We seem to say this every year, but this Premier League really does look like the most open yet, with six teams capable of winning the title and a few others good enough to beat any of those six on their day. How do we expect the Premier League to stack up this season, and do our predictions match those of the odds makers?
We seem to say this every year, but this Premier League really does look like the most open yet, with six teams capable of winning the title and a few others good enough to beat any of those six on their day.
Let’s start with the champions Manchester City. So far they have been fairly quiet in the market, in fact the only signing of note is a pacey, hard worker who is good on corners - Nissan have committed to a five-year sponsorship deal worth over £20 million.
On the playing front the Citizens have captured a few. Fernando Reges from Porto, keeper Willy Caballero, central midfielder Bruno Zucilini , Bacary Sagna from Arsenal and teenage defender Karim Rekik from PSV. Add to that rumours they are fighting to get Roma’s Mehdi Benatia and it’s clear where Manuel Pellegrini feels the side needs strengthening. Creating depth in the defensive ranks is crucial for the next stage of their Champions League progression – an aim which is probably at least equal, if not slightly taking over their Premier League ambitions.
Of the side who won the title, Samir Nasri has signed for another five years and it appears Yaya Toure has finally committed after all that ‘it’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to’ craziness. City should do whatever they can to keep him – surely that means balloons, jelly and ice cream and even a magician for his 32nd birthday.
Chelsea to Make a Run?
Chelsea are my favourites for the Premier League for a few reasons. First of all the manager. He was superb last year ruffling feathers in the Media ranks and generally upsetting people, seizing the gap left by Sir Alex Ferguson. This year I expect No-Nonsense Jose to rise above it all and lead his team to the title.
Second, I think they will be aiming at the league trophy slightly more than Man City. Third, the players. I expect more from a few in the Blues’ ranks this time around. If Hazard stays and is in tune with his manager, he will get even better. Oscar is due a big season, presuming his Brazil experience hasn’t affected him. Schurrle could become a feature of this side, I see him developing into a Robben-like threat for the Londoners and we saw signs of Willian’s true form during the last campaign. They have of course added Diego Costa who grabbed 36 goals in Atletico’s triumphant season, Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, Filipe from Atletico and also have Thibaut Courtois in the ranks to strengthen all four areas of the pitch.
Mourinho has perhaps already done the deal of the summer, selling David Luiz to PSG for over £43m. There’s nothing I can say here, that Twitter hasn’t already said. The likes of Ashley Cole (Roma) and Frank Lampard (New York City) have gone, changing the dynamic of the dressing room, but Fabregas will fill the void left by ‘Lamps’.
Chelsea may still have some big deals up their sleeve, with talk of Lukaku going to Juve and Paul Pogba heading in the other direction. They may even hijack any Arturo Vidal deal if Manchester United and Liverpool get close.
Liverpool Without Suarez
Speaking of the Anfield outfit, what a test 2014/15 is for them after such a great season and no Luis Suarez. We saw how Tottenham struggled to replace Gareth Bale this time last year, but I do think it’s slightly different for Brendan Rodgers. We’re told he has been anticipating losing Suarez and has been planning his shopping list for a while, Spurs’ splurge seemed a bit knee-jerk to me. Also they didn’t go out and get a truly world class player, they got loads of 8 out of 10s.
If Liverpool are serious about maintaining their new-found status, they need a blockbuster signing to go with their good business so far: Lallana, Lambert, Markovic and Can. Those four already total £65m. They got somewhere between £70 and 75m for Suarez.
They’re rumoured to be in for either Vidal or Pogba and from what I’ve heard they will need a replacement for Gerrard sooner rather than later.
Next up Manchester United under Louis van Gaal. If the World Cup semi-finalist is true to his word (and he usually is) we won’t see much activity before mid-August as he evaluates his squad. They have already signed Luke Shaw and Anders Herrera for a combined £60m with LVG’s blessing. There are some big holes in terms of quality and character at the back with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand both leaving and more than a few doubts about the likes of Smalling, Jones and Evans.
I heard a few strong rumours in Brazil that Roma’s Kevin Strootman would be high on the new boss’s list and he would be an ideal player to sit in front of the back four. Vidal is also heavily linked, but would he forego Champions League football with so many great offers on the table? The worry for United is that they miss the big names, while they evaluate. Toni Kroos would have been ideal and you wonder if they would have had more of a chance if King Louis had started his new job earlier than he could, because of his World Cup demands.
Arsenal have done some great business so far signing Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona and Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle. They’ve spurned the chance to sign Sami Khedira because of the fee, but are also rumoured to be after Mario Balotelli. As usual they are linked to all sorts of players. I think Arsene Wenger would class having Aaron Ramsey fit for a full season like a new signing. They still look three players short of a title winning team, but Gunners’ fans should expect more from Mezut Ozil this term.
We’ll stay in north London and talk Tottenham briefly. You get the sense they have wasted their opportunity to break into the top four with Manchester United’s slip last year as Liverpool’s unexpected leap frog over them.
Mauricio Pocchetino has his chance at a ‘big’ club and if he gets as much out of Spurs as he did Southampton, he may not need too many more signings. They haven’t done much business at all so far, but are rumoured to be keen on Mattia Destro from Roma who scored 13 in 20 last time out in Serie A. However they may be spending most of their time fending off suitors for Jan Vertonghen. Interestingly Roma are in for the Belgian international, you just wonder if Tottenham value scoring more than stopping goals.
Chelsea to Take Top Honors
Obviously lots of deals could still be done, but at this stage approaching the end of July, I’m going for Chelsea to win the Premier League, Manchester City second, Arsenal third, Manchester United fourth, Liverpool fifth and Tottenham sixth, but don’t hold me to it!