For weeks I have been putting writing this off because I was waiting for the big transfers to go through (Rooney, Bale and Suarez) as it would naturally affect how I wrote this preview. Here we are sitting a night before the season starts and not even one of them has moved (gutted). Something almost unthinkable a fortnight ago has surprisingly happened as all three players are still at their respective clubs. Funnily enough at the current moment it looks like Bale is still going, Suarez is staying and Rooney may be staying (although I personally doubt it).
This year is building up to be the most exciting Premier League season ever, with three out of three of the top clubs bringing in new managers, ultimately giving the league a large amount of uncertainty which is usually doesn’t have (especially on the Man Utd side). There isn’t only an amount of uncertainty at the top, there is also a large amount of uncertainty at the bottom with what seems like a large number of teams who are too good to go down.
Premier League Champions
The current Premier League champions walked the league last year, winning it by a massive 11 points which in reality could have been around 20 if Utd hadn’t stopped playing after they were certainties for the title.
This is the first ever Premier League season where Utd will start a season without Alex Ferguson in the dugout, and that is where the biggest question mark about their ability to retain their title comes from. David Moyes has his first season at one of the biggest clubs in the world and he has never won a major title. Is this an issue? To an extent yes, because you can have really talented people who are unable to win regardless of how hard they try. Winning is not something you are born with, winning is something you learn; and as a manager Moyes has won nothing. I however think that these fears are over exaggerated; people say things like ‘he should have at least have won an FA Cup in all his time at Everton’, but when you look at it only Wigan and Portsmouth (both of whom got relegated soon after ironically) have actually won the FA Cup out with the big teams (Utd, City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea) since 1995 when Everton won it. I think the concerns over Moyes are exaggerated because he is undoubtedly a talented manager (look at what he did at Everton) and he is walking into a squad that knows how to win.
The other major concern that Utd are suffering from is that of Wayne Rooney. The Rooney saga has ran and ran, and became the distraction that Utd haven’t really wanted. I have wrote about it previously and most of the views are still relevant. I really don’t think Rooney will see the end of the transfer window at Utd, and the perfect time for Utd to sell him would be after the Chelsea game.
When you look at the current Utd squad it is almost identical to the squad that walked the league last year; the natural concern if you are a Utd fan however is the lack of movement in the transfer market. There is a massive hole in the Utd midfield next to Michael Carrick and Utd have not filled it despite their numerous attempts. Outside of central midfield Utd are looking good, with a good young goalkeeper, a strong well depthed defence, good young wingers (Januzaj, Lingard and Zaha all look to have great potential) and with Rooney the best strike force in the league.
Utd are one big signing away from being the league favourite and retaining their title. Whether that be a Ozil, a Ronaldo, a Modric, a Fabregas or even a Fellaini, that is all that would be required for Utd to win their 21st league title.
After what was a truly awful defence of their title, Man City are back with a new manager and a new outlook on life. The best move City made this summer was to get rid of Mancini and bring in Pellegrini. Pellegrini brings the calmness and tactical intelligence that Mancini never had and he should be able to take City to that next level. I do find it interesting that nobody is talking about how Pellegrini hasn’t won anything, when everyone goes on about it all the time with Moyes; but much like Moyes I don’t think this is a big issue, because Pellegrini is a talented manager and unlike Mancini (who always got an easy ride from the press) seems like a genuinely nice guy.
City has been very busy in the transfer market; but the area that I think they did the best in was getting rid of the problem makers. Not only did Mancini leave, Tevez also left (a man who should never have played another game for the club, if the club had any respect for itself), Maicon was sold (always looked overweight) and Kolo Toure (also looked over weight and seemed to cause problems behind the scene). This is the biggest issue that City still have with the squad, they have a lot of big names and players on high wages that aren’t considered first team; this is fine but when you are half way through the season and these players aren’t happy they cause locker room disharmony and there is nothing worse for morale than this. The players I refer to are Nasri, Dzeko, Kolarov, Lescott, Pantilimon and to a lesser extent Barry and Richards. All excluding Barry and Richards have previously shown their displeasure at their position at the club and this will be further heightened because it is a World Cup year, and no player will want to play second fiddle when they believe they have a chance of playing in Brazil.
City have been by far the busiest of all the Premier League teams in the transfer market, spending around £90 million. With that they have bought Fernandinho (a player who I struggle to comment on because I have never seen him play, but he is 28, has played most of his career in Ukraine and has managed only 5 caps for Brazil; doesn’t sound like a £35 million player to me), Jesus Navas (who I think is a good player and for £15 million seems like a bargain; but he has in the past suffered from serious homesickness and Manchester is no Seville, he is very slight and can only play on one side (without a left foot), he does however offer City the width they were seriously lacking last year), Stevan Jovetic (a bit over rated but a good enough young player who will be reasonably happy to sit and play more of a squad role) and Alvaro Negredo (who is never worth £25 million and feels like a carbon copy of Dzeko, odd signing).
The big news this year at Chelsea was the return of Jose Mourinho to the club, in a ‘I wanted the Man Utd job but I settled for you because they didn’t want me and I couldn’t get another job cause I have upset too many people’ and a ‘I wanted Pep Guardiola but didn’t get him and was left with no option but you because I didn’t want to have to keep Rafa Benitez’.
Chelsea are by far the most over rated team in the league. Could someone explain to me how the signing of Andre Schurlle and the comeback of Mourinho has made Chelsea so many peoples favourite for the league? They shouldn’t be favourites with their current squad, they will challenge to an extent but by the end of the season they won’t be there. It isn’t that Chelsea don’t have an ok squad, but for the top that is all they have, an ok squad. Cech is past his best, there are major defensive questions which are being ignored (poor centre back [Terry is past it, Luiz can’t defend and Cahill isn’t good] and Cole hasn’t been good for about 4 years), they only have one good wide player (Schurlle) which isn’t ideal for a manager that likes to play width, there are no good holding midfielders which is useless for a manager that must play holding midfielders and they have a total lack of strikers (Torres has been guff for years, Ba has shown that he isn’t good enough for this level and Lukaku couldn’t play regularly for WBA last year [although he does have potential]). The one area that Chelsea do have an abundance of players is in midfield, to the extent that they probably have the best midfielders in the league. This however shouldn’t make them favourites because the rest of their squad is rotten.
As far as the Rooney thing goes, maybe I am wrong but it very much seems like Chelsea may be getting themselves into another Fernando Torres situation (overpaying for a player past his best). Until (or if) he moves you can’t really tell if it was a mistake, but even if Rooney were to go to Chelsea it would not be enough to propel Chelsea beyond Utd or City.
It saddens me to say it but as things stand Man City look like they will win the league. As I have already said, if Utd make that marquee signing then my opinion on who will win the league will change, but as it stands I think City are deservedly favourites because of the signings they have made, the players they have sold and the manager they now have. Chelsea would have to sign Rooney, Ronaldo and Jesus to even be considered in my opinion.
Champions League Place
Could Arsenal have had a more embarrassing transfer window than this? It seems every year I ask the exact same question. You know you are doing something wrong when a Brazil international who is desperate for first team football for the World Cup would rather play for a mid-table German side than a Champions League playing one.
Every year Arsenal uses the same line that there is lots of money to spend, but it never actually gets spent; which I know in talking to Arsenal fans is a constant frustration. Instead Arsenal partakes in the farce that is their pursuit of Luis Suarez. I find it hard to believe that Arsenal would want a player who has been banned for racism and biting on several occasions, he doesn’t seem to fit the Wenger prototype of a player. It is sad but it wouldn’t shock me if they actually had no real interest in Suarez but put the bid in because it was public and would make their fans think they were actually doing something.
The biggest mistake which Arsenal made in the transfer market was not firing Arsene Wenger. What is happening at Arsenal this year (and the last few years also) is why Arsenal need new blood. When did it become ok for a club the size of Arsenal to finish fourth and that to be considered an achievement?
Spurs’ challenge for 4th depends on one big thing, whether or not Gareth Bale is going to be playing at White Hart Lane this season. Spurs have done very well in the transfer market this year adding players to strengthen their squad (Soldado, Paulinho, Chadli and Capoue), and all these players have made Spurs a better team, however it all won’t matter if Bale is not there.
Spurs look very strong in midfield, they have a good keeper and if neither Defoe nor Adebayor leaves they have a good strike force. What I really don’t understand is why AVB has totally ignored the defensive frailties that Spurs suffered so greatly from last year. To make it even worse, Spurs then sold Caulker to Cardiff in a total bone head move.
If Spurs keep Bale (which I doubt they will) then they will walk to 4th and possibly even challenge higher up. However if Bale were to leave then it would be a very tight contest which I think Arsenal would just edge.
Top Half Finish
The big change this year for Everton is that no longer will David Moyes be sitting in the dugout; instead they will have the very talented Roberto Martinez. Everton are interesting because with Martinez there is a great deal of uncertainty. Will they continue to push into those European places? Or will they slip down the table under new management? It is hard to say, because Martinez worked wonders at Wigan (winning the FA Cup, yes the FA Cup) but he also got them relegated with exciting football which lacked in defending. It will be interesting to see what Martinez can do with a group of much better players, but a lot of this will depend on whether or not he can hold onto his two best players (Fellaini and Baines), either way Everton will finish in the top half.
The once great giants of the game have taken another step towards the unknown under Brendan Rodgers this year. There are so many problems at Liverpool and they are at every level as well; the board has constant infighting and at times doesn’t seem to know what they are doing, the management seem to be headless chickens often unable to handle the easiest of situations (Rodgers seems very much out of his depth) and they have a squad who isn’t fit to wear the shirt. Unluckily for the Liverpool fans things this pre-season haven’t changed at all, as the club has handled the Suarez situation atrociously. Have Liverpool fallen so far that a player who slags the team, the players and the fans off so blatantly still cannot be sold? The answer is yes, and it continues the fall of a once mammoth of the game of football.
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom did well last season but tailed off towards the end of the season, I expect them to do much the same this year. They have a good squad with plenty of depth and a good first team. They haven’t lost anyone except for Lukaku (who wasn’t first team anyway) and have improved the squad slightly, although I would question the Anelka signing. It looks like Steve Clarke (good manager) will lead WBA to another strong season.
Swansea finished 9th last year, and it felt like they played so much better than that. Another season into his role as manager, Michael Laudrup has made Swansea a much better squad again. The signings of Jonjo Shelvey (why did Liverpool sell him?) and especially Wilfred Bony have made Swansea a team which could potentially push for 6th in the league. With Bony and Michu up front, Swansea could potentially have the most lethal strike force in the league, this combined with a good midfield and a solid defence make me believe that the League Cup holders are heading for another good season.
West Ham United
A team that plays a good old fashioned British style and make it work very well for themselves. Nobody wants to play at Upton Park, the atmosphere is excellent and West Ham play a physical game and Big Sam has helped create a fortress. Big Sam has also done well in the transfer window raiding Liverpool for their cast offs; adding Downing and Carroll, two players who will fit in at West Ham very well and make the team better. I expect West Ham to build on their successful season last year with another strong showing.
Fulham should have finished higher than 12th last season, but somehow found themselves in the relegation mix with 5 games to go. Fulham took their foot off the pedal (like so many teams do) and paid the price. Fulham have however bettered themselves through the transfer market with excellent signings such as Maarten Stekelenburg, Adel Taraabt and Darren Bent. Fulham shouldn’t be threatened by relegation and if they play the whole season should push for a top half finish.
I thought Norwich was a certainty to go down last year and they proved me wrong. This year I think that with the signings they have made once again they are heading for a mid-table finish. They don’t have the best squad, but they have cleared out a lot of the deadwood this year and replaced it with good quality signings like Van Wolfswinkel, Hooper and Garrido. Norwich currently look like they are establishing themselves as a Premier League mainstay.
Villa flirted with relegation all of last season and that experience will stand them in good stead for this season. Villa has a good young team and by retaining Benteke as well as adding others to the squad they will have improved greatly. Lambert is a talented young manager and given time I am sure he will be able to take Villa back to the top half of the table where they belong.
The biggest anomaly of the season is what is happening at Newcastle United? They have a squad that is comparable to Everton and Liverpool, yet you get the feeling that because of how poorly the club is run and the whole Joe Kinnear thing that they will struggle again this year. I doubt Alan Pardew will see the end of the season, and sadly for Newcastle fans everywhere it seems his most likely replacement is Joe Kinnear, and if that is the case then relegation is a possibility.
Of the promoted teams Cardiff City are the ones who are built most ready for a successful first season of Premier League football. They won the Championship fairly easily last year, and have a very solid squad. The squad has only been improved by the signings of Steven Caulker (why did Spurs sell him?) and Gary Medel (bit nuts but a good player). I think that Cardiff will take the momentum that they gained from winning the Championship and take it into a solid first season in the Premier League. Look out for the first Welsh derby in the Premier League, could be very tense.
I think Stoke are going to really struggle this year. Tony Pulis has left after a long spell in charge and although he spent a lot of money, he never actually created a very good squad. Mark Hughes isn’t what I’d describe as a good manager either and has struggled in the past to maximise a large squad to its full potential. It is made worse by the fact that Stoke haven’t really signed anyone of notable extent. It is going to be a long season for Stoke, one which I believe will end in relegation.
Southampton had a good first year in the Premier League, but often the second year is the hardest. Mauricio Pauchettino replaced Nigel Adkins during last season and made a very good initial impact, however the team dropped off towards the end of the year and it will be interesting to see how well they cope with higher expectations this year. One of the best signings of the transfer window so far was Southampton’s signing of Victor Wanyama from Celtic. Wanyama was a beast for Celtic last year and probably should have been signing for a top of the table side; a steal for Southampton.
I don’t know what they are drinking up in the north east, but something isn’t right. Paolo Di Canio is what I would kindly describe as someone who is unstable; it seems that he falls out with a player every fortnight and has some of the oddest rules in football. As a player I imagine that it is awful to play under Di Canio, because he is very incessant. He has a good squad and much like Newcastle they should be a top half team, but they are lacking in strikers and are consistent under achievers. Expect another long season if you are a Sunderland fan.
Hull City (or whatever they are getting called now)
Not a great team, were incredibly lucky to be promoted in front of Watford last season. Hull have signed a lot of new players and released a whole bunch of others; there will be large growing pains for Hull this season and the worst thing that could happen for them is a slow start. This is not a Premier League squad; expect to see Hull back in the Championship next year.
I’m not quite sure how Crystal Palace was able to win the play-offs, considering they were the 4th best team in them. This is a team that should never have been promoted to the Premier League and then on top of that have lost by far their best player in the transfer window. Palace has by far the worst squad in the league and I think it will show early on. If Hull are going back down this season, then Crystal Palace will be there before them. 19th would be an achievement.
Currently I am leaning towards City winning the league, but all it would take is a couple of transfers and I could have a different opinion on the matter. Spurs will take 4th if they keep Bale. Palace and Hull will be relegated and then it will be a tight fight for 3rd bottom and I am thinking that Stoke will be filling that place.
1st –Man City
2nd –Man Utd
10th –West Ham
Naturally I wouldn’t be shocked if the teams in the middle of the table all interchanged with each other. I think it will be a Manchester 1-2, and the champions will depend on how Utd finish the transfer window. Spurs should take 4th with their current squad but without Bale Arsenal are the favourites. I don’t see Hull or Palace having a chance, with both struggling heavily. The 3rd relegation place is much harder to predict but I feel that Stoke are currently the team that look the most likely to go down.
So let me know what you think about the Premier League season and how you think it will go. Send me your opinions on who the champions, European and relegation teams will be. All comments are welcome, and let’s hope for an exciting season.