Last year’s Premiership season went to practically the last kick as Manchester City became only the fifth club to win the trophy in an astonishing injury-time turnaround against QPR. With such fine margins between the top two, an invigorated Chelsea and Spurs and Arsenal with money in the bank, this looks to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent years.
After a late burst got the Gunners to a distant third place and a berth in the Champion’s League, things were looking up for Arsene Wenger’s side, while the off-season acquisitions of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud looked to give the North London side some much-needed bite up front. Recent news, however, that club captain and the man who carried the team on his back last season, Robin Van Persie, would not be signing a new contract has left a dark cloud over the Emirates Stadium. Wenger will be hoping that the return from injury of Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshire and Theo Walcott will give the Gunners the strength in depth that they lacked at key moments last time round.
After a dramatic and unexpected win against Barcelona in the Champion’s League final, Roberto Di Matteo cemented himself in the manager’s spot after a fairly disastrous spell with Andre Villas Boas at the helm. Di Matteo has yet to make any big moves in the transfer market, and speculation will be abroad whether aging stars John Terry and Frank Lampard, who each looked creaky at times in 2011/12 will have the legs for another term. Blues faithful will look to Fernando Torres to finally deliver on his promise after a couple of quality outings at Euro 2012, and hope that existing staff will play to their full potential after a disappointing sixth place finish domestically.
Mega-funded City have a squad that is the envy of clubs the world over, and finally turned their spending into silverware on the last day of the season, after rehabilitating the discontented Carlos Tevez into a frontline that already counted Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli. With a midfield that includes David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Touré, you might be forgiven for resting on your laurels in the transfer market, but Roberto Mancini currently leads the suitors for Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie, which could spell an exit for Dzeko or the disruptive Balotelli. Given the world class City can boast at every position, they look like the team to beat this year.
Despite the narrow margin by which United missed out on a fifth title in six years, the team’s performances fell far short of their gold standard, and Ferguson’s reliance on Paul Scholes’ return from retirement spoke volumes about their weakness in the centre of midfield, where Darren Fletcher’s ongoing illness has threatened to end his career. However, the purchase of Shinji Kagawa and the return of Tom Cleverley should go a long way to patching that problem, and with Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck performing at the top level alongside Wayne Rooney, the Reds should be confident about producing up front. This is still very much a United side in construction, however, and Ferguson’s side will be hesitant about their chances this time round.
After an outstanding run midway through last season, Spurs fell apart in the final furlong as Fabio Capello’s departure unsettled then-manager Harry Redknapp, who has since been replaced by Andre Villas Boas. AVB has been greeted with some equivocation by Spurs fans after his truncated spell at Chelsea, but with an injection of £70m plus whatever is recouped from the sale of unsettled midfielders Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart, there is reason for quiet optimism. The signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson is a big step in the right direction, and should Spurs win the race to sign Joao Moutinho ahead of Manchester United, their midfield will once again be one to fear, particularly after the massive coup of Gareth Bale signing a new four-year deal. The Spurs forward line still looks patchy, however, and Villas Boas will hope that the stalled deal with Ajax for classy defender Jan Vertonghen will make their defence a force to be reckoned with.
So this year’s championship is heating up already, with the runners and riders taking their places. Will the trophy come back to London or pick up a permanent room in the Manchester Airport hotels? The season kicks off on August 18th, make sure you don’t miss a single touch.
Catherine Halsey is based in Edinburgh and writes for a digital marketing agency. This article links back to Premier Inn.