Ronan Groome previews the upcoming Premier League season as the excitement builds in anticipation of the first whistle.
They tell you every year that the upcoming Premier League season is the most anticipated campaign since its inauguration. At least this summer that pre-thought has more than a hint of substance.
Three new managers taking over at each of last season’s 1-2-3 leads to a feeling of uncertainty which in turn contributes to that anticipation. And that’s the reason this Premier League season is so exciting, the bare uncertainty of it all.
City look like worthy favourites. With Stevan Jovetic, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas brought in to compliment last season’s squad now rid of troublemaker Mario Balotelli; they have everything in place to improve on last season’s disappointing effort.
Manuel Pellegrini is an excellent manager. The common point made towards the Chilean after his arrival at City has been of his failure to win a trophy in Europe. But he has won trophies in Argentina, with San Lorenzo and River Plate. In that regard his pedigree is similar to Barcelona’s new coach Gerardo Martino who joins Barca with his trophy success as a coach only in South America.
The Champions League will play a crucial part in City’s title bid. Many saw a Premier League advantage in their exit from the group stage last season but they looked lacking in motivation thereafter. It won’t be easy again this season given they are likely to end up in another tough group given their low UEFA coefficient; but getting out of the group stage will take City to the next level as a football club and that can only help their bid to win back the title as well.
Whisper it quietly but Jose Mourinho might end up owing a lot to Rafael Benitez.
Chelsea got themselves in to another mess last season sacking Roberto Di Matteo and bringing in the Spaniard much to the disgust of the majority at Stamford Bridge. But Rafa steadied the ship, addressed the small details and got Chelsea back into a hard-working team, the one attribute that was so apparent during Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea.
It is a true ironic that in Romelu Lukaku, now tried, tested and proved in the Premier League, Mourinho has a Drogba in which he could potentially build a team around. And it will be fascinating to see how the ‘Special One’ goes tactically, whether Fernando Torres has a big role to play and whether he can get another central forward to the Bridge before the window shuts.
Many Chelsea fans also crave another central midfielder to play in behind the front three but in a welcome change Roman Abramovich is taking the view to building up a team rather than buy one.
Mourinho can still weave his magic, and they should be thereabouts, but the gut feeling is Manchester City are just a bit further down the line as a team.
What is the biggest challenge for David Moyes in his first season at Old Trafford? Managing expectation, managing a different calibre of player, managing to bring in a totally different type of player in the transfer window. You could have an A4-long list of challenges facing the Scot.
It’s going to take time for David Moyes to adjust to United and United to adjust to David Moyes. Under Ferguson United could lose away to a bottom-half team and there would be no great panic around the club, but naturally that train of thought is unlikely to continue at least in the initial stages of Moyes’s tenure. Saying that, a lot of United fans do accept this, the transition stage, and a third place finish would suffice. That’s probably were they will end up.
The unbounded frustration that is Arsenal football club. The calls of the availability of a transfer war chest were louder than ever this summer yet only youngster Yaya Sanogo has been added to Arsene Wenger’s squad amidst a whole host of players moving away from the Emirates.
Despite speculation that Arsenal were ready to launch a third bid in the region of £49m for Luis Suarez this week, it’s looking all the more likely Suarez will stay at Liverpool. In any case Arsenal’s long winding pursuit of Suarez would never have taken place had Gonzalo Higuain signed for the Gunners last month. The Argentinean was as short as 1/20 with bookmakers to move to the Emirates but instead opted for a move to Napoli. The whole transfer period was summed up this week by £17m-rated Luiz Gustavo’s u-turn move to Wolfsburg, having apparently shown a lot of interest in a move to Arsenal early in the week.
Wenger will remain upbeat, he always does. But unless they can get a world class midfielder or striker in, Arsenal will probably be fourth again.
Spurs looked good under Villas Boas last season. So did Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers. Both managers embrace an attractive style of football and it will be intriguing to see how both projects develop in their second year.
Not long ago you could have got odds of 5/2 about Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale to all stay at their respective clubs after the summer transfer window. That price is a lot shorter now.
The presumption that both Liverpool and Spurs would each lose their one world class player this summer has clouded a lot of predictions but if Bale and Suarez do opt to stay, both situations will rival for the best bit of business done all summer.
Spurs have strengthened by bringing in Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado and Etienne Capoue while Liverpool, who are still chasing £30m-rated playmaker Willian, also added to their squad having already spent well on Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho last season.
The opportunity is there that if both Suarez and Bale did stay, it’s not out of this world that both teams could have a very big year. It’s that kind of a season.
Sport Is Everything. Ronan Groome.