Fight For the Top Four:
Current champions Manchester United have revamped their team after losing club legends Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, and Edwin van der Saar. It also appears that Roberto Mancini may have taken the cash rich current FA Cup holders Manchester City to the brink of being one of the top teams in all of Europe.
This also may be the first year that Arsenal have not looked like a lock for a spot in the Champions League, while Liverpool have made a number of quality acquisitions that should place back in the hunt to be contenders.
To win a Premier League title takes a lot of determination and persistence because the length of the season in which the top clubs endure can break any teams will. Tottenham last year made a long run into the Champions League, but ultimately were disappointed finishing out of the top four in the EPL, stuck in Europa League.
The Premier League saw a recent run of four years ending in the 2009/10 season where the top four teams where all the same. Even further, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United have been in the top four every year since the turn of the decade, so it will be hard to count any of those teams out, but if they do slip up, any of the newcomers will jump at a chance of dethroning the old guard.
EPL Top Six Prediction:
1. Manchester United
4. Manchester City
It seems as though no one can rule out reigning Premier League champions Manchester United as the clear-cut favorites to recapture the title again. The Red Devils will have to start a new season without the likes Paul Scholes and Gary Neville for the first time in almost two decades. Luckily for United fans, Sir Alex Ferguson has been working on finding their replacements for quite a while now. Newly signed Ashley Young is a sensational talent having had great success with Aston Villa and the England national side, and should help in terms of distribution and creating chances for himself. Manchester United’s defense is as stout as ever even after losing Neville to retirement, along with Wes Brown and John O’Shea to Sunderland. The addition of Phil Jones coupled with the inspired run of form by Chris Smalling will help complement the best defenseman in the Premier League, Nemanja Vidic. The only question that may keep Fergie’s men from lifting a 20th title is if David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard are up to the task of protecting the United net.
It was another disappointing campaign for Liverpool for the second consecutive season as they were left out of the top four again, while Manchester United finally surpassed their club record number of times winning the English top division. But the men who call Anfield home may have an advantage that none of the other title contenders will have; they will not play in a European cup this season. The fresh legs may prove a benefit to a club that brought in Charlie Adam from Blackpool, Stewart Downing from Aston Villa, and Jordan Henderson from Sunderland who were all considered legends at the former clubs. Liverpool may surprise some people this season but not for a any good reasons because there is no doubt that since the re-arrival of Kenny Dalglish the quality of players and how they play has gone up exponentially.
Chelsea finishing second in the Premier League last season was not enough to keep double winning manager Roberto Mancini at Stamford Bridge. In comes quadruple winning Andre Villas-Boas from Porto who will face pressure to win like nothing the Portuguese native has ever seen. Luckily for him Chelsea has more talent than most managers know how to deal with. There are some questions as some of his top talents are aging, and it will be his job to get the most out of them. Even in a down year Chelsea are a top four team, and expect them to be in a final in at least one competition as Villas-Boas has a reputation as a cup winner.
The spending never seems to end at Manchester City, but it seems that most of it was to play catch up with their top four rivals. A spot in the Champions League was the teams goal last season. They not only accomplished that by finishing third, the Citizens also won the FA Cup ending a drought of not winning any silverware that started in the 1970’s. Roberto Mancini was able to bring in another big name signing the likes of Sergio “Kun” Aguero from Atletico Madrid, along with some defensive reinforcements including Gael Clichy from Arsenal. It will be interesting to see how Mancini’s men react from playing a full schedule where they will be lining up as many as three times a week, but by raw talent alone they should be able to squeak into the top four ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham.
While Tottenham and Arsenal have proven they have what it takes to be top four teams, it seems that they may be left out of the next years Champions League. It has been a recent decline for Arsenal, though many supporters of the club will say that they have been struggling much longer than that. The Gunners had a historic collapsed last year in which their fans saw them fail to win a single title out of the four they were in contention of winning, including a shocking Carling Cup finals loss to Birmingham. Tottenham snuck up on everyone in the 2009/10 domestic campaign and then again in the 2010/11 European campaign. The Hot Spurs put up classic performances, home and away against both Milan squads in the Champions League that no one will forget any time soon. Both teams from London seem to have their rosters in some sort of flux as both were rumored to make a splash in the summer transfer market, but failed to come out with much. Gervinho was the biggest signing for either side and it was made by Arsenal, but the Ivory Coast playmaker may not be able to offset what may be the inevitable losses of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Race To Avoid Relegation:
This season brings another group of newcomers to the Premier League in the likes of Norwich City, Swansea City, and Queens Park Rangers. The good news for those three clubs is that in recent years newly promoted clubs have had good success at staying up top. In the past five Premier League campaigns only one out of the three promoted clubs have been relegated the following season with Blackpool being the unlucky club last year. It will be interesting to see if the likes of Wigan, Wolverhampton, and Blackburn are going to be able to hang on again this season as their resolve was tested until the final whistle of the previous year.
Relegation Zone Prediction:
18. Wigan Athletic
20. Norwich City
With the loss of talisman Charles N’Zogbia to Aston Villa it seems that Wigan Athletic will be in a battle to stay up top. It doesn’t help that Tom Cleverley will not be loaned out to the Latics again as it seems like he is ready to make his mark at Manchester United. The will and determination by the likes of Hugo Rodallega and Victor Moses and other Premier League veterans should give Wigan a fighting chance at staying up top, but with a front office that seems to be selling more than it’s buying, it appears the club is bound for relegation.
The beginning of the season will mark Wolverhampton’s third season in the Premier League, and a lot of their success can be linked with coach Mick McCarthy. The Wolves have made the most of what amounts to a small roster and even smaller budget, but they do have Kevin Doyle who has shown he is a top-flight goal scorer and Matt Jarvis who has been called up to the England national team because of his work on the Wolverhampton wing. Ultimately this may be the year that not everything works out for Mick and his boys, and it won’t if some of the rumors about the departures of Jarvis and Doyle come true.
Norwich City finished second in the Championship earning them automatic promotion to the Premier League. The management has not made many moves this off-season to upgrade their roster for life in the English top division with the hope that their current roster will continue their good run of form. The quality of play in the Premier League may be too much for the Canaries to handle, and a finish at the bottom of the table shouldn’t be a huge surprise.