It’s been ninety-six days since the most thrilling climax in Premier League history; with two stoppage time goals at the Etihad Stadium when Manchester United were on the cusp of glory, sealing the title for Manchester City for the first time in forty-four years at the hands of rivals United, who’s 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light proved not enough.
As we turn to a new chapter on the forthcoming 2012/13 season tomorrow, we take a look at where the trophy could be heading next May, in what is sure to be a campaign full of twists, shocks, thrills and spills that hasn’t failed to impress over the last two decades.
Let’s turn our attention first to the champions, Manchester City. Robert Mancini will face a much tougher test than a year ago as his side look to defend their Premier League crown for the first time. As of yet, City haven’t been the big spenders that some might have thought during this transfer period, with Jack Rodwell being their only addition after joining from Everton for £15 million. Could this be a message indicating City want to win trophies without more spending? It has given the squad a pre-season without too much disruption, and an opportunity to gel, which could sway things in their favour after their success last season. Mancini, however, did say how he was disappointed with the lack of signings so far this summer, could this indicate that his squad isn’t where he wants it to be approaching the new season? However you look at it, Manchester City are the champions, and will be regarded as the team to beat.
To the other side of Manchester, and the Red Devils have turned some heads over the last few days with the signing of Robin van Persie from Arsenal for £24 million, a surprising signing from a rival that has opposed the traditional United culture of youth and development. This adds to United’s attacking options that Sir Alex Ferguson says emulates his front line of 1999, if this is the case, then United will look in strong stead to win a twentieth title. With fellow additions Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund and youngster Nick Powell from Crewe Alexandra joining the fold, United have added some valuable strength in depth to the squad, especially with the return of Darren Fletcher who is on his way to recovering from ulcerative colitis. United will be a big a threat as ever, and they will want the title back from their neighbours in blue.
Travel down south to the capital where it appears Chelsea have been bleeding Roman Abramovich’s wallet in order to emulate their FA Cup and Champions League success last season. The biggest spenders from the top clubs this summer, Chelsea have spent well bringing in the likes of Eden Hazard from Lille for £33 million, Marko Marin from Werder Bremen and Brazilian youngster Oscar from Internacional; three of the most notable signings for Robert di Matteo’s side. Chelsea will definitely be regarded as a dangerous force this season and will be a threat in bidding to bring the Premier League trophy back to Stamford Bridge and disrupt the Manchester trend. Di Matteo did it last season in the Champions League and FA Cup, does he have what it takes to achieve success in the long haul?
To North London and Arsenal who, again, have lost a key marksman in Robin van Persie to Manchester United. Although losing van Persie to United is an obvious blow, Arsenal fans needn’t panic as this is a common position for the Gunners and have been in worse shape in previous seasons and still been in the title race. Losing a big player in recent years has been something Arsenal have had to adapt to before; players such as Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas just to name a few have caused talk and speculation that the Gunners will fall away, but Arsene Wenger’s men have a tendancy to show a courageous front when everybody has written them off. With signings Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla, Arsenal have spent wisely this transfer window, which they have been criticised for not doing in recent times, and could subsequently have ample cover for the loss of van Persie if their signings perform. Arsenal will be in contention as always, however their lack of silverware since 2005 has stacked the pressure on Arsene Wenger since then, and it will be much the same this season, could the wait be over? Who will step up to the mark after van Persie’s departure, along with the growing talks of Alex Song’s departure looming large?
For the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, question marks loom over each club as they will be beginning the campaign with a new boss steering the ship. For Spurs, Andre Villas-Boas’s previous experience of Premier League life wasn’t too kind at Chelsea, has he learnt from his time at Stamford Bridge to push Spurs to new heights and a potential title bid? With signings such as Jan Vertonghen from Ajax and midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson from Hoffenheim, AVB will be pleased to bolster his defence with Vertonghen, especially after Ledley King’s retirement and Sigurdsson will offer further options to his flamboyant midfield. With the imminent departure of Luka Modric to Real Madrid, the big question for Spurs will be can they really push to contend with the other big clubs? Or will they be in another battle for fourth spot? You could ask a similar question to Brendan Rogers’ Liverpool side, who will be looking to establish a strong bid after finishing 8th last season – their worst league finish since 1994. The former Swansea City boss has an exciting opportunity at Anfield, after the pressure and hope on the shoulders of former boss Kenny Dalglish, the eyes have diverged slightly from Liverpool after disappointing one too many times in recent seasons, not qualifying for the Champions League since 2009. Liverpool haven’t lit up the transfer market with big names, bringing in youngsters such as Fabio Borini from Parma, and Joe Allen following Rogers in joining from Swansea City, just to name a few. Could this be the catalyst for success at Anfield as Gerrard and co. begin their campaign at the Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion.
Who will be crowned 2012/13 Premier League Champions next May? Who will be the dark horse and surprise package? Who knows, but something we can all agree on is the thrilling twists and turns that make the Premier League one of the most exciting to watch! What are your thoughts? Who will finish where? The Premier League is back!