If the last season proved to be the most gruelling battle for the Barclays Premier League title since its birth with five teams waging war for the supremacy till the end and the competitiveness of the other clubs proving to be the catalyst for astounding unpredictability, with the little ordeals of new players, managers rocking the equilibrium, this season promises to be an even tougher horse race.
Here’s a look at the six clubs barring a miracle-miracles doesn’t occur in a league, do they-which will challenge for the title.
Turmoil and stubbornness are two words that go hand in hand and those can aptly describe Arsenal’s plight so far. Many fans have already turned on Arsene Wenger and if he continues to be the retired principal in the transfer market which is set to end on August 31, many more will follow. In a summer where bolstering the defensive flimsiness should have been the priority, Wenger has done nothing but to be entangled in a futile war to thwart two of his best players from leaving. Cesc Fabregas has already left and Samir Nasri has no intention of renewing his contract which is set to expire next season so keeping him brightens the prospect of a free transfer.
Nasri has made it clear that he wants to leave to win trophies and that should be a slap in the face-more powerful than Gervinho’s dished out to Barton last week-for Wenger. He hasn’t done anything of note to squash Nasri’s concerns and after being linked with host of defenders-including Chris Samba, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka-has backtracked citing various innuendos. As he has admitted buying youngsters and developing them is one thing but the problem is if you don’t win anything those same players are going to betray you for gold when they are developed. This is exactly why pocketing Juan Mata and Jadson would have made a difference and continually living in denial won’t help Arsenal this season.
Summer Arrivals- Carl Jenkinson (Charlton Athletic), Gervinho (Lille), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton)
Players to watch-
Robin Van Persie-The new captain, if he’s fit is still the most feared strikers in the world.
Aaron Ramsey-Fabregas’s departure means Ramsey will be fast tracked and by the trails so far he’s capable of setting the world alight.
Wojciech Szczesny-Another of Arsenal’s woes, goal keeping, is on his shoulders and although suspect at times, technical vice Szczesny showed signs of the authority last season.
Blues have been surprisingly low key in the transfer window penning two deals and it has to be due to the January high profile captures of Fernando Torres and David Luiz. Instead Chelsea has ridden on a collision course to acquire the services of former Porto manager Andre Villas-Boas. Owner Roman Abramovich’s dementia towards Champions League made way for Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking and the request from Villas-Boas should be the same. So in this jigsaw puzzle where does Premier League find itself is hard to detect but with an aging all the same ultra talented squad in possession it isn’t hard to visualize Boas plotting a master plan.
One thing which could culminate Boas’ future has to be how he slowly builds a youthful squad and from the signings he has made it is handily vindicated. But the stranglehold of some of the players who have resided in London ought to test Boas’ mettle. Since he is equal in age with Chelsea’s senior players it could haunt him at crisis situations and there’s a fair chance he could find life more taxing at London than the idyllic streets of Porto.
Summer Arrivals- Thibaut Courtois (Genk)-loaned to Atletico Madrid, Oriol Romeu (Barcelona)
Players to watch-
Fernando Torres-Staggering £50 million price tag on his shoulders and a petty previous season to compensate, if his pre season form is any indicator Torres is set to terrorize defenses.
Daniel Sturridge- Showed Chelsea what they were missing during the drab period at Bolton scoring 8 goals in 11 appearances and effectively punched his way into be an active blues member. Ousting Drogba and Anelka from their perch should be his dream.
David Luiz- Other half of Roman’s January emperors, Luiz, unlike Torres has warmed the hearts already. A magnificent display against Manchester United cemented his place and the exuberance and vigour he brings will be welcomed by his manager.
It seems strange to pit Liverpool among title contenders after the horrendous first half they endured under Roy Hodgson but it’s testimony to the turnaround of events at Anfield piloted by the favourite son Kenny Daglish. A host of midfielders have flooded to the extent where consigning has to be near impossible but knowing Daglish’s shrewd tactics he will have a trick up his sleeve.
But it’s hard to be not critical about Liverpool’s pre season shoddy defending as they have shipped goals at an alarming rate. It’s hard to envisage but it seems Daglish has forgotten about his back line and only is he coming to realization. Jose Enrique from Newcastle has landed but such is the demands of clubs these days grasping another would be a herculean task and for all the weaponry up front, the brittleness at the opposite could have a bearing. If attack is the name of the game, then there’s nothing more potent than Liverpool currently.
Summer Arrivals- Jordan Henderson (Sunderland), Charlie Adam (Blackpool), Steward Downing (Aston Villa), Alexander Doni (AS Roma), Jose Enrique (Newcastle United)
Players to watch-
Luis Suarez- Suarez acclimatizes to life at Anfield like a duck would to a pond and with Copa America winners’ medal in the cupboard; he would be desperate to hunt down more.
Charlie Adam-dressed with a wicked free kick and the pint up frustration at not being able to keep Blackpool in the top flight, Adam is seeking vengeance with his new home.
Jose Enrique-He won’t have to worry about Newcastle’s deals anymore through twitter, Liverpool is the ideal place to advance his La Roja ambitions.
‘The noisy neighbour’ as their more illustrious pals across the town would like them to be known, through all the hype what misses the eye is that City is a steady work in progress. Player unrest and jolted squad could be pointed to the contrary but in modern environment, a vocal group who does the job in the field is a better pathway than underperforming while keeping the displeasure to them. Roberto Mancini has been a superb advocate in man-management deviating the moot points with silken touch.
They haven’t spend that much also this year apart from the potential swap for Carlos Tevez in Sergio Aguero and their route to the top of the mountain is as steady as a beating drum. With FA Cup in the kitty already setting sights without a modicum of doubt on the League is Mancini.
Summer Arrivals- Gael Clichy (Arsenal), Stefan Savic (Partizan Belgrade), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Costel Pantilimon (FC Timisoara)
Players to watch-
Sergio Aguero- “I’m the Che Guevara of modern football” He may have denied making the comment but he’s indeed capable of living up to it. After all Diego Maradona gave her daughter to him not for nothing.
Joe Hart- If penning a new 5 year deal is any indication, toppling Hart from City custodian could be a distant dream. Blessed with a masterly supportive back line, he is destined to carry the English NO1 feather too for a long time.
David Silva- For all good things there’s a creator and Silva is that. His control of the ball and powerful pinpoint accuracy is what sets him apart.
Each season falls and every time there’s the familiar face of Sir Alex Ferguson. He’s been the boss at United so long that it’s tough to contemplate an Old Trafford without him and from the pointers he has no intentions of hanging up either. United has to come to grips with three of their legends in Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin Van Der Sar retiring and Ferguson has opted for the youth. So there’s unbridled potential but however crash landing isn’t a non-option either.
People have been up in arms with the criticism of David De Gea, but with a reputation to harness giving him more cushion would be preferable. Injuries have also blighted Ferguson’s well laid plans and the trust he has entrusted on the youngsters and how they respond could very well decide their title challenge too.
Summer Arrivals- Phil Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), David De Gea (Atletico Madrid)
Players to watch
David De Gea-As they say ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’ and expect De Gea to cement his place with a fruitful first season at the helm.
Ashley Young- If he creates the same passionate acrobatics as he did at Aston Villa last season, with no disrespect to Darren Bent, with Wayne Rooney and co ready to pounce, Young could more mature with tick of the clock.
Nani- Champions League final snub was the catalyst for the speculation that he might break the contract but as he has shown during pre-season, Nani’s not taking anything other than to enchant the ‘theatre of dreams’ faithful.
If Harry Redknapp’s staunch stance on shipping away Luka Modric to Chelsea is any indicator, he is consciously trying to build a team. But what blots the paper is his desire to land the England job when Fabio Capello retires. It can’t work both ways, Harry. Coupled with that he hasn’t blossomed his striking power yet and haven’t pulled off a marquee signing apart from allowing some breathing space for his defenders by penning Brad Friedel.
There’s talk of Samuel Eto or Emmanuel Adebayor residing in White Hart Lane and it is crucial that one of them do. Fading away at the tail of last season had lot to do with the labour that was Champions
League and it is interesting to witness what they can come up with without the away flight routines of the Europe’s premier club competition. Because their talent bank account is something to be envy of.
Summer Arrivals- Brad Friedel (Aston Villa), Christian Ceballos (Barcelona), Souleymane Coulibaly (Siena)
Players to watch-
Luka Modric- Chelsea interest is not unwarranted, Modric is that good. If the much fantasized move doesn’t materialize, expect Modric to be the better man and light up EPL once again.
Rafael Van Der Vaart- The Dutchman was the main beneficiary of last year’s somewhat lopsided move and sometimes you do know what you get as in the erudite move of Van Der Vaart.
Brad Friedel- For a contingent born and bred with the enigma that was Gomes last year, Friedel would be the much needed drizzle to the drought.
Prediction- 6th place
Relegation prediction- Expect QPR, Blackburn and Wigan to go down a step.