For the soccer starved community, the last couple of months have been somewhat of a challenge. The Euros provided a brief resolve, and for some the Olympics was a hearty indulgence that took away that challenge. For others though the London Games were a meager prepping for what was to come, as we finally embark on the 21st season of premiership football.
This season has big boots to fill. The 2011/2012 campaign was voted as the greatest premiership season of all time. It can be argued that it was etched in recent memory for many of the voters, hence this awarding of it. Nonetheless, it provided the height of entertainment worthy of the greatest league in the world.
The level of anticipation for any forthcoming season is usually synonymous with the level of activity in the transfer window. So unless you’re a Chelsea fan, and perhaps now a Man United fan for obvious reasons, there’s not a great deal to get excited about. So what exactly can we look forward to, who is stating a serious ambition for the title this season, and who might be braving the lower echelons of the table?
Last years top six will certainly shuffle around a bit. I have a bad feeling about Spurs, contrary to my feelings on Chelsea. Spurs have been dragged down by the Luka Modric saga, and if he goes they leave a gaping hole in creativity. Combine that with a lackluster strike force and goals will be hard to come by. The mood is positive at Stamford bridge. With Di Matteo officially at the helm, the peace is restored for the senior players. They’ve spent a hideous amount of money on new stars such as Oscar and Hazard, but for the team that came sixth last season, it will be the boost they need to not only defend their champions league crown, but win back that title that has so comprehensively eluded them.
The top two from last season in my opinion however, will remain the top two. Man City have only recently come right because their glamorous individuals seem to finally be gelling. So perhaps it’s all part of the plan that they haven’t splashed out in the window. You would be panicking unnecessarily if you were to question why they haven’t been their usual trigger happy selves. They haven’t sold any key players, and the least could be said for other teams around them, so they will unquestionably be up there come D-day. Man united’s defense and hold in midfield remains in question, but their attacking versatility is second to none. Kagawa, Young, Nani, Rooney and now Van Persie. It’s more than enough to give sleepless nights.
All three promoted teams stayed up last season, and that could very well happen this season. Reading, reminiscent of QPR, have the money to stay up. I was especially aggrieved when Pogrebnyak was convinced to join them at Fulham’s expense, and expect more signings from them in this window. Southampton more reflect that of Swansea and Norwich, where a combination of team stability and a couple of acute signings kept them up comfortably. West Ham on the other hand, remind me of Newcastle’s swift return in the 2010/2011 season, where they are just too big a team to go down again.
This then poses a very interesting debate as to who will go down. I worry for Swansea and Norwich who will be wary of the ‘second season’ syndrome. Especially the Swans who have lost two high quality midfielders. Aston villa continue to unimpress me. It’s almost as if they’ve resigned to a team that will struggle. I dare say if Fulham lose Dempsey and Dembele, it will show a severe lack of ambition that won’t be enough not to be concerned about relegation. Southampton and Reading could well be there, and without trying to sound insensitive, I’m confident of a juicy relegation battle that will match the interest at the top, as it did for a while last season.
As week one approaches, the anticipation grows with each day. Some teams will be happy with their business over the break, and will be confident of a strong season, regardless of which side of the table they are favored to finish up in. Others will still feel work needs to be done, and it is this air of ominosity that makes this league so exciting. This season is sure to follow suit, and fail to disappoint.