With less then a week remaining before the start of the new English Premier League season, I figured there is no better time to throw some questions out on the table to discuss. It’s been some time since the EPL has had so many different story lines taking place all at one time, and mainly concerning transfer activity. And for once teams seemingly are downgrading (maybe staying stagnate at best) instead of upgrading with new talent (minus Manchester City of course).
Question # 1: Who is the front runner to win the Premier League this season?
Currently I don’t see a change to the top three clubs of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool. All three teams have either stood pat, or have had to accept unreal transfer bids for a few of there star players (Ronaldo, Alonso, and Tevez being the most prominent names). One thing we are not accustomed to seeing are these three giants of the Premier League not being active buyers on the transfer market. Manchester United has made some small purchases but nothing you would consider extremely note worthy, and Chelsea’s lone purchase of Yuri Zhirkov only figures to be a squad player at this point. None the less, the essence of each squad is still fully in tact and a United, Chelsea, Pool finish in that order seems to be in the cards yet again this season.
Question # 2: What will Manchester City accomplish this year?
Win the FA Cup? Win the League Cup? Something tells me those two competitions aren’t on the radar….Having spent well over 100 million pounds in the transfer market and scooping up such well know players such as Gareth Barry, Kolo Toure, Roque Santa Cruz, Carlos Tevez, and Adebayor, Manchester City’s single and massively important target this season is to displace one of the big four, and qualify for the Champions League. Anything less will certainly been seen as a total failure, and cost manger Mark Hughes his job in the process. Now the real question, can they do it? Initially, my impression is no. Aston Villa, Everton, and Tottenham all seem to be improving clubs that should provide ample road blocks to City’s quest. Arsenal, although not active in the transfer market still holds the majority of its young squad in tact, and maybe most importantly still has Arsene Wenger at the helm. Manchester City’s transfer activity can’t be underestimated however,if that squad gels early in the season, and Hughes keeps his players happy with playing time, Arsenal could be the odd team out heading into next seasons Champions League draw…….Only time will tell.
Question #3: Can Chelsea win the Premier League this season?
(First off, a small confession here before I go on any further. I’m a life long Chelsea fan, and must disclose my bias to anybody reading this before hand!)
Of course they can, why not? United hasn’t gotten any better, and Liverpool seems to be unloading more of their stars with each passing day (and getting richer in the process). Meanwhile Chelsea by and large has stood pat, content to roll into next season with the same squad, a fact that I believe to be very understated heading into the season. A healthy Ricardo Carvalho will also feel like a new transfer after his injury plagued campaign last season (and stop you’re bitching were not selling you to Inter this season). Additionally, judging by the early preseason tour in the United States, Carlos Ancelotti has made a seamless transition at the club. Ancelotti is a master tactician, which will be essential in the battle to over haul a confident United squad. In the end however, I believe Chelsea will most likely come up short. It’s been well documented that Roman Abramovich’s single most important goal for Chelsea is too finally (and Chelsea fans understand the word FINALLY) win the Champions League. I have a sneaking suspicion that ultimately, this quest for European glory will cost Chelsea something domestically in the process.
Question # 4: Who makes the relegation radar to start the EPL season?
Early season favorites for relegation in the Premier League are always the three teams coming up from the Championship. I don’t think many people could make a convincing case for Wolves, Burnley, or Birmingham to stay up before a ball has even been kicked this season. Stoke City and Hull have also done little this summer to convince me that the cross hairs of the drop aren’t centered squarely on them. A few other surprise contenders make my list for relegation watch: Portsmouth and Bolton. With Portsmouth in “sell for survival” mode with their entire squad, they seem to be an ideal candidate heading into the new season. I don’t know what to say about Bolton, every year I feel like the talent they run out on the pitch should get them relegated. But some how they find ways to grind out results, get their 40 plus golden pts, and escape.
Question #5: Who will be the biggest surprise in the EPL this season?
I know Tottenham is considered one of the bigger clubs in England; however recent results in the league have been anything but impressive. Last year’s flirtation with relegation in the beginning of the season being perhaps the most illustrative. With Harry Rednapp in firm control at White Hart Lane, and several miscast characters exiting late last yearand during the summer I have a feeling this might be a good year for the Spurs. So, what would qualify as a major surprise for this club? I’ll go on record and predict a 6th place finish, and a return to Europe.