With the highly successful Olympic Games over for another four years, our eyes have been swiftly diverted back to the start of the Premier League season. The top teams have been spending vigorously in order to try and capture the top prize in English football, with notable big spenders Chelsea splashing out big on top young world talent. So, how are the biggest teams in England going to fare in the toughest league in the world, and how are the talent they have brought in going to affect the outcome? Here’s the lowdown:
Arsenal – Arsene Wenger has uncharacteristically whipped out the cheque book and splashed out a reported £20 million on Spanish star Santi Cazorla, but by far the biggest story surrounding the Gunners has been the future of Robin van Persie. Publicly declaring that his time was up at Arsenal, Mr. Wenger has been actively seeking replacements for the Dutchman, namely German Lukas Podolski and Ligue 1 winner Oliver Giroud of Montpellier. Van Persie seems to have calmed his situation at the Emirates after seeing that the team is being solidly improved, and RVP has now agreed a deal at Old Trafford. A terrible start to last season saw them almost miss out on a Champions League spot, and although the stylish Londoners still face a tough task to finish in the top four this year without their main man up top, I think they’ll be there come the end. Prediction – 4th
Chelsea – A new manager; a host of top signings and renewed optimism at Stamford Bridge this year. After coming calamitously close to missing out on the Champions League last season, only a hard fought battle at the Allianz Arena saw them lift the European Cup and secure a place in the competition for the new season, at the expense of Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur, despite finishing 6th in the league. New signings have come thick and fast for the Blues, despite losing free-scoring favourite Didier Drogba, who felt that winning the Champions League completed a highly successful stay at the West London club. Big money signings Eden Hazard and Oscar provide a fresh attacking in the midfield for Roberto di Matteo, while German maestro Marko Marin may prove a bargain at £7 million. Last year’s dreadful campaign will not be repeated this year, and I expect a strong finish from the Blues. Prediction – 3rd
Liverpool – Extreme outsiders for a top four finish after some distinctly below-par finishes in recent years, but one would be foolish not to include the 2005 European champions in the hunt for a top four. New boss Brenden Rodgers has brought in some intelligent signings. Fabio Borini, formerly on the books at Chelsea as youngster, has been drafted in as an extra option up front, and has performed well in preseason for the Reds. Joe Allen finally completed his highly-anticipated move to Anfield after some sterling performances at the Olympics for Team GB, despite Rodger’s promise that he would not sign any of players at his former club Swansea in the first year of his tenure at Anfield. Despite some positive signings, there have been some concerning first team departures. Dirk Kuyt has left for Fenerbahce in Turkey, Maxi Rodriguez has returned to his native Argentina to play for Lionel Messi’s former team Newell’s Old Boys, and Craig Bellamy made a similar move in a return to Cardiff. If Liverpool cannot find some solid replacements, then it is going to be a long season for the Anfield faithful. Prediction -6th
Manchester City – A highly successful 2011/12 campaign saw the Citizens lift their first Premier League trophy, and most are anticipating a similar feat this coming season. The solitary signing in Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell has left fans a little nervy coming into the season, coupled with Roberto Mancini begrudgingly conceding defeat in the Robin van Persie saga, but it seems that City are content with their star-studded squad already. They aptly saw off Chelsea in the Community Shield despite Joe Hart missing out due to injury, but replacement Costel Pantilimon did not look overly convincing in goal, something that may need to be addressed coming into the season. However, the overall squad looks in good shape, and with Roberto Mancini trying out a new three man unit at the back, it is looking good for the blue side of Manchester, and European success may be on the horizon. Prediction – 1st
Manchester United – The most successful team in Premier League history lost the title race to fierce neighbours City last season, and for many that has been a bitter pill to swallow. United have consoled themselves with some intelligent signings. Japan international Shinji Kagawa has been drafted in from German giants Borussia Dortmund to add some much needed creativity to the midfield, while Crewe Alexandra youngster Nick Powell has been brought in as a future prospect, with a potential opportunity in the League Cup to showcase the talent that convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to bring him to Old Trafford. The biggest story has been the signing of Robin van Persie from Arsenal, who had become fed up with the lack of trophies in the Emirates trophy cabinet. The potential partnership with Wayne Rooney up front is a terrifying prospect not only for fellow Premier League teams, but European teams as well. Often slow starters at the start of the season, United always finish strong, and I do not expect that to end any time soon. However, Manchester City may just be too strong for the Red Devils. Prediction – 2nd
Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs are one of those teams that will build you up, just to let you down. As a Tottenham fan myself, I could sit here and say that we are going to win the league. But I would be telling a huge, horrible lie. The sacking of Harry Redknapp at the start of the season came as no real shock. His failure to deliver Champions League football, coupled with his flirtation with the then-vacant England job, was the final straw for chairman Daniel Levy that saw Redknapp replaced with former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas. Spurs have thus far drafted in Belgian centre half Jan Vertonghen from Ajax and stylish Icelandic playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson from Hoffenheim, who was on loan at Swansea last season. But most transfer speculation remains around star man Luka Modric, who has openly tried to force a move through to Real Madrid, much to the malign of new boss Villas-Boas. The young Portuguese boss has proceeded to continue his preseason plans without the Croatian in order to maintain a balanced dressing room which may be an important factor in the race for the top four. If another striker is not drafted in soon though, Spurs could find themselves in real trouble in front of goal. In light of this and the strengthening of Arsenal and Chelsea, expect to see Spurs miss out again. Prediction – 5th
So, there are my predictions for the top four this coming season, now all that remains is to see how it all pans out.