the entire league buzzing.
Gareth: I think Matthew Lowton could end up as England's starting right back in the World Cup. Provided England qualify, of course.
Kirsten: The lack of a relegation battle and the downturn in sheet sales across greater Birmingham
Matt: Gary Gardner becomes a regular again. I had always liked Gardner and provided that he's healthy, I think we'll see Gardner back in the 18 on a weekly basis.
Robert: The Villa defense actually has an above-average season.
Who (or what) will be the season's biggest disappointment?
Aaron: The pessimist in me wants to say Benteke, but I don't think he'll regress quite enough to qualify as a disappointment. I'll go with the play of the central midfield; they looked decent by the end of the season, but aside from Westwood I'm not really convinced by any of them.
Andrew: Villa disappointing? Why I never. Let's say injuries because those are always horrible and this way I don't have to say someone I like is going to suck.
Gareth: The Aston Villa defence. I still think it's really bad, as high as my hopes for Jores Okore may be. Now that Benteke's signed, this is Paul Lambert's biggest challenge.
Kirsten: Having August 31 roll around and realizing Alan Hutton is still a Villa player.
Matt: Nathan Baker. I think he's talented, and I think he'll be a really good defender in the future. But some fans seems to rate him super highly, and he's not quite there for me yet.
Robert: Gabby Agbonlahor. He's just so maddeningly inconsistent after everything he showed us at the end of last year, I can easily see him letting us down.
Is there another move you'd like to see Aston Villa make before the deadline at the end of August?
Aaron: I still think the biggest hole on this team is in the middle of the pitch; there isn't anyone I trust to clean up messes and provide a real shield for the defense, nor is there anyone that I think is going to provide a major creative spark. Solving either one of those issues would go a long way towards easing my fears, but I don't expect that to happen in this window.
Andrew: I've got no expectations for any more moves as far as incoming transfers go. I'd like to see the players frozen out sold off though. The extra money saved would be nice even if the transfer fees aren't mindblowing.
Gareth: I really hope, for everyone's sake, that guys like Darren Bent and Shay Given get moved on. It's a really terrible situation, because I don't have any real animosity towards the members of the so-called "Bomb Squad," and I'd genuinely like to see them move on and succeed at a club that wants them.
Kirsten: Kiyotake. What? You mean we aren't chasing him? Huh?
Matt: I won't pretend to know anything about who's available and who's within Villa's price range, but I'd like to see another midfielder brought in.
Robert: I certainly would love to see another great central defender or defensive midfielder.
Which club will win the Premier League?
Andrew: I'll say Chelsea and I'll be wrong.
Gareth: Manchester City is the trendy choice, but I think Chelsea is just a competent defensive midfielder away from running away with it.
Kirsten: Manchester City now that they've finally rid themselves of the incompetent blockhead that was Roberto Mancini. And got themselves Stevan Jovetic, of course.
Matt: Manchester City
Robert: Manchester City
Which clubs will finish in the top four?
Aaron: Chelsea, City, United, Arsenal. I could see Spurs sneaking in and knocking out one of United or Arsenal, but I still think it's a longshot.
Andrew: Chelsea, Man United, Man City, Arsenal. Same as it ever was.
Gareth: Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur. If Arsenal actually sign players, they'll get fourth. Also, if Gareth Bale goes, Arsenal get fourth. I don't think either of those things will happen, though.
Kirsten: Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs, United (I just really want to see a United struggle)
Matt: Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal
Robert: Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham
Which clubs will be relegated?
Aaron: Hull, Palace, Sunderland. Stoke or WBA dropping over Sunderland wouldn't shock me.
Andrew: West Bromingtown, Hull City, Crystal Palace
Gareth: Cardiff City appear to be the only promoted team that have noticed they'll be playing in the Premier League this year. Crystal Palace and Hull may be joined in the drop zone by Stoke City, if we're lucky.
Kirsten: Hull City Tigers, Crystal Palace, Lukaku-less WBA
Matt: Stoke City, Crystal Palace, Southampton. Just going with a hunch on the last one.
Robert: Hull, Stoke City, and West Bromwich Albion
Who will win the FA Cup?
Gareth: Manchester United. I don't think they'll get anywhere near the league title, much less the Champions League, but they've got to win something or else Ferguson might come back.
Matt: Chelsea, because that is what they do.
Robert: Manchester City
Who will win the League Cup?
Aaron: United. I think Moyes is going to be under an unbelievable amount of pressure and I don't think he has the squad to win the league, so I expect him to go full bore after the cups.
Andrew: Manchester City
Gareth: I like when a plucky club wins this, but if I've already picked Villa as losing finalists, that would actually be quite annoying. What if Arsenal won the League Cup? Why does it feel so ridiculous to suggest that Arsenal might win something?
Kirsten: Villa. Sorry guys, I just cursed it
Matt: I kinda want to pick Swansea to win it again. So I will: Swansea.
Robert: Aston Villa
Which manager will be the first to get sacked?
Aaron: Steve Clarke.
Andrew: West Bromwich get off to a terrible start and sack Steve Clarke to try and save their club from certain relegation. I can't wait.
Gareth: Not David Moyes, though that would be funny. I can scarcely believe that Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce are still being allowed to manage in the Premier League, so I imagine at least one of them won't make it.
Kirsten: Arsène Wenger, when Arsenal don't buy anyone before August 31st and the fans rise up, storm the club and carry him away to a waiting mob. And throw water bottles at him.
Matt: If West Ham get off to a slow start, maybe Allardyce, because Gold and Sullivan.
Robert: Steve Bruce
Who will be the Premier League's player of the year?
Aaron: Assuming Gareth Bale stays with Spurs, it will be him. Otherwise, Eden Hazard.
Andrew: Eden Hazard
Gareth: I can't tell you how much I would love it if Luis Suarez scored like forty goals and after each goal just stared dead into the camera holding up both middle fingers. That'd be the best. In the real world, however, Robin van Persie will put an unimpressive United team on his back and drag them into the top four, just like he did with Arsenal.
Kirsten: You guys are crazy. It's going to be Fernando Torres.
Matt: Van Persie. There are plenty of people it could be, but he's the only one I can picture winning it.
Robert: Van Persie.
Which team (aside from Aston Villa) are you most interested to see this season?
Aaron: Cardiff is mildly fascinating. I'm also curious to see how Southampton continues to come along, as they've continued to quietly buy really good young players. Outside of England, Bayern Munich should be fascinating, for multiple reasons.
Andrew: I'm interested to see how Manchester United look under Moyes but that's provided they underachieve. They won't and I'll be bored of them immediately. I really need to try and get into another FIFA calendar league (read: not Norwegian Tippeliga or MLS) this season so I'm hoping the Bundesliga catches my eye more often. By many accounts it's the best league in Europe. And screw Bayern Munich and BVB because contrarianism.
Gareth: Swansea City have become super entertaining since they got promoted a few years ago, and the derby games against Cardiff are going to be appointment television. I also wonder what a Suarez-less Liverpool could look like, because what Brendan Rodgers' transfer activity is almost as interesting as Lambert's. Outside of England, I think Roma should be fun, because they always are.
Kirsten: Strangely enough, I'm excited to watch Manchester City. I hated Mancini with a firey passion, but now he's gone and Jovetic, one of my favorite players in the world, has come in. Outside of England I'm hoping for more crashing and burning from Walter Mazzarri-led Inter.
Matt: Bastia in France, because FORZA BASTIA. I think I'm going to end up developing a liking for Eintracht Braunschweig in the Bundesliga because they are probably going to be really bad.
Robert: Arsenal. Will they be amazing or a trainwreck? Tune in to find out!
Which club will win the Champions League?
Aaron: Bayern Munich. They are absurd.
Andrew: Bayern Munich
Gareth: I feel like I've picked Real Madrid every time we've done one of these, but this time I really think they'll do it. Neymar and Messi seems like one of those things that's too good to actually work, as does Zlatan and Cavani. I hope Guardiola succeeds with Bayern, but I don't think it'll happen right away. Dude will still look good, though.
Kirsten: We've only had one round of Bundesliga action, but Bayern were ruthless against Gladbach. I just don't see how they'll make enough mistakes to not lift the trophy.
Matt: I just can't look past Bayern.