It would be nice to say that we are in for a season of surprises, but as in the past, the Premier League has that look of “business as usual”.
Manchester City have been relatively quiet in the close season, but have swooped for Everton’s Jack Rodwell for a bargain £ 15m. City’s squad is already powerful so the addition of one of England’s brightest prospects is a clear signal of intent. They have already beaten Chelsea 3-2 in the Community Shield and it is difficult to look beyond the champions.
Manchester United have also been dormant in the transfer market, although the addition of Japan’s Shinji Kagawa will up the interest in the club in Asia. United’s squad has a tired look about it and I cannot see them being so close to City this season. The same could be said about London’s top two – Arsenal and Chelsea.
Everyone has been very patient with Arsenal, but even the most myopic Emiretian is becoming a litle tired of the annual summer exodus that this year may lead to the departure of Robin Van Persie. Arsenal have made some interesting signings, notably Olivier Giroud (Montepelier) and Lukas Podolski (Cologne), but neither will score the sort of goals RVP gets for the Gunners. If RVP stays, Arsenal will have excellent options up front, but if he goes, they will struggle to run to stand still. Other new signings include Santi Cazorla from Malaga and don’t be surprised if Arsene Wenger gets the cheque book out for Ajax’s Greg van der Wiel, a solid right back.
Chelsea’s fans have been over-optimistic after the signings of Oscar, Hazard and Marin, but the Stamford Bridge squad still needs a lot of work to restore the club to the Mourinho era. They need to replace Didier Drogba and introduce some more options up front. The Champions League win should not disguise the fact that Chelsea’s squad is ageing, lacking pace and, in some areas, complacent. That will not improve by the Munich victory, so it’s a question of whether Roman Abramovich will trust Roberto Di Mateo with his money as well as his team.
Tottenham and Newcastle both had good seasons in 2011-12. Of the two, Newcastle have more promise but a lot of attention will be on Andre Vilas Boas at White Hart Lane. Newcastle have Cisse, Demba Ba and a cluster of other players who excite – I like the look of them but it may be that 2011-12 was the limit of their achievement. AVB has bought well in Gyfli Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen, but in the post-Redknapp world, can Tottenham recapture the verve of the past couple of years?
Liverpool will undoubtedly find fresh impetus from the arrival of Brendan Rodgers, but there’s work to be done at Anfield. He’s the right man for the job, but it is a year too early for him – the squad needs an overhaul. Likewise, Everton, who may be weaker this time around.
As for the rest, the high activity at QPR suggests they may find things easier and there will be a lot of attention on Swansea after Michael Laudrups’s arrival. In the case of the Welshmen, they may struggle after their excellent campaign in 2011-12.
The three promoted sides – Southampton, West Ham and Reading will all labour through the season, and I expect them all to figure in the relegation fight along with Norwich, Wigan and Sunderland. Aston Villa, Stoke Fulham and WBA won’t be far away from the lower third.
So it’s Manchester City again, with the same bunch chasing them to the post. It’s a shame we can’t have a little less predictability.