The 2012/2013 English Premier League (Football/Soccer) season is up and running and already I have a fair bit to talk about. We’ve had big transfers and signings during the window, we’ve had shocking results from some of the early matches, and we’ve already seen signs of certain managers having problems.
So, now that the dust has settled from the opening stretch it’s time to look back and see who has won big, who has lost big, and who is showing promise for the rest of the season.
Manchester City aside Chelsea was THE success story of last season; A season which saw them defy all odds and win both the FA Cup and UEFA Champion’s League in the face of overwhelming odds, both on the pitch and off. The majority of pundits and even some fans feared a “Hangover” in the early weeks of the new season after last season’s dramatics. However, Chelsea have come out of the gate kicking all kinds of ass and after three weeks of the new season find themselves atop the table after winning three consecutive matches – something they haven’t achieved for a while. This is largely thanks to their new signing Eden Hazard who at this rate is becoming the best league signing of the year. Hazard has brought back long-forgotten pace, flair, and aggression to Chelsea’s attacking force and more importantly has brought the best out of Fernando Torres who had a forgettable last season. I have not even mentioned the other considerable talent manager Robert Di Matteo has brought in: Brazilian prodigy Oscar Dos Santos, Wigan hit-man Victor Moses, and the stalwart Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta. Thanks to these excellent new signings and a new positive direction under Di Matteo Chelsea’s winning streak in the league remains intact but they recently suffered a heavy defeat to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup – a sharp wake up call that will certainly give the squad much to think about in the coming weeks.
If this new Chelsea side can continue to gel quickly and if Torres well-and-truly returns to prime form then I can see them challenging the two Manchester club for the premier league title.
The other success story of the 2011/2012 season. Manchester City’s last-gasp title win over sworn rivals Manchester United is a moment that fans from all clubs will be sure to remember for years to come. City had it all last season; Rebellious players (Carlos Tevez), unnecessary suspensions (Mario Balotelli), and a frankly questionable defensive display all-round. ‘Haters’ of the Manchester club often accuse them of being a “Mercenary Army” and given what we saw from the Etihad last season they may have a case, but this only made it all the better when this “Mercenary Army” finally banded together to provide an unbelievable climax to the season. City have hit the ground running this season and are currently sitting comfortably in 4th place. Given the already impressive arsenal of players manager Roberto Mancini has at his disposal I was not expecting him to spend extravagant amounts in the transfer window. Sure enough he didn’t, the biggest signing for Manchester City this summer was the Brazilian full-back Maicon. I would not be concerned if I were a City fan, all the pieces Mancini needs are already at his disposal – It’s just a question of if he can make them fit.
I can see Manchester City once again fighting it out with Manchester United for the top-dog spot but if I really had to go with my gut feeling I can see City once again ruling the roost.
After being so cruelly denied the premier league title by the worst possible team Manchester United will be feverishly trying to reclaim the throne of English football this season. Manager Alex Ferguson’s antics in the transfer window prove that he is really going for it too, United add two big names to their roster this season: Japanese ace Shinji Kagawa, and the most shocking transfer of the window Arsenal captain and legend Robin Van Persie. The latter has already made a staggering impact at Old Trafford with 4 goals to his name already and helping United keep on City’s tail in the table. However, warning sirens are starting to go off about the state and discipline of United’s defense as weaknesses in the armor were brutally exposed by Southampton during last weekend’s match. Ferguson might have the players to exact revenge on Manchester City but I daresay that he needs to tread lightly this season. Unforseen injuries and/or suspensions aside I predict Manchester United will either take back the #1 spot or end up #2 or #3.
Arsenal had a hit-and-miss season last year, they had some pretty good results but some that will haunt them for years to come (Their 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United will sting for years). The “Business End” of last season saw Arsene Wenger’s men scrap it out with rival London club Tottenham Hotspur for the 3rd slot, good thing they did as well… Chelsea’s victory over Bayern Munich in the Champion’s League final ended up routing 4th place finishers Tottenham out of a place in the prestigious tournament. Wenger can count his stars that his side are competing amongst Europe’s finest this season but will rue losing his captain Robin Van Persie to Manchester United. The Arsenal boss is no amateur though and rightfully brought in new talent to fill the void left by the Dutchman: German striker Lucas Podolski, Spanish winger Santi Cazorla, and the French striker Olivier Giroud.
I have nothing but utmost respect for Arsene Wenger and his attitudes to the nature of modern football and I sincerely hope his side end up challenging for the title again in the near future, I just don’t see it happening this season.
I predict a top 4 finish at the very least and progression to the knock-out stages of the Champion’s League.
Talk about falling at the first hurdle… Liverpool’s season could not have started any worse than it has, currently sitting ominously at the bottom of the table – their worst start for 50 years. Liverpool had a disastrous transfer window in which new manager Brendan Rogers failed to secure his target signing American striker Clint Dempsey. Rogers bewildering decision to send Andy Carroll on loan to West Ham United without first securing a proper replacement is mind boggling and is a call that I’m sure will return to kick him up the ass numerous times this season. Relations between the manager, the board, the owner, and even the fans (who are some of the most loyal in the league) are already fragmenting by the day – they need a solution and need it quickly. Liverpool are a club that need to get serious about rebuilding before they aim any higher and I cannot see them finishing any higher than 6th position this year.
Tottenham had to swallow a bitter pill at the tail end of last season; Finishing in 4th place meant that if rivals Chelsea miraculously won the Champion’s League then they would lose the spot they qualified for by finishing in the top 4. Chelsea did just that and have heaped misery on Spurs as a result. Manager Harry Redknapp was shown the door by the board and chairman for his side’s failure to qualify for the esteemed competition, his replacement could not have been any more ironic: Andre Villas-Boas, the former Chelsea manager who was sacked following a lengthy string of poor results.
Failure to qualify for the Champion’s League and with a new manager with a shaky record incoming Spurs fans knew that their club faced another battle to keep their best players. Still, the transfer window could have been worse: Luka Modric showed himself the door after a spat with the new manager but Spurs managed to bring in Liverpool target Clint Dempsey and Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. They also managed to hold onto club hero Gareth Bale and made a heft sum of cash from the sale of Modric.
The board and owner might be happy with Tottenham’s dealings in the transfer window this summer but if you ask me they will be lucky to finish in the top 4 again, they might do it but it will be a hard ask when one looks at the talent Chelsea and Arsenal have brought in.
Do you follow the English league? If you do how did your team do? Do you like the direction they are going in?